Fox News rushed to defend a GOP plan to cut $39 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), misportraying the program as riddled with fraud and abuse and downplaying the effects those cuts would have on families with children. In reality, fraud amounts to less than 1 percent of the total program, and the cuts would take benefits away from 3.8 million people*.
CLAIM: GOP's Food Stamp Cuts Won't Affect Children
Fox Regular Stephen Moore Falsely Claims That Cuts Wouldn't Hurt Children. On the September 20 edition of America's Newsroom, Wall Street Journal editorial board member and Fox regular Stephen Moore downplayed the proposed cuts, claiming that "families with children would not be affected by any of this." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/20/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: Millions Of Families Will Be Negatively Affected By The Cuts
CBPP: Proposal Would Affect Millions Of Americans, Including Children. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the proposal would leave 3.8 million people without benefits, many of whom are in low-income families. The bill would also limit schools meals for hundreds of thousands of children:
- 1.7 million unemployed, childless adults in 2014 who live in areas of high unemployment -- a group that has average income of only 22 percent of the poverty line (about $2,500 a year for a single individual) and for whom SNAP is, in most cases, the only government assistance they receive (this number will average 1 million a year over the coming decade);
- 2.1 million people in 2014, mostly low-income working families and low-income seniors, who have gross incomes or assets modestly above the federal SNAP limits but disposable income -- the income that a family actually has available to spend on food and other needs -- below the poverty line in most cases often because of high rent or child care costs. (This number will average 1.8 million a year over the coming decade.) In addition, 210,000 children in these families would also lose free school meals;
- Other poor, unemployed parents who want to work but cannot find a job or an opening in a training program -- along with their children, other than infants.
CBPP included a table explaining how American households would be hurt by the cuts:
CLAIM: Millionaires Could Qualify For Food Stamps
Moore: Millionaires Could Qualify For Benefits. On America's Newsroom, Moore claimed that "you could live in a million-dollar mansion and still get food stamps." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/20/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: Millionaires Receiving Benefits Would Be "Ridiculously Improbable"
USDA: Households Must Meet Certain Requirements To Receive Benefits "Including Resource And Income Tests." The Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the food stamp program, explained that households must meet certain requirements to receive benefits "including resource and income tests." To qualify, households must have less than $3250 (which includes vehicles) in countable resources. [USDA, 7/25/13]
PolitiFact: "Ridiculously Improbable" That A Millionaire Would Qualify For Food Stamps. In November 2011, PolitiFact noted: "People above the income ceiling could certainly receive benefits under false pretenses, but doing so would be illegal. Is it possible to be a millionaire and legally receive food stamps? We found one way -- but it's ridiculously improbable. You'd have to own a million-dollar house but have no other income, and live in a state with sufficiently lenient enforcement to allow it. (Principal residence values, among other assets, are not counted in determining eligibility.)" [PolitiFact, 11/30/11]
CLAIM: Food Stamp Program Suffers From "Immense" Fraud
Moore: There Is An "Immense Amount Of Fraud" In The Program. On America's Newsroom, Moore claimed there is an "immense amount of fraud" in the food stamp program. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/20/13, via Media Matters]
FACT: Fraud In The SNAP Program Is Extremely Rare
USDA: Fraud And Waste In The SNAP Program Is Roughly 1 Percent. According to the USDA, the fraud and waste rate in the program is roughly 1 percent:
Due to increased oversight and improvements to program management by USDA, the trafficking rate has fallen significantly over the last two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to about 1 cent in 2006-08 (most recent data available). [USDA, 7/25/13]
CLAIM: Food Stamps Can Be Used To "Buy Porn And Liquor"
Fox's Eric Bolling: Purpose Of SNAP Cuts To "Cut A Little Bit Off The Top So That People Can't Buy Porn And Liquor With Their Food Stamps." On the September 20 edition of Fox News' The Five, host Eric Bolling claimed that food stamp cuts would prevent people from buying porn and liquor with SNAP benefits. [Fox News, The Five, 9/20/13]
FACT: Food Stamps Can't Be Used To Buy Nonfood Items
USDA: SNAP Benefits May Not Be Used To Buy Beer, Wine, Liquor, Cigarettes Or Tobacco, Or Any Nonfood Items. According to the USDA, SNAP benefits may not be used for alcoholic or tobacco products and may not be used for any nonfood items. [USDA, accessed 9/20/13]
CLAIM: Food Stamps Have Expanded Since Obama Took Office
Fox's Doug McKelway: SNAP Program Has "Expanded Exponentially Since President Obama Took Office." In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Happening Now, correspondent Doug McKelway pointed out that the food stamp rolls have "expanded exponentially since President Obama took office." [Fox News, Happening Now, 9/19/13]
FACT: Food Stamps Have Risen As A Result Of The Economic Downturn
Economic Policy Institute: "SNAP Swelled Because The Economy Entered the Worst Recession Since The Great Depression." According to the Economic Policy Institute, the food stamp rolls expanded due to the worst recession since the Great Depression. The EPI also notes that benefits keep 5 million Americans out of poverty and are "some of the most effective fiscal support available to help an economy that is projected to see unemployment rates above 8 percent until 2015." [Economic Policy Institute, 2/2/12]
FACT: Food Stamp Enrollment Is Projected To Decline As The Economy Recovers
CBO: "The Number Of People Receiving SNAP Benefits Will Begin To Slowly Decline" As The Economy Recover. According to a 2012 report from the Congressional Budget Office, SNAP enrollment is projected to decline as the economy recovers:
The number of people receiving SNAP benefits will begin to slowly decline at the end of fiscal year 2014, CBO expects, reflecting an improved economic situation and a declining unemployment rate. Nevertheless, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits will remain high by historical standards, CBO estimates. That is partly because of a growing U.S. population and thus a greater number of potential SNAP participants. [CBO, April 2012]
*Updated for clarity