Right-Wing Media Mock Vilsack For Accurately Calling Food Stamps "Economic Stimulus"

››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD

Right-wing media mocked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for stating that food stamps are "economic stimulus." In fact, experts agree that food stamps are one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus.

Vilsack: Food Stamps Are "Economic Stimulus"

Vilsack: "[W]hen You Talk About ... The Food Stamp Program, You Have To Recognize That It's Also An Economic Stimulus." On the August 16 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Vilsack said, "When you talk about the SNAP program, or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it's also an economic stimulus." From the broadcast:

VILSACK: I should point out that when you talk about the SNAP program, or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it's also an economic stimulus. Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity. If people are able to buy a little bit more in the grocery store, then someone has got to stock it, shelve it, package it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get into the economy during tough times. [MSNBC's Morning Joe, via Real Clear Politics, 8/16/11]

Right-Wing Media Scoff At Vilsack's Assertion ...

Beck: The Administration Has The Ability To "Jedi Mind Trick" Almost Every American. On the August 17 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, host Glenn Beck suggested that President Obama must be using a "Jedi mind trick" to convince Americans that food stamps stimulate the economy, referring to Vilsack's comment. From the broadcast:

BECK: You remember when we said that thought they had, you know, that he had some Jedi mind trick that he was doing to the press --

PAT GRAY (co-host): Yeah.

BECK: Where he was like, "These are not the droids you are looking for." He has that ability --

GREY: He does --

BECK: This administration has this ability on every American -- well, almost every American. What, 60 percent of Americans?

GREY: Probably about that, yeah.

BECK: Sixty percent of Americans are willing just to go, "Oh, oh yeah."

GREY: Yeah, yeah, food stamps, that's a big job creator --

BECK: Where is everybody?

GREY: Direct stimulus to the economy -- there's nothing better than that. Yeah, you want more people on food stamps, because that is really going to spark the economy. There's nothing better. Nothing better in the world.

BECK: These aren't the droids you're looking for.

GREY: No, food stamps are great, man.

BECK: These are not the unemployment numbers you're looking for.

GREY: And unemployment's really low right now because, we're, we're doing food stamps like crazy --

BECK: (Laughter)

GREY: Food stamps and unemployment -- the more people out of work, the better the economy. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 8/17/11]

Carlson On Vilsack's "Spin": "Do You Buy That? Do You Buy That As A Stimulating Part Of The Economy?" On the August 17 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson stated that "[m]ore and more people are, unfortunately, using this program. But the spin of this program now is that actually people who are on food stamps stimulate the economy because every dollar generates $1.84 into the economy. You buy more groceries if you're on food stamps." She then asked: "Do you buy that? Do you buy that as a stimulating part of the economy? Well, I know that the Secretary of Agriculture does." From Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: Let's talk about a new stimulus program that maybe you didn't know about. Did you know that the food stamp program in America is actually an economic stimulus? We have spent more on food stamp program [sic] in the last couple of years than ever before in American history. More and more people are, unfortunately, using this program. But the spin of this program now is that actually people who are on food stamps stimulate the economy because every dollar generates $1.84 into the economy. You buy more groceries if you're on food stamps. Do you buy that? Do you buy that as a stimulating part of the economy? Well, I know that the Secretary of Agriculture does, Tom Vilsack said this.

[...]

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): So if you give people money that they didn't earn, and you tell them to go spend it on stuff they normally couldn't afford, everyone is better off.

ERIC BOLLING (guest host): Can I say something very quickly? Jay Carney earlier this week or last week came out and said unemployment benefits are stimulus as well. This is -- this is an administration that just doesn't get it. It's really -- it's socialism. They're pointing right to being socialist. The more you give, the more you stimulate? No. Sorry. It's got to come from the private sector. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/17/11, via Media Matters]

Hoft: "How Do These Crackpots Ever Get Into Office?" In an August 16 Gateway Pundit post, blogger Jim Hoft wrote:

They're all nuts!

First it was Pelosi. Now it's the Ag Secretary.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also agrees that more people on food stamps means more jobs.

[...]

Vilsack must be very proud then because a record number of Americans are on food stamps today.

Unreal.

How do these crackpots ever get into office? That's the real question. [Gateway Pundit, 8/16/11]

The Blaze: "Vilsack Actually Calls The Food Stamp Program An 'Economic Stimulus.' " From an August 16 post on The Blaze:

Last week, Press Secretary Jay Carney mad [sic] the bold -- and odd -- claim that unemployment checks create jobs (see the comment and how one blogger proves it wrong here). Well, it seems the government-welfare-programs-create-jobs mantra is becoming a popular mantra, as now Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack went on MSNBC Tuesday morning to make the case that food stamps are job creators.

Yes, Vilsack actually calls the food stamp program an "economic stimulus:"

[...]

If that sounds familiar, it's because Vilsack used some of the exact same language Carney used last week. Are you sensing a new talking point? [The Blaze, 8/16/11]

... But Experts Agree Food Stamps Stimulate The Economy

Zandi: "Extending Food Stamps Is The Most Effective Way To Prime The Economy's Pump." In his July 24, 2008, testimony before the House Committee on Small Business, Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Economy.com, stated:

An effective stimulus package could include a gas tax holiday, expansion of the food stamp program, a payroll tax holiday, aid to state governments, extension of the investment tax incentives, and increased infrastructure spending. The biggest lift from this stimulus would go to lower-income households struggling to pay soaring gasoline and food prices and to small businesses getting hit hardest in the current downturn.

Extending food stamps is the most effective way to prime the economy's pump. A $1 increase in food stamp payments boosts GDP by $1.73. People who receive these benefits are very hard-pressed and will spend any financial aid they receive within a few weeks. Because these programs are already operating, increased benefits can be quickly delivered to recipients.

Zandi included with his testimony a table stating that a "Temporary Increase in Food Stamps" had the highest "Fiscal Economic Bank for the Buck" of any other potential stimulus provision he analyzed:

Zandi chart

[Economy.com, 7/24/08]

Based on Zandi's testimony, the Economic Policy Institute created the following graphic:

EPI chart

[Economic Policy Institute, 10/22/08]

CBPP: "SNAP Benefits Are One Of The Fastest, Most Effective Forms Of Economic Stimulus Because They Get Money Into The Economy Quickly" A March 21 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) post stated, "SNAP benefits are one of the fastest, most effective forms of economic stimulus because they get money into the economy quickly." [CBPP, 3/21/11]

Elmendorf: "Transfers To Persons (For Example, Unemployment Insurance And Nutrition Assistance) Would Also Have A Significant Impact On GDP." In his January 27, 2009, testimony before the House Committee on the Budget, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf stated:

Transfers to persons (for example, unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance) would also have a significant impact on GDP. Because a large amount of such spending can occur quickly, transfers would have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010. Transfers also include refundable tax credits, which have an impact similar to that of a temporary tax cut.

A dollar's worth of a temporary tax cut would have a smaller effect on GDP than a dollar's worth of direct purchases or transfers, because a significant share of the tax cut would probably be saved. The nonbusiness tax cuts in H.R. 1 would reduce revenues much more in calendar year 2010 than in calendar year 2009 because much of the reduction in taxes would be realized by households when they filed their returns in 2010. [Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/09]

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