WASHINGTON — Jason Greenslate is America’s most famous food stamp recipient.
Fox News profiled the 28-year-old San Diego resident in two August segments about America’s “food stamp binge.” The stories showed Greenslate buying sushi and lobster with a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit card. Greenslate plays in a rock band and laughed at the idea of getting a normal job.
“This is the way I want to live and I don’t really see anything changing,” Greenslate said in front of the news cameras. “It’s free food; it’s awesome.”
Fox distributed the clips to Capitol Hill offices, and Greenslate became Republicans’ poster boy in their effort to cut nutrition spending. On Thursday evening, shortly before the House of Representatives voted to trim food stamps by 5 percent, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said, “You can no longer sit on your couch or ride a surfboard like Jason in California and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you.”
Greenslate, for his part, said he thinks it’s stupid for Congress to legislate based on the Fox stories.
“I don’t think that one person should be the decision for 47 million people,” Greenslate told HuffPost after Thursday’s vote.
Much of the food stamp debate turned on the question of who are those 47 million people? Greenslate is not exactly a representative example. Government data make clear the vast majority of households receiving benefits include at least one member who is either a child, elderly, or disabled. But Republicans have focused on recipients who are able-bodied adults without dependents — people who may be like Greenslate.
Able-bodied adults without dependents made up 10.2 percent of SNAP population in 2011, up from 6.6 percent in 2007. Federal law only allows such “ABAWDs” to receive three months of food stamps, but most states waive the requirement because of high unemployment.