| September 18, 2013

DHS food-stamp advocacy inappropriate

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) has taken advocacy to a whole new level.

As is the case in a number of federal stimulus programs, a temporary bump in food stamp payments by the federal government is set to end. The number of food stamp recipients is at record highs, despite low unemployment in Oklahoma and the fact the economy has significantly recovered, according to state officials. But DHS has embraced the position of the Obama administration regarding the end of this temporary bump, and is driving media coverage to shine the light on the matter, apparently in hopes of rallying public support.

According to DHS and media reports, a family of four is going to see a decline of $36 a month in food stamps. DHS officials have been quoted in the media, but they have not yet acknowledged that the increase in the program was known to be temporary when it was passed. No one should have been relying on this stimulus bump for the long term, because it was temporary.

Unfortunately, liberal policy advocacy from DHS is nothing new. For example, you may recall that DHS sponsored a “training” event and paid employees to listen to a local advocacy group stoke racial division in Oklahoma by charging that income differences in Oklahoma were racially related. This food-stamp flap is yet one more reminder that state lawmakers must be vigilant in overseeing the affairs of state agencies.

Regarding this scheduled decline back to normal levels for food stamp payments, DHS appears to be favoring a bureaucratic approach of continually expanding an entitlement program rather than using the growing Oklahoma economy to help citizens find work and reduce the need for such programs. In one media interview, DHS spokesman Mark Beutler said that not only is it going to have an impact on individuals but will impact Oklahoma’s economy from the loss of over $60 million. But of course the food stamp program is not an economic development program and should not be used as one. Taking a bucketful of water from one end of the lake and pouring it in the other end of the lake does not raise the water level of the lake.

Blindly expanding government programs or advocating continuation of what was to be a temporary expansion ignores the fact that the federal government is broke. It ignores the fact that the federal government will soon eclipse $17 trillion in direct debt owed, that the federal government has more than $88 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and that the federal government simply can’t grow money on trees.

As a taxpayer, it troubles me to see advocacy such as this at DHS and other state agencies. I would prefer not to see my tax dollars used to pay staff at the OKDHS to lobby for more federal funds and incite fear in the community when their favored entitlement programs happen to get pared back.

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