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Except that it isn’t. Under President Obama, the number of people on food stamps has risen to a record high. As of October 2011, there were over 46 million people enrolled in the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP). A large part of the reason, as even the Times concedes, is that the Obama administration expanded the eligibility for food stamps as part of its stimulus package. In fairness, President Bush also eased the eligibility restrictions during his term. But even taking that into account, there has been a 44.5 surge in SNAP benefits since Obama took office. Much of that increase, it bears mention, has been among whites. At the very least, this fact complicates the claim of Gingrich’s media critics that in bemoaning the proliferation of food stamps he is driven by racial animus.
If the “Food Stamp President” charge resonates among Republicans, it’s not because they’re racists. Rather, it is because the Obama administration is particularly vulnerable to the criticism that it has expanded the welfare state far beyond what even the tough economic times warrant. Thus the administration stretched the definition of poverty to such an extent that it now encompasses families who own a full range of amenities — from refrigerators, to microwaves, to cable or satellite TV — and who lack neither adequate food nor sufficient living space. The rise in food stamps is part and parcel of the massive expansion of the redistributive state on Obama’s watch. It’s precisely this fact that Gingrich’s food stamp dig is intended to highlight.
As even his supporters would concede, Newt Gingrich is an imperfect candidate, one who has made his share of mistakes on the stump. But one thing he cannot plausibly be accused of is racism. Indeed, if the term is applicable at all, it is to the self-righteous media lynch mob that would prefer to focus its energies on smearing a Republican candidate than squaring up to a hard truth facing the black community about which they profess to care.
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