While listening to all of the back and forth discussion and arguments following the president’s “State of the Union Speech” I was reminded, once again, that the American people support many more of the things that the president stands for than for the things that the Republicans stand for; yes, that fact alone does explains his reelection.
His present poll numbers, however, exposed an unusual disparity that has never existed before when a president made his fifth year “State of the Union Speech:” He is less popular than all of the ideas he put forth or stand for, and that is not a small difference, either. The president’s poll rating is around 44 percent but all of the things he put forth, as usual, are quite popular. Most of his ideas are in the plus 60 percent range of popularity or higher.
What gives, we love the things that you want to do for us but we don’t like you? Is this the new paradigm when it comes to president Obama? Has the friendly forces bought into the hateful narratives or have they just been worn down? Once again, they could be polling the wrong people.
Agreement, but then some sad food facts
We are pleased that Congress came to an agreement on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, which maintained some important nutrition education programs. Also, TFAH is encouraged that Congress acted under bipartisan leadership to settle long-term agriculture and nutrition policy.
However, the legislation includes $8.6 billion in cuts over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). And, as many as 850,000 recipients could lose up to $90 a month in assistance. This deal is terrible for a significant number of the nation’s most vulnerable Americans and comes on the heels of additional automatic SNAP reductions.
In the current economic climate, difficult decisions have to be made, but cuts to vital public health programs could have short- and long-term consequences. The cuts amount to 3.2 billion lost meals for families over the next decade, according to Feeding America. In addition, the cuts make healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables, even more out of reach for many families, consigning them to cheaper, less healthy options.
Also, while immediate savings from cuts may seem expedient now, they will evaporate in a few decades when the nation gets the bill for poor health and nutrition. In fact, SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs can help curb healthcare costs in the future while providing immediate economic benefits to communities.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research, every $5 of federal SNAP benefits generates nearly twice that in economic activity. Also, many families rely on SNAP for only a short period: more than half of all new entrants in the mid-2000s participated for less than one year and left the program when their need passed.
The nation cannot afford to create barriers that prevent families from providing nutritious meals to their children. TFAH looks forward to working with Congress in 2014 to reduce hunger and poor health in America.
Jeffrey Levi, PhD, Executive Director
Trust for America’s Health
1730 M St. NW
Washington, DC 20036