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6 Absurd Right-Wing Lies About Food Stamps

The right-wing echo chamber has vilified food stamp users with a variety of absurd lies and myths. As a result, people will go hungry.


In the middle of the worst economy and job situation in decades Republicans in the House voted to cut $40 billion from food stamps. This will kick 3.8 million people out of the program by 2014, 3 million more each year after.

Republicans in Congress have blocked every effort to help the economy. They block bills to create jobs by fixing our crumbling infrastructure because it’s “government spending.” At the same time, right-wing outlets (accurately) complain that the economy is so weak that millions are hurting. And then the same Republicans who blocked efforts to help the economy  cut assistance to the people who are hurting, claiming they don’t really need the help. No shame.

In the months leading up to this vote , right-wing outlets such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, RedState and the rest of the far-right propaganda machine invented a number of justifications for cutting the program. Here is a takedown of some of those myths and lies.

Myth #1: Food stamps are “growing exponentially” because of waste and fraud.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) recently  said, “Throughout the Obama presidency, we’ve seen the food stamp program grow exponentially because the government continues to turn a blind eye to a system fraught with abuse.”

Interestingly, a number of members of Congress disparage food stamps  while receiving farm subsidies. Rep. Vicki  Hartzler (R-MO) said, “This program is known for waste, fraud and abuse.” (Halter has received $516,000 in farm subsidies.) Kristi Noem (R-SD) said, “Loopholes and fraud …have led to federal spending on SNAP to increase 270%.” (Noem has received $503,000 in farm subsidies.) And Rep. Doug Lamalfa (R-CA) said that churches are more “accountable” at helping the poor than government. He said government has “failed” at helping the poor, so we should “retract” the program. (Lamalfa has received more than $1.7 million in farm subsidies.)

And other conservatives call President Obama the “ food stamp president” because the program has grown since the recession hit.

Actually, the SNAP (food stamp) program is doing exactly what it is supposed to do and what a democracy would ask of it. It is helping people who need the help.

Last March the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)  responded to the charges that the program’s growth is out of control, reporting that:

  • SNAP has responded effectively to the recession. 
  • The recent growth in SNAP spending is temporary.
  • SNAP reaches a high share of people who are eligible. 
  • SNAP payment accuracy is at all-time highs.  

(Click through to CBPP for comprehensive details.)

What about “fraud?” Implicit in the accusation that the program is “growing exponentially” is the idea that the program is rife with fraud and waste. But the fraud and waste rate in the SNAP program is less than 1 percent. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the SNAP program.  They say the fraud rate “has fallen significantly over the last two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to about 1 cent in 2006-08 (most recent data available).”

Finally, the “error rate” which includes overpayments and payments to ineligible households is very low as well.  According to Feeding America using USDA data, “SNAP error rates declined by 57% since FY2000, from 8.91% in FY2000 to a record low of 3.80% in FY2011.” Want to guess what the “compliance rate” with the IRS is? Last time they  checked (2006) $450 billion was left uncollected because of non-compliance. In one year. But conservatives aren’t complaining about that.

Myth #2: Cutting food stamps will make people get jobs because able-bodied people are getting food stamps instead of working.

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