Morning Must Reads: Got No Evidence? No Problem Just Make It Up!

I hope you had a relaxing weekend.

The Philadelphia Daily News does an excellent job this morning laying out the facts about the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.

In what looks like a campaign to demonize the program, unceasing repetition — accompanied by an outlier anecdote or two about a few scammers — has strengthened the distortions. So here are a few facts:

The average household receiving food stamps had an average monthly income of $731, and that includes other government assistance like disability, Social Security and welfare cash assistance. According to CBO, three-quarters of households getting food stamps included a child, a person over 60 or a disabled person.

The food-stamp program is indeed bigger and more expensive than it has ever been: Last year, 45 million Americans got food stamps each month, costing the government $78 billion annually. But far from being "out of control," as the mythmakers would have it, the program has grown largely because there simply are more poor people because of the economic downturn in 2008.

About 20 percent of the increase came as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the financial stimulus, which makes sense: $1 worth of government spending generates $1.72 in economic activity. In Philadelphia, $61 million in food stamps per month spent by recipients adds $106 million to the local economy.

If allowed to continue, the food-stamp program would reduce on its own, according to CBO, falling significantly as the economy recovers. In five years, it would be back to 1997 levels. Interrupting that recovery, while at the same time increasing hunger and malnutrition, takes a special brand of myopia. Or malice.

Political scientists Terry Madonna and Michael Young have a column this morning questioning the intent of the Voter ID Law in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord has added his name to a letter urging corporations to add more women to their boards of directors. This is a good thing and hopefully will make corporate boards pay more attention to the diversity of their membership.

Buried deep in an article on pensions in the Scranton Times-Tribune is a little paragraph that doesn't get enough attention. School districts had been setting aside resources to help cope with rising pension contributions, but state budget cuts forced many to dip into those reserves, thus setting up years of trouble.

Knowing that the pension spike was coming, many districts started to save for it. But with deep cuts to education funding  about $1 billion statewide  in 2011-12 and no restoration of those funds for 2012-13, many districts dipped into their fund reserves.


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