06.19.2013 1

Why are taxpayers paying $80 billion a year for food stamps?

By Robert Romano

In 2012, the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee were fond of noting that “Since President Obama took office, the number of Americans receiving food stamps has increased from 31.9 million to 46.7 million, a record 46 percent increase.”

In a Sept. 2012 Fox News interview, Republican nominee Mitt Romney repeated, “When the president took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. And now that number is 15 million higher, almost 50 percent higher. Now, 47 million people on food stamps.”

Generally, when it suited them politically, Republicans had few qualms about attributing the sharp increase in food stamps to the Obama Administration.

But how many remember the May 21, 2008 vote by 100 House Republicans to override then-President George W. Bush’s veto of the 2008 Farm Bill? You know, the legislation that dramatically expanded the eligibility of the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program — i.e. food stamps?

This was the bill that “[made] it easier for households with income from combat pay, retirement accounts or education savings to be eligible,” according to a USA Today Report by Wendy Koch in 2008.

If an increase in eligibility primarily explained the sharp increase in program participation, as a 2012 study by the Manhattan Institute’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth showed, then surely those 100 House Republicans who helped pass the 2008 Farm Bill were instrumental in that effort.

Certainly, maximum benefits under food stamps were expanded in the Obama “stimulus,” but as far as qualifications for participating in the program being expanded? That was in 2008.

So, who were these House Republicans that helped put an additional 15 million on food stamps?

They included House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, who has been called House Speaker John Boehner’s top adviser. Rep. David Camp, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman. Rep. Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Critically, they also included Rep. Frank Lucas, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee — who is responsible for the current 2013 Farm Bill. Now, the legislation proposes to spend about $750 billion on food stamps over the next ten years.

That is 80 percent of the cost of the entire $939 billion bill — and the most that has ever been spent on food stamps over a ten year period.

Oh, Republicans have been bragging about their proposed $2 billion a year cut to food stamps as some sort of reform, but the fact is the program cost $82 billion in 2013 alone. This is no significant reform of eligibility for the program. It is window dressing to make the House legislation appear to be ever so slightly, comparatively “better” than the Senate version.

But is it any wonder? It’s because there simply are not the votes to go back to pre-2008 eligibility for the food stamps program.

Heck, back in 2008, when the veto came up, only 94 members, a minority of Republicans in the House voted to maintain the Bush veto.

Yet another example of where Democrats and Republicans together vote to keep the spending machine going in Washington, D.C., something that has continued under House Speaker John Boehner. Need more examples?

A majority of House Republicans who voted against the tax bill that raised taxes on those making $400,000 and above, including many small businesses. Despite that, the legislation passed with a handful of Republicans and Democrats.

A majority voted against so-called hurricane “disaster relief” because it was unpaid for and was stuffed with billions in unrelated pork even as it passed with Democrat support.

House leaders needed Democrats to help to pass the most recent continuing resolution.

And a majority of Republicans voted to suspend the debt ceiling until May 19 — but they needed Democrats for that vote, too, in order for it to pass.

Just like in the vote on the continuing resolution that came before that. Or when the House increased the debt ceiling in 2011.

See a pattern? The House Republican majority is largely a fiction. It cannot pass significant legislation without Democrat support, but more importantly, it has been unable to keep its promises to rein in the government welfare programs they said they would.

All of which means the 2010 tea party push to help Republicans reclaim the House majority was predicated on a lie.

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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