Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) took to the floor of the House of Representatives this morning to address former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's recent custom of calling President Obama the "Food Stamp President."
Gingrich's insistence on repeating the racially-tinged charge has garnered significant outcry from minority and food assistance advocates, as well as support from fellow conservatives, who tout the increase of food stamp recipients under Obama as proof of Gingrich's claim.
Under President Obama, 14.2 million new recipients have been added to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
With a knowing smirk, and armed with statistics, Gutierrez worked to set the record straight -- maintaining that the real "food stamp presidents" are the two Bushes, George H.W. Bush and son George W. Bush, who jointly extended nutritional assistance to 18 million additional recipients at a cost of $36 billion dollars.
"It runs in the family," he said, "Food Stamp President senior and junior. It's hereditary -- a rampant family disease that makes them want to give food to poor people."
Gutierrez closed his statements by calling for non-partisan cooperation on the issue. "Hunger knows no race or religion or age or political party," he Guitierrez said. "Hunger is colorblind."
Below, please find the text of Rep. Gutierrez's presentation, as prepared for his delivery to the U.S. House of Representatives:
I have to admit that when Newt Gingrich first used the phrase "the food stamp President," I was outraged.
But then I started looking at the facts. I did my homework. I crunched the numbers.
And, I have to admit, "Food Stamp President" might be on target.
I think we have to be willing to understand the numbers and speak the truth, even when that truth might hurt.
So I've come to the floor today with some facts and figures -- all sourced, all backed up -- because I know that Newt Gingrich wouldn't have it any other way.
Let's learn about the "Food Stamp President." [SLIDE 1]
Here's fact one.
It shows clearly that the Food Stamp President increased spending on food stamps by more than $19 billion. Let me repeat that: under the food stamp President, the U.S. increased its spending on food stamps by more than 19 billion -- with a "b." The source is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [SLIDE 2]
Here's fact two:
Under the Food Stamp President, the number of people using the program increased by almost 11 million people. The source is the U.S.D.A. [SLIDE 3]
Here's fact three:
Even the amount of the benefit has increased under the Food Stamp President. The amount per benefit increased by $27.38.
Not much? Well how about this fact -- the twenty-seven bucks increase per benefit is the largest increase that occurred under any President in the last 30 years.
The source is the U.S.D.A. [SLIDE 4]
Let's review -- and let's agree, Republicans and Democrats together -- that the numbers don’t lie.
Under the food stamp President:
Spending increased by more than 19 billion.
The number of people using the program increased by nearly 11 million.
And the amount of the benefit increased by a historic amount.
We may not like the facts -- but sometimes the truth hurts. [SLIDE 5]
George W. Bush is the Food Stamp President.
Under Food Stamp President George Bush, we spent more money, had more recipients and gave each recipient more money for food.
I know some of you are saying: Luis, you’re not being fair! Aren't there other food stamp Presidents?
Yes, you’re right. [SLIDE 6]
Under yet another food stamp President, spending increased by more than nine billion dollars, the number of recipients increased by almost seven million and the amount of benefit increased by almost seventeen dollars. [SLIDE 7]
George Herbert Walker Bush was also the Food Stamp President.
It runs in the family.
Food Stamp President senior and junior. It's hereditary -- a rampant family disease that makes them want to give food to poor people.
Now, I have a confession to make today.
I support the food stamp program.
I think SNAP -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- to call it by its actual name and not something that Newt Gingrich thinks is politically punchy – serves an important purpose.
The purpose -- largely -- is to prevent children and old people from going hungry. About half of recipients are children. About ten percent are elderly.
SNAP doesn’t provide them with some fancy perk from an out of control, free-spending government. It provides poor kids and the elderly with food.
You cannot redeem food stamps at Tiffany's, which may be another reason I guess Newt Gingrich thinks they are bad.
But I think keeping Americans from being hungry is good.
And while I’ve never done it before on the floor of this house, I want to thank George Bush, junior and senior, for supporting a program that keeps Americans from going to bed hungry at night.
And just in case I'm wrong -- and if Newt Gingrich meant a "Food Stamp President" other than one named George Bush... Then I want to thank Barack Obama today as well, because he has also invested in SNAP. He's invested in nutrition for America’s most vulnerable.
And here's another fact for Newt Gingrich, just in case his "food stamp president" name-calling was designed to make a political point that he wasn't quite so willing to come right out and say:
Of recipients whose race we know, 22 percent of SNAP recipients are African-American. And 34 percent are white. Because hunger knows no race, or religion, or age or political party. Hunger is color-blind.
So today I say thank you to President Obama.
From now on, my nickname for you, President Obama, is "The 'In America, kids shouldn’t be hungry' President."