Food stamps are in the news again, in a major way: new data from the USDA shows that nearly one in seven people in the United States are currently using them. Since 2007, the number of people receiving food stamps has increased over 60 percent, from just over 27 million to 44.6 million in April 2011, the most recent month available.
The chart above, courtesy of the blog Zero Hedge and based off these numbers from the USDA, details the steep rise of food stamp use beginning in 2007, before the start of the recession. Throughout the period of economic turbulence since then, food stamps have become quite prevalent: 14.3 percent of the American public participated in the program in April.
Conservatives have been quick to seize on the inflated food stamp numbers to criticize the government and the Democratic administration. On Tuesday, Newt Gingrich repeated his comments--undeterred by accusations of racism--linking the President to the increase in food stamps. “President Obama is the most successful food stamp president in American history,” he told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News. The Wall Street Journal published a scathing op-ed last week by James Bovard, critiquing the rising costs of food stamps and accusing the program of fraud and misuse. “Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income,” Bovard wrote. And then, there's people like Zero Hedge's John Lohman, who make silly videos like this, charting the rise of food stamps with help from a bottle of Boone's Farm--get it? We sort of do.