Don’t Believe the White House Sob Story on Food Stamps

by Katrina Trinko

Yesterday, the White House released a new report on food stamps that attacks the food-stamp plan passed by the House in September:

According to CBO estimates, the House bill would mean approximately 3.8 million low-income people in 2014 – and an average of nearly 3 million people each year over the coming decade – would lose SNAP benefits, among other damaging changes.

First, let’s put this in context. Since 2008, the number of food-stamps recipients has soared – not shockingly, as the economy has also been dismal. In 2008, there were 28 million food stamp recipients. Five years later, a whopping 47 million were receiving food stamps. Sure, we all know “recovery summer” was a joke, but the economy is slowly (admittedly far too slowly) getting better.  The unemployment rate for those who lack a high school diploma is 10.9 percent. For those who have a high school diploma (but no further education), the unemployment rate is 7.3 percent. 

While those rates are unacceptable, unemployment was far higher during the peak of the downturn. In 2009, unemployment among non-high school grads was as high as 15.6 percent in two months.  For high school grads, the highest rate in 2009 was 11 percent. 

So it would make sense that some of the 19 million who started getting food stamps during the downturn would begin to drop off as the economy (and their fiscal situation) improves.  

It’s true the House bill will end food-stamp benefits for 3.8 million. But here’s why:  2.1 million people actually make too much to qualify for food-stamp benefits, but are currently getting them because they are on other government-assistance programs. The House bill ends that: You either meet the income levels set for the food-stamp program specifically or you don’t, and that’s how it’s determined. If Democrats want these 2.1 million to remain food-stamp beneficiaries, they ought to make a case for why there should be a higher income level eligibility for food stamps.

Another 1.7 million will be affected because they won’t fulfill the work requirements. While it’s true unemployment remains relatively high, recipients can also fulfill the requirements by doing 20 hours of volunteer/community service-type work.

If the White House really wanted to help low-income Americans this holiday season, here’s a better solution: How about actually say, creating jobs, so that these Americans who are struggling to find jobs or to find full-time jobs, can obtain one?