Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack talked to MSNBC yesterday and made a point about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program the right really didn’t like.

“I should point out that when you talk about the SNAP program, or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it’s also an economic stimulus,” Vilsack noted. “Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity. If people are able to buy a little bit more in the grocery store, then someone has got to stock it, shelve it, package it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It’s the most direct stimulus you can get into the economy during tough times.”

The cast of “Fox & Friends” was incensed by the very idea, telling viewers as part of their coverage this morning:

GRETCHEN CARLSON: Did you know that the food stamp program in America is actually an economic stimulus? We have spent more on food stamp program [sic] in the last couple of years than ever before in American history. More and more people are, unfortunately, using this program. But the spin of this program now is that actually people who are on food stamps stimulate the economy because every dollar generates $1.84 into the economy. You buy more groceries if you’re on food stamps. Do you buy that? Do you buy that as a stimulating part of the economy? […]

BRIAN KILMEADE: So if you give people money that they didn’t earn, and you tell them to go spend it on stuff they normally couldn’t afford, everyone is better off.

ERIC BOLLING: Can I say something very quickly? Jay Carney earlier this week or last week came out and said unemployment benefits are stimulus as well. This is — this is an administration that just doesn’t get it. It’s really — it’s socialism. They’re pointing right to being socialist. The more you give, the more you stimulate? No. Sorry.

I don’t understand why Republicans don’t understand. It’s true that Jay Carney said that unemployment benefits are an effective stimulus, but that’s only because unemployment benefits are an effective stimulus.

It’s tempting to take up a collection and offer remedial economic lessons to GOP media personalities.

Food stamps are an excellent stimulus. When it comes to bang for the buck — the amount of economic activity generated for every public dollar spent — they’re arguably one of the single most effective forms of government stimulus available, and are vastly more beneficial than tax cuts.

This isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky liberal rhetoric; this has been repeatedly documented. A March analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, “SNAP benefits are one of the fastest, most effective forms of economic stimulus because they get money into the economy quickly.” The director of the Congressional Budget Office agrees.

It just requires a little thought. People who receive food stamps aren’t sticking the money in a mattress or a money-market fund; they’re spending it and doing so immediately because — you guessed it — they want to eat This injects demand and capital into the economy quickly, helping the beneficiaries and stimulating the economy.

The “Fox & Friends” personalities heard the argument from Vilsack, but instead of responding with substance, they responded with incredulity — as if reality couldn’t possibly be true because it sounded weird to them.

There’s a very good reason Fox viewers seem so terribly confused so often; they get their “news” from folks who struggle with the basics of current events.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.