One-Sixth Of Population Now On Food Stamps – Is There Any End In Sight?

By: Kristin Tate
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Government welfare is well intended, but it can make poor people comfortable remaining in poverty. Why pay your own way when Uncle Sam will pay it for you?


Food stamps, or in USDA parlance, the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” is an expensive and bloated welfare program. A temporary and effective safety net to help struggling Americans put food on the table undoubtedly makes sense, but SNAP has spun out-of-control.

Almost one in six, or 47.5 million, Americans now receive food stamps. Over 13 million more people receive the food subsidies today than when Obama took office.

15% of the US population is on food stamps, but some states rely on the benefits more than others.

The Wall Street Journal points out that in some states, nearly a quarter of the population relies on food stamps. Mississippi and Washington, DC top the list of food stamp enrollment “by state,” at 22% and 23% respectively.

Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 9.40.02 PM

Graphic by the Wall Street Journal

Don’t expect SNAP to downsize anytime soon — despite spending a whopping $80 billion on food stamps last year, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) argues the program needs more funding.

The USDA is so set on expanding SNAP that it spent $43.3 million to advertise food stamps in 2011 alone. Government-produced, colorful commercials enthusiastically encourage people to sign up for the subsidies.

Moreover, the commercials portray food stamps in a wholly positive light. To be sure, government efforts to distribute food stamps should not demean recipients. But there is a better balance to be struck between safeguarding the dignity of recipients and making them feel that the SNAP assistance is an admirable, unqualified entitlement.

The commercials show up frequently on various television and radio stations. Here is a radio ad produced by Obama’s USDA, telling listeners that food stamps will make them “look amazing.”

Some ads are produced by state governments. This television commercial produced by New York tells people food stamps are “a quick, easy, confidential way to get help.”

It would be easier to swallow the heavy expense to taxpayers for ads promoting SNAP if the program itself were not already grossly out of hand.

There are even SNAP ads targeted at illegal immigrants.

Documents obtained by Judicial Watch revealed that the USDA works with the Mexican government to promote participation by illegal immigrants.

As Judicial Watch reported, “The promotion of [SNAP] includes a Spanish-language flyer provided to the Mexican Embassy by the USDA with a statement advising Mexicans in the U.S. that they do not need to declare their immigration status in order to receive financial assistance.  Emphasized in bold and underlined, the statement reads, ‘You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.’”

SNAP is also ridden with fraud. Many individuals trade their food stamps for cash and drugs, but the government does little to address this issue.

SNAP recipients receive Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which look and function like a debit card but are only supposed to be used to purchase food.

ebt_card

Despite EBT cards’ intended use, a simple search online pulls up countless discussion boards where people discuss how to trade the benefits for cash.

Here is a discussion thread from Yahoo Answers:

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Good grief.

Making matters worse is the fact that SNAP is often counterproductive by discouraging work. When a recipient starts making too much income, they lose the benefit. The incentive to find a job is gone.

Some liberals assert that food stamp use is up because the economy is bad, but that is simply not the case. Food stamp spending nearly doubled years ago, before the current recession. The program’s budget rose from $19.8 billion in 2000 to $37.9 billion in 2007. Congress should means test the food stamps program much more aggressively to focus on the truly needy, while eliminating disincentives for individuals to go to work.

This is certainly one of the most pressing issues facing the nation. But it receives almost no coverage from the so-called mainstream media.

What will it take for the media and citizens to wake up? Will it take 50% of all citizens receiving food stamps? 75%?

Americans have become obsessed with the “1%” and “99%.” They should instead focus on the 17% taking from the 83%. That is a statistic worth protesting in our public parks.

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Kristin Tate is a multi-media reporter for Breitbart News and BenSwann.com. Dedicated to fearless journalism, she regularly works on undercover stings with James O'Keefe to reveal government waste, abuse, and fraud. Tate was a Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) Chapter President and Founder. She will continue to fight tirelessly for individual liberty and free markets through new media. Visit Kristin's website at www.TheLibertarianChick.com.

  • Kevin Merck

    “What will it take for the media and citizens to wake up? Will it take 50% of all citizens receiving food stamps? 75%?”

    What it will take is for people like you to stop pretending that these programs are well intended. You start your article off saying that these programs are “well intended” when you have no reason whatsoever to say that, other than the fact that you are just as brainwashed as the rest of the public.

    Want to “wake up” the public Kristin, start with yourself.

    • Daniel

      Exactly. Unnecessary tax spending means people have less money to spend on private industry or to start a private industry.

      Taxes decrease production, and substandard production creates less wealth and a lower standard of living. The middle class is shrinking due to programs like this, so it’s obvious that it’s not to “help the poor”. They want people to be poor and needy so they will follow any order the government gives them.

      Privatize all social welfare. Americans are somewhat generous and they’ll put the money where it really needs to go, not where the proponents of this welfare state want it to go.

      • Kevin Merck

        I totally agree, but would just like to add that bringing the industry and jobs back home is the most important issue we face as a nation. Our survival as a free people depends on bringing the jobs home and drastically reducing the size and power of government.
        Want to help people? Bring the jobs home before it’s too late.

  • Kevin Merck

    Let me give you an example of why these criminals do not have good intentions.

    If I give $10 dollars to a charity to help feed starving children in Africa, I did that with good intentions. I thought the money would go to help people in need. However, if 95% of that money goes to the people who run the charity, it doesn’t matter what my intentions were, I’m feeding a criminal enterprise and the people claiming to help starving children never had good intentions in the first place.

    That’s what the welfare system is, only much, much worse. Making people dependent on government handouts is the first step to their enslavement and eventual murder.

    Want to be a good writer and reporter, Kristin, find out how much of that $180 a day spent on each welfare recipient actually goes to that person and how much goes to the army of parasites who make their living administering these benefits.

    Then come back and tell me how well intentioned these people are so we can all get a good laugh.

  • Daniel

    In New Deal or Raw Deal, Burton Folsom points to a cultural shift that took place after the New Deal came into play. Prior to the New Deal, local businesses, philanthropists, churches, etc. provided charitable services to those in need, but once the government stepped in, many of those organizations and individuals didn’t see the need to continue their aid at the same level, so it decreased or disappeared altogether.

    We do need to help people who struggle, but it should really be locally focused. How can the government know that X is abusing the system? It can’t, but I believe a locally run charitable organization could identify and handle abuse much more effectively. There would be so much more accountability if these programs were locally run.

    I think sometimes we look at how terrible government entitlement programs are, and then we go too far the other way. We become callous to legitimate needs, hoping to do away with the all of the aid to the poor because it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. Helping people isn’t a waste. Bloated and inefficient programs are a waste, though.

    We should try to take the power away from the federal government, and then–hopefully–take that money in our pockets and help our neighbors or give it to a local organization that is actually making a difference, is actually helping people to get out of poverty (as opposed to encouraging wanton, careless spending that really keeps people poor, unhealthy, and addicted).

    • Lori Longoria

      This is why there are local food banks and Feeding America. These non-profit organizations are what is helping the poor through donations and although most of this is through government funding they are making a difference in the lives of many that wouldn’t have food otherwise.

  • No Name

    Kristin, You have lost integrity with me. I made a comment yesterday on another article you wrote about this topic. You put in a little more statistical information, but it is apparent that you don’t see the bib picture here. What you are not mentioning is that many of the SNAP recipients are working. You mention how they are not motivated to go find a job. Maybe you should write about the bigger picture, which is these high-profiting corporations are not paying living wages to their employees to have all their basic needs covered. I had a job and had to get SNAP assistance. One of the reasons I resigned from that job and starting working for myself was because I realized that I was never going to make a lot of money working for someone else and I am working on starting a company to provide more jobs in our community. I vow to pay the employees living wages too. I don’t think you are seeing the bigger picture here and I am disappointed in your approach. You are no better than mainstream media. You are writing just like them. Why don’t you write about how corporations, like Walmart, are supporting the push for the SNAP program because they don’t pay their employees enough. Or restaurant workers who serve food actually have to get on SNAP because they don’t make enough to pay their living expenses, high student loans, and food. I really hope that you are not representing the direction that Ben Swann is taking because I will be disappointed unless you change your approach. I also hope that you never find yourself in a situation where you will need the assistance. Which has nothing to do with whether you are a liberal, republican, or any other party for that matter.

    • Daniel

      Glad to hear you’re starting a business. My brother and I had one for a bit, but it didn’t work out. Thankfully, we’re both employed at this point.

      Really what we are talking about is poverty reduction, right? That’s what we all want. We want people to be able to make it on their own, provide for their families, etc.

      I think the best way to reduce poverty is to provide education. I’ve seen so many stats on education level and employment. The more education you have, the more money you make. Unemployment rates get progressively lower as education increases, so that’s what we need.

  • wbonesteel

    As always, let’s just overlook the draconian laws, regulations and taxes that prevent people from starting businesses and hiring people.
    You keep treating the ‘symptom’ instead of eliminating the ‘disease.’

  • Tired of Lazy Americans

    I believe in providing food stamps as a temporary aid to help families in need. But not a life long trend. I work all different shifts, any and all 7 days of the week. I watch other children so someone can watch mine. My husband works 60 hours a week. We have to budget everything. We can barely afford food. The prices are out of hand. But I surely cannot afford to feed those who are not working. there is no reason a man cannot work doing something in this country. Single moms often get these because the men are 5 minute donors. This has got to stop. Mom’s must report their donors. If they don’t know who they are, then after 2 we need to sterilize.

  • Genevieve L Ferrantino

    I agree with this article, especially about the benefits taking away peoples incentive to find work. My husband use to complain if I spent more than $40 on a grocery shopping trip, and tell me to only shop at Aldi. After this went on for over 2 years, I said OK, and signed up for SNAP. I was shocked to learn I was eligible for over $600 a month. My husband has not complained since of course, but the new dilemma is that he hasn’t tried the least bit to find more income!!

    • Jesse Farmer

      Lol. Really? Are the people that read this really stupid enough to believe this fake nonsense? I have a hard time believing anyone is this stupid.

  • Redheaded Stepchild

    To me, food stamps are this nation’s way of hiding bread lines. Unemployment is much higher than the government tells us. People are living on the edge, and many have gotten pushed off. I’m far less upset about food stamps and welfare than I am LIVID about Crony Capitalism, Too Big To Fail, and thieving Banksters. .

    • Jesse Farmer

      To you? To everyone. Foodstamps are just the soup line with a little intelligent technology.

      These people that are raging against foodstamps, and even more the people writing these stupid propaganda pieces, are full of hate. They are fascist. They literately want to kick people out of the soup line, because they think it will give them two more nickles to rub together. They’re greedy scum, and nothing more.

      • Redheaded Stepchild

        Unfortunately, the “soup line with a little intelligent technology” is managed and paid out by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Too much centralized control, methinks. Soup lines were administered by charities and local and/or state entities.

        Who wants to get their hands on that money? The same people destroying the nation at its core — Banksters.

        • Jesse Farmer

          When all we had were soup lines administered by charities, American starved to death. No thanks. The needs and right to “LIFE” (it’s the first one guy) of Americans trumps any convoluted morality.

          As far as JP Morgan getting a cut, then take that out. Fix that. But starving Americans, and sending orphans begging is not necessary for any of that, and no argument you ever make will convince me otherwise.

          • Redheaded Stepchild

            I suspect that you are missing my 2nd point…which is that the centralized system is unreliable (this week’s EBT glitch…it wasn’t the first), and it’s administered by people who would prefer to take the money away from the needy people in the first place. I’d like to see local and state entities take care of the “food stamp” programs.

            My initial point was that we aren’t seeing how really awful this economy has become because there aren’t visible soup lines. Out of sight, out of mind. So when it all collapses, many will holler “WTF?” because they didn’t see it coming. There weren’t any visible signs. I can’t help but think it’s been planned that way.

  • defyentropy

    When did Washington, District of Columbia become a state? Do young people today even know what “DC” stands for?

    • Kristin Tate

      Hence why I put “by state” in quotes.

  • Jesse Farmer

    “Americans have become obsessed with the “1%” and “99%.” They should
    instead focus on the 17% taking from the 83%. That is a statistic worth
    protesting in our public parks.”

    Wow. That’s straight from the 1% mouth. That’s a kind of a extreme elitism that belongs in 1939. Or on Wall Street (now or in 1939). That’s from someone that isn’t on foodstamps, knows they will never be on foodstamps, and doesn’t know anyone on foodstamps. That sure as HELL isn’t 83% of this fine country. That’s the 1%, the 10% that directly serve them (as brokers and so forth) and about 10% that are total idiots that work as Subway who think their paycheck will be made of pure gold if Ron Paul gets elected.

  • Jesse Farmer

    “Americans have become obsessed with the “1%” and “99%.” They should
    instead focus on the 17% taking from the 83%. That is a statistic worth
    protesting in our public parks.”

    Just to be clear: is this the typical Libertarian viewpoint? Is this the (final) solution? Deal with this “18%” by starving them to death. It’s fine if it is, but I just want to hear from some Libertarians on this subject.

    Also, do Libertarians think that this spike in Foodstamp recipients is just because Americans got a case of the lazies? Is that the cause for ‘The Great Recession’?

  • Jesse Farmer

    “Americans have become obsessed with the “1%” and “99%.” They should
    instead focus on the 17% taking from the 83%. That is a statistic worth
    protesting in our public parks.”

    Regardless of what you think of all of this, isn’t that statement, that we shouldn’t focus on the super rich bankers to pay their fair share, but we should go after some other part of the society (poor, desperate, and hungry families, in this case), EXACTLY what the 1% wants you to do?

    Even if you agree with all of this: if you were a Rockefeller or a Rothschild, wouldn’t you be paying hack writers to try to convince people to “instead focus on the…” (anyone else) instead of us.

    Even if you totally agree, is this not the 1%, Wall Street banker’s line? Isn’t straight from their mouth? Doesn’t this directly reflect the desires of these bankers?

  • Lori Longoria

    Ok I just wanted to clarify something that was not mentioned in the article… the EBT card can be used with two entirely different programs.

    SNAP and TANF (temporary assistance for needy families), with the SNAP program, the purchases made under EBT FOOD can only be on food that will be consumed by the person receiving assistance, you cannot take cash money out of this program.

    When you qualify for TANF, this is a cash help option that has nothing to do with SNAP but delivered to you in the same card in a different account. EBT CASH.

    It’s sort of like having a debit card with two accounts linked, savings and checking, except that with government assistance its specifically for food or if you have TANF for cash. The TANF program states that the money given to the people that qualify is to help with bills, hygiene products and other cash only transactions that the family would otherwise not be able to afford. The income guidelines for this program are set very very low in order to help only the poorest of people and also they are required to participate in a workforce training program that will allow them to get skills to work and also look for work. If the person is not able to work then there are rules that they must abide by but if they are able to work and they do not comply with these rules then the benefits will be taken from them. If they need child care in order to work then the workforce center will provide funding towards that until the family can sustain itself.

  • Laura

    My opinion is,that as long as our government continues to “buy allies”,gives other countries money to purchase our own weaponry and ANY OTHER FORMS OF “AID”, we need to take care of our own house FIRST!
    I am not on food stamps(or any other form of govt aid),but I do know people who are. These people WORK,but are vastly underpaid and unable to use their college degrees,to up their incomes. I believe that abuses are few and far between. People would rather focus on the few abusers of the system,instead of the “quiet majority” that are using the food stamps they way they were intended.
    So,bottom line is this: BEFORE WE(as a nation) GIVE A DIME TO ANOTHER COUNTRY,WE SHOULD BE TAKING CARE OF OUR FUTURE AND TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN STRUGGLING PEOPLE! END ALL FOREIGN AID,BEFORE CUTTING ANYTHING THAT HELPS AMERICANS MAKE ENDS MEET!!!!