Another Tuesday and another wild proposal from the Trump administration. After cutting taxes for billionaires, 45 and crew have decided to curve the federal budget by making extensive changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), one of the nation’s most important safety net programs.
Instead of loading EBT cards with money, 45 wants to mail out food packages to recipients. Budget director Mick Mulvaney described the program as Blue Apron-ish…only Blue Apron customers have choices…and receive fresh food. Forty-Five’s Apron would ship out boxes of cereal, rice, peanut butter and canned meat, fruits and vegetables.
There are more problems with this proposal:
- It makes government bigger, not smaller.
- It dismisses nutritional concerns by not providing fresh fruits and vegetables.
- It does not take into account that people living in poverty often have unstable living arrangements and relocate more frequently than others.
- There are no concerns for special dietary needs, restrictions or medical requirements.
- There is no plan on how a damaged, destroyed or stolen box would be replaced.
- There has been no research on how removing EBT dollars from grocers would affect local economies.
- And most importantly, it denies people of their choice. And by denying people choices, the government is oppressing them.
“Dependency should not be a reason to be deprived of choice and respect.” –Iris Marion Young
Iris Marion Young, a professor and political theorist, tackled this idea in “Five Faces of Oppression.” Young identifies the five faces of oppression as exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural domination and violence. The denial of choice falls under marginalization, which Young states is “perhaps the most dangerous form of oppression.”
In this instance, a group of people are pushed to margins which makes them dependent on the government for basic needs. The government then takes away their right to choose and begins to control them. In this example, the social group is people living in poverty, who are marginalized from the work place because they are children, elderly or disabled (about 83% of SNAP benefits go to households with a child, senior or disabled person) or unable to find adequate employment because technology has removed job options, because college is unaffordable or unattainable, and/or a number of other reasons.
“Although dependency produces conditions of injustice in our society, dependency in itself need not be oppressive,” writes Young, and dependency becomes oppressive when we “suspend the basic rights to privacy, respect and individual choice.”
What this administration is proposing is paternalistic, controlling and abusive. It belittles and humiliates. It infantilizes people who live in poverty and insinuates that they are unable to determine what foods are best for their family to consume.
Needing government services shouldn’t cost you your dignity. We are better than this. Or at least we should desire to be better than this.
P.S. Your assumptions about SNAP and its recipients are probably wrong. Here are some fun facts:
- Safety net programs like SNAP accounted for about 9 percent of the 2016 federal budget.
- SNAP recipients aren’t “getting over” on the government. To be eligible for SNAP, you have to met three criteria, one being a net income of $1,702 a month for a family of three
- Individuals are not receiving an obscene amount of money from SNAP. Benefits average around $4 per day for each recipient.
- You are not paying all your tax money into the SNAP program. In 2012, a taxpayer making $50,000 per year paid around $36 each year towards SNAP (and another $6 for the other safety net programs).
- Incidents of fraud are rare.