FOOD STAMPS PROGRAM: HOW IT GREW AND HOW REAGAN WANTS TO CUT IT BACK; The Budget Targets – The New York Times

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FOOD STAMPS PROGRAM: HOW IT GREW AND HOW REAGAN WANTS TO CUT IT BACK

The food stamp program is one of the largest and is probably the most visible of all Government support programs. It is also one of the most popular targets of troubled taxpayers and politicians aiming to reduce the size of Government.
''Everytime you see someone in the checkout line using food stamps, and you're not, you've been lobbied against the program,'' said John R. Kramer, special counsel to the House Agriculture Committee. ''It's out in the open in every supermarket every day.''
In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, the food stamp program was rated the most unpopular social welfare program by a wide margin, and it is one of the prime targets of President Reagan's budgetcutting effort.
Under current law, food stamps would cost $12.47 billion for about 22 million recipients in the fiscal year 1982, up from $10.95 billion in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The President's package of proposed reductions would cut the 1982 budget by $1.82 billion, according to his original estimates. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates the saving at $1.5 billion, but under any projection the changes would amount to major surgery on the program. Reagan Sees Evolution of Program
To opponents, food stamps are a classic example of a runaway Federal program. In his budget message to Congress, Mr. Reagan asserted that while the program's original purpose had been ''to insure adequate nutrition for America's needy families,'' it was now functioning as ''a generalized income-transfer program'' unrelated to nutritional need. The President said that his proposal was ''in accord with the Administration's efforts to target assistance to the most needy families and to restrain the uncontrolled growth of entitlement spending.''
In addition, the program is regularly denounced as a breeding ground for fraud and abuse. William Shaker, executive director of the National Tax Limitation Committee, a private advocacy group, told the Senate Agriculture Committee, ''Food stamps score right at the top of the list in terms of misspent Federal funds.''
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