MSNBC Guest: Food Stamps Why U.S. Doesn't Have 'Mass Starvation'

'The reason we're not Somalia or Haiti or North Korea is the program's working'

MSNBC guest Joel Berg claimed Wednesday on All In that food stamps separated the U.S. from countries like North Korea and Haiti and were the reason "we don't have mass starvation" in the nation:

CHRIS HAYES: $80 billion a year is not a small amount of money. What has happened and what do you say to people who look at that and say this is a problem?

JOEL BERG: I say the reason we're not Somalia or Haiti or North Korea is the program's working. It's counter cyclical. That's a wonkish term, but that means when the economy's bad it increases. When the economy's good, it goes down. The reason we don't have mass starvation is this program is helping tens of millions of American families survive. The facts are that before the 1970s when we had the modern program, we did have third-world style malnutrition, and the facts prove that these programs, when properly implemented, almost entirely ended hunger in America in the 1970s.

Berg's remarks came during discussion of the House vote Wednesday to cut food stamp funding by $2 billion a year as part of a farm bill. More than 47 million people are enrolled in the program, which Congress has considered too high a share of the population. The Associated Press reports:

The chamber rejected 234-188 a Democratic amendment to the five-year, half-trillion-dollar farm legislation that would have maintained current spending on food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The overall bill cuts the $80 billion-a-year program by about 3 percent and makes it harder for some people to qualify.

The food stamp cuts have complicated passage of the bill and its farm-state supporters were working to secure votes Wednesday. Many conservatives have said the food stamp cuts do not go far enough since the program has doubled in cost in the last five years and now feeds 1 in 7 Americans. Liberals have argued against any reductions, contending the House plan could take as many as 2 million needy recipients off the rolls. The White House has threatened a veto over the food stamp cuts.

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