Spieckerman Speaks

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SNAP: President Obama's Latest Affront to Bill Clinton

Contrary to major media outlet reportage, Republican House-proposed changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP (“food stamps”) are almost infinitesimal and (were the realities accurately conveyed) would seem eminently reasonable to the vast majority of Americans.

If the House SNAP bill is “Tea Party Republicanism,” it’s very timid indeed.

First, two facts that are receiving little or no coverage:

  1. Under the Republican House-proposed SNAP budget, NO recipients with children or disabilities will be affected at all
  2. One facet of the failed Obama "stimulus" is still with us:  a substantial dilution of the work requirements for SNAP – rules that were signed into law by that heartless plutocrat, Bill Clinton.  The Republican-proposed changes in SNAP would reprise some of those Clinton-era regulations mandating that able-bodied SNAP recipients without children work, be looking for work or be in a job-training program.

The rest of the story is in the numbers – though few journalists are telling it.

In 2000, the final year of the Clinton administration, 17 million Americans were receiving SNAP at an annual cost of $18 billion. If we use those numbers as a base, account for population growth, a 50% increase in the poverty rate, the total number of SNAP recipients should be 30 million people.  Adding 36% to the per-beneficiary budget to account for inflation over that period would bring annual SNAP outlays under the Clinton guidelines to $42 billion.

Shockingly, under President Obama, the total SNAP recipient base is 47 MILLION and the annual budget $82 BILLION.  That’s 17 million more SNAP beneficiaries and $40 BILLION MORE in annual spending than would be the case had Bill Clinton’s SNAP program remained in place.

The yawning gap between the Obama SNAP budget and what it would be under the Clinton program - $40 billion this year – equals total federal government spending for highways. (It should be kept in mind that economists on the Left and the Right agree that government investment in infrastructure, like highways, yields more jobs and economic return than any other kind of government spending.)

The $82 billion per year Obama SNAP budget, with currently slated increases, would cost nearly $800 billion over the next decade. 

So how much do those Dickensian Republicans want to cut from a SNAP program that’s twice as expensive – after accounting for increased population, poverty rates and inflation – than it would have been under the Clinton parameters?  About 5%.  That's roughly equal to the most conservative estimates of fraud in the SNAP program (to wit, SNAP cards for strip clubs, to buy cigarettes and liquor and as exchange to drug dealers). 

The Republican changes would cut roughly three million able-bodied, childless people from SNAP – still leaving about 14 million more SNAP beneficiaries than there would be had the Clinton rules continued.  This would reduce total SNAP spending over the next decade “all the way down” to $720 billion – still nearly $350 billion more in spending over the next 10 years than it would have been under Clinton’s SNAP program.

So, in addition eschewing bipartisanship, balanced budgets and pro-market policies, President Obama has lacerated another piece of the Clinton legacy – welfare reform.

A very close friend of mine earns $10 per hour – barely making ends meet.  She’s never received and isn’t now eligible for SNAP.  Her federal taxes are funding that SNAP profligacy. There are, of course, millions and millions more like her.

Apparently, this is what President Obama considers “investing in the middle class."


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