Recalled from a shorter-than-expected summer recess, the House of Representatives passed legislation (247-161) securing 300,000 public jobs including those of teachers and policemen. On Tuesday H.R. 1586, commonly referred to as “the State Bailout Bill, allocated $26 billion to states desperate for relief. The funding of the bill, however, makes a bold statement about America’s priorities.
With a strong resolve amongst the Democrats in the face of Republican adversity, the bill itself may have taken a severe blow from the onset. In recent months, tension within Congress has grown high regarding the level of the deficit: Democrats contend that the deficit has to grow in order to promote job and economic growth, while Republicans fear an oversized deficit will become too large a burden. With an economy in distress, Democrats pandered to the Republican view. The proposed legislation receives paid-for funding from both closed corporate tax loopholes and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, funds are distributed on four criteria: countable resources ($2,000 if under 60 years old), income level (under $1984 per month for a family of 3), immigration status, and special rules for elderly and disabled. For a family of three earning under $1984 monthly, the maximum allotment is $526 where the poverty line for the same family is an annual income of $17,285.
Given current economic distress, Congress has further alienated an entire class of citizens. Aside from limited resources, recipients of SNAP are not only disadvantaged, they lack adequate access to food and basic needs. With recent debate aimed at the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2011, Congress can avoid adding $700 billion dollars to the deficit. At a time when America sees its greatest disparity of wealth, an exponential increase in membership of its lower class, and a depleting middle class, America cannot afford to renew these tax cuts. Additionally, Congress cannot continue to recruit funding from the have-nots, or those facing real barriers.
On Tuesday, a divided House of Representatives displayed that it can produce positive action that affects Americans, the economy, and prevents a major destabilization of infrastructure by protecting hundreds of thousands of jobs.
But can Americans without access to the basics of food, shelter, and even jobs afford to pick up a tab for the richest?