Expect no candor on food handouts’ collateral damage at the White House summit. In August 2021, the Biden administration tacitly invoked obesity to justify the biggest boost in food-stamp benefits in history. USDA revised its Thrifty Food Plan, which determines Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (i.e, food-stamp) benefit levels, to “reflect current realities providing sufficient energy to support current weight status.”
The American Enterprise Institute’s Angela Rachidi noted, “Giving SNAP participants more money without restrictions will more than likely increase the consumption of unhealthy items, worsening the problems of obesity and disease caused by poor diet.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack justified the higher benefits to prevent beefy mobs from attacking USDA headquarters: “We may have a Constitution and a Declaration of Independence, but if we had 42 million Americans who were going hungry, really hungry, they wouldn’t be happy and there would be political instability.”
The summit will also likely ignore the role of food stamps and other benefit programs in shrinking the workforce. A 2012 Journal of Public Economics study concluded that receiving food stamps sharply reduces single mothers’ work hours. The 2018 Council of Economic Advisers report warned that increased food-stamp enrollment was causing healthy adults to “become increasingly reliant on welfare” and producing “stalled employment growth, in part because of the disincentives welfare programs impose on increasing one’s own income.”
Those disincentives have worsened because the Biden administration last year canceled the requirement for able-bodied adults without children to seek work instead of perpetually relying on food stamps. Secretary Vilsack declared, “Groups with typically higher unemployment, including rural Americans, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and People of Color, and those with less than a high-school education would have been disproportionally harmed by this cruel policy.”
At a time employers were begging people to accept jobs, Team Biden portrayed the necessity of working as a human-rights violation — at least for those categories Vilsack recited.
Media coverage has perennially equated a rising demand for free food with proof of mass hunger. But fighting hunger is profitable for politicians and ritzy nonprofits. Continually encouraging people to seek aid spurs miles-long lines of cars (including fancy late models) at food banks. In reality, the demand for free items (including food stamps) only proves that people like freebies.
If federal spending could abolish hunger, the problem would’ve vanished long ago. Carpet bombing food-stamp recipients with more calories is not even “close enough for government work” if the goal is to improve American nutrition. As long as Biden and other Washington politicians refuse to end the federal junk-food entitlement, all their talk of reform is hogwash.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.