Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, continues to increase despite reported decreases in unemployment.
According to Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, however, the reason behind the swelling food stamp rolls is that unemployment is worse than the 8.2 percent reported earlier this month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Let’s just say this,” DeLauro said during a Thursday CSPAN interview, when presented with a Bloomberg Government graph showing millions more people on food stamps even as unemployment decreased from Oct. 2009-Dec. 2011. “When we talk about the unemployment numbers, unemployment is 8.2 percent. That’s not including the people who have stopped looking for jobs. So, we’re looking at — probably — it’s a higher number given that the number of people who have stopped looking for a job can’t find a job, people who have been unemployed for a year or two years, who are unable to find jobs.”
Many have pointed out that it will be difficult for President Barack Obama to win re-election with an unemployment rate as high as 8.2 percent.
DeLauro argued that the 45 million people — or one-in-seven — Americans currently on food stamps need the government assistance due to the poor economy. Prior to the recession, one-in-11 Americans were on food stamps. In the 1970s, one-in-50 were enrolled. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that after the recovery, one-in-nine Americans will still be enrolled.
Since 2008, government spending on food stamps has increased 100 percent. While Democrats argue the increase in spending and participation is due to need, Republicans say the bloat is due to government policy that has lowered the barrier to entry and encouraged more people to get on the dole.
The pending House version of the 2012 farm bill reauthorization proposes $16 billion in cuts to the program. The Senate version, passed last month, rejected attempts at vast reform, but cut $4 billion from the program over the next decade — pittance compared to $770 billion the government is the expected to spend on food stamps in that time frame.