The Food Stamp “Recovery”

Last week we finally had the satisfaction of seeing everyone admit how bad the new “job numbers” are. But I didn’t see much attention given to another statistic that was released—a number regarding the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Happily, Zero Hedge reminded us about it:

“the monthly foodstamp update shows month after month that the greatest depression is nowhere near ending for millions of American living in poverty (83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline or $14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013). To wit: in June, the number of households receiving foodstamps rose to 23.117 million, an increase of 45.9k in one month, and also a new record high.”

The number of US residents now on food stamps exceeds the entire population of Spain. “Tyler Durden,” Zero Hedge’s main writer suggests that the media is unwilling to report “the change of Americans on food stamps and disability vs jobs since the start of the Depression in December 2007.” They simply do not want the Americans to realize how bad our economic situation is:

“The reason is that while over that time period the US still needs to generate an additional 2.2 million jobs to get back to breakeven (ignoring for a minute that the jobs created are mostly part-time or low paying jobs), the number of food stamp and disability recipients has risen by 22 million!”

In essence, our economy is bleeding. We have no jobs but we are moving more people than ever before into government dependency. But that has to mean dependency on debt, because the government can never collect enough revenue to support that many people while so few others are working. That is not “right wing politics”; that is just math.

At this point, almost one person out of six is on food stamps. The Wall Street Journal blog, Real Time Economics, tried to present a more hopeful case that our situation is not so dire:

“Critics clamor against what they see as a disturbing rise in government dependency. But new economic research suggests the program’s expansion isn’t alarming and can, in fact, be explained by business cycles.”

So nothing to worry about, according to them.

“Growth in food-stamp use has leveled off in the last year, increasing at a slower pace than it did from 2007 to 2011. The Congressional Budget Office projects that food-stamp expenditure, measured as a share of gross domestic product, will decrease to its mid-1990s level by 2019, according to analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.”

I hope that is true but I don’t buy it. This sounds like the same kind of chatter we heard in 2008 about how “the fundamentals of the US economy are sound.” Or Bernanke in 2006 promising that growth was only going to slow a bit before taking off again.