Hunger is Not a Game

SNAP Vote Expected This Week

Sometimes what is happening in Washington, DC seems like a big game. But the stakes in these contests are very high for millions of Americans who are trying to meet the basics every day. The latest example of Washington politicians playing games with people’s lives is the move by Republicans in Congress to cut six million Americans off of basic food assistance, the SNAP program known more widely as food stamps, while leaving intact tax loopholes that give corporations big breaks. Contrary to the title of a popular book series and movie, Hunger is NOT a game.

Is there really a choice to be made between big corporations and our friends and neighbors in need? Apparently there is in Washington where there is a plan to deny food assistance to people who can’t find jobs, and to low-income families with children and seniors with high expenses, like medical care, housing and child-care.

Instead of ending food assistance for Americans still trying to find work or barely getting by with the jobs they have, Congress should give them a helping hand by focusing its energy on creating jobs that pay livable wages.  That would do more than anything to reduce the need for SNAP, in a more productive, less harmful way.

The proponents of cutting SNAP say the proposal is aimed at forcing people on SNAP to work, but ignore a bit of a problem: most people on SNAP who can work – not children, or elderly or the disabled – do work. And SNAP already requires recipients who can work to be looking for work or be in work training. But if there aren’t enough jobs or work-training slots, should that deny putting food on people’s tables?

This debate takes place as Congress must decide how to spend federal dollars next year, with a showdown about federal spending as we near the end of the budget year on September 30th. The proposal to cut food support for 6 million Americans, including 200,000 Iowans, would lower federal spending by $40 billion over ten years. The proposal to stop giving tax breaks for multi-millionaire CEOS would raise $50 billion.

The SNAP vs. tax breaks for CEOs debate also says a lot about what members of Congress believe will get our sluggish economy moving. SNAP benefits – skimpy at $1.40 per meal – get spent immediately in our communities – in our grocery stores and farmer’s markets. The money keeps local people working and the local economy moving

But CEOs certainly don’t spend all of their multi-millionaire bonuses in our communities. Instead, much will be put into Wall Street to make money wherever in the world the returns are highest. In the same way, the tax breaks that the companies get from the CEO pay loophole will mean more cash for companies to sit on or ship our jobs overseas, instead of creating jobs in the United States.

The next Hunger Games movie is about to open this month, around the same time House Republicans are expected to cut millions of parents, children, seniors, veterans  off from the food they need to survive. While corporations game the tax system, for these families the threat of hunger is not a game, it’s real.


Sue Dinsdale, ICAN Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Newtwork, iowacan.orgSue Dinsdale is the Executive Director of Iowa Citizen Action Network, a state-wide public interest organization committed to creating social change in Iowa and across the nation.