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SNAP Judgment: In praise of food stamps

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Colorized photograph of the first food stamp, 1939. An illustration of a woman is paired next to text that reads

The Baffler, September 2023

FEW WATCHING this spring’s face-off over the federal debt limit were surprised that House Republican hostage-takers fixated on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Members of the so-called Freedom Caucus were keen to slash SNAP eligibility and spending by expanding work requirements on able-bodied adults, lest the government continue letting the “undeserving” poor skirt by on the taxpayer’s dime. Liberals, arguing that such work requirements are ineffectual and only serve to take food from needy households, urged President Biden to resist.

The outcome pleased few. Liberals were unhappy because President Biden gave in at all, and conservatives were unhappy because House Speaker Kevin McCarthy capitulated on exemptions for veterans and the homeless. But the fact that this skirmish, like many others in recent years, was over SNAP’s rules, not the program itself, speaks to its astounding political resilience.

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