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Food Stamp Cuts as Business Opportunity? Walmart “Modestly Optimistic” About Less Nutrition Aid

Amy Traub

The cut to the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program going into effect today will take food away from 47.7 million Americans who need it. This includes working people whose pay isn’t enough to feed their families; out-of-work Americans still looking for a job; elderly people; people with disabilities; and 21 million children. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has an abundance of data on who the cuts will affect and how.

The cuts are shortsighted, hurtful, and -- as my colleague Mijin Cha forcefully illustrated in her post yesterday -- profoundly mean-spirited. At the same time, Demos Vice President of Policy and Outreach Heather McGhee noted on MSNBC yesterday, cuts to food stamps are harmful not only for the families affected but for the economy as a whole, since food stamps are one of our most powerful stimulus programs.

But not everyone is worried. First, there are those policymakers and their supporters hell bent on waging war on the poor. And then there are those for whom the thought of Americans with fewer meals to feed their children conjures dollar signs. Walmart, for example, is “cautious but modestly optimistic,” about the food stamp cuts’ impact on their business. “Our view,” CEO Bill Simon explained to investors,  “is that… [if] everybody's benefit is going to get cut, price will become more important. And when price is more important, we're more relevant.”  If low-income people – including many of Walmart’s own employees -- have less to eat, the nation’s largest retailer is “moderately optimistic” about the implications for profit.

I’m with Representative John Conyers, who thinks Walmart’s response “borders on the ludicrous.” In an interview with Salon journalist Josh Eidelson, the Congressman seemed incredulous: “it’s incredible to me that eating less is going to make you more economically effective. I don’t think… that kind of issue deserves a response.”