Hillary Clinton argued that expanding food stamps and other safety net programs is essential to fuel economic growth at a speech to General Electric executives, according to an excerpt of the transcript made public by WikilLeaks Friday.
“Economic growth will take off when people in the middle feel more secure again and start spending again,” Clinton said in her speech at General Electric’s Global Leadership Meeting in January, 2014.
The speech excerpt was part of 80 pages of transcripts from Clinton’s speeches at private business events that her campaign flagged as potentially damaging if released. The file, compiled by campaign researchers, was attached to an one of the leaked emails of John Podesta. (RELATED: Hillary’s Wall Street Speeches Revealed In Wikileaks Hack)
Clinton made the remarks while the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was debating reducing funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Giving people income assistance, like the food stamps program, would help the economy because families on food stamps will have more money to spend, Clinton argued. “We need to get back to Henry Ford paying his workers a high wage because he wanted people to buy his cars,” Clinton told the group, referring to Ford’s 1914 decision to double increase wages and bonuses for his employees. Ford’s decision to raise worker pay was also about retaining the best employees.
More than 43 million Americans currently receive SNAP benefits, and the government will pay about $45 billion in benefits this year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
Food stamps enrollment spiked in 2012 with nearly 48 million people enrolled in the program, but enrollment has slowly declined since. After the 2008 recession, President Barack Obama issued waivers to the work requirement, which allowed able-bodied adults without children to receive benefits without proving they were looking for a job. (RELATED: Dollar Stores Profits Dropping Because Fewer People Are On Food Stamps)
Dismissing the fact that “there’s always the instance where they find one guy somewhere who misused food stamps,” Clinton said the food stamps program is not just good for economic growth, but is also the compassionate thing to do. (RELATED: Millionaire Busted For Taking Food Stamps, Welfare)
“Are we so separate from each other that we don’t know that there are people who have a really tough time? Have we just walled ourselves off from those people and have no reason to understand or care about them?,” Clinton wondered.
Even in her neighborhood in Westchester County, N.Y. — where the average income individual income was $79,000 between 2002 and 2009 — Clinton said she saw “a lot of immigrants, a lot of, you know, people down on their luck use those food stamps just to try to get through the month.”