The long-term consequences


To The Editor:
Even though the last recession officially ended in 2009, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a.k.a. food stamps, has seen a 70-percent increase in enrollees since 2007. Dollar payments have more than doubled over that same period, raising from $30.4 billion to $75 billion. Whereas SNAP’s budget used to rise and fall with the overall economy, today it has morphed into yet another permanent part of the United States’ bankrupt entitlement edifice.

President Clinton’s 1996 Welfare Overhaul helped set SNAP in stone. Clinton’s legislation widened the pool of recipients when it permitted states to loosen asset and income-testing requirements in order to qualify. Not one to be outdone by his Democratic predecessor, President Obama sweetened the pot shortly after taking office. Obama expanded the program to permit the entry of those with relatively higher savings and incomes, a group previously knows as the “self-sufficient,” deepening the pool of recipients.

In 2006, 18.7 percent of households applying for SNAP met the government’s definition of need. As a result of the new Obama standards, 65.8 percent of applicants qualified in 2011. Thanks to the Obama administration’s munificence, the federal government spent as much on SNAP in 2012 as it did on the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Department of the Interior – combined.

Like many other social programs, SNAP started off with the best of intentions. Government officials hoped to prevent those who had lost their jobs or suffered a temporary financial setback from burning through their savings or going hungry and only the most cold-hearted scrooge would deny food assistance to those truly in need. But how exactly do we define need today? Food, rent, transportation, and clothing are all necessary. But what about cell phones with Internet connections, cable TV, and dining out?

Unfortunately, the long-term consequences of these policies have come into focus recently, as the national debt skyrocketed past $17 trillion. Most importantly, SNAP recipients will now have reason to vote for candidates who will continue such giveaways.
Today, at 47.8 million strong, SNAP recipients outnumber the 35.7 million American Association of Retired Americans.

E.O. England,