For anyone other than a socialist, getting more Americans on the government dole would be a sign of abject failure in leadership. It stands to reason that Barack Obama — despite his strenuous objections to being called the “food stamp president — wears the increase in enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a badge of honor.
“Food stamps, writes Elizabeth Harrington of the The Washington Free Beacon, “are the most inefficient, vastly expanding social welfare program in the country,” which may be what Obama admires most about SNAP. He seems to be a fan of inefficiency, waste, and expansion of the social welfare program judging from a study by Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute published in August that found that on Obama’s watch, welfare recipients earn more than minimum-wage employees in 35 states.
Harrington cites another, newer study by Tanner and Cato, focusing on the food stamp fiasco. In the paper, titled SNAP Failure: The Food Stamp Program Needs Reform, Tanner writes:
This program has expanded rapidly over the last decade in a way that is not justified by the recession that we went. There’s very little bang for all this increased buck.
According to Tanner’s research, in 2000 the cost of the food stamp program was $17 billion. Thirteen years later, the cost has more than quadrupled, to $78 billion today. Population growth over the same period has tracked at about 16%. As this chart from the report shows, the cost has grown even more dramatically than the growth in enrollment since Obama took office.
But one of the most outrageous revelations is that some states hired “food stamp recruiters,” who have monthly quotas of new enrollees to meet. In Florida, the quota is 150 new recipients. Rhode Island hosts “SNAP-themed bingo games,” and the USDA tells its field offices to throw parties to get more people on their rolls.
In spite of the additional spending, the USDA claims 18 million Americans are still “food insecure.” The irony is not lost on Tanner, who states, “The left is correct when they talk about how small food stamp benefits are, about an average of $4.50 a day. And yet we’re told that people can’t survive without them.” He adds, “There’s something wrong in our society when people can’t survive without getting five bucks from the government.”
As if all this weren’t troubling enough, the report notes that the program is bloated and ridden with fraud. “SNAP’s administrative costs,” Tanner writes, “are considerably higher than those of most other social welfare programs. In 2013, the program’s total administrative expenses at both the federal and state level are expected to top $7 billion, more than 9 percent of program costs. The federal share of administrative expenses alone is more than $4.5 billion, and that is expected to increase to almost $6 billion by 2023.”
And then there is the matter of rampant fraud. Says Tanner:
Officially, the USDA puts program fraud at around $858 million last year, which would amount to just a bit more than 1 percent of SNAP expenditures. But this calculation only refers to direct fraud, such as trafficking in benefits. It does not include roughly $2.2 billion annually in erroneous payments to individuals who were not properly eligible for participation or who received benefits in excess of the amount to which they should have been entitled.
There is also the troubling matter of Americans who are selling their food stamps back to stores for cash. This trafficking has increased more than 30% over the past several years, according to an Agriculture Department study. All told, the fraud and abuse rate is around 3.9% of the cost of the program.
The solution Tanner proposes is to turn SNAP into a block grant as a first step to ultimately returning the program to the states.