As I prepare my thoughts for Sunday services tomorrow, which is the first Sabbath after the automatic cut in food stamps took place a day ago, I'm wondering how many of the committed Christians in Congress, generally, and among Republicans, specifically, are considering the consequences of the summary end of the the SNAP (Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program--food stamps, for short) benefits extension that was granted a few years back as part of Washington, D.C.'s economic stimulus program. For that matter, I wonder if a sense of moral crisis occurred within the Obama family, whose backgrounds as community activists within some of the most financially hard-up neighborhoods in Chicago must make them acutely sensitive to the nutrition needs of the poor in this country. From the figures, it looks like the typical family on this program is losing anywhere from 5% to 10% of their benefits. The Feeding America organization says that the typical food stamp recipient got about $1.50/meal, so the cuts will probably take a dime or better off each meal. Put another way, USA Today calculates that the cut will cost the average SNAP-enrolled family of four the equivalent of 21 meals a month. That strikes me as pretty harsh.
I wonder if the Obamas and other Christians who are in the political class in D.C. will think about this when they attend services tomorrow morning. At some point I hope they encounter Isaiah 58 and take these words to heart: If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul,
then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness
shall be as the noonday. Their hearts may be hardened by the real problems of mismanagement and fraud that I have no doubt are embedded in SNAP, but in their pursuit of purging those issues out of the program, I think they're doing some significant damage to millions (there are 47 million of them now) of Americans who simply need this help in order to get some decent food into their systems every day.
Yes, the extended benefits were set to expire on October 31, and yes, everybody was informed well in advance. That doesn't mean there shouldn't have been some consideration and discussion of the issue--after all, this federal government has been dealing with having to extend deadlines for years now, and it seems to me that extensions are typically granted. Why should some consideration of a program extension affecting our neediest class of citizens be exempt from the process?
As a Republican, I'm particularly chagrined by the blithe dismissal of our claim to being "compassionate conservatives" as nary a peep from officials in our party in defense of extending these benefits was forthcoming. And for those who often make a public show of their commitment to Jesus Christ and his teachings, I'm extremely disappointed that there was no attention paid to the moral quandary attached to the taking of food away from the poor.