Feds Want to Help You–Whether You Want Help or Not

The FDA is trying to give food stamps to people who do not want or need them.


There are two powerful reasons for giving government aid to the poor, one good and one bad. It alleviates human suffering, which is good. And it increases dependence on government, which is bad.

Or at least it is bad if you believe in virtues such as personal responsibility and self-reliance. On the other hand, if you are (let us say) a Democratic congressman or a bureaucrat in the Department of Health and Human Services, then swelling the rolls of those who need your help could be a very good thing indeed. At least for you.

This might sound just the teeniest bit paranoid and nutty. But that does not make it wrong; even paranoids can have enemies. And the past few weeks have produced a passel of evidence that government and its principal cheerleaders would like very much to render Americans more rather than less dependent on them. Consider:

A few days ago the Department of Health and Human Services adopted a change in policy that "ends welfare reform as we know it," according to Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. HHS has decided to grant waivers to states that will knock out the keystone of the welfare-reform arch: the work requirement. That requirement helped cut welfare rolls in half. But now states will be able to "test alternative and innovative strategies," including "multi-year career pathways" and "a comprehensive universal engagement system," whatever that is. Neoliberal Mickey Kaus calls it, probably correctly, a "stay-on-the-dole-while-we-keep-you-busy-with-anything-other-than-actual-work" system.

The Department of Agriculture also has been doing its part for the welfare state: It has been producing Spanish-language radio novelas dramatizing the desirability of signing up for food stamps, or whatWashington calls the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). "Will Claudia convince Ramon to apply for SNAP? Don't miss our next episode of Hope Park!" concluded a typical spot. (Once word of the campaign spread, the department deep-sixed it.)

A similar USDA program has been trying to combat ostensibly nefarious value systems – such as pride, personal responsibility and self-reliance. The Daily Caller reports that last year the department handed out Hunger Champion awards to North Carolina officials who developed strategies for "counteracting what they described as 'mountain pride' [by appealing] to those who wished not to rely on others." A USDA fact sheet stressed the importance of countering "myths about SNAP among those who . . . have beliefs that discourage them from enrolling."

In short, the USDA is not merely making sure that people who want food stamps know how to access them. It is trying to sign up people who don't want them in the first place.

These efforts march in tandem with the Obama administration's greatest triumph to date, the 2010 health-care overhaul. Democrats are happy that the Supreme Court upheld the law – but furious that some Republican governors are not embracing one of its principal components, a major expansion of Medicaid. That expansion, says The Washington Post, "would seem an irresistible deal for states: Starting in 2014, in exchange for spending a percent or two more of their own funds, states will get nearly a trillion additional federal dollars." A trillion? Thank goodness Obamacare aims to "bend the cost curve downward." Otherwise we might be talking about real money!

Of course, this is a swell deal only for state governments – not for state residents. Congressional and White House staffers will not exactly be passing around a bucket to pay the tab; the money will come from taxpayers who live in the very states that supposedly are so lucky to receive such lavish funding. (That minor detail calls to mind one of Will Rogers' quips: "I can remember way back when a liberal was generous with his own money.")

If you want a glimpse of where this relentless campaign to increase dependence will lead, cast your eye to Europe – whose metastasizing welfare state is devouring the last remnant of the continent's substance. The result there? An increase, not a diminution, of human suffering.

Most Americans do not object to government programs that offer temporary help those who have fallen on hard times; nobody wants to see children go hungry because a factory shut down. But the public does resent, rather strongly, the cycle of dependency that the 1996 welfare-reform law sought to break. It does not want a perpetual underclass that votes for whichever politician offers the biggest cut of other people's money. Americans believe in the cliché about giving people a hand up, not a handout. That is why a 2008 campaign spot boasted that a certain candidate "passed a law to move people from welfare to work; slashed the rolls by 80 percent. . . . As president [he'll] never forget the dignity that comes from work."

The candidate's name? Barack Obama. Like so many of the president's promises, it rings rather hollow now.

NEXT: Partisan Politics: Dems and Reps Both Say It's OK For Their Politicians to Lie to Get Elected

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  1. Our tax dollars at work!

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  2. OT:

    New hack attack on Iran nuke factories features AC/DC

    “I am writing you to inform you that our nuclear program has once again been compromised and attacked by a new worm with exploits which have shut down our automation network at Natanz and another facility Fordo near Qom.”

    The Iranian scientist goes on to say that they believe the attackers used Metasploit, a common hacking tool which provides a variety of ways to penetrate supposedly secure networks. “There was also some music playing randomly on several of the workstations during the middle of the night with the volume maxed out,” says the scientist. “I believe it was playing ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC.”


    The video for that particular song, BTW, features many explosions sponsored by the US Army.

    1. Why aren’t these guys smart enough to not have these systems on the internet?

      1. And deprive the plant operators of their access to porn?

      2. I thought a lot of the exploits were due to guys sneakernet-ing apps or programs from outside, ‘Net connected, compromised computers? E.g., guy takes work home, home computer is targeted by worm, infected, and spreads itself to the guy’s work. He saves his work to a thumb drive or e-mails it to himself (lol), takes the thumb drive back to work, and promptly infects his whole system.

        Not like U.S. gov’t systems are all that secure either, if Bradley Manning is anything to go by.

    2. They should make it play “America, Fuck Yeah!”

      1. +10

        That’s assuming it’s not the work of the Isrealis. In which case “Hava Nagila” might be a good choice.

    3. Clearly the work of our Australian allies.

      1. No, they probably would have chosen a better (and more relevant) song.

    4. Tomorrow’s headline: cyberwarfare attack thwarted by DCMA takedown notice.

  3. This is purely a devil’s advocate thing:

    The Food Stamp program has historically been underutilized, in the sense that the gap between the people who qualify for it and the people who sign up is very large.

    That would make it incumbent on the people administering the program to attempt to communicate with the public to increase program awareness. (If we assume that at least some portion of the people who fail to sign up are doing so out of a lack of knowledge.)

    Otherwise, you end up with the welfare version of the corporate subsidy gap – the benefits flow to people who actively work the system, and not to all intended beneficiaries.

    SLD about how none of these programs (food stamps OR corporate subsidies) should exist, etc. – but if they DO exist, it’s not completely unreasonable to argue that we need to make an effort to see that the spending flows to all intended beneficiaries across the board, and not just to motivated parties who actively scrounge around seeking rents.

    1. No. As long as we have welfare let the stigma remain. People should feel bad about taking it. Those who work the system should be scorned as the parasites they are and not held up as “model citizens”.

      1. As long as we have welfare let the stigma remain. People should feel bad about taking it.


        But here’s the thing: the stigma isn’t written into the program.

        We’re essentially saying we expect the people administering the program to view the extension of the benefit to all legal beneficiaries as illegitimate, and I don’t think that’s reasonable.

        I think GE should feel bad about taking solar tax credits, but they don’t.

        And the corporate welfare analogy is informative. Corporate subsidies like the solar tax credit program aren’t wrong only because tax money is being taken at gunpoint and redistributed. They’re also wrong because politically connected and informed businesses utilize them, and other businesses don’t. There’s an equity issue on top of the justice issue.


        So let’s say somebody sat down and decided to start trying to make sure every business in America that could take advantage of certain tax credits knew about them and had the technical assistance and accounting support they needed to take them.

        From one libertarian perspective (justice), this would be bad: more corporate welfare. But from a different perspective (equity), it would be good: less crony favoritism WITHIN corporate welfare.

        If the political decision to have the programs exist has already been made and is not being undone any time soon, the equity issue is the only one we can work on.

        1. But here’s the thing: the stigma isn’t written into the program.

          Removing the stigma is written into the program.

          Favoritism could be preserved with corporate welfare by offering it as “act now” and “while supplies last” with the favored recipients having inside knowledge on the program and specific eligibility requirements. Sort of how it works now with government employment opportunities.

      2. As long as we have welfare let the stigma remain.

        You’re forgetting the sociological concept of “reverse prestige”.

      3. The internet has made things too easy.

        Instead, all benefits should require you to drive to the county seat, stand in line, fill out reams of paperwork, and wait for a check in the mail, like in the old days.

        Guarantee you, one look around the welfare waiting room and the stigma will be back.

      4. Agreed. Acceptance of welfare should null your right to vote. Want to vote? Then don’t take welfare. The basic danger to liberty is when government becomes a charity.

        This was the basic idea behind the original voting rights in the US. Yeah, it was corrupted along racist/misogynist lines, but the basic idea was sensible, you don’t want the uber-dependent dictating policy.

    2. Not only that, but “conservatives” (as in the Reagan admin.) have argued that the existence of existing benefit programs such as this, and the fact that more people are eligible than use them, shows that there is not a need for more benefit programs — that they just need more publicity.

  4. But because of multiplier effect of government spending, every dollar the of food stamps creates $7 trillion and 500,000,000 new jobs.

    1. Yep, the same way that unemployment benefits create millions of jobs and boost the economy!

  5. I thought Barack Obama, when elected, said his administration was going to go through government regs line-by-line, to eliminate many of them.

    Should I be disappoint?

    1. Only if you were stupid enough to believe him.

    2. He meant he’d eliminate the regs that limit government.

      1. Like the constitution.

        1. He delegated that to John Roberts.

  6. While I’m sure Obama approves we can thank Bush and the Republican-controlled congress for shifting this USDA foodstamp/SNAP-“outreach” into high gear with the 2002 Farm Bill.

    The Spanish-language radio novelas touting the virtues of letting the taxpayer pick up the tab for your groceries were produced in 2008 by Chimpy’s USDA.

    1. What do you mean? Whenever a Republican is in the White House, the entire federal government except the DOD just withers away to nothing. Every right-thinking person knows this. [/my liberal Facebook acquaintances]

    2. I seem to recall AmeriCorps going door-to-door in the 1990s looking to enroll folks on food stamps.

  7. who said teh [WEALTHY] aint creating boosch [TAX CUT JOBS] eh?

    see they’re paying the unemployeed to hold their breath waiting for em!11!!

    aint capitalism great!!!11!!

    1. You’re not even trying today, are you?

      1. His normal batch salts dealer was unavailable, so he had to go with some cheaper stuff that’s not as potent as his usual brand.

      2. On the contrary, I think this one is great. o3 usually doesn’t make much in the way of arguments. Rather, I see his posts as a sort of modern artwork decorating the halls of HR. This is an exquisite piece, indeed. Let’s hope the IRS doesn’t tax it!

        1. Damn ampersand! Not human resources, hit and run!

        2. my percular genius is wasted on these pecular people

          1. percular.

            here’s a hint: when the red line appears under the word after you type it, you may want to check the spelling. You may even want to check if it’s a word at all.

            1. why bother? its how the langage advances

              1. its how the langage advances

                Dear God I want to shoot you in the face so badly.

  8. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me dude.


  9. The Department of Agriculture also has been doing its part for the welfare state: It has been producing Spanish-language radio novelas dramatizing the desirability of signing up for food stamps


    Illegal immigrants never take welfare.

    1. There are plenty of American citizens (both native born and legal immigrants) who either speak only Spanish or who are more comfortable using it, thus being more likely to watch Univision or other Spanish language media.

      1. Added to the fact that the US has no official language, it would make sense that materials would be available in several major languages of the US.

      2. Sure there are.

        1. Why yes, there are?

          Most of those people speaking Spanish are not illegal aliens.

          Some are, of course. But even allowing for ten or twelve million illegal aliens, it still leaves millions of American citizens whose major source of information is Spanish language media.

        2. Also, if you don’t believe it, go to South Florida some time.

          It may have gotten past the “will the last American to leave Miami please bring the flag?” days but there are still plenty of nativist bigots like you who get upset when they have to listen to Spanish being spoken all around them

          1. Saying that all official business should be done in English is not necessarily a “nativist bigot” position.

            Leaving aside the inevitable variations that get introduced in translation, there’s an argument for efficiency. And, of course, for assimilation/avoiding the soft bigotry of assuming they are incapable of learning English.

            People speaking Spanish doesn’t bother me in the least. Doing official business in mutliple languages does. Not to mention the legal requirement that I have to accomodate them in my business.

            1. My argument is not about whether govenment agencies advertising in a language other than English was good policy nor anything to do with what language official busisness should be conducted in, it had to do with whether advertising in Spanish was in and of itself directed at illegal aliens.

              The clear implication in the original comment by our guest visiting from VDare or Stormfront or wherever is clearly nativist bigotry.

          2. for those who are NOT illegal, choosing to communicate mostly or only in Spanish is a choice, and a self-defeating one at that. There is nothing nativist about expecting to speak the native tongue in that country. I don’t go to Mexico expecting everyone to know English, even if many do. It is incumbent on me to be able to communicate with the locals, not the other way around.

            1. As I said. My response had nothing to do with whether it was good or bad practice, it had to do with the fact that this advertising is not directed at illegal immigrants.

            2. Furthermore, many Spanish speaking people do speak English very well and do so in the day to day dealings. That does not alter the fact they many still choose to use Spanish at home and get most of there information watching or listening to Spanish language media.

              1. You’re being intentionally obtuse.

                The Spanish language novellas pushing food stamps are intentionally aimed at illegal immigrants.

                1. Well, it’s my own fault.

                  In addition to not feeding the trolls, I need to remember to not feed the nativist bigots.

  10. “Mountain Pride”

    I wonder what they call it when cityfolk refuse to take unemployment or welfare while looking for a new job…

    1. Homelessness?

    2. Once it comes up, I’m sure someone will think of a name for it.

    3. I wonder what they call it when cityfolk refuse to take unemployment or welfare while looking for a new job…

      Yankee ingenuity.

    4. Collecting umemployment while you are looking for a job is not pride it is stupid. It makes as much sense as not collecting from you homeowners policy when your house burns down.

      Your employer paid those premiums as part of the compensation package you received.

      Now, arguments as to whether UIC programs are overly generous or poorly administered are a different matter.

      Collecting unemployment benefits until you find another job is not ipso facto wrong.

  11. “cityfolk ”

    Avoiding the code word urban?

    1. Only cityfolk use the word “urban”.

  12. This is a silly question. It comes down to very basic math:

    1 new food stamp recipient = 1 new voter, who will vote for anyone as long as they promise to keep the free stuff coming.

    1. I don’t know. Rationally, yes, this would definitely happen. But people aren’t rational, and I would be very interested to see how many food stamp recipients are regular voters.

      1. *aren’t totally rational

      2. It certainly makes sense that some food stamp recipients are also too lazy to vote. But the ones that do vote, I would say that their motiviation to vote is based on more free stuff.

        1. Right. Welfare-pimp politicians don’t reelect themselves.

          1. Yes but buying influence gets better results than buying individual votes.

            That means getting the support of interest groups with the kind of spoakspersons who autoamtically get called by NBC, NPR etc to bloviate on the latest crisis du jour.

            This shit is directed at guilty white suburbanites every bit as much as it is to the “poor”.

            But the fact is that in the end the goal of welfare activists is universal European style middle class welfare.

            You know, the kind that is bankrupting most of Europe.

      3. It doesn’t have to be a 1 – 1 ratio for the argument to hold.

      4. If buying votes didn’t work, vote wouldn’t be bought.

    2. No, actually, pandering directly for votes, though it does happen, is not as common as pandering for support from improtant opinion makers among the Party base.

      There is lobby for poverty programs (social workers, educators etc) every bit as big as any corporate lobby and it has been a major constituency in the Democratic coalition for some time.

      Their status was lowered for a few years after the mid-nineties, but they have felt increasingly invigorated by the election of BO.

      This seeking out and persuading people to accept welfare is something that has been going on since the sixties. It is an the major part of what “community organizing” has become (though Saul Alinsky would have frowned on it).

  13. “The first taste is free, sweet-tits. Within a week, you’ll be sucking my cock for a baggie of this shit.”

    1. Pretty much.

  14. Food stamps raise the price of bulk commodities (corn, wheat, beans, etc) which thrills Republican Senators from the plains states. So you get the rare program when knee-jerk liberals and hardcore conservatives are both trying to increase the scope of the program.

    1. The real beneficiaries are the grocery industry and food processors. They’re the ones who get the money. Almost nothing trickles down to the commodity farmer. A recent proposal to means test SNAP in PA was opposed by that state’s largest regional grocery chain. They said it would cost jobs.

      1. Yes. The ag-conglomerates make shit loads of money because of food stamps. But demand from ag-conglomerates also raises commodity prices so you see hardcore republicans like Grassely promoting food stamps.

      2. Which chain was that?

  15. The point of Welfare is to take the shame out of taking charity.

    The point of taking charity being shameful is that shame creates an incentive to wait until you really need it before asking for it, and it creates an incentive to work hard to get off of it.

    Otherwise it becomes a lifestyle, which I can only assume was the reason Welfare was created.

    1. It’s also the point to get poor people hooked on it, sarc.

      That includes poor white people, Tony.

    2. Might also have been an idea to keep Welfare recipients in their neighborhoods instead of wandering into the better neighborhoods looking for charity or work or stuff to steal. For example: public housing.

  16. Some years ago I saw a news story where they went to what the last census showed to be the poorest county in the US. It was somewhere in the middle of Nevada. The residents interviewed all said something along the line of – “Well yeah, no one has any money, but we ain’t poor.” They interviewed the Food Stamp Lady who complained she couldn’t get hardly anyone to sign up (just about everyone was eligible). She said her job was to get folks to “swallow their pride.”
    ‘Bout sums it all up.

    1. you mean people were able to function without a bunch of high-tech goodies OR government handouts? What madness is this?

  17. conspicuously missing from the welfare story is any attempt to see what either Clinton or Noot have to say since they were involved in the reform. And neither (far as I can tell) has seen fit to write an op-ed about the subject.

    1. Bill is to captive to Democratic Party loyalty to write or say anything against its current standard bearer.

      The Democratic Party, under BO’s leadership, has for the time being decided that the politics of envy and class warfare is what is going to get them the power they want. Anyone who wants to get in on the spoils had better tow the lion.

      1. no doubt Bill is a party guy but he is a Bill guy above all else and this move is a slap at his legacy. Still, if that explains his silence, it does not explain Noot’s.

        1. True. Early days, perhaps.

          According to TFA it’s only been a “few days” since the policy change was made. Maybe Newt hasn’t got around to it.

          But Bill has just made too many statements supporting BO’s other policies in the last year or so that I feel compelled to believe he is simply in the tank.

  18. As i had posted before here, my mother-in-law was cold-called and encouraged to sign up for food stamps, and was walked her through the process.

    She really doesn’t qualify, since she has about 300K in assets, but they approved her anyway. Now, under PA’s new GOP governor, she’s going to lose them.

    But the income and asset test hadn’t changed–it’s that the Democratic governor who signed her up had the bureaucracy ignore them and sign people up anyway.

    Part of the “make them dependent on us and they’ll vote for us forever” strategy the Ds have.

  19. When republicans take the white house and the senate in 2013 the dems are going to hammer the Republicans when they try to repeal this crap.

    Of course the dems won’t say shit about the republicans adding a few hundred billion to the defense budget.

    The sweetness of the bitter tears of Obama’s loss will sadly be short lived.

    The good news is that out debt burden will continue to have a huge and growing drag on the economy and we should be completely broke sooner….this is good news in that there is a hard ceiling to how big the government can actually get.

  20. Maybe they can send out food stamps in voting registration forms like how ad firms used to send crisp, new, 1 dollar bills in the radio mail surveys.

  21. In short, the USDA is not merely making http://www.ceinturesfr.com/cei…..-c-11.html sure that people who want food stamps know how to access them. It is trying to sign up people who don’t want them in the first place.

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