During his introduction of a bill to save $30 billion from the old food stamp program — now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) stated,
Since President Obama assumed office, participation in SNAP ... has increased from 32 million to 47.8 million people, and annual spending on SNAP has doubled to $80 billion in fiscal year 2012. Over the next 10 years, SNAP is projected to cost taxpayers almost $760 billion....
This explosive growth in both the SNAP enrollment and federal cost of the program is alarming and requires lawmakers to take cost-effective legislative control measures.
Not only did Senator Thune understate the expected growth of SNAP, but in his introduction of the bill — offered jointly with Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) — he also overstated the impact the bill would have if passed. The measure would save $30 billion over 10 years, compared to the program’s that is now approaching $80 billion annually, and accelerating.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the program, the cost in 2008 was $34.8 billion but exceeded $74.6 billion in 2012 — an annual growth rate of 20 percent. If that growth continues, in 10 years SNAP will cost $600 billion annually. Even if somehow SNAP's rate of growth is slowed to just 10 percent a year, taxpayers will still be paying $200 billion a year for a program that the USDA estimated back in 1964 would eventually cover just four million people and cost about $360 million annually.
As Thune noted, the number of SNAP participants is approaching 50 million Americans, and has been growing at 12 percent a year. At present that translates into one out of every five households receiving SNAP assistance, and if the present growth rate continues, two out of five households will be on SNAP by the end of the decade.
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