Wisconsin Rep. Evan Goyke, a Democrat, handed out cheddar cheese Thursday in an effort to oppose an upcoming vote to reform food stamp benefits in the state.
The bill, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Rob Brooks would limit what foods could be purchased with food stamps. Though Republicans have argued the program must be reformed because of instances of abuse, many Democrats say the instances of abuse are not as common as they are portrayed.
“Historically, Wisconsin implements the food stamp program very effectively,” Goyke told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We are better than most.”
Goyke further argues that on the national level, the stories of abuse represent a small percentage of food stamp participants and in reality most people within the program use it correctly and in times of need.
“Most people don’t stay on food stamps very long,” he noted. “They use it temporarily when they need help.”
“These are folks that don’t fuel the anecdote of the steak and the lobster,” Goyke continued. By handing out cheese, a state symbol, Goyke tried to show the arbitrary nature in which foods are allowed under the reforms.
“This is a far rightwing battle cry,” Goyke said. “This is the second time we’ve debated this bill in two years.”
Nevertheless, Goyke hopes if the bill is destined to pass he will help reform it as best he can. Democrats have already offered some amendments including considerations for religious preference and allergies as well as allowing more access from local farmers.
While holding the cheese he questioned his Republican colleagues about their reform and why certain foods were not allowed while others were.
“If you want to amend this bill and put whatever kind of cheese in there that you want, I’m sure we’re not opposed to that,” Sen. Duey Stroebel, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, responded according to The Capital Times.
“What makes sense is to have foods that have nutritional value,” Stroebel also noted. “That’s what makes sense. You can go through every detail and nuance you want … but in the end, we’re trying to enhance healthy eating. That’s what this is all about, and I don’t know who’s opposed to that.”
Though many supporters of the program argue abuse is limited, some reports tell a different story. According to the Government Accountability Office, abuse is hard to detect under the program which, on top of its rapid growth, makes the program prime for abuse.
According to a report by the libertarian Cato Institute, the food stamp program has high administrative costs and significant levels of fraud and abuse. The report found between direct fraud and payments going to people who weren’t actually eligible, 3.9 percent of the program is being abused making it one of the most frequently abused non–health care social welfare programs.
There will be a committee vote on the bill Wednesday followed by a possible floor vote on May 13.
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