We have all seen men standing at street corners who are holding a sign: “Will Work for Food.” It’s nonsense, of course. They could get fast food jobs. They are really after handouts of money, not food. People diving by don’t have food in their cars. So they give some change.
The food stamp program is different. It is aimed at voters. Some of the voters are poor. Others are less poor. They favor programs where other voters pay taxes to provide food for poor people. They are very generous with other people’s money. Half of American adults pay no income tax. But they vote.
Food stamps under Obama have soared. The recession is the cause. His spending programs have barely lowered unemployment.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, has grown dramatically under President Obama’s administration. At the start of his term, in January 2009, there were approximately 32 million Americans receiving federal assistance from SNAP, costing more than $3.6 billion per month. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are now more than 46 million individuals receiving SNAP benefits, or roughly one in every seven Americans. The cost to taxpayers now sits at $6.2 billion per month. These figures exclude the cost of the program’s management, enforcement, and oversight. The fiscal year 2011 SNAP program cost a record total of $75.3 billion. Based on the current trend, that number will continue to rise in 2012, and could reach $80 billion.
Is this possible? An $80 billion annual bill for free food? Yes.
The significant increase in SNAP’s cost is attributable to several factors. Food stamp benefit increases were included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As a result, available monthly benefits for individuals increased by 19 percent since January 2009, far above the rate of inflation. Compounding the increase in average benefits awarded is a rapid influx of new participants. The economic downturn certainly played a role in the increased demand for assistance.
However, in an effort to encourage increased access to SNAP benefits, the USDA under the current administration, has also discouraged the use of asset tests as a benchmark to determine recipient eligibility. An asset test tallies a potential recipient’s countable resources, such as bank accounts, in determining his or her need for assistance. With the relaxation or elimination of asset tests for many states, there is more room for manipulation and exploitation of the program. This has caused some to point out that even millionaires are eligible for food stamps if their monthly income is low. In fact, a Michigan man who won two million dollars through a lottery game show admitted to still using food stamps, because his lump sum payment was determined to be an asset rather than income.
Along with the expansion of SNAP benefits and access comes fraudulent behavior at the expense of the taxpayer. Food stamp fraud, defined as “trafficking” by the USDA, represents more than $750 million in waste. There are many different kinds of food stamp trafficking and abuse. Most commonly, traffickers will sell their food stamps, now given in the form of plastic debit cards, at less than face value for cash. These sales are even attempted online through Craigslist and social media outlets. The Wall Street Journal has also reported larger, more organized cases of fraud.
Fraud is small potatoes. This main factor is the growth of welfare. The government grows like a cancer. The federal government pays multi-million dollar bonuses to states that are aggressive in putting more people on the food card roles.