EBT

June 16, 2013; Daily Beast

The NPQ Newswire has covered threats to the food stamp program before, including recent attention to Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) efforts to restrict access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. This article by Eleanor Clift, concerning the problems facing those 47 million Americans who receive food stamp assistance, brings up questions that coincide with our belief that, based on their statements, some of the more conservative wing players in the Republican Party are ideologically opposed to the expanded availability of food stamps. (Granted, some readers of NPQ have challenged that.)

The program has grown since President Obama’s first term in office, as he expanded benefits for people during the recession. House Republicans want to cut $20.5 billion over 10 years from the program, in stark contrast with the $4 billion cut approved by the Senate last week. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D–MO) anticipates a big fight on the floor as Democrats try to stem the Republicans’ cuts in food stamps. He predicts that “the bill coming out of the House will cause many people to puke because of the damage done to the poorest people.” Cleaver sees the Republicans’ proposal as having a racial component. Given the somewhat disproportionate numbers of people of color receiving food stamp assistance, even though more white people than black people overall receive food stamp assistance, that’s not a hard stance to understand.

Since food stamps have been the subject of so much dubious debate, particularly during the 2012 election, when Newt Gingrich called President Obama the “food stamp president,” some facts on the racial and ethnic composition of food stamp recipients are in order (from Fiscal Year 2011 statistics):

Race/ethnic group

Participating households by racial/ethnic group status (percent of total)

Participating individuals by racial/ethnic group status (percent of total)

U.S. population by race/ethnicity 2010 (percent of total population)

White non-Hispanic

36.6

34.6

63.7

Black non-Hispanic

22.8

23.0

12.3

Hispanic any race

9.6

15.4

16.4

Asian American non-Hispanic