Why Gingrich Is Right About Food Stamps

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Newt Gingrich, as is his wont, has started a controversy. President Barack Obama, Gingrich has said, is the “best food-stamp president in American history.” And: “He will always prefer a food-stamp economy to a paycheck economy.”

In one town-hall appearance in New Hampshire, Gingrich said he would be happy to address a convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to explain that “the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

The resulting furor has highlighted what Gingrich got wrong. But Gingrich isn’t wrong to be troubled by the extraordinary growth of the federal food-stamp program.
Liberals have taken Gingrich to be promoting and exploiting racist sentiments. In their view, he is insinuating to white voters that a black president is handing out money to idle blacks because he is hostile to working for a living.

I may be naive, or just biased because I’m a conservative, but I’m inclined to take a more charitable view. Gingrich had been making the paychecks-versus-food-stamps contrast for months without referring to race. He may have been — clumsily — making the point that policies that weaken the private sector and encourage dependency on government harm blacks more than other Americans. That view may or may not be sound, but it isn’t based on racial animosity.

Gingrich is, however, stretching the truth when he says “the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.” The number of people on food stamps — the program is now officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which makes for an easy abbreviation — rose by roughly 14.7 million under George W. Bush’s administration and has risen an additional 14.2 million under Obama. (In recent months, the number has been falling.)

Neither administration “put” all those people on food stamps. The sharp recession and weak recovery are responsible for much of the increase. Gingrich, presumably, blames Obama for prolonging the economic pain and thus for indirectly increasing the food-stamp numbers; but that’s not the same thing as saying he directly put people on the program.

Economic weakness, though, isn’t the whole story. For much of the last decade, and with bipartisan support, governments at all levels have sought to reduce the stigma of food stamps and encourage people who are eligible for it to sign up. (“Nutrition is a SNAP!”)

A more troubling reason for the increase is that state governments have found it easy to get their constituents federal money — that is, money mostly raised from current and future taxpayers in other states — by making more people eligible for food stamps. According to a mid-2010 report from the Government Accountability Office, 35 states have no limit on the amount of assets a food-stamp recipient can possess. More and more states — the count was 36 at the time of the report — are providing “categorical eligibility” for food stamps to anyone who receives welfare services. Merely getting an informational brochure from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program counts as receiving a service.

Another way that states and localities can get federal money flowing to them is by providing token amounts of assistance with home heating bills. Even a dollar of energy subsidies can make someone eligible for food stamps, or increase the benefit level for someone already on SNAP. Vermont, for example, sends $5 checks to public-housing residents, even though their subsidized rent already covers heating, to qualify them for food stamps. Liberal activists call this strategy for getting federal money “heat and eat.”

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Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

16 Responses to “Why Gingrich Is Right About Food Stamps”

  1. 4

    Nan G

    The Wall Street Journal also has an article about this topic.
    Note the graph there.
    In absolute numbers, President Obama has presided over a food stamp boom.

    BTW, did you know that the US gov’t spends more per year regulating food products grown in the USA than all our food producers spend growing it???
    We need to cut the gov’t footprint in our food system, not grow it anymore.

  2. 5


    I think, though, that in general Newt is barking up the wrong tree when he campaigns to promote the bourgeois virtues (thrift, industry and so on). It’s too easy to needle him about his own lack of same and thereby paint him as a hypocrite (see e.g. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gingrich-urges-students-to-get-part-time-jobs–apparently-unlike-himself/2012/01/28/gIQAkAXdYQ_story.html?tid=wp_ipad). He should run on his record and leave the moralizing alone.

  3. 6


    Just amazing how Obama inherits an economy from an incompetent GOP administration who forced people who lost their jobs to go on food stamps-and now is the ‘food stamp President.’ I guess they prefer they just starve and go away.

    Under President George W. Bush, the number of people on food stamps rose by 14.7 million compared with 14.2 million under President BaracK Obama. So, actually, that is nearly 500,000 fewer people than Bush.
    Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2012/01/26/20120126-bush-was-food-stamp-president.html#ixzz1kziIzXeF

  4. 7



    Try this graph, liberalmann;

    It is extremely more telling in how the food stamp program has grown under Obama. Of course, the truth might hurt a bit, so you may want to take a pain killer or two prior to looking at it.

  5. 8

    Nan G


    In “Say What?” is this link:

    Part of this link reads:
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website singles out Hispanics and elderly Americans as groups who often fail to enroll in the food stamp program (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) and says that one of the contributing factors that must be overcome to get more people to sign up for SNAP benefits is individual “pride”:

    There are many reasons why eligible people, including seniors and Hispanics, do not participate in the SNAP. These include unawareness of eligibility, confusion about program rules and requirements, a complex application process, and a lack of transportation and pride.

    To reduce these “barriers” to food stamp enrollment, the Department of Agriculture offers non-profit groups* the chance to receive $75,000 grants for projects designed to boost food stamp participation among those who are eligible but have yet to sign up. The Department of Agriculture believes that the SNAP program is “severely underutilized” and says that 33 percent more Americans who are eligible to receive food stamps have yet to apply, thus the need to offer federal grants to sign more citizens up.

    President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also argued that food stamps are an effective form of economic stimulus that puts “people to work” because each time food stamps are used at a grocery store “someone’s got to stock it, shelve it, package it, process it, ship it–all of those are jobs.”


    *I wonder how many of these non-profit groups are just ACORN renamed?
    Because of those grants and Obama’s generosity with our money the cost of the SNAP program has doubled under Obama.

  6. 10

    Liberal1 (objectivity)

    I don’t generally have time to respond to comments on individual websites—since I have so many right-wing sites to visit. But sometimes I feel some warrant response.

    I have seen and heard so many graphs and argument about whether President deserves to be called “the Food Stamp President” or not, I’ve decided, what does it matter? What matters is the number of children, seniors in poverty, and disabled people who rely on food stamps for their daily meals. Especially during these economic times one would expect more people to be taking advantage of food stamps.

    I think it also merits some comment that although the graph demonstrated in this case shows a peak in 2010, it also shows a reduction in 2011. Could this be a trend?

  7. 12


    @Liberal1 (objectivity):

    You said, “I think it also merits some comment that although the graph demonstrated in this case shows a peak in 2010, it also shows a reduction in 2011. Could this be a trend? ”

    While that is a valid question, it wouldn’t erase the fact that Obama added more to the food stamp rolls than anyone else. Look at it this way, Bush added roughly 14.7 million in 8 years, or, 1.84 million per year. Obama, thus far, has added 14.2 million in 3 years, or 4.73 million per year, which would make a four year total of around 19 million.

  8. 13

    Richard Wheeler

    John Galt Good morning The chart seems to show that after 6 positive years under Clinton “W” became “The food stamp Pres.” and BHO has doubled down.Sad
    Your take on Fla results?

  9. 14


    @Richard Wheeler:

    Rich, charts and graphs can be interpreted many different ways, depending upon your own views and what data points you hold most important. Having said that, yes, one could look at the graph and interpret it that way, I agree. However, in so doing, you discount other factors that lead to the increases. For example, under Reagan, after he cut taxes, the participation in the food stamp program went down, but in the mild economic downturn at the start of Bush 1’s presidency, participation grew. And as the economy shot towards the prosperity of the 90’s, driven primarily due to the tech boom, participation dropped again.

    For GWB, his presidency started out having to deal with the effects of the dotcom boom, and then the economic effects of 9/11, both of which affected the economy negatively. One can see that the height of increases in the program under Bush was 2004, the year after his tax cuts were enacted, and didn’t start gaining on increase again until 2008, when the housing market and banking collapses hit.

    In short, after such long-winded commentary, the increases and decreases in participation in the program coincide more directly with how well the economy is doing, or isn’t doing, rather than the particular President in charge. However, the President and their economic policies do have quite a bit to do with how the economy behaves, and subsequently, how participation within the food stamp program is affected. For Obama, the reason that chart is so telling is that he, himself, promised an unemployment rate of less than 8% if the Stimulus was passed. That never happened, nor did any real recovery within the economy, mainly due to businesses seeing the dark cloud of tax increases on the horizon, meaning people weren’t hiring. Due to that, participation within the program climbed by massive numbers as more and more people were left with it as the only option of putting food on the table. Along with that, Obama has made participation within the program easier for many people, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the economy.

    Gingrich is correct to label Obama the “food stamp” president, mainly because Obama has done very little to curtail the NEED for people to be in the program. Hence, Newt’s statement about blacks and the NAACP that people called him a racist for.

    Consider this question; Do you want to be heavily reliant on government for your basic living needs, or would you rather be self-reliant on your own industry for the same? That is the basic question that Newt was asking.

    As for FL, I don’t really care too much about it. This primary season for the GOP is quite fluid and out of 4 states, Romney has only won two of them. Still 46 states to go and several months. Remember, back in 2008 at this time, Hillary was generally considered to be the frontrunner and nearly a shoe-in for the nomination. How did that turn out?

  10. 15

    Richard Wheeler

    John G. Actually,after Obama won S.C ,adding to his Iowa win, he was the frontrunner and added on in the Nevada caucus. Hillary fought hard from behind.The proportional nature of the primaries gave BHO the win since as you know Hillary outpolled Obama in the largest states like Ca.,Tex. and N.Y.
    Tactically the Clinton’s looked like rank amateurs. Unbelievable.

  11. 16


    @Richard Wheeler:

    I will admit to being wrong, but purely due to willful ignorance concerning the 2008 democratic primary. My remembrances placed Hillary as the frontrunner and favorite for much of the campaign, which of course actually started the prior year, just as the GOP campaign has done this go-around.

    The point that I was making was that the two wins Romney has thus far don’t really mean much, all things considered. Of course, Newt and the others have to buckle down and continue to campaign hard, otherwise the nomination is most assuredly Romney’s to lose, as much as it pains me to say.

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