On Tuesday, Fox News revisited its longstanding disgust for poor people with what appeared to be a simple question: “Food stamp fraud is at an all-time high. Is it time to end the program?” Their onscreen graphic cited “2016 USDA” as the source of this information. However, according to the Department of Agriculture website, the most recent data available is from 2015.
In fiscal year 2016, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) is expected to cost about $70.8 billion. If Fox News’ claim of $70 million in waste is correct, that would still mean that less than one-tenth of one percent of SNAP dollars are spent fraudulently. SNAP overall comprises about 0.1 percent of the federal budget. Compared to the $125 billion of waste that the Department of Defense recently tried to cover up, that figure appears even more microscopic.
SNAP usage overall is actually down to its lowest levels since 2011, and current program costs are slightly higher than they were in 2010. In spite of the prevailing conservative narrative, SNAP is not a wasteful program.
As ThinkProgress reported in 2013, the program doesn’t even reach millions of people who qualify for it, because they get caught up in red tape. If there is waste in relation to SNAP and other government assistance programs, it comes not in the form of the recipients abusing the system, but in the form of state governments subjecting citizens to unnecessary drug tests and other bureaucratic measures that yield few results.
The Department of Agriculture has asked Fox News to issue a correction. “We are not quite sure where this came from,” a Department of Agriculture spokesperson told the Washington Post. “We saw that there was [a] story on Breitbart. We have not issued a report on this recently. There is no new rate that we’ve published. So we’re not quite sure why they’re so interested in stirring this up.”
This piece was updated to reflect the Department of Agriculture’s response.