Welfare Reform: Self Reliance, Not Government Handouts

Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reported on the soaring rate of food stamp participation in the western United States. The author notes that this recent growth comes from “a region that has always prided itself on self-reliance and [held] … disdain for government handouts.” Regrettably, this story of growth is not that new for the food stamp program as a whole.

Ever since the program began in the 1960s, participation rates have been on an upward trend. And recession or not, in the last decade the rolls have increased nine out of the last 10 years. Not surprisingly, government spending on food stamps has also been climbing, as have the number of food assistance programs (currently, the federal government funds over 10). Whereas in the 1960s, the United States spent just over $2 billion (in constant 2008 dollars) on food assistance programs, by 2008, that number was a whopping $63 billion. And between 2000 and 2008 alone, total spending on food assistance jumped 50 percent.

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