Jeb calls for ending food stamps, replacing them with opportunity and marriage

Jeb Bush has a plan to revamp our nation’s welfare system. And by that, Jeb Bush means that he has a plan to take the legs out from under our nation’s welfare system.

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that Jeb(?) is calling for an end to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). Under his plan, those programs would be replaced by “Right to Rise” grants, which states would have to apply for in order to fund their own programs for their low-income residents.

That is, if they chose to set up such programs at all.

Said Bush, “I know that giving states more flexibility will open the door for transformative ideas to eliminate poverty and increase opportunity.” For many states, particularly in the South, giving them “flexibility” simply means giving them an excuse to let poor people starve.

Because despite the fact that the average SNAP benefit pays out $1.39 per meal per person, and despite the fact that such a low benefit is still one of the single biggest preventative measures our country has for keeping people out of poverty, Republicans still insist the program is nothing more than black moochers taking money from white taxpayers. There’s a reason why, according to professors Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote, “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare.”

But! That’s all fine and the poor won’t starve Bush argues, if only they get their sexual houses in order and shack up with the right people. From the Post:

Bush also called for stronger families to help cure the country’s societal ills.

“Marriage matters when it comes to reducing poverty and increasing opportunity,” he wrote. “Children raised in married, intact families do better than children raised in single parent families on a whole host of measures, including graduation rates, criminal justice involvement and earnings as adults. But too often in discussions of poverty, this vital issue is left out of the discussion. It won’t be in my administration.”

As Steve Randy Waldman explained at length, marriage promotion as public policy is a cargo cult, a conflation of correlation and causation taken to absurd extremes:

The case for marriage promotion begins with some perfectly real correlations. Across a variety of measures — household income, self-reported life satisfaction, childrearing outcomes — married couples seem to do better than pairs of singles (and much better than single parents), particularly in populations towards the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. So it is natural to imagine that, if somehow poor people could be persuaded to marry more, they too would enjoy those improvements in household income, life satisfaction, and childrearing. Let them eat wedding cake!

But neither wedding cake nor the marriages they celebrate cause observed “marriage premia” any more than dances on tarmacs caused airplanes to land on Melanesian islands. In fact, for the most part, the evidence we have suggests that marriage is an effect of other things that facilitate good social outcomes rather than a cause on its own. In particular, for poor women, the availability of suitable mates is a binding constraint on marriage behavior. People in actually observed marriages do well because they are the lucky ones to find scarce good mates, not because marriage would be a good thing for everyone else too. Marrying badly, that is marriage followed by subsequent divorce, increases the poverty rate among poor women compared to never marrying at all. Married biological parents who stay together may be good for child rearing, but kids of mothers who marry anyone other than their biological father do no better than children of mothers who never marry at all.

Furthermore, as Matt Bruenig argued for Demos last month, we’ve already tried promoting marriage. It hasn’t worked:

One of the main points of so-called Welfare Reform was to end the scourge of single motherhood and promote marriage, “the foundation of a successful society.” Since that reform, which massively spiked extreme poverty in the US, the rate of birth to unwed mothers has continued to go up, and marriage rates have continued to go down. Nothing has been able to reverse this trend.

As part of Welfare Reform and other related measures, the government also got directly in the business of promoting marriage via projects like Building Strong Families,Supporting Healthy Marriage Project, and the Healthy Marriage Initiative more generally.As Bryce Covert has extensively pointed out at The Nation and elsewhere, assessments of these programs have found them to be utter failures. Nonetheless, states still redirect TANF funds meant to provide cash assistance to poor families to these dead-end ideology projects.

Jeb Bush is losing, in large part because he told the public from the get-go that he was willing to lose for the sake of being less of a vile racist/puritanical scold than his opponents. Gutting one of the most successful anti-poverty programs we currently have and replacing it with Catholic social teaching is a nice effort, but it’s likely too little, too late to put him back in contention.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • 1nancy2

    n: And; mean, nasty, uncaring, shrill, boring, unlikable dim. Jeb! is at -8 favorable. Creep. Creeps, etal

  • Giving states the right to discontinue support for their poor residents will result in the migration of poor people to states which maintain such programs; a race to the bottom. It’s perfectly in keeping with the right wing plan of attack on progressivism.

  • hidflect

    Every time Jebbie comes on TV the dog goes crazy.

  • Mistywmiller1

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  • emjayay

    Instead of a job being a media whore like mom can make for an excellent income, enabling one with no qualifications to pop out one baby after another with different fathers and live well while being an unmarried abstinence advocate.

  • emjayay

    With racial dog whistles.

  • emjayay

    Dubya wasn’t low energy. Just real lazy.

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  • Oh, fer fuck’s sake… he peddles marriage as the answer to everything, but is 100% against gay couples marrying. And he’s against requiring employers to pay a living wage, which is the only thing which might enable those working-poor families to get by on one normal job. And he’s against support for affordable, quality higher education, of course, which is the main way up the economic ladder for all but the wealthy scions like himself.

    I’d like Jebbie to name just one viable alternative proposal to a federally-run food stamp and aid to needy families program. One which guarantees everybody is covered, every American regardless which state they live in. Programs with reasonable benefits and minimum standards, as opposed to (for example) the ridiculously miserly Medicaid programs many states were running before the PPACA expansion.

    I have a program suggestion. Two actually. They’re called Food Stamps and Aid to Needy Families. Only instead of imposing arbitrary cut-offs, both programs would be expanded significantly, including provisions not just for families but also individuals. I’d also expand and improve Social Security and SSD benefits. And the expansions would be paid for by removing the FICA tax cap and by imposing a financial transactions tax of about 0.25% on all stock, bond, and derivatives sales.

    Want to reduce dependence on these kinds of programs? Guarantee a living wage and affordable higher education.

    We already know what happens to these kinds of programs when, as with the usual GOPer fetish, they’re turned into state-level block grants: Those states which need it the most and have the largest economically disadvantaged minority populations tell those minorities to fuck off and die.

    Jeb(?) and his GOPer friends are so very fond of yawping about how America is the greatest nation there ever was and ever will be — yet they’re totally cool with kids going to their falling down schools hungry, with elderly Americans having to choose between food, medicine, or heat, and with families having to hold down several shitty jobs just to make ends meet. Seems to me, if this is the case, ‘greatest’ is set to one hell of a low bar for humanity in general.

  • Nicholas A Kocal

    Does this low life scum of a person realize that many people who receive SNAP benefits are already married or are children too young to even be dating. And that several thousand active duty military families rely on SNAP benefits.

  • emjayay

    Not that anything he says matters, but…..

    I would have no problem at all with a real comprehensive benefit reform. Based on sociological and program research and evidence and analysis, and looking at the long term. This has never really happened.

    Too bad Bush’s suggestions are based entirely on ideology, and not at all on evidence and analysis.

    A real reform would look at long term results and reducing costs of overhead and negative impacts on recipients.

    Example: Since all kinds of research indicates that given that humans act like and absorb attitudes from their family and everyone around them (duh), subsidizing less successful people to live all in one place and their children then going to one school (i.e. housing projects and even to some degree Section 8) is a terrible idea in about a thousand ways. So: get rid of these things.

    Early childhood development is critical for everyone, and actual research shows that underclass kids in the US get a fraction of the messages from adults as middle/upper class kids, and they are overwhelmingly negative and simple as opposed to positive and complex. So: good long term individual parenting training for anyone having kids and getting assistance. Free early childhood school. Republican program from the last “reform”? Classes about how you should be married. Which have no effect.

    Unprepared young women with no money having babies without benefit of an actual father does not tend to work out well. So: Medicaid, referrals to Planned Parenthood, bonus for long term birth control, whatever. Some researchers think availability of abortion has had positive effects on crime over the years. Some think getting lead out of gas etc. was a key. (Both evil Roe v Wade and regulations of course).

    Poor people can spend as much time as working just applying for things and waiting and waiting and talking to people and getting whatever paperwork is required and going to some required pointless training sessions. Then repeating it all over and over. So, make it simple and easy and online. Overhead is huge. So make it simple and easy.

    How? Forget most programs and substitute higher minimum wage, income support, minimum income, whatever. SNAP is sort of like this except for all the hoops and waiting and waiting and administration time and mistakes and more forms and more paperwork and more waiting. At least once it starts it keeps going for a while – unless there is a work requirement and then you have all the problems again. And a requirement of having almost no money in the bank etc. Which leads to more time hiding savings and your car and working under the table.

    I’m sure there’s lot’s more. And I really think a Democratic candidate could get a lot of votes by some sort of research based overhaul. Conservatives think the federal government is about taking their money and giving it to certain layabouts while paying armies of liberal bureaucrats. Figure out how to start impacting that concept.

    All off the top of my head, not systematically thought out or informed. But a lot better than Jebster. And he has a lot of highly paid expert consultants. Well, highly paid ideologues and strategists anyway.

  • emjayay

    Thanks for the info on the marriage promotion programs. Sounds like abstinence only sex ed and Purity Balls and all that crap.

  • nicho

    Jeb and his siblings grew up in a two-parent family — and look how that turned out. War criminals, drunks, drug addicts, white collar criminals.

  • 2karmanot

    Along with ‘low energy’ Bushlett II, also seems low watt…one more and he’ll have a trifecta like Dubya.

  • Don Chandler

    Jeb wants to can Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps…what about off shore tax havens? He never talks about curbing Corporate Welfare. We all knew. Thankfully, he’s an honest fool.

  • 2patricius2

    Loser Bush flails about trying to gain some traction in his race.

  • MoonDragon

    Women should, by his logic, sell themselves into an economic agreement for the benefit of children who will be the result of a system that will not guarantee that they have even one loving parent, let alone two (If “marriage” must precede copulation, and that marriage is not predicated on emotional attachment, why would the children produced be guaranteed a welcoming reception, particularly by the sperm donor?) Either that, or the women must remain chaste, since that’s the only way to avoid pregnancy in a system that operates on the supposition that it’s more important to accommodate the religious principals of third parties than to provide contraceptive services to women. If the population of acceptable male partners is insufficient, will affluent men be permitted to “marry” multiple poor women? This is a perverse return to the plantation mentality where the gals are assets and economic units.

  • Sally

    I wonder if he’s talked to Trump’s various and sundry children about this. Or the Palin brood, none of whom live in a 2 parent household. The one factor that means more than anything is a job that can pay for a home, insurances, a reliable vehicle to get to said job, decent schools (you know Jeb, run by the citizens, not some for profit charters like in Florida??) and ensuring our kids get to those schools and have food in their bellies so they can learn. The states have not shown they can accomplish much of that, especially the red states, who would just as soon hand over all the tax dollars to their favorite donors and then watch the chaos, and blame DC for it. Hell, Snyder has done this for two terms, and FINALLY he’s being called to account. I’m hoping he takes his entire GOP cadre own with him, because his renegade AG is already determined that he is next in line for the mansion.

  • The_Fixer

    I am damn tired of fundamentalist scolds telling everyone how they should live. According to them, I should be married to a woman and have 5 kids. Being gay, that would have been a disaster for me and for them.

    This is more fairy-tale thinking from people who believe we should be invading other countries to tame the savages, that we can pollute the environment with no repercussions, and that “greed is good.”

    Such thinking has never worked, and never will. There’s abundant evidence that it does not work, but you know, that’s because we haven’t prayed hard enough.

    It must be wonderful to live in fairy-tale land. You just cover your eyes and yell “La-La-La” when the unpleasant truth comes along, and it all gets better.

  • JaneE

    Why is it that the conditions that prevailed for the prior one or two generations always said to produce better results than what is more common today? When I was young, one-earner families with stay-at-home mothers were “better” for children than two-income families. Before that rural environments were better than urban ones. And yet we still survive.

  • Sameboat1

    It amazes me just how heartless and souless these people, aka republicans, truly are.

  • nicho

    Actually, Jeb, recent studies show that children do better in small families than in larger ones. Every child added after the first one reduces the quality of life for all children in the family. So, since you’re so concerned about children “doing better,” can we assume that you’ll back a proposal for limiting family size?

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