Posts Tagged ‘SNAP’

I’m no stranger to really dumb things appearing on my Facebook feed which make a mockery of anyone trying to engage in actual, rational, substantive debate about politics and current events. Usually I let them pass, but today for some reason I feel compelled to engage. So here we go!

First, we start out with a (obviously false) story:

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no… one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little..
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. It could not be any simpler than that.

Well, everything else aside, all those students deserve to fail economics if they believe that Obama’s policies will lead to a uniformly universal level of wealth. Seriously. The professor should probably not be teaching anyone either, if he really thinks Obama is a socialist. He really isn’t. If you don’t believe me, ask a socialist! But this is where the fun begins. We finish with 5 of the greatest sentences we will ever read, apparently:

Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

OK, so let’s bust out the scotch and just take these one at a time.

  1. Well I suppose that’s true enough. Luckily no one is trying to do that! Obama has lowered taxes. True, he has proposed increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans by letting the top level “Bush tax cuts” expire, but even this will increase taxes by a whopping 3 – 5%, and remember that were talking about marginal rates. This only applies to traditional income, by the way. Capital gains taxes will remain at their historically low levels. So if this modest increase, back to the Clinton-era tax rates (when the economy was so awful!) constitutes “legislating the wealthy out of prosperity” then we should seriously examine our definition of prosperity.
  2. This is just plainly not true. Economics is not a zero sum game. If this were true, what of “creating wealth”?
  3. Again, economics is not zero sum. If this were true, what about the bank bailouts? It turns out the government is really good at giving people free money! I presume that we’re referring to the idea that things like food stamps are just “stolen” out of the pockets of hardworking Americans by the ravenous poor, so lets assume for a minute that statement number 3 is in fact true. Now, lets assume that an employee of a bailed out bank gets a one million dollar bonus with his bailout funds. Not an outrageous assumption. Because the government can’t give someone anything it didn’t take from someone else, we’ll assume that it took that million from a foodstamp recipient. The average benefit is $4.40 per day. Thus, the government would have to take almost 623 years worth of benefits from that person to fund that bonus! That sounds way more egregious to me.
  4. OK. I think this means that you can’t increase (multiply) wealth by decreasing (dividing) it. Actually, I agree! Perhaps we should keep that in mind when we talk about austerity! Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney may want to call their offices.
  5. There just really isn’t a significant group that thinks they don’t have to work because everyone else will just take care of them. I’m sure you can point to an example or two, but that’s anecdotal, not a real chunk of the population. Like I mentioned previously, SNAP benefits average less than five dollars per day. Who needs to work when you have that! Conversely, there are folks who make more in an hour than I do in a year. Their work is clearly paying off! If they actually decided to never do anything again because their taxes may go up by a couple percent, they would be leaving a whole hell of a lot of money on the table, and would be epicly stupid.

As a final point, if we continue the story’s theme of substituting grades and money and accept the statement that the 2012 election is a test, then the only way to pass is to be rich. OK, actually that one may make sense…

Ranting over. I’ll get back to the real world now. I feel like I wasted time by writing this. Or even thinking about it. Ah, well.

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Image via ThinkProgress

If you were even remotely in the proximity of the internets today, you probably heard a lot of chatter about Mitt Romney’s speech on the economy in Detroit. The picture above is from that event. Not exactly a full house.

Romney’s campaign has faced criticism about their choice of venue, and coverage of the empty seats has dominated today’s news.

As usual, the focus is on optics, not content. But the real reason to criticize Romney today? Take it away, Ezra Klein:

When Romney said he “wasn’t concerned about the very poor,” he wasn’t kidding. He’s using the policies they depend on most as a piggy bank for tax cuts…

What Romney is essentially proposing to do is finance a massive tax cut by cutting Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies and job training. In other words, the neediest Americans — and, to a lesser degree, federal workers — will be financing a massive tax cut…

In 2000, George W. Bush ran for president saying “I don’t think they ought to be balancing their budget on the backs of the poor.” In 2012, amidst a much worse economy, Romney is running for president saying exactly the opposite.

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Oh SNAP!, ctd

Obama, defending himself against Newt:

“First of all, I don’t put people on food stamps, people become eligible for food stamps. Second of all, the initial expansion of food-stamp eligibility happened under my Republican predecessor, not under me. No. 3, when you have a disastrous economic crash that results in 8 million people losing their jobs, more people are going to need more support from government.”

Some facts about the SNAP program here.

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Newt continues to spew his nonsense about food stamps (SNAP benefits), calling Obama the “food stamp president” and claiming he has put more people on food stamps than any other president. Well, luckily the good folks at the USDA keep data on this kind of thing, so I think I’ll use it to make a chart. Here’s the number of people receiving SNAP benefits from the beginning of the Bush 1 administration through today, by Presidency:

Data from USDA FNS

Looking solely at the total number of people enrolled in the program, you will see Gingrich is just barely correct. Under Bush 1, enrollment increased by 7.3 million people. Clinton reduced it by 9.8 million, GW Bush increased it by 10.9 million, and Obama increased it by 11.2 million.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The upward trend were currently seeing, and the reason enrollment has risen so high under Obama, began during the Bush administration in 2007 – 2008! What ever could have happened around then that would cause people to need help affording food? Oh right, the bottom fell out of the economy, and it shrank by 9%! To claim Obama is responsible for a trend that began during the Bush administration is ridiculous. Enrollment in these programs is a function of the economy, presidents (Bush, Obama, or any others) don’t “put people on food stamps”.

And regarding the racial breakdown of SNAP beneficiaries, Ezra Klein points out:

about 34 percent of beneficiaries are white, 22 percent are black, 17 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian or Native American, and 20 percent “race unknown.”

And finally, my own personal pet peeve: the idea that receiving SNAP benefits will cause someone to not work because they’re perfectly happy living on the government’s dime. According to USDA data, in 2010 30% of beneficiaries had jobs. The money they received from the program was, as its very name implies, supplemental assistance. And lest you think that this number has decreased to 30% as Obama’s socialism has turned us all into lazy welfare queens, the precentage of beneficiaries with jobs has more than tripled since 1990.

But why is that? Why is it simply not true that SNAP stops people from wanting to find gainful employment? In 2011, the average monthly benefit per person was at its historic high, clocking in at a whopping $133.85, or $4.37 a day.

So next time someone tells you that people on food stamps just don’t want to work, challenge them to eat for less than 4.4o a day.

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