With nearly 11 million people added to the dole under his presidency, Barack Obama truly was the “food stamps” president.
While the economy he inherited certainly played a role initially, his undoing of key components of Clinton-era welfare reform allowed those receiving benefits to swell continuously. Thanks to the 1996 Clinton-era welfare reform, those receiving welfare had to prove they were working or looking for work to receive benefits – and they could no longer receive those benefits indefinitely. Given that the best anti-poverty program is a job, the reform forced many into the labor force who wouldn’t otherwise be there. As a result, child poverty declined by 1.6 million from 1995-2004, and poverty among single mothers fell from 50.3 percent to 41.9 percent within the same time period.
Overall, welfare caseloads were cut in half. Over four million families at the time of enactment received AFDC/TANF welfare benefits, while only half that (1.89 million) did by 2004.
A resounding success – and states that have re-instituted their work requirements have seen similar successes. Maine and Kansas saw a 75 percent decrease in the number of able-bodied adults receiving food stamps when they brought back workfare. While the Trump Administration has already made moves to restore federal work requirements for welfare, and, in the meantime, economic improvements under his tenure have already driven many Americans off the dole.
The most recent numbers we have are through the end of June, and they show a constant decline in food stamp useage since Trump took office. They are as follows:
- January to February:-408,956
- February to March: -95,152
- March to April: -521,295
- April to May: -176,527
- May to June: -178,648
Overall, that’s a decline of roughly 1.3 million from 42,691,363 in January 2017, to 41,310,785 in June 2017, or 3.2 percent. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the decline will continue through the decade, with enrollment falling one to two percent each year for a total 21.3 percent decline in the number of people receiving stamps.
Obamacare lives on – but at least one expensive aspect of the Obama legacy is on track to be undone.