In an ideal policy world, would food stamps exist as a program separate from cash transfers? Probably not. But as it stands today, they are still one of the more efficient programs of the welfare state and the means-testing seems to work relatively well. And giving people food stamps — since almost everyone buys food — is almost as flexible as giving them cash. It doesn’t make sense to go after food stamps, and you can read the recent GOP push here as a sign of weakness, namely that they, beyond upholding the sequester, are unwilling to tackle the more important and more wasteful targets, including Medicare and also defense spending, not to mention farm subsidies. Here are a few basic numbers on when food stamps have grown and what has driven that growth. It has not become a “problem program” in the way that say disability has.