June 27 2012

Agriculture Department Dependency Campaign

Vicki E. Alger

Officially called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), foods stamps are now used by more than one in seven Americans—about 46 million people. Apparently, that’s not enough for the U.S. Agriculture Department, which spent as much as $3 million in recent months running ads to encourage more people to sign up. Not so long ago reports also surfaced that college officials were encouraging students to sign up, too.

Newt Gingrich called President Obama the “food stamp president” during a North Carolina debate back in January. But a recent analysis by Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards of federal food stamp growth shows there’s plenty of bi-partisan blame to go around.

… federal outlays for food stamps… roughly doubled under President Bush and then doubled again under President Obama. Despite the quadrupling of food stamp spending, 13 Republicans in the Senate yesterday—including supposed conservatives Bob Corker and Rob Portman—joined Democrats to defeat reforms to the program sponsored by Senator Rand Paul.

As if spending $85 billion weren’t enough (roughly $2,000 per person), those using food stamps have slightly lower Healthy Eating Index scores compared to the average population and consume foods the government considers a no-no in higher proportions, including corn tortillas, whole milk, and soda, according to the USDA. (pp. 21-22)

Temporary assistance to people in genuine need is one thing—and that’s why private-sector charities nationwide exist. But the one-two punch of government encouraging food assistance dependency and micromanaging what Americans not on food assistance eat is a real overreach—or as my colleague Julie Gunlock put it: “one more condescension from Washington bureaucrats."

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