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Tags: Obama | food | stamps | Gingrich

Obama’s Food Stamp Nation

Clarence V. McKee By Friday, 03 August 2012 04:08 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Newt was right — Barack Obama is the “Food stamp president.” He's turning America into the “Food Stamp Nation.”

How bad is it?

(AP Photo)
A new Heritage Foundation Report, “Reforming the Food Stamp Program,” by Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley says it all.

Referring to the nearly doubling of combined federal and state food stamp spending between 2000 and 2007, it states that Obama has “more than doubled spending on food stamps again. Spending rose from $39 billion in 2008 to a projected $85 billion in 2012.” It also states that he “plans to spend nearly $800 billion on food stamps in the next decade.”

Two years ago Heritage pointed out that Obama’s stimulus package in 2009 expanded eligibility and, because of rising unemployment, suspended the provision that “required able-bodied recipients without children to work at least half-time.”

The report also shatters the misconception that food stamps are short term: “. . . at any given moment, the majority of recipients will become long-term dependents . . . Historically, half of food stamp aid to families with children has gone to families that have received aid for 8.5 years or more.”

The program “discourages work, rewards idleness, and promotes long-term dependence.” Instead of being an “open-ended entitlement” program that gives “one-way handouts,” the report recommends conversion to a “work activation program.” Under this concept, when the economy improves, “able-bodied non- elderly adults . . . should be required to work, prepare for work, or at least look for work as a condition of receiving aid.”

I agree.

I would also require recipients to “put some skin in the game.” Historically, most recipients put up a certain amount based on their household income in return for a stamp allotment of much greater value.

To those who think I am being cold and uncaring. Not true!

Three of the most rewarding years of my life were spent working on improving the food stamp program. In 1969, the U.S. Senate Select Committee On Nutrition and Human Needs was investigating hunger and malnutrition in the United States and what changes should be made in domestic food programs to meet the needs of the poor.

Food stamps in some form had been around since the Depression era. The program became permanent in 1964. The main food assistance program had been the “Commodity Distribution Program” which provided surplus agriculture foods to the needy. Food stamps allowed recipients to purchase perishable products.

The Committee was chaired by Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D. Jacob K. Javits, R-N.Y., the ranking Republican, appointed me to be the staff member for the Republicans.

In addition to McGovern, Democrats included Allen Ellender, D-La., Herman Talmadge, D-Ga., and Walter Mondale, D-Minn.

Republican Members included Marlow Cook, D-Ky., and Robert Dole, R-Kan. One noteworthy point, Marlow Cook’s staff member assigned to the committee was a young man named Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Minority Leader. Peter Dominick, R-Colo., was later replaced by Ed Gurney, R-Fla., who had just made history by defeating Florida Governor LeRoy Collins making him the first Republican elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.

We conducted hearings in different parts of the country including migrant camps in Immokalee and Fort Myers, Fla. and saw obviously malnourished children. In Immokalee, Ellender asked one black woman holding her baby “are you married?” She said “yes sir.” I know he was hoping for a “no.”

In Fort Myers, we were met by then Gov. Claude Kirk, the first Florida Republican governor since Reconstruction. His message: Florida was taking care of its poor folks. Javits lit into him! Years later, I got to know the governor and often kidded him about the encounter.

I accompanied Javits to the White House where he urged President Nixon to revamp food and child nutrition programs and not let McGovern take the lead. During that period, I also had frequent meetings with Nixon’s assistant Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng — who later became Agriculture Secretary under Ronald Reagan —over reforms that the administration could make on its own.

In May of 1969, the Food and Nutrition Service was formed in the Department of Agriculture to coordinate child and adult food programs. In December, Nixon held a White House conference on food, nutrition, and health to which I was a consultant.

When McGovern introduced his own “Hunger Bill,” I told Javits he should not sign on but do his own bill. On Aug. 6, 1969, he introduced S.2769 — the Health, Nutrition and Human Needs Act of 1969.” In addition to food stamp reform, the bill also included nutrition education requirements and child nutrition reforms including national standards for free and reduced price lunches.

Many of the food stamps provisions became law in early 1971 in Public Law 91- 671.

Where are we now?

Congressman Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., recently pointed out in a Wall Street Journal article co-authored by Michael Needham of Heritage Action for America the following:

“In the 1970’s, just one in 50 Americans received food benefits. Today that number is one in seven. In other words, 15 percent of the U.S. population is dependent on food stamps.”

Even though the program is now called the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — probably to lessen the “welfare “stigma to the expanding army of recipients — the result is the same:

We are a “Food Stamp Nation!”

Food for votes anyone?

Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as the Reagan presidential campaigns, including Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation. He was also appointed chairman of the District of Columbia Reagan-Bush Campaign and he chaired the District of Columbia Delegation to the Republican National Convention in Dallas. Contact him at clarencemckee@gmail.com. Read more reports from Clarence V. McKee — Click Here Now.

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Friday, 03 August 2012 04:08 PM
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