(CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday strongly defended her party's support of the federal food stamp program - a day after former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich argued that GOP candidates should use the growing number of people on food stamps against Democrats on the campaign trail.
At a press conference in her home town of San Francisco, Pelosi explained that the program's multiplier effect –the amount of money generated in the local economy as the result of the subsidy– far exceeds the nearly $60 billion spent this year by the federal government and is a sure-fire way to stimulate the economy. For every dollar a person receives in food stamps, Pelosi said that $1.79 is put back into the economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture cites an even higher figure of $1.84.
"It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance. The biggest bang for the buck," she said.
Gingrich on Tuesday wrote a letter critical of the Democrats' stewardship of the economy and urged all Republican candidates to shape the political debate as one "between the Democratic Party of food stamps and the Republican Party of paychecks."
"It is an unassailable fact that in June, more food stamps were distributed by the government than ever before in American history. (It turns out that Barack Obama's idea of spreading the wealth around was spreading more food stamps around.)," wrote Gingrich.
The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 41.8 million in July and approximately one in eight Americans participate in the program, according to the USDA, with the average household subsidy receiving $294 a month.
Pelosi also chastised Gingrich for a political attack she believes is rooted in class warfare.
"There is some subliminal message that is being sent out there about us and them, meaning people who need food stamps and the rest of the country, which I think is an unfortunate course to go down," said Pelosi.