On Food Stamps, Tom Corbett Deserves Praise

Surprise, surprise — food stamp decision is good policy, better politics. Who cares if it was done for the right reason?

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

So, which Tom Corbett are we voting for this November?

Is it the governor who slashed education, cut benefits to Pennsylvania’s neediest families, and tried to make pure destitution — as opposed to mere impoverishment — the standard for receiving food stamps? Or is it the white knight who, when the food stamp program was threatened by federal cuts, this week suddenly and unexpectedly rode to the rescue?

I’d maybe vote for one of those guys. But probably not the other.

Yes, it seems that Corbett suddenly found his bleeding heart in an election year: If your narrative is that you really did create good jobs in Pennsylvania, it’s probably not helpful if people see their neighbors suddenly going hungry or begging for food. But it probably doesn’t pay to be too cynical about that: Without his move to divert some federal “heat and eat” energy assistance to shore up the food stamp program here, thousands of poor Pennsylvania families would’ve found themselves facing a $65 a month cut in their food aid.

“Gov Corbett recognized a hit of $65 a month to these families is a huge hit,” said Kait Gillis, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Public Welfare.

But what a governor giveth, a governor can taketh away. Corbett’s modus operandi for most of the last four years has been to take away. So a question arises: If he’s re-elected, will Corbett renew his commitment to the program a year from now?

“As far as I know, yes,” Gillis told me. “But we’ll have to review it next year.”

It’s a provisional “yes,” but we’ll take it for now. That raises a second issue: Did the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania officially lobby against the food stamp cuts before Congress made them official? It’s the question that helps us determine whether the governor’s recent action is a priority, or a pose.

Priority, said Jay Pagni, Corbett’s spokesman. He said the state was on record as opposing the food stamp cuts — even though, as an agricultural state, there was plenty else in the farm bill to support.

“Pennsylvania has been on record that there are vital programs at the federal level that need to be maintained,” he said, adding that the food stamp cuts hurt “hard-working, low-income Pennsylvanians.”

Why does this matter? Because the question of food stamp support is already critical in the election. Allyson Schwartz’s support for the Democratic nomination began to slip when she voted for the bill containing the food stamp cuts, angering party activists. If she still wins the nomination — despite Tom Wolf‘s current advantage in the polls — Corbett could well run to the left of her on the issue in the general election.

If you hated to see the food stamp program cut, after all, Tom Corbett doesn’t look like as bad a candidate as he might’ve a week ago: He’s even winning praise from Democrats on the issue. “This certainly is a positive step,” Sen. Bob Casey said through a spokesman. (Casey voted against the bill, citing the food stamp cuts.)

After four years of frustration, it’s not easy to give Tom Corbett the benefit of the doubt. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter why he did it: He did the right thing and made a move to repair a break in the state’s safety net.

“If an elected official does the right thing, it’s not for me to judge motivation,” Joel Berg, a “national antihunger advocate,” told the Inquirer. In other words: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m not sure Tom Corbett has earned re-election; this week, though, he’s at least earned some praise.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.

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  • matthew brandley

    what ever happend to those who are able to , getting off there lazy asses and getting a damn job rather it be working 2 or 4 part time jobs like some people do so they dont have to depend on food stamps? whatever happend to self pride , self worth, self determination and hard work? Oh never mind. Obama voters dont know wtf that is. they get obama phones, obama food stamps obama utility bills paid. obama housing. obama everything! there special. there “entitled”

    • Sean Indignado Kitchen

      Right, guess you never heard of the “working poor.” Also, I hope you don’t know any Iraq or Afghanistan vets either.

      • matthew brandley

        what part of my comment” Those that are able” did you not read”If the trash cant keep there legs shut or zippers up why should the tyax payers keep paying for it? sinc ewhen is working at b k or walmart a career? theres plenty of free classes offered at local libraries and community colleges to make everyone more maketable for a better paying job. Its not my damn problem if these lazy asses are to stuid to take advatntage of them to go and learn . so stop giving the pathetic libturd left excuses

        • Sean Indignado Kitchen

          You do realize that SNAP and Unemployment are insurance benefits? Keyword here is ::wait for it:: insurance.

          • matthew brandley

            Tax payer hand outs. best thing congress did was cut the cord to unemployment benefits and cut back snap benefits. Ticks me off to hear and read people whining about not having enough food when they only work part time have a baby and 4 0r 5 kids.

          • Jane Yavis

            O Boy, here we go again.

          • A Reff

            Do you even understand that unemployment benefits are paid by employees and their employers? Its one of the taxes they take out of paychecks for workers in case they wind up out of work.

    • Jane Yavis

      Matt, it went the way of self-respect. And no-self-respecting hard working 2 or 4 part time workers would have the time to stalk poor people to see all they get,,,even if they thought they were “Entitled” to –

      Things go in cycles. You will hear it all again first thing Monday Morning.

    • A Reff

      The system of the FCC paying $9.25 per month for one phone per household for low income families (for emergencies) was signed into law under President Reagan, and expanded to include cell phones under Pres Bush the 2nd. Obama had nothing to do with it. Also, you can be working and collect SNAP; people who make under a certain amount per family size qualify. Try educating yourself before you speak, eh? And btw, I didn’t vote for Obama either, we are out of work conservatives.

  • Northeaster

    Wolf looks strong now, but no one has really taken a swing at him yet. Schwartz would lose to Corbett if she ran, and McCord unnecessarily pissed off the Philly delegation, dampening his chances in an off year election.

  • Jane Yavis

    I have noticed a New Corbett. Finally he has realized he has more constituents than those threatening a Tea Party Primary, and daring him to step outside the box. Finally Corbett understand that those ranting, raving and stalking the lucky poor would rather have their hand fall off than pull the “Democrat” lever, and would NEVER not vote and allow a Democrat to win.

    They’re Republican only Voters already, so why shouldn’t Corbett go out and do his job.

  • Dan

    Corbett didn’t slash education. The funds from the federal stimulus ran out. Corbett doesn’t control federal funds. Stop repeating this lie.

    • Joel Mathis

      The federal funds counted for slightly less than half the budget cuts, Dan. Half of a billion is still half a billion. He thus slashed ed.