Working-age American households now a majority of food stamp recipients

Rick Moran
For the first time, working-age Americans now make up a majority of those who rely on food stamps. This is a swiitch from a few years ago when children and the elderly were the major beneficiaries.

Associated Press:

Some of the change is due to demographics, such as the trend toward having fewer children. But a slow economic recovery with high unemployment, stagnant wages and an increasing gulf between low-wage and high-skill jobs also plays a big role. It suggests that government spending on the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program -- twice what it cost five years ago -- may not subside significantly anytime soon.

Food stamp participation since 1980 has grown the fastest among workers with some college training, a sign that the safety net has stretched further to cover America's former middle class, according to an analysis of government data for The Associated Press by economists at the University of Kentucky. Formally called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or SNAP, the program now covers 1 in 7 Americans.

The findings coincide with the latest economic data showing workers' wages and salaries growing at the lowest rate relative to corporate profits in U.S. history.

President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night is expected to focus in part on reducing income inequality, such as by raising the federal minimum wage. Congress, meanwhile, is debating cuts to food stamps, with Republicans including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wanting a $4 billion-a-year reduction to an anti-poverty program that they say promotes dependency and abuse.

Economists say having a job may no longer be enough for self-sufficiency in today's economy.

"A low-wage job supplemented with food stamps is becoming more common for the working poor," said Timothy Smeeding, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in income inequality. "Many of the U.S. jobs now being created are low- or minimum-wage - part-time or in areas such as retail or fast food - which means food stamp use will stay high for some time, even after unemployment improves."

So it's come to this. The Obama economy creates low paying full time or part time jobs where many simply can't make ends meet. And then there are those who live in areas where there are no jobs at all. Working people used to being self-sufficient are thrown into dependency on government.

Certainly there is a lot of fraud and abuse of the food stamp program. Ten percent is a low-ball number, which works out to $8 billion a year. The GOP wants to cut $4 billion and rather than try to ferret out the fraud, Democrats are screaming about a war on the poor. Such are debates over entitlement programs.

I don't begrudge working people who need food stamps to carry them through the month this assistance. But clearly a better effort has to be made to weed out the fraudsters. To acknowledge that some people are recieving food stamps who don't need or don't deserve the benefit is to state the obvious. But as long as political points can be score by calling those who wish to be more mindful of the federal purse "racists," the fraud will continue.

For the first time, working-age Americans now make up a majority of those who rely on food stamps. This is a swiitch from a few years ago when children and the elderly were the major beneficiaries.

Associated Press:

Some of the change is due to demographics, such as the trend toward having fewer children. But a slow economic recovery with high unemployment, stagnant wages and an increasing gulf between low-wage and high-skill jobs also plays a big role. It suggests that government spending on the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program -- twice what it cost five years ago -- may not subside significantly anytime soon.

Food stamp participation since 1980 has grown the fastest among workers with some college training, a sign that the safety net has stretched further to cover America's former middle class, according to an analysis of government data for The Associated Press by economists at the University of Kentucky. Formally called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or SNAP, the program now covers 1 in 7 Americans.

The findings coincide with the latest economic data showing workers' wages and salaries growing at the lowest rate relative to corporate profits in U.S. history.

President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night is expected to focus in part on reducing income inequality, such as by raising the federal minimum wage. Congress, meanwhile, is debating cuts to food stamps, with Republicans including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wanting a $4 billion-a-year reduction to an anti-poverty program that they say promotes dependency and abuse.

Economists say having a job may no longer be enough for self-sufficiency in today's economy.

"A low-wage job supplemented with food stamps is becoming more common for the working poor," said Timothy Smeeding, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in income inequality. "Many of the U.S. jobs now being created are low- or minimum-wage - part-time or in areas such as retail or fast food - which means food stamp use will stay high for some time, even after unemployment improves."

So it's come to this. The Obama economy creates low paying full time or part time jobs where many simply can't make ends meet. And then there are those who live in areas where there are no jobs at all. Working people used to being self-sufficient are thrown into dependency on government.

Certainly there is a lot of fraud and abuse of the food stamp program. Ten percent is a low-ball number, which works out to $8 billion a year. The GOP wants to cut $4 billion and rather than try to ferret out the fraud, Democrats are screaming about a war on the poor. Such are debates over entitlement programs.

I don't begrudge working people who need food stamps to carry them through the month this assistance. But clearly a better effort has to be made to weed out the fraudsters. To acknowledge that some people are recieving food stamps who don't need or don't deserve the benefit is to state the obvious. But as long as political points can be score by calling those who wish to be more mindful of the federal purse "racists," the fraud will continue.