One in seven Americans is on food stamps. According to the left, this high rate of participation is part of what makes America exceptional. So boasts liberal political commentator Alan Colmes in Monday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed “How Democrats Made America Exceptional.”

Since the food stamps program began in the 1960s, the participation rate has soared from roughly one in 20 Americans to where it is today. Apparently, this is the liberal idea of progress.

And so anxious are they to make even greater strides that the Department of Agriculture was busily working to recruit more participants.

Today, the food stamps program is one of the largest and the fastest growing of the roughly 80 welfare programs funded by the federal government. Since 2000, spending has nearly quadrupled, with much of the growth taking place over the last four years. Since President Obama came to office, food stamps spending doubled from roughly $39 billion in 2008 to an estimated $85 billion in 2012.

As Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Kiki Bradley explain, part of the recent growth is due to policies that make it easier for individuals to enroll in food stamps. “Application loopholes that permit food stamp recipients to bypass income and asset tests” boost participation rates. The program “discourages work, rewards idleness, and promotes long-term dependence.”

Removing work requirements from the few welfare programs that contain them seems to be the Obama Administration’s method of operation. President Obama’s 2009 stimulus suspended the food stamps work requirement through September 2010, and his next two budgets attempted to maintain the suspension. Then, on July 12 his Administration announced it would begin waiving the work requirements that were the heart of the successful 1996 welfare reform law.

Personal responsibility and work are key American principles. Food stamps and other welfare programs should promote these principles by requiring all able-bodied recipients to work, prepare for work, or at least look for a job in order to receive assistance.