Debunking Myths About Food Stamps

In a recent article, the Chicago Tribune aimed to debunk popular misconceptions about trends in welfare spending and the welfare recipient population, issues that "the Republican presidential race has the forefront." Reporter Dawn Turner Trice wrote, "When it comes to welfare, perceptions have often trumped reality."

The article provides fact-based commentary on political strategies regarding welfare, including the following:

  • "Though blacks are disproportionately represented among food stamp recipients, far more whites receive such assistance. When recipients identified themselves by race in 2010, 34 percent were white, 22 percent were black and 16 were percent Hispanic, the Agriculture Department said."

  • "The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank, said anti-poverty programs make up about 20 percent of the federal budget, and that's been true over the last three decades when both Republicans and Democrats have been in power."
  • "Among the big social safety net expenditures in 2011 are Medicaid ($274 billion) and refundable tax credits, including the earned income tax credit ($102 billion). Food stamps ($71.8 billion) and cash assistance ($6.9 billion) constitute just 2.2 percent of the federal budget, but they pack a bigger wallop when it comes to public perceptions."

The article also quotes Michael Dawson, director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, regarding Republican efforts--specifically, those of Newt Gingrich--to bring up welfare as an issue, as saying: "It's a tired tactic but one that's sometimes effective in mobilizing white racial resentment."
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