Food stamp program benefits decreased at the beginning of November when a temporary boost from the 2009 stimulus package expired. This reduction is now being dubbed a “cut” by the very members of Congress who voted to speed this expiration.
The food stamp boost was set to last until 2015, but liberals voted to divert funding to a $10 billion bailout package and President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Now the left is protesting because the expiration they voted for is becoming a reality.
Food stamp advocates are attempting to use the debate over the expiration of the stimulus boost to put off much-needed reforms to policies that have expanded the program far beyond the population it was originally intended to serve.
One such policy favored by the Obama Administration allows states to bypass asset tests, making households with considerable savings eligible for food stamps. Known as Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, this policy enables people to walk into food stamp offices, receive brochures paid for by another welfare program, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and become “categorically eligible” for food stamps—without the normally required asset test.
Liberals also resist work requirements for able-bodied welfare recipients, even though the vast majority of Americans support them. Under current food stamp law, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are supposed to at least do part-time work or workfare or their benefits are subject to a time limit. Most states have been able to waive the work requirement for years, allowing ABAWDs to remain on the rolls indefinitely without meeting any work requirement. ABAWD participation is twice as high as it was in 2007, but even in good economic times over half of all food stamp households contain an able-bodied adult who performs no work.
Food stamp program spending has been climbing rapidly for decades. Since 2000, it has quadrupled, from about $20 billion annually to nearly $80 billion. It is just one of 80 different means-tested programs in a welfare system that now costs over $920 billion a year. Total welfare spending has increased by a third since Obama came to office and has jumped 16-fold (adjusted for inflation) since the War on Poverty began in the 1960s.
Ignoring the ever-increasing cost of the current system, liberals continue to clamor for a bigger welfare state. They ignore the fact that rates of self-sufficiency have been stagnant since the 1960s: America’s welfare system has failed its poor. Programs to help the poor are needed, but problematic policies that grow these programs unnecessarily and discourage work must be reformed.