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Tom Corbett's great idea starts this week

April 30, 2012 - Mike Maneval
A plan by Republican governor Tom Corbett starts examining the finances of beneficiaries of the state’s food stamp program Tuesday, the Associated Press reports, and cutting aid to people with certain financial assets. While still in its early stages, the program shows promise, and early criticisms of the plan seem, to me, vapid and irresponsible.

The initiative will help curb the cost of a public assistance program while retaining aid to the most deserving without change. It will instead cut benefits to enrollees who possess the best means, of those Pennsylvanians in the pool, of taking responsibility for their own lives.

Critics of the program, such as the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger’s Julie Zaebst, who spoke to AP reporters, offer their strongest argument, which still is weak, when arguing the threshold set by the program could deprive people with disabilities of assistance. The argument fails to include consideration of the role Social Security and other programs play in providing aid to Pennsylvanians with disabilities. And the argument that the funding saved originates at the federal level and not from the revenues of state taxes reflects an appalling ignorance of the public’s growing contempt for spendthrift behavior with public coffers at all levels.

It is a reflection also seen in the argument that the oversight in spending initiated by the new policy would involve costly red tape, an argument that invites speculation on how little diligence is performed on reviewing applicants for public expenditure.

It may well become clear that the program’s thresholds of $5,000 in assets for enrollees under 60 years of age and $9,000 for older enrollees are too low. It may also become clear the exemptions for pensions and retirement income are too broad. It is a new initiative, and room may exist to better it. But the reasons for abandoning the effort are weak, and tied to attitudes about public spending that are unsustainable.


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