When he spoke of “law“ last week, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley did not describe his dynastic rise to political prominence.
US Senator Chuck Grassley’s nephew was talking about food stamps. And he was trying to justify his attempt to limit not only who receives them, but also what they are allowed to buy. The underlying principle is not surprising to a conservative Republican: the poor should have less entitlement.
“It’s these programs that are entitlement, they’re the ones that are growing within budget and are putting pressure on us to be able to fund other priorities,” young Grassley, who describes himself as a self-employed farmer and earns $65,000 a year for the his legislative work, he told the press.
In the name of fiscal necessity at a time when Iowa has a $1.8 billion budget surplus, Pat was trying to limit food stamp recipients to buying from a list promulgated for expectant mothers. Prohibited items would include fresh meat, fish, sliced cheese, white rice, butter, cooking oil, butter, flour, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
Pat failed to mention that food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are federally funded. The state pays only half of administrative costs, which for Iowa were just $27.84 per case per month in 2020, less than the cost per case in 18 other states.
So cutting eligibility rolls for food stamps would save the state at best a relative pittance. As a result, Iowa may actually end up paying more.
“The administrative cost of trying to kick people out of the program would only increase the cost to the state,” Luke Elzinga, president of the Iowa Hunger Coalition, told The Daily Beast. “I don’t know what they were thinking, frankly.”
Iowa would have to run a comprehensive asset check on each applicant to make sure they don’t exceed a limit of $2,750 per household: $4,250 if someone is disabled or over age 60.
“If someone loses their job, they have to spend whatever savings they have before they can actually get into the program,” Elzinga said.
Residences would be exempt from counting, but households of any size would only be allowed one car. Just getting to and from work could prove challenging for families where more than one member is employed. You may get a job but you may soon get tired of trying to get it and your boss may get fed up with you being late.
“In rural parts of the state, having a vehicle is the difference between finding and keeping employment,” Elzinga noted. “What we are particularly concerned about is that households with more than one vehicle would risk losing their benefits.
Pat Grassley did not respond to a request for comment. Elzinga says conservative Republicans in the Iowa legislature have pushed for Medicaid job requirements and welfare “reforms” in recent years. But pursuing food stamps clearly has less to do with saving the state money than making a point.
“It’s ideological,” Elzinga said.
It’s also shameful.
And it gets even more so when you consider that the Grassley family farm has received approximately $1.75 million in federal grants over the past two decades. More than $1 million has been classified as “commodity subsidies,” something the government pays to farmers to make up the difference when the price of the crop on the free market fails to reach the “effective benchmark prices” set by Congress . Eligible crops include corn and soybeans, which the Grassleys grow on their 750 acres in Butler County.
A photo Pat Grassley posted to Facebook on Jan. 9 shows his grandfather sworn in to him for his eighth term in the Iowa legislature. Young Grassley then set to work limiting a food subsidy for the poor he calls an entitlement program.
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