Looking for a platform to chastise House Republicans for excluding the federal food stamp program from its farm bill, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez recently visited the state's largest food bank, the Hillside chapter of the private Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), “to highlight his support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP).

But there is a fundamental moral difference between a voluntary private charitable organization and a coercive government program. Every person has a right to spend his money according to his own judgment, including whether, when, and in what capacity to help others. The CFBNJ is funded privately and voluntarily, consistent with this principle; it in no way violates rights. SNAP is funded coercively, by taxation, and thus violates rights.

Menendez’s effort to cloak the rights-violating SNAP program in the moral legitimacy of a private charity is dishonest. That CFBNJ itself lent its name to Menendez, and that its founder has supported coercive government programs “aimed at reducing hunger in the state,” doesn’t mitigate the moral corruption involved. Menendez's equivocation is morally offensive and should be identified as such.

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Creative Commons Image: Kris Krug

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