Is it possible? Has free-market anarchist and Austrian School Economist Michael Barnett finally discovered a government program which appears to be achieving its stated goals? Yes, my friends, I think I actually may have done just that. Now look, I understand that correlation does not imply causation, but I think there’s a strong case to be made here. I’m talking, of course, about the multitude of state and federal outreach efforts over the last two years to spread awareness of and encourage participation in Food Stamps Programs. Record numbers of Americans are receiving food stamp assistance now, more than ever before. Illinois, Oregon, Florida, and Idaho are just four of many US states which have never had so many people dependent on government to feed them. I wanted to make a play on the words “superpower” and “soup lines” (souperlines? souperpower?) to describe America’s new position in the world, but my joke writers aren’t as good as Jay Leno’s.
Specifically, according to the US Department of Agriculture 40.8 million Americans are recipients of “supplemental nutrition assistance.” Subsidies for food purchases jumped 19 percent from a year earlier and increased 0.9 percent from April. Participation has set records for 18 straight months. Well, there’s an economy in recovery! I think a little perspective is in order.
Suppose we created a new country out of every recipient of government food assistance programs in the US and named it The Stiglitzian Commonwealth of Krugmania. This new Commonwealth would be tied with Kenya as the 32nd most populous country. It would have more citizens than (in no order) Argentina, Sudan, Poland, Iraq, Venezuela, and Malaysia, just to name a few. It would have twice or more as many citizens as Chile, Niger, Netherlands, Cameroon, Angola, Cambodia, and Kazakhstan just to name a handful of the more than 160 countries which would fall into this category. But what about America’s Neighbor-to-the North? The United States has 6.5 million more people relying on food stamps than Canada has people period. My first instinct is to call that hilarious, but as that comparison sinks in, it’s rather revolting. This must be the economic recovery I kept hearing about.
Don’t despair, people. Let’s not forget the silver lining I launched this post with: we may just have discovered a government program which achieves its stated goals. That’s something, I guess.