“The Next Middle-Class Entitlement”?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 25 2012 @ 8:07pm

Jordan Weissman studies the growth of the food stamp program in the face of GOP resistance: 

Enrollment in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as its officially called, increased 70 percent between 2007 and 2011. Annual spending more than doubled to an all-time-high of $78 billion. It's now the second largest welfare program behind Medicaid, which cost the federal government about $275 billion last year. But here are a few facts to keep in mind.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the food stamp program's growth "has been driven primarily by the weak economy." About 65 percent of the increased spending was the result of people simply getting poorer. Another 20 percent was due to the stimulus act, which boosted the maximum benefit at a time when the recession was absolutely grinding up vulnerable families.

As the CBO notes, there have been no — I repeat no — significant legislative changes to who is eligible since Obama took office.  Meanwhile, the average household receiving food stamps had an average income of $731 dollars, including other welfare payments. Around 85 percent of recipients were below the poverty line, which amounts to a measly $18,500 a year for a family of three. The vast majority are elderly, disabled, or have children. Among single, young, and healthy recipients, the average income is $268 a month.