The Land of the Walking Dead

Thursday, 21 Mar 2013 07:42 AM

By Neal Asbury

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Imagine a land with 47 million people who can’t afford food on their table. A new apocalypse movie blockbuster? It’s worse than that … it’s the United States of America — today. We have become The Land of the Walking Dead.

The Weekly Standard revealed that the United States Department of Agriculture “quietly released new statistics related to the food stamps program, officially known as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The numbers reveal, in 2012, the food stamps program was the biggest it's ever been, with an average of 46,609,072 people on the program every month of last year. 47,791,996 people were on the program in the month of December 2012. The federal government also says that in a given month in 2012, the number of households on food stamps was 22,329,713.”

Like many federal programs, the federal food stamp program is broken and has run amok. When a variation of the program was first launched in 1935 as the Food Surplus Commodities Corporation, its purpose was to dispense commodities by focusing on encouraging domestic consumption of surpluses rather than on unemployment.

The program changed names and its effectiveness was called into question many times and even suspended. But in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's “War on Poverty,” The Food Stamp Act of 1964 was instituted as a pilot program operating in 40 counties and three cities with 380,000 participants.

Ironically, the state with the highest average number of participants per month in 2012 was Texas, with an astonishing 4 million citizens drawing from the program. The participation rate in Texas, which has an estimated population of 26.1 million, is 15.5 percent.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, there are more than 238,000 people on SNAP in Hidalgo County, costing taxpayers in February more than $28 million.

One wonders how Johnson would have received that news!

The second highest state for food stamp recipients is California, with 3.96 million and then Florida, at 3.35 million.

“Washington, D.C., with an estimated population of 617,996, had an average of 141,147 participants. Meaning, roughly 23 percent of folks living in D.C. are on food stamps, according to the numbers provided by the federal government. The state with the lowest number of participants in the program was Wyoming, with 34,347 out of an estimated population of 576,412.”

If you really want to weep for this country, college students are among the increasing numbers of people relying on food stamps. As tuition rates have risen and financial aid has fallen — and parents who were once a source of financial support have lost jobs or homes and become ineligible for college loans for their children — students have had to fend for themselves.

For instance, Virginia spent $447,000 on SNAP benefits for college students in January 2007, but by January of this year, the total had risen to $2.9 million, according to the state’s Department of Social Services. The state spent $30 million in food assistance benefits to college students in 2011.

During President Barack Obama’s first term, the number of persons taking SNAP increased by approximately 11,133 persons per day. When Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, the number of SNAP recipients was 31.9 million. By October 2012, the latest month reported, the number had jumped to 47.5 million.

And how is this program being administered? The share of food stamp benefits going to American households with gross incomes over 130 percent of the poverty level has more than doubled in the past four years, according to the most recent data compiled by the Agriculture Department.

In fact, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., accused the Obama administration of encouraging growth in the food stamps program as a way to stimulate the economy. He proposed: “Isn’t a better goal to help more Americans find good-paying jobs, to have the pride and self-respect that comes from that? Isn’t this a superior form of compassion that has a more solid moral foundation?”

He’s right of course. Where is the moral outrage? Where are the voices of reason that will stand up and proclaim that this country has seen enough? We need a change in this nation’s approach to job creation and the economy so we can get people on payrolls and off food stamp rolls.

This is a national tragedy. How can we explain to the rest of the world, let alone our own children, that 47 million Americans must use food stamps to feed their families?

And if you want to see how far this country has sunk, an organization based in New York says they already have 45,000 pets signed up for a donation-based food stamp program to feed pets of low-income families.

We are indeed The Land of the Walking Dead.

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