Frequently cited historical analogies for the Trump presidency have ranged from Richard Nixon to the Romanovs. This week, Trump tossed a bit of Marie Antoinette into the mix.
CNBC reported that the president proposed charging a fee to stores that accept food stamps (otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). The plan is part of the White House's proposal to cut $191 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade.
The Office of Management said the fee will be based on the size and type of the retailer, and that it would raise $2.4 billion over the next decade.
Grocery organizations were surprised and dismayed, calling the proposal a "flawed policy of imposing fees on food retailers in order to reduce the cost of the federal government's nutrition assistance benefits to the most needy in our society," said Leslie G. Sarasin, president of the Food Marketing Institute.
Food stamps accounted for about 5.8 percent of the estimated $669 billion in annual sales at grocery stores, according to the institute. Smaller stores would likely see more of an effect than larger chains. "Certainly, they would see it in their bottom line," said Brian Lang of The Food Trust, a Pennsylvania nonprofit that works to make healthy food more accessible. "Implementing cuts to that extent are going to have stark consequences for retailers, especially in low-income communities."
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney testified before Congress that the food stamp program "is a formula for waste and growth rates and costs that are simply unsustainable. … The total spending should not go down. Or if it does, it goes down because of efficiencies and not because of reductions."
But passage of the proposal is not a slam dunk; it has been opposed by both Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Michael Conaway, D-Texas, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the respective chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture committees, said they do not approve of the cuts and changes.
"We need to take a look at our nutrition assistance programs to ensure that they are helping the most vulnerable in our society," they said in a statement.