As Food Stamp Spending Soars, NBC Despairs Recipients Can’t Afford Halloween Candy

Exhibit A on Friday night for how the news media are an impediment to any rational discussion of reining in federal spending. “The ax falls for more than 47 million Americans struggling to put food on the table as tonight time has run out,” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams ominously and fatuously intoned Friday night, as if payments to them are about to be eliminated.

Spending on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), aka “food stamps,” will increase “over the next decade by 57 percent,” as the number of Americans on the program has doubled under Obama, yet NBC focused on the victims of “cuts.”

As of November 1, SNAP payments returned to the pre-stimulus levels of 2009, as Williams explained in noting that recipients are “going to have to get by on less – about five percent less because a special part-time recession boost to the food stamp program has expired.”

Reporter Mike Taibbi went to California’s central valley to find victims, fretting: “If you’re a family that relies on food stamps, that $36 cut translates to 16 to 20 meals. That has Joe Blackburn, a single father of four whose medical issues cost him his corrections officer job already making painful decisions.”

Blackburn despaired: “I couldn’t even buy them Halloween candy this year because I just couldn’t afford it.”

Taibbi concluded with a condemnatory line: “The safety net for tens of millions of Americans, a little less secure.”

From the Friday, November 1 NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Another big story affecting tens of millions of Americans who rely on food stamps to feed their families. As of today they’re going to have to get by on less – about five percent less because a special part-time recession boost to the food stamp program has expired. Nearly 48 million people in this country, a lot of them working people, receive food stamps. That’s one in seven Americans, one in four American children. In our continuing coverage of poverty in America that we call In Plain Sight, NBC’s Mike Taibbi has our report tonight from central California.

MIKE TAIBBI: For Connie Rhoads, a wife and mother of three, now laid off after ten years of teaching, relying on food stamps has been tough enough.

CONNIE RHOADS: It’s really hard to always tell them, no, you can’t have that food item or you can’t have that necessity for living. Because I don’t have the money to buy it for you.

TAIBBI: And now it gets harder. The cut in federal food stamp funding will really hit home in places like Visalia, in California’s Tulare County, with unemployment stuck at 15 percent, and under employment, mostly in seasonal agricultural work, making food stamps a necessity. Broken down, the cuts don’t sound like much. Eleven dollars a month for an individual, $36 for a family of four. But here’s one view of what $36 buys at the local food pantry. Here’s another way to look at it. Suppose for your family of four you’re going to cook a chicken. This one is big enough for leftovers, a can of peas and a little bit of pasta. Nothing fancy. Four meals for about $8 bucks. But if you’re a family that relies on food stamps, that $36 cut translates to 16 to 20 meals. That has Joe Blackburn, a single father of four whose medical issues cost him his corrections officer job already making painful decisions.

JOE BLACKBURN: I couldn’t even buy them Halloween candy this year because I just couldn’t afford it.

TAIBBI: And Daisy’s two kids don’t know their single mom is thinking of selling her old car and finding another way to get to her part-time job as a store clerk.

DAISY: I barely have enough to feed my kids and pay the bills.

SANDY BEALS, FOODLINK DIRECTOR: When a child goes hungry, I mean -- what kind of country allows a child to go hungry?

TAIBBI: The safety net for tens of millions of Americans, a little less secure. Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Visalia, California.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center