December 7, 2012

Not News: Food Stamp Participation Jumped by Over 600,000 in September; Last Pre-Election Number Revised Up

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its latest report on food stamp program participation through September today. I received the email alerting me to the release at 5:17 p.m., so it seems reasonable to believe that USDA and the Barack Obama administration wanted the new data to get as little attention as possible (as will be seen later, it’s getting none). If so, they have two probable reasons for wishing to minimize its impact.

The first and more obvious of the two is that the food stamp rolls increased by over 607,000 in September to 47.71 million, yet another all-time record. That’s awful enough, but here’s the real kicker: the participation figure for July, the last month of data available before Election Day, was revised up by over 150,000, changing that month’s reported increase from 11,600 to just under 166,000. As will be seen after the jump, no other month’s data was revised except August, where the changes were infinitesimal.

The graphic on the left is a portion of the monthly report through July retrieved from Google cache. The graphic on the right is from through today’s release. My inserted red boxes are around the changed data:

FoodStampTables110912and120712

The clumsy data-massagers at USDA missed over 154,319 participants in July but somehow managed to account for every household. This doesn’t even pass the stench test.

The original 11,616 was so modest that it would have been foolish for GOP challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign to jump on it as some kind of evidence of further decay (though that small increase combined with a much larger increase of almost 100,000 in the number of households should have raised someone’s eyebrows). Now that Obama is safely elected, it looks like it’s data cleanup time at USDA.

As to the sharp September increase, the good news is that it’s less than the increase seen in September 2009 (677,000). The bad news is that it’s greater than the jumps in September 2010 (521,000) and September 2011 (474,000). The official raw (not seasonally adjusted) unemployment rates during the most recent four Septembers (2009-2012) were 9.5%, 9.2%, 8.8%, and 7.6%, respectively. Yet the food stamp rolls grew during that three-year period by almost 10.8 million. This data should convince any skeptic that for all too many Americans, food stamp participation is not an urgent matter of preventing malnutrition and starvation. Instead, it is a conscious, lifestyle-improving choice made under lax eligibility standards in all too many states at taxpayers’ expense.

I found no evidence that September’s large participation increase or the revision to July’s numbers was news anywhere in a Google News search on “food stamps” (not in quotes, past 24 hours, sorted by date). A search at the Associated Press’s national site on “food stamps” (again not in quotes) returned nothing relevant.

News stories found at Google News mostly show the press gullibly swallowing Democratic Mayor Corey Booker’s publicity-driven, fundamentally dishonest participation in the “Food Stamp Challenge.” Booker is trying to prove how difficult it is to buy food on $30 a week. The problem is that the program’s maximum weekly allotment for a single person is really $46. No one is letting the truth get in the way of a leftist darling-promoting story.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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