Junk food ban won’t help food stamp users’ health

A recent proposal from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to restrict the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits solely to healthy foods does not address the deeper problem of food insecurity (“GOP lawmaker: No more food stamps to buy junk food,” March 22). Coburn’s rationale is that the population benefiting from SNAP already has a high rate of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, and thus the government should regulate food choices to improve overall health outcomes. While this justification seems worthy from a public health standpoint, in reality it does little to address the reality — people benefiting from SNAP typically live in communities where it is difficult to access healthy food choices. 

Take Philadelphia, for example, a city where I am a pediatrician in training. In Philadelphia, 22 percent of children live with food insecurity, lacking access to adequate food to sustain an active and healthy lifestyle. Currently, the maximum SNAP support in Pennsylvania for a household of one is $6.67 per day, while for a household of four, the benefit is $5.57 per person per day. Even if access to fresh produce were not an issue in Philadelphia communities, the meager food allowance would not adequately sustain a healthy, wholesome diet. Moreover, many families that are eligible to receive food stamp benefits because they struggle with poverty often cannot access these benefits because of the red tape and bureaucracy that prevents them from doing so.

ADVERTISEMENT
As a physician in training, I am exposed to all aspects of children’s health and witness the consequences of food insecurity, from the infant admitted to the hospital for failure to thrive to the countless morbidly obese adolescents. A child failing to thrive as a result of food insecurity is unacceptable in our land of abundance. We have the resources to address this issue head on. Thus, rather than waste our energy restricting the use of SNAP benefits, we should channel our efforts to increasing access to healthy foods in poor communities and making programs such as SNAP work better for the people they are intended to serve.

From Jonathan Ludmir, M.D., Philadelphia

Fair Tax Act would help boost charitable giving

Would you like to give more to your church or favorite charity?

You are not alone. But with hard times, even though charitable giving is growing, it is growing so slowly that it will take an estimated 10 years just to return to the 2007 rate of charitable giving (Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy). Because our tax code is crippling businesses, punishing hard work and repelling foreign investment, in 2011 Americans gave 11 percent less than they did in 2007. 

The Fair Tax Act (H.R. 25) restores Americans’ ability to give to their churches and charities. It ends the IRS deciding what is and is not religious.

The Fair Tax Act, a national progressive sales tax, would end the income tax, alternative minimum tax, death tax, gift tax, payroll tax, capital gains tax and self-employment tax. Grow the economy and you grow charitable donations. Beacon Hill Institute’s research shows that passage of H.R. 25 would increase charitable giving by 2.4 percent within 10 years and by almost 5 percent within 20 years. In data provided by David Tuerck, of Beacon Hill, in 2009 the Fair Tax Act would have generated $171 billion more revenue than the IRS revenue, and in 2010, $267 billion more! 

Learn more at www.fairtax.org. Then tell your congressman to co-sponsor H.R. 25. 

From Beverly A. Martin, Fulton, Mo.

Medicare should benefit those who paid into it

As a normal, working, middle-class, over-55 citizen, I am sick of hearing how the U.S. needs to cut Medicare to save the government money! Americans my age have paid into Medicare all of their working lives (for me that is 43 years) without a choice. Now there is constant talk of cutting benefits. I also pay for private insurance through my employer’s plan, and they listen when the insured talk. However, it seems that those insured under Medicare have no voice, as the “government” doesn’t seem to listen. That is frustrating enough.

A more frustrating issue is that every day I see mass abuse of Medicaid as an employee of first dental and then medical facilities. Most of the abusers have never paid taxes, yet they get better care than older people who have Medicare, which they have paid into for years. 

Do the lawmakers not understand what middle-class citizens have been trying to tell them? We are fed up with paying for freeloaders and want some benefit from what we have paid for. 

From Ellen Baker, Hookerton, N.C.