February 28 2012
This video of the Rev. Jesse Jackson says it all about dependency in America. In it, Jackson flips Newt Gingrich’s designation of President Obama as “the food stamp president” and says that it is “an honor to be a food stamp president.”
Food stamps, the reverend notes, “feed the hungry, save children, help the farmer, help the truck drivers and help the White House.”
Whoa, Reverend! Food stamps may not help the White House. People are becoming alarmed at the number of people receiving food stamps. Last year an astonishing 44.7 million people received food stamps, costing the taxpayer $75.3 billion. That's quite a rise from the 28.2 who relied on food stamps in 2008 (cost to taxpayer: $37.6 billion).
As things currently stand, 1 in 7 Americans are relying on food stamps. The problem isn’t just the cost—it’s the dependency food stamps create that should worry us. Dependency, at an all-time high, threatens the ethic of self-reliance.
Democrats like to argue that food stamps help the economy as a whole. Nancy Pelosi has famously made the claim that food stamps benefit all of us because of this alleged stimulative effect. The USDA website makes this claim:
If the national participation rate rose just 5 percent, 1.9 million more low-income people would be able to spend an additional $1.3 billion on healthy food. This would generate $2.5 billion in new economic activity nationwide.
So getting more people on welfare helps the economy?
This is bunk says Ross Kaminsky, trader and investor, in a piece in the American Spectator. The problem with the claim that food stamps help the economy is that such claims are not based on real-world information:
As Harvard economist Robert Barro notes, the Keynesian multipliers being offered to us by supporters of the welfare state are based on economic models, not on actual outcomes: "Theorizing aside, Keynesian policy conclusions, such as the wisdom of additional stimulus geared to money transfers, should come down to empirical evidence. And there is zero evidence that deficit-financed transfers raise GDP and employment—not to mention evidence for a multiplier of two."
Even if employment goes up, the cost of food stamps to the taxpayer will only decline modestly, according to the Congressional Budget Office estimates. This is because of an anticipated increase in the monthly benefits.
But forget for a moment the financial aspect of food stamps. What about the moral dimension?
As the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner argues, "We are becoming a society that makes poverty more comfortable instead of doing what we need to reduce poverty. Food stamps is about taking people who are poor and enabling them to live better poor instead of focusing on things like job creation which actually gets people out of poverty."
There is no honor in being the food stamp president.