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Who Really Needs Government Help?

Let us compare and contrast two groups who depend upon help from the government. Both have been featured in local news articles in recent weeks. The first group is made up of corporate entities which depend upon tax breaks to improve or even to relocate their businesses locally, and the other group is made up of food stamp recipients who need help to buy food in order to stay alive—one in five families, most of whom are working at low paying jobs.

Both groups provide jobs in their local communities and beyond. The corporations justify their dependence on the taxpayers, because they hire people who then will pay taxes back to the government. The food stamp program also provide jobs. Anyone who has visited a grocery store or who reads newspapers knows that grocery stores, farmers, truckers and food wholesalers will be forced to lay off employees if the food stamp program is cut. Those employees would otherwise be able to support themselves and their families, and pay taxes as well. And note, the food stamp program has been cut already in the last few years, despite the increased costs of food.

Political leaders respond differently to the pleas for help from the two groups. In the case of corporations, our mayor, the county executive, a Congressional representative and the governor have all made strong statements in support of offering millions of dollars in tax breaks over extended periods of time. They are eager to keep the corporations in the local area, or at least within the state.

The federal response in the case of the food stamp recipients has focused on a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans, whether to cut the program by $4.5 billion over the next 10 years or by $40 billion. A leading House Republican has stated that the proposed cuts will “put people on the path to self-sufficiency and independence.” One recent proposal would tie food stamp eligibility to proof that the recipients are looking for jobs. The political benefactors do not want poor people to wallow luxuriously on the munificent average food cost supplement of $133 per month. In contrast, the food stamp program is part of a farm program part of which pays fat subsidies to millionaires—no means tests for the rich!

Those in favor point out that the cuts average “a mere” $36 per month, only 27 percent of $133. It’s easy: just tell the kids to eat 27 percent less. Viewed in another way, if we multiply $36 by the 47 or 48 million recipients, we can estimate the huge economic benefit for our national economy of increasing food stamp benefits. Food stamp dollars go directly into the economy because recipients spend them immediately. The recipients do not have money left over to keep in stocks, bonds, and offshore bank accounts.

The comparative leverage of the groups differs considerably as well. The corporations point out that other states, other countries will give them the tax breaks if the local communities will not. Food stamp recipients do not have such leverage. They just have to keep learning how to endure hunger.

> Adeline Levine, Buffalo

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