Smoking Bans

"Don't Ban Smoking in Public Housing"

Proposed rule treats poor people like children and exposes government paternalism at its most naked.


A coupla weeks ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposal to ban smoking in all public housing. It would reportedly affect about a million households.

I've got a new column up at The Daily Beast arguing that the idea showcases government paternalism at its most naked. There's a strong case to be made that the federal government should not be involved in providing housing (including subsidies to housing in the form of the mortgage-interest deduction). But if it is, it would be far better to provide recipients not with Section 8 vouchers or payments but unrestricted cash. Indeed, that would be far better for any and all transfers to all recipients. As the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, about 20 percent of all government services and benefits got to the top income quintile. The more transparent such transfers become, the more we can actually debate and discuss their breadth and depth.


Rather than being adopted, the proposal should spur a larger conversation about how best to adminster other sorts of programs—from food stamps to the mortgage-interest deduction—that try to engineer our behavior to suit the whims of our leaders….

When it comes to food stamps (technically known as SNAP these days), the government refuses to pay for all sorts of products, to steer recipients to ostensibly healthier choices. The net result of giving people electronic benefit (EBT) cards that can only be used to purchase particular foods is a thriving abritrage market in the benefits. According to a 2014 federal study (PDF), for instance, SNAP recipients who want cash routinely use social media sites to sell the cards at a fraction of their face value. In San Antonio, $400 in SNAP money was offered for $240 in cash; in New Jersey, a $200 EBT card was advertised for $100 in cash.

Rather than trying to push the neediest Americans into particular behaviors—buy a house! have a kid! eat more kale! don't smoke!—it would be far more elegant and efficient to simply give them unrestricted cash payments, whether for food or housing. That would eliminate all secondary markets in benefits and minimize the market distortions that inevitably occur in heavily subsidized markets (the favorable treatment of home ownership was one of the factors in the housing bubble). It might even allow us to start having conversations about simultaneously reducing the size of the welfare state while increasing its effectiveness.

Read more here.

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  1. “In San Antonio, $400 in SNAP money was offered for $240 in cash; in New Jersey, a $200 EBT card was advertised for $100 in cash.”

    Last night my local news channel did one of their tawdry exposes on food stamp fraud. It culminated in a reporter chasing some (incredibly able-bodied) fraudster through a parking lot with a camera and microphone. It was hilarious.

    1. I had a friend with a nice little side business trading cigs and booze for foodstamps. Usually at three to one. He was like one of those extreme milage people, but with food. He once managed a week with nothing but a bag of oranges and a bag of potatoes and some tabs of LSD. He said the secret to hunger was “to shrink your stomach down first.”

      1. That sounds like a set-up for a madcap version of one of those independent living programs they teach to welfare recipients.

        “Rice costs, like, nothing man! By the end of the month you’ll have enough SNAP cash to keep you awash in booze and oxy, and probably a little bit left over for a not-too-off-putting blowjob in the alley behind 6th Street.”

        1. Find my friend and have him host it. He knew every buffet in town you could eat off of and not be caught. He once spent 12 hours in a Fazolis eating free bread sticks. He was a freegan before the word existed.

          1. “Do you have any old produce for my pet rabbits?”

            I “shopped” that way in my snot-nosed anarchist days.

    2. On another site I saw people whining about SNAP-recipients operating unlicensed BBQ stands. I have much more admiration for someone who turns $200 in foodstamps into $500 in cash than the reverse

      1. This explains why there were guys with homemade “Pulled Pork sandwiches” sign on my block last year.

        The problem was they didn’t look…ummm, savory enough to purchase from.

    1. I’m not complaining, but I think that’s actually a longer version.

      1. HM’s a very slow reader.

        1. If I understand you correctly, fuck you!

      2. That’s only because you didn’t indicate in your narrative which part was the chorus.

  2. …the government refuses to pay for all sorts of products, to steer recipients to ostensibly healthier choices.

    Also because those taxpayers who see themselves as footing the bill for families to have the basics don’t like what the recipients seem to believe the basics entail. In the olden days people think that there was a motivation to get off the government dole and that motivation was shame. As shame no longer exists, today they’re trying other nudging methods.

    Yeah, I don’t believe that either.

  3. Maybe we should just lower the SNAP payments so they don’t have 50% they don’t need for food.

    1. Some Dem politician tried to live for a week eating with the same amount of money as a SNAP recipient receives, and the politician couldn’t pull it off, so get your war on the poor and farmers out of here.

      1. Have you seen the price of filet mignon lately?!

      2. Somehow these people are eating for $240 instead of $400. Your first mistake would be to assume that the only source of fungible money to allocate for food is SNAP. Child support, SSDI,under the table jobs. All of these add up. Yes, I am being slightly tongue in cheek, the actions of a few does not necessarily indicate a trend for the many. But the idea that arbitage as a significant drag on being poor — as if they “deserved” $400 in cash benefit rather than up to $400 in food is not an indication of any failure of the program.

      3. Some Dem politician

        Likely does not know how to eat cheaply.

        tried to live for a week

        Whereas EBT payments are made monthly.

        the same amount of money as a SNAP recipient receives

        The S in SNAP is “supplemental”.

        the politician couldn’t pull it off

        Well, you did say he was a Democrat.

        so get your war on the poor and farmers out of here

        What does this have to do with farmers?

        1. I mean, seriously, the maximum SNAP benefit for a single individual is $194.

          50 pounds of rice = $20
          1 pound of salad greens = $5 (x 8 = $40)
          20 pounds of black beans = $18 (x 2 = $36)
          1 whole chicken = $6 (x 8 = $48)
          1 pound of frozen broccoli = $3 (x 8 = $24)

          That’s $168, enough healthy food for an entire month, leaving $26 for oils and spices.

        2. Jesus Christ, I need to get my sarcasm detector fixed.

  4. Drug testing Welfare recipients = BAD

    Ban smoking of Welfare recipients = GOOD

    It makes all the sense in the world to the modern left.

    1. Eh. Every place I’ve seen where they drug test welfare recipients, the rates have come back far below the statistical average. It was something like 1 in 5000 in FL. The administrative overhead ate any cost savings.

      1. WAD. It’s mostly a payoff for campaign donations by drug testing companies.

      2. Unless I’m missing something, it sounds like it worked.

        What exactly it accomplished besides “getting people off drugs”, I’m not entirely sure.

  5. If they don’t like the rules the landlord is imposing then find another place to live. Is that too much to ask? I’d probably grandfather in the existing deathstick addicts.

  6. How many public housing units are for poor people anymore? I thought they were all getting transferred over to Section 8. Almost everytime I see a news story about public housing it is some gentrified architectural landmark in a desirable part of town full of “mixed income” tenants that consist of management-level public employees, a few “creative class”-types and one or two token poor grannies carefully screened to make sure they have no felonious relations.

    That said, public housing should be banned, not smoking (or gun ownership and whatever else they want to discourage)

    1. NYC has oceans of them dating from the Moses era.

  7. “And letting public-housing recipients decide whether they want to allow smoking in their apartments might turn out to be a sign we’ve stopped assuming that if you’re poor, you’re also dumb.”

    Isn’t that what you guys already think?

    1. Well, poverty doesn’t make you stupid, but stupidity definitely helps you become or stay poor…

      1. It’s pretty simple, really. Poor people spend all their money, while rich people do not. Smarts has nothing to do with it. Smart people can be shitty decision makers, and unintelligent people can be wise.

  8. Who owns the property and does smoking damage its value?


  10. Nudging away from liberty.

  11. Here is the proposed rule. You can look it over and comment on it.

    Proposed Rule

  12. If these people want to smoke so bad maybe they should buy their own house instead of living off the taxpayers.

    1. Buy their own smokes too.

      1. Damn right

  13. Y-you just want to give TEH POORZ money directly?!

    *clutches pearls, stumbles and barely makes it to fainting couch in time*

    1. Just imagine how many Wrong Decisions they could make with pure cash!
      The reason they’re poor is because they lack the benevolent, guiding hand of Top Men.

  14. I’m against this only for the reason that I think the implementation will invariably wind up costing more in tax revenue than it saves in property damage, but that’s it. If we were talking about private rental housing, or even subsidized (Section 8) housing, nobody would bat an eye at a landlord forbidding smoking in his or her property. And for good reason, because cigarette smoke gets into the carpet, stains the paint, and generally makes the place look and smell like shit–and I say this as a smoker who owns a house. Besides which, people who smoke inside are at least marginally more likely to accidentally drop a cigarette on the carpet or, at worst, set the place on fire by smoking in bed or the like, and you’d never say that a private landlord doesn’t have a right to take steps to prevent that from happening to his/her property.

    People living in public housing do not have a positive right to smoke inside just because it’s public, not private, housing. The landlord, in this case the government, has every right, even a duty, to preserve the value and integrity of the property, particularly as the property is owned by the public and maintained through public funds. I hate to sound like that guy, but if you can’t afford a place where you can smoke then you can’t afford to smoke.

    1. It will not be enforced. Its simply Care Bear do-goodism.

    2. and possibly a game to allow easier eviction, as smoking is easier to prove.

    3. A while ago, I read that some cities were considering downsizing their fire departments due to fall in the number of house fires due to fewer people smoking.

      1. “Fewer fires, so why are there far more firefighters?” says that fires are basically down by half since 30 years ago.

        1. The last time I had to stop at a “sobriety checkpoint”, there were dozens of people being paid to stand around and collect overtime. There were state police, county police, SHA officials, EMTs, and firemen. There was also lots of equipment (police cruisers, service trucks, ambulances, fire engines, lots of portable generators and lighting). I’m sure all of that was necessary to catch a couple of drunks.

  15. “Proposed rule treats poor people like children and exposes government paternalism at its most naked.”

    I’ve read the Obama has been smoking in the White House. So, you can add hypocritical. But, I guess he’s not as bad as Boehner, since smoking in government offices has been verboten for years.

  16. Again with the picture of young Epi?!

  17. (the favorable treatment of home ownership was one of the factors in the housing bubble).

    like renters don’t benefit from it indirectly. take away the landlord’s interest deduction as well then.

  18. People are selling EBT cards at less than face value?

    Why? Aren’t they starving and desperately needing food?

  19. As the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, about 20 percent of all government services and benefits got to the top income quintile.

    This is a very interesting statement. On its face it seems like someone is saying the federal government should be prevented from giving 20% of the services it offers to the 20% of the public with the most wealth.

    And that would be a perfectly appropriate statement, save for the fact that a significant portion of the “20% of services” probably represents fixed services that benefit everyone like road building and bridge upkeep. Do you mean to tell me that the wealthy aren’t entitled to use the bridges? i think this is just a way to bend the statistics to tell the story the Heritage Foundation wants to tell (perhaps that the poor automatically deserve more and as usual at the expense of those who earn).


    1. Yeah, I’m not really sure why Nick said that. The top 20% of income earners pay upwards of 80% of income taxes. That they consume government services and benefits in proportion to their share of the population rather than in proportion to their “share” of the income seems to be about as close to the non-communist left-wing ideal as it is humanly possible to get.

  20. I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do,


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