CSPI Doesn't Want to Stigmatize Poor People; It Just Wants to Punish Them for Their Disgusting Habits

As Radley Balko noted this morning, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeking federal permission to prevent residents of his city from using food stamps to buy soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages. The New York Times reports that "public health experts greeted Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal cautiously":

George Hacker, senior policy adviser for the health promotion project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said a more equitable approach might be to use educational campaigns to dissuade food-stamp users from buying sugared drinks.

"The world would be better, I think, if people limited their purchases of sugared beverages," Mr. Hacker said. "However, there are a great many ethical reasons to consider why one would not want to stigmatize people on food stamps."

This concern about stigmatizing poor people should not be confused with a concern about imposing disproportionate burdens on them in the name of public health, because CSPI does support a sin tax on soda, a levy that hits people of modest means especially hard. As with cigarette taxes, another regressive public health intervention, the quasi-progressive justification is that punishing poor people for their consumption choices ultimately improves their lives by changing their behavior: The more the tax hurts them, the more it helps them. But the same logic also applies to the food stamp restrictions that Bloomberg wants, which have basically the same impact, making unhealthy choices harder to afford for the people who need the nudge most.

More on soda taxes here. I profiled CSPI in a 2003 Reason article that opened by describing CSPI founder Michael Jacobson's distaste for "liquid candy."

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  • ||

    A) CSPI is bears no resemblance to any of the words in their name
    B) Yes, I'm a dick, but, stigmatizing people who are receiving government assistance would be part of incentivizing them to get off, IMO

  • B A Dick||

    Here's your weekly ration of Soylent Green, asshole.

  • Paul||

    I have repeatedly sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission asking them to force CSPI to change their name, or at minimum, be foreced to put scare quotes around every word in their name. Oh, and for any representative of their organization to make little air quotes with their fingers everytime they say their own name.

  • Rich||

    Just checking. If you mailed your letters to the "Federal" "Trade" "Commission" the FTC may not have gotten them.

  • ||

    I love my people--pull!

  • ||

    As far as I'm concerned, if you accept someone else's money, you accept the conditions that go with it.

    If the government's conditions on food stamps are that you use it to buy healthy food, then either suck it up or get off food stamps.

    Also, I don't see how it is really 'libertarian' to argue that people on public assistance should still be completely free to do whatever they want with other people's money.

    Fuck that shit.

  • Paul||

    Only in that it's not other people's money, it's Mike Bloomberg's money.

    For instance, I say "Buy all the sugary drinks you want". You and I know it's my money. But Mike Bloomberg doesn't see it that way. See where I'm going with this?

  • ||

    The thing is, if you agree to the limitations, then you agree to the premise that soda, or trans fat, or salt, or whatever is so bad for you that it justifies government intervention.

    First they came for the foodstampers mountain dew, and I said nothing...

  • ||

    I respectfully disagree. I think that preventing food stamps from being used on liquor is a pretty reasonable limitation. I don't see that preventing food stamps from being used on sugar-water is appreciably different, it's simply a matter of where to draw the line of what's acceptable to get for free and what isn't.

    Unlike instances of voluntary money exchange, wherein the governmentis a non-party to the transaction (except to tax it), I feel that the addition of taxpayer-funded coupons provide the food nannies a legitimate forum (the only one? I hope so) to crush the freedoms of others.

  • ||

    purchasing freedoms of others.

  • Pip||

    They are FOOD stamps not soda stamps.

  • ||

    ""I don't see that preventing food stamps from being used on sugar-water is appreciably different, it's simply a matter of where to draw the line of what's acceptable to get for free and what isn't.""

    Once you allow a line, the line can be moved. What would stop Bloomberg for wanting to say only healty foods can be bought with food stamps, and he defines healthy?

  • ||

    ...Or that only healthy foods can be bought with cash.

  • ||

    If you don't want other people telling you what to buy, don't expect them to pay for it.

    You're seriously saying that people getting your money against your wishes should be allowed to do whatever they want with it?

    IMO, it's actually helpful to maintain those painful reminders - freedom doesn't mean doing whatever you want with other people's money. It means being financial independent. When it's YOUR MONEY you should be able to do what you want with it. When it's NOT, you should NOT.

    If you start forcibly transferring wealth to others, and then say "okay, you're free to do what you want with it" then you remove any sort of incentive to actually earn your own fucking money. If I'm not limited in what I can spend other people's money on, then I have less reason not to desire and vote for those free public benefits.

  • Robert||

    What if you pay more in US taxes in a given year than you get back in food assistance?

    Besides that, will you use the same logic when it's the insurance company's money that the US or state gov't made you buy a health policy from?

  • ||

    But the line already exists, that's why I sited alcohol. I think it would be an interesting discussion as to whether or not there should be a line (as Paul alludes to downthread) but once it exists (and it most certainly already does), this is just a matter of moving that line.

  • ||

    How about bottled water. Water is undeniably healthy, but bottled water is no better than tap water and costs more than soda.

  • ||

    I'd ban that too.
    They shouldn't be spending my money on ANYTHING that isn't 100% essential.

    Nutritional gruel only.

  • Robert||

    But now that we know that liquor is good for you, will food assistance be allowed to purchase liquor?

  • ||

    More specifically to your point, it's not a government "intervention" in this instance, as they're already intimately involved in the transaction.

  • Paul||

    i'm siding with Capitol L on this one. Because the government has essentially made the case in dozens of other areas that they are intimately involved in nearly every transaction. Hence the use of the 'commerce' clause in pretty much everything from selling a small wooden toy to growing a pot plant under a grow light in the corner of your closet.

    The entire debate on healtchare exists because the government has said that by the mere fact of people going to the doctor, they're intimately involved in the transaction, and as such have a right to control the transaction.

    Technically, you're absolutly right about the fact that we already place limits on food stamps such as barring alcohol purchases.

    But now that I'm looking at it the way I'm looking at it, I'm seriously considering tempering or even backing off the idea that food stamp users can't purchase alcohol. Because now I see where it all ends up going.

  • ||

    Also, who determines what is healthy and what is not? Does the Mayor get to dictate such things because 50.1% of people voted for him, or maybe a panel of doctors in the employ of the government?

    And if we agree with Bloomberg that soda is so unhealthy as warrant this action, then what will our argument be when he tells us that our cash can't buy soda?

    Additionally, we have seen time and again that when given the chance people like Herr Bloomburg will find a reason to meddle in citizen's lives.

  • ||

    And if we agree with Bloomberg that soda is so unhealthy as warrant this action, then what will our argument be when he tells us that our cash can't buy soda?

    Our argument will be that it's our money and that the government shouldn't place restrictions on how we spend it. Oh, I'm very aware that they have and will disregard this argument, but the truth of the matter is that they already have the power to ban it outright, they just haven't done so yet because it's unpopular.

    I'm not looking at it from a practical perspective (if we allow A, people will confuse it with B, which then allows the government to regulate B, which happens all the time across America). I'm looking at it from an intellectual perspective, which is to say that I reject "A and B are easily confused" step, and insist that there is a real difference of type between A and B. While B is abhorrent, A should be discussed.

    Admittedly, this would be terrible public policy (specifically because the nannies would spend millions of dollars convincing people that A and B aren't just equivalent, they're exactly the same and I'm the one tilting at windmills), but it makes for a good discussion at an intellectual libertatian forum.

  • ||

    You know, if the public says that the price of being on food stamps is having to live entirely on vegan, gluten-free snack bars, then I would be completely fine with that.

    Living on public assistance *should* be a gruelling unpleasant experience. Ideally, the food would be some kind of nutritionally balanced but horrible tasting gruel (much like a vegan snack bar), just to give people that much more incentive NOT to be on public assistance.

  • Paul||

    I think there are other ways to achieve this, Hazel. For instance, you can't buy cigarettes with food stamps... GUESS WHAT POOR PEOPLE ALWAYS FIND A WAY TO AFFORD?

    Results. Increased real cigarette-pack price over time was associated with a marked decline in smoking among higher-income but not among lower-income persons. Although the pre–MSA association between cigarette pack price and smoking revealed a larger elasticity in the lower- versus higher-income persons (–0.45 vs –0.22), the post–MSA association was not statistically significant (P>.2) for either income group.

    Conclusions. Despite cigarette price increases after the MSA, income-related smoking disparities have increased. Increasing cigarette prices may no longer be an effective policy tool and may impose a disproportionate burden on poor smokers.
  • ||

    I'm not arguing for increases in cigarette taxes. Or any taxes.

    There is a functional difference between raising taxes, and restricting the use of food stamps. In the one case, you are reducing the money available to the poor person to spend on non-soda, non-cigarette, non-liquor commodities. In the other, you reduce his ability TO spend on cigs, liquor or soda, using public funds.

    Restricting food stamp usage will not IN ANY WAY affect the ability of the individual to buy cigs, soda, or liquor on his own dime. It will only INCREASE the amount of food stamp money spend on non-soda products.

  • ||

    Why would you assume that, since they have not limited what food people can buy with food stamps, the government wouldn't limit what food people can buy with cash?

    The US Government has not really needed any "gateway" legislation before when instituting really, really shitty law.

  • ||

    That's a stupid argument that is just as bad as the expansive use of the commerce clause.

    It's like "OMG! If we let them tell welfare recipients what they can buy with food stamps, then before long they'll be telling everyone else what they can buy too!!! We have to extend the non-intervention principle to food stamps, just to keep that from happening!"

    You know, let's apply the non-intervention principle to everyone, even cases when the state has already intervened to take money from one person and give it to someone else.

  • Paul||

    It's like "OMG! If we let them tell welfare recipients what they can buy with food stamps, then before long they'll be telling everyone else what they can buy too!!!

    Already happening. The government pays for so much healthcare, we have to control it, and the costs...

  • ||

    Yeah, that's an argument for why government control of healthcare is bad.

    But the difference is, at least nobody is FORCED to accept food stamps. Whereas we are forced to participate in the government various health care scheemes.

  • Paul||

    What scares me about your argument Hazel, is not that it's wrong in technicality, it's steering in a morally concerning way.

    You've been on this board for a while, surely.. SURELY you've seen and maybe even deflected the reactionary progressive view that because you recieve some benefit from the government somewhere in your life's travels, you therefore have to dance to the government's tune? At least tell me that you recognize and acknowlege that there is a mindset out there that sees the world this way.

    Drive on public roads? Government benefit. Therefore they can regulate your entire LIFE.

    Own a house and enjoy the interest writeoff? Government benefit... yadda yadda yadda, and on it goes.

    Here's how I vote on these issues:

    Does the program increase the power, scope and size of government? Vote: No

    Does the program reduce the power, scope and size of government? Vote: yes

  • ||

    What about: Does the program make people more or less likely to support the expansion of the welfare state?

    Does the program make people more or less likely to feel dependent on the government?

  • Paul||

    What about: Does the program make people more or less likely to support the expansion of the welfare state?

    Does the program make people more or less likely to feel dependent on the government?

    Perfectly reasonable questions, but the welfare state is and will expand anyway.

    Why allow the welfare state to expand AND give a nod to the state that it has a right to tell us what we can put in our bodies?

  • ||

    If the welfare state is going to expand anyway, why not making accepting it's help as much like an authoritarian gulag as possible?

    It's just a giant reminder to everyone: "Hey this micromanaging nanny state that controls your very bodies is exactly what you will get in progressive paradise!"

  • Paul||

    Actually, Hazel, you've convinced me. Progressives turning the screws on poor folks. The irony is too delicious. I take back everything I said.

  • ||

    Yes Hazel, in your spittle stained rant there is wisdom. Mayor Bloomberg is only doing this so lazy fucking fuckers can't fucking sit fucking around all fucking day eating fucking pork rinds on your fucking dime.

    He has no designs on banning certain foods that are fashionably unhealthy, nope not at all. His only concern is that Hazel's fucking dime don't get spent where Hazel don't fucking want it spent.

    Also could you please define "empty calories", "luxuries", and "staples", as Mayor Bloomberg wants to be entirely clear on not what to spend your fucking dime on.

    I said before that I was conflicted on this issue, but if it means that denying Mayor Bloomberg a little bit of control, and more raging posts from you Hazel, then I'll support the deadbeats.

    You give the mayor that inch, I won't.

  • Robert||

    You would think that if "empty calories" were the chief concern, that candy would be the first target, but any suggestion that candy not qualify for food assistance has somehow gotten pushed so far back as to be invisible, while sugared sodas are in the spotlight. I don't understand why that's the case, when clearly with all that water and carbonation, soda doesn't encourage the amount of consumption of sugar that candy does.

    For that matter, what about ordinary granular sugar? Or corn syrup, or honey? You'd think that would be a much more obvious target if that's the concern, but they're all eligible for food "stamps".

    These anti- bandwagons are always funny, often in both the strange and ha-ha sense. Somehow out of all the "empty-calorie" sweets, they've seized on what may be the most dilute!

  • ||

    No, not really. It just means if you agree to accept public assistance, you agree to let the public tell you what you can and cannot do with that assistance.

    I don't think there is much dispute over the fact that sodas are, at the very least, empty calories. And if I'm going to be paying money to help provide minimal food for someone to stay alive, I want to make it *minimal* as in no luxuries. No organic honey. No soda pop. I would limit it to staples only, if I had my way. I don't want dumb fuckes eating pork rinds and drinking cola in from of the TV all day on my dime.

    I want my dime to go to providing a minimal nutritionally balanced diet for the supid fuck's kids. So they won't be malnourished.

  • ||

    The poorest I've ever personally been, in the sense of deprivation, was, ironically enough, during law school. I went through a semester during my first year (when working was verboten) where my savings were gone and what student loans had come in were in the hands of the school. For about a month, I had almost no money at all and lived off of some ramen noodles and a 20-lb bag of rice. Not fun.

  • Almanian||

    My last year of college. Literally a can of green beans for lunch, a can of baked beans for dinner, a can of pineapple for lunch, a can of corn for dinner, etc. etc. etc.

    My luxury was Kraft Mac & Cheese once a week - fuck the generic stuff, we're goin' all Kraft for a day!

    Good times. I survived...

  • ||

    Cans? You could afford cans?

    I had a roommate in college who was barely getting by, mostly because all his money went to beer. He lived on canned baked beans. Whenever we went to the store, I'd tell him that he should by Gravy Train, because he could eat it dry or with a tangy gravy.

  • cynical||

    "As far as I'm concerned, if you accept someone else's money, you accept the conditions that go with it."

    Surely you can see the problem with granting the government more power over more people's lives as a reward for increasing poverty in society, can't you? Your typical charity can't ruin people's lives, run businesses out of the state or country, or promote disastrous economic policies.

    More to the point, your typical charity can't self-righteously take your money, then demand you submit yourself to various indignities to get a portion of it back, Bjurman style.

  • Fred G Sanford||

    the G stands for Grape Nehi

  • Black Democrat voters||

    Thank you sir. May I have another?

  • Paul||

    So, how likely will we see a rollback on the war on drugs from the political persuasion that believes that everything you put into your body is squarely the state's business?

  • ||

    This is one of those issues that leaves me conflicted.

    On one hand, attaching strings to public assistance may make it less attractive. On the other hand, if you give the nanny staters an inch they'll take a fucking mile.

  • Democrats||

    All your money is other people's money. You drive on the public roads, do you not?

    Here's how we'd prefer you spend other people's (read: the state's) money.

  • DADIODADDY||

    The real plan...have the po folk eat all the nasty sweet things they wants, smoke da butts and drink da hooch and not get offs their lazy asses...pretty soon they all die (don't think about the spike in Obamacare costs that immediately preceeds the die off) then think about all the money us virtuous, clean living, upright and good natured folks will have. Cause we deserve the best and our views should not be sullied by having fat, unhealthy poor people in the way.

  • Updated Bumper Sticker||

    If you must drink and drive (on the public's roads)
    Drink PEPSI A Non-Sugar-Sweetened Beverage

  • guy in the back row||

    Does the fact I drive on public roads mean I can drink poor people's soda which they bought with their food stamps?

  • ||

    ""On one hand, attaching strings to public assistance may make it less attractive. On the other hand, if you give the nanny staters an inch they'll take a fucking mile.""

    Agreed

  • Dignity Do Dah||

    attaching strings to public assistance may make it less attractive

    That's why I never use coupons. Those fucking strings.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'll show Bloomberg. I'll refuse to let people buy food with the soda stamps I hand out.

  • Brett L||

    If I were a billionaire, I would fund this piece of performance art.

  • DADIODADDY||

    Will someone please put two in Mr. Bloombergs hat?

  • Jason||

    I profiled CSPI in a 2003 Reason article that opened by describing CSPI founder Michael Jacobson's distaste for "liquid candy" while drinking a Venti White Chocolate Blended Creme Frappuccino with whipped cream (760 calories).

    FTFY

  • ¢||

    NEW YORK IS BEST KOREA

    B) When I was a kid, the stricture on "sugared" things was a cultural tic of religious-nutjob (or otherwise ostentatiously Puritan, e.g., hippie) households—a conspicuous discipline that distinguished them from the Lazy Poor, taking the place of economic displays they couldn't afford to make.

    Obvious rest-of-comment goes here.

  • Old Mexican||

    "The world would be better, I think, if people limited their purchases of sugared beverages," Mr. Hacker said.

    I guess everybody has a different view of what Paradise looks like - for Mr. Hacker, it's a world with less sugary soda.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    People do limit their purchases of sugared beverages, don't they?

  • The Gobbler||

    I fill both of my pools with it.

  • ||

    I used to do the same, but you can't see the floaters that the neighborhood hooligans leave if they're in Pepsi™.

  • Crystal Pepsi||

    We tried,... but NOOOO!!

  • T||

    Use Mountain Dew. Of course, then your pool looks like it's filled with urine.

  • The Gobbler||

    That's why I'm a Sprite man.

  • ||

    Oh, that sierra mist rip-off shit.

    Well Mr. Gobbler, I'm coming over, and
    I shit clear!!!

  • Not Everyone||

    Keep 'em comin', soda jerk!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Night Elf Mohawk,

    People do limit their purchases of sugared beverages, don't they?

    Yes, it's called "Marginal Utility".... not that the CPSI jerk knows about it or something...

  • Old Mexican||

    Sorry, CSPI jerk.

  • Rich||

    Obviously the solution is to let food stamp recipients "buy" whatever they want, only specially-made versions thereof. For example, SNAP cola would be vitamin enhanced to prevent rickets, and SNAP potato chips would have protein powder for those growing youngsters and gunshot wounds. Result: Improved quality of life, and ... JOBS!!

  • Black Democrat voters||

    SNAP cracker jacks come with unregistered fire arms at the bottom of the box.

  • Paul||

    What about Booty Juice?

  • Rich||

    Melon, coconut, ... Sure, what the heck!

  • Old Mexican||

    This concern about stigmatizing poor people should not be confused with a concern about imposing disproportionate burdens on them in the name of public health[...]

    I wouldn't dream of thinking that... no, no, no, NOOOOO. Never, ever!
  • ||

    Back in my research days, I did some work on government privacy. One of the case studies was on food stamps, which were just being converted to a card-based system. There was a lot of discussion around the move to EBT being great because it reduced the stigma of being on welfare. I thought then and think now that that's crap. Even if you believe in welfare, you've got to be totally evil to want to do anything to keep people from wanting to get away from it as quickly as possible.

  • wingnutx||

    So you don't think "dignity cards" are helpful?

  • ||

    Not at all. Make it easy and painless and expect people to stay on. Make it a hassle and a little embarrassing, and maybe people will try to avoid it a little more.

    I don't lack sympathy for people in these situations, but I think the zeal to remove the stigma has a lot more to do with the political value of perpetuating a somewhat disenfranchised minority.

  • Paul||

    The more people in the program, the more successful it is, rinse, repeat.

  • ||

    The politics of this are the really appalling thing. I'm sympathetic to people in poverty.

  • 1.5"||

    About every fifth grocery store trip I get behind someone with a food stamps EBT scamming the checkout clerk into giving them cash back on most of their monthly allowance. I'm not sure how it works, but the people who use them damn well do.

    (A good indication that they're going to whip out the EBT, I've also noticed, is a cart full of 2-litres, some bags of chips and a couple candy bars.)

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    I worked at a grocery store for several years in high school and college. My advice for you is to stop going in the first week of the month. Food stamps barely last past the 2nd or 3rd (not because it's too little money for a month, but because the people on them buy $400 of stuff on the 1st).

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Pro Libertate,

    Even if you believe in welfare, you've got to be totally evil to want to do anything to keep people from wanting to get away from it as quickly as possible.

    Why do you hate the poor so much?

    ;-)

  • ||

    I don't hate them; I want them to make them wealthier. In other words, I want to eliminate poverty, not perpetuate it.

  • ||

    If they're on foodstamps, they should only be able to buy the essentials, like liquor and rolling papers. That way, when the kids grow up, they could make the transition from stoop to streetcorner that much easier.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I don't know why people here are saying none of the letters in CSPI correspond to what they do. They are clearly a Center.

  • Rich||

    Righto. And, in the Public Interest, they have a porn site.

  • wackyjack||

    Restaurants must think they’re cheating customers who get fewer than 1,000 calories per dish. What? You should walk away hungry?

    I read something like that and it makes me question my sanity.

  • B.P.||

    I'm not even giving them that. They're an outlier. Center implies that they're a central clearinghouse or repository for Science in the Public Interest.

  • 1.5"||

    They're a center in the same sense that your anus is the center of your ass.

  • ||

    I just had an idea that will please neither the nannies nor the foodstampers.

    Every month certain foodstuffs will be prohibited from purchase by food stamps. They will be chosen randomly by a panel of Reason commenters. The reason for the choices will be arbitrary, silly, and never divulged to the public.

    I'll start, for November: No Orange Foods.

  • Chester the Cheetah||

    You'll be hearing from my attorney.

  • ||

    You can has my orange slice when you pryz the bottle from my cold, dead fingaz, nigga.

  • Robert||

    Hey! I say this tomato is red! Get the color wheel out!

  • ||

    This concern about stigmatizing poor people should not be confused with a concern about imposing disproportionate burdens on them in the name of public health,

    And there's a big difference between telling a poor person what to do with HIS OWN money, and adding taxes to his spending, and restricting what he can do with OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY that has been forcibly expropriated from him.

    The more money he waste's on sugar-water, the less money gets spent on the intended purpose of the assistance. So you end up having to steal MORE money, just to make up for the fact that he's spending your dime on pizza and soda.

  • Paul||

    But none of this is novel, Hazel. My wife, a clinical social worker in an ER gets pissed off everytime cigarette taxes go up. Why? Because her poor clients always find a way to pay for cigarettes, but will never find the money to take proper care of their kids.

    We need to look at what Bloomberg is trying to do in the big picture. He's asserting control over the lives of individuals. Yes, welfare isn't "their money", yes food stamps probably shouldn't be given carte blanche for purchases of any product which can be legally ingested by the human body.

    But Bloomberg IS IN FACT chipping away at a structure. And his chipping is girded by the fact that he beleives in all his heart that he, and he alone has the right to dictate what individuals put in their body... trans fats, cigarette smoke, marijuana, drugs, sugary drinks. He only goes after the welfare recipient because it's easy.

  • ||

    Having control exerted over your life is the price of accepting social assistance.

    It's the biggest thing the makes the point that freedom is a matter of individual financial independence.

    If you DON'T do that, then people learn that freedom is a matter of the amount of money you can expropriate from "the rich".

  • ||

    ^^THIS^^, and people on public assistance should only be able to exercise free speech between the hours of 7:00 am and 4:00 pm. Dumbass.

  • ||

    this was in response to "Having control exerted over your life is the price of accepting social assistance."

  • ||

    Honestly, if I had my way, people who benefit from government largess would be prohitibted from voting.

  • Jennifer||

    Assuming I live another 40 years, then if I applied for and received food stamps today and every month for the rest of my life ... the amount of money I received by the year 2050 would be just over the amount of money I've paid in taxes. So when exactly would I qualify as a "recipient of government largess" in your eyes -- the first time I got an EBT card? The first time "total lifetime tax expenditures" dropped below "total lifetime food-stamp benefits?"

    Also, do these recipients of government largess include low-income workers cashing in the Earned Income Tax Credit? Low-ranking military personnel getting big dependents' allowances?

  • Paul||

    This man agrees with you, Hazel. Read and enjoy.

  • ||

    If you seriously think that, you have entirely missed the point of my argument.

  • Paul||

    No, Hazel, you made your argument very clear above: If you receive benefits from the government, you dance to the government tune. Allow me to quote your opening statement: As far as I'm concerned, if you accept someone else's money, you accept the conditions that go with it.

    If you don't see the inherent danger of that line of thinking, then it's you who has missed the point of my argument... entirely.

    We live in a world where arguably, you "accept someone else's money" in almost every transaction in which you engage. To simply flippantly writeoff any government dictate on that premise is questionable, at the least.

    I grant the underlying premise of the welfare state, but what's going on with Bloomberg in this particular case rings very sinister to me, because I know Bloomberg and the New York state of mind all to well.

  • ||

    No, I think that all those things are great arguments for why the government should NOT be involved in providing mandatory benefits, like healthcare, like schools.

    I have emphasized that point repeatedly in the healthcare debates.

    However, the difference with food stamps is that they are VOLUNTARY. Nobody is forced to participate. Nobody is forced to receive these benefits against their will.

    UNLIKE Obamacare, public roads, government schools, etc.

    I totally and completely get the point that free public benefits justify government controlling your life.

    Which is an argument for why all of them should be abolished.

    But as lon g as voluntary public benefits exist ... yes, make them as burdensome as possible, so people will not want to receive them.

  • Paul||

    Started a new thread below.

  • Paul||

    7:00 a.m. You go into your newly renovated bathroom – one of a number of amenities that you enjoy in your house. But the fact that you can even own your own house is something made possible by government. Think about this: “ownership” and “private property” are not things that exist in nature. These are legal constructs: things created by laws that are passed and enforced by government. You couldn’t even buy your home without a system of commercial laws concerning contracts and a government that ensures that sales contracts are enforced. So the fact that you live in your own home is, in part, a benefit of government and the rule of law.

    7:01 a.m. Government also helps you own your house in more than the legal sense. On a more practical level, the federal government actually gives you money every year to help pay for your house. It’s called a mortgage interest tax deduction and it is one of the larger benefit programs run by the federal government – amounting to over $60 billion dollars a year. You can also deduct any real estate taxes you pay. These largely overlooked subsidy programs have enabled millions of people to buy their first home or to move up to a larger home than they could afford otherwise.

    Hot Damn! Is that not progressive win or what?

  • ||

    Is it too hard to just let them buy whatever they want with it and then to cut it off completely after 1 year? Max lifetime benefit 12 months, buy whatever you want with it.

  • Ray Pew||

    Does no one here understand that many recipients currently sell their food stamps for cash in order to buy prohibited items? This will only increase this black market.

  • Paul||

    Game, set and match.

  • kill bill||

    Last time I went shopping, I was approached by a guy who wanted to trade food stamps for cash - looked like a meth head & was *possibly* looking to trade to buy drugs.

    Anyway, back in the 90's, my neighbor with 3 PT jobs & 2 kids & the unmarried father of those kids to support was on food stamps & WIC & we'd shop together & I'd cover the non-food {ie jumbo pk of paper towels, etc.} & she'd use her food stamps to cover my cost.

    It was EMBARRASSING to use those food stamps & I remember hearing how they changed it to the EBT cards & thinking "Here we go - take out the shame, get more of it"

  • ||

    You know, the problem I have with the argument that government funding of welfare allows it to dictate terms, is that the further we go down the path of redistribution of wealth, the more such precedents can be used to oppress us. Like, for instance, with healthcare.

  • Paul||

    That's my point. I'm told my hair will grow over it eventually...

    Anywho, while Hazel makes a nice philosophically puritain argument about the welfare state, it kind of ignores the fact that there is actually a philosophy out there that recognizes that, and is actively trying to leverage it.

    I'm not going to try to google the articles out there, but there is a legitimate progressive academic philosophy that if you can get everyone involved in receiving government benefits, not just the poor, but the rich and the middle class, that society will refuse to dismantle or challenge the system, lest they upset their own personal government applecart. It becomes a kind of Gordian Knot.

  • ||

    Which is why you make the public welfare system a demonstration project of what that destination looks like.

    As long as it's voluntary, and people get to make the choice of whether to receive the benefits, they can choose to opt out, and will not support such policies for the general population.

    If you make welfare completely free, no strings attached, then more people will sign up for the total state, and by the time they implement the totalitarian lifestyle control, everyone will have bought in, and it will be too late.

  • Robert||

    There's a carrot as well as the stick. Since last year, NYC has given 40% bonus coupons for produce at farmer's markets for EBT swipes for tokens to be spent there.

  • Paul||

    Hazel Meade|10.7.10 @ 5:48PM|#
    If the welfare state is going to expand anyway, why not making accepting it's help as much like an authoritarian gulag as possible?

    I will grant you that there is a certain appeal to this line of thinking.

    Make the progressive world as much like a concentration camp as possible, and maybe people will recoil in horror. But it never seems to work out that way. There are a jillion academic arguments out there explaining why welfare benefits should expand and continue indefinitely. Or at least you'd have heard them if you listened to NPR.

  • ||

    If everyone on social security had to live in government provided retirement communities, complete with health monders and mandatory morning calisthenics, how popular do you think Social Security would be?

  • Progressive Health Nut||

    Hazel, you're onto something! Report to the office of Social Security Recipient Placement Services at 7am tomorrow! And no sugary snacks!

  • Paul||

    I totally and completely get the point that free public benefits justify government controlling your life.

    Which is an argument for why all of them should be abolished.

    I know you know that, and I think you know I know that. And we should all know that we know that we know that.

    But we should also know and recognize that while all of these things are a libertarian dream, most are nigh entrenched.

    I'll admit I'm trying to make a side argument here that you may have missed. I alluded to it above and no one has yet responded to it.

    The line of Bloombergian thinking is that the state has a right to tell us what we can put into our bodies. The threads between this and the war on drugs is there. Most people ignore it, but it's there. I truly believe that one does beget the other.

  • ||

    The line of Bloombergian thinking is that the state has a right to tell us what we can put into our bodies.

    And instituting this in the welfare system gives us a nice demo of what life in the total welfare state would be like.

    So anyone gets a choice, you can go on welfare and experience the awesomeness of the worker's paradise, which has it's free food matched with commensurate totalitarian control over your food choices, and free healthcare matched with totalitarian control.

    OR, you can choose to worker, make your own money, and be independent, so you can have freedom.

    Message? government benefits = totalitarian gulag. Individual responsibility = freedom.

  • ||

    Balg. Your free healthcare is matched withn totalitarian control of your lifestyle.

    Or, you can choose to WORK.

  • Paul||

    And instituting this in the welfare system gives us a nice demo of what life in the total welfare state would be like.

    And if I thought that message would come home in a clear and understandable way, I'd be 110% behind it.

    But as we've seen elsewhere-- especially in the realm of healthcare, people continue to perceive freedom like that of the 15 year old, which leads me to one of my favoritist quotes:

    In many ways his idea of freedom is the 15-year-old's: Stay out of my room. Show me respect. And hey, when's dinner?

  • ||

    Actually, I think a lot of people DO get that message, having spoken to people who have at one time or other recieved some kind of public assistance. Not the long-term cases here, but people who experienced the gulag, hated it, and decided that they would much rather be financially indpedent.

    Also, I don't see how removing restrictions on food stamps is going to in any way encourage people to be LESS likely to support the welfare state.

    I mean, if you turn welfare into a system where people get as much money as they need to do whatever they want then you are really validating the progressive concept of "freedom" as lack of financial limitations. As having money to do whatever you want provided for you by someone else.

  • oncogenesis||

    For a good laffcry, check out the comments re this story on the reliably statist Metafilter. The genius of Bloomberg's nannyism being obvious, the conversation quickly devolves into question of whether he would make a good president or the bestest prezdent evah.

  • Libertarian||

    I remember W.F. Buckley writing years ago about an economist's observation that it would cost next to nothing to have rice, beans, and oil (I could be wrong about the 3rd item) set inside every grocery store, free and available for anyone to take. These items would ensure no one would starve, yet do away with food stamps and the gargantuan bureaucracies.

    I'm not proposing this, of course, but I think it's a useful data point when discussing welfare's initial purpose vs. what it has become.

  • Robert||

    It was 4 items. One of them was cheese (chronic surplus due to dairy price supports), oil certainly wasn't on the list. One of them must've been at least a fair source of vitamin C. ISTR some bean curd rather than beans being one of the 4.

    But the initial motiv'n for food "stamps" was as an agricultural price support.

  • ||

    As an aside, I once saw a young lady purchase several cases of soda, drink mixers, red bull, etc. The cashier began flirting with her, asked her what they were for, and she replied they were mixers for some bar she worked at. Imagine my delight when she paid for the whole thing with her EBT card.

  • txgypsy||

    for the girl who paid for bar supplies w/ebt card,....no doubt her boss gave her cash reimbursement for use of the card,which she then uses cash for new outfits and make up for her job as barmaid, thus enhancing her unreported tip intake, thus she games the system...............

  • ||

    I am enjoying a delightful throwback Mountain Dew made with sweet, sweet cane sugar as I type this. Hope that burns your ass, you priggish CPSI assholes.

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