Why Are a Record Number of Americans On Food Stamps? Hint: It's Not Just the Economy.

On the day before Thanksgiving, the news is awash in headlines about the record levels of food-stamp usage. As U.S. News & World Report has put it:

More Americans Will Use Food Stamps For Thanksgiving This Year Than Ever Before

...Usage of food stamps among low and no-income families has spiked since the collapse of the U.S. financial system four years ago. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, average participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamp program, has increased 70 percent since 2007. And economists have warned that usage of food stamps won't go down until unemployment improves.

More here.

The most recent number for total food stamp beneficiaries is about 47 million people.

There's no question that the crap economy significantly gooses the number of people qualifying for free or reduced-price food.

But it's also the case that the increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistace Program (SNAP) is in large part due to the expansion of who qualifies. Under Barack Obama's stimulus spending, the number of people getting food stamps increased from 36.2 million in 2009 to to 42.2 million in 2010 - just a year later. As the left-leaning folks at the Economic Policy Institute put it back then:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed last year widened eligibility for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance so that more adults without dependents could qualify. The Recovery Act also increased benefits, providing additional relief to some of the country’s poor individuals and families...

EPI touted food stamps' stimulative value, too.

Politico points out how broadened eligibility plays out: 

The share of food stamp benefits going to American households with gross incomes over 130 percent of poverty has more than doubled in the past four years, according to the most recent data compiled by the Agriculture Department.

The 130 percent of poverty cap dates back to the early 1980s and recipients making more than that get a smaller payout than people below it. But the share of SNAP households that make more than 130 percent of the poverty line went from 2.3 percent to 4.7 percent; half of all states actually allow recipients to make more than 140 percent of the poverty line and still qualify for food stamps.

So as with all sorts of growth in goverment outlays, the historic rise in food stamp usage is not a clear-cut case of economic necessity. There's a huge amount of policy fudge factor too.

Indeed, consider this fact as well: Between 2000 and 2006, spending on food stamps doubled under George W. Bush. That's an odd statistic given the way the economy performed and the tech-bubble recession gave way to unemployment rates in the 4 percent range. And for those who remember Newt Gingrich's attempt to cast Obama as the "food stamp president," it's a reminder that as with most awful policies in place during this 21st century, it's bipartisan disaster all the way down.

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  • SIV||

  • Almanian.||

    Well, OK. But DID ANYTHING ELSE HAPPEN?

  • seguin||

    Dear God, that's awful.

  • Almanian.||

    PS STOP RESISTING!

    "william kirkham
    6:23 pm on Thursday, October 18, 2012

    amy,
    no drugs were found in the house that time....but they didnt shoot him because there was drugs or not....he did not follow orders....that just suicide...officers were justified...case closed..."

    PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED!!11!!

  • Almanian.||

    "...officers were justified..."

    *cue derpfee's hardon...now*

  • R C Dean||

    Not following orders is punishable by summary execution. And that is "justified."

  • nicole||

    It's actually double-justified, because not following orders is clearly suicide, and suicidal behavior is itself justification.

  • Randian||

    In memoriam to J sub D:

    REMEMBER KATHRYN JOHNSTON!

  • sarcasmic||

    Obey the king's men or die.

    Free country my ass.

  • ||

    At least the article called him a victim.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Holy crap, cop kills cop and they are "both" victims.

  • sarcasmic||

    The search revealed that there was evidence that would indicate drug trafficking.

    Sandwich baggies and a dietary scale.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Yeah, right? If the cops were to look in a drawer in my kitchen they would find Ziploc bags, and a scale. I don't use or sell drugs. But these items alone would be adequate evidence of trafficking.

    If they looked around more, they would find cold medicine, coffee filters, acetone, and other evidence of crystal meth production.

    Actually, I was just trying to be funny, but taking an inventory of the stuff laying around my place, I would probably qualify as an enemy in the War on Drugs.

  • sarcasmic||

    All it takes is one person who doesn't like you to give an anonymous tip, then your life is over. Assuming you aren't politically connected. If you have relatives in political office then you've got nothing to worry about. Otherwise you're fucked.

  • SIV||

  • sarcasmic||

    I like the comment.

    Getting tired of "Agents", "Officers", shooting down people while standing around in bulletproof outfits in those people's own homes after breaking down the door?

  • Almanian.||

    And playing the part of Radley Balko - SIV!!! SIV everyone!!!

    My achnig nuts. You BASTARD!

  • SIV||

  • sarcasmic||

    When did it become commonplace for police to kill anyone who does not obey a "command"?

    Seriously.

  • Whahappan?||

    Since "fuck you, that's when."

  • KDN||

    Why, it's almost like the administration is consciously trying to get more people on the dole. They'd never do that, though; these programs are temporary assistance for only the neediest of our citizens and guests.

    I'm just amazed that 50 million Americans and our guests are in such dire circumstances as to require them. Dammit Bush!

  • Sevo||

    KDN| 11.21.12 @ 12:22PM |#
    ..."these programs are temporary assistance for only the neediest of our citizens and guests."...

    Yep, cut a single penny and they'll be dying in the streets:
    "SF to cover uninsured's gender reassignment"
    http://www.sfgate.com/default/.....046873.php

  • wareagle||

    just a minute here. our neediest citizens and our guests??? What the fuck? Why are our "guests" entitled to our stuff?

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    Why are our "guests" entitled to our stuff?

    You don't want to seem an ungracious host, now do you?

  • R C Dean||

    You think just because they aren't citizens they don't vote?

  • OldMexican||

    Indeed, consider this fact as well: Between 2000 and 2006, spending on food stamps doubled under George W. Bush. That's an odd statistic given the way the economy performed and the tech-bubble recession gave way to unemployment rates in the 4 percent range.


    Are you... are you insinuating that the Food Stamp program is being used as some sort of *gasp!* ... Recruiting tool?

    Say it ain't so, Shoeless! Say it ain't so!!!

  • wareagle||

    maybe once that evil Bush is gone from the White House, things will improve.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Can't get an Obamaphone unless you're on some sort of assistance.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    spending on food stamps doubled under George W. Bush.

    That can't be right- BOOOSH ended welfare and kicked all the poor people to the curb so he could deregulate teh BANKSTERZ and otherwise engage in the wholesale disenfranchisement of the meek.

  • Calidissident||

    Yes and only TEAM BLUE is interested in giving out welfare. TEAM RED does no such thing. "American" told me so.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    No arrests, no drugs, and almost no news coverage.

    Procedures were sfollowed streamlined.

    Cost savings were realized.

    Officer safety was maintained.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Tags were bungled.

  • SIV||

    The surest way to distinguish Team Red hacks from actual conservatives is to solicit their opinion on Bush, policy-by-policy.

  • C. Anacreon||

    Yet the Feministe thread linked in yesterday's PM links had repeated lamentations about horrible poverty in the USA and starving people. Jeez, I wish armchair academics would get out sometime, see what an actual third world country looks like and compare it to our "poverty". In the USA just about everyone has climate-controlled housing, indoor plumbing, cell phones, and access to so much food the underclass' biggest problem is obesity.

    I await the usual comic publicity stunt by a politician who tries to live on food stamps and gives up after a day, saying it is impossible to eat well on them. Funny, I don't think it would be difficult at all, and in fact lived on much less as a struggling student. But I doubt they'd put me on tv showing how to make do.

  • wareagle||

    if you ever have the misfortune of being behind a person using an EBT card in the grocery line, you will be sorely tempted to quit your job and join the looting.

  • andarm16||

    Over the last four years working as a cashier, this has destroyed my faith in the inherent goodness of man. You have people on food stamps come up with massive carts filled with expensive frozen heat and serve food. You start ringing, waiting for the inevitable "Stop when you get to fifty bucks." This of course leaves a cart load of food, mostly the expensive heat and serve stuff left, which we have to throw out, due to the fact that we don't know how long it had been out of the freezer. The whole thing, (combined with the inevitable purchases of lobster and expensive steak on food stamps) is enough to make me want to run out in the parking lot and scream.

  • Atanarjuat||

    They don't care. I remember an episode of Bill Maher's show which also had Cornel West and some Ethiopian chick. They were on this general subject and she mentioned "REAL poverty, where kids pick through trash dumps for food". West and Maher sort of smirked and looked away as if Grandpa had just said something racist again, and went back to talking about "poverty" in this country.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That's because poverty is relative, you see. If every single person in the USA doesn't have exactly the same standard of living, then POVERTY!

  • GILMORE||

    You're nominally half white so your comment is racist

  • Almanian.||

    spending on food stamps doubled under George W. Bush

    I blame Bush

  • Sevo||

    Why Are a Record Number of Americans On Food Stamps?"
    Because they can be.

  • C. Anacreon||

    Some blowhard is on "The View" right now is pitching his food drive, claiming that "one in six children in America goes to bed hungry every night."

    Mm-hmm.

    It wouldn't be so bad, but too many people use make-believe "facts" such as this to argue that capitalism is a failure and we need to move to a more "socially-equitable" system.

  • GILMORE||

    "one in six children in America goes to bed hungry every night."

    •Percent of children age 6-11 years who are obese: 18.0% (2009-2010

    Some people see 2 'problems' here.

    I see 1 obvious solution.

  • GILMORE||

    the downside is that it will reduce the technical birthrate somewhat... but we can always replace the fatties with Mexicans. Skinny mexicans.

  • Calidissident||

    American does not approve

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I remember reading, just a few years ago, hand-wringing, mainstream media stories that people weren't using the food stamp program enough! For some reason, millions who WERE qualified to use them weren't applying to do so! The government was, I read, undertaking a promotional campaign to find people who were eligible for food stamps, make them aware of their eligibility, and sign them up!

    Well, it seems as if the program was successful. But I think I also remember someone at Reason, opining that people might simply have more self-respect or enough loathing for government bureaucracy that they didn't think nursing at the government teat was worth the trouble. If that were true, what changed their minds?

  • MarioLanza||

    Bush was a disaster. His deficits took away Republican credibility and Obama doubles down on the deficit.

    Bush had food stamps rise...and Obama doubles down on food stamps.

    Bush was a deficit problem. Obama is twice it.

    Bush was a food stamp problem. Obama is twice it.

  • Koch bros love Murdoch||

    The ARRA benefits for food stamps only went through 2011. So what the hell is this guy talking about? "Hit and Run" is right. It's guys like this who make the second amendment look bad.

  • Koch bros love Murdoch||

    *1st amendment* That is - this guy shouldn't have the right to free speech if he can only lie.

  • iggy||

    Except that the graph shows that all the people on food stamps per the ARRA are still on food stamps. Otherwise why would the 2012 number be even higher than the 2011 number?

    So tell me, where did Gillespie lie? Are or are not food stamp numbers at an all time high and are those numbers related broadened requirements? Clearly both these facts are true, and that's the point of Gillespie's article. You clearly have no idea what the hell you're talking about.

  • Koch bros love Murdoch||

    Where did he lie? What are you trying to use the 'ol conservative technique of claiming that some intentional deception isn't technically a lie? Well sorry, even that won't work. Gillespie says "More Americans Will Use Food Stamps For Thanksgiving This Year Than Ever Before." And then says, "But it's also the case that the increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistace Program (SNAP) is in large part due to the expansion of who qualifies. Under Barack Obama's stimulus spending, the number of people getting food stamps increased from 36.2 million in 2009 to to 42.2 million in 2010 - just a year later." The "year later" he's referring to is 2010 and the program ended in 2011. And, unless you're a complete moron, you know that Thanksgiving "this year" is in 2012. Bottom line is, not only is this a lie, it's disgusting to write this on Thanksgiving. What a low-life this Gillespie is, selling his soul to conservative media as opposed to writing something factual which could enhance his reader's lives.

  • XM||

    What program ended in 2011? SNAP? AARA? The widened eligibility? When the AARA expired, applying for food stamp suddenly decreased or became even more difficult?

    Lots of people are on food stamps than before, and it was made easier by government policy. That's pretty much fact. Even if the government didn't make it easier to apply for food stamps, doing so wasn't exactly hard to begin with.

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