Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden each view their respective records on food stamps as grand successes, even though they produced directly opposite results.
Welfare rolls fell during Trump’s tenure, while more people rely on government under Biden.
Apparently, one man’s success is another man’s failure.
Under Trump, the combination of low inflation and a booming economy meant more people with jobs and growing paychecks that weren’t simply negated by higher prices.
People genuinely became wealthier and incomes rose, even after adjusting for inflation.
Consequently, fewer people needed to rely on welfare programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly called food stamps.
In the first three years of his presidency, Trump presided over a 19% decline in food stamp rolls, or 8.5 million people — a federal savings of $11 billion.
That brought the total cost to the taxpayer for the food stamp program down to $60 billion, the lowest level since 2009.
While the government-imposed lockdowns and resultant unemployment in 2020 caused some people to return to food stamps, the number of recipients remained below 2018 levels, which was still marked progress from the time of Trump’s inauguration.
Yet that progress reversed under Biden, who greatly expanded the food-stamp program early in his administration.
While the number of people on food stamps has risen 3% since Biden took office, costs have exploded, with benefits rising a whopping 54% in just two years.
Administrative costs for food stamps have also ballooned, rising over $500 million since Biden took office, bringing the program’s total cost to the taxpayer to $120 billion a year.
That’s twice what the program cost in 2019 under Trump.
If Biden had managed to achieve the same downward trend in welfare reliance that his predecessor had, food-stamp rolls wouldn’t have increased the last two years, but declined.
And the number of people on food stamps would be 5 million less today, nearly back to their 2019 level.
Indeed, the increased dependency on government for millions of Americans flies in the face of the Bidenomics narrative, that this administration rescued an economy on the brink and transformed it into a powerhouse with tens of millions more jobs.
If so many more people are working, after all, why are they all going on food stamps?
One reason is the 40-year-high inflation caused by the government spending, borrowing and printing trillions of dollars over the last several years.
Consider: The average American worker pays markedly less than $4 an hour in federal income tax, but on top of that, inflation has reduced what that worker’s pay can actually purchase by more than $4 an hour.
In other words, by increasing the money supply to spend more, the government created more “wealth” for itself, but it also imposed a hidden tax (inflation) on American workers that decreased their wealth.
Indeed, it was, in effect, a transfer of wealth equivalent to more than doubling the amount of federal income tax paid by the average American worker.
Pushing up the cost of living at the fastest pace in decades has made it impossible for millions to leave government assistance.
Amazingly, the Biden administration views this dependency as a success, not a failure — often boasting of how it has expanded government assistance.
This speaks to the difference between a conservative and liberal worldview, which impacts how we measure success or failure on the part of the government.
Conservatives view success as people getting jobs, becoming self-sufficient and leaving the welfare rolls.
Fewer people on food stamps are a sign of prosperity.
But liberals like Biden view burgeoning welfare rolls — and bigger government in general — as a success, in part because they think the government can solve any problem.
Ironically, the greater need for food stamps today has largely been created by Bidenomics itself, and the runaway government spending that underpins it.
Higher prices (especially for groceries), high interest rates, lower wages adjusted for inflation, and unaffordable housing are just a few of the bitter fruits from the tree of Bidenomics — and you’re forced to eat these fruits whether you use food stamps or not.
E. J. Antoni is a public-finance economist at The Heritage Foundation and a senior fellow at Committee to Unleash Prosperity.
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