“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)

WASHINGTON (RNS) Many of us are blessed enough to not know what it is like to be hungry, to regularly miss meals, or to consume a diet void of essential nutrients for a healthy life. But now, millions of our brothers and sisters here in the United States may, sadly, be facing these situations because of a reduction in their food stamp benefits.

Starting Friday (Nov. 1), all households receiving food stamp benefits will see their food budgets shrink as a temporary increase expires. A family of four could lose up to $36 a month in food stamps (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).

For many Americans, $36 a month may not seem like much, but if you are a family of four with an income of $22,000 per year, $36 a month means several missed meals or increased difficulty in providing for your children.

SNAP effectively and efficiently helps more than 47 million low-income Americans put food on the table. Even as unemployment and poverty have remained high, the number of families at risk of hunger has not increased since 2008. Contrary to popular belief, the average individual receiving food stamps is on the program for only nine months, until they manage to get back on their feet.

And if this $11 billion reduction in the food stamp program isn’t devastating enough, members of the House and Senate have begun to finalize a farm bill that will impact vital anti-hunger programs. Additional reductions to the food stamp program, as proposed in the House and Senate versions of the bill, range from $4 billion to $39 billion.

We must remind Congress that God calls our leaders to deliver the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. Gutting programs like SNAP shows a blatant disregard to this divine call.

The farm bill debates don’t stop at American shores. Congress will also consider changes to life-saving international food aid programs. International food aid reached more than 66 million people affected by famine, disasters, and other emergencies last year.

To be sure, our food aid programs can be more efficient while also better targeting the nutrition needs of women and children in the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2. The Senate-passed farm bill begins to address these improvements through important changes that increase the flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency of the current food aid program structure so that it can better respond to the complex challenges of global hunger in the 21st century.

Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. Any policies that create additional poverty among the working poor, or further impoverish hungry people around the world, are reprehensible. It is unacceptable for lawmakers to take vital food stamp benefits away from millions of Americans who are struggling to recover from the ongoing impacts of the recession. And it is reprehensible for our nation to turn away from people starving in Central America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. In doing so, we break Jesus’ commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors.

The solution to these problems isn’t complicated. We live in a time where God has granted us the ability to end hunger and poverty. We pray that our lawmakers put an end to political brinksmanship so the economy can function.

As Congress begins these important discussions, we must hold them accountable. This debate is about more than simply balancing our federal budget — it’s about our values as a nation. It’s about our relationship with Christ and how we treat the least of these. It’s time we support a farm bill that doesn’t increase hunger at home and abroad by protecting food stamps and improving international food aid.

The Rev. David Beckmann, president of the ecumenical hunger group Bread for the World, said letting tax benefits expire for the highest earners would create $830 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.

The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, is a Lutheran minister and an economist. He is also a 2010 World Food Prize Laureate and author of “Exodus from Hunger.” Photo courtesy Bread for the World

As the Book of Revelation tells us, there will be a time when they will hunger no more, and thirst no more. Now is that time.

(The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, is a Lutheran minister and an economist. He is also a 2010 World Food Prize Laureate and author of “Exodus from Hunger.”)

KRE/AMB END BECKMANN

19 Comments

  1. The problem with virtually all commentary on the cutback in foodstamp allocations is that no spokesperson for “the poor” is willing to define who are “the poor” among us. It is nonsense to think that everyone on the public rolls ought to be there. Qualification requirements are lax, there’s little or no investigation to determine whether participants are in dire need or that they are using benefits appropriately. Too many among us are familiar with instances of fraud and of people who are determined to use “the system” rather than pursue employment.

    Over the decades liberal government has been successful in creating dependency, for liberals view this as the task, the mission of government, never mind our Constituion and the writings of the Fathers who created the document.

    Clerics and others of “good intentions” deserve a hearing only when they acknowledge the waste and abuse in current programs and call for scrutiny in the allocation of taxpayers’ money before and during the period it is administered.

    • Too many people use anectdotes and unsubstantiated stories to justify cutting a program which provides the barest essential services to people on the fringes of society. Other than a feeling of “they are probably using it on booze and kool aid”, the proponents of cutting such services don’t have jack to support their position.

      It is the height of hypocrisy for people to criticize lax enforcement of government regulations when they are the ones who scream loudest against “big government” and alleged “over-regulation”. Too often conservatives do their best to undermine the ability of government to function and then scream about the end results of such policies. You can’t have it both ways. Not if you were honest anyway.

      What it comes down to is an antagonistic attitude towards the poor. The conservatives think of them as non-people. That is unless they are ultra-religious, then they are easy votes to mobilize.

      • Larry, the substantiated stories of abuse are legion, many having found their way into best-selling books. You’d have to look beyond the smarmy world of liberal journalism, however, to know this.

        You have an odd definition or understanding of hypocrisy (just as many liberals today have an odd definition of marriage). Accepting as fact that the federal government is in way beyond the perameters the Constitution had set for it, conservatives have simply said: “Since you’ve assumed the power, why don’t you exercise oversight to preserve the fiscal integrity of the programs and require evidence that they work. You cannot reference any federal government social/welfare program that has accomplished its goals or even demonstrated success along the way. Under Democrat and Republican administrations over four decades, funding for these programs has increased. You not only don’t know hypocrisy, you seem ignorant of the facts that the federal government itself provides regarding its programs.

        No, it does not come down to an antagonist attitude toward the poor. It comes down to 1) a refusal even to identify what constitutes being poor, 2) a failure to include accountability in the administration of the programs and among the recipients. Above all, it comes down to a fundamental profile of liberals: their desire to feel good about developing programs, a desire that totally smothers any rational concern for whether the programs work.

        • In other words your proof anectdotes that make you feel better about your position as opposed to any kind of study or real information about the subject.

          “Accepting as fact that the federal government is in way beyond the perameters the Constitution had set for it”

          What a load of crap! Your position depends on ignoring pretty much every interpretation of the Constitution from the 20th century onward. For conservatives it is really more like a matter of undermining the federal government and then complaining about its inability to do its job.

          “You cannot reference any federal government social/welfare program that has accomplished its goals or even demonstrated success along the way. ”

          THE GI BILL! How is that for an example?
          Public education is another program which by and large has accomplished its goals. Illiteracy in the US is almost non-existent.
          As much as you hate SNAP, people in the US do not starve to death.
          Motor voter programs also are an unmitigated success in getting % of citizens registered.

          Attacking the ability of people to obtain subsistence food sources is nothing less than antagonism towards the poor. You have no business talking about accountability when you are trying to destroy a program. If you actually wanted accountability, you would not try to slash its budget. You would want it increased with conditions of hiring more people to oversee it. But that is too much “big government” for the likes of those like yourself. Oversight and accountability are dirty words to conservatives.

          • Larry, do I have to give you titles of books you might take a look at regarding conservatism’s charges about the federal government?

            Your third paragraph, whether you know it or not, touches on the very reason we have a burgening conservative movement today and why we’ve had the culture wars of the past four decades. Conservatism stands against liberal interpretation of the Constitution because that interpretation ignores the plain and simple meaning of the words of the document and ignores what the Founders repeatedly said regarding the document as they wrote it.

            I’ll grant you the merits of the GI Bill, but note that this law was enacted decades ago. As for literacy, you’re sadly mistaken about that. When last have you seen the reading test results for students in urban public schools. Are you aware that our colleges are offering remedial reading courses?

            I have no complaint about any voter registration program as long as the states and local governments have proof that the voter is who she or he claims to be. My community requires proof of identity; I had to show my driver’s license and my son had to produce his state ID card this morning when we voted.

            I have not attacked anything regarding welfare assistance other than the liberals’ notions that scrutiny isn’t important in practice (they merely claim that it is but hinder or ignore any efforts to enforce it).
            Slashing the welfare budgets is about the only way we can force the state to institute measures to weed out the fraud and abuse. I’ll also say, though, that liberals won’t do the weeding; they’ll simply make every dependent accept cuts. Spreading misery is what liberals do best: redistribution of wealth is what it is called. We see what is happening with Obamacare: those who work and have health insurance are losing it or being forced to pay higher rates, allegedly so that “the poor” will get coverage. In the end, nobody will have adequate coverage and we’ll all be in the same boat, which is the liberals’ dream–except for the people who passed the law in the first place. Yes, we must assist the truly poor. Yes, we must also place stringent qualification requirements on aid and we must time limit it.

            Oversight and accountability are not dirty words for conservatives. That is exactly what we’ve been fighting for. I’ll charitably ask: When did you actually do any reading or listening beyond nodding your head every time some liberal politician speaks?

            I wonder what your own status is in “the world of work.” You needn’t answer, but people who’ve invested their time and effort and, sometimes, financial resources in an effort to achieve the American dream do not take the positions you do on these important issues.

  2. I am a disabled 64 year old single woman. My income is just above the poverty level. More than half goes to rent for a modest 2 room apartment in one of the Bay Area’s poorest communities. i receive $16 a month in food stamps. To
    qualify for this I have to submit an extensive report every year along with copies of my latest bank statement and auto registration. I am grateful for this help and for the food I get from my local food bank.

      • Leave it to you, Larry, to make unfounded statements. Since long ago you’ve thrown away any rational basis for making judgments and behaving, relying entirely on your “feeling good” about what you want, you now accuse me of thinking of Ms Mulloy as a mooch and a fraud. There’s nothing I’ve written that allows you to jump to that conclusion other than your own misplaced sense of superiority that allows you to make the rules of judgment that everyone else must follow.

        At no time did I ever say that everyone receiving assistance is a fraud or a mooch. I merely stated that evidence abounds within reports of federal and state agencies themselves that fraud exists. Moreover, there has never been a concerted effort to modify programs that are rife with fraud or to terminate them when they’ve not proven their worth.
        Government “services” expand, never contract. Allocations are increased every year, with cutbacks in federal programs because of the Sequester (which Obama himself wanted) being the first time that there ever were cutbacks. And the liberals are now protesting the very law that they passed.

  3. Duane, I am always curious when people make statements of fact, where they get their information from. Since you speak of the laxness in the process of getting food stamps, but Susan, who states she does receive them, but to do so has to prove her need through what sound like rigorous scrutiny, are you speaking from your real world experience? If not, would you please cite your source for this information?

    I agree that their is more than likely some fraud in that program. It has been documented, and makes for good ratings as a news story for certain media outlets, perhaps because their viewership likes to hear these kind of stories, for whatever reason.

    However there seems to be fraud documented in most programs where people can get something of value for nothing. This in an unfortunate defect in the character of those who commit the fraud, and should be dealt with as a criminal act when laws apply.

    You also stated liberals have created this dependency, see it as a mission, then allude that it was against the constitution and the writings of those who created it. Once again, can you please cite your sources?

    Although I am against all religion, I do agree humans have a moral obligation to help those who are less fortunate, and applaud efforts of religions to do so, as long as it comes without proselytization.

    I am very curious why you feel ‘Clerics and others of “good intentions” deserve a hearing only when they acknowledge the waste and abuse in current programs and call for scrutiny in the allocation of taxpayers’ money before and during the period it is administered”. Would this satisfy something within you if they did?

    Perhaps we should all consider if we could all live life well, and love our fellow humans without needing to believe in a life after this one in either heaven or hell, but rather just because we should because that is how humans should behave.
    Good day!

  4. Mr. Gunter, thanks for your reply to my comment. Indeed, the experience of Ms Mulloy is one that should hold true for every welfare recipient. My wish for her is that she be able to increase her income so that she can remove herself from the welfare rolls. I also know that is not always possible.
    That issues of fraud make good news stories is beside the point. Were there more “due diligence” on the part of welfare agencies, the problems would be greatly reduced. There are plenty of news stories documenting the government’s own figures on fraud and abuse, but one must read and watch those news stories to discover it, and the mainstream media is good at covering up anything that might reflect badly on a Democrat administration. Curiously, they have no problem publicizing problems when Republicans live in the White House.

    I am personally familiar with fraud and abuse situations.

    Documented as well are statements made by officials or other employees in welfare agencies that indicate they are not concerned with “honesty,” and naively assume that all applicants are honest. I doubt that “naive” is the correct word, for there’s a philosophy of government held by many liberals that maintains it is government’s first duty to take care of everybody for everything. That is the nature of “Progressivism.”

    If you read the Constitution, you will see the limits placed on the federal government by it. Also, take not of the Tenth Amendment. At the heart of the dispute between conservatism and liberalism and the culture wars in this country is the argument that politicians and jurists today do not respect the words and the spirit of the Document and the Founders and ignore the amendment process because they know they cannot get sufficient support for their ideas in the amendment process itself.

    It is not “satisfying something within” me that is important. It is recognizing the importance of law and personal responsibility that is paramount. To put it crassly, “touchy-feely” types have little regard for rules and regulations or balancing budgets–until the matter affects them personally.

    Here’s a good measure to test one’s sincerity about “helping the poor”: the tax returns of these “helpers.” If they are looking for ways to avoid taxes through the tax code and tax form itself, then they are not much interested in doing “their part,” but in seeing that the rest of the taxpayers do “the part” for them.

    You say that you are not religious. Fine. But when you speak of moral codes and “shoulds,” you are appealing to metaphysical principles, on which religion is based. If there are “principles,” there are causes behind them. Either that or you are making yourself the arbiter of what is good. That is actually the foundational principle for liberals who owe no allegiance to a higher authority other than the one they have personally created to justify their positions.

    • How the hell can you argue for due dilligence when people like yourself consistently vote against the ability of regulatory agencies to function?

      There are plenty of anectdotes about welfare abuse. Some of them true. Are they typical for the program? You won’t know, you don’t care.

      Your constitutional argument is bullcrap as well. The federal government has an interest as well as all levels of government do in avoiding mass starvation of the poor.

      Arguing “Founder Intent” is an ignorant garbage argument for people who want to avoid the last 150 years of societal progress. “State’s rights” arguments when it came to personal issues took a permanent backseat with the end of the Civil war and the passing of the 14th Amendment. Too many people argue “it was the founder’s intent” when they want to make crap up as they go along and want to forget that the founders also used to own people as chattel property and denied women any form of citizenship status.

      • Larry, my voting and the voting of all conservatives thus far has not stalled the steady increases in funding and in regulation of any federal government agency. Provide just one instance where a bureau or agency has been eliminated or its power curtailed.

        No, Larry, you do not accept the Constitution as written, and you expect that any elected president will be sufficiently liberal so as to appoint liberal jurists to the Supreme Court.

        “Mass starvation of the poor” is hyperbole and the standard speech and writing format for liberals. Besides, if the programs you favor are so successful, why do we have the “mass starvation” that is present or imminent?

        You forget that the Founders who owned slaves also wrote a Constitution that could be amended–and was–to end that slavery. “Founders’ intent” refers to their understanding of a concept as they wrote the words of the Constitution. They provided for an amendment process to make any changes that the public want. They deliberately made the amendment process difficult, but the process has been successful twenty-seven times.

        If you wish to provide an example of people “making crap up” regarding the political process, I’m eager to read it. Perhaps we will have here something of common agreement; perhaps an opportunity for more discussion.

        • Constitutional Law is not like Bible Study. Its interpretation is meant to change over time. Maybe you should learn about how our judiciary works before you spout off such nonsense.

          “As it was written” would ignore most of its developments in the last 150 years, including the greatest expansion of federal power since its inception, the 14th Amendment. The part of the constitution which gives it the right to consider individual issues on a scale unimagined by the founders.

          Founder’s intent is always an intellectually dishonest form of discussion. Its chief proponent, Justice Scalia, claims it whenever he wants to make a conservative oriented decision. It is an means to an end. A vacant idea used to ignore decades, even centuries of prior interpretations.

          “Besides, if the programs you favor are so successful, why do we have the “mass starvation” that is present or imminent?”

          In the US we don’t. Show me where in America there is famine. It isn’t there.

          • Larry, you again touch on the very basis for the great politico/cultural divide in the country. I know how our federal judiciary works: Judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate. That means jurists get appointed only if they are “in sync” with the political philosophy of the president. I’ll also note that Republican presidents, the Bushes included, have not been very insistent on appointing conservatives, and when they were they usually had a Democrat senate to veto the nominations.

            I’ll bet the farm that you’ve never even read any of the Federalist Papers.

            I’m not the won who wrote about “mass starvation.” That was a line penned by someone else on this board, and I refuted it. Indeed, there is no such starvation, and I’ll even say that substantial cuts in the welfare budget will not lead to starvation. Instead, many recipients will simply allocate their checks to food purchases, which is what the money is supposed to be used for.

            We also know that people sell their food stamps and bridge cards.

          • Larry, I’ll call your attention to something Sen. Menendez D-NJ said just yesterday in the committee where Sebelius was being questioned: He said that the conservatives have done nothing but try to dismantle Obamacare.

            Yep, the senator is right. Where he is wrong is attributing conservative resistence to the current mess that is Obamacare. At no time have the conservatives been able to impact the implementation of Obamacare. They don’t have the votes to do so. Your crowd, Larry, owns that mess. Your crowd of progressives, firm in their belief without any foundation that government can do everything and anything, are now facing the big lie they believe in.

            It seems likely that the mess will collapse under its own weight and under the mismanagement that is always the result of progressive efforts. And then there were the 14 Dem senators yesterday who pleaded with Obama to make changes in the implementation of ACA. They’re up for reelection next year and are fearing for their jobs, as though the careerists that they are think that they have a lifetime lock on “serving” the public.

  5. There is no way anyone can credibly suggest that the current level of welfare spending is morally justified. We could immediately return to 2006 spending levels on all of these programs and do nothing more than reduce the levels of irresponsibility and indolence in the population at large, not to mention obesity.

    SNAP and SSDI are especially abused.

  6. Mr. Lamers, Sorry if my previous first name address was too informal, I apologize. I do appreciate your reply though. I also appreciate your use of what I will assume is your real name. It is refreshing to see someone with strong opinions not hide behind a pseudonym.

    The source of information is the point in many instances. What passes as “news” organizations these days are nothing more than political machines with a very specific agenda in mind. They feed both extreme left, and right people anecdotal stories designed to make them believe the situation is widespread, like this one. Unfortunately in many cases the people who are predisposed to want to believe these stories for their own personal reasons, eat this poison up and regurgitate it to friends, coworkers, and even in comment sections of real news stories like this one, without a thought about actually verifying this information from other sources first.
    I’m sure that there are management and workers in the welfare system who are either not careful who gets the assistance, or maybe even has a bias towards giving it. However I don’t believe it is representative of the preponderance of the system as a whole. If I am wrong, please provide sources other than right wing biased “news”, so I can read it for myself.
    You say you area “personally familiar with fraud and abuse situations”. Alright, please do tell. Since you obviously have a very strong opinion about it, do you think this personal experience may have caused you to paint everything with that same brush?
    Although I must admit I haven’t actually read the Constitution in many years, I did heed your admonition to read the Tenth amendment. In it I find that the federal government has certain powers, which include providing general welfare to the citizens of the U.S., so I don’t quite see your point, as it looks to be constitutional. Also with the last Presidential election, it seems the majority of the citizens of this country agree with the Democrats, who you so obviously don’t.
    “The Taxing and Spending Clause: States that Congress possesses the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, excises, imposts, to pay debts and provide common defense and general welfare to citizens of the United States”. – http://constitution.laws.com/10th-amendment
    I agree that personal responsibility is important. However we don’t have a society where the opportunities are equal, and unless our founding fathers could see into the future, which I’m convinced they could not, they could not have seen the great divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our country today.
    I find similarity in your “good measure’ analogy with how I feel about Christians who are against abortion for any reason, and go to great lengths to express it, but not to great lengths to urge their fellow believers to adopt children.
    I write about loving one another without belief in the supernatural because it really isn’t about metaphysics at all. It is simply about survival as a species, which is the self serving cause, appeal, and motivation behind it. If we continue as a species to believe in fantasies, and keep killing each other for those beliefs, we will eventually either end our species, or make living in this world a lot less pleasant.
    Perhaps (Maybe) we should all consider if we could all live life well, and love our fellow humans without needing to believe in a life after this one in either heaven or hell, but rather just because we should because that is how humans should behave.
    Good day!

  7. Mr. Gunter, I have no problem with your use of my first name.
    Concerning “news” organizations: I submit that conservative news sources have arisen because what otherwise passes for “journalism” today has ignored its fundamental responsibilities. Go back to the words of Peter Jennings. He is on record stating that journalists wish to make the world a better place. Indeed, they work hard to preserve the power of those who work for a government or a society as they the journalists want it to be. In short, they claim for themselves the power to define the “better” in “better place.”
    Conservative talk radio and news–some of the bloviating aside, of course–has gained increasing popularity because it presents elements of news stories or events themselves that the liberal media discard because they don’t like the message that the news item conveys. A case in point: within the past few months over a hundred thousand people marched in DC on the Supreme Court to protest pro-abortion law. Not a week later some twenty thousand pro-choice people also marched. Only the latter march received broadcast media coverage. There are other instances of biased journalism that the conservative news source bring to our attention: citing the news item itself and how much coverage in minutes it received on each of the broadcast news programs.

    As for a specific example, I will only state that a relative of an in-law had stated to the in-law that she will not look for work because she is comfortable with the amount of welfare assistance she is receiving. That is only one example I choose to present here. As I have stated elsewhere on this forum, there are best-selling books written that are chock full of documented examples of fraud, waste and abuse.

    What is the “general welfare”: of the U.S. and what did the Founders mean in incorporating that phrase. I doubt they meant that the taxpayers should provide you with a cellphone, and I doubt they thought that welfare should be extended to the same families through multiple generations. I fail to understand how politicians can look at forty years or more of a program’s failing and continue to both fund it at higher rates and refuse to investigate it and force improvements or its elimination.

    We also have people who refuse to do menial work and demand welfare instead. We have people on welfare who are able bodied. The rare instance where this is uncovered draws our attention. We have a right to wonder how many similar cases go unreported.

    Not to mention, as today’s news reported, that over a hundred million dollars in Social Security checks this past year went to people known to be dead. Why should we suppose, given prevailing attitudes within the government itself, that this disgrace is not also repeated in every other federal agency that expends funds?

    Until drastic measures are taken, there will not be a change in the way we adopt and administer programs nor in the way that we as individuals view our civic obligations.

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