August 22, 2014

King & Vilsack quarrel over food stamps

During their second face-to-face debate, Republican Congressman Steve King and his Democratic challenger, Christie Vilsack, disagreed over the size and scope of the federal food stamp program. King argued the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP is being abused by recipients.

“We had a fellow that bailed himself out of jail with his EBT card, his Electronic Benefits Transfer card.  We have tattoo parlors that in neon lights advertise that they’ll tattoo you and you can pay for it with your Food Stamp card,” King said. “Now we have to do something about this.”

Vilsack defended the food stamp program, citing recent statistics indicating hunger among children had increased by four percent in Iowa.

“We have a moral obligation to make sure that we take care of people,” Vilsack said. “But the most important thing about SNAP is that…14 cents of every dollar for SNAP goes into the pocket of a farmer.”

King favors cutting the food stamp program by $16 billion over the next five years and he accuses Democrats of trying to “grow the dependency class” by expanding the food stamp program.

“We’ve watched the numbers of people on food stamps go from 19 million up to at least 44.7 and maybe as many as 47 million people in just a few years and we’re watching the Department of Agriculture spend millions of dollars to advertise to get more people to sign up for food stamps,” King said. “Now that doesn’t demonstrate, necessarily, a need. Wants are not necessarily needs.”

Vilsack’s husband, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, runs the U.S. Ag Department that administers the food stamp program.

“Ninety-three percent of the people who get SNAP payments are senior citizens, they’re children who are hungry and they’re working poor,” Christie Vilsack said. “So I’d like to know, Congressman King, which of those people you want to refuse SNAP payments to.”

King responded.

“Nobody in this room believes that 93 percent of the food stamps go to senior citizens unless you redefine senior citizens,” King said, getting applause from his supporters in the crowd and boos from Vilsack’s. “So we saw a lot of this on Thursday night. There’s nothing to rebut and I’d be happy to answer the next question asked from a panelist.”

King and Vilsack met in their first debate last Thursday. Saturday’s event was held at the Clay County Fair in Spencer before a live audience. The start of the debate was delayed until after the conclusion of the Iowa/Iowa State football game.

By Ryan Long, KICD, Spencer