In addition to releasing a radical budget that dismantled Medicare while likely raising taxes on the middle class, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has suggested a radical reworking of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). Under his plan, which would simply block grant SNAP to state governments, “SNAP would largely lose the ability to respond to rising need, forcing states during economic downturns to cut benefits or create waiting lists for needy families.”
In order to build support for his dismantling of the food safety net, Ryan has been spreading falsehoods regarding SNAP. Case in point, during a question and answer session hosted by the Spolight on Poverty and Opportunity, Ryan claimed that SNAP is “rife with fraud”:
Help us figure out how to reform these programs so they can grow at more sustainable rates and so that they really work. Help us reduce the redundancy and the duplicativeness of programs. Help us figure out how to make sure that these things are actually getting the assistance to the people who really need them.
Look at SNAP for example. You know we get all these reports. We get hearings and GAO and reports about how the SNAP program is rife with fraud, how it’s not getting the assistance to the people who need it, how there’s no incentive to — we’ve got a guy who won a lottery that’s on the program you know. Help us figure out how to reform these programs so that they can work better.
But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found, SNAP errors are currently at an all-time low, with errors accounting for less than three percent of the program’s cost:
To ensure that benefits are provided only to eligible households and in the proper amounts, SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program and, in recent years, has achieved its lowest error rates on record. In fiscal year 2009, even as caseloads were rising, states set new record lows for error rates. The net loss due to errors equaled only 2.7 percent of program costs in 2009. There is no evidence that program errors are driving up SNAP spending.
During the recession, SNAP has been critical for reducing poverty and pumping money into local economies. So in order to push his radical revamp of the program, Ryan is simply inventing reasons to attack its current structure, which is actually functioning quite well.