On May 27th the USDA awarded $168 million in stimulus money to 145 local infrastructure projects across the country. A third of the money is going to the Mohegan Indian tribe in Connecticut for a new community center. The $54 million loan has attracted national scrutiny because the tribe operates one of the biggest casinos in the country, which grossed $1.3 billion in 2009.
We are being bombarded with sensationalist stories in the press about state and local governments having to “slash” programs because of a lack of revenues. These stories typically revolve around the question of whether the federal government will continue supplementing “essential services” provided by state and local government.
As a fiscal wonk, I spend a lot of time digging through the federal budget looking at the spending trends in the biggest programs such as Medicare. But I’m often struck by the large amounts spent on the tiniest and most obscure activities. Eliminating any one of these tiny activities wouldn’t save much, but they are illustrative of a spending culture in Washington oblivious to the ongoing trillion-dollar deficits.
The Government Accountability Office recently reviewed 18 federal programs that provide food and nutrition assistance to low-income households, a subset of the nearly 70 programs that provide food and related subsides.
Food stamp enrollment has reached a record high of almost 40 million people. You can blame the recession and legislated benefit increases under presidents Bush and Obama. According to Obama’s latest budget, the total cost of the program will reach $73 billion this year, or more than double the 2007 price tag.
Americans pay a lot more for sugar than do people in other countries. The culprit is the government, which imposes trade barriers and other damaging regulations on the industry.
Food stamp usage is at record levels according to the New York Times, with one in eight Americans now receiving benefits. There are several reasons for the upswing, including expanded eligibility in the 2000s and the severe economic downturn. The following chart shows the dramatic rise in spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as the Food Stamp program until 2008 when Congress changed its name to sound more palatable.