White House Using Thanksgiving to Push More Food Stamp Spending

Both the White House and Organizing for Action are invoking the Thanksgiving holiday to push for enhanced funding for food stamps, touting the program not only as assistance for the needy but as a means of economic growth.

A volunteer, right, at St. Ignatius Food Pantry bags items as Larry Bossom, 41, who lost his job a few month ago, visits the facility Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in Chicago. (AP)

On Monday, Organizing for Action, the political group that grew out of Barack Obama’s presidential re-election campaign, emailed supporters encouraging them to sign a petition to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“Thanksgiving is a celebration of plenty, and a time to consider our friends and neighbors who aren’t as fortunate,” said the message from Nico Probst, the OFA director of special projects. “In that spirit, we’ve got to stand up for the millions of Americans who stand to lose access to this vital program.”

On Tuesday, the White House released a report that said that while Obama’s budget protects the food stamp program, “legislation passed by House Republicans would make deep, harmful cuts that would make it harder for millions of Americans who are already struggling to put food on the table.”

“Today, as Americans across the country prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, the White House released a new report highlighting the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps millions of Americans put food on the table,” the White House said in a release announcing the report.

Recipients on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, soared during the Obama presidency. Over the summer House Republicans voted to separate food stamp funding from legislations providing assistance to farmers. The White House charged that the GOP’s bill would strip 4 million people of food stamps next year.

The White House touts the success of the in the report, asserting that in 2012, “SNAP kept nearly 5 million people out of poverty, including 2.2 million children,” and reduced childhood poverty by 3 percent.

The number of Americans on food stamps climbed from 26 million in 2007 to 47 million in 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office, with total spending more than doubling from $35 billion to $80 billion over those years.

A USDA Inspector General report in August found that “permanently disqualified” retailers who conducted food stamp fraud continued to participate in the SNAP program and that USDA was not enforcing its own rules to prevent fraud in the program.

The White House report released Tuesday states that 91 percent of food stamp benefits got to households with incomes below the poverty line, while 55 percent go to households with incomes less than half the poverty line – with about 95 percent of the program’s cost going directly to recipients.

“In addition to helping American families during tough economic times, SNAP provides a fiscal boost to the economy,” the White House report states, citing a Congressional Budget Office report that called food stamps one of the two most cost-effective methods for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy.

“Every new SNAP dollar generates up to $1.80 in economic activity for the over 230,000 retail food outlets that participate in the program,” the White House report said.

The OFA message off erred more pronounced numbers, stating, “49 million Americans struggled with hunger.”

“Thanksgiving is a powerful reminder of just how cruel these budget cuts are to families in need. Now is a great time to speak out,” the OFA message said. “This measure is not just mean spirited. It happens to be bad for the economy, too. Moody Analytics has found that nutrition assistance is one of the most effective forms of stimulus available, because the funds go right back into the economy.”