The president has reveled in the declines in Americans receiving aid from several government programs in recent years, citing his economic policies as a catalyst.
President Trump likes to claim credit for the number of Americans who have stopped receiving food stamps since he entered office. In July 2018, he said 3.5 million had fallen from the rolls; the next spring, five million had. In his State of the Union speech this month, the number had grown to seven million.
Democrats say those figures only show Mr. Trump has pushed struggling Americans off public assistance by pressing to restrict eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid and other programs.
For now, the evidence supports Mr. Trump’s contention that an improving economy is more responsible for falling food stamp rolls than Mr. Trump’s attempts to limit access. Moving forward, however, Mr. Trump’s initiatives are poised to deny assistance to millions of Americans who would previously have been eligible.
“The decline in poverty levels since the end of the Great Recession has been the single largest factor in recent SNAP participation declines,” said Dottie Rosenbaum, a researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research organization in Washington. “This shows the program is working as designed.”
In an election year, when the strength of the economy promises to be the president’s main pitch to voters, how the decline in public assistance rolls is perceived may have political significance. Mr. Trump and his administration are casting his economic policies as a boon to low-income Americans, while Democrats are seeking to paint him as cruel to the poor.
“Under the last administration, more than 10 million people were added to the food stamp rolls,” the president said in his State of the Union address. “Under my administration, seven million Americans have come off food stamps, and 10 million people have been lifted off welfare.”
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