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Free Minds & Free Markets

USDA’s ‘Harvest Box’ Food-Shipping Proposal Is Truly Absurd

Poor people are likely to make better food choices for themselves than the government.

canned foodOleg Doroshin / Dreamstime.comWhen I was around 12 years old, my grandfather, a stockbroker, had a debilitating stroke. My grandmother hadn't worked, so my grandfather had served as the sole breadwinner for the couple. He'd also apparently been in charge of the family's finances and, in this role, had neither saved a dime in his life nor planned for retirement—unless, that is, consuming copious amounts of Budweiser (my dad insists it was Ballantine Ale) was part of some unrealized retirement plan.

With my grandfather in a rest home, my grandmother moved from a rented apartment near my family and into an elderly housing complex that was even closer by. (Our house lacked a spare bedroom or else, I like to think, we'd have taken her in.)

My grandmother's indigent status meant she qualified not just for housing but also for food aid. It came in the form of government cheese, butter, and peanut butter. Maybe there was more to it, such as other foods or food stamps. I never knew. But I did know about the food aid because my grandmother, who I spent time with every week, would give whatever peanut butter the government provided to her to my family. I guess, in retrospect, that she didn't like peanut butter. My mom didn't know what to do with the peanut butter, which came in a giant tub and wasn't as creamy as our usual Skippy. But I always wolfed it down. I'd spread it on crackers or celery or even spoon it out of the starkly labeled government container while parked in front of our television.

As a kid, I never thought even a little about how it was weird that I was gorging on taxpayer-provided peanut butter that my family didn't need—both because we could afford to buy peanut butter and because we in fact did buy it. In more recent years, though, I've often thought about that peanut butter as a metaphor for many of the problems—including fraud and waste—that are evident in government-funded domestic food aid programs.

Which brings us to the U.S. Derpartment of Agriculture's plans, proposed last week, to replace its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) with something called Harvest Boxes.

Under the plan, the USDA would slash the food-purchasing benefits of SNAP and replace them with delivered packages of canned fruits and meats, cereal, pasta, and the like.

A USDA official tried to spin the proposal as akin to Blue Apron, the upscale (and Juicero-level pointless) meal delivery service.

That's the spin. But criticism of the proposal has been both widespread and withering. Reason's Eric Boehm likens it to "Amazon Prime, but for terrible canned food selected by bureaucrats." Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) called the proposal a "'cruel and demeaning and an awful idea' that would strip families of the ability to choose which groceries they buy." USA Today's editorial board dubbed the harvest box proposal "a program fresh from Cold War Bulgaria."

"The proposal has drawn widespread criticism from advocates for the poor, who see it as a paternalistic 'nanny state' approach that also happens to favor agricultural producers," reports the L.A. Times. "Retailers who accept SNAP debit cards also worry about lost sales, even as leaders of food banks worry about additional work preparing the meal boxes."

The USDA has gone on the offensive and has defended the harvest box idea as a "bold proposal."

"It's a real idea. It's not a sham. It's not a silly proposal," USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in remarks apparently designed to convince everyone that this wasn't some sort of early April Fools' joke. "It's something that we'd like to see seriously considered, and debated."

I'm not a knee-jerk Perdue hater. On school lunch reforms, for example, I'd previously noted he'd "got[ten] all his facts right." But the harvest box idea is truly rotten to the core and unworthy of consideration.

Supporters outside the USDA offices have been difficult to locate. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which I refer to in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, as "a pro-vegan group," is one of the few to have come out in favor of the harvest box proposal, calling it "a step toward ensuring that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants get the grains, vegetables, beans, and fruit they need to stay healthy."

The Trump administration says the harvest box plan would help save taxpayers nearly $13 billion per year. But for an administration that proposed to add nearly $1 trillion to the budget deficit next year alone, any cost-cutting plan mustn't be taken at face value.

There's no doubt SNAP is a program in need of serious reform. But if the idiotic harvest box proposal isn't the answer to supplementing the diets of Americans who can't afford to buy enough food, what is the answer?

Besides private aid (in the form of cash, food, or both) provided voluntarily by individuals and nonprofits, which works, the government has a role to play. But that role isn't providing SNAP benefits, and it certainly isn't providing boxes of canned tuna.

The government should do no more and no less than giving cash to those in need. They're best positioned to determine their food needs and—objectively—are the only ones who know their food preferences and those of their families.

This idea has been suggested in the pages of the Atlantic, NPR (more than once), and right here at Reason. It's real reform that can benefit those in need. No boxes required.

Photo Credit: Oleg Doroshin / Dreamstime.com

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Looks like someone doesn't appreciate...

    [dons sunglasses]

    ...outside the box thinking.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen||

    But.. but... everything outside the box would be verboten!

  • MarioLanza||

    There are no Cheetos in the box. They are not verboten. I just don't want to pay for them.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    If you constantly have to think outside the box to solve your problems, you are probably in the wrong box.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Every time I see a convenience store or gas station with an "EBT Accepted" sign, it makes me feel sick.

    Money is fungible but harvest boxes aren't, and if harvest boxes stop some of the 40 million Americans on SNAP from using their EBT cards at the same places they buy their cigarettes and beer, then they can't be all bad.

    P.S. I believe that government cheese and peanut butter programs came by way of farm subsidies. Rather than paying some dairy farmers to dump their milk or others to let their fields lie fallow, the government would take the milk and make government cheese or pay farmers to plant peanuts as a cover crop.

    Leave it to the government to both pay people not to farm to artificially keep the price of food high, and then have another program to help 40 million Americans with the artificially high cost of food.

  • Cy||

    The farm subsidies is one of the few things I find myself anti-free market. The US has massive reserves of grains and a pretty awesome system of refrigeration that I'm fairly certain wouldn't exist in a free market environment. The first major drought could cost a lot of lives if those reserves weren't there.

    Granted, I would give up this 'sacred cow' (pun intended) if all of the others got slaughtered with it.

  • sarcasmic||

    The cool thing about free markets and the price system is that if there is a drought, rising prices cause the free market to send goods to where they are needed.
    Starvation is caused by governments intervening in the free market.

  • Cy||

    I understand how free markets work. Maybe it's never occurred to you what happens when there aren't enough goods to go around in said free market environment?

  • sarcasmic||

    "The first lesson of economics is scarcity. There is never enough of anything for everyone who wants it. The first lesson of politics is to ignore the first lesson of economics."
    T. Sowell

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Cy, You don't understand how free markets work. You assume reserves of grain and refrigeration would not exist unless government was there to control food production, storage, and delivery.

    If that is what the market needed, then the market would cover that or its not necessary enough for a business to provide refrigeration services.

  • Cy||

    "You assume reserves of grain and refrigeration would not exist unless government was there to control food production, storage, and delivery"

    They don't control those things, they just heavily subsidize them.

    Hurricane Maria legitimately caused an IV bag shortage. Did it kill anyone? If it did it I'm sure it was probably a rounding error of people. But Maria wasn't nearly as devastating to our IV bag supply as a major drought could be to our food supply.

    I think people have a very naive outlook on what it's like to not have massive food reserves because we've gone so long without food riots BECAUSE we have massive food reserves. Why do we have them? Major agricultural subsidies.

    We've been down the free market agricultural thing, it was referred to as the dust bowl. People starved, rioted and died.

  • sarcasmic||

    The dust bowl happened during the New Deal. Hardly a free market.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I see. The whole world goes into simultaneous drought, is that how nature works?

    Spoiler alert: it doesn't. That's where free trade and comparative advantage comes into play. When one region has problems, other regions don't. When there's a 10% reduction in wheat, the price goes up, people what more of something else.

    There was a major banana crisis, what, 50 years ago? I sure don't remember the details, but the banana variety we eat now was not very common at all before the crisis. Yet the banana industry somehow survived and almost nobody remembers the banana crisis.

    The more you distort any market, such as with tariffs and subsidies, the more you seal off markets and reduce that flexibility. Imagine if each state did what you propose on a national level -- it would be much harder to react to changed conditions. The same thing applies on a national level.

  • Presskh||

    Cy, you are correct. You would have Mad Max in short order with a widespread food shortage. I agree that having the government subsidizing food production is a small price to pay for a stable and plentiful food supply.

  • Sevo||

    Presskh|2.24.18 @ 2:04PM|#
    "...You would have Mad Max in short order with a widespread food shortage. I agree that having the government subsidizing food production is a small price to pay for a stable and plentiful food supply."

    Sarc or stupidity?

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    "We've been down the free market agricultural thing, it was referred to as the dust bowl. People starved, rioted and died."
    The dust bowl was a triple bacon cheeseburger with a side of jalapeno poppers compared to the Ukraine under the benevolent management of Stalin.

  • ravenshrike||

    In point of fact, death rates from starvation did not see an increase during the dust bowl drought.

  • MarioLanza||

    So we have been paying farmers not to farm but also to farm because there might be a drought. Wait, we have already had droughts and hurricanes and early freezes and late freezes and....

    But wait some more... Cy doesn't know what he is talking about. The US did have grain reserves in the past. "In the United States, such programs have included the Farmer-Owned Grain Reserve (1977–1996), Food Security Wheat Reserve (1980–1996), Food Security Commodity Reserve (1996–1998), and most recently the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (1998–)."

    The last one is the only one still in existence. The only problem with this "grain reserve": From wikipedia again: "In 2008, as global food prices spiked, the remaining commodities (about 915,000 metric tons) were sold. Since then, the trust is solely a cash reserve, invested in low-risk, short-term securities or instruments."

    Can we now delete Cy's comments?

  • MarioLanza||

    Where is Cy's supposed grain reserve? From wikipedia on the last remaining grain reserve: ""In 2008, as global food prices spiked, the remaining commodities (about 915,000 metric tons) were sold. Since then, the trust is solely a cash reserve, invested in low-risk, short-term securities or instruments."

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    You're not seeing the unseen -- the higher prices paid by consumers not only mean they buy less of that product, but also mean there's less money left over to spend on other products. The ripple effect means that all producers cut back some. It's not a lot, in each industry. But the combined losses outweigh the targeted benefits due to inefficiency adjustments, and it's a net loss.

  • Cy||

    The consumers aren't paying higher prices. Someone is paying higher taxes and arguably it's not the consumers. The argument that the people paying the higher taxes to subsidize the agriculture industry would efficiently make up for it if they weren't is absurd. In a true free market, during a drought, people starve and die or they starve and revolt and somebody dies.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I guess we will never know since government has been socializing agriculture for almost 100 years.

  • sarcasmic||

    In a free market a lack of supply in the face of constant demand (drought) raises prices, which creates an incentive to bring goods to market. Starvation is a result of government price controls and other distortions that prevent free markets from bringing food to market.

  • Cy||

    Starvation is also a reality in a free market when people can no longer afford to pay the raised prices. I'm willing to fight for free markets and try them in every aspect of our lives, including agriculture. But, I do so with the understanding that people are going to have a lack of access to healthcare and food and some of those people will fight for those things, violently.

    The idea that a free market society will not have a lower class that won't resort to violence for survival is naive.

  • sarcasmic||

    Prices change. As far as 'access' goes, people always have access. That word doesn't mean "not free" or "costs more than I think is fair waaaah!"
    Even if it is used that way by liberal liars who trust language.

  • sarcasmic||

    twist not trust, stupid autocorrect

  • sarcasmic||

    Prices are information. They convey all kinds of things from availability, cost of inputs, cost of taxes and other duties, demand, and so on.

    Government can't change that information when people don't like it. All it can do is shoot the messenger.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    No one says a free market society won't have a lower class.

    Reality says, and has said, that people take care of each other. Even prior to massive government welfare, people helped each other.

    Every resource is scarce and has to be rationed. Whether this is by price, waiting in a line, lottery, or government corruption, it will be rationed.

    History shows a zillion examples of people helping people. The only time people get violent over hunger is when government has distorted the market, kept hordes for the elites, and refuses to share the hordes.

    Government ruins everything it touches. Government is incompetent.

  • sarcasmic||

    "The only time people get violent over hunger is when government has distorted the market, kept hordes for the elites, and refuses to share the hordes."

    Don't forget price controls, paying farmers to not produce food, onerous regulations, trade restrictions, and the myriad of other ways in which government artificially raises prices, causing the poor to go hungry.

  • Eman||

    What about the idea that if people don't want poor people to be hungry they can buy them some food? If people don't care about the issue a representative government has no business getting involved. I agree it would probably make your life easier if other people were forced to do the things that you think are important, but the entire point of this country is that you can't do that. Or is there something I'm missing?

  • Sevo||

    "Starvation is also a reality in a free market when people can no longer afford to pay the raised prices"
    Which, like those elusive monopolies, has never happened.
    Are you trolling or really this stupid?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    People pay all taxes, and all people are consumers. What, you think business taxes come out of some magical profit pot which can expand at will? Where do you think those profits come from, Scrooge McDuck swimming pools of cash and gold and jewels? Businesses pass on taxes in higher prices, just like all other inputs.

  • Cy||

    "People pay all taxes" - no they do not.

    "All people are consumers" - yes they are.

    If the people not paying taxes need to consume food that is no longer there because it's no longer subsidized, they're not going to roll over and die of starvation.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    What part of "businesses pass on all costs to consumers" is so hard to understand?

    Why do you have such a sorry opinion of people that you think private charity is an oxymoron?

  • sarcasmic||

    "Why do you have such a sorry opinion of people that you think private charity is an oxymoron?"

    Private charity isn't fair because some people pay in while others do not. Only government charity is fair, because it is collected by force from people who don't want to pay. Liberals don't like anything that isn't fairforced.

  • Cy||

    "What part of "businesses pass on all costs to consumers" is so hard to understand?"

    That's a gross over simplification of our current local/state/federal tax and agricultural subsidy structures.

    "Why do you have such a sorry opinion of people that you think private charity is an oxymoron?"

    We weren't talking about private charity. We're talking about our current Agricultural Subsidies in our current economic and political environment.

    Taking into account all our current economic and political environment, of the laundry list of things that I'd like to see fixed and changed, I don't find agricultural subsidies on the egregious side of them. Am I leery of the idea of them, yes. But I still think they may have merit.

    The free market isn't perfect because it involves humans. PERIOD. Humans are terrible at planning, especially on a smaller scale. markets are efficient, in other words, storing/freezing things cost extra money. The most efficient business most likely wouldn't have the stores we do now without subsidies. It's not out of the realm of reason to state that more people will starve in the US if it were a truly free market than compared to now.

  • sarcasmic||

    "It's not out of the realm of reason to state that more people will starve in the US if it were a truly free market than compared to now."

    I think I get it. Because of all the existing ways in which government fucks with the free market and distorts prices, more government intervention is required to fix the problems it creates.

    Is that about right?

  • Cy||

    "I think I get it. Because of all the existing ways in which government fucks with the free market and distorts prices, more government intervention is required to fix the problems it creates.

    Is that about right?"

    That's not at all what I said. Our current policy of giving heavy subsidies to agriculture in our current political and economic environment appears to be very resilient to natural disasters and droughts. My hypothesis for that is the US's track record of agriculture since the 1940's.

    Claiming that a theoretical future where our entire economy is a completely a free market and that it would be as or more resilient in regards to agriculture and food supply is disingenuous. It would definitely be more efficient, with those efficiencies comes lethalities.

  • sarcasmic||

    One effect that government intervention in agriculture has is price stability.
    In a free market the prices would better reflect the information they are supposed to convey, like supply and demand. That information gets goods from where they are plentiful to where they are scarce. In order to reflect that information, prices would rise and fall, with the average price much lower than without government intervention.
    Government does deserve credit I guess. Just not what you credit it for. It gets credit for keeping prices artificially stable by keeping them artificially high, which hurts the poor for the benefit of wealthy farmers.

  • Eman||

    Salon doesn't usually link to reason articles. Weird.

  • Eman||

    More government is a really stupid solution for problems caused by government. I've been on the fence about this for a while, but I'm starting to think that good intentions are responsible for more harm than malice.

  • gormadoc||

    We already have had major regional droughts in which the government chose not to act; it didn't result in massive deaths. Check out Grover Cleveland and the Texas Drought.

  • Cy||

    It was already 'acting' through heavy subsidies and tax breaks.

  • Agammamon||

    The first major drought could cost a lot of lives if those reserves weren't there.

    Sure - if the rest of the world didn't exist.

    That's the *point* of a globalized food production system - if there's a reduction in output in one area (for whatever reason, drought, disease, war) then you already have in place the buying and transport mechanisms so that getting food in from elsewhere is easy.

    You're right that those reserves wouldn't exist in a free market - because they're not needed and very, very wasteful.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Our bars take EBT.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That's infuriating.

  • AlmightyJB||

    It is.

  • Tony||

    Because you're an insufferable busybody?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Because welfare queens like you support waste taxpayer money.

  • Eman||

    What about that is busybody like? Personally, I prefer to give hoboes money in the form of nips, but that's my point. How your money is spent sounds an awful lot more like your business than anyone elses.

  • Tony||

    It's not your money.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Some of it is my money. More importantly, I am forced to pay for their welfare and food welfare so I want my elected representative to cut SNAP and welfare.

    They will because Republicans run the House and Senate and President Trump will sign it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "It's not your money.

    The fuck it isn't.

    It's bought with debt, too, meaning the money is coming straight out of our future paychecks.

  • Tony||

    Meaning it's really not your money.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its taxpayer money and came from my pocket. Under our system, I have a say in how its spent.

    I don't want it spent so those ungrateful leaches still complain and want more.

  • Tony||

    So vote for representatives who will cut aid to the poor. God knows there've been plenty of those. It's still not your money.

  • The_Hoser||

    Tony, for my benefit, could you explain whose money it is?

  • GeneralWeygand||

    No shit. What can be purchased? Beer nuts?

  • Agammamon||

    using their EBT cards at the same places they buy their cigarettes and beer, then they can't be all bad.

    You know they're not buying cigarrettes and beer with EBT, right?

  • Mark22||

    You know they're not buying cigarrettes and beer with EBT, right?

    Money is fungible. You give them $500/month in EBT, that frees up $500 of their other welfare payments for cigarettes and beer.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They're even using that EBT card in they same place where they buy their cigarettes and beer. I've seen them do it standing in line.

    "I need to pay for this separately, and I need to get a pack of . . . "

    It's annoying.

  • Myshkin78||

    If they were getting to use cigarettes and beer as income deductions for the need requirement I'd completely agree. But they can't and how they spend what little disposable income they have is none of your business.

    If you want to say that the income level required is too high, that's another issue. However, I think you'll find that the income requirement is pretty low.

  • Humaphobia||

    You fucknuts either don't understand what fungible means or you're idiots. If they're buying booze and cigarettes with their disposable income, but we're subsidizing their food expenses, that means we're also subsidizing their cigarette and booze expenditures. Because instead of "Hey, I have 400 dollars to spend on food/booze/cigs for the month, I guess I have to really limit how much I smoke" it's "hey, I have 500 dollars that I can just spend on food! I guess I can spend this 100 on x, and this 300 on cigs and booze." It's like if a buddy asks you for 100 bucks, and then you see him walk out of a convenience store with porno mags, a 24 rack, a bottle of whiskey, and a carton of cigarettes. Do I give a shit that he bought those things in a vacuum? Fuck no. Do I give a shit that he just took 100 bucks from me and then bought those things when he's broke? Fuck yes.

  • p3orion||

    You cannot simultaneously insist that the government infantilize a segment of the population, and then complain about the government being paternalistic. The loss of dignity comes with accepting the money, not with their being some oversight of how it is used.

  • p3orion||

    /there being/

  • GeneralWeygand||

    Self corrections always appreciated

  • jelabarre||

    You give them $500/month in EBT, that frees up $500 of their other welfare payments for cigarettes and beer

    The "Market Boxes' would *also* offset money in a similar way.

  • swampwiz||

    I agree. Now that I am "able-bodied" "early retired" living off of conversion-basis Roth IRA distributions, I have been able to get SNAP. I would use SNAP to buy regular food, including New York Strip steak (although it was Wal-Mart, so it was really just T-Bone without the T), and buy beer with my own cash.

  • SIV||

    USA Today's editorial board dubbed the harvest box proposal "a program fresh from Cold War Bulgaria."

    Moar like a program fresh canned from Cold War Bulgaria."

    Reason is in the tank for Big Crab Legs.

  • sarcasmic||

    Think about all the food that will get thrown away by people who don't bother to pass the stuff they don't like onto someone.

    Just las broken windows stimulate the economy, this program will make America great again!

  • buybuydandavis||

    "who see it as a paternalistic 'nanny state' approach"

    Welfare state food aid is paternalistic? Who knew?

    "They're best positioned to determine their food needs"

    Are they? If they're so good at determining their own needs, why haven't they determined how to become self supporting?

  • Ken Shultz||

    In the meantime, obesity is supposed to be a big problem among America's poor.

    And we're not talking about replacing the free school lunch or summer food service programs.

  • sarcasmic||

    Obesity is a problem only because the corporations refuse to sell healthy food in poor neighborhoods. It's a corporate conspiracy to kill the poor. Only government can save the poor from the evil capitalists.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The poor are both obese AND starving to death!

  • sarcasmic||

    It is part of the conspiracy. Kill the poors with malnutrition by making theme obese on junk food.

  • Presskh||

    Obesity is a problem because people eat much more than they are able to burn off, regardless of income level. Most people have a multitude of food choices - those who are obese will choose a McDonald's burger meal or a KFC big bucket over salads, which are also sold at McDonald's and KFC.

  • sarcasmic||

    You mean people are unhealthy as a result of their own choices? That's mean! It's not their fault! It's the corporations! Food deserts! Cheap desserts! Prepacked food! It's forced on them!

  • Eman||

    Obviously poor people are of no use to corporations. Those greedy bastards just want to sell people stuff.

  • Agnes||

    It's true. The biggest problem with the poor is themselves. The ones who want to seek opportunity and do better, will. The ones who want to eat healthier, will. And they do. I don't know why everyone acts like fresh produce isn't cheap.

    Think about how much time, money and focus is placed on alleviating hunger*. There are several food pantries in EVERY city, churches, etc. community gardens, free classes on healthy living / proper nutrition...on top of government assistance. The food is out there if people seek it. Yet, the same people receiving government assistance have to have their kids sent home with pre-packed food for the weekends or otherwise they won't have food to eat...what's going on there?

    Perhaps the best thing for them is to force them to change, at least one area in their life, in a positive way. Perhaps providing* them with healthier options and changing up a FAILING system will point them in a better direction. It couldn't hurt. And if they don't like what they are given, perhaps they'll find a way on their own to afford the food they want.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The idea is a shift to making welfare and food aid uncomfortable.

    Almost 41 million people are on SNAP. That is too many people. If you analyzed what they spent their money on, some beneficiaries probably waste their welfare money and then complain they don't get enough. This ends that. They get what they need to survive in the form of food.

    If they want a cell phone let them buy one with their money, not taxpayer's money.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    You will never stop welfare recipients wasting money because you can't define wasting.

    Who says a cellphone is a waste? Cheap ones are pretty darned cheap, and without a phone, how can you search for jobs?

    Who's to say what food is a waste and what is not? Are cornflakes ok because no sugar, Cheerios maybe? What about honey-os? Would SugarPops be ok if they are cheaper than granola?

    Money is fungible. You can't get around that. It's like giving Christmas or birthday presents: once given, you have no more control of what the recipients do with them. Welfare may as well be money; people will trade food boxes for cigarettes and booze whether you like it or not, whether it's criminal or not.

    And once they've wasted their welfare and are starving again, their pitiful wailing will just bring in more.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I can define waste in a fairly narrow parameter. If you are buying something as a luxury on welfare you are wasting taxpayer money.

    A cell phone is a luxury. How does one get a job without a cell phone? The same way people used to get jobs without cell phones. Have the employer call your neighbor, family member, or charity that takes messages. Have them send an email and check your email for free at a library.

    If you're buying brand name cereal your wasting taxpayer money. Buy the cheapest shit that you can survive on. Welfare should be temporary, so if your buying stuff that you like rather than the cheapest product there is a problem. Buy the stuff you like after you get off welfare.

    The propaganda is always that every poor person will starve without government. Aren't people starving with huge welfare and food programs? Aren't kids in some bullshit food-insecure households and the government provides hundreds of dollars each month for food?

    Giving kids actual food prevents this food-insecurity. They don't like it- too bad. Grow up on government cheese and then get a job and buy good food. Its a great incentive.

  • Eman||

    There are lots of things almost everyone considers necessary today (running water, electricity and heat, shoes) that people did without for tens of thousands of years. it's nuts to think luxury could be quantified. Being subjective is like part of definition of the word.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its not nuts to be able to quantify luxury. Only lefties do not want anyone to question the great welfare state.

    Running water, electricity, housing, and food are not luxuries in the USA.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    A cell phone is a luxury. How does one get a job without a cell phone? The same way people used to get jobs without cell phones. Have the employer call your neighbor, family member, or charity that takes messages. Have them send an email and check your email for free at a library.

    Oh fucking please stop with this bullshit. If you have to use fucking semaphores to relay job candidacy updates to a prospective employee, you aren't going to hire the candidate.

    "Yes, we want this guy to run our multi-million dollar server farm. Call his uncle Cletus and have him relay the message that we want to bring him back for a second round."

  • Eman||

    I've never bought any so I don't know, but there's probably some kind of upcharge for not adding sugar. I mean making it healthier.

  • Agammamon||

    So we're going to create a program that will incentivize 10% of those people to get off SNAP while raising the costs of the remaining 90% by 25%?

    That doesn't sound like a winner to me.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I don't think it's discomfort, it's just making sure that the money is spent on actual food.

  • swampwiz||

    With the ObamaRomneyHeritageCare Medicaid expansion, I get a free mobile phone.

  • DajjaI||

    neither saved a dime in his life nor planned for retirement

    Because they know the government will take care of them, so they actually alienate their own children. Who can't stand them and put them in retirement homes. Thus the kids pay for both their housing and their pension - and they do it in return for a big jar of peanut butter. But sure, cash would be better.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    A USDA official tried to spin the proposal as akin to Blue Apron, the upscale (and Juicero-level pointless) meal delivery service

    That article about pointless inventions seemed like it ran out of actually silly ideas after the first two. Is Blue Apron really that absurd to people?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    It is to the do-gooders who know how everybody else should live.

    They don't understand the first thing about markets and accountability. If someone can think up something as stupid as those 5 examples, and if enough people buy them at the right price, and those examples survive, then it's not quite so stupid, eh? But that writer can't understand it.

    I don't understand pet rocks, but the inventor made a fortune. I think the article author is simply jealous of people who can see how to make money off something stupid.

    Then you wonder if the author is really as stupid as he looks, since he sold it to the editor, and the web site gets advertising revenue from it. So maybe everyone is stupid, or everyone is smart.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its the do-gooders alright. Lefties who want as many Americans on welfare as possible.

    If you are using up other people's money then the least you could do is be frugal with it. Buy cheapest cereal there is not brand name. I donate food to food pantry's all the time, so you can get your food from there.

  • Myshkin78||

    In fairness he said pointless, not stupid. If you can make a buck off of something pointless, it definitely isn't stupid.

  • Agammamon||

    Apparently some people think so. Because we all have and want to spend the time planning menus and searching for sometimes obscure ingredients. My locale is pretty working class - you couldn't find creme fraiche here if your life depended on it.

    I find it neat. I eat out a lot anyway so it replaces that - for half the cost of two meals at the chain restaurant of your choice (let alone anything upscale) and it provides more menu variety than *all* of the restaurants in this whole county.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Soylent Green is people!

  • AlmightyJB||

    'The government should do no more and no less than giving cash to those in need"

    You'll get nothing and like it!

  • Brian||

    I assume that, if I was nourished on a diet selected by the FDA and USDA, I would die a huge fat ass.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You would definitely have diabetes.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Poor people are likely to make better food choices for themselves than the government."

    And I can make a better choice for the disposition of my money than the government can when it steals it from me to give to anyone else regardless of whether they are poor or not.

    "The government should do no more and no less than giving cash to those in need. "

    Same answer as above.

  • ArgentAegis||

    So, this really isn't about preventing hunger and malnutrition, is it?

    It's about make sure people are kept content. It's about making sure they have food they like to eat, and the ability to choose what they eat.

    Giving people food, bland, boring, tedious, repetitive, food, solves hunger and malnutrition. However, they won't be content. They'll hate it. Probably resent it. There will really only be three choices.

    Giving people cash, or other forms of money, allows them to choose. It allows them to get what they want. It goes further to keeping them content. Odds are, they'll still resent it, but people still like to feel like they have a choice, and they'll have lots of choices at the local store.

    So, let's just quit pretending we're trying to feed people.

  • Tony||

    The good thing is people will tend to choose all by themselves to acquire their own basic needs like food.

  • Curly4||

    That is not true in most cases. How much of theses EBT cards used for other than food things like alcohol, drugs and even sex while the kids at home are on the verge of starvation?

  • Tony||

    And you obviously have a source for this claim.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The source is government welfare rolls keep increasing and even with hundreds of dollars for food each month, kids are supposedly in food-insecure households. SNAP fraud. Welfare fraud. Of course, not everyone but enough to gut the SNAP and welfare programs again to get the dead weight off.

    Funny, lefties like Tony always avoid any facts on this topic to further the welfare state.

    Almost 41 million people are on SNAP, that is a fact that illustrates too many people are getting welfare. Bet they are having kids too, which requires more SNAP funds.

  • gormadoc||

    None, because nobody in the US outside of abusive households is on the brink of starvation. Those that think they are can suck it up and go to a shelter or church and find what programs are available.

  • ArgentAegis||

    I agree that most people will choose to get food and basics with SNAP. I don't think either of the proposals would eliminate waste, fraud or abuse. Cash, and cash alternative, benefits are fungible so they have a wider range of fraud and abuse open, compared to direct food aid.

    My point is that direct food aid is less comfortable than cash and cash alternative assistance, and, from the point of view of someone who desires welfare to be uncomfortable, while satisfying the basic survival needs, there's a good bit to recommend it.

    There's an argument to be made over efficiency, but is a welfare program that is comfortable more efficient than one that is uncomfortable? Cost per meal would be higher, but you might have fewer participants.

    So many of the objections involve things other than the ability to provide nutrition, that I wonder if we're not trying to provide something else, and if that "something else" is something we should even be trying to provide.

  • Robert||

    That's it: reducing the value to recipients (at the price of raising the cost to providers) of a transfer program. The aim is to shut up those who complain that gov't is allowing people to be underfed.

  • ArgentAegis||

    While I'm not reflexively against the program, I do wonder if it's a rhetorical device designed just to expose the lie that these programs are about "feeding the poor" or whatever they say on the label.

  • Tankboy||

    Recipients of any form of welfare should not be content. That's the opposite of what should be the goal. They should be maintained, but should be desperate to get off welfare. I want it that they're so desperate that they actually stoop to working for a living, forgoing tattoos, using birth control, anything, just so that they don't have to live on that box of crap they get from the USDA.
    Also, I can't believe that this thread generated arguments about the benefits of the free market. If you don't think the free market is the best thing since the free market brought us sliced bread, then you aren't libertarian enough to understand this blog.

  • Robert||

    It's about make sure people are kept content.


    Isn't that what all gov't is about? Come to think of it, isn't that what all institutions & all businesses are about? Isn't it what life itself is about, for any organism that has any process that could be called behavior?

  • ArgentAegis||

    There is a fundamental difference between protecting the ability to seek "happiness", and attempting to provide happiness.

  • Tony||

    I do a food delivery service and fuck whoever said it's pointless. I hated shopping before and couldn't plan. Still hate shopping and still can't plan, but now I can cook and eat fresh food. Not pointless. Not trying to be an ad, but fuck that person.

  • sarcasmic||

    You get to choose what is delivered, right?

    Not so when government is in charge.

  • Tony||

    Which is why I'm leaning toward a straightforward cash payment system. You free-market worshippers have clearly failed to deliver universal access to basic needs, so we clearly need some assistance program, so I choose the freest version.

  • Sevo||

    "You free-market worshippers have clearly failed to deliver universal access to basic needs, so we clearly need some assistance program, so I choose the freest version."

    /s/ Kim Jong Un
    Fuck off, slaver

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony, fuck off slaver.

    You will never get a cash welfare system. In fact, Trump's many plans is to cut welfare. I can't wait for you to scream about that.

  • Echospinner||

    Exactly what Milton Friedman proposed with his negative income tax. Replace all of the existing welfare programs with a direct cash payment.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    No cash payment. No welfare.

  • Echospinner||

    Friedman's idea, like most of his, is simple and brilliant. It would save the taxpayers money, reduce the role of government, reduce the incentive for minimum wage laws and illegal immigration and retain the incentive to work.

    Of course for those reasons the politicians will never touch it. They have too much at stake with the lousy system we have now.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Yes, just giving people money will sure incentivize them to take care of themselves. There's absolutely no way it can fail.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    No it wasn't brilliant. Giving poor people cash is not the solution. They are already bad at making good choices.

    if you don't want people to starve then give them a box of food. Other than that Americans need to fend for themselves and or request help from charities and family.

  • Myshkin78||

    Actually, it was brilliant. Just because your diety, Donald Trump, didn't tweet something, doesn't mean it isn't right.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    What is a diety?

  • Agammamon||

    Except we have delivered universal access to basic needs.

    Its fuckers like you that keep jacking the prices up with your meddling in the markets.

  • Mark22||

    Which is why I'm leaning toward a straightforward cash payment system.

    We already have several of those, and several of them pay for all basic needs.

    You free-market worshippers have clearly failed to deliver universal access to basic needs

    Free markets have made it possible to live a reasonably modern life on a few hundred dollars a month. Government, on the other hand, is responsible for ballooning those costs to several times that.

  • mpercy||

    "Access" I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean what progressives want it to mean. Anyone can walk into any grocery or convenience store in the US and buy pretty much anything they want if they've got money. That's "access".

    "Access" has never implied "free". Except in the minds of progressives.

  • Curly4||

    What ever a poor person wants to buy with money that (s)he earns with the sweat of his(her) brow is fine with me but if they are depending upon the taxpayer for their support I for one taxpayer alcohol, tobacco, drugs or food that is not food. If a person is receiving a gift then they should not complain. If they don't like to be told what they can buy then let them earn their own money to spend.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    The big problem is that a recipient of the food has the same voting power as a provider of the food. Until we fix that problem with the system, democracy can't really work like a libertarian would envision it to work.

  • gormadoc||

    There's a fairly successful restaurant in my town where the owners somehow qualify for welfare. They would come into the store where I worked and purchase ingredients for the restaurant using their EBT cards. They acted like entitled dicks every time.

    Quite a few people would try to buy too much for their remaining allowance and reduce their purchase item by item. Inevitably the healthiest items would be taken out first and the remaining would be cake and snacks.

  • Robert||

    Why shouldn't they have acted like entitled dicks? They paid for it, alfter all.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    unless, that is, consuming copious amounts of Budweiser (my dad insists it was Ballantine Ale) was part of some unrealized retirement plan

    Indeed, and the very cheapest and most efficient sort. Barring a .38, anyway.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    USA Today's editorial board dubbed the harvest box proposal "a program fresh from Cold War Bulgariacontemporary Venezuela

  • Gretz||

    Don't like what the gubbermint gives ya? Get a freakin job and pay for your own groceries, like the rest of us adults do.

    It *SHOULD* suck, as an incentive to get you off your butt. And if your kids hate it, all the more reason to.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "Reason's Eric Boehm likens it to "Amazon Prime, but for terrible canned food selected by bureaucrats.""

    My parents used to tell us kids "Beggars can't be choosers." But then again, neither of them ever went to college, so what did they know?

  • Steve999||

    I've spent time with folks at local food banks as well as overseas missionaries and aid workers. None of them would advise giving out cash to the homeless and other needy people. While overseas, I always bought some food and gave it to some of the street people instead of cash. Based on my experience (and I know it's anecdotal), I think giving out cash is a terrible idea. Are there any social workers or charity workers out there that disagree?

  • Echospinner||

    Why is it a bad idea?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    You're not really helping them, you're just subsidizing their addictions. The glib response is, "Yeah, what do I care what they do with it after I give them the money?" Well, that's precisely why SNAP is so fucked up and why we have so many poor fatasses.

  • Echospinner||

    Addiction I have commented elsewhere is a different problem and not confined by any means to the welfare population. Same for obesity. I would be happy to exchange views on how to deal with each of those.

    What you are really saying is that if you are poor you are not to be trusted with something like actual money. I consider myself libertarian. We imperfect individuals can make choices, some of those may turn out to be bad choices.

    If you know much about addiction an addict will get what they need one way or the other. Welfare benefits or food boxes no matter how targeted will not change behavior. You can trade that box of healthy food for more meth and some will.

    We could just eliminate all of it. That is never going to happen and we know it.

    The negative tax idea is valid and should be reconsidered.

    It works this way. Numbers are arbitrary here. Pick a minimum income say $10,000/yr. The government through IRS (thet part is important) will cover 50% of that.

    If your family income is $0 then you get $5000 distributed as a check from IRS. Could be monthy does not matter.

    If your income is $5000 you get $2500 so you now you have $7500 for the year.

    If you earn $8000 you get another $1000, and so on.

  • Myshkin78||

    I agree that the negative tax needs to be revisited. It's cheap and efficient. It seems that some prefer to spend more taxpayer money for less benefit in order to punish the poor in a misguided attempt to motivate them.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    So you are basically suggesting the government should be giving money directly to people, and give the same people the ability to vote (with their vote weighing as much as that of someone who pays taxes)? You can't see any unintended consequences?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    What you are really saying is that if you are poor you are not to be trusted with something like actual money.

    That's usually why poor people are poor and remain so.

  • Hell Hound||

    We provide SNAP so people can buy junk food then waste money on government plans to fight obesity. How about you can only buy whole foodstuff with snap. No processed or prepared meals. No soft drinks, candy and such. Grocery stores could regulate it like WIC. Would help fight obesity without government intervention. . If we do this people may even learn how to cook or go get a job to buy their Frosted Flakes. I also believe there would be nutritional foods in poor neighborhoods if there were a market for it there.

  • Mark22||

    The government should do no more and no less than giving cash to those in need. They're best positioned to determine their food needs and—objectively—are the only ones who know their food preferences and those of their families.

    That's precisely why the government shouldn't give them cash. Government food aid should be a last resort. If people want to have their preferences catered to, they should earn the money to do so themselves. I suggest replacing SNAP with free bags of rice and beans for anybody who asks. A 20 pound bag of each costs $20, and together, they will last you a month. That is, for $40/month, people can get their basic nutritional needs met. Or just get rid of SNAP altogether.

    For people to complain that the free food they are getting isn't to their taste, on the other hand, is pretty outrageous. If other people are nice enough to give you food, you accept it and are grateful for it.

  • afvet||

    I think it is a great idea. Have a grocery store for the
    people on food stamps or EBT cards. They can get
    their food from those stores unless they want to
    work and get the other stuff with their own money
    and get the better stuff. Great idea.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    I see it a lot at the corner convenience store. Cash for the cigarettes and lottery tickets, EBT card for the ice cream and donuts.

  • weebler76||

    I do believe the Harvest Box program to be crap, but the statement that people are likely to make better food choices than the government is ridiculous. Anyone who makes that claim obviously hasn't spent much time in the grocery store line behind someone with an EBT card. I can't even count the number of times I've been in the grocery store trying to make sure my child has enough healthy food for the week only to see someone else with a buggy full of soda and candy pay with EBT. My brother used to get several hundred dollars a month and would spend almost all on candy bars and Dr. Pepper. The Harvest Box certainly isn't the answer, but as long as people are getting taxpayer funded food it should meet some basic nutritional requirement. It is so irritating when "advocates" want to talk about the rights and choices of those receiving assistance. What about the rights of those providing the assistance to not have their money wasted and used to buy things that contribute to the higher medical and dental bills, which they also have to pay for via Medicaid.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "What about the rights of those providing the assistance to not have their money wasted..."

    I believe you have confused "rights" with "responsibilities".

    /sarc

  • mpercy||

    Beggars can, apparently, be choosers. As long as they have advocates...

  • Brian||

    I'm sure they're prepared to deal with everyone's particular dietary allergies and requirements. There's no way they'd send gluten to a celiac, right?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Is celiac disease really all that common in the ghetto? Anyhow, it's a lot more likely the waste from uneaten food (which happens anyway with school-provided meals) will be less than whatever money we're throwing down the furnace paying for their Medicaid-provided insulin, medication, or heart surgeries when they become massively overweight.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Poor people are likely to make better food choices for themselves than the government.

    I understand where Reason is coming from with this, but the last 50 years suggest otherwise. We have some of the fattest poor people on the planet because they use EBT to buy junk food and sodas, not fruits and vegetables. The main reason WIC is so successful is because there's a hard and very specific limit on what can be bought with it.

    Anyway, we're already feeding these people's children breakfast, lunch, and after-school snacks with a controlled diet. As I've mentioned before, I want them standing outside the food distribution center waiting for their daily TrumpBox of food. If they want the government to control every aspect of their lives, let it be done in the most humiliating way possible.

  • Robert||

    OTOH, Lydig Pick & Pack (produce) in the Bronx does a great biz on EBT. So it's not all going to junk food & soda.

    Also, I can't blame people who, for all they're taxed, try to get some back via SNAP.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    People who are getting SNAP typically get EITCs, so they're getting back more than they're paying in taxes.

  • markm23||

    Government can _and_ _has_ made worse food choices than people make for themselves. Government agencies pushed the high-carb low fat diet that has caused so much obesity and diabetes II. Government agencies pushed for low-cholesterol foods under the idiotic thinking that cholesterol which is broken down in the stomach somehow magically transferred right into the bloodstream. And for the little bit of fat that they approved of eating, government agencies pushed for the substitution of hydrogenated vegetable oils for several decades, then renamed these "trans fats" when they announced they were worse than any natural fat or oil.

  • ravenshrike||

    There's an easier way of fixing the actual issue. Just remove foods from the EBT acceptable list that get 40% or more of their caloric value from glucose, fructose or derived compounds. Also reinstate home ec classes with plenty of crock pot/ductch oven recipes since a big part of the problem is that people don't know how to fucking cook anything or bitch that they don't have the time.

  • Mark22||

    Just remove foods from the EBT acceptable list that get 40% or more of their caloric value from glucose, fructose or derived compounds

    How about we limit the "EBT acceptable list" to a small number of staples: potatoes, rice, beans, milk, cheese, eggs, peas, carrots, apples, bananas, peanuts, soy protein?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That's degrading.

    /lefty argument

  • GeneralWeygand||

    How about fuck off?

  • Robert||

    Just remove foods from the EBT acceptable list that get 40% or more of their caloric value from glucose, fructose or derived compounds.


    That'd make fruit & veg ineligible. Come to think of it, that'd make anything but meat, eggs, dairy, & oils ineligible.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Eliminating foods with a certain amount of high fructose corn syrup would probably do the trick. That and processed sugars and starchy foods are what's making people so fat, not meat, eggs, and dairy. People ate that shit for millennia and managed to remain svelte.

  • markm23||

    Most of the people who ate that shit for millennia were doing hard physical labor all day, and rarely got to eat all they wanted. For the few that (like most Americans today) didn't have to work hard physically and often left the table hungry, see Queen Victoria and Henry VIII.
    As a young man, Henry VIII played quite hard at various sports and remained slender in spite of huge meals. He only grew fat after a fall while jousting left him with a leg injury that never healed and limited his physical activity. So when he was young, he had the lifestyle of a professional athlete today; after the accident, he had the lifestyle of a modern office worker.

  • spidly||

    A really good tug at your heart strings story. Emotion not Reason.

    I grew up in a single parent household but won't bore you with too many details.Food was tight and we did with mustard sandwiches often. Macaroni and catsup.. if you don't know the drill then you might really feel for Baylen's grannie. We lost our shared bedroom and slept on the floor when grannie came over. Mom lost her bed to grannie. - "Our house lacked a spare bedroom or else, I like to think, we'd have taken her in:" Our family had different priorities.

    The current system has a ton of abuse. I don't think anybody would ever starve if we didn't have a system.

  • mpercy||

    "The government should do no more and no less than giving cash to those in need."

    Wow, this is in Reason?

    How much cash should we confiscate by treat of government force from others to satisfy the "needs" of those in need?

  • mpercy||

    Hipsters on food stamps, Salon.com:

    Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding -- and her usual gigs -- to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she's used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.

    "I'm eating better than I ever have before," she told me. "Even with food stamps, it's not like I'm living large, but it helps."

    Mak, 31, grew up in Westchester, graduated from the University of Chicago and toiled in publishing in New York during his 20s before moving to Baltimore last year with a meager part-time blogging job and prospects for little else. About half of his friends in Baltimore have been getting food stamps since the economy toppled, so he decided to give it a try; to his delight, he qualified for $200 a month.

    "I'm sort of a foodie, and I'm not going to do the 'living off ramen' thing," he said, fondly remembering a recent meal he'd prepared of roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes. "I used to think that you could only get processed food and government cheese on food stamps, but it's great that you can get anything."

  • Robert||

    What do they count as: deserving poor, or undeserving poor?

  • mpercy||

    Harvest boxes seem like a crock, but so is the current system.

    If we're concerned with people who cannot afford food starving to death or being malnourished, I've got no problem with supplying them with plenty of bland staples with virtually no arbitrage value.

    Rice, beans, vitamin supplements. Maybe a voucher for a plugin rice cooker or crockpot.

    Starvation avoided. Malnutrition avoided.

    Monotonous, to be sure. If you want steak, Cheetos, and soda for dinner, get job.

  • Agnes||

    At the end of the day, this boils down to people being able to get themselves out of a pickle. And they will if they wanted to. Government assistance should not be there to sustain people for long periods of time (unless they are elderly or actually disabled.) Obesity would be resolved really quickly if you didn't provide government assistance to households which had 50% or more occupants who were classified as obese.

    It doesn't matter how much money you make or don't make. My father always said, the problem is, when you make more, you spend more, which is why people who make millions can be in the same amount of debt as people who make 60k. People can still fuck themselves over by making poor choices, but, they'll only make poor choices if they know there is a secure backup plan.

    I don't believe for one second, anyone in America can actually starve unless they were being forcibly starved. With food pantries in literally every city, countless programs and charities, I just don't think it can happen.

  • Robert||

    this boils down to people being able to get themselves out of a pickle.


    Cute!

    if you didn't provide government assistance to households which had 50% or more occupants who were classified as obese.


    "Get out now!" "No, let's have a baby, quick!"

    I don't believe for one second, anyone in America can actually starve unless they were being forcibly starved.


    Or if they're crazy, or a failure-to-thrive baby, or some such for which merely supplying food isn't a solution. Food aid is just a less efficient form of cash distrib'n.

    Yet they keep running that PSA on the radio about how 1 in 8 (or some such) in the USA goes (presumably involuntarily) w/o food sometimes, and make it like there are closeted starving people all around you. Seems the solution then would be to carry snacks around w you & keep offering them to your acquaintances.

    This is apparently a powerful but false meme.

  • jelabarre||

    I will point out now I have had to use SNAP on various occasions (tech employment in the Mid Hudson Valley is spotty at best, and I don't presently have the option to relocate to a better part of the country, as much as I desperately want to). Have also gotten similar food packages from the local food pantry that sound like the "harvest box" the USDA is proposing.

    The very point they make of it having canned fruits and vegetables? The only benefit of canned vegetables is they can last through a nuclear war. They are the most inedible, and quite likely least healthy way of eating veggies. That last point is especially notable; frozen vegetables will still have far more nutritional value than canned, and yet they'll claim they're doing something to *improve* nutrition. However, I expect the manufacturers of canned products will get a very nice tax writeoff for their "discounted" products being packaged in the boxes. So the only ones who will benefit will be the canned products makers, and the bureaucrats who will likely be getting kickbacks from the same companies.

  • markm23||

    To supply frozen vegetables, they would need freezers in all distribution centers, substantially increasing the cost. They couldn't hand recipients just one package but would need one from the freezer and one with the other stuff, so distribution would essentially take twice as long. Most of all, they would have to ensure that all the recipients had working freezers - and would probably wind up paying the electric bills for people who'd blown their cash on cigarettes rather than pay bills, as well as not being able to serve the homeless.
    Perishable fresh foods (anything that spoils faster than a bag of potatoes) would be even more difficult to handle in a long distribution chain that runs at the speed of government agencies.
    There are food distribution chains that have worked out all the issues of handling frozen, refrigerated, fresh, and non-perishable goods and apportioning them to many households according to their needs. These work because their managers are motivated by profit rather than by government fiat. Isn't it much more sensible to use these existing outlets via SNAP than to try to duplicate them?

  • swampwiz||

    The best reform for SNAP would be Guaranteed income. Getting rid of the bureaucrats that dig deep into folks' personal lives would more than pay for any benefit given to the "able-bodied" indolents.

  • markm23||

    Guaranteed income would be much easier to administer than the current multiple welfare programs. It's still based on taking the earnings of others by force and handing them to those that cannot or will not support themselves, but it's less unlibertarian than a welfare agency. BUT it's also going to require a larger and more active Child Protective Services - a significant portion of those who are currently welfare clients would blow their cash foolishly and then fail to pay rent or to buy food for their children, so (unless we become willing to let evolution function on the children of idiots) there would have to be many more parents judged to be unfit parents, and many more children in foster care.

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