Even-handedness, Republican style

Well done to Texas deer hunters who are donating a portion of their kills to help feed their state’s hungry.

The start of this year’s deer season on Nov. 2 coincided with a cut to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program. Celia Cole, chief executive of the Texas Food Bank Network, said that those cuts had left millions of Texans scrounging for new sources of nutrition and that food banks had struggled to keep up.

“We see a spike for demand during the holidays,” Ms. Cole said. “The cut to SNAP came at a particularly bad time.”

The Hunters for the Hungry program will help offset some of the losses, Ms. Cole said, by providing needy families with a source of protein, often the most expensive part of their diet.

Unfortunately it’s not enough.

Ms. Cole emphasized that charitable initiatives, while important, could not make up for the federal cuts anyway. November cuts to SNAP eliminated $36 of assistance a month for an average family, which Ms. Cole said amounted to a reduction in roughly 180 million meals in Texas a year. By comparison, Ms. Cole said, the entire Texas Food Bank Network provides about 250 million meals each year.

“We can’t expect programs like Hunters for the Hungry to solve the problem,” she said.

The cuts in SNAP came after a temporary boost in food stamp benefits under the 2009 stimulus package ended. Congressional Republicans have responded by trying to cut food stamps even further.

In other GOP-style holiday cheer, benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed expired on December 28. Many Republicans opposed an extension of benefits on the grounds that this would increase dependency– i.e., cutting off benefits will force these people to get off their lazy asses and find jobs.

The facts are that there are currently three applicants for every available job, and many employers refuse to hire the unemployed.

In one recent study, Rand Ghayad of the Boston Fed sent out a flurry of fictitious résumés to different employers, tweaking some of the characteristics of the applicants. He found that most employers won’t even look at the résumés of the long-term unemployed, even if they’re otherwise perfectly suitable.

In addition, people receiving unemployment benefits tend to spend them immediately, pumping money into the economy and helping create and maintain jobs.

Finally, and Rand Paul notwithstanding:

Unlike food stamps — another safety net program that Congress likes to kick around — Americans don’t qualify for unemployment insurance by being poor. In fact, you can only qualify for unemployment benefits if you had a solid work history prior to being laid off. And you can only remain eligible by continuing to search for work.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans who’ve received long-term unemployment benefits since 2008 had previously earned between $30,000 and $75,000, according to an analysis of Census data by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Earlier research by the Congressional Budget Office has shown that more than two-thirds of recipients had annual incomes more than twice the poverty level and that such households received 70 percent of all unemployment payments. In other words, unemployment insurance for the most part serves the middle class.

So Congressional Republicans are even-handedly ignoring the needs of millions of poor and middle-class Americans. If they ever ignored the needs of the rich as well, even I would give them some credit.