After Newt Gingrich defended his oft-repeated claim that President Obama is "the best food stamp president in American history," Fox News took up the theme and amplified it. But as numerous experts have pointed out, increased enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is due mainly to the economic downturn which predated Obama's administration.
Gingrich: Obama Is "The Best Food Stamp President In American History"
Gingrich: "More People Are On Food Stamps Today Because Of Obama's Policies Than Ever In History." While covering Gingrich's comments during a January 5 campaign stop, CBS News reported:
Gingrich, during an appearance in Plymouth, New Hampshire, spoke about remarks he would theoretically make if invited to speak to the NAACP.
"I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps," Gingrich said.
The former House speaker has made a habit of calling President Obama the "food stamp president" -- a nickname he used on Thursday as well -- and has often painted the contrast between himself and Mr. Obama as a choice between paychecks and food stamps.
"The fact is, if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple: Food stamps versus paychecks," Gingrich said. "Obama is the best food stamp president in American history. More people are on food stamps today because of Obama's policies than ever in history. I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history." [CBS News, 1/6/12]
Gingrich: "More People Have Been Put On Food Stamps By Barack Obama Than Any President In American History." During the January 16 GOP primary debate, Gingrich had this exchange with Fox News contributor Juan Williams:
WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can't you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?
GINGRICH: No. I don't see that.
WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, the suggestion that you made was about a lack of work ethic. And I've got to tell you, my email account, my Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities.
You saw some of this reaction during your visit to a black church in South Carolina. You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as "the food stamp president." It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people.
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. [Fox Nation, 1/17/12]
Fox News Parrots Gingrich: Obama "Is The Food Stamp President"
Eric Bolling Echoed Gingrich: Obama "Is The Food Stamp President." On Fox News' The Five, Eric Bolling defended Gingrich, saying of Obama:
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]
Dick Morris: "Newt Is Right. ... Obama Has Basically Put Everybody In The Country On Welfare." On the January 18 edition of Hannity, Fox News contributor Dick Morris stated:
MORRIS: Newt is totally right. When Obama took office, there were 32 million people on food stamps. Now, there are 46 million. What Obama has done is, under Clinton, he cut the welfare rolls in half, and now Obama has basically put everybody in the country on welfare. [Fox News, Hannity, 1/18/12]
Sean Hannity: "He Is The Food Stamp President. Look At The Numbers, They Speak For Themselves." Fox News host Sean Hannity pointed to increased food stamp usage to label Obama the "food stamp president," saying: "He is the food stamp president. Look at the numbers, they speak for themselves -- 32 million to 46 million, 12 million increase. Obama's policies have resulted in a lot more people being on food stamps. What's the problem?" [Fox News, Hannity, 1/18/12, via Media Matters]
Tucker Carlson: "More People Have Joined The Food Stamps Program Under Obama Than Any Other President." On Hannity, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson praised Gingrich for the "great job" he did explaining why he thinks Obama is the "food stamp president," adding: "And more people have joined the food stamp program under Obama than any other president." [Fox News, Hannity, 1/17/12]
Monica Crowley: Record Number Of Food Stamp Usage Is "A Direct Result Of The Obama Administration's Policies." On Fox News' America Live, contributor Monica Crowley argued:
CROWLEY: At this point, what Newt is saying is that this administration took a bad economy and made it so much worse, with polices that have really oppressed job creation, suppressed economic growth, to the point where people cannot find jobs. And also, you know, one thing he didn't say, which is the extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks and so on.
You know how the situation in America, Megyn, where you have record numbers of people not just on food stamps, 46 million, but record numbers of people on at least one or more social welfare programs, and that's a direct result of the Obama administration's policies. [Fox News, America Live, 1/18/12]
Sarah Palin: White House "Protests Too Much Because The Facts Are What They Are." On Hannity, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin criticized the White House for pushing back on Gingrich's statement, saying that "they protest too much because the facts are what they are -- and that's hundreds of thousands of more Americans are now on food stamps than before Barack Obama took over." [Fox News, Hannity, 1/17/12]
In Fact, More People Have Been "Put" On Food Stamps By Bush Than Obama
Bob Beckel: "The Largest Percentage Increase In Food Stamps Happened Not Under This President But Under George W. Bush." As co-host Bob Beckel noted on The Five, "the largest percentage increase in food stamps happened not under this president but under George W. Bush":
BECKEL: I want to say something to my friend Juan Williams who sat in here for me. That shot by Gingrich was a cheap shot. You used a lot of courage, Juan, coming up with what you did and said to Gingrich. His response that he turned into an ad now was a cheap shot. Those people who -- those yahoos that stood up in that audience and cheered that were unbelievable to me that they would do it.
And let me make one other point, Newt. If you ever want to get your facts straight, the largest percentage increase in food stamps happened not under this president but under George W. Bush. [Fox News, The Five, 1/18/12]
FactCheck.Org: Food Stamp Program "Has So Far Grown By 444,574 Fewer Recipients During Obama's Time In Office Than During Bush's." In a "fact check" of what it called "Newt's Faulty Food-Stamp Claim," FactCheck.org stated that "Gingrich strains the facts when he accuses Obama of being responsible," writing: "Newt Gingrich claims that 'more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.' He's wrong. More were added under Bush than under Obama, according to the most recent figures." The article continued:
Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high. The number stood at 46,224,722 persons as of October, the most recent month on record. And it's also true that the number has risen sharply since Obama took office.
But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.
And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama's time in office than during Bush's.
It's possible that when the figures for January 2012 are available they will show that the gain under Obama has matched or exceeded the gain under Bush. But not if the short-term trend continues. The number getting food stamps declined by 43,528 in October. And the economy has improved since then. [FactCheck.org, 1/18/12]
CBS News: "Percent Increase In Beneficiaries During Mr. Bush's Presidency Was Higher Than It Has Been Under Mr. Obama." CBS News noted that the increase in food stamps enrollment "hardly makes Obama the 'best food stamp president in American history,' " adding that the "percent increase in beneficiaries during Mr. Bush's presidency was higher than it has been under Mr. Obama." From CBS News:
While the number of people on food stamps is indeed at a record level, that's in part because of eligibility rules being relaxed under the administration of George W. Bush. It's also due in part to the economic downturn that began under Mr. Bush.
For the most recent month with available data, October 2011, 46.2 million people were enrolled in the food stamp program, which is formally known the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Since Mr. Obama took office, the percent increase in enrollment has been 44.5 percent.
However, that percentage increase hardly makes Obama the "best food stamp president in American history," at least when you look at the question proportionally. The percent increase in beneficiaries during Mr. Bush's presidency was higher than it has been under Mr. Obama: The number of beneficiaries went from 17.3 million in 2001 to 28.2 million in 2008 -- an increase of 63 percent in years that are mostly considered non-recessionary. [CBS News, 1/17/12]
And The Recent Increase In Food Stamps Enrollment Is Due To The Economic Downturn
US News & World Report: Food Stamps Enrollment Was On The Rise "Well Before" Obama Took Office. From US 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. [US News & World Report, 1/17/12]
AP "Fact Check": Food Stamp Usage Increase "Due Mainly To The Ailing Economy." In a "fact check" of the GOP debate, the Associated Press identified Gingrich's statement 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]
CBPP: Growth "Reflects The Fact That More Households Are Becoming Eligible Because Of The Recession." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the "rapid caseload growth primarily reflects the fact that more households are becoming eligible because of the recession." CBPP added: "SNAP caseloads can grow for two reasons: because more households are qualifying for the program and enrolling or because a larger share of eligible households are signing up. Both of these occurred in recent years." [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1/9/12]
CBPP: "SNAP Kept More Than 5 Million People Out Of Poverty In 2010." According to CBPP, "SNAP caseloads have increased significantly since late 2007, as the recession and lagging recovery battered the economic circumstances of millions of Americans and dramatically increased the number of low-income households who qualify and apply for help from the program." CBPP further stressed that recent growth in SNAP "is temporary." CBPP added:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that SNAP spending will fall as a share of GDP in coming years as the economy recovers and the Recovery Act provisions end. By 2021 SNAP is expected to return nearly to pre-recession levels as a share of GDP. Over the long term, SNAP is not growing faster than the overall economy and thus is not contributing to the nation's long-term fiscal problems. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1/9/12]
Krugman: Spending On Food Stamps Surged "Because The Economy Is Depressed." On his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explained the increase in "income security" spending, including food stamps, writing:
"Income security" is unemployment insurance, food stamps, SSI, refundable tax credits -- in short, the social safety net. Medicaid is a means-tested program that also serves as part of the safety net. Yes, spending in these areas has surged -- because the economy is depressed, and lots of people are unemployed.
What we're seeing isn't some drastic expansion of Big Government; we're seeing the government we already had, responding to a terrible economic slump. [The New York Times, 4/25/11]
This Isn't The First Time Fox Has Promoted Obama As The "Food Stamp President"
Gingrich Blamed Obama For "Set[Ting] An All-Time Record For The Number Of Americans On Food Stamps." In September 2010, then-Fox News contributor Gingrich stated that Obama "has set an all-time record for the number of Americans on food stamps." He added: "I mean, that's not where you want to go. You want to go to a paycheck, not a food stamp." [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 9/12/10]
Ann Coulter Suggested Calling Obama's Bus Tour "Food Stamp Express Live." On Fox & Friends, Ann Coulter replied to the hosts' question about "what to call President Obama's bus tour" by saying: "How about Food Stamp Express Live?" Co-host Clayton Morris responded: "I think Newt Gingrich would be on board with that one." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/7/11]
Greg Gutfeld Proposed A "Food Stamp Wallet" As A Souvenir That Would "Fit Obama." Talking about souvenir items "that fit Obama," Fox News host Greg Gutfeld stated: "You need a food stamp wallet. That would be nice ... because there are millions and millions of people on food stamps right now, so that would be nice." [Fox News, The Five, 8/17/11]
Laura Ingraham: Obama Re-election Bumper Sticker Should Be "Food Stamps For Everyone." Discussing Obama's statement that benefits programs like SNAP stimulate the economy, host Laura Ingraham said: "So it would be a bumper sticker: Re-elect Obama: Food Stamps For Everyone." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/7/11]
Fox Graphic Adopted Gingrich's "Paychecks Vs. Food Stamps" Slogan. During an edition of Fox & Friends, Fox adopted Gingrich's slogan, "Paychecks vs. Food Stamps":
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/8/10]