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Why Yes–Food Stamps Have Exploded Once Work Requirements Were Gutted

In 2012, the dependency index increased by 23 percent under the Obama administration. At the time, it meant 67 million Americans were on some sort of federal subsistence program. Of course, Americans who fall on hard times deserve to be caught by some sort of social safety net. As American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks said in May, the social safety net is a triumph of the free enterprise system. It's a system that creates so much wealth that a portion can be invested in helping the truly destitute. Brooks noted that Ronald Reagan and Friedrich Hayek agreed. But it was never meant to be subjected to the abuse that we’ve seen over the past few years. Started in the 1970s, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has just become another vehicle for the political left to increase dependency and further their agenda.


In all, there are 48 million Americans on food stamps, up from 17 million since 2000. Additionally, millions more are being added to their states’ respective food stamp rolls than they are finding full-time work; for every one person who found a job, two people are given SNAP benefits. In terms of cost, we were spending $17 billion on food stamps. It’s now ballooned to an $80 billion program.

One of the main causes to the food stamp explosion is the gutting of work requirements. According to federal law, able-bodied adults without dependents need to work at least 20 hours/week or lose benefits after 3 months. In reality, over 40 states have waived such a requirement, according to the Foundation For Government Accountability (FGA). For comparison, in 2006, only six states had such a waiver; it’s now grown to 44.

In 2000, 47 states had asset tests. Federal law states one is eligible if liquid assets are less than $2,000 ($3,250 in homes with disabled or elderly members). Now, asset tests are gone in 35 states, and weakened in five others. It’s to the point where lottery winners and millionaires can be added to food stamp rolls. The removal of the asset test has added 1 million people to the program, with another 4.8 million able-bodied Americans receiving food stamps due to the elimination of work requirements, according to the FGA. 


Since the system has fallen victim to fraud and abuse, the FGA is dedicated to pushing state legislatures to re-adopt work requirements, along with asset and income tests, especially for childless, able-bodied adults. Their proposed legislation–the Welfare Fraud Prevention Act–includes an enhanced eligibility test, which includes a quarterly evaluation process. There are other mechanisms, which you can read here. Lastly, dependency isn’t a good agenda for the socioeconomic health of any country, though a socialist might staunchly disagree. Over at the Washington Free Beacon, Ali Meyer reported that at least 45 million Americans have been on food stamps for 48 straight months. More than a few have opted to sell them, which is against the law.

I know it’s a no brainer, but for our liberal friends, once you take away mechanisms that ensure accountability in a government program, it’s going to be abused. In the process, that abuse hurts those who truly need the assistance.  Food stamp fraud is nationwide, with incidents reported in South Carolina, Indiana, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida.  


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