Policy Experts Rebut Stossel's Claim That Increased Use Of Food Stamps Is Due To Learned Dependency

Fox Business host John Stossel absurdly claimed that a recent uptick in food stamps usage “suggests that we are teaching people to be dependent.” However, economic and budget experts have attributed increased food stamps usage to high unemployment and declining incomes and have said that usage will subside as the economy recovers from the recession.

Stossel Ignores Recession's Role In Increasing Use Of Food Stamps

Stossel: Increased Use Of Food Stamps Is “Teaching People To Be Dependent.” From Stossel's June 1 appearance on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

NEIL CAVUTO: Alright, something else for you to chew on. 44 and a half million Americans are now on food stamps. Hard to picture? Well picture this; the numbers are getting bigger, up 61 percent since 2007, and more than half of that surge in just the past couple of years. John Stossel says it's not a good trend. Hey, John.

JOHN STOSSEL: Neil, it certainly isn't. 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. But it's interesting, 'cause I got an email today from a high school senior: “I'm a big fan of Fox News. I just want to tell you, I work at a supermarket and people come in with their EBT cards, that's the cards with food stamps, and then I see them go out to the Mercedes's and their BMWs.” People scam the system. That's obvious. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 6/1/11]

Stossel's Talking Point Echoes Rhetoric Of GOP Leadership

GOP House Budget Chairman Ryan: Social Safety Net Is Lulling People “Into Lives Of Complacency And Dependency.” From Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's response to President Obama's State of the Union address on January 25:

Our nation is approaching a tipping point.

We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.

Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked - and it won't work now.

We need to chart a new course. [Rep. Paul Ryan's response to the State of the Union, 1/25/11, via Talking Points Memo]

Experts: Increased Use Of Food Stamps Due To Recession

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

“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, The Conscience of a Liberal, 4/25/11]

CBPP: Food Stamp Growth Is “Consistent With The Extraordinarily Deep And Prolonged Nature Of The Recession.” Dottie Rosenbaum, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote that the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) is “the nation's most important anti-hunger program” and that it largely benefits families with children. According to Rosenbaum, “By design, enrollment expands quickly during economic downturns as poverty rises, unemployment mounts, and more people need assistance [sic] Enrollment then falls as the economy recovers and need abates.” Rosenbaum wrote:

The number of individuals receiving SNAP in an average month grew from 26.3 million to 40.3 million between 2007 and 2010, primarily because the economic downturn made more people eligible.


The record-setting SNAP participation levels are consistent with the extraordinarily deep and prolonged nature of the recession. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 5/5/11]