Missouri Republican Wants To Ban Food Stamp Recipients From Buying “Luxury” Food

One Missouri legislator is going on a crusade against a "problem" that may not actually exist.

Food Costs

Republican legislators in Missouri are pushing a bill that would prevent people receiving assistance under the SNAP program, which is still popularly known as “food stamps” even though they don’t use stamps anymore, from purchasing so-called “luxury” food items:

A Republican state lawmaker in Missouri is pushing for legislation that would stop people like Greenslate and severely limit what food stamp recipients can buy. The bill being proposed would ban the purchase with food stamps of “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak.”

“The intention of the bill is to get the food stamp program back to its original intent, which is nutrition assistance,” said Rick Brattin, the representative who is sponsoring the proposed legislation.

Curbing food stamp purchases of cookies, chips, energy drinks, and soft drinks at least falls in line with the food stamp program’s mission to provide nutrition. Nutrition experts are already discussing whether to remove unhealthy items from the list of foods participants can buy.

But seafood and steak? Seafood has been shown, time and again, to be a healthy part of any diet. And steak is such a broad category that it’s essentially banning people from buying any flat cuts of beef, from porterhouse to flank.

“It just seems really repressive,” said Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University and author of the book Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America. “I don’t see how it makes any sense to ban some of these foods. Fish is something that should really be in your diet. And steak, what does that mean in this context?”

Brattin admits that the language might need some tweaking. “My intention wasn’t to get rid of canned tuna and fish sticks,” he said. But he also insists that people are abusing the system by purchasing luxury foods, and believes that that must be stopped, even if it ends up requiring the inclusion of other less luxurious items.

“I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards,” he said. “When I can’t afford it on my pay, I don’t want people on the taxpayer’s dime to afford those kinds of foods either.”

This is nothing new, of course. Republicans have been railing against so-called “welfare queens” supposedly living in luxury while receiving government assistance since the Reagan years, after all. Aside from some anecdotal evidence, though, it’s never been established that the number of people who have managed to find a way to game the welfare system in such a way that they end up living some kind of luxury is a common enough occurrence that one needs to develop policy to address it. Indeed, the problem is likely so minimal that the budgetary savings from any initiative to deal with it would be infinitesimal compared to other items that the government spends money on. This particular problem, which basically involves people on the SNAP program using their EBT guard to purchase “luxury” foods is one that seems to be so small that it’s not even worth paying attention to as a budgetary matter. As a political matter, of course, it plays into the generally disdainful attitude that many people seem to have regarding anyone on government assistance, an attitude that has survived notwithstanding both the existence of the welfare reforms of the 1990s that require recipients to at least take some steps toward obtaining employment and the fact that one of the most visible effects of the great Great Recession was unemployed people with families suddenly needing things like the SNAP program in order to be able to feed their families. Instead of “welfare queens,” though, today’s boogeyman of choice is apparently the SNAP recipient using their EBT card to buy filet mignon and lobster.

There are already restrictions on what SNAP funds can be used for, of course. Generally speaking, they can’t be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco, nor can they be used to purchase the wide variety of ready-to-eat foods that one finds in grocery stores today. In recent years, there has been some discussion from public health advocates about further restricting the use of these benefits in an effort to give lower income people incentives to purchase healthier foods, an effort not dissimilar to the First Lady’s campaign for healthier school lunches. That campaign, of course, has been the subject of widespread derision on the right, so it’s somewhat ironic that at least some Republicans are now essentially advocating the exact same thing when it comes to people receiving food assistance based largely on anecdotal reports and what seems like a deep-seated public resentment toward the poor.

As The Huffington Post’s Andrew Delany notes, going after the SNAP recipient supposedly buying luxury food isn’t new for the GOP, and it isn’t limited to Missouri:

Janina Riley noticed a woman muttering behind her in the checkout line as she paid for food at a Giant Eagle grocery store in Pittsburgh last April.

“I can’t believe she’s buying that big-ass cake with food stamps,” the woman said, according to Riley.

Riley, 19, had just used a government-issued debit card to pay for most of her groceries, which included a cake for her son that said “Happy First Birthday Xavier” in a theme from the movie “Cars.” She glared at the women for a second, then decided to confront her.

“I was just like, ‘Shut the fuck up,'” Riley said. “You don’t know what I’m doing with these food stamps.”

But many Americans do not want to let people on food stamps eat cake. This sentiment is particularly prevalent among conservatives in Congress. Cash register resentment of the sort directed at Riley feeds Republican animus toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

It’s a petty path toward a huge target: As SNAP enrollment has surged to nearly 50 million in the wake of the Great Recession, the program’s annual cost has more than doubled to $80 billion. Republicans want to shrink those numbers, but they missed their best chance in June, when a trillion-dollar farm bill failed in the House of Representatives, after the GOP sought deeper cuts than Democrats would accept.

Following the vote, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) got to work telling a familiar story, one he said he’d heard many times from broken-hearted and angry constituents. Its protagonist is a hardworking Texan waiting in line at the grocery store. Someone’s buying Alaskan king crab legs in front of him, and he’s looking at them longingly, dreaming of the day he can afford such a luxury. Then the person buying them whips out his EBT — an Electronic Benefits Transfer card for food stamps.

“He looks at the king crab legs and looks at his ground meat and realizes,” Gohmert said, “because he does pay income tax … he is actually helping pay for the king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself.”

And that’s how cash register resentment becomes crabby conservatism — the belief that your own struggles are tangled up in another person’s safety net.

It’s probably smart politics to the extent that stuff like this likely appeals to the Republican base, and to some extent to average Americans who hear an anecdote about SNAP recipients eating King Crab Legs and think it’s a common phenomenon. Economically, though, it makes almost no sense at all, and it certainly does absolutely nothing to fix the real problems with the SNAP program, the reasons people find themselves required to get food stamps to begin with, or the even larger problems of government spending and debt.

FILED UNDER: Deficit and Debt, Economics and Business, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Um–Doug: “pubic”?

    …what seems like a deep-seated pubic resentment toward the poor.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Missouri takes $1.29 from Washington for every $1.00 it sends in taxes.
    Perhaps this mis-guided State Representative ought to worry about what his constituents hired him for…boosting the economy of his state. Then maybe a few less Missourians would be on welfare to begin with.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    One Missouri legislator is going on a crusade against a “problem” that may not actually exist.

    Hey, why not. Seems to be the thing to do on the R side these days.

  4. @grumpy realist:

    Yea, I know Fixed

  5. Gavrilo says:

    Always nice to get the (small L) libertarian perspective.

  6. DrDaveT says:

    And they should only wear gray clothing. And only sing sad songs and hymns, if they must sing. AND NO DANCING! CUT THAT RIGHT OUT!

    This “ashamed to be an American” moment has been brought to you by the Grand Old Party and the voters of the State of Missouri.

    (BTW, if you have a real job and can never afford to buy king crab legs, the problem is almost certainly the way you’ve pissed away the money you make on other luxuries. Do you know how many crab legs you can buy for the price of one pair of cool athletic shoes? I’d be willing to come over to your house and sell off all the things you and your kids don’t really need…)

  7. Ken says:

    This is just more of the same. Angry wingnuts doing everything in their power to solve a problem that doesn’t exist by making life difficult and miserable for the poorest, weakest, most vulnerable members of society, all the while telling us that it is simply to protect us from those lazy shiftless moochers. If they thought they could get away with it, they would gladly abolish the program entirely, making tens of millions deserving people go hungry to prevent a miniscule fraction of them from “taking advantage” of the system and getting something they “don’t deserve”

    An interesting story directly related to this subject: “Yes, I buy ice cream with my food stamps”

  8. Scott F. says:

    Getting Republicans pissed about $10 dollars spent on a 1/3 lb. of king crab legs serves to distract them from the $10 BILLION dollars wasted on St. Ronnie’s pipe dream.

  9. Mikey says:

    Yeah, because an EBT card is literally a bottomless pit of taxpayer money. Those lazy poors could buy surf and turf dinners for a month just because I pay income taxes!

    Well, actually, the average food stamp benefit per participant in the U. S. is about $133 per month. Now take your family of four to the grocery store and see how far that goes. I guarantee you’re not filling your cart with filet mignon and king crab legs, or if you are, you’ve been eating ramen soup the rest of the week.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: I certainly wish that those who get into a tizzy over all this should try to live with their families just on what they could get with their monthly quota of food stamps.

    It would have been far more “Christian” (which I’m sure the complainer claims she is) to slip the woman with the cake $20 for a gift for her son.

  11. Tyrell says:

    Besides being healthier, crab legs’ cost will not leave any money left over for…Twinkies !

  12. Mikey says:

    Here’s where this kind of garbage comes from.

    Person A sees Person B in the store buying something A considers a “luxury item” with an EBT card. They draw inferences. The inferences aren’t based on anything legitimate–there’s no way A knows even the most insignificant information about B’s situation. No, the inferences are based in prejudices, and the prejudices are supported on a foundation of bigotry. And I’m not talking entirely racial prejudice here, although that can certainly be part of it. There’s plenty of classist prejudice as well, an automatic conclusion anyone on public assistance is a lazy dole-rider who’s only too happy to eat the bread of those who’ve made “better choices” in life.

    It’s easy to look into someone’s shopping cart and pass simplistic judgment based on what you think you know. It’s hard to have some empathy and understand their situation is quite likely immeasurably more difficult than your own.

  13. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It would have been far more “Christian” (which I’m sure the complainer claims she is) to slip the woman with the cake $20 for a gift for her son.

    One thing I learned long ago: most Christians aren’t in it for the charity. They want to claim the mantle of God as the ultimate judge of who gets roasted.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Missouri is number 17 of states ranked by food stamp participation rates…at 15.6%. That’s one in every 6.4 people on food stamps.
    Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana is 6th at 19.3% of the population. That’s one in every 5.2 people.
    These Red States are failing their citizens…and the problem is not people buying seafood or steak…it’s Republican bullshit.

  15. Paludicola says:

    There seem to be some obvious, motivated prejudices in perception of food stamp purchases. If I were to go on my own anecdotal observations, I’d think that people were using food stamps to buy nothing but vegetables and sometimes eggs. Of course, that annoys me, because I’ll be standing with nothing but a bag of lemons behind a woman buying three bags full of fruits and vegetables with an EBT card.

    See, there’s always a way to hate the poor. You just have to look very hard in self-serving ways.

  16. Tyrell says:

    @Mikey: When I am in line I am not preoccupied with what someone in front of has in their cart. My attention is on the magazines (“Cosmopolitan”), and the latest candy bar flavors – incredible how fast they come out with new ones. My main concern is that they: don’t pull out their checkbook and try to write a check(an extra ten minutes), or the inevitable item without a price (that will cost you an extra 15 minutes for them to round up the clerk in the shoe dept for a price check).

  17. An Interested Party says:

    But he also insists that people are abusing the system by purchasing luxury foods…

    How, exactly, are people “abusing” the system by purchasing “luxury” foods? Perhaps they should be restricted to only purchasing all the Ramen noodles they can fill their cart with…meanwhile, why aren’t these same busybodies railing against how those who are wealthy and get government aid of some kind are spending their money, some of which comes from other taxpayers…

  18. Scott says:

    I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT card

    I doubt it. I think this guy is lying and should be called out for being a liar.

  19. Franklin says:

    Apparently these Missouri Republicans think that waging a War on Poverty means to attack the poor.

    BTW, and this is veering off topic, but I no longer consider potato chips to be particularly bad for you. They’re certainly not good, of course, but that’s mostly because of the carcinogenic acrylamide that gets created when starchy foods get cooked, particularly at high heat. But we now know that fat (even saturated fat) isn’t really that bad for you, and the potassium in the potatoes largely cancels out the sodium. As long as you don’t eat a whole bag, they’re not going to kill you (until the cancer sets in).

  20. al-Ameda says:

    Probably in the domain of urban myth, but it plays well with angry white people.

    Frankly I’d be more upset if I saw a food stamp recipient buying Twinkies and Mountain Dew than a good cut of meat.

    Jesus had the same complain bout poor people – they ate too well.

  21. J-Dub says:

    Every time I see a stealth bomber fly by I think “that’s a lot of crab legs”.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    @Franklin:
    It’s not just Mussouri.
    Paul Ryan’s idea to fight poverty is to kick everyone off welfare and privatize SS and Medicare and Medicaid so people learn to take care if themselves.
    Apparently he thought this up while going to college on his father SS survivor benefits.

  23. Scott says:

    @Scott: One thing that has occurred to me is this: If this state lawmaker actually saw someone using food stamps, would he not, as the representative, go up and introduce himself and find out about this person along with their wants and needs? Would not that be constituent services?

    Another reaon I think it is BS.

  24. heather says:

    This is ridiculous even if they are buying “luxury foods” they are going to be going without for the rest of the month for that one meal. They don’t even give you enough food stamps to last you a whole month especially if you use them like the republicans are claiming. And just because your on food stamps don’t mean that you don’t pay taxes. They give food stamps to people who can’t afford food after paying rent and electric and all their other bills. So its not just THEIR taxes being used its the people who receive foodstamps taxes as well!

  25. de stijl says:

    Do you know why Young Bucks and Welfare Queens buy filet mignon, King Crab legs, and lobster tails with food stamps and then drive off in their Cadillacs?

    Because the Southern Strategy proved that this is a reliable way to psychologically motivate down-scale and middle-class white voters to vote Republican.

  26. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell actually raises a pretty good point. If the worry of a politician is “abuse” in the form of high-value foods, the eventual drive to lowest common denominator will mean that twinkies, frozen pre-cooked food, chips, etc are all that can be afforded. That leads to higher obesity rates, and if the person is on food stamps I’m sure they aren’t paying for their own insurance, so that’s a new cost to the system. Higher obesity means more people out of work, so total tax revenue goes down. Less revenue means politicians will look to make cuts, and you know what we could cut? Those food stamps those damn poor people are abusing…

    Want to reduce obesity and make sure food stamps are being used for the healthiest items? Instead of banning items you don’t want them to use it on, make the really good items cost less. Food stamps get a 50% bonus on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and your staples (flour, oats, eggs, milk, etc.). You’d encourage healthy eating, you’d free up more disposable income (a key factor in moving out of welfare), and instill good shopping habits. Even better? Make it count double at farmers markets. Now you have all of the above benefits, and your local farmers are being supported.

  27. C. Clavin says:

    @James P:
    Dude…shouldn’t you be studying for your GED?

  28. Hal_10000 says:

    There are also efforts to ban using food stamps for junk food to deal with the mythical food deserts. I think WIC is already being used for that. It was only a matter of time until this happened.

  29. Gromitt Gunn says:

    What an ass.

  30. bill says:

    there’s not a whole lotta talk about the price of food these days, they’re at record levels. sure, these attacks on the food stamp crowd do raise some eyebrows but how can we justify keeping so many people on the partial dole? we are after all the fattest country on the globe.

  31. Tillman says:

    @Tyrell: Yes! Pay for your crab legs in food stamps! The hundredth of a cent that cost me in taxes is preferable to waiting for some diehard to write a check!

  32. CB says:

    @J-Dub:

    Every time I see a stealth bomber fly by I think “that’s a lot of crab legs”.

    Wait, how do you see them?

    @Tyrell:

    And Tyrell, good buddy, at this point I’d kill to know which regular is behind you. The new candy bar flavors bit was amazing.

  33. anjin-san says:

    I’m pretty sure these cats think any food for poor people is a luxury…

  34. Tony W says:

    Something about the log in his own eye….

  35. de stijl says:

    @Tillman:

    Pay for your crab legs in food stamps! The hundredth of a cent that cost me in taxes is preferable to waiting for some diehard to write a check!

    Tillman, Shaming the poors is a long, honored and traditional American pastime. Don’t you dare try to upend civilized civilization by giving succor to the poors! Empathy, sympathy, and decency are tools of the anti-religious Left employed as a direct mockery of Christ’s eternal teachings of Boot-Strappery and I Got Mine, Eff You.

    Give those whores and those brats a tuppence and, by tomorrow, they’ll be mocking God by eating animal protein and drinking potable water!

  36. Ken says:

    @James P: he only reason we have Food Stamps is because the Democrat party wants to foster dependence on government in order to buy votes.

    Now you’re just phoning it in – you could easily have included “Democrats are the real racists” and a line or two about “Obamaphones” .

    It’s sad, really – in my day, trolling meant something

  37. Paul Hooson says:

    I think that most hungry persons want their Food Stamps to go as far as possible and last all month. Few persons would want to have nothing to eat for a few days near the end of the month. I think poor and hungry people want their money to go as far as possible. What should be eliminated is the cash card version of Food Stamps, which allow debit account cash to be used for beer and cigarettes, which normal Food Stamp(actually SNAP)cards do not allow.

  38. jd says:

    Notice that we can’t stand people using EBT to purchase ‘luxury’ food *or* ‘junk’ food. Clearly you’d never be able to satisfy all the haters. By the way, high-fat foods like Twinkies are the survival item of choice when you don’t have enough. It’s all about finding enough calories to keep the machine going.

  39. rodney dill says:

    It’s sort of self policing. The more ‘expensive’ luxury items you buy, the less you can actually buy. The only problem is those with more welfare than the actually deserve, but that is a different problem and there are probably better ways (or at least other ways that should be employed) to catch the cheaters.

    I’m not sure of a good way to ‘ban’ welfare dollars being spent on junk food and soda, unless you want to pass a law against ‘making bad decisions.’

  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    This guy’s a freaking idiot.

    A better move would be to limit food stamps to foods that make the cut in Michelle Obama’s school lunch plans. After all, in both cases we’re dealing with food bought with public money, for people who can’t be trusted to make their own choices and be responsible for themselves.

  41. rodney dill says:

    @CB:

    @J-Dub:

    Every time I see a stealth bomber fly by I think “that’s a lot of crab legs”.

    Wait, how do you see them?

    Obviously the use of crab legs as landing gear gives them away.

  42. gVOR08 says:

    @Tillman: Actually I don’t mind checks per se, but is there some XY chromosome thing that makes it impossible for a woman to even pull out her checkbook until the last item is rung up and bagged?

  43. Grumpy Realist says:

    @gVOR08: if other women’s purses are like mine it’s the problem of FINDING the checkbook…

  44. James Joyner says:

    Clearly, this guy is an assclown. But there’s actually a good reason to care about people buying “luxury” goods with these cards. Namely, that, if it’s truly the only way they have to pay for food for their children, eating “luxury” food likely means that they’re not going to have enough money to actually feed their kids for the whole month.

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: Women have the XX chromosome.

  46. gVOR08 says:

    Even poor people are entitled to an occasional celebration or indulgence, or even just lapse. I’d want to see more than anecdotal evidence before worrying about it.

  47. C. Clavin says:

    @rodney dill:

    unless you want to pass a law against ‘making bad decisions.’

    Awesome idea…we could arrest all Republicans.

  48. C. Clavin says:

    This chump should focus his efforts on corporations like Walmart…which benefits from the $6.2B we have to give their workers in food stamps and other help because Walmart doesn’t pay its employees a living wage. MacDonalds and other fast-food outlets get over $7B in order to under-pay their people (and this doesn’t include the health care costs associated with the garbage they serve).
    This is one of the biggest problems with Republicans. They are stupid so, as a result, they can only focus on stupid. How else do you explain guys like this who, I am quite positive, is against raising the minimum wage but is A-OK with these massive levels of corporate welfare?
    Someone who works 40 hours a week at minimum wage makes $15,000+/- a year. At least 2/3rds of minimum wage workers are are adults; more than 1/4 of them are raising children.
    Median income in the US is $40,000+/- a year.
    The U.S. poverty level is $24,000+/-.
    If the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour these workers would be taken off the public dole…and your Big Mac would cost $1 more than it does now.
    Republicans abject inability to understand even the most basic economics is killing us. People like this guy in Missouri need to be put out to pasture and someone with 1/2 a brain needs to take his place.

  49. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “But there’s actually a good reason to care about people buying “luxury” goods with these cards. Namely, that, if it’s truly the only way they have to pay for food for their children, eating “luxury” food likely means that they’re not going to have enough money to actually feed their kids for the whole month.”

    Amazing how those in the party that constantly complains about a “nanny state” believe that the government should make all the decisions for poor people lest they make the wrong one.

  50. J-Dub says:

    @CB:

    Every time I see a stealth bomber fly by I think “that’s a lot of crab legs”.

    Wait, how do you see them?

    Well, they weren’t exactly hiding. I’ve seen them do two flyovers at The Preakness. Come to think of it, those flyovers are probably wicked expensive themselves.

  51. dmhlt says:

    From the USDA, studies show that restrictions on the types of food purchased had no impact on the nutritional choices of SNAP participants.

    And it also showed that SNAP participants actually consume LESS salty and sweet snacks compared to higher-income people.

    For example, food stamp recipients are no more likely to consume soft drinks than are higher-income individuals, and are less likely to consume sweets and salty snacks.

    [Emphasis NOT added]
    http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/arra/FSPFoodRestrictions.pdf

    Those studies DO suggest that incentives to purchase “healthier” foods have worked. For example, providing “coupons” that would double the purchasing power when selecting vegetables or fruits.

  52. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Namely, that, if it’s truly the only way they have to pay for food for their children, eating “luxury” food likely means that they’re not going to have enough money to actually feed their kids for the whole month.

    Even assuming that’s true, to solve that problem you’d have to either (a) vastly increase the amount of money given to EBT recipients so that they can actually afford the occassional indulgence beyond the present-day starvation level, or (b) have a government bureacracy monitor and control the food the poor can buy.

    Which one is the preferred small-government solution?

  53. James Joyner says:

    @wr:

    Amazing how those in the party that constantly complains about a “nanny state” believe that the government should make all the decisions for poor people lest they make the wrong one.

    I presume there are studies on these matters and we should set policy based on them. But it doesn’t strike me as overly intrusive to dictate how people spend money given to them by the taxpayers to feed their kids.

    If I’m traveling on the government dime, I’m not only limited on how much I can spend for food or lodging but prohibited from spending taxpayer money on certain items even within that limit. I can’t buy alcohol, for example. So, if I want a glass of wine or a beer with my dinner, I have to pay for that out of pocket.

  54. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Ok–but to be consistent, this should hold for ANYONE who gets government ca$h, not just for the poor.

    Including all our Congresscritters.

  55. An Interested Pary says:

    but how can we justify keeping so many people on the partial dole? we are after all the fattest country on the globe.

    Umm, probably because those people actually need the help to make ends meet? As for being the fattest country on the globe, perhaps the government should get out of the business of subsidizing certain crops like corn that lead to the production of noxious substances like high fructose corn syrup…

  56. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    have a government bureacracy monitor and control the food the poor can buy.

    My understanding is that we’ve long done this and that it’s now automated. You can’t, for example, by Oreo cookies or prepared foods with the card. It’s not merely prohibited; you simply can’t do it systemically. Presumably, you could limit the price-per-pound or item description or whathaveyou.

    Again,I’m not convinced this is a sufficiently widespread problem to require a solution. I’m just saying I don’t reject out of hand the notion that we might want to set limits on how people spend money we give them to ensure their kids get adequate nutrition. That’s inherently a Big Government issue.

  57. C. Clavin says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Including Executives of fossil fuel industries, defense contractors, and other recipients of massive corporate welfare.

  58. Franklin says:

    @James Joyner:
    What you guys are really debating is whether poor people should be sponsored for their occasional treat (a birthday cake, a soda, chips, etc.). The arguments made in favor of this haven’t necessarily convinced me. The program is for getting kids proper nutrition, right? Perhaps if it were adjusted so that there were two accounts – one for proper nutrition and then an extra 10% bonus card for treats, that would make everybody happy? But on the other hand, is there any evidence it is being significantly abused like this currently?

  59. Franklin says:

    @C. Clavin: Believe me, I agree with you and grumpy realist on that point. There are many cases where government money comes with strings attached, but not nearly enough.

  60. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Joyner:

    You can’t, for example, by Oreo cookies or prepared foods with the card. It’s not merely prohibited; you simply can’t do it systemically.

    It may vary from state to state, but I don’t think that’s true. At least when i was on SNAP as an Americorps member, I could buy cookies, cakes, etc. WIC, on the other hand, has very strict limits on what can be purchased (although even then you should see some of the things that are snuck in as “healthy.” (I’m looking at you, breakfast cereals.) Only alchohol and non food items (cigs) were prohibitied.

  61. James Joyner says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Ah. I may be confusing the two programs, in that I think of SNAP as the follow-on to WIC.

    @grumpy realist: Well, no. Or, rather, it depends. Again, there are restrictions on how I can spend government funds if I’m running a conference, traveling for work, etc. But, no, I’m not and shouldn’t be restricted in how I spend my salary.

    Similarly, while we have restrictions on how people spend food assistance we don’t have restrictions on how they spend monthly “welfare” checks.

  62. C. Clavin says:
  63. wr says:

    @James Joyner: I understand the intent. But what you’re arguing for is stripping away any agency from poor people, telling them that they are not able or even worthy to make their own decisions, and that as long as the American people, in their infinite generosity, are willing to give them $166 a month, they will have to spend it only on those items that we decide fits their dietary needs this week.

    It’s one thing to forbid alchohol or tobacco products — and that’s the case already. Because these are not food.

    But what you’re suggesting is that the government simply strip “welfare” recipients of any control over their own lives and constantly telling them they’re not qualified to make even the most basic decisions. Is that really worth over the risk of a handful of individuals making bad choices?

  64. Ken says:

    @James Joyner: Again,I’m not convinced this is a sufficiently widespread problem to require a solution. I’m just saying I don’t reject out of hand the notion that we might want to set limits on how people spend money we give them to ensure their kids get adequate nutrition

    That’s the thing – we do set limits.

    Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:
    Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
    Foods for the household to eat, such as:
    – breads and cereals;
    – fruits and vegetables;
    – meats, fish and poultry; and
    – dairy products.

    Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
    Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
    Food that will be eaten in the store
    Hot foods
    Any nonfood items, such as:
    – pet foods
    – soaps, paper products
    – household supplies
    – Vitamins and medicines

    The actual problem is assholes – you know, the same people who will tell you that a person claiming to be poor can’t really be all that poor if they own a microwave,or a refrigerator(!) – the asshole who thinksthat if some lazy mooching ghetto babymama is receiving money from the government, it should only be spent on those things that the asshole thinks is appropriate

    And, seriously? “[N]ot convinced this is a sufficiently widespread problem”? You’re smarter than that. It’s not a problem that’s just not sufficiently widespread to merit action; it is, for all practical purposes, non-existent. That person saying “I saw someone buying lobster and t-bone steaks”… no wait, that was the Reagan era version, sorry – that person saying “I saw someone buying crab legs and filet mignon with food stamps”? That person is lying. You know. I know it. They know it. The only people who don’t know it are the racists for whose benefit they are telling the lie

  65. wr says:

    @Franklin: “What you guys are really debating is whether poor people should be sponsored for their occasional treat (a birthday cake, a soda, chips, etc.). ”

    I don’t think that is the debate. I think the real debate is whether the government should be able to micromanage those parts of people’s lives for which they’ve taken assistance.

  66. grumpy realist says:

    If we were really interested in health and getting more food to poor people, we’d a) stop subsidizing wheat/soybeans/whatever and subsidize the production of veggies instead; and b) add more oomph to food stamps for high quality food purchases.

    Poor people end up eating crap because a) it’s cheap b) it’s available, and c) it doesn’t require the fridge.

    We have to remember there’s also a problem of access. It’s one thing if you’re in a rural area and can plant a garden for additional food–it’s another thing when you’re living in an urban food desert and you can’t even get to a good grocery store.

  67. Franklin says:

    @grumpy realist: I like your plan … although I’m pretty sure soybeans are vegetables.

  68. Pete S says:

    Come on, we all know where this ends up. A company that has made donations to the guy who wrote this bill will wind up with a contract to write software to monitor food spending by food stamp recipients, which winds up costing exponentially more than is currently being spent on “luxury items”.

  69. Franklin says:

    @wr: I think you’re still drawing a line somewhere, even if you think you’re drawing the line between food and non-food. Wine is a food. And the current rules ban hot food or food eaten in the store – do you not agree with those rules? I’m still not convinced that having a program for providing basic nutrition should be called ‘micromanagement’ if there are any rules attached that suggest it might actually be for providing basic nutrition.

    That said, the current rules are fairly reasonable.

  70. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    an urban food desert and you can’t even get to a good grocery store.

    There was a period of a few years, not too long ago, during which there was not a single large chain grocery store within the city limits of Detroit.

    Whether that had rendered the city a “food desert” was a subject of considerable debate, however, given there were over 100 small independently-owned stores and the Eastern Market farmers’ market, which I as a Detroit-area native can tell you is utterly spectacular.

    And also the diminishing population of the city and consequent demolition of entire blocks of homes has led to a major boom of urban farms.

  71. Franklin says:

    @C. Clavin: Calling someone a liar is a serious charge, and considering those bills haven’t even passed yet …

  72. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: I”m answering based on my understanding of federal law, not a hypothetical Kansas program of which I’d never previously heard.

    @wr: Generally speaking, no. But my understanding is that we’ve always restricted, going back to the old Food Stamp program, what items could be purchased using government subsistence money. Yes, it’s paternalistic. But the presumption has always been that those unable to provide for their children based on their own efforts probably have less skill at making choices than the rest of us. I’m not sure that’s actually true.

  73. C. Clavin says:

    @Franklin:
    @James Joyner:
    Poorly phrased…I admit.
    But your hypothetical is up for a final vote on Thursday.
    Kansas is the OZ of the Republican Agenda….we may not regulate today…but given the opportunity elitist Republicans certainly will tomorrow.

  74. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ken: Your list of nonfood items reminds of one complaint by SNAP recipients that always resonated with me: the inability to buy soaps. We supposedly want people to get a job that will allow them to get off welfare and be a “productive member of society” . How, pray tell, are they supposed to do this if they can’t bathe, shampoo their hair, brush their teeth, or wash their clothes?

    Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  75. JohnMcC says:

    The traditional food stamp program (and I bet also the SNAP version today with debit card) had as part of it’s goal dealing with food surpluses, agricultural prices and such. The least voice at that table was the person actually using the assistance to feed themselves and their kids.

  76. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Let’s put aside the snark and I’ll put this issue in the simplest English possible.

    What is fueling this kind of attitude is when poorer people who do not take public assistance see people who do take public assistance buying “luxury” foods they can’t afford. They see that and think “I’m paying for that, out of my taxes, and I can’t even afford it for myself and my family.”

    That is the root of the concern, and this nobody is simply parroting that sentiment on behalf of his constituents. (Also known as “pandering.”)

    That is a real phenomenon. It is a sincere resentment. And it has certain elements of truth.

    And the kind of condescension and hostility and ridicule shown by the Usual Gang Of Idiots above is exactly the kind of response you should give if you want to fuel it. Because all the fancy words and insults and rationalizations will only reinforce the anger of a guy who’s in a supermarket line thinking “I work two jobs, my wife works, and I’m buying boxes of macaroni for my family while this cow ahead of me, who has three kids by three different men, but no job and no husband, is buying crab legs with the food stamps I’m paying for.”

    That is a very real feeling. That is a very common feeling. And all the crap said above just makes this guy angrier.

  77. grumpy realist says:

    @Franklin: Well, if it comes down to it, isn’t wheat a “vegetable” as well? It certainly isn’t an animal or a mineral!

    (I was thinking more of a distinction between “stuff that degrades quickly and you have to be careful when you pick it” vs. “stuff that we harvest with large combines.”)

    Legumes are a weird category, anyway. I guess I’d throw them into “things we want to grow” because of nitrogen-fixing. The fact that lentils are scrumptious is an added benefit. And then there’s edamame…..ummm….edamame!

  78. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Of course I am sure they are all Christian Elitist Republicans…

    “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

    Right…

  79. Ken says:

    @James Joyner: But the presumption has always been that those unable to provide for their children based on their own efforts probably have less skill at making choices than the rest of us.

    Do you really think that’s the main reason? I always assumed it was because despite racist fearmongering about the ubiquity of undeserving welfare queens and their t-bone steaks, there really are some people who would misuse the money for things like liquor and lottery tickets when it was meant for food

    And now, having typed it out, I see that we have said essentially the same thing. Carry on

  80. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Given that I really, really doubt that anyone has ever bought snow crab legs with food stamps, this looks to be a solution in search of a problem.

  81. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: I’d tell you to only talk about things you actually understand, but then you’d never say anything. (Which has its appeal…) But when leftists try to use the Bible to rationalize big government solutions, it is just so, so stupid.

    God’s commands in that area are to individuals. Christians have the duty to help the less fortunate. God does not want, and will not accept, subcontracting out that duty to the government. God does not tell people “you must help the poor by paying the government, and by making everyone else to pay, too.”

    God credits people for what they do, individually, of their own volition. You don’t get credit for making other people pay for your “good deeds.”

  82. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @grumpy realist: The crab legs are a metaphor, and the one featured in the article’s illustration. Substitute “prime rib” or “live lobster” or “fillet mignon” or other very expensive food of your choice.

  83. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’ll put this issue in the simplest English biggest straw-man possible.

    There – fixed that up for you.

    That is a real phenomenon….
    “I work two jobs, my wife works, and I’m buying boxes of macaroni for my family while this cow ahead of me, who has three kids by three different men, but no job and no husband, is buying crab legs with the food stamps I’m paying for.”
    That is a very real feeling.

    Jesus…I haven’t heard such utter bullshit since Reagan and the welfare queens…which was thoroughly debunked decades ago. But it makes sense it’s coming from you.

  84. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist: C’mon, this is the Misery GOP we’re talking about. Of course it’s a solution in search of a problem.

  85. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Um…you are right…my comment was addressed at self-proclaimed Christians acting in an un-Christian manner.
    This sort of hypocrisy is rampant in the Republican cult:
    Gay men like Larry Craig trying to ruin the lives of other gay men.
    Adulterers like Gingrich going on a witch hunt against another adulterer.
    Small Government advocates using the Government to oppress others.
    Advocates of fre religion imposing their religion on others.
    It’s a cult based almost entirely on hypocrisy.
    Thanks for recognizing it.

  86. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: That is what a lot of people are saying and thinking. What you think about it is, like everything else about you, irrelevant.

    And as I said, just dismissing it and insulting the people saying it doesn’t change what they’re saying and thinking. Instead, all it does is reinforce their anger.

    I put this out here so the intelligent people here could better understand the situation. Obviously, that didn’t include you. But I was hoping that those people would recognize that this is the reality for quite a few people, and try to think of how to deal with that.

    Jackholes like you are why the situation not only persists, but is getting worse.

  87. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: So we can put “Christianity” in the ever growing (if not nigh-infinite) list of things you don’t understand, and are positively proud of your ignorance.

    Recognizing one’s ignorance is something I can respect. There are a lot of areas where I’m ignorant. But to be proud of that ignorance? That’s just beyond my comprehension.

    Which, ironically enough, I find myself a little proud that I can’t understand that kind of special stupidity.

  88. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “That is a real phenomenon. It is a sincere resentment.”

    And in Jenos’ ideal world, government exists solely to satisfy the nasty little resentments of bitter, petty people.

  89. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Add the teachings of Jesus to the vast array of subjects Jenos can’t understand.

    Jesus didn’t tell people to help the poor and weak so that they would feel good about themselves. He did it so that the poor and weak would be helped.

    This fantasy that the Bible says “oh, give a nickel to charity, but never organize society in such a way as to help people because you won’t get to feel smug about how good you are” is a lie spread by right wingers whose idea of charity is giving yet more to megachurches to buy jets for the pastors.

  90. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    That is what a lot of people are saying and thinking.

    That’s another problem with you cultists…you can’t reason with you when you don’t come to your opinions through reason. You make up this total bullshit…or someone makes it up and you fall for it…and you get all emotional over it.
    There is no fact behind it. There is no data. All the facts and data argue against it. (hmmm…just like voter fraud…what a coincedence) As I said…the Reagan Welfare Queen theme this is all based on was debunked decades ago.
    But you have your panties in a twist over some fiction that you were duped into believing…and so you feel the need to go out and oppress some people. Good on you.

  91. wr says:

    Go ahead, litte Jenos. Explain to us how your knowledge of Christianity is superior to Clavin’s. Please be sure to cite the passages where Jesus says “I want the poor to be fed, but not if the goverment is involved because that’s icky.”

  92. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: And in Jenos’ ideal world, government exists solely to satisfy the nasty little resentments of bitter, petty people.

    Which is pretty much what we have right now. So why am I so disappointed, and you so gleeful?

    OK, even I’m disgusted with myself for taking the bait and getting into personal attacks with the two regular idiots. Enough. If it isn’t about the topic at hand, I ain’t bothering to slap back any more.

    In that spirit, I will repeat the lines wr found so quotable, and add in a modifier I didn’t think was necessary.

    “That is a real phenomenon. It is a sincere resentment.” And they are right.

    Notice I didn’t put that in the first time? That was deliberate. I didn’t say they were right, because I don’t think they’re right. I think that they have a bit of truth on their side, but there are other factors that take away a bit of the substance of that complaint.

    And that needs to be addressed. Part of the solution is fixing the substance; part of it is fixing the optics; part of it is dispelling the wrong impressions.

    What does calling the people with the complaints names achieve? It gives the name-callers and entirely unjustified sense of superiority. And nothing else.

  93. Ken says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: What is fueling this kind of attitude is when poorer people who do not take public assistance see people who do take public assistance buying “luxury” foods they can’t afford. They see that and think “I’m paying for that, out of my taxes, and I can’t even afford it for myself and my family.

    No. not really. What is fueling it is racist fearmongering that poor minorities are buying “luxury” food that they don’t “deserve”

    “I work two jobs, my wife works, and I’m buying boxes of macaroni for my family while this cow ahead of me, who has three kids by three different men, but no job and no husband, is buying crab legs with the food stamps I’m paying for.”

    And that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Aside from the fact that the “crab legs” part is just a fabrication to give the story more impact, the entire thing is all just a bunch of made up racist assumptions because that “guy” doesn’t think she “deserves” what she is buying. Because he doesn’t actually know a goddamned thing about her, except that she is poor and black.

    And all the crap said above just makes this guy angrier.

    Tough shit. He should stop making racist assumptions about what her life is like based solely on the fact that she is poor and black. he should stop deciding that he is an arbiter of what other people deserve when he doesn’t know a single damned thing about their circumstances. He should get over his Always The Victim persecution complex that makes him think she’s got it better than him simply because she is, in one particular instance, getting one goddamned thing that he would like to buy but isn’t willing to pay for.

    Edited to add: One of the main reasons we have welfare and food stamps in the first place is to prevent assholes like you that guy from withholding charity from the starving because you don’t approve of their lifestyles.

  94. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: The two choices are not calling the bitter, petty people names and giving in to their resentment and punishing innocent people to make them feel less resentful — or at least to switch their resentment to another issue.

    We may educate the bitter losers or we may ignore the bitter loses. But in no way should we punish other people because they — and by “they” I mean people like you — find pleasure only in hating anyone who isn’t themselves.

  95. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Mark 18:5-8:

    “And when thou seest the poor, thou art to go to Caesar and speak unto him: O Caesar, thy people are suffering. I beseech thee to take my alms, and those of my wealthy neighbors, and givest them to the poor, caring that thy servants also get their share of the alms.”

    That’s from the New Deal Edition of the Bible, right?

  96. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    You buy into this fictional garbage…then call others idiots.
    That’s rich. Pun intended.

  97. Ken says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: The crab legs are a metaphor, and the one featured in the article’s illustration. Substitute “prime rib” or “live lobster” or “fillet mignon” or other very expensive food [that people on SNAP don’t really buy except in the fever dreams of angry racists]

    You left that part out. But you’re right that it is a metaphor, though not the one you’re thinking of.

  98. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Ah, I see. So it was a made-up scenario. And based on this made-up-scenario, the existence of which we have no proof for, we should in fact ban people from doing something that they have never done?

    And this is to be considered A Good Thing by the same crowd that is always railing against Big Government and The Nanny State and Too Much Control?

    Except when you’re giving orders to poor people, I guess. Then it’s hunky-dory, right? Because they’re too stupid to be allowed to carry out their own lives, right? Because poverty == stupidity, right?

  99. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Ken: So your best response is “shut up and keep working, you racist?”

    Don’t think that’ll actually achieve anything, but if that’s the best you got, then so be it.

  100. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. It’s amazing the number of Christians who forget the very same words of their founder:

    Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

  101. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @grumpy realist: Except when you’re giving orders to poor people, I guess.

    It’s not an order. It’s a condition of accepting aid. Don’t want the conditions, don’t take the aid.

    Kind of like Sally Kohn of TPM saying laws aren’t coercive — you can break the law if you like, just as long as you’re willing to pay the consequences. Except she’s being terminally stupid, and we already have conditions on assistance.

    Now I’m going to be late to an important business meeting, with an actual small businessman who wants to employ my services.

  102. Ben Wolf says:

    SNAP is a dual program: a transfer of excess food production to the poor and a farm subsidy to stabilize prices. I see a lot of moralizing in support of restricting benefits but no economic argument at all. If a SNAP recipient buys crab legs, how does this harm the American economy?

  103. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    an important business meeting

    The Jenos equivalent of a PhD.

  104. Ken says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: No, my response (to that guy who totally exists and is totally not you) is “If you’re so goddamned jealous of totally awesome food she can buy using her SNAP benefits, maybe you should quit your jobs and get on that sweet sweet gravy train yourself. Otherwise quit judging people you don’t know anything about based on your own racist assumptions of what their life is like and mind your own fugging business.”

    note: this is where you explain that “that guy” is way too upstanding and moral to take advantage of the system that supplies a nonstop stream of lobster, caviar, and Kobe beef to the shiftless lazy Poors

  105. David M says:

    @Ken:

    That’s the thing – we do set limits.

    Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:
    Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
    Foods for the household to eat, such as:
    – breads and cereals;
    – fruits and vegetables;
    – meats, fish and poultry; and
    – dairy products.

    Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
    Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
    Food that will be eaten in the store
    Hot foods
    Any nonfood items, such as:
    – pet foods
    – soaps, paper products
    – household supplies
    – Vitamins and medicines

    This seems to be a pretty restrictive list already, so I would think some pretty strong evidence would be needed before making it more restrictive.

  106. Tillman says:

    @de stijl: The only true American pastime is convenience. It’s convenient for people to think poor people are lazy moochers while they are hard workers who deserve their riches, and damn it, it’s convenient for me for people to have SNAP cards rather than checkbooks!

    Did the Lord not say, “Blessed are the welfare-receivers, for yea they speed the line up at check-out?” I’m almost positive I read that in Luke somewhere…

  107. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    For anyone who cares re: my meeting:

    On the plus side, I got a free lunch.

    On the negative side, what he’s asking from me is so far out of my depth that I’m gonna need at least a couple of days to understand why I’m out of my depth, and a couple more to figure out how to explain it.

  108. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Just link to any thread you have commented on…they will understand.

  109. Loviatar says:

    @C. Clavin:

    On the negative side, what he’s asking from me is so far out of my depth that I’m gonna need at least a couple of days to understand why I’m out of my depth, and a couple more to figure out how to explain it.

    Just link to any thread you have commented on…they will understand.

    .

    Folks, we are no longer accepting nominations for comment of the year. We have a winner.

  110. MIKE says:

    @C. Clavin: Bull, I worked as a carryout for 2 years and was forced to carry groceries for non-working people. They ate better than I did because of food stamps. I had to live on my wages, they also got to live off of my wages.
    P.S. If we are going to pay for the food why wouldn’t we have a say in what is eligible to be bought.

  111. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Folks, PLEASE IGNORE James P. He’s been banned by Joyner, and since this guy is too rude to take the hint, Joyner has been deleting his comments. Responding to him in any way is likely to leave you looking like you’re talking to air.

  112. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “On the negative side, what he’s asking from me is so far out of my depth that I’m gonna need at least a couple of days to understand why I’m out of my depth, and a couple more to figure out how to explain it.”

    A full detail is just like the regular wash, except you buff out all the scratches and really make it all shiine.

    Glad I could help you out with that one.

  113. wr says:

    @MIKE: Hey, MIke — Or may I call you whiny loser for short?

    If you were making so little money you couldn’t eat as well as those rich, rich welfare recipients, you weren’t making enough money to be paying income taxes, so you weren’t paying for them.

    And if your problem was that you weren’t making enough money for a decent living, then you either take it up with your employer or find a better job. Making someone else suffer will not actually buy you one more apple at the grocery store. And it won’t even make you feel better. It will just make you an even more terrible human being.

  114. Ben Wolf says:

    We’re 18 trillion in debt, we can’t afford it.

    Doesn’t answer the question: How does buying crab legs harm the American economy?

    Even if the impact on the economy is minimal it is a question of equity.

    A moral, not economic, argument.

    The moochers did not earn it. Someone else is paying for it.

    Moral scolding. By this logic no one in the U.S. has earned anything at all.

    There is something fundamentally unethical about taking money other people earned and using it to buy things for other people.

    I’m noticing a theme here from “hard-headed realistic conservatives”: they argue in terms of emotion and envy.

    It is legalized theft. This country made it more than 150 years without Food Stamps – we can survive without Food Stamps.

    Property is theft.

    What is most evil about Food Stamps is that its intention is to foster dependence on government in order to buy votes for Democrats. Getting rid of Food Stamps won’t hurt Republicans.

    Hyperbolic nonsense. I ask for an economic argument and get a diatribe of self-righteous silliness. Maybe conservatives don’t understand the subject.

  115. C. Clavin says:

    @MIKE:
    Total BS.
    Made up BS.
    And so much anger and bitterness. What an emotional fellow.
    If you made so little then you didn’t make enough to pay taxes…unless you can’t figure out he EZ tax forms. In addition you are making up their situation because you cannot know what others are going thru. Talk to your employer about your shitty wages. It’s not anyone else’s problem.
    Most welfare and food stamp recipients work.

  116. Mikey says:

    @C. Clavin: Oh, man. I think Jenos is going to need this.

  117. Mikey says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Most welfare and food stamp recipients work.

    This is true. The law requires it and has for a long time.

    But prejudice leads to inferences and moral judgments are made where they are irrelevant, and we get the stereotype of the lazy dole-riders eating like princes and kings on the taxpayer dime. It’s total bullshit, but that never gets in the way of a good moral crusade, now does it?

  118. Ben Wolf says:

    Setting aside the environmental impact implicit in any transaction let’s break this one down:

    1) Congress orders the executive branch to spend toward SNAP benefits.

    2) The Federal Reserve is ordered by Treasury to issue bank reserves to the Treasury’s general account.

    3) The Treasury allocates the necessary currency to fund SNAP benefits.

    4) After spending, the Treasury issues securities in equal amount to any deficit.

    5) The non-government sector now has financial assets it did not have prior to Treasury’s spending and sale of securities. This means the non-government has greater financial wealth.

    6) the SNAP recipient has cash on hand and desires crab legs while the seller has crab legs and desires cash. The SNAP beneficiary acquires crab legs and settles their debt to the seller with cash, completing the transaction.

    7) Eqch party now has something it wanted more, each is now wealthier because their wants have been satisfied.

    8) The general level of well-being is increased.

    God Bless America.

  119. An Interested Party says:

    What is fueling this kind of attitude is when poorer people who do not take public assistance see people who do take public assistance buying “luxury” foods they can’t afford. They see that and think “I’m paying for that, out of my taxes, and I can’t even afford it for myself and my family.”

    Yes, I’m sure Republicans would much rather push this narrative than, say, explaining to those same working people how millionaires get farm subsidies or how creeps like Mitt Romney park their money offshore to avoid paying taxes…luxuries those working people surely don’t have…

    On the plus side, I got a free lunch.

    Well, considering how you stiffed a hospital in the past for medical services you received, it is obvious that you are used to getting free lunches…

  120. Tony W says:

    The far Right has their knickers in a knot about government oversight of food stamps even though there is little, if any, evidence of a problem.

    Meanwhile the same people believe we have a huge voter fraud problem that requires voter ID.

    Facts have a liberal bias.

  121. DrDaveT says:

    @MIKE:

    They ate better than I did because of food stamps. I had to live on my wages

    Are you seriously telling me that $120 a month is enough to enable someone to eat better than you did, despite your real job? If so, you must be hopelessly inept as a chef and even more inept as a money manager.

  122. DrDaveT says:

    @James P:

    We’re 18 trillion in debt, we can’t afford it.

    You could buy a pound of king crab legs for every man, woman, and child in the US for the cost of one year’s spending on the Army’s Future Combat Systems program, which in the end spent $50 billion dollars in order to procure… nothing. Zip. Nada.

    Fix the big things, and the things that make you so very angry will not matter. At all.

  123. KSMom says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Communist.

  124. KSMom says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: You could educate that person if you wanted to. Instead, you’ll hoot and holler and make that person even dumber. And that’s the person who just wants to feed their family’s fault, how exactly?

  125. Rick DeMent says:

    The thing that astonishes me is that anyone ever actually sees this stuff. Personally I’m so focused on my own business when I’m at the store that I can’t ever remember seeing anyone actually use an EBT card let alone what is in their cart. I’m sure it happens, I’m surrounded by some pretty poor neighborhoods, I’m just too involved in my own business to notice.

    I think we have less of a welfare cheat problem then we do of a “nose” problem.

  126. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @KSMom: I don’t have really good answers for them. It’s not something I’ve put a lot of time into considering, and on a purely intuitive level, they have a certain validity. Besides, I have higher priorities for my attention.

    However, I’ve always found it useful to understand people’s motivations and arguments when I’m disagreeing with them. I once read that the surest way to defeat the other side is to first determine what they want, then figure out how to deny them getting it.

    For example: C. Clavin and wr, two of the more belligerent and ignorant commenters here. I figured out fairly quickly what they were seeking by commenting here, and identified their two most favored tactics they think will help them achieve them. (It was fairly simple.) So when they chose me as part of their plans for one of those tactics, I was already prepared for how to deny them their victory in that tactic and deny them their goal.

    Initially I found it amusing, in a pathetic way. But when they roped me into their (very poor) scheme, it got annoying. But spiking their plans doesn’t require much thought and marginally more effort, so I don’t do like I should and just ignore them.

    But back to the topic at hand: yes, I have a certain level of sympathy for the people whose attitudes I’m reporting. And those who say that I’m fabricating that mindset either doesn’t spend much time shopping among the working-class poor, or don’t pay attention.

    And why should anyone pay attention to them? One simple fact: they vote. They don’t make big contributions or hold a lot of sway individually or have a great deal to offer on the big issues, but they pay their taxes and they vote.

  127. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Rick DeMent: The thing that astonishes me is that anyone ever actually sees this stuff. Personally I’m so focused on my own business when I’m at the store that I can’t ever remember seeing anyone actually use an EBT card let alone what is in their cart.

    Yeah, a lot of people standing in line get distracted by the tabloids and the magazines and candy. Others bury themselves in their cell phones or their companions or hit on the cashiers.

    But some are in the express lane behind someone with a cartful of merchandise, and get annoyed and pay attention. Or they are consiciously trying to avoid the distractions that the stores place there. Or the person in front of them is loud and obnoxious. Or they’re just generally interested in people. Or they start putting their purchases on the belt, catch a glimpse of something appealing on the other side of the divider, and say “damn, I wish I was getting that.”

    You don’t notice? I’ve been behind you in line plenty of times. There are a lot of yous in the world. But there are a lot of not-yous out there, too.

  128. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And those who say that I’m fabricating that mindset either doesn’t spend much time shopping among the working-class poor, or don’t pay attention.

    The mindset isn’t fabricated, but the underlying “problem” is fabricated to create and drive the mindset. It is fabricated to distract working poor people from the policies that are doing them actual harm and focus them instead on people worse off than themselves and shift the blame to those people. It is a slimy tactic that has been in the Republican playbook since at least the 80s and Reagan’s so called welfare queens.

    And why should anyone pay attention to them? One simple fact: they vote. They don’t make big contributions or hold a lot of sway individually or have a great deal to offer on the big issues, but they pay their taxes and they vote.

    As Republicans are fond of pointing out they don’t pay income tax. They do, however, pay FICA and other taxes. That said, the EBT money isn’t coming out of their contribution, so no they aren’t paying for what is in that other person’s shopping cart in any meaningful way. Typically they don’t vote in very high numbers either unless they are part of some other motivated subgroup like evangelicals.

  129. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: So you’ve redefined the situation. You’ve found a way to “properly” assign blame to your designated Source Of All Evil, the Republicans. You’ve quibbled on the finer details.

    I think you’re wrong, but I also think that the issues you raise aren’t really relevant towards addressing the situation. You got any ideas on that one? You know, the actual problem at hand? Or are you content to just whip out your Blamethrower and make sure everyone knows this is yet more vile fruit of the EEEEVIL Republicans?

    You did impress me on one point. You didn’t bring up Iraq. So good on you there, mate.

  130. W.C. says:

    @grumpy realist: It ain’t nobody’s danged business what a S.N.A.P. recipient buys so long as they are not getting or using the benefits in a fraudulent manner. In other words, John Q. Public and John Q. Politician, mind your own danged business.

  131. W.C. says:

    @DrDaveT: Couldn’t have said it better myself. But just because one politician is an all-out snob doeth not a law make. Every S.N.A.P. recipient in the state of MO should be ringing this guy’s phone off the hook with loud and numerous complaints and his e-mail server should be swamped with the same. Shame on this rich Republican SNOB! He has NO IDEA what it is like to have to live on S.N.A.P. benefits. He probably eats like a king hog on the tax dollars of his constituents, so who his this hypocrite to point a finger?

  132. W.C. says:

    It would be nice to know how many extravagant dinners this hypocrite has eaten on the tax dollars of his constituents. I’m sure he’s squandered his share of taxpayer money since he’s been in office!!

    I’d also like to know how much booze he’s imbibed at these extravagant meals as well. That’s paid for by taxpayer dollars as well. Let’s pick his expense account apart and see how much HE wastes!!!

  133. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “So when they chose me as part of their plans for one of those tactics, I was already prepared for how to deny them their victory in that tactic and deny them their goal.”

    It’s sweet that you think we’re in some kind of game or competition, but I’m sorry to say that’s not actually the case. We’re not sparring partners, and we’re not engaged in some kind of battle.

    You are an annoyance polluting an otherwise excellent site. My sole interest in your existence is the vain hope that someday you will go away.

    So you may feel free to hoist your trophy and celebrate whatever victory exists in that little head of yours. It means less than nothing to me… and undoubtedly would if I had any idea what you were talking about. Or you did.

  134. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I think you’re wrong, but I also think that the issues you raise aren’t really relevant towards addressing the situation. You got any ideas on that one? You know, the actual problem at hand?

    What exactly is the problem at hand? There is a misperception that there is widespread misuse of EBT, but exactly no evidence has been offered to support it other than unsubstantiated anecdote. Those unsubstantiated anecdotes are spread far and wide by the right in order to undermine programs that they don’t support. The solution is to show that those claims are baseless. Your answer to everyone showing them baseless has thusfar been to say that is dismissing and insulting the working poor. That is a dodge, not an answer.
    You say you think I am wrong, but who is it that spreads these anecdotes about EBT misuse? Is it Democratic politicians and talking heads or Republican politicians and talking heads? Have the politicians and talking heads that spread these anecdotes provided any evidence of widespread misuse to support the need for further legislation or have they just spread anecdotes and “solutions” to problems that they haven’t shown to exist?

  135. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: @wr: You are an annoyance polluting an otherwise excellent site. My sole interest in your existence is the vain hope that someday you will go away.

    You had the perfect opportunity to get me to go away, and you wussed out. But you love this site so much, you’ll repeatedly violate the rules of behavior in an attempt to get rid of me.

    You sound like the standard excuse of every wife-beater ever. You love this site so much, you have no choice but to repeatedly violate the rules.

  136. jme says:

    this is not the first time they have tried something like this . it just wont pass their are way to many on ebt who will vote it away. its just one more way the politicians are trying to F over the small folks and get us fired up .these are same people that think women should stay in the kitchen. oh and those people that say shit like i pay my taxes i shouldn’t have to pay for other peoples food so you wouldn’t help a person dying of hunger ? i know a lot of people who paid their taxes and just fell on hard times and needed a little help from programs like ebt . there might come a day when you need help and wont get it because you decided that these programs are pointless or unneeded

  137. Monala says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Excellent suggestion!

  138. Monala says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Jenos, that story is bullshit. First, it’s been told and retold so many times, it has the feel of an urban legend. Second, I can’t ever remember seeing anyone in front of me buying crab legs, and steak is a rarity. (If I’m even paying attention. Why are so many busybodies watching what other people have in their cart?) Yet all these conservatives have somehow seen this phenomenon.

    Third, even if it does occasionally happen, as others have pointed out, the amount you get for food stamps is so little that you’d be broke and starving if that was how you like to eat. Ergo: it almost never happens, and if it does, it’s likely for a rare special occasion. (You know, like the birthday cake in the article). What? Poor people aren’t allowed to have special occasions?

    Finally, how the hell does anyone know anything about the life of the person in front of them in the grocery line? For all that angry guy knows, the woman in front of him is married and she and her spouse also have three or four jobs between them.

  139. Monala says:

    @W.C.: There was a viral video of a female legislator (can’t remember if it was federal or some state) who protested attempted cuts to food stamps by reading through the receipts of her colleagues for taxpayer-reimbursed meals. Many of them spent $100+ on a single meal. After each receipt she would say things like, “And you want to deprive people of a$1.33 a meal?!”

  140. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Hilarioius. I explain I’m not playing the stupid little games that seem to amuse you, and your response was to whine about how I wouldn’t play one of your stupid little games. I’m sorry that I have to keep repeating this — most people would have gotten the hint by now: I am not now, never will be, and have no desire to ever be your friend.

  141. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Monala: So, your response to people who raise such complaints is to wait until they come to your attention, then insult them and call them names.

    Lemme know how that grand strategy works out for you.

  142. Monala says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: I’m not even sure what your post means. And what insults did I call anyone? Busybodies?

  143. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Let’s turn that one around on you. When you see what you think are unfounded claims of racism how do you respond? Do you try to understand why the people would see the actions as racist or do you jump to defend your side of the political situation?