A new report from the Congressional Budget Office states that there are now almost 45 million Americans getting food stamps — or, officially, the more genteel Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
That’s one out of every seven residents. The total yearly federal spending is $78 billion, which has something like tripled in the last 10 years. The CBO estimates that the number of people SNAP benefits will continue to rise before beginning to decline at the end of 2014 — though, judging from the history of CBO forecasts, I’d say its guess is as good as yours.
We regularly hear how conservatives are planning to “cut” food stamps, or “take them” from someone in need. In reality, the House GOP — and my confidence in them ever doing it is low — would only be slowing down the unprecedented growth of food stamp dependency, growth that was partly instituted by Obama’s stimulus plan.
Here is the breakdown:
• About 65 percent of growth came from an increase in the number of people receiving benefits. That increase was driven primarily by the weak economy.
• About 20 percent of growth can be attributed to temporarily higher benefit amounts. That increase was legislated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
• The final 15 percent of growth stems from other factors, such as higher food prices and lower income among beneficiaries, both of which boosted benefits.
Newt Gingrich famously called Barack Obama the Food-Stamp President. For the record, I think it’s unfair to give all the credit to one person when there is an entire city filled with folks doing the hard work of creating a nation of government dependents.
Moreover, Newt was (sort of) wrong. Actually, he just jumped the gun. I always found this debunking of Newt’s comments by USA Today rather funny. Under George W. Bush, you see, the number of food stamp users spiked by nearly 14.7 million. As USA Today noted, “Nothing before comes close to that.” Under Obama, the increase was only 14.2 million — or, “To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama’s time in office than during Bush’s.”
Well now, Obama has the record. And in less than four years. Nothing comes close.
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