A recent column titled "Paychecks versus Food Stamps" by Rush Limbaugh is making waves across the United States. You may have read it. If not, you have probably seen or heard about Louisiana climbing to the top of a national list -- albeit a list where the bottom is the ideal place to be.
According to recent data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), our state has the third highest recipient rate of food stamps in the country, falling just below Tennessee and Mississippi. Not only is one in five Louisiana residents now on food stamps, but this number has risen 12.1 percent since last year.
Given the horrible year countless of our friends and neighbors have faced, in particular the impacts of the Gulf Coast oil spill, I understand why some of this increase occurred. However, this rational cannot explain away why this phenomenon is taking place across the country. Rather, the national 17.5 percentage increase is indicative of the sharp turn the government has taken since Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took control of the congressional reins.
The federal government's food stamp program, recently renamed the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" or SNAP, cost the nation approximately $56 billion in the first ten months of this fiscal year alone. When additional food stamp programs are added to the equation, this number reaches $78 billion.
According to the USDA, in June, the number of Americans given food stamps rose to 41.3 million -- the largest in American history. With the new fiscal year commencing this month, more than an eighth of the population will be on the food stamp roll.
Let's take a look back. In January 2007, unemployment was 4.6 percent and food stamp consummation was roughly 26.5 million Americans. Now look at today. The unemployment rate is 9.6 percent and food stamp usage is over forty million.
What a difference two years can make.
More alarming is that congressional leadership is poised to let the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire, triggering a $3.8 trillion tax increase -- another record in American history. This hike will affect nearly every hard-working American who pays income taxes.
Unfortunately, the majority in Congress and the president continue to push policies that increase taxes and add to the already out-of-control government spending. To continue down this reckless path, especially when approximately 15 million Americans remain unemployed, is unfathomable.
Republicans have made it clear they will continue to fight the Democrats' massive tax increases on families and small businesses. We must and can create stability for our nation's job creators, provide incentives for investment, and rein in out-of- control spending once and for all.
We have to ask ourselves about the future of America -- Do we want more individuals on food stamps? Or, would we rather have them on the payroll?