Last month was busy so I missed the story about a woman who tried to buy an iPad with her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program card (read Food Stamps).
Not only did this woman try to buy the iPads but when her card was declined she went to another store to try again. (Let’s give her points for the old adage: If at first you don’t succeed…) You can watch the clip below:
Okay, so most people don’t try to abuse the government’s food assistance program, but we see these stories way too often.
What happened to a program that started out with such good intentions?
Most readers may not know the history of the food stamp program. Here’s a short and sweet version (you can read the Wikipedia description here.)
Following the heels of the Great Depression our government wanted to get farm surpluses to the hungry inner city people. Those needing government assistance could get food stamps which allowed them to ‘purchase’ a 50-50 mix of both government surplus foods and regular groceries. Interestingly, the program ended when the widespread unemployment dropped in 1943. (A government program that ended itself? My, how times have changed.)
When the program returned in the ‘60’s the farm surplus component was removed. In the years following eligibility requirements were lessened, nutritional standards disallowed, and somewhere along the line the government decided it might hurt the feelings of individuals to accept assistance so the program changed its name and offered debit cards in place of the shameful food stamps.
President Obama, in his 2009 stimulus package, allowed for further expansion of the program with increased eligibility and each month in 2012 the number of recipients reached record levels. Today about 47Million Americans participate in this program. (There are about 307Million total in the US–so about 1 in 6.)
A far cry from helping the inner city poor receive farm surpluses in the original program.
An interesting note: When researching the statistics, a University of Maryland study showed that for every dollar received in food stamps only 17-47 cents was actually added to the food expenditures in families. Instead much of the ‘money’ collected by the family went to Income Maintenance; that is money that households are able to spend on other things because they no longer have to spend it on food.
So there you have it. What started as a simple plan to get farmers’ surplus to the hungry people has turned into another example of government run amok. Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps. Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.
Without requiring nutritional standards food stamp recipients are allowed to buy more expensive prepackaged, prepared and/or junk foods. The amount of actual money that goes to put more food on the table is actually a fraction of what is received; people would rather reduce their grocery money and use the program to increase their income. Additionally, continued government assistance has created additional dependency on what should be a short term program, just for emergency aid.
Many of my friends are fed up. They watch the woman in line buy roast and seafood using her EBT card and then pay cash for her cigarettes and beer while they buy chicken because that’s all the budget allows. They buy bags of dried beans or peas cooking them up with the leftover ham bone to provide a nutritional yet inexpensive meal while they tell the kids ‘no chips this week’ because they’re saving to buy a new television while the neighbor brags how his girlfriend gets enough food stamps so they were able to buy a big screen TV last month and he can watch all the cable football games.
Maybe we need to return to the original program. Maybe we need to make some changes. The other day a friend offered the following suggestions:
- Restrict food stamps to nutritional only foods; nothing with high sugar, salt or fat content
- Only certain meat/proteins qualify; none of this lobster and prime rib…eat chicken like the rest of us
- Give more value for fresh foods and produce (Former governor Mike Huckabee proposed a variable rate plan ie., if a person on food stamps bought fresh fruits or vegetables, $1 in food stamps could buy $1.25 in fresh produce. However, if the same person purchased a candy bar, that $1 would be worth .75.)
- Give the government surplus foods directly to recipients and reduce the amount of grocery dollars. This program is not meant to replace income. While helping at a local food bank my nephew asked, “Aren’t these people poor?” After hearing the affirmative he replied, “Then why do so many have iPhones? I can’t afford an iPhone.”
- Give each family a crockpot and recipes. Require recipients to attend cooking classes.
If your pride gets in the way and you don’t want to participate good. The safety nets in place were meant to help the disabled, elderly and infirm and for those in short term need. Not to be a lifestyle choice. We don’t need to wait for the government to take care of us.
Idealistic proposals with the government caring for all our needs is indeed where the frightening New World Order conspiracy ideas arise. This country was not built by the people being dependent on the government, to the contrary. We must find a way to stop this growing dependency on the government.