EDITORIAL: A safety net, not a hammock

Abuses of food stamps grow under President Obama

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With his Syrian expedition in jeopardy, President Obama pivoted back to the economy. “Everything I’ve done,” he told ABC News on Sunday, “has been designed, No. 1, to stabilize the economy, get it growing again, start producing jobs again.” He used a Rose Garden event on Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers to reiterate the message. “We’ve cleared away all the rubble from the financial crisis,” said the president, “and we’ve begun to lay a new foundation for economic growth and prosperity.” That’s news to the millions in the unemployment lines.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts the number of Americans who are no longer part of the workforce, a figure that continues to grow under Mr. Obama. It’s now at 90 million, the highest level since the Labor Department began tracking such data for the Truman administration in the late 1940s. Meanwhile, Reuters reported Aug. 21 that fully three-fourths of all jobs created this year are part-time positions, with full-time jobs a casualty of fears by employers of the coming ruinous cost of Obamacare.

If Mr. Obama’s sunshine-and-lollipops assertions about the economy were all true, the nation wouldn’t have to spend so much on food stamps. The dole has grown from 26.3 million recipients at a cost of $30.4 billion in 2007 to 46.6 million recipients at a cost of $74.6 billion in 2012. The Agriculture Department figures represent compound annual growth rates of 12 percent and 20 percent, respectively, with most of the growth happening on Mr. Obama’s watch.

A proposal by Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee to cut the soaring rate of growth in the food-stamp program by $40 billion over the next 10 years has met howls of outrage on the left. Democratic campaign commercials invoking Charles Dickens will no doubt follow, but Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican and a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, says the cuts are intended to “ensure that while you have a safety net, you shouldn’t be giving welfare benefits to people who are able-bodied and capable of getting a job, who just choose to continue to get food stamps when they can actually go and work.” The safety net is not a hammock.

Spending on food stamps and other nutrition-assistance programs would total $764 billion over 10 years at current projections, so the Republicans propose a meager 5 percent reduction. Mr. Obama can’t have it both ways. Either the economy is a disaster and more people will need food stamps, or the rubble has been cleared and there’s nothing wrong with trimming a bit of fat in one of the federal government’s fattest programs.

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