Getting Americans in poor financial situations help acquiring the basic need of food has been under the control of the federal government for decades. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, has been been in a continuous state of increase even as the overall fiscal health of the nation has improved.
The USDA has released a promise to push the program towards a federalist solution. By giving more control over the delivery and administration of food stamps to the states, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hopes to pull more people off the program and down the road to self-sufficiency.
“SNAP was created to provide people with the help they need to feed themselves and their families, but it was not intended to be a permanent lifestyle,” he said.
Details of the move have not been released, but the general theme of the pledge is to bring it in line with federalism. This is a great thing. Here are three reasons why:
Localizing welfare programs improves accountability
As with any federal program, the food stamp program is rife with corruption. Having the federal government dictate how states administer the program takes responsibility away from the states to monitor how it’s all handled.
One of the benefits of localizing government is making people responsible for their own actions. When messes are pushed over to DC for accountability, they can get lost in the mix. Localizing allows people closer to home to ask the tough questions. That’s not to say there’s no corruption in local or state governments, but it’s much easier to identify and sort out when the buck stops locally instead of getting pushed up to the federal level.
Let states innovate as the labs of government
SNAP was intended to be a stopgap solution, but history has proven it isn’t. More people join the food stamp program than leave it. Some of this is due to the direction the economy is going where higher prices of basic living expenses outpace lower end wages. Most of the problems can be attributed to lack of innovation.
The federal government is not known for innovation. It’s just too big.
By applying the basic tenets of federalism to allow states to be the laboratories of government they were intended to be from our founding, we can see a diverse mix of solutions attempted. As some fail, other states can learn from those lessons. As others succeed, policies can be adopted and improved upon based upon those successes. The goals of both the federal and state variations of the agencies should be to help those who need it now by getting them food and in the future by making them self-sufficient. Opening up innovation at the state level is the best way to achieve both goals. This leads us to the most glaring reason we need federalism applied to food stamp (and most other) programs…
DC doesn’t shrink anything, ever
We want fewer people on food stamps. This isn’t just for the sake of taxpayers. It’s for the sake of the Americans in need. There will always be some who prefer to game the system and be supported for their whole lives. There are others who have no choice. However, there are millions who can and should be able to get back on their feet. All they need is a little help.
Washington DC is incapable of this because it goes against the nature of our current federal government system. Until we elect true federalists to enough offices across America, we’re stuck with the Democrats and Democratlites (also known as the Republicans). Both parties have grown accustomed to keeping DC in a perpetual state of growth. For every positive move like this one, there are five more programs getting boosts for no good reason other than earning the current party in power some votes.
What the USDA is proposing is that rare opportunity when a federal agency is relinquishing power to the states. We should take the successes that come from the move and use them as shining examples of how the principles of federalism can be made to work better than the current big-government system that rules over just about everything in DC.