GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions: Food Stamps ‘Out of Control’

Sen. Sessions on Death of Gadhafi, Budget Talks

ABC News "Top Line"

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf ( @zbyronwolf) reports:

The number of Americans receiving federal aid for food has skyrocketed in recent years, partly from need and partly, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions, because of abuse.

Food stamps, he told ABC News’ “Top Line” today, are a symptom of a government run out of control.

“No program in our government has surged out of control more dramatically than food stamps,” said Sessions, R-Ala. “And now, nothing is being done at it, about it. Nobody is looking under the hood. It had doubled in the last three years. It had quadrupled from 20 billion to 80 billion in the last 10 years.

“When it started,” he said, “it was one in 50 people on the food stamp program. Now, it’s one in 7. Lottery winners, multimillion-dollar lottery winners are getting food stamps because that money is considered to be an asset, not an income.”

Read more here about a $2 million Michigan lottery winner on food stamps.

But for every lottery winner, there are many more of the 46 million Americans – 1 in 7 – who receive federal food aid who really need it. The numbers have, indeed, skyrocketed in recent  years, from 26 million to more than 46 million since the recession began.

Read government statistics on food insecurity.

We pointed out to Sessions that for every lottery winner abusing the food stamp system are families that likely need the help.

“Well, look, do you think there are four times as many people that need food stamps today as they did in 2001?” he asked. “This year, they are proposing another 14 percent increase in food stamps without any real reform to understand how it is that it surged so dramatically. We cannot do this. We don’t have the money. If Congress doesn’t understand that we can’t continue to double the food stamp program every three years, they don’t understand how deeply we are impacted by the debt. The debt is already pulling down economic growth, costing jobs. We need people working with jobs, not receiving food stamps.

Sessions wants to tighten restrictions on who can get food stamps and has proposed defeating a planned $9 billion increase to the program.

Revisit ABC’s Hunger at Home series from September.

Food stamps are only part of the problem. He’s concerned even that parts of the president’s jobs proposal that have bipartisan support – infrastructure spending, for instance, will simply add to the debt.

“I am very dubious about the idea of more debt,” Sessions said. “We’ve got to reduce our debt. The debt is a detriment, a blanket over the entire economy, and the more we dig that hole deeper the harder it is to get out of it.”

Sessions said he’d go even further than President Obama’s proposal for a payroll tax cut. Sessions argued the payroll tax, which is meant to fund Social Security, has been raided by big-spending Washington, which uses the cash from the payroll tax and puts IOUs in the trust fund.

“Wouldn’t it be great to totally eliminate the payroll tax?” he asked. “Wouldn’t it be great to do so? But this is the money that funds Social Security. … How do we keep the money in Social Security? The government borrows money to put into the Social Security trust fund to fill back the money that’s not paid in anymore or been reduced. So this is a dangerous trend, it weakens Social Security, it weakens a trust fund concept.  I don’t think we can continue. I wish we could. I really wish we had the money to be able to do that, but I’ve concluded we just can’t keep borrowing to spend.”

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