Fox's Cavuto Bemoans Growth of Anti-Poverty Programs, Ignores Growth of Poverty

Fox News' Neil Cavuto continued to ignore the economic factors driving the growth in poverty while lamenting the increased reliance on nutrition assistance among low-income individuals.

On the September 10 edition of Fox News' Your World, Cavuto and guest Hadley Heath of the right-leaning Independent Women's Forum offered a context-free critique of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to derisively as “food stamps.” During their exchange, Cavuto focused his attention on the growth of enrollment in SNAP over the past few years, stating “Americans are eating up food stamps like never before” while lamenting that nearly one in five Americans receives some degree of nutritional assistance.

Once again, the right-wing media proves that it simply has no clue how anti-poverty programs function.

At no point in the segment did Cavuto or Heath make any mention of the catastrophic recession -- from which the economy is still recovering -- that drove millions of Americans into poverty and reliance on government assistance to avoid food insecurity. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nutrition assistance has grown in recent years in response to economic hardship and a weakened recovery. From CBPP:

The recent caseload growth resulted primarily from more households qualifying because of the recession and more eligible households applying for help.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has confirmed that “the primary reason for the increase in the number of participants was the deep recession...and subsequent slow recovery; there were no significant legislative expansions of eligibility.”

In addition to whitewashing the effects of the recession on SNAP enrollment, the segment included a misleading graphic, which seems to show a dramatic increase in trafficking, fraud, and abuse in SNAP:

According to the latest trafficking report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

Although trafficking does not represent a cost to the Federal Government, it is a diversion of program benefits. Benefits are intended to help low-income households access a nutritious diet, and trafficking impedes the program's mission and undermines its integrity

The gross value of SNAP trafficking has increased from $330 million in 2006-2008 to $858 million in 2009-2011, according to the USDA. However, the actual rate of trafficking has remained at near historic lows. Fraud and abuse increased from 1.0 percent overall from 2006-2008 to 1.3 percent overall from 2009-2011.

Of course, even these historically low levels of fraud and abuse are fair game in the right-wing media. On the August 19 edition of Fox & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade dramatically exaggerated a 0.3 percentage point increase in the rate of fraud and abuse. On the August 8 edition of Your World, host Eric Bolling questioned the veracity of the most-recently available abuse rate, over-estimating it by 5,000 percent.

Nutrition assistance has long been a favorite object of attack and ridicule in the right-wing media. The continued attacks emboldened the Republican-led House of Representatives to propose cutting $40 billion out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over the next 10 years, despite the harm it would cause to millions of working Americans, retirees, and children.