Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) is one of many House Republicans calling for the end of the food stamp program. Why does he want to end government subsidies to poor people who can only use those subsidies to buy groceries (admittedly, this does include some junk food)? Because there is fraud in the system: people who don’t need them are using food stamps (or SNAP cards—they aren’t actual stamps), according to Congressman Mullin. How does he know that? Because he saw two physically fit people at a grocery store using food stamps. Here is the Oklahoma representative in his own words:
“So I’m in Crystal City and I’m buying my groceries…and I noticed everybody was giving that card. They had these huge baskets, and I realized it was the first of the month. But then I’m looking over, and there’s a couple beside me. This guy was built like a brick house. I mean he had muscles all over him. He was in a little tank top and pair of shorts and really nice Nike shoes. And she was standing there, and she was all in shape and she looked like she had just come from a fitness program. She was in the spandex, and you know, they were both physically fit. And they go up in front of me and they pay with that card. Fraud. Absolute 100% all it is fraud…it’s all over the place.”
Let’s give Congressman Mullin the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he is not denying climate change because he had to put on a sweater in July (that is, isolated incidents generally don’t prove anything). His argument is that physically fit people should not be on food stamps. But the qualifications for the SNAP program have mostly to do with income and resources. The only reference to physical fitness comes in one line regarding how people may only remain on the SNAP program for 3 months at a time if they don’t take part in an employee placement program:
“With some exceptions, able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must register for work, accept suitable employment, and take part in an employment and training program to which they are referred by the local office. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the Program.”
So, this muscular couple may have been in their three month period, or perhaps they had been on the SNAP program longer, but had been to an employment counseling. Maybe they have looked for jobs, but their physical health hasn’t mattered.
Everyone is in favor of reducing government waste and kicking off free riders who don’t need a free ride. But the food stamp program has narrow restrictions in terms of who qualifies and what they can use their funds for. The recent Republican crusade to end the food stamp program is just another example of their strategy of making Democrats play defense on something they never imagined they would have to defend, so that the GOP can extract serious concessions elsewhere.