In the past year alone, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased 16%—meaning about 14% of those living in the U.S. receive government money through the food stamp program.
In March, 44.5 million Americans (21 million households) or 1 out of every 7 people received benefits (an 11% increase over March 2010). Not surprisingly, Washington, D.C. leads the nation at 21.5%.
Certainly, the strugling economy—high unemployment—is a factor; however, some states are expanding their “definition” of poverty so more people are included. That’s a problem. Also, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. “stimulus” bill) added $10 billion in annual funding to the nationwide food-stamp program.
The average recipient receives $133 in food stamps per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a result of the stimulus bill, the benefit increased by 13.6% or approximately $20-24/per person/month.
Government funding for the food stamp program, established by Congress in 1964, has increased rapidly. In 2009, it cost taxpayers more than $68 billion double the amount in 2007. It now consumes 67% of the USDA’s budget; in 1980, it consumed 26%.
That shift in focus, critics say, is ineffective because it hasn’t put a dent in poverty or hunger in the U.S. Despite all of this spending, it has not cut poverty. Even “at a time of prosperity, we have increased the amount of money we are spending for people to buy food,” said Harold Brown, an agriculture scientist and adjunct scholar at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “The appropriation of money by Congress has never solved poverty or the resulting problems of poverty. When President Johnson declared war on poverty a half century ago nearly, we thought we saw the end of it as far as food and nutrition goes. For the Department of Agriculture, we only saw the beginning.”
That shift in focus, critics say, is ineffective because it hasn’t put a dent in poverty or hunger in the United States while taking away money from other programs, specifically agricultural programs that should be the main focus of the agency.
The Republicans’ 2012 budget suggests changing SNAP from an entitlement to a block-grant program tailored for each state. States would no longer receive open-ended subsidies; aid would depend on work or job training. It would also limit funding for the program.
However, Obama’s 2012 budget wants to make it easier for people to received food stamps “by temporarily suspending for one year the time limit for certain age groups without dependents.”
Why ensure more people get a handout from the government? To buy votes for the 2012 election; the more people who are dependent on the government, the more votes he gets.