President Donald Trump
Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr

I never found George W. Bush’s brand of conservatism to be all that “compassionate,” but that’s how he branded his movement in the 2000 campaign to distinguish himself from old, ornery Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich. Dubya actually saw a role for the federal government in some areas, notably public education, HIV research, and foreign aid. President Trump doesn’t use compassion as a selling point for his movement. He’s more about starving people.

The Trump administration on Tuesday will propose a rule to tighten food stamp restrictions that would cut about 3.1 million people from the program, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials said.

Currently, 43 U.S. states allow residents to automatically become eligible for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, if they receive benefits from another federal program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, according to the USDA.

But the agency wants to require people who receive TANF benefits to pass a review of their income and assets to determine whether they are eligible for free food from SNAP, officials said.

If enacted, the rule would save the federal government about $2.5 billion a year by removing people from SNAP, according to the USDA.

U.S. President Donald Trump has argued that many Americans now using SNAP do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment, and should be removed as a way to save taxpayers as much as $15 billion.

I’ve often argued that “should” is the most dangerous word in the English language because figuring what people “should” do is just about the worst way to make public policy. People “should” avoid unwanted pregnancies, but you have to make policy based on the fact that millions of people will not avoid one. People “should” go get a job if they don’t have enough money to pay rent or feed their kids, but sometimes jobs are hard to find or people have mental or other health issues that make it difficult to find good paying work. Sometimes, adults are straight-up lazy and don’t look out for their kids, and we have to make policy to protect their children.

The government shouldn’t be in the business of distinguishing between those who should have made better decisions in life and those who just had some bad luck. The policy needs to fit all situations, and nowhere is that more clear than when it comes to making sure children get the nutrition they need.

Let’s start with a sobering fact: “SNAP provides free food to some 40 million Americans, or about 12% of the total U.S. population,” according to Reuters.

We might wish this were not so, but we can’t wish it away. The number can actually grow much higher when the economy goes into recession. The good news is that farmers get to sell a lot of food to the government. The bad news is that the government has to pay for a lot of food. The important part is that people, particularly children, don’t starve.

In this case, the administration proposed changes to Congress and was rebuffed. Some rejected the plan because it would hurt recipients of food aid and some because it would hurt food producers, but the end result was that the people’s representatives said “no.”

This new rule is designed to work around Congress. It has a deliberate purpose, which is to stop feeding 3.1 million people. This would save $2.5 billion per year according to the Department of Agriculture. Trump says it would save $15 billion. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates “the rule could save the federal government $8.1 billion from 2019 to 2028,” or about $800 million a year.

Acting deputy undersecretary of Agriculture Brandon Lipps explains the rationale: “Unfortunately, automatic eligibility has expanded to allow even millionaires and others who simply receive a TANF-funded brochure to become eligible for SNAP when they clearly don’t need it.”

You see? Millionaires who qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (sometimes known as “receiving a brochure”) are gaming the system to get automatic enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Trump administration is going to put a stop to this!

They lie so much that it’s physically painful to witness. They’re just going to punish kids because it makes them insane to think that anyone, anywhere might be getting government assistance when they “should” be taking care of themselves and their kids. That’s the face of modern conservatism.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at