The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Trump Administration Rejects Maine’s Request to Remove Soda and Candy from SNAP

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


For years, many conservatives have attacked the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and for good reason.  It is true that SNAP is rife with waste, fraud, and abuse, and is part of a complicated mess of federal welfare programs that have overly broad eligibility requirements.  However, conservatives looking to reform it by prohibiting people from using SNAP funds to buy soda and candy are promoting an increase in the size of government and are falling for the tricks of nanny state activists.  In Maine, for example, Governor Paul Le Page (R) and former state Commissioner of Health and Human Services Mary Mayhew, a candidate for governor in 2018, sought federal approval to remove soda and candy from SNAP in the state.  Fortunately, the Trump administration rejected the request.  This was the right call for many reasons.

First, removing particular products from SNAP would empower bureaucrats to do what they do best: make lists of what the government likes and doesn’t like and distort the free market by picking winners and losers.  It would create huge compliance costs for businesses, which would be passed to their employees in the form of lower wages and benefits, to consumers in the form of higher prices, and to investors through lower returns.  It would grow the size of government while weakening the private sector.    

Second, removing soda and candy from SNAP-approved products will do nothing to reduce the size of SNAP.  If you want to cut the food stamp budget, cut the food stamp budget.  Merely removing the eligibility of one or two specific products will just cause people to spend more SNAP dollars on other food and beverages and spend their own money buying soda and candy. 

Third, if soda and candy were taken out of SNAP, the government would have to enforce the prohibition.  There would be undercover agents, sting operations, and other stuff straight out of 1984—all over a bottle of Coke or a Milky Way.  Again, the power and reach of government would increase.

Fourth, by prohibiting SNAP funds from being used to buy soda, government would be sending a clear signal that it disapproves of soda, which would lead states and localities to impose discriminatory taxes on it.  Soda taxes, a creation of notorious food policeman Michael Bloomberg, have driven business away in place after place.  Politicians justify soda taxes as a way to raise revenue to cover their wasteful spending.   

Not only is removing soda from SNAP bad policy, but it is also bad politics.  The Public Health Industrial Complex, which supports a progressive agenda, is sitting back and laughing at Republicans like Governor Le Page who have bought into this scam.  The food police cannot believe their good luck—Democrats would never do anything to limit the choice of poor people, but that bad idea is exactly what some Republicans have been dumb enough to fall for.  Americans elected a Republican president, Senate, and House, and governors and legislators across the country to grow the economy and get people off of SNAP, not to make lists of disapproved foods and drinks.

Taking soda out of SNAP would result in more power for bureaucrats, no taxpayer money saved, and could lead to higher taxes in a slew of places.  The poorest Americans would again be used as guinea pigs in another Bloomberg rip-off. 

We can be thankful that the Department of Agriculture has rejected this request from Maine.

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