Fox News is stoking fears that in “Obama's America,” Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (food stamps) may be used for lap dances and liquor, a shameless misrepresentation given that under USDA regulation, benefits may not be redeemed for cash or used for non-food items.
On the February 25 edition of The Five, co-host Eric Bolling cited an interview with surfing freeloader Jason Greenslate that aired on The O'Reilly Factor the night before. Like Fox's first profile of Greenslate during the August 2013 special titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge," wherein the network attempted to make the “blissfully jobless California surfer” the face of SNAP benefits, Bolling used Greenslate to suggest that the program is rife with fraud, suggesting that food stamps may be used in “strip clubs, liquor stores, [and] pot dispensaries”:
BOLLING:He's playing the system, he's stretching the rules to their limits. But what would you expect with a $105 billion dollar program that's almost tripled under Obamanomics? That's what you would expect, right there, take a look at it. But what's next? Strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries? Oh, that's already going on, folks. Welcome to Obama's America.
Bolling went on to claim that Greenslate is “representative of literally millions of Americans,” before concluding: “The SNAP program, it's not called food stamps anymore, it's called SNAP. Supplemental -- what, N -- Nutrition. Right. What about liquor, lap dances, and pot is nutritional?”
Bolling's assessment conveniently ignores the fact that SNAP explicitly prohibits the use of program funds to purchase alcohol or nonfood items, such as lap dances. The program's website, operated by the Department of Agriculture, lists “Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco” as examples of products that SNAP benefits cannot pay for:
Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
· Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
· Any nonfood items, such as:
o pet foods
o soaps, paper products
o household supplies
· Vitamins and medicines
· Food that will be eaten in the store
· Hot foods
To ensure compliance with this provision, the USDA makes clear that recipients cannot cash out SNAP benefits from ATMs (emphasis original):
SNAP benefits can never be withdrawn as cash. Many States allow clients to use a single EBT card to access SNAP as well as cash benefit programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In most States, cash benefits from other programs can be accessed through ATMs.
The laughable notion that SNAP benefits may purchase lap dances draws from a urban myth Fox has pushed before, the falsehood that SNAP recipients could use electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards to withdraw SNAP benefits as cash at ATMs located in marijuana dispensaries, in order to buy marijuana.
At the close of the segment, Bolling attempted to walk back his earlier claim that Greenslate represents “literally millions of Americans,” saying that “no one doubts that the vast majority” of recipients use the program appropriately.
But what he doesn't acknowledge is that the fraud and waste rate in SNAP is roughly 1 percent. Greenslate in no way represents the vast majority of those receiving benefits -- over 75 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled person. Forty-two percent of food stamp recipients live “in a household with earnings” and use SNAP benefits to supplement their primary source of income. Notably, USDA reports that most food stamp recipients stay in the program for only a short period of time:
Half of all new SNAP participants received benefits for 10 months or less in the mid 2000s, up from 8 months in the early 2000s. Single parent families and elderly individuals tended to stay in the program longer than did working poor individuals, childless adults without disabilities, and noncitizens. Seventy-four percent of new participants left the program within two years. This is an increase from 71 percent in the early 1990s.