The latest buzz about food stamps is that benefit amounts will be “cut” beginning November 1.
But what is this “cut”? Basically, it’s the benefit amount returning to the level it would have otherwise been if not for the 2009 stimulus.
In 2009, President Obama’s stimulus package temporarily pumped extra dollars into food stamps in an attempt to stimulate the economy. The temporary increase is now ending. On average, household benefits for those receiving the maximum amount of food stamps will decrease by about 5 percent.
Of course, the whims of Washington are now making it difficult for individuals and families who suddenly have to adjust to a lower amount of benefits. Still, the expiration of the temporary stimulus boost should not be dubbed a “cut.”
It’s also important to remember that food stamps is just one of roughly 80 federally funded means-tested welfare programs, which provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans.
Food stamp spending is one of the largest and fastest growing of these programs. Spending doubled between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2012 to approximately $80 billion and had previously doubled—prior to the recession—between FY 2000 and FY 2007.
In total, the federal government now spends nearly $1 trillion annually on means-tested welfare programs, and costs are only set to increase, even once the economy has fully recovered.
In fact, the typical pattern over the past five decades is for welfare spending to grow during times of recession. However, it never decreases substantially thereafter. Instead, it picks up from where it left off and continues its upward climb.