Thursday, September 19, 2013

Doom on Us

For those who remain optimistic that the United States can still turn away from our present course toward a leviathan state need only consider the current discussion of proposed cutbacks in the food stamps program to realize how difficult any course correction will be.

In January, 2008 just over 27 million Americans were receiving food stamps. In September, 2013 over 47 million (close to 48 million) Americans were receiving food stamps. That’s roughly an increase of 74% in five-and-a-half years.

Matt Trivisonno has a very informative post where he has a number of charts showing changes in the food stamp numbers. This one shows the growth in individuals receiving food stamps in the time period mentioned above:

A second chart shows the numbers by year going back to 1975:

It’s stunning to note the thirty-three year span between 1975 and 2008 the numbers were anywhere from 16 million to 28 million before skyrocketing to 47 million in 2013. The recent growth is unprecedented both in terms of raw numbers and percentage.

Another chart that confirms the uniqueness of the recent food stamp surge is this one that shows the percentage of Americans receiving food stamps from 1976 to 2012:

Again, over a thirty-plus year period the % varied from 6% to just over 10% before jumping to nearly 15% in 2012.

Depressed yet? Just wait. House GOP members now want to take a step back and actually stem this rising food stamp tide. In fact, they’re going to take a vote on that very matter today. A completely objective straight-down-the-middle story in yesterday’s Washington Post provided the details.

House to vote on deep cuts to food-stamp program:

The years-long fight over federal funding for food stamps is set for another showdown Thursday when House Republicans plan to vote on a proposal to dramatically curtail aid to needy Americans. Every Democrat is expected to vote against the proposal.

The GOP measure would slash about $39 billion over the next decade for food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is providing an average of $133 in monthly aid to more than 47 million Americans, according to a recent government report. The proposal differs sharply from a Senate plan passed this summer that would cut roughly $4.5 billion in SNAP money mostly by reducing administrative expenses.

If there was any doubt how this story was going to be framed by the unbiased media consider the words used here: “deep cuts,” “dramatically curtail aid to needy Americans,” and “slash.” The same scary sounding words are being bandied about across traditional media outlets and by Democratic politicians and pundits. But how “deep” and “dramatic” is this proposed “slashing” of food stamps?

The bill would cut SNAP funding by stiffening the eligibility requirements for “able-bodied” people with no children. The Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that about 3.5 million adults would no longer be eligible for the program if the proposed changes are enacted.

3.5 million “able-bodied” people would no longer receive food stamps if the proposal were to be become law (which it won’t since it will never pass the Senate). It sounds like a lot until you consider the numbers were starting with. Again, as of September 6th, the data shows 47.76 million Americans receive food stamps. So cutting 3.5 million from those rolls would be a reduction of 7.3%. Draconian, ain’t it?

If these cuts were put in place (which they won’t be), the % of Americans receiving food stamps would plummet from 14.83% to 13.72% (rough estimates using 2012 data) which would still be significantly higher than any year prior to 2009.

If we can’t make minor cutbacks like this without igniting a media storm about how much Republicans hate poor people we have no chance to make the far more meaningful changes required to change course. Doom on us.