The Obama Administration continues to assert that the economy is “recovering.” But an astounding number of Americans relied on food stamps, or in USDA parlance, the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” in 2013. According to new statistics from the Agriculture Department (USDA), 20 percent of American households were on food stamps last year. The total number of households on food stamps in 2013 was 23 million; this figure is up 722,75 from 2012.
Compare this to 2009, when only 15 percent of American households relied on SNAP.
Furthermore, according to the same USDA report, one in five Americans are now on food stamps.
It is important to note that the number of SNAP recipients vary greatly from state to state. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that in some states, nearly a quarter of the population relies on food stamps. Mississippi and Washington, DC top the list of food stamp enrollment “by state,” at 22% and 23% respectively.
To make matters worse, the USDA has acknowledged that billions were spent on this program by mistake.
In 2013 SNAP overpaid recipients $2.1 billion by accident. An additional $500 million was underpaid to other recipients to the tune of more “mistakes.” This brings the total of food stamp mispayments to $2.6 billion.
That’s a $2.6 billion “whoospie-daisy.”
Just think what could have been done with those wasted billions. That could have restored all of the military veteran’s pension cuts in the latest budget legislation. It could have housed thousands of homeless Americans for years. Or, it could have provided me and every one of my friends a wicked bad-ass vacation.
According to the USDA, improper payments “were attributable to administrative and documentation error… [an] improper payment occurs when a participating household is certified for too many or too few benefits compared to the level for which they are eligible. This can result from incomplete or inaccurate reporting of income and/or assets by participants at the time of certification and from changes subsequent to certification, or errors in determining eligibility or benefits by caseworkers.”
Ooooh, ok. I feel much better about that misappropriated money now.
The lack of accountability within the SNAP program is baffling — such a blatant disregard for significant funds would never be tolerated in the free market. A private company that operated so recklessly would likely go out of business; at the very least, someone would be held accountable or fired.
But not if they work for the government! Bureaucratic federal agencies are rarely held accountable for their failures. In fact, bloated and incompetent agencies like those running Medicare, Medicaid, federal housing, and SNAP claim to need more money to operate effectively. Then again, have you ever heard of a government bureaucrat proclaiming that they are sufficiently funded and don’t need any more money?
A significant portion of the budgeting and work within SNAP should be contracted out to companies in the private sector, which could be held accountable. The Department of Defense (DoD) does this frequently with some success. When the DoD needs work done, it reviews various offers from competing companies such as Raytheon, Lockhead Martin, and Boeing. The business with the most promising plan is then given the contracting job. If the chosen contractor fails to be effective, it can be financially penalized and may lose the contract the following year.
If these kind of reforms were put into place within SNAP, there would finally be some hope for restoring some accountability in this out-of-control program.
A support system for our society’s most vulnerable is essential. But entrusting the government to run every part of these programs, like SNAP, is a huge mistake that will cost us all dearly.
Written by Kristin. Follow her on Facebook.