Food stamp growth started before Obama took office

The continuation of Newt Gingrich’s moniker for President Obama as the “food stamp president” among Republicans this election season is the product of selective memory and political expediency, writes Cato Institute’s Tad DeHaven.

Although the food stamp program hit an all-time high this summer of 46.7 million individuals in June, DeHaven says the trajectory can be traced back to the 2002 farm bill passed by a Republican-controlled House and signed by President George W. Bush.

According to DeHaven:

What Republicans don’t want to acknowledge is the role they played in expanding the food stamps program before President Obama ever took office. The 2002 farm bill—passed by a Republican-controlled House and signed by Republican President George W. Bush—expanded the food stamps program. As the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page correctly noted yesterday, “The food-stamp boom began with the George W. Bush Republicans, who expanded benefits in the appalling 2002 farm bill.”
The 2008 farm bill further expanded the program. However, on this the Journal lets the GOP off the hook when it says “But the supercharger was a 2008 bill out of the Pelosi Congress that goosed eligibility and rebranded the program as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to reduce the stigma of being on the dole.” Although Bush vetoed that farm bill (he didn’t cite the increase for food stamps in his veto message), congressional Republicans were instrumental in enabling the “Pelosi Congress” to override it. In the House, 99 (out of 195) Republicans joined most Democrats in voting to override the veto. In the Senate, only 12 Republicans voted to sustain Bush’s veto.

It’s also worth looking at Cato’s handy chart on the growth since 2000, based on OMB data.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He blogs and hosts a podcast at governmentality.net and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.

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