By James Simpson | Watchdog Arena
Following his State of the Union addresses, former President Ronald Reagan was routinely chided by the national press regarding his “rosy scenarios” projected for the economy and the federal budget. But at that time, our nation was experiencing an unprecedented economic boom and most of Reagan’s “rosy scenarios” were being realized. In contrast, Tuesday night, President Obama laid out a “rosy scenario” for the economy that was built on a bed of flagrant inaccuracies.
One cannot chalk this up to ignorance. Evidence of economic malaise is everywhere. The labor force participation rate is at its lowest since 1978. The unemployment rate has declined at least in part because so many people have given up looking for work that they are no longer counted in official unemployment statistics. Many more have been forced into part-time positions as employers seek to avoid heavy Obamacare costs.
Furthermore, marginal improvements in the economy have been fueled by the domestic oil boom, which Obama has fought tooth and nail. But food stamp utilization is perhaps the most blatant illustration of our still-sclerotic economy.
Now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(“SNAP”), in 2014, fully 46.5 million Americans were enrolled at a cost of $73.8 billion. For each of President Obama’s six full years in office, food stamp use has been higher than at any time in history—almost double its highest previous rates—and more people have been added to the rolls than during any other presidency.
Food stamp usage declined last year for the first time since Obama was elected, a meager 2 percent. The number of people on food stamps, however, remains over 18 million higher than during President Bush’s highest year, and 19.5 million higher than the previous record set in 1993. (See chart below).
These indicators are not the sign of an economic recovery; but rather an indication that the American economy has moved into a new normal—one of chronically high unemployment and welfare utilization.
Everything in Obama’s SOTU address promised more of the same. Obama said it was time to “turn the page.” As Dave Greenfield at Front Page Magazine quipped, “When everything on the last page looks so bad, then it’s time to turn the page…”
Despite his penchant for prevarication, Obama has his disciples. Like Obama, outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has set his sights on higher office, has built his reputation on fiction. When former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich left office in 2006, Maryland’s state budget stood at $25.8 billion. O’Malley claims he cut the budget to the bone, but in his eight years in office, it grew to $37.3 billion, an increase of 45 percent.
While claiming to champion “green” environmental policies, O’Malley repeatedly raided trust funds earmarked for Chesapeake Bay cleanup to the tune of at least $135 million since 2009. He doubled Maryland’s infamous “flush tax” to refill the fund, raided it again, and passed the uniformly unpopular “rain tax.” He also raided the highway trust fund repeatedly to the tune of $868 million between 2009 and 2011 alone, despite receiving $771 million in stimulus funds for infrastructure projects. When this wasn’t enough, he repaid trust funds by issuing new bonds. Maryland’s current structural budget deficit stands at $1.2 billion.
Despite the fact that Maryland floats on federal dollars more than any other state, between 2004 and 2012, Maryland’s food stamp utilization grew 162 percent– a rate exceeded by only three other states (See FGA SNAP document). Over 13 percent of Maryland’s population is currently using food stamps. In 2010, the depth of the recession, only 9.7 percent of Marylanders used food stamps. Most of this can likely be credited to Governor O’Malley’s sanctuary state policies.
Larry Hogan is the newly-elected governor of Maryland, only the third Republican elected to that position since 1960. Hogan has identified the cost of O’Malley policies. “Under O’Malley and [Lt. Gov. Anthony] Brown, Maryland has lost 8,000 businesses and unemployment has nearly doubled,” he said. “In fact, 26 percent of our manufacturing base, and with it 25,000 jobs, has disappeared. Today, Maryland is dead last in the nation in manufacturing.” In his inaugural address delivered on Wednesday, Hogan said, “Together, let’s make Maryland a place that we can all be proud of again.” He has his work cut out for him.
This article was written by contributors of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.