Commentary

Obama Had ObamaCare, Biden Has BidenStamps

By Scott Centorino | August 30, 2021 | 12:11pm EDT
Joe Biden gives a campaign speech. (Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Joe Biden gives a campaign speech. (Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden Administration framed its decision this week to increase food stamp benefits by 25 percent—the largest expansion of a welfare program since ObamaCare—as an innocent adjustment to an algorithm. It says it simply “reflects current cost realities.”

In truth, it reflects current political realities.

At the federal level, the same executive and legislative branch leaders who transformed temporary unemployment benefits into a long-term welfare program (and continue to do so despite there being more than 10 million open jobs) still hold the levers of power.

But in the grip of an ideology which values individual growth far less than government growth, these levers only move in one direction. To expand welfare on this scale in the middle of a national worker shortage illustrates either a blind, almost religious, adherence to that ideology or standard-issue incompetence.

To be sure, even before businesses started closing due to lack of workers, food stamps needed reform.

Loopholes have allowed millions of ineligible enrollees onto the food stamps program at the expense of the truly needy. More than 35 million Americans were on the program even before the pandemic, more than the entire population of Canada. Now, more than 42 million Americans receive these benefits.

And huge numbers of these enrollees are able-bodied adults who are exempt from work requirements, even if they don’t live in the many states which have irresponsibly waived those work requirements.

But the Biden Administration’s announcement that it will unilaterally raise maximum food stamp benefits by 25 percent only serves to exacerbate these problems.

Under the guise of an algorithmic adjustment, we will spend at least $20 billion more to pull even more able-bodied workers out of the workforce and make chronic, generational dependency worse. 

President Obama had ObamaCare. President Biden now has BidenStamps.

At least in the case of the Senate’s consideration of ObamaCare, critics and skeptics had the benefit of a public debate (remember the debates surrounding death panels and the Cornhusker kickback?).

But in the case of BidenStamps, bureaucrats manufactured the expansion in a black box somewhere in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) without the openness and opportunity for revision required of even the simplest regulatory proposal. Republican legislators like Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) have noticed and demanded more transparency.

Rest assured (and get out your bureaucratic bingo cards), because the Biden administration conducted a “data-driven review of the Thrifty Food Plan” in order to “reevaluate” and “modernize” the food stamp program.

What specific data drove the review? How could the data justify such a colossal expansion? Previous USDA studies found that households on food stamps are actually twice as likely to be food insecure than other households with similar income, employment, and composition, even controlling for self-selection. Why would we double down on this approach?

In effect, the Biden Administration is asking us to trust them. We shouldn’t.

Not when the same administration bribes more workers into unemployment just when the American economy needs them. Not when it revokes work requirement waivers in Medicaid, despite it being one of the conditions under which some states were willing to expand the program.  Not when it handcuffs states to keep ineligible enrollees on welfare programs, even if they commit fraud.

Taken together, the administration’s actions are perfectly calibrated to inflate government benefits and deflate the private economy. They have not earned the trust of Americans who are concerned with spending, discouraged with rising dependency, and protective of the truly needy.

At least President Obama admitted he wanted to engage in “fundamentally transforming” the country before proposing the largest expansion of the welfare state since the 1960s.

President Biden, on the other hand, won’t own it. Instead, as we take step after step toward welfare for all, the administration hides behind the language of “modernization.” But there’s nothing modern about big government programs.

His administration owes the American people more, especially since Biden emphasized “truth” so much in his inaugural address. The administration should tell the truth, “stand squarely behind” this decision, as it has others, and defend its plan to massively expand the American welfare state.

Scott Centorino is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

MRC Store