Since the economy finally began consistently regaining jobs in early 2010, the establishment press has had a consistent, predictable and annoying reporting (and non-reporting) pattern.
It starts with the Friday morning jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at or near the beginning of the month. Virtually without fail, it has spit out positive and sometimes even very positive seasonally adjusted increases in overall payroll employment (one small exception: the Census hiring season in mid-2010). Later that day, or in some cases a week later, but in either case in the late afternoon when most reporters are thinking about their weekends instead of their jobs, the USDA releases its report on enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka Food Stamps. If you didn't know that the economy was adding jobs, the Food Stamp figures would lead you to believe that it wasn't. Somehow, this is never news.
In fact, the only major coverage of Food Stamps during the past several years occurred in early 2014 when Congress passed — and President Barack Obama signed — legislation which reduced benefits which had been "temporarily" increased by a double-digit percentage as part of the 2009 "stimulus" bill. Of course, that move two years ago was described as a "cut."
Here's the government's reported job growth during the past six years:
Now let's look at Food Stamp enrollment during almost all of that same period:
These two graphics lead to three logical questions:
- Why did Food Stamp enrollment increase by 8.2 million between February 2010 and December 2012 while the economy was adding 5.3 million jobs (Dec. 2012 is not presented)?
- Why did Food Stamp enrollment decrease by only 2.6 million in the following three calendar years, while the economy (through February 2016) has added about 9 million more jobs? (Food Stamp figures for Jan. and Feb. 2016 aren't available, but there's little doubt that they will at most decline slightly.)
- Overall: How can over 14 million more people be working while Food Stamp enrollment is still about 5.6 million higher than it was when the economy finally started adding jobs in early 2010? Addendum: This is consistent with findings reported by Nick Kangadis at MRCTV.org, who noted the nation's sub-5 percent unemployment rate with Food Stamp enrollment still not declining significantly.
The long answer is that the Food Stamp program is no longer one that targets only those who genuinely need the assistance. With some exceptions (Maine being one), able-bodied single people can qualify without being required to work in some capacity. People who can afford to buy their own food out of their own savings‚ sometimes quite substantial savings — can and do quality. Many states expanded income eligibility as a percentage of the poverty line to well above where it was before the recession began, and haven't pulled back during the "recovery," such as it is.
The short answer is that the Food Stamp program, without specific legislative intent, has, like so many other things during the past seven years under Barack Obama, been fundamentally transformed. For all practical purposes, it is now the nation's de facto guaranteed minimum income program for about 14 percent of the the population — often supplemented with other forms of what is supposed to be "temporaary assistance" (Section 8 housing vouchers, welfare, Obamaphones, welfare, Earned Income Tax Credit, etc.).
But that's not news.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.