Newt’s Food Stamp Lie (What It Says About S.C.)

While we try to steer clear of campaign politics around here, one presidential candidate in particular is spouting some dangerous nonsense about food stamps that must be challenged. At present, Newt Gingrich is stumping across the Palmetto State calling President Obama “the greatest food stamp president in American history” and telling people that African Americans should prefer paychecks to government handouts.

At Monday night’s GOP debate in Myrtle Beach, Newt doubled down on the lies and race-baiting, telling the audience, “The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.”

Yesterday, The New York Times’ editorial board had a fine retort. Here’s the meat of it:

What you’re not supposed to do, actually, is mislead the public.

The fact is that Mr. Obama has “put” no one on food stamps. People apply for food assistance, known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, because they’re poor or out of work and their families are hungry. The number of people using the program, which is now at a peak, began rising with the recession, in 2007, and continued through four of the toughest years ever faced by the poor and near-poor in modern history. Mr. Obama eased the eligibility requirements as part of his stimulus program, a desperately needed measure that helped struggling families and the economy.

Non-Hispanic whites also far outnumber blacks receiving SNAP benefits. As for the notion that these are people who somehow like their dependency, 30 percent of SNAP households have income from work — a reminder of the brutal impact of the recession on wages.

But these are inconvenient details to Mr. Gingrich, who implied that the rise in federal aid was a sad indication of the insufficient work ethic of black Americans.

That an audience of South Carolinians took to their feet and applauded this huckster’s bile and bunkum – on MLK Day, no less – is more than a little sad. No way would any candidate have played these cards in Iowa or New Hampshire. They had to wait for South Carolina, where we – who’ve consumed the mean stereotypes of racial division for many generations – still eat that crap up. Books have been written on our pathetic, self-defeating groupthink and those that perpetuate it. More will surely come. W.J. Cash‘s Mind of the South is a good place to start.

Read the whole NYT piece here.