Fox Hypes Ryan Budget's Attempt To Solve Non-Existent Problems With Food Stamps

Fox News ignored the facts on food stamps to praise Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposed budget for supposedly returning work requirements and time limits to the program, and for adding measures aimed at reducing food stamp enrollment. In reality, the food stamp program already requires work and has time limits for benefits, and enrollment in the program is projected to decline as the economy improves.

On March 12, Ryan released a budget proposal that called for giving states block grants of funds for food stamps -- known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and for “time limits and work requirements” for SNAP participants to be implemented over time.

Fox Business host Stuart Varney praised the Ryan budget's changes to SNAP, particularly for resolving problems Varney mistakenly thought existed with the program, including the lack of a work requirement and time limits for benefits and keeping people in poverty. Varney made the following claims on Fox & Friends the day after Ryan released his budget:

VARNEY: Here's what Paul Ryan wants to do. Number one, he wants to return the work requirement and the time limit. In other words, you can't just sit back take the food forever. Can't do that. Got to get out there and work for it. Number two, he would give block grants to the States. And say here, you run the food stamp program. Here's how much money you're going to get and here's what -- do with it what you like. I think, number three, most important, he would return morality to the food stamp program because he would use it as a way to get people out of poverty as opposed to locking them in. I think that's a very moral position to take.

Contrary to Varney's claims, SNAP already has a work requirement and a time limit. The United States Department of Agriculture's website explained that those who are:

[B]etween 18 and 50 who do not have any dependent children can get SNAP benefits only for 3 months in a 36-month period if they do not work or participate in a workfare or employment and training program other than job search. This requirement is waived in some locations.

With some exceptions, able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must register for work, accept suitable employment, and take part in an employment and training program to which they are referred by the SNAP office. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the Program.

SNAP also contains measures to incentivize work and seek higher incomes. A recent Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) report explained that:

For every additional dollar a SNAP recipient earns, her benefits decline by only 24 to 36 cents -- much less than in most other programs. Families that receive SNAP thus have a strong incentive to work longer hours or to search for better-paying employment.

Furthermore, an April 2012 Congressional Budget Office report found that SNAP participation will decline in the next decade as the economy improves:

SNAP participants are mostly low-income workers, children, and seniors. According to the CBPP report, the majority of non-disabled adult participants have a job. The CBPP added that nearly “70 percent of SNAP participants are not expected to work, primarily because they are children, elderly, or disabled.”

Finally, SNAP helps keep people out of poverty. The CBPP found that the program “kept 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, including 2.1 million children” and that it “lifted 1.5 million children above 50 percent of the poverty line in 2011, more than any other benefit program.”