President and Senator Obama not Straight on Food Stamp Eligibility

President Obama recently said,

First of all, I don’t put people on food stamps. People become eligible for food stamps. Second of all, the initial expansion of food-stamp eligibility happened under my Republican predecessor, not under me. Number three, when you have a disastrous economic crash that results in 8 million people losing their jobs, more people are going to need more support from government.

One major change in food stamp rules — in the direction of more generosity — occurred with the 2009 “stimulus” law, which has President Obama’s signature, not Bush’s.

Another major change in food stamp rules — in the direction of more generosity — occurred with the 2008 Farm Bill. We all know that Bush was president in 2008. But what Obama hopes you do not know is that Bush never signed it. Here’s wikipedia’s narrative:

On May 15, the House and Senate passed the bill, but President Bush issued a veto on May 21. The House voted to overturn the president’s veto shortly thereafter, and with the margins by which the bill was passed, a Senate override also occurred; so the Congress overrode the president’s veto, passing the bill into law (Public Law 110-234, the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007). However, the veto override was moot, as a 34-page section of the bill was omitted in the version sent to the White House. In effect, the President vetoed a bill Congress never considered. The bill had to be re-passed by Congress.

The House passed the Farm Bill again on May 22, and the Senate shortly thereafter. President Bush again vetoed the measure, but this veto was overridden in both Houses on June 18, so the Farm Bill in its entirety became law.

In summary, Bush vetoed that law twice.

Meanwhile, Obama was a U.S. Senator in 2008. Senator Obama had THREE chances to vote against it, but he never did (he abstained all three times).

Finally, President Obama’s Agriculture Department has been remarkably complicit, if not wholeheartedly enthusiastic, with the states’, since inauguration day, using the rules from the 2002 and 2008 Farm bills to soak the U.S. taxpayer.

Some, but very little, of the increase in food stamp spending can be attributed to the recession or any other factor pushing people into poverty. It’s all about the program’s getting more generous.

Whether expanding the food stamp program is “good” or “bad” is a different matter. President Obama deserves some of the credit or blame for those expansions; President Bush deserves none.

[Technical note. One of the provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill, and of the 2009 stimulus law, was to sharply increase what the USDA calls the “maximum benefit.” This provision alone expands eligibility and participation, because the maximum benefit determines the amount of income over which food stamp benefits are fully phased out: a larger maximum means that incomes that would be assigned little or no benefit are suddenly assigned a significant benefit. That’s part of the reason why the average income of people receiving food stamps actually INCREASED between 2007 and 2010 (see Table A.27 here). The provision also encourages states to do their part to expand eligibility.

Other eligibility related provisions include, but are not limited to, relaxation of the food stamp asset test (2008 Farm bill) and granting states some relief from the requirement that a fraction of their food stamp caseload be employed (2009 stimulus law).]

About Casey B. Mulligan 76 Articles

Affiliation: University of Chicago

Casey B. Mulligan is a Professor in the Department of Economics. Mulligan first joined the University of Chicago in 1991 as a graduate student, and received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1993.

He has also served as a Visiting Professor teaching public economics at Harvard University, Clemson University, and Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago.

Mulligan is author of the 1997 book Parental Priorities and Economic Inequality, which studies economic models of, and statistical evidence on, the intergenerational transmission of economic status. His recent research is concerned with capital and labor taxation, with particular emphasis on tax incidence and positive theories of public policy. His recent work includes Market Responses to the Panic of 2008 (a book-in-process with Chicago graduate student Luke Threinen) and published articles such as “Selection, Investment, and Women’s Relative Wages,” “Deadweight Costs and the Size of Government,” “Do Democracies have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?,” “The Extent of the Market and the Supply of Regulation,” “What do Aggregate Consumption Euler Equations Say about the Capital Income Tax Burden?,” and “Public Policies as Specification Errors.” Mulligan has reported on some of these results in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.

He is affiliated with a number of professional organizations, including the National Bureau of Economic Research, the George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, and the Population Research Center. He is also the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including those from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Smith- Richardson Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.

Visit: Supply and Demand (in that order)

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