[Editor's Note: We originally ran this article in July 2012, and with the "Fiscal Cliff" looming and our president and elected representatives in the House and Senate in heated negotiations in an effort to avoid sending us over it, we feel it's time to dust it off to remind everyone of what's at risk: Survival Security and Earned Benefits programs.
Democrats are calling on everyone to do their part as we have historically done as a nation in times of economic crisis (top marginal tax rates were raised from 24 percent to 63 percent during the Great Depression, and continued to rise as we entered World War II, reaching a high of 94 percent).
Republicans are asking the poor to take a hit as well, with changes to our Earned Benefits and Survival Security programs. While we recognize that we need to address the shortfalls in these programs, we believe solutions lie in reducing the number of people forced to rely on them through thriving wages for workers, not in stripping benefits for those in need.
As one of our nation's Founders, 2nd president of the United States John Adams eloquently stated:
"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it."
This article seeks to elucidate one of the most significant reasons our Survival Security programs have come into greater use in recent years: Major corporations like Wal-Mart underpay their workers and use taxpayers to supplement their employees' pay, extracting enormous sums from our economy for their personal enrichment. This practice is in direct moral contrast with our country's stated objectives, damaging all of us, not just those who work for Wal-Mart and other companies like them.
Please continue reading as we illustrate how this scheme works]:
While our nation is still recovering from the economic crisis brought on by fiscal policies that saw millions of jobs being lost, the middle class being decimated, and a nearly unprecedented rise in poverty rates, our elected Representatives in the United States Senate have already voted to reduce funding in the Farm Bill for the only source of sustenance for millions of impoverished Americans.
Trimming back on eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as food stamps are called, would save $4 billion over the decade. Republicans are pushing to reduce that even more. ...
"Is the benefit going to the right people? Is the money being expended wisely?" questioned Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who has led efforts to change the program, during a recent Senate speech. "Is it encouraging people to look for ways to be productive and be responsible for their families? Or does it create dependency on a series of government programs?"
Senator Sessions, that question is offensive. It's especially offensive when you recognize that a significant number of Americans who rely on Food Stamps to feed their families, are working full-time but are not being paid a thriving wage by their employers. So of course the benefit isn't going to "the right people," or being "spent wisely," because it's going to line the pockets of billionaires and their billion-dollar corporations!
So we have a question for you, Senator Sessions and Republicans in the House of Representatives:
When will Congress take up legislation that places the full burden of employee compensation on multi-billion dollar corporations that line their pockets at the expense of taxpayers?
✔ Wal-Mart’s intentionally low wages force employees to need approximately $420,000 per year, per store, totaling $2.66 BILLION annually in food stamps and other taxpayer assistance…to survive.
✔ Wal-Mart’s intentionally low wages cost the country HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars in payroll tax deductions for Federal, State, and Local taxes.
✔ Wal-Mart’s intentionally low wages cost our communities the ability to hire and retain important public service workers like firefighters, police officers, maintenance workers, and teachers.
✔ Wal-Mart’s intentionally low wages cost our communities with their increased need for those same public services they are underfunding.
✔ Wal-Mart’s intentionally low wages and lack of covered benefits cost taxpayers over $1.02 BILLION a year in healthcare costs.
✔ Wal-Mart’s intentionally low wages cost taxpayers as much as $225 MILLION in free and reduced price lunches for school-age children.
✔ Wal-Mart’s intentionally low wages cost taxpayers over $780 MILLION in tax deductions for low-income families.
So Senator Sessions and Representatives in the House and Senate, the citizens from whom Wal-Mart is stealing tax dollars to pay their employees want our money back from WAL-MART, not hungry families.
SNAP has one of the most rigorous payment error measurement systems of any public benefit program. Each year states pull a representative sample (totaling about 50,000 cases nationally) and thoroughly review the accuracy of their eligibility and benefit decisions. Federal officials re-review a subsample of the cases to ensure accuracy in the error rates. States are subject to fiscal penalties if their error rates are persistently higher than the national average.
Despite the recent rapid caseload growth, USDA reports that states achieved a record-low SNAP error rate in fiscal year 2010. Only 3 percent of all SNAP benefits represented overpayments, meaning they either went to ineligible households or went to eligible households but in excessive amounts, and more than 98 percent of SNAP benefits were issued to eligible households.
That is an infinitesimally small amount of “waste” or “fraud.” It is so minuscule as to not even be felt in our economy.
But more than anything, do you know what that level of efficiency means?
It means the people who are receiving SNAP benefits need the food. Taking it from their mouths is cruel and inhumane.
Republicans in the House proposed changes to the Farm Bill that would take $16 BILLION away from people who are hungry.
We implore you to call them and change the narrative. Tell them they have targeted the wrong people to go after to save taxpayers from Food Stamp "fraud" or "abuse." Tell them to stop letting Wal-Mart and other large corporations use taxpayer dollars to supplement their payrolls!
✔ Winning Words: Earned Benefits (not entitlements), Survival Security (not welfare), Thriving Wages (not living wages), Workers (not employees).
Thanks so much for your thoughtful input. Help us get the message out by sharing this post and calling on your representatives in Congress to make this a priority in the coming session.