IN SOUTH Carolina, Newt Gingrich received a standing ovation for calling Barack Obama the “food-stamp president,’’ while Mitt Romney was applauded for saying Obama is turning America into an “entitlement society.’’ South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint lamented that “Many Americans are sick of seeing the guy in front of them in the grocery line using food stamps to buy steaks.’’
It’s hard to know what point they’re trying to make — and that’s probably deliberate. That the program is riddled with fraud? (It’s not.) That families receiving benefits don’t need them? (The cut-off is $21,356 for a family of four.) That Obama has expanded the program unnecessarily? (Actually, it grew just as fast under George W. Bush, and Obama’s increase, through the stimulus bill, was based on the sensible idea that every dollar spent on food is immediately reinjected into the economy, while also serving to boost health and nutrition.) Then again, Obama did acknowledge that his mother, trying to raise two children on her own, was once a beneficiary. So the attacks on the program carry a particularly sour resonance.