Former President Barack Obama has the distinction of being “food stamps president.” The numbers behind the title prove it.
In 2009, 33,490,000 people received food stamp benefits. By October 2016, 44,219,123 people received the same assistance, an increase of about 10,729,000. The ever-loosening restrictions on the program food stamps saw a rise in expenditures for taxpayers from $50.3 billion to $66.6 billion.
Enter President Donald Trump in January, 2017. During his first year, a fifth of that increase has already been erased. Data released by the Department of Agriculture show that the number of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, dropped to 42,182,443 for fiscal 2017. That is a decline of 2,036,920 from the fiscal 2016 total of 44,219,363.
A bit of food stamp history is necessary. The program cost taxpayers about $250 million for about 2.8 million recipients in 1969 under President Richard Nixon. It peaked at nearly $80 billion for nearly 48 million recipients in 2013 under President Barack Obama. That’s an increase of 31,900 percent. That is far out of proportion with population growth as a whole.
The 2017 figure of 42.1 million people utilizing the program is the lowest figure since 2010, when the program assisted 40.3 million people. Trump has signaled he wants to tighten eligibility rules for SNAP and have states contribute matching funds for the program.
Such an action will force states to reconsider their liberal allotment of funds to the perceived “needy.” The federal government is now reviewing rules on all aspects of the program.
The main problem with the program can be attributed to lax requirements for usage. Clinton-era welfare reform was effectively repealed by Barack Obama’s Agriculture Department. They removed the work requirement for food stamps. The reason may have been a good one considering the recession of 2008, but it wasn’t supposed to be a permanent one.
Reducing numbers of “eligible” recipients could be dramatic. It only requires re-instituting the same federal work requirement for food stamps that were in place less than a decade ago.