Fox News will air an hour-long special on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, on August 9 and 11. If history is any indication, Fox's special will be rife with factual inaccuracies and baseless smears intended to demonize a program that provides necessary food assistance to millions of Americans.
Fox To Air Report "The Great Food Stamp Binge"
Fox News To Investigate The So-Called "Food Stamp Binge." FoxNewsInsider.com reported:
Friday at 10p ET and Sunday at 9p ET, Bret Baier hosts Fox News Reporting: The Great Food Stamp Binge.
With one in seven Americans now receiving food stamps, a Fox News investigative team traveled the country to expose the government's startling attempts to get even more people to sign up for the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." This documentary profiles a blissfully jobless California surfer who expects taxpayers to underwrite his life of beaches and bar-hopping, visits a Florida pastor angry over Spanish ads designed to convince reluctant immigrants to get on food stamps, and reveals how North Carolina social workers won a government award for breaking down the "Mountain Pride" that makes some Tar Heels unwilling to accept government handouts. [FoxNewsInsider.com, 8/7/13]
Fox Has A History Of Misinforming On Food Assistance Programs
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade: Two Americans Added To SNAP For Every Job Created Under Obama Administration. On the July 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade compared job creation during the Obama administration to increased participation in nutrition assistance programs, claiming that two people were enrolled in SNAP for every job the Obama administration created. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/25/13]
TRUTH: COMPARISON OF FOOD STAMP ENROLLMENT TO JOB GROWTH IGNORES THAT MILLIONS OF PARTICIPANTS HAVE JOBS, ARE CHILDREN, ELDERLY
More Than Half Of SNAP Participants Are Children, Elderly. According to a 2012 Department of Agriculture report on characteristics of households that receive SNAP benefits, 45 percent of "participants were under age 18 and nearly 9 percent were age 60 or older." [Department of Agriculture, November 2012]
Many SNAP Participants Have Jobs. According to the USDA report summary, more than 30 percent of SNAP households had income in 2011, and 41 percent of total participants lived in a household with earnings. [Department of Agriculture, November 2012]
Fox Business' Stuart Varney: Enrolling Seniors In SNAP Is An Effort To Buy Their Vote. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked why the AARP would want to enroll eligible seniors in SNAP and, he claimed, "encourage a welfare state." Fox Business host Stuart Varney responded by dismissing the need to feed seniors -- even those in extreme poverty -- and baselessly claiming that an effort in Pennsylvania to encourage eligible seniors to apply for food assistance was about buying votes. He expanded:
VARNEY: Now the AARP, huge supporters of President Obama politically and financially. Big supporters of Obamacare. And now they're out there signing people up for food stamps. This is part of the buy the vote campaign. They're really shifting America, changing what America really is. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/30/13, via Media Matters]
TRUTH: MILLIONS OF SENIORS NATIONWIDE ARE FOOD INSECURE AND DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ACCESS FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
Many Eligible Seniors Find It Difficult To Enroll In The Food Assistance Program They Need. Millions of seniors nationwide are food insecure and do not know how to access programs to assuage their food security concerns. According to Feeding America, a domestic hunger relief charity, "In 2011, 4.8 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 8.4% of all seniors." Additionally, only 35 percent of eligible seniors are enrolled in SNAP. The Food Research and Action Center noted that the low enrollment rate can be attributed to things like a lack of mobility and technology allowing for seniors to enroll in the program." [Media Matters, 7/30/13]
Fox Business' Lou Dobbs: Proposed SNAP Cuts Are Not "Particularly Sharp." On the June 11 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs reported on proposed changes to the farm bill, the legislation that previously included authorization and funding for the SNAP program. After noting that both the House and Senate versions of the bill reduced SNAP funding by several billion dollars, Dobbs downplayed the effects of these proposed cuts: "The Senate bill would actually cut spending on food stamps by an almost negligible $4 billion, but a bill awaiting debate in the House calls for a $20 billion cut in food stamps. Still, when you're talking about both measures providing over $700 billion to food stamps alone over the next decade, neither cut, of course, is particularly sharp." [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 6/11/13, via Media Matters]
TRUTH: CUTS WOULD HAVE SIGNIFICANT EFFECTS ON FOOD STAMP ELIGIBILITY
CBPP: "Proposed Cuts Would Cause Significant Hardship To Several Million Low-Income Households." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimated that the version of the farm bill advanced by the House Agriculture Committee in May 2013 which would have cut about $20 billion from SNAP over 10 years, would cause almost two million low-income people to lose SNAP eligibility and limit access to school meals:
The proposed cuts would cause significant hardship to several million low-income households.
- The bill would terminate SNAP eligibility for several million people. By eliminating the categorical eligibility state option, which over 40 states have adopted, the bill would cut nearly 2 million low-income people off SNAP.
- Several hundred thousand low-income children would lose access to free school meals. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 10,000 children in low-income families whose eligibility for free school meals is tied to their receipt of SNAP would lose free school meals when their families lose SNAP benefits.
- Some working-poor families would lose access to SNAP because they own a modest car, which they often need to commute to their jobs, especially in rural areas. Eliminating categorical eligibility would cause some low-income working households to lose benefits simply because of the value of a modest car they own. Many of these families would be forced to choose between owning a reliable car and receiving food assistance to help feed their families. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 5/16/13, emphasis original]
For more on the impact of cuts to food assistance programs, click here.
Fox's Charles Payne: SNAP Creates "A Giant Barrier For People To Move Out Of Poverty Into The Middle Class." On Fox News' America's Newsroom, guest host Alisyn Camerota said that enrollment in SNAP has increased 70 percent since 2008 and asked Fox Business' Charles Payne, "Is this all just a by-product of that slow recovery?" Payne agreed that the slow recovery is "a large part" of the cause, but went on to claim that food stamps, as well as other public benefits, actually prevent poor and middle-class Americans from improving their economic status:
PAYNE: For instance, if you're making, in California, $44,000 a year and your boss offers you a raise to $50,000, you would probably say, "No thanks. Cause I don't want to lose out on things like food stamp benefits, local benefits, my child care tax credit, my earned income tax credit." In other words, you know, we're a very generous society. But what we've actually ended up doing is creating a wall, a giant barrier for people to move out of poverty into the middle class because that initial transition, they actually lose money and lose benefits. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/28/13, via Media Matters]
TRUTH: FOOD STAMPS KEEP MILLIONS OF AMERICANS OUT OF POVERTY EVERY YEAR
CBPP: "Safety Net Programs Kept Millions Out Of Poverty In 2011." A graph on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' blog showed that access to SNAP kept 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011:
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Off the Charts Blog, 11/14/12]
For more on how SNAP keeps millions of Americans out of poverty, click here.
Charles Payne: "The Good Part About The Stigma Is It Actually Does Serve As An Impetus To Get People Off" SNAP. On Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Charles Payne said:
PAYNE: I know there's a big thing trying to de-stigmatize food stamps, but the good part about the stigma is it actually does serve as an impetus to get people off of it. I'll be quite honest with you. When I was growing up there was a point when we had food stamps and people in our building did, but if I was in the store buying something and my friend who lived upstairs one flight from me came in, there's no way in the world I would let him see me using food stamps. They're trying to take that stigma away. They're telling more people they should use it. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/28/13]
Fox Host Neil Cavuto: "We Actually Make It Like A Norman Rockwell Type Of A Benefit Where We Glorify Food Stamps." On Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto claimed, "We put a sheen or a gloss to it now where we actually make it like a Norman Rockwell type of a benefit where we glorify food stamps." [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 1/18/13]
TRUTH: MOST FOOD STAMP RECIPIENTS STAY IN THE PROGRAM FOR A SHORT TIME
U.S. Department Of Agriculture: "Half Of All New SNAP Participants Received Benefits For 10 months Or Less." According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Half of all new SNAP participants received benefits for 10 months or less in the mid 2000s, up from 8 months in the early 2000s. Single parent families and elderly individuals tended to stay in the program longer than did working poor individuals, childless adults without disabilities, and noncitizens. Seventy-four percent of new participants left the program within two years. This is an increase from 71 percent in the early 1990s." [Department Of Agriculture, April 2012]
Feeding America: "The Average Amount Of Time A New Participant Spends On SNAP Is 8 To 10 Months." According to Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief charity, "The average amount of time a new participant spends on SNAP is 8 to 10 months, and the SNAP benefit formula is structured to provide a strong work incentive." [Feeding America, March 2013]
TRUTH: MANY FOOD STAMP RECIPIENTS WORK
USDA: In 2010, 41 Percent Of SNAP Participants Lived "In A Household With Earnings." According to a USDA report on SNAP recipients for fiscal year 2010, "many SNAP participants had jobs." The report stated that "[n]early 30 percent of SNAP households had earnings in 2010" and "41 percent of all SNAP participants lived in a household with earnings." The report added, "For most of these households, earnings were the primary source of income." [U.S. Department Of Agriculture, September 2011]
Fox News' Special Report Suggested Obama's Economic Stimulus Was To Blame For Expansion Of SNAP. On the December 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Shannon Bream discussed the expansion of SNAP during the recent recession. Although Bream noted that the Department of Agriculture said this expansion is "consistent with the increase [in participation] in previous periods of economic decline," Bream implied that the recent SNAP expansion was due to provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or stimulus bill. After Bream said that "skeptics point to one key factor" behind the growth of SNAP, a clip of Wall Street Journal editorial member and Fox News contributor Stephen Moore aired in which Moore said, "A lot of people don't realize, one of the provisions in the 2009 economic stimulus bill was to essentially eviscerate all the work requirements for food stamps, so today in most states there is no requirement to work in exchange for these benefits." [Fox News, Special Report, 12/12/12, via Media Matters]
TRUTH: ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF GROWTH IN FOOD STAMP SPENDING WAS DUE TO ECONOMIC FACTORS, NOT STIMULUS
CBO: Only "About 20 Percent Of The Growth In Spending Can Be Attributed To Temporarily Higher Benefit Amounts Enacted In" The Stimulus. In an April 2012 report about SNAP, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted that the number of people receiving SNAP benefits grew by 70 percent "between fiscal years 2007 and 2011," primarily due to the weak economy, and that only about 20 percent of the growth in spending on those benefits can be attributed to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus bill:
The increase in the number of people eligible for and receiving benefits between 2007 and 2011 has been driven primarily by the weak economy. That increase was responsible for about 65 percent of the growth in spending on benefits between 2007 and 2011. About 20 percent of the growth in spending can be attributed to temporarily higher benefit amounts enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The remainder stemmed from other factors, such as higher food prices and lower income among beneficiaries, both of which boost benefits. [Congressional Budget Office, 4/19/12]
TRUTH: 46 STATES RECEIVED WORK REQUIREMENT WAIVERS BEFORE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE
46 States Had Received Work Requirement Waivers Before Obama Took Office. A report by FactCheck.Org noted, "A law signed by President George W. Bush in November 2008 also expanded the criteria under which states could provide extended unemployment benefits. States that qualified for extended benefits were also eligible for these SNAP waivers." FactCheck.Org explained:
Because of the 2008 unemployment law alone, 32 states and the District of Columbia, plus the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, were automatically eligible for waivers by Feb. 15, 2009, a few days before Obama signed the stimulus bill into law.
According to an official USDA list dated Jan. 8, 2009, days before Obama took office, only Delaware, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont were listed as having no current waivers. Bush administration officials had granted waivers for the entire states of Alaska, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina, plus the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands. Also, all 88 counties in Ohio had waivers that wouldn't expire until June 30, 2010.
In other states, waivers had been granted for specific counties or other jurisdictions. Arizona had waivers for three cities and towns, 12 counties and five Indian reservations, for example. Georgia had been granted waivers for 68 counties and had just applied for a statewide waiver, a request that was listed as "pending." Kentucky had waivers for 93 counties and also had applied for a statewide waiver as well. All told, 46 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands had received waivers that covered all or parts of those jurisdictions. [FactCheck.Org, 9/27/12]
Neil Cavuto Denied That SNAP Stimulates The Economy. In July 2012, Cavuto denied that food stamps and unemployment benefits stimulate the economy, asking, "What is more stimulative? Kate Upton or this: lovely granny promoting food stamps from her fridge." [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/18/12, via Media Matters]
TRUTH: EXPERTS AGREE FOOD STAMPS STIMULATE THE ECONOMY
CBPP: "SNAP Benefits Are One Of The Fastest, Most Effective Forms Of Economic Stimulus Because They Get Money Into The Economy Quickly." The CBPP cited Moody Analytics and the CBO to find that "SNAP benefits are one of the fastest, most effective forms of economic stimulus because they get money into the economy quickly." [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/28/13]
TRUTH: SPENDING ON FOOD STAMPS CAN SPUR ECONOMIC GROWTH, CREATING JOBS
CBPP: "Economists Consider SNAP One Of The Most Effective Forms Of Economic Stimulus." According to the CBPP, "Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus. Moody's Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity." CBPP also noted: "Similarly, CBO rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective of all spending and tax options it examined for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy." [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/11/13]
For more on how SNAP is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, click here.
Fox News' Eric Bolling: Obama "Is The Food Stamp President." On Fox News' The Five, Eric Bolling defended then-Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich who had made a habit of calling President Obama the "food stamp president" at campaign stops:
BOLLING: But he is the food stamp president. There I have no problem with this. Allow me, and I'll shut up the rest of the block. Obama has presided over the biggest expansion in food stamp usage, in numbers: in pure dollar amount, it went from $60 billion to an $83 billion program -- the fourth-largest entitlement program in America. Under Obama, it's exploded. Why can't he be -- and by the way, food stamps, there are more white people on food stamps than black people. So it's not a racial issue. [Fox News, The Five, 1/17/12, via Media Matters]
Fox News' Sean Hannity: Obama Is "The Food Stamp President." On Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity and his guests agreed that President Obama is the "food stamp president," and denied any racial aspect to the charge. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/18/12, via Media Matters]
TRUTH: FOOD STAMP ENROLLMENT INCREASED SUBSTANTIALLY BEFORE PRESIDENT OBAMA TOOK OFFICE
U.S. News & World Report: SNAP Enrollment Was On The Rise "Well Before" Obama Took Office. From U.S. News & World Report:
Food stamp usage has, as Gingrich suggested, increased dramatically during the Obama presidency, but hanging the increase on the president is difficult. Participation in the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the program to which "food stamps" refers, has increased from an average of 28.2 million people per month in FY 2008 to 46.2 million as of October 2011, the most recent month for which data is available. However, SNAP participation has been on the rise since well before President Obama took office. Nearly 17.2 million people in FY 2000 participated in the program, a figure that increased by nearly 64 percent by 2008. [U.S. News & World Report, 1/17/12]
AP "Fact Check": SNAP Usage Increase "Due Mainly To The Ailing Economy." In a "fact check" of the 2012 Republican primary debate, the Associated Press identified Newt Gingrich's claim that "[m]ore people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history" as one of the "distortions" of the debate, writing that the facts prove that the increase in food stamp usage is "due mainly to the ailing economy" and "rising food costs." The article also noted that "[e]ligibility rules [for the program] were relaxed in 2002 and 2008 during the Bush administration." [Associated Press, 1/17/12]
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade: "You're Paying For Food Stamps For Foreigners?" A July 21 New York Post story claimed that low-income New Yorkers were using SNAP funds to purchase food to send overseas. The Post based its claims on anecdotes from unnamed sources at two New York supermarkets that "confirmed the practice," but failed to include specifics. The anonymous woman that the Post provided as its sole example of the practice was not a SNAP beneficiary. Fox News ignored the Post's lack of evidence to hype the story as an example of failed government oversight. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade reported:
KILMEADE: You're paying for food stamps for foreigners? The New York Post reports that welfare recipients in New York City are buying groceries and sending them in giant barrels to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The Agriculture Department won't investigate. That will be up to individual states. Thanks. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/22/13, via Media Matters]
Fox News' Andrea Tantaros Claimed She Would "Look Fabulous" If She Were Forced To Live On A SNAP Diet. In November 2012, on the eve of Thanksgiving, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros dismissed the plight of hungry Americans, claiming that she would "look fabulous" if she were forced to try to subsist on $133 for food per month for an extended period of time, the amount that SNAP participants in New Jersey receive. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 11/21/12, via Media Matters]