Republicans in Congress are proposing a new law that would require photo ID in order for recipients of food stamps to use their EBT cards. At first, this looks like another attempt by conservatives to harass the poor and marginalize them like recent voter ID laws have tried to do. Unlike voting, making the argument for public assistance being a right guaranteed under the Constitution would be a little more of a chore, and there are few things that conservative politicians like to do more than to demonize anyone who gets money from the government – unless it’s a corporation, of course.
Via the Huffington Post:
New legislation would require Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to show photo identification when they use their government-issued debit cards to buy food. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) introduced the SNAP Verify Act last week. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) offered a similar bill in January.
“This act seeks to protect those who truly need SNAP assistance, and ensures those who would defraud recipients and the U.S. taxpayer are unable,” Salmon said in a statement.
Salmon and other Republicans have pushed food stamp photo ID requirements in the past. They argue that photos would help reduce fraud by preventing SNAP recipients from selling their debit cards for cash. In a January report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a 1.3 percent rate of trafficking in the $78 billion program. (Source)
If you think about it, it’s more of the same from Congressional Republicans. If you do the math, 1.3 percent of $78 billion is all of $1.014 billion, which may seem like a lot of money but it’s actually an insignificant amount of the annual federal budget. Yet, everyone has heard a variation of the story of how someone’s cousin’s neighbor’s ex-boyfriend’s sister trades their food stamps for drugs or cash. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, it’s just not a regular enough occurrence for us to worry about and the cost of implementation would likely offset any savings the program would see – but let’s never make the mistake of confusing Republican lawmakers with actual fiscal conservatism.
As I discussed in “6 Myths About Welfare Recipients Debunked,” legislation like this isn’t actually designed to create any kind of accountability or save money. What it is intended to do is say, “Hey! Look at all this welfare fraud!” and then once the law is passed, politicians can say “if welfare fraud wasn’t so bad, why did Congress have to pass a law to require ID when using food stamps?” See how that works? Exaggerate a problem, pass a law to deal with that inflated issue, and then go back to your constituents to crow about how you’re a bold lawmaker who tackled wasteful spending. After all, creating problems and then fixing the same almost non-existent issue is certainly a lot easier than tackling things that actually matter – like the growing unemployment rates in David Vitter’s home state of Louisiana. In case you’re wondering, those are mostly oilfield workers (many of which are conservatives) losing their jobs due to falling oil prices.
However, since Republicans are so insistent on photo IDs for people using food stamps and it has already been implemented in the liberal bastion of Massachusetts, let’s go ahead and support the idea on one condition. Let’s have an amendment added to the legislation that a photo ID on an EBT card suffices as proper ID for voting – in any state in the country. I’ll bet you Republicans drop that idea really quick.
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