Oh SNAP

Happy Friday…and with the end of this day I’m slightly less burdened with schooling for a few days. The Congressional Budget Office this week released several new info graphics on federal programs and spending. Today’s choice selection, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program:

SNAP is, of course, the successor to the Food Stamp program and currently under fire from the House of Representatives looking for alternatives to defense cuts in the Budget Control Act from last summer.

Included in this battle is familiar rhetoric against the growth in SNAP expenditures and participation. Yet while I often read or hear criticisms of its benefits being too generous and somehow representing the rise of a new class of “welfare queens” I’m more interested in what is behind the rise. Well, here’s the CBO’s take:

Spending on SNAP benefits grew by about 135 percent between 2007 and 2011

Spending growth was driven by increases in the number of people receiving benefits and by increases in benefit amounts per person.

  • About 65 percent of growth came from an increase in the number of people receiving benefits. That increase was driven primarily by the weak economy.
  • About 20 percent of growth can be attributed to temporarily higher benefit amounts. That increase was legislated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
  • The final 15 percent of growth stems from other factors, such as higher food prices and lower income among beneficiaries, both of which boosted benefits.

So temporarily higher benefits account for about 20 percent of the growth in spending while a majority is an increase in participation primarily driven by a weak economy. Surprise. I’d strike this analysis as a win for common sense.

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