Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has launched a new crusade to label Democrats as the “party of food stamps.” He told reporters in Minneapolis this week that “it’s perfectly fair to say [Democrats] are earning the title of the party of food stamps,” and, in a memo to Republican candidates, urged them to use this framing as a closing argument before the November elections. Gingrich quipped, “It turns out that Barack Obama’s idea of spreading the wealth around was spreading more food stamps around.” And despite the obvious economic evidence, Gingrich does not believe food stamps can be stimulative to the economy. “I don’t understand…liberal math,” he said.
If there were a “party of food stamps,” however, it would certainly have bipartisan membership — including Gingrich himself. In 2002, the Bush administration sought to expand the food stamp program to all legal immigrants, who had previously been excluded by Congressional Republicans during the 1996 welfare reforms. The Bush proposal extended food stamps to 363,000 more people. The New York Times reported that the move was likely intended to curry favor with Hispanic voters, and while it wasn’t popular with many conservatives, Bush did find a strong supporter in Newt Gingrich:
In an interview today, Newt Gingrich, the House speaker in 1996, said: “I strongly support the president’s initiative. In a law that has reduced welfare by more than 50 percent, this is one of the provisions that went too far. In retrospect, it was wrong. President Bush’s instincts are exactly right.”
Gingrich’s “food stamps” memo perversely tries to credit Congressional Republicans with job gains during the Clinton years, and to blame President Obama and Democrats for a recession that began under the Bush administration. His previous support for food stamps makes the attack even more befuddling.