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Senator Wants to Force Low-Income Americans to Show ID For Their Food

Senator Wants to Force Low-Income Americans to Show ID For Their Food

Written by Alan Pyke

Food stamp recipients will have their grocery store humiliation compounded by having to show a photo ID in order to buy food if Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) gets his way.

Under a bill Vitter introduced Wednesday, beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be denied their food if they are unable to show a photographic identification card at the register. For millions of low-income Americans who don’t have an official photo ID and can’t necessarily afford to buy one, Vitter’s bill would mean being cut off from their primary food source.

Estimates of how many people are without the kind of ID Vitter wants to require are a bit fuzzy, as researchers have tended to focus on the issue in the context of voting rights, but multiple surveys have found that around 10 percent of the voting public doesn’t have a state-issued ID. One survey of voting-age citizens in 2006 put the ID-less proportion of the population at 11 percent, meaning that more than 21 million people nationwide likely lack photo ID, and found that one in four African-Americans surveyed had no ID.

The press release offers no indication that Vitter’s bill would help provide IDs for those who need them, as many states do with voter ID cards. But even if even if everyone could easily get an identification card, his bill would still heap additional humiliation on poor, hungry people.

Vitter cites one fluke technological failure with the SNAP system and says the legislation “will restore some accountability to the program so it’s not ruined for people who use it appropriately,” suggesting that “fraud surrounding the taxpayer-funded program” is part of why SNAP costs doubled since 2008. While Republicans frequently employ that same dishonest talking point, the reality is that food programs have the lowest fraud rates of any public program. At 1 percent, SNAP fraud rates pale in comparison to the rate of fraud in the farm assistance programs that conservatives like Vitter are attempting to shelter from cuts in the ongoing farm bill fight.

Nutrition assistance programs deliver those very low fraud rates despite serving an immense need. Roughly 50 million Americans cannot afford sufficient food. One American child out of every five lives in hunger. Food charities say they cannot pick up the slack the government leaves when it cuts food stamps because they are already stretched beyond capacity.

In fact, the cost of SNAP doubled because of the financial crisis and ensuing recession in which millions of people lost their livelihoods and turned to safety net programs. Because enrollment and spending levels for food stamps fluctuate with overall economic conditions, SNAP costs are already falling as the economy improves. If Congress wants to cut the cost of the program in half, all it has to do is wait a few years.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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196 comments

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5:43PM PST on Feb 12, 2014

For SB and Ron G
I have walked a mile in those shoes. When my right arm got ripped off in 1992. I did collect disability from a system that I had paid into since the age of 15 1/2 when I officially entered the work force. I actually could still be collecting it but chose to find a way to be employed again instead.

As for being conservative, I am not. But rather than being pigeonholed by a party line I vote individual issues. I care about the environment, wildlife and animals. I believe in a woman's right to birth control, abortion and equal pay. I support the death penalty. There isn't a Republican on the planet that is tough enough for me when it comes to enforcing illegal immigration. I think parents should have to completely support their children (education, food, insurance, etc.). I don't think senior citizens o limited incomes should have to pay taxes for anything. Everyone should have to have medical insurance just as they have to have automobile insurance. I think churches and the NFL should have to pay taxes. I think every speck of religious influence should be removed from the government. I think that people who want children and guns should have to prove that they are intelligent enough, responsible enough, and mentally stable enough to handle the responsibility.

I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.

6:36AM PST on Jan 31, 2014

The point is it will cost the STATES money sarah………which will be paid for by YOUR texes for an item that is not needed because the system is not broken enough to warrant this extra expenditure. THis is jsut bullshit legislation crated to make a voting base who generally snubs the poor, feel good about their representative.

4:44AM PST on Jan 31, 2014

I don't understand the argument about the cost, in Virginia, they only cost $5. A few years ago an elderly lady we know who doesn't drive got one. States could maybe give them for free to those who can't afford that.

6:20PM PST on Jan 30, 2014

Cost and inconvenience, while valid objections, are absolutely not the same as "humiliation" which has been loudly protested both in the comments and the article.

I repeat, what is humiliating about showing ID, unless you are hiding something?

12:00PM PST on Jan 30, 2014

There is no reason to fix something that is not broken. ID cards cost money. There is no reason to spend that money one something that isnt broken. Its that simple.

10:52AM PST on Jan 30, 2014

So much emotion but no logic.

I asked this before. What is "humiliating" about having to show ID, unless you are actually hiding something?

Anybody out in public has to show ID 10+ times a day, for various reasons. Whether you are getting a benefit, paying for something, entering certain buildings, making a complaint (or a 100 other things in life), people are expected to provide proof that they are who they claim to be. What's wrong with that, and what's the shame in that?

3:56AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

THESE T baggers are beyond belief they do not live in the real world!
Those who attack the present system are over-privileged, sheltered, jackasses who've been indoctrinated with the asinine belief that any individual who seeks public assistance must be a low-life.
Adults, we foolishly believed the days of "bullying" was left behind in high school.
Clearly, not so. Thanks to Amanda S.

10:53PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

just another way to kick around the poor.

3:04PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

Dear Amanda:
Your heart is in the right place and your history too, but... Food “stamps” where easy to steal because there was no pin number. Cost prohibited going through all those pieces of paper for both the businesses and the Government and they often times wore out before being used or collected.
These cards make it easier to trace electrically and for others to not steal it.
They also save on paper and postage as the card is good from month to month.
Much more cost effective.

In any case, this Senator is an idiot.

2:54PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

Continue......
so that is obviously treating an honest person as a law breaker until they prove themselves innocent, and isn’t that suppose to be the other way around?
If you are really trying to see that the right person is using the card, put their face on it (as many credit card holders do now). No embarrassing treatment of honest people need happen, unless you think being in need is a crime.

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