DeLauro defends food stamps–and Obama

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is the latest Democrat to publicly seethe at Newt Gingrich’s repeated characterization of President Obama as “the best food-stamp president in American history.”

“He’s demonizing people and demonizing a social safety net,” said DeLauro, 3rd District, at a news conference held by food stamp supporters Thursday.

She told the story of an East Haven woman who, after a divorce left her in financial straits, was forced to decide whether to use “a splash of milk” for her morning coffee or her child’s cereal.

“There is a reality out there,” DeLauro said. “There are some people today who are seeking the highest office in this land who don’t understand we have a responsibility to address (hunger) issues.”

DeLauro blamed the “free-wheeling economic policies” of the Bush administration for the surge in unemployment that led to a surge in the use of food stamps, a federal subsidy that helps the poor buy groceries.

Federal spending on food stamps has risen 46 percent since December 2008, a month before Obama took office, to an all-time high of $75.3 billion. Republicans say that’s too much money.

Gingrich’s “food-stamp president” comments have been criticized by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — who is in charge of the program — and a number of congressional Democrats.

Some say the “food-stamp president” charge has racial overtones. But Gingrich said the “paychecks vs. food stamps” comparison will continue to be a part of his campaign.