The White House struck back Tuesday at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, saying more people in America are on food stamps under President Obama because of the recession, which the administration blamed on Mr. Gingrich and other Republican leaders.
“This country is emerging from the worst recession since the Great Depression, the greatest economic and financial crisis of our lifetimes,” said presidential spokesman Jay Carney. “The economic policies that helped create that situation are ones that, in the case of [Mr. Gingrich], he supported, and they’re the kinds of policies that he advocates to this day.”
Mr. Gingrich, campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, in recent weeks has called Mr. Obama “the food stamp president.” The number of people on food stamps has risen about 45 percent since Mr. Obama took office.
Told by a reporter that Mr. Gingrich is blaming the president for the rise in food-stamp recipients, Mr. Carney replied, “You know as well as I do that that’s crazy.”
A record 45 million people received food stamps last year at a cost of $75 billion. The program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has more than doubled in cost since 2008.
The government cites high unemployment, rising food prices and an expansion of the food stamp program authorized in the 2009 stimulus bill as reasons for the spike in the number of people receiving the benefit.
And the president’s spokesman added Republican-backed policies to that list.
“The economic policies that contributed to the Great Recession were supported by and are being proposed by, I believe, all of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination,” Mr. Carney said.
He criticized the Republican presidential candidates especially for calling for revising or repealing the Dodd-Frank law that imposed new regulations on the financial industry.
“Astoundingly, you hear from some folks who are running for office that they would not only either water down or abolish those important Wall Street reforms, but they would further reduce regulation of the very financial sector that contributed so mightily to the economic hardship of so many millions and millions of Americans,” Mr. Carney said. “That’s just an approach we disagree with, and we look forward to the debate with whomever emerges from the primary process.”
On the campaign trail, Mr. Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania have advocated overhauling the food stamp and other welfare programs. Their ideas are similar to proposals pushed by House Republicans, who last year tried to convert food stamp money to block grants to states and wanted to link the aid to work or job training.
Senate Democrats opposed the move, which was in the federal budget passed by the House.
While campaigning Tuesday, Mr. Gingrich was asked by a supporter when he intended to get tougher on the president and “bloody Obama’s nose.” Mr. Gingrich replied, “I don’t want to bloody his nose; I want — I want to knock him out.”
Said Mr. Carney, “the campaign trail is filled with exuberant rhetoric, and I’ll just let that one pass.”