Political pragmatism

Of all the arguments in favor of putting a food stamp provision into the stimulus package, rather than a cash transfer, possibly the most bizarre is "Well, it is perhaps less than ideal, but it was the only way we could get it passed."

You may have noticed that it didn't, in fact, pass. Politically, increasing food stamps has been exactly as successful as increasing cash transfers, which is to say, not at all.

In fact, the EITC is the only major program for the poor that has been expanded in the last ten years--and yes, that last expansion would be in 2001, under President George W. Bush.

Update I stand corrected: the farm bill expanded food stamps in 2002. The larger point stands: there's no reason to think that cash transfers are politically impossible, because they self-evidently aren't; and trying to use food stamps to funnel money, however inefficiently, to the poor, clearly failed in this instance.