Tuesday, May 17, 2016


The current economic recovery is already longer than the postwar average, so it may be prudent to ask--is a recession lurking around the corner? While there’s no way to know, Congress could start preparing for one by strengthening the “automatic stabilizers” in the federal budget—programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance—that, without the need for action by Congress, expand when the economy is weak and contract when the economy begins to recover.

When the last recession hit, Congressional action was needed to increase SNAP’s maximum monthly food benefit by about $63 a month for a family of three, and that boost was only temporary.  In addition to raising consumer demand, this benefit expansion reduced hunger, and it kept nearly a million people out of poverty in 2010. If Congress doesn’t act before the next recession, it will again be pressured to enact a temporary benefit increase, which may not take effect in time. Instead, Congress could enhance SNAP now to ensure that an expansion kicks in automatically when certain economic indicators are breached. Its size should be tied to the severity of the downturn, and the increase would phase out once things improved.

Source: New York Times, 4/29/16, The Next Recession