Despite Republican presidential aspirant Newton Leroy Gingrich’s often-repeated, “dog-whistle” seeming campaign claims, more American families were added to the food stamp program under the George W. Bush presidency than under President Barack Obama, so far. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, maintains monthly data on participation and shows that 14.7 million new participants were enrolled during the 8 years of the Bush presidency, and thus far, 14.2 added in the three years of President Obama’s tenure.
That’s a difference of only 444,574, however just as the loss of U.S. jobs grew progressively worse in the last 11 months under the Bush administration, food stamp participation correspondingly increased and continued right into the Obama presidency as the new administration gained its legs. More Americans are using the program now than ever before, but in recent months there has been a decline in the number of participants as the jobs outlook has improved.
Participation in the program is still at an all-time high, but Republican politicians and their surrogate supporters continually mince words in apparent attempts to mislead, or in campaign mode simply smear the Obama administration, even in the face of an improving economy that they haven’t aided in the slightest—except for their Congressional members’ bumbling performance since last summer, and their presidential candidates’ nomination campaigns that continue to resemble a traveling clown show.
Another fact sometimes lost to public perception and Newt Gingrich’s purposefully-worded sound-bytes, is that there have always been more majority group recipients of any form of government “welfare” when compared to any specific minority group. Additionally, over 40 percent of all recipients are “working poor” who go to work regularly, in low-paying jobs that make it difficult to make ends meet. Many of them often hold two or more jobs. The majority of fair-minded Americans regardless of color, culture or class have recognized that the habitual accusers of “class warfare” are actually responsible for attempts to cause it, which have helped the President’s favorability rating to increase in polls while those of his leading detractors decrease.
Lest we all forget, the Great Recession was already well underway; spiraling downward to hit hardest at the beginning of the Obama administration—and it was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. We should also remember the steady trek of state governors and city mayors to DC during the early Obama incumbency, requesting aid from the federal government that actually came in part from the stimulus programs that are so often criticized for adding to the national debt, but without which conditions would have undoubtedly become much worse, which opponents refuse to acknowledge. The irony, or hypocrisy, isn’t lost to many people’s memories that some of those same critics were among those trekking their way to DC seeking aid for their constituents.
The USDA’s Office of Research and Analysis’s study of trends of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the official appellation of the food stamp program, found that it was the states’ and cities’ outreach efforts to distressed families that spurred additional enrollment in SNAP from 2002-2009. It should be noted that only slightly more than 50 percent of those who were eligible for the program actually participated in 2002, rising to more than 70 percent by 2009. An increase in the benefit amount’s dollar value also contributed heavily to the enrollment spurt, along with streamlined enrollment processes in the states, plus the elimination of actual stamps and their replacement with debit cards. However, as referenced previously herein, as the economy has improved in recent months, the number of SNAP participants has actually been declining.
Sources and resources: MSNBC, Fox News, CNN,