Fox Repeats Debunked Claim About Heightened Food Stamps Use

On Fox Business, host Chris Cotter warned that a high number of enrollees in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) could lead to “economic dependence.” But experts have said that high levels of food stamps use is a temporary side effect of the recession.

Fox's Chris Cotter: Heightened Food Stamps Use Promotes “Economic Dependence”

Cotter: Unless You “Wean People Off ... They're Going To Be On Food Stamps Forever.” Guest hosting Cavuto, Fox Business' Chris Cotter said:

COTTER: With the economy still slowing, here's what is picking up: More people than ever are on food stamps, and the Agriculture secretary thinks that's good thing. Tom Vilsack saying today that the program acts as a stimulus for the economy. Democratic strategist Tara Dowdell agrees. Tara, I agree that it promotes economic activity, but doesn't it also promote economic dependence for people that are on food stamps?


COTTER: [W]e just showed 46 million Americans now, one in seven in the month of May on food stamps. And while I can't, you know, disagree that $1 of food stamps creates $1.84 in economic activity -- that's what Vilsack says; I can't dispute that -- but what I can say is that this is not sustainable economic activity. In other words, you can't just continue to put more and more people on food stamps.

We've had records now for -- I think it's 30 months going -- more and more people on food stamps. This is just going to keep happening unless we do something to change the program. You know, cutting people off is, you could say it's mean, but you got to wean people off of this, otherwise they're going to be on food stamps forever. [Fox Business, Cavuto, 8/17/11]

Fox's John Stossel Previously Claimed Increased Use Of Food Stamps Is “Teaching People To Be Dependent.” Appearing on Fox News' Your World, John Stossel stated of the increased enrollment in food stamps, “It suggests that we are teaching people to be dependent. I mean, poor people in America have an obesity problem and yet we give more people food stamps. We always want to be kind, and it's just food, and you don't want people to go hungry. ... People scam the system. That's obvious.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 6/1/11]

But Temporary Increase In Food Stamps Enrollment Is Due To The Recession -- Not “Economic Dependence”

CBPP: Food Stamps Growth Is “Temporary” And “Due To The Recession.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “SNAP's recent growth is temporary and reflects the battered economic circumstances of tens of millions of Americans due to the recession.” CBPP further illustrated that spending for SNAP “rose considerably when the recession hit.” CBPP added:

That's precisely what SNAP was designed to do: respond quickly to help more low-income families during economic downturns as poverty rises, unemployment mounts, and more people need assistance. Enrollment then falls as the economy recovers and need abates, which CBO predicts will occur in the coming years. By 2021, SNAP spending will fall nearly to pre-recession levels as a share of the economy, CBO predicts. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, accessed 8/17/11]

Krugman: Spending On Food Stamps Surged “Because The Economy Is Depressed.” On his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explained the increase in “income security” spending, including food stamps, writing:

“Income security” is unemployment insurance, food stamps, SSI, refundable tax credits -- in short, the social safety net. Medicaid is a means-tested program that also serves as part of the safety net. Yes, spending in these areas has surged -- because the economy is depressed, and lots of people are unemployed.

What we're seeing isn't some drastic expansion of Big Government; we're seeing the government we already had, responding to a terrible economic slump. [The New York Times, 4/25/11]

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