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SPOTLIGHT
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Food stamps

Published on -9/20/2013, 9:59 AM

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Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., does not appreciate freeloaders. The Big First representative in the U.S. House indicated as much when casting his vote Thursday to reduce Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending by $4 billion a year.

"... You can no longer sit on your couch -- or ride a surfboard like Jason Greenslate -- and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you," Huelskamp said in a press release.

If you watch Fox News, you might already be familiar with Greenslate. If not, it's easy enough to find the video online showing the self-proclaimed beach bum proudly flaunting his lifestyle. He spends his days sleeping in late, drinking alcohol, surfing in La Jolla, Calif., hanging out with his friends -- and using his SNAP card to purchase lobster and sushi in the gourmet section of a grocery store. The college-educated aspiring rock star drives a nice automobile, spends the night at various friends' homes and doesn't appear to work at all.

Somehow he manages to pull it all off on $200 per month in food stamps. Or at least that's what the Fox report suggests.

Setting aside the believability factor, Greenslate has become the symbol of what's wrong with the welfare system. And it's working, as far as Huelskamp and others are concerned. By a 217-210 tally, the House passed the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013 this week.

The resolution is the food stamp portion of the farm bill, which has yet to garner enough votes to pass. House Republicans separated the two earlier in the summer in order for the farm assistance program to pass while being able to reduce the $80 billion annual food assistance program.

We believe the SNAP program has problems. It also is a huge expense, with participation growing 83 percent since 2008.

But we don't believe the surfer boy Greenslate personifies the typical food-stamp recipient. It defies reality to accept such a lavish lifestyle can be afforded with $200 a month.

Huelskamp and others in the entitlement-slash-and-burn faction need to step back and truly assess what's going on in the country. The Great Recession was at its peak in 2008. The unemployment rate has barely nudged down to 7.3 percent. Jobs are disappearing in the U.S. at an alarming rate.

And, yes, there likely are a portion of those receiving government assistance who game the system. Should we expect anything different when one in seven Americans are eligible for the entitlement? When examples are readily available of corporate welfare cheats who make fortunes by gaming that system?

It is not enough to highlight one freeloader to justify such a massive cut in SNAP. This heartless approach undoubtedly will be rejected in the U.S. Senate.

We've got large problems facing the country that require rational debate and thoughtful solutions. Symbolic legislation doesn't do anything to resolve issues.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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