Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a study which is already leaving proponents of President Obama’s welfare state reveling with progressive satisfaction.
As reported by The New York Times, the federal government’s food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, “reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year included in the study.”
If taken at face value, this dubious assertion made by the Times would leave us to believe that welfare services and food stamp benefits actually reduce the rate of poverty in America.
Of course for this statistic to hold up, reading through the lines and the NYT piece – “Food Stamps Reduced Poverty Rate, Study Finds” – reveals an entirely new meaning for the concept of “reducing poverty.” Food stamps, it turns out, do not so much “reduce” the poverty rate as much as temporarily “alleviate” the symptoms.
According to the Agriculture Dept. report cited by the Times, “the poverty rate reflects only one aspect of the antipoverty effect of a safety net program—whether or not adding program benefits to a family’s resources lifts them above the poverty threshold.”
Translation: the “success” of the SNAP program touted by the Times was that it artificially subsidized many poor families and individuals in 2009 to a point where they were no longer considered to be below the poverty threshold.
It’s like saying green energy subsidies from the Obama Administration made Solyndra profitable because Solyndra was able to keep its doors open a little bit longer. Solyndra was never a success; rather, the looming collapse of Solyndra was only put off a little longer, propped up by subsidies. To draw a parallel to food stamps, Solyndra’s green energy subsidies were like SNAP’s “supplemental assistance” from the government.
Is the number of Americans the government can artificially raise above the poverty threshold, year in and year out, on the taxpayers dime really our measure of success?
Ironically, what often draws the most ire from working Americans concerning the food stamp program is not its record number of recipients, but rather how the benefits are being used.
While the federal government is responsible for the funding of SNAP as well as the general rules that govern it, states and territories have responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the program. As a result, there are wide discrepancies in how the program is applied and how the benefits can be used.
Take for example the fish market in Washington D.C. that accepts food stamps for jumbo crab legs and lobster tail, or the $69 million that Californians spent with SNAP Electronic Benefit Cards (EBT cards) on cruises ship and at hotels on the Vegas Strip. And who can forget the YouTube video featuring Mr. EBT and his adventures in “gettin’ paid,” and getting “his swipe on.”
At a time when a near record 46.5 million Americans are on the SNAP program, imagine the audacity to make a thinly veiled claim that food stamps actually reduce the poverty rate? Sadly, it is this exact kind of entitlement culture that perpetuates the misguided belief that allowing a man to purchase jumbo crab legs from a fish market, instead of teaching him how to fish, will solve or “reduce” his problems.