In 2008, the use of food stamps jumped 13 percent, to 9.8 million households, many of which were relying on food assistance for the first time. Still, nearly 50 million Americans went hungry at some point in 2008, including almost one in four children.
According to an analysis by the New York Times, there are now 6 million Americans who are relying on food stamps as their only source of income because of the recession. But to Rep. John Linder (R-GA) these numbers simply reveal the “craziness” of the food stamp program, which Linder said is creating a class of people who are “just comfortable getting by living off the government“:
“This is craziness,” said Representative John Linder, a Georgia Republican who is the ranking minority member of a House panel on welfare policy. “We’re at risk of creating an entire class of people, a subset of people, just comfortable getting by living off the government.” Mr. Linder added: “You don’t improve the economy by paying people to sit around and not work. You improve the economy by lowering taxes” so small businesses will create more jobs.
For six million people — including more than one million children — food stamps are the only thing standing between them and absolute hunger. But Linder still finds it appropriate to rail against the program, while advocating tax cuts that don’t do anything for someone without a job and without food.
Contrary to Linder, the Times’ data actually shows just how inadequate and out-of-date many aspects of the country’s social safety net are. As the Times put it, food stamps have become “the safety net of last resort” during the recession, because other programs have fallen woefully short. For instance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) “has scarcely expanded during the recession; the rolls are still down about 75 percent from their 1990s peak.” Unemployment insurance, meanwhile, “has rapidly grown, but still omits nearly half the unemployed.”
As the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Half in Ten project has pointed out, expanding unemployment insurance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit, along with creating living-wage jobs, will help to end hunger and boost the economy. But in the meantime, food stamps are providing a vital lifeline to those who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves out of work and without food.