Krugman: Food Stamps Are the New Soup Kitchens

By Fred Lucas | January 16, 2013 | 10:23am EST

Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (AP Photo)

( – Liberal economist Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist, called food stamps the “soup kitchens of the modern depression,” at a time when federal spending on food stamps has climbed to a record $80.4 billion.

“We have in some ways made things more civilized, but also more invisible,” Krugman said Friday during an interview with Bill Moyers on “Moyers & Company” on PBS.

“Somebody said that food stamps are the soup kitchens of the modern Depression, that there are a lot of people who would be standing in line to get that soup who are instead – and it’s a good thing – who are instead getting – I guess now called SNAP Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, who are getting those debit cards and are getting essential food stuffs, and they’re at the grocery store and they look like anybody else,” Krugman said.

“But the fact of the matter is they are still as desperate. They are getting by day to day with aid of a trickle of government aid just like the people who are standing in line in the soup kitchens in the 30s, but they’re not visible,” Krugman continued. “We don’t have guys selling apples on the street corners, partly because city licensing wouldn’t allow that any more.

“But we do have—again we’ve got 4 million people who have been out of work for more than a year. The U.S. social system is not designed to take care of somebody who’s been out of work. We have unemployment insurance that’s intended to deal with short spells of unemployment. So there’s an enormous amount of misery, but it is mostly hidden,” Krugman said.

Spending on food stamps increased by $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2012 from the fiscal year 2011, when it was at $77.6 billion, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement. From fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2012, spending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by $24.8 billion.

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