Brother, Can You Spare a Food Stamp?

The new American currency.

Giving Away Free Stuff = Economic Stimulus

Food Stamp payments continue to explode, and it’s not surprising why:

A record 44.7 million people received food stamps in fiscal 2011, up from 28.2 million as recently as 2008. The cost has more than doubled in that same period, to $78 billion, and is on track to account for 78% of farm bill spending over the next decade. One in seven Americans now qualifies.

Once there was a stigma to going on the dole, and it was seen as a last resort. But now the Agriculture Department runs radio and TV ads prodding people to get the free food, as in a recent campaign that says food stamps will help you lose weight. A federal website boasts about strategies that have “increased program participation” with special emphasis on Hispanics because “our data show that many low-income Latinos simply don’t apply for [food stamps] even though they’re eligible.”

In the 1990s Bill Clinton boasted that welfare reform took Americans off the dole. The Obama Administration boasts about how many it has added.

Enter Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, who proposed reforms to limit the worst excesses. One proposal would have established a federal asset test to ensure that food stamps aren’t going to families that may not have an income but have tens of thousands of dollars in savings or may even live in a million-dollar home. Some 39 states have no real asset test for food stamps, which means wealthy families without anyone in the job market are eligible, and 27 have gross-income limits that are above 130% of the federal poverty guidelines.

These are pretty horrifying statistics.  Obviously creating and maintaining dependency is not social “justice”, and the Republicans are concerned. Not so, think the Democrats, who attack Republicans for “waging war” on food stamp recipients.

Calling food stamps “a strong stimulus” –  Jordan Weissmann, of The Atlantic writes:

If I wanted to impugn the GOP’s motives, I might say that they were trying to snuff out an incredibly successful stimulus program. Because food stamps go to families literally living hand to mouth, they’re quickly cycled back into the economy. Moody’s Analytics has suggested that every dollar spent on the program generates $1.72 in economic activity.

Democrats claim cuts to entitlement programs are immoral. Republicans claim that borrowing money at an unsustainable pace now, without a plan, or ability to pay for those loans in the future, is immoral. The bottom line is that the wealth transfer is unsustainable. We are creating a dependent class today, by robbing productive members of society of earnings tomorrow.   Sooner rather than later, the government will have its come to Jesus moment, and will raise taxes on all citizens, regardless of whether they took the subsidies or not. Then the programs will be necessarily cut down, or off, because the money is all gone, leaving the dependent class unable to fend for itself because it knows nothing better.

Perhaps Mr. Weissmann thinks the massive civil disobedience and social unrest that will erupt at that point will be a good economic stimulus. The broken window theory, and all that.

If Jordan Weissmann’s line of thinking is correct, more borrowing and more spending equals more and more stimulus generating economic activity. Why curb the spending then, at all, if giving away subsidies is an economic plus? If it’s true that food stamps lift the economy, with the program’s explosive growth over the past few years, our economy should be rocking and rolling, right?


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