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

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Pam Bacon
Pamela Bacon4 years ago

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.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

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.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

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.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

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.

Neil A.
Neil A4 years ago

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.

june t.
reft h4 years ago

just another way to kick around the poor.

Haleene W.
Haleene W.4 years ago

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.

Haleene W.
Haleene W.4 years ago

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.

Haleene W.
Haleene W.4 years ago

I understand the ignorance of people who have been lucky enough to never have needed help for food, but what worries me is the government doesn’t even know how it works! A “Senator” (especially one wanting to change laws on this subject) should know that the cards are not just cash cards. They would be like steeling your credit card. You have to know the Pin # and they can get only so much with that card.

If their card is stolen it’s by someone they know with access to that information, so they either feed that person, or have sold amounts from it to that person, so that they had the pin #.

I have needed this help twice and believe me it is no picnic to go out in your community and have to deal with it in the first place. For an honest person they are not worth what groceries cost, but as in all groups, there are drug addicts receiving that are running low of cash & not hungry do to drugs (the same reason they don’t take care of their kids), and they sell the help they were offered for less then the value they received.
Important to remember not all are on drugs… In fact I would say a small minority, but with Senators and other government officials ignorantly spilling there rederick for votes, and the ignorance of those listening, this idea has ran repent, and unjustly.

Drug testing all is not cost effective, I don’t even remember when the last time was that I was asked to show my ID with my credit card, so that is obvi

Roxane Connor
Roxane Connor4 years ago

Before any politician can present or vote on any bill involving public assistance they should have to live on it for a week prior to the vote.