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Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Five Things You Probably Don’t Know About Food Stamps"

While I look around for something to post, here's the latest attempt to counter Republican attacks on the social safety net. This time conservatives have food stamps in the cross-hairs:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is in the news these days because of comments made by some Republican presidential candidates. Below are five things you probably don’t know about the program.

SNAP Working Households Have Risen

  1. A large and growing share of SNAP households are working households (see chart). ...

    One reason why SNAP is serving more working families is that, for a growing share of the nation’s workers, having a job has not been enough to keep them out of poverty.

  2. SNAP responded quickly and effectively to the recession. ... That’s precisely what SNAP was designed to do: respond quickly to help more low-income families during economic downturns...

    Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, so SNAP’s quick response to the recession ... helped the broader economy. ...

  3. Today’s large SNAP caseloads mostly reflect the extraordinarily deep and prolonged recession and the weak recovery. ...Workers who are unemployed for a long time are more likely to deplete their assets, exhaust unemployment insurance, and turn to SNAP for help...

  4. SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program. ...

  5. SNAP’s recent growth is temporary. CBO predicts that SNAP spending will ... return nearly to pre-recession levels as a share of the economy.

    Over the long term, SNAP is not growing faster than the economy. So, it is not contributing to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

The question shouldn't be whether a particular program is "contributing to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems." When overall revenues fall short of spending, any program funded out of general revenue can be accused of causing the deficit problem. Instead, we should compare the costs and the benefits of each program, then find a way to pay for those that pass and reduce the scale or eliminate those that fail. Even though spending on SNAP has increased quite a bit during the recession, as you'd expect if the program is working, I have no doubt that this program passes the cost-benefit test.

    Posted by on Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 11:30 AM in Economics, Social Insurance | Permalink  Comments (8)


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