Vilsack Again: Food Stamps Helped 'Job Growth' Over Last 17 Months

By Matt Cover | August 18, 2011 | 2:48 PM EDT

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

( - In a conference call with reporters today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack repeated the argument he made on MSNBC on Tuesday that food stamps are an economic stimulus that has created jobs in the United States.

When Vilsack was asked in the conference call to back up his argument that food stamps created jobs, he credited food stamps with contributing to the "job growth" he says the country has experience in recent times.

“We’ve had job growth in the private sector for 17 consecutive months," Vilsack said.

"Over the course of the last two years," Vilsakck said, "we have gained back 2 million [jobs] in the private sector--more than 2 million in the private sector--17 months in a row.”

“We’ve also seen manufacturing and processing have increases, the best increases we’ve seen in over a decade in that area of the economy,” Vilsack said.

“If you think about what happens with a SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] dollar, it goes into the economy more quickly than any other dollar, if you will, because 97 percent of SNAP resources are expended by SNAP recipients within the first 30 days,” he said.

“When people are in a position to purchase more in a grocery store that means that something has to be shelved, stocked, and processed, and packaged, and trucked, and produced--all of which are jobs throughout the entire supply chain,” he said.

Vilsack had made essentially the same argument on MSNBC on Tuesday.

"I should point out, when you talk about the SNAP program or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it's also an economic stimulus," Vilsack said then. "Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity. If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times."

Vilsack's analysis leaves out the fact that federal food stamp dollars are taxed or borrowed out of the economy, where they might have been used to purchase other goods and services or put to other economic uses, such as savings and investment, thus stimulating the economy in other ways.