The media has proclaimed America is in anew golden age of economic growth. Obama is celebrated as a hero who has rescued America from the abyss. Article after article tells of a great economic growth, a booming stock market and an awesome job market. The 0.4% increase in GDP is overlooked and not mentioned. One would think this was the 80’s or 90’s again. But reality is different.
In a sign of the true state of the economy, food stamp usage is increasing.
The biggest factor behind the upward march of food stamps is a sluggish job market and a rising poverty rate. At the same time, many states have pushed to get more people to apply for SNAP, a program where the federal government picks up the tab.
But there is another driver, which has its origins in President Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare overhaul. In recent years, the law has enabled states to ease asset and income tests for would-be participants, with the encouragement of the Obama administration, allowing into the program people with relatively higher incomes as well as savings.
The new rules were designed to encourage people to take advantage of the program before they became destitute. By expanding the pool of potential applicants, they are redrawing the landscape of government assistance. It is one reason why SNAP appears to have evolved from a program that rose and fell with the unemployment rate to a more permanent feature of the landscape.
Those of us in the real world know that the economy is stagnant. But reality trumps propaganda in the Obama Boom.
In another sign of bad economic times, the amount of workers going on disability has also increased.
The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. People on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.
In other words, people on disability don’t show up in any of the places we usually look to see how the economy is doing. But the story of these programs — who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that — is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy. It’s the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net.
This is how they have managed to lower the unemployment rate. This is where people leaving the workforce are going. None of this matters, the American people love Obama and his failures have done him no damage.