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Trump's Food Stamp Overhaul Sounds Like a Boondoggle Waiting to Happen

And, weirdly, grocery store cronyism might be the thing that stops it.

RICHARD B. LEVINE/NewscomRICHARD B. LEVINE/NewscomAs part of the budget proposal unveiled earlier this week, the Trump administration is calling for a radical overhaul of so-called "food stamps" that would have the U.S. Department of Agriculture shipping boxes of nonperishable food to low-income Americans every month.

Think Amazon Prime, but for terrible canned food selected by bureaucrats.

The problem here isn't the general idea of reforming the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The Government Accountability Office has raised red flags about abuse of SNAP benefits, and the U.S. Department of Agricuture's inspector general says "the magnitude of program abuse due to recipient fraud is unknown," in part because states do not have uniform reporting requirements about beneficiaries. There's also a glorious history of outrage journalism focused on particularly egregious abuses of the SNAP system, like the infamous California surfer dude who told Fox News in 2013 that he was eating lobster on the taxpayers' dime. And while those stories may be more anecdotal than systematic, there's also plenty of run-of-the-mill government waste in SNAP.

Meanwhile, spending on food stamps doubled under George W. Bush, despite the fact that most of his presidency saw relatively low unemployment, and it continued to climb under Barack Obama, thanks to the Great Recession and the stimulus bill, which eased income requirements for recipients. Enrollment in SNAP has fallen slightly since peaking in 2013, but there were still more than 42 million Americans getting food stamps in 2017, up from just 17 million at the turn of the century. The average benefit is about $125 per month.

But Trump's "America's Harvest Box" proposal is a boondoggle waiting to happen. There are many, many good questions about how the program would actually work, and very few answers in the budget proposal. Even if the USDA figures out how to deliver food to the homeless or account for possible nut allergies, there's still the bigger fundamental question of how the government is going to pack and ship hundreds of millions of food boxes each year.

The USDA claims the America's Harvest Box system will save about $129 billion over 10 years. That may sound like a lot, but USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Politico it "does not include shipping door-to-door for all recipients," which, you know, seems like a pretty big expense to leave out. Making 5 billion food shipments over the next 10 years—that's 42 million people, times 12 shipments per year, times 10 years—will surely wipe out a good chunk of those savings. It may well wipe out all of them.

Chart by Eric Boehm; Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2018 SNAP Participation and Costs report https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snapChart by Eric Boehm; Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2018 SNAP Participation and Costs report https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snapOn a fundamental level, SNAP benefits are a voucher system—they distribute public benefits without having the government directly involved in the distribution. This is generally a better way to go about providing welfare and other government services (like schools!) because it allows the market to do the work of providing goods and services to consumers, while the government's role is reduced to merely helping fund the operation. They're not perfect, of course, as the history of waste and abuse in the SNAP system demonstrates. Voucher systems also require bureaucratic oversight—SNAP spent more than $4.3 billion on "administrative costs" in 2017—that consume tax dollars without helping anyone, and they create rent-seeking opportunities for the businesses that collect government voucher money in exchange for providing goods and services to the needy.

In fact, that latter phenomenon is likely to be the thing that stops the administration from implementing its plan to replace SNAP with these weirdly paternalistic government-issued food boxes.

Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer for the Food Marketing Institute, which represents grocery stores and other retailers that sell food, has already declared that the food box proposal "would increase costs in other areas that would negate any savings." Her institute warns that government-delivered food boxes would be far less efficient than the current setup.

There are two things happening here. First, grocery stores are protecting their own bottom lines. They make billions of dollars each year from SNAP recipients, and they understandably don't want to see those people getting their food somewhere else. This sort of behavior is exactly why reforming welfare and entitlement programs is so politically difficult. Grocery stores like SNAP, hospitals like Medicaid, and so on. Regardless of how you feel about the administration's plan to radically alter the SNAP program, that inertia presents a real problem for instituting changes.

Second, well, the grocery stores aren't exactly wrong about the inefficiency thing.

Prosperous countries shouldn't allow people to starve to death in the streets, so the debate over SNAP benefits is really a question of efficiency. The government is going to provide some form of safety net for those who otherwise would not be able to eat, but what's the best way to do that with as little waste ("administrative costs") and abuse ("lobsters for surfer dudes") as possible? The current voucher system obviously has shortcomings, but an alternative that involves more central planning and fewer market forces seems like a step in the wrong direction, especially if the goal is budgetary savings.

Better to go in the opposite direction: Just give the SNAP beneficiaries cash and let them spend it as they choose. Sure, some will waste their cut on beer and cigarettes, but is that really much worse than getting a box of government cheese (and maybe some nuts and dried fruit, I guess) from the USDA once a month? Whatever money is wasted like that will surely be less than what the USDA spends administrating the current SNAP program, and far less than creating a government agency to compete with Blue Apron and Amazon.

Amazon, by the way, is already rolling out plans to deliver food to the needy. So if the USDA sucks at getting your Soviet-style box of food rations to you, there's another option.

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    like the infamous California surfer dude who told Fox News in 2013 that he was eating lobster on the taxpayers' dime.

    I don't even consider that abuse, honestly. Abuse would be defrauding to get your benefits.

  • Rhywun||

    more anecdotal than systematic

    It's hardly unusual. I was a supermarket cashier during college and on food stamp day the lines were out the door and they were eating a lot better than I ever did. Lobster was a common sight.

    You're right, it's not "abuse". It's poor judgement.

  • sarcasmic||

    Milton Friedman on the four ways you can spend money
    1) You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch what you're doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

    2) You can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I'm not so careful about the content of the present, but I'm very careful about the cost.

    3)I can spend somebody else's money on myself. And if I spend somebody else's money on myself, then I'm sure going to have a good lunch!

    4)I can spend somebody else's money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else's money on somebody else, I'm not concerned about how much it is, and I'm not concerned about what I get. And that's government.

  • some guy||

    For #4 all that matters is how much you're spending. The headline is always "We spent X dollars this year feeding Y families", where the number Y is unverifiable due to poor record-keeping and quite a bit of X wasn't actually spent on food.

  • Rhywun||

    SNAP spent more than $4.3 billion on "administrative costs" in 2017

    THAT'S waste, fraud, and abuse as only the government can perfect.

  • Liberty Lover||

    Amen

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Friedman was my first thought at this news.

    If you're going to subsidize, you at least have to subsidize the buyer, and not the seller.

    But there are always more kickbacks available for subsidizing the seller.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think it's people doing with their money as they want. This is basically progressive types saying "We gave them money, why aren't they perfect and healthy now?" I don't think we should be giving out the money, but if you're giving money to people then it's not an abuse for them to use it how they wish. Don't give money if you don't want people to be free to spend it.

  • Paper Wasp||

    It's not anecdotal at all. The number-one purchase on SNAP, by expenditure, is soda. See the bottom of page 18.

    The "fresh fruit and vegetables" the parasite class has been whining about on social media since this proposal became public yesterday don't even start to show up until 58th place. Even frozen veggies are in 41st place.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    This is part of the problem I had with Obamacare or any plan to provide universal healthcare. People eat like shit (many of them on our dime), lay around and then expect me to pay for it. I don't care what anyone ingests into their bodies, but don't expect me to pay for your poor choices.

  • JFDeplorable||

    Remember, you're giving "free food" to people with limited life skills. Most have no idea how to prepare a meal, so you have EBT money spent on chips, soda, frozen dinners and take out pizza. In addition, much of the waste, fraud and abuse comes from vendors who aren't supposed to be able to accept EBT, but who find ways to reprogram their POP computer system to show "groceries" instead of what they are really selling. Strip joints in Gary, IN were discovered to be taking payments via EBT cards. I don't even want to go into the nutritional value of a lap dance.

  • Michael Hihn||

    It's not anecdotal at all. The number-one purchase on SNAP, by expenditure, is soda. See the bottom of page 18.

    Totally useless unless one looks at page 19, there are 100 different commodities ranked, out of 1000, and even the top 100 are only 86% of total spending.

    SNAP recipients spend 5.4% on soft drinks vs 4.0% for non-SNAP. Hardy the hysteria suggested here so dishonestly.

    Yes. frozen veggies are in 41st place -- which is also useless unless we know where they rank for non-SNAP, 33%. Ooops.

    On canned vegetables, which are ,.. CHEAPER, they rank 43rd for SNAP, higher than 50th for non-SNAP, so the SNAP spend more on cheaper veggies. Shocking!

    For both types of veggies, SNAP spend 1.42% and Non-SNAP spend 1.46%. Excuse me for laughing so hard.

  • Michael Hihn||

    P.S. This is BLATANTLY dishonest

    The "fresh fruit and vegetables" the parasite class has been whining about on social media since this proposal became public yesterday don't even start to show up until 58th place

    SHAMEFUL BULLSHIT, or just ignorant? What "starts to show up" is BERRIES ONLY -- which you wackily compare with ALL frozen fruits and veggies.

    And, you're full of shit on "fresh fruits and vegetables" because there is no such catergory

    Goobers be goobers. So easily brainwashed and manipulated. No better than proggies.

  • SIV||

    Reason in the pocket of Big Food. Your foundation can expect a generous donation from Coca Cola.

  • creech||

    Don't we already have enough dead bodies in the street from the tax cuts, net neutrality, and the ten second government shutdown?

  • albo||

    Let the poor eat those bodies. It's good protein.

  • Johnimo||

    Oh, the humanity!

  • some guy||

    It was more like 5 hours. 5 whole hours. Before the normal start of a workday. But what about those poor slobs who commute in at 3 AM to miss the DC traffic? They didn't get notified until almost 6AM that they were expected to show up that day. They had to brave normal rush-hour traffic for a day. That's true hardship.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    They had to brave normal rush-hour traffic for a day.

    The horror... the horror...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...there's also plenty of run-of-the-mill government waste in SNAP.

    It's boondoggles all the way down.

    As for shipping costs, no one delivers to my doorstep the food I purchase (because no one can apparently find me even with GPS), so why not have distribution centers? In fact, the harvest boxes could be handed out at supermarkets, since they're already set up to handle foodstuffs. Come to think of it, instead of pulling items from the shelves and prepackaging them, make the beneficiaries walk around the stores and get the items themselves. So, in conclusion, the America's Harvest Box program could easily be a huge success with a few simple modifications.

  • Frank White||

    The Federal government already has a pretty big package distribution and delivery system in place. I'm not sure creating a new and markedly different one from scratch is the best way to go.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Give a low bidder a contract to distribute Harvest boxes.

    Amazon would probably grab it with a low bid.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Replace Harvest boxes with jugs of lowest bid acquired nutritionally adequate liquid 'food', and I think you achieve the twin goals of keeping people from starving and motivating them to get off the dole.

  • Michael Hihn||

    "off the dole"

    Friedman understood that far better than you seem able to grasp..
    As someone works their way up, each "benefit" has a different reduction per dollar earned. Food stamps can be a 1:1 reduction, thus NO gain for earning money. Some benefits have a 100% marginal tax rate, which means $1 of additional income eliminates the entire benefit.

    Hence, his Negative Income Tax, which would have a low fixed "marginal negative tax rate" (deduction) on earned income. We KNOW that high marginal tax rates are a major disincentive for working people. .. so why wouldn't they have the same effect on the safety net???

    Imagine yourself on "the dole." Assume four programs, each with a different marginal deduction rate. Could YOU figure it all out? Doubtful. What about a 100% deduction. One more dollar of income costs you $100 in benefits -- or $2.50 per hour. (a 40 hour week) Would YOU take a job that paid $1.50 more an hour? If you knew your take-home would drop by $40 per week?

    Not so simple, eh?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    This is non-responsive and a bit abusive. That's not really useful to me.

    As an original comment on the difficulties of getting off the dole, it's interesting but not new to me. I agree with your points and conclude that these are problems that need to be addressed before we have people easily moving off of the dole.

  • swampwiz||

    As I derive my income mainly from Roth conversion basis distributions, my official income is low, and so I definitely feel the effect of the implicit tax rate, definitely disincentivizing me from working. I calculate that the ObamaRomneyHeritageCare Medicaid expansion coverage that I would lose as a regular joe punch-clock would cost me about $20K in pre-tax income.

  • albo||

    Come to think of it, instead of pulling items from the shelves and prepackaging them, make the beneficiaries walk around the stores and get the items themselves

    You've invented the current SNAP program.

  • Johnimo||

    Yes … kind of …. but what they need is an list of the approved items: (1) Beer, (2) Coca Cola, (3) Lobster, (4) more beer …. so on and so forth. Then, they walk around with the list, pick the items they want, and then take the items and the list to check out stand. What a fucking boondoggle that would be.

    End the program. I'm not supposed to feed other people. I am NOT my brother's keeper.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Anyone who believes lobster is bat-shit stupid.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Why do I bother with you people?

  • Paper Wasp||

    In fact, this would be a great case for the Amazon-style cashierless grocery store, because SNAP recipients could grab a sensor-rigged special SNAP cart or plastic crate from the front of the store. They fill the SNAP crate with Harvest Box-allowed items; if an item isn't allowed, the crate beeps annoyingly like a mofo until they take it out.

    AFAIC if they need the charity so badly, which they all seem to be crying that they do, they can use their own labor to transport the goods.

  • Johnimo||

    You are good. You are really good.

  • SIV||

    Boehm offers shameless cheerleading for corporate cronyism. Cancel muh subscription, cucks.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    All you need to know is Boehm dared to criticize something that was proposed by "daddy" and therefore, CUCK.

    The fact that the proposed program is a big government Soviet style central planning clusterfuck that anyone who claims to care about free markets should oppose on principle is irrelevant.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I don't see American politicians being allowed to let kids starve. Hence the SNAP and other food programs. That morphed into an SNAP card that some people use to obtain cash.

    Give them food instead is probably a better alternative.

    Of course, Libertarians should be against any government welfare but sometimes you have to pick your battles.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Give them food instead is probably a better alternative.

    No, it isn't, because it limits choice and competition, all but guaranteeing that it will cost more to give people less of what they might actually need and want to eat.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You're probably right but don't really care what they want to eat. If they get enough nutritious food to feed themselves then that is enough.

    Even after SNAP benefits and WIC the lefty media is complaining about food insecurity. Fuck that. I looked up the stats. ~41M people in the USA get SNAP benefits. They cannot buy enough food to prepare meals and survive? Give them food boxes then.

    Young people don't remember government cheese but that is what we need to return to. ~41M people on food assistance is too much.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I'm just not seeing the benefit of paying more for less. Unless you think food boxes will be enough of a counterargument against people complaining about food insecurity to prevent any further expansion of food assistance programs? If so, I'm skeptical.

  • Paper Wasp||

    The distribution might cost more, depending on how they do it, but the food itself is likely to cost less. It'll be bulk food provided by (hopefully) low bidders. The entire SNAP program is administered by Ag, meaning the contents of the boxes are already heavily subsidized by SNAP funds, so I'm hoping the value will be well below retail. It'll be off-brands if the brands are recognizable at all, and if they're not simply generic labels (like was used with the old bricks of government cheese).

    I don't give a shit about what they want to eat, either. If you're really that hungry you'll eat what's put in front of you. If you need to have brand-name TV dinners and sodas and chips (among the top items purchased with SNAP, BTW), you can get off your dead ass, make more money, and pay for them your damned self. SNAP is supposed to provide basic nutrition, nothing more.

  • Johnimo||

    Paper Wasp, you didn't happen to grow up down south, did you. I'll bet you snuck out and stole food from the farmer's corn patch, huh? You are one, hard-ass mutha.

    We lived beside a farmer's corn field, and my mom was always saying to me (I was 4 at the time) "go over there and get five ears, we're having corn on the cob tonight." Man! It tasted so good, knowing I'd personally procured part of the meal. That was in the early fifties, during the Korean War. Soon, there'll be a satellite that'll just auto charge you for whatever you steal. Problem solved!

  • SIV||

    SNAP is a subsidy to retailers first, and processed food producers 2nd, poor people 3rd.

  • Mark22||

    Trump's proposal, almost certainly leads to corporate cronyism though, as food producers race to get juicy government contracts to fill boxes with their food.

    SNAP is already a cronyist program. This reduces the size of the program, motivates people to get off assistance, and might even improve nutrition a little. I don't see what problem you have with that.

  • Deven||

    I honestly wonder if the idea behind this is more to do with people selling their food stamps for cash to buy drugs.

    Think about it, if you're going to buy food anyway, why not turn your cash into a little bit more. Now, if someone is like "here, I'll sell you this box of shit food so I can buy drugs", you're going to be like, "nah, thanks tho."

  • Griffin3||

    Going rate around here is $8 food stamps for $5 cash. Still, I guess it's a better investment than the lobster.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nobody wants to rock the boat but why would people buy shit at more expensive convenience stores than get groceries at a grocery store and non-foodstuffs at a Target or Walmart? Obviously you might need a few things at a convenience store sometimes.

    Its because some shady convenience stores are giving cash for EBT charges. Its fraud but clearly it happens.

  • Kivlor||

    It's because most people on financial assistance are not financially minded. They go to the most convenient place to get stuff they want now. Sure, some of the cash for EBT stuff happens, but that isn't the cause of the boom in the industry.

    For example, years ago, before a natural disaster struck my hometown, we had a Kroeger in the middle of town surrounded by a bunch of low-rent and subsidized apartments. The nearest Walmart was 2 miles away. Most of the people in those apartments chose to shop at Kroeger despite the fact that most items were 20-50% more. They didn't want to drive that far, and in some cases they certainly weren't going to walk it.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Well, two comments.

    First, back in the day of actual food stamps that was actually legally required. That is, if you had a 1 dollar food stamp and bought a penny candy, then you had to give them .99c in change back. This is probably the real reason there was a push to a card, it gives the government much more control and tracking over their spending.

    Second, people just buy shit at convenience stores because they don't want to go to a grocery store or something. There wasn't this "fraud" going on in any of the stores I worked at.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    All valid points. Obviously convenience stores tend to be convenient and deserve to do well.

    The EBT/SNAP cards help cut down on stealing of checks too. Its cheaper to electronically send money than print checks. All savings to the government.

    All benefit recipients are not committing fraud or wasting money but some are. Plus, I have seen a push about this food insecurity bullshit lately... because Trump. If you give people food, they cannot complain that they don't have food.

    Obviously the Harvest Box is a publicity thing but also says fuck you to the welfare queens who complain complain complain.

  • LynchPin1477||

    If you give people food, they cannot complain that they don't have food.

    But I guarantee someone will claim that they don't have the right food, and since what goes into the boxes will be up to bureaucrats, it will be tinkered with. My prediction: a lot of the stuff that goes into the boxes will be shitty and end up in the trash.

  • Paper Wasp||

    There has been a shit-ton of complaining that it's not the "right" food. My favorite, which has been abundant on Twitter for one, is "bu-buh-buh what if my six keeeyidz are picky eaters?"

    Decades of gubmint-indulged entitlement has clearly permeated their bones like some sort of radiation poisoning. It simply doesn't occur to them, not for a second, that if any of the lot of them were really hungry, were truly "food insecure," their kids would eat what was put in front of them. "Food insecure" to these people appears to mean "we're out of Lunchables and frozen chicken nuggets." "Food insecure," apparently in 2018, still turns up its entitled parasite nose at canned vegetables and shelf-stable milk.

    My other favorite is "bu-bu what about the fact that my child will die if he eats peanut butter?" as if there could not possibly be allergy-sensitive substitutions made in the boxes.

  • Johnimo||

    Sheer genius! Kill the mother fuckers off with peanut butter allergies. The food stamps will go further for the remaining family members.

  • Kivlor||

    Last I heard (and that was about 3 years ago) this was the going rate in my area. A lot of people didn't use it to buy drugs, but just converted it to cash for other purchases. I'm sure plenty of people did use the conversion to buy drugs. But if you get $800 per month for groceries, and you only use $300, might as well turn that $500 you're not going to use into $275 that you can.

  • Rhywun||

    I think you're on to something.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "On a fundamental level, SNAP benefits are a voucher system—they distribute public benefits without having the government directly involved in the distribution. This is generally a better way to go about providing welfare and other government services (like schools!) because it allows the market to do the work of providing goods and services to consumers, while the government's role is reduced to merely helping fund the operation."

    I do not question the benefits of marginal privatization, but we need to be aware that as such government programs grow, it can effectively nationalize what was a private system.

    A good example is Medicaid and Medicare, which is also like a voucher system in that way.

    Using the private system to deliver services to the poor and elderly is supposedly superior because it's better to have the market do the work, but what happens to the market's ability to do ts work when more than half of the services being delivered are going to consumers who don't pay for them like consumers--and at a cost mandated by government that's set below the cost of delivering those services? The answer is that you get a broken healthcare system that doesn't even function properly for the private sector anymore. That is not the solution to our problems.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Point being, using the markets to deliver government services might seem like privatization, but as the market becomes increasingly influenced by the government program, the effect on the private market starts to increasingly resemble nationalization. There is an argument to make for insulating the private markets from government influence (and voucher type systems) so that they can continue to function without being dominated by government programs.

    You can't go to a private hospital that isn't influenced by the negative effects of Medicare and Medicaid on the market, for instance.

    There needs to be a private option, and government entitlement programs being delivered in a voucher system can become so large that they choke off the ability of the market to function. They may seem like privatization at first, but their ultimate effects ends up resembling nationalization.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    There will be the USDA picking who gets the contracts. Low bid wins. So what.

    Its worth shutting all these welfare queens who are trying to push that kids suffer "food insecurity". Give them food then.

    "About 21 million children receive free or reduced lunch in school," Ross Fraser, director of media relations at Feeding America, tells Mashable. "And, of those, about 10 million also receive free breakfast. When schools close, about 18 million of those kids lose access to free meals in the summer."

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I know. Its government.

    Low bid contract for a year or two then renew, is still probably the best way to partially manage government incompetence.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I don't see a way for the Fed Gov to pre-package foodstuffs without cronyism running rampant.


    All food products are grown/packaged at prison farms. While there will still be some cronyism with private prisons, it'll hopefully be isolated from the rest of the food-chain so as to cause minimal disruption to the rest of the nation's food supply.

    That said, there's no reason to believe that President Trump's administration is interested in reducing cronyism, or even in merely maintaining current levels without getting worse.

    But it's certainly possible to imagine systems that avoid such problems. They just aren't the systems that would get implemented.

  • Paper Wasp||

    as producers race to compete for what will be ginourmous contracts

    SNAP has been administered by the Department of Ag for years; it's already part of the $500 billion or so in farm subsidies we pay for. So I'm not sure there will be any race to compete, at all. I think the producers will be the very familiar faces who are already receiving the bulk of subsidies from SNAP, like Cargill, ADM, ConAgra, Kraft, General Mills, etc.

  • Mark22||

    I don't see a way for the Fed Gov to pre-package foodstuffs without cronyism running rampant.

    Political cronyism is already rampant in the agricultural sector and in SNAP. I don't see how this makes it any worse.

    It will be interesting to see the partisan Republicans argue that the solution to SNAP is more government, as Trump is currently proposing.

    Given that it is a cut in a government program and makes the program less attractive to recipients, how exactly does it amount to "more government"?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    They'll sign a contract with Amazon for a new SubPrime program. With Amazon SubPrime, food selects you!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Funny you mentioned that. Amazon was targeting people on welfare and foodstamps to get them to buy stuff from Amazon.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Poor people could save a lot of money that way. And UPS/FedEx would have to expand services in poor neighborhoods. The proggies should be all over that.

  • albo||

    This idea that poor people will eat healthy food if you give it too them is nutty. Paternalism doesn't work unless the target agrees to be an obedient child.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Well, sure, but that also assumes that the parents will feed them the healthy food instead of chicken nuggets and grape soda, as long as they're getting it free. We're already having school districts provide breakfast, lunch, and in some cases after-school snacks to kids, regardless of whether they're poor or not (because "no child should go hungry, you monster!"), so if we're going full paternalism, why not destroy the food stamps-for-drugs economy by forcing them to eat what the government is providing for their actual groceries?

    I'm all for making the barrio and ghetto hoodrats line up at the Trump Food Distribution Center to get their daily box ration. These people want full on government control of our daily lives, let them live with the consequences of their philosophy.

  • albo||

    How about we just keep giving them the food stamps and not caring what they are spending it on, even exchanging them for drugs?

    That makes this one less issue to worry about. If people don't like that, let them start their own, private program to convince the recipients not to waste their food stamps.

  • Frank White||

    How about implementing UBI and be done with the pretenses all together?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    How about we cut off foodstamps entirely?

    If people are complaining that poor are not getting food and we let politicians do something about it, then give these people food.

    The EBT cards were designed to prevent theft of checks and to lessen the public shame of welfare. Preventing theft of checks is worth it but people should be public shamed into being leeches.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    In a perfect world, we wouldn't need food stamps, but since we're here, might as well make it as humiliating a process as possible.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think that it only encourages the paternalism that you so deride. You're basically saying, "we're already paternalistic, might as well say fuck it and go even more paternalistic." Which if your goal is to ultimately lessen and removing the welfare state (A noble goal), you could probably do better than fostering dependency upon people.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    You're basically saying, "we're already paternalistic, might as well say fuck it and go even more paternalistic."

    Pretty much. Getting rid of food stamps is a political impossibility, just like most government gimmedat programs. No one wants to face the long-term realities until it's too late. Good example is the PERA accounts for state employees in Colorado--after the last recession, fiscal conservatives were warning that the system was operating on an unsustainable model and needed to be drastically overhauled. No one in charge wanted to touch it, and now the Denver Post just reported that what the doomsayers predicted is coming to pass. But will this result in the reform necessary? Nope, not unless it's on the verge of total collapse. Such is the way of most socialistic programs.

    The point is that we're already Rome and increasing the bread ration due to political pressure. If it's going to be in place regardless, I want these people lining up and being open that they can't function without their every need being provided.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    We can push people off benefits and address the realistic fact that American politicians are not going to be allowed to let American kids starve. If you give them food, they cannot say that they are starving from lack of food.

    Pick your battles.

    Its like Social Security. There is no fucking way that we will get all the benefits cut out completely. There would be a million wheelchair and cliff commercials daily. Cut a percentage off yearly and let young people opt out of benefits. Then you have to wait for Boomers to die because they will never give up those programs.

  • Paper Wasp||

    It's paternalistic but in service of reducing the rolls of SNAP collectors, which is a worthy goal. There aren't many of these entitled whiners who will dutifully cook their beans and serve them with a side of canned succotash. After long years of buying soda, junk food, and frozen dinners with SNAP benefits, they'll balk at having to eat peasant vittles, and start buying their own foods with their own money like they should have been doing in the first place. The next stage of the plan would be to determine that since they're not using their "harvest box" food because they're too picky for it, they're not that hungry, so cut SNAP funds even more.

    It'll be even more successful if the recipients must pick up their boxed foods themselves from a distribution center or grocery store. The data showing who's really hungry and who isn't will be easily collected.

  • LynchPin1477||

    might as well make it as humiliating a process as possible.

    To what end? I'm honestly curious about what you think that would accomplish.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    When people act like children, you treat them like children.

  • LynchPin1477||

    But what do you think that will accomplish?

  • albo||

    Shaming people off welfare. Shame, for many people, is a powerful thing.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I hear that argument a lot, and it sounds plausible, but is there any evidence it works? I can't find a source right now but I think I remember hearing studies that indicate otherwise. It might make a difference on the margins but is there any evidence it has a substantial impact on welfare enrollment?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    But what do you think that will accomplish?

    Give me a chance to laugh at them.

  • Paper Wasp||

    Didn't Freakonomics say that their research found that negative reinforcement was more effective at curbing unwanted behaviors than positive reinforcement? If that's reproducible, attaching shame and humiliation to the choice to habitually support your family using taxpayer funds probably has some success discouraging people from using the program who don't absolutely need it. When people don't bother to come pick up their box of staple foods, we'll know they aren't really all that hungry.

    YMMV, but I think significantly reducing the numbers of people who collect these benefits is a goal, and shame might be, research suggests, effective at doing this.

  • Mark22||

    To what end? I'm honestly curious about what you think that would accomplish.

    People would be more motivated to earn money to pay for their own food, food they actually like.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Go back a number of decades, and you don't see as much cash welfare, you see more "work programs". Ranging from "poor farms" to "work camps" and so-on, the basic idea being that you showed up, you worked, and you got paid and fed for it.

    Eventually those fell into disfavor, with the idea being that it was better to just cut someone a check. The idea being that folks will better know how to spend their money then the folks giving it to them, and if you don't add a work requirement then they have time to find a real job, and you don't have to have make-work ready for anyone that shows up.

    Then those fell into disfavor because folks didn't approve of how folks were spending their welfare checks. So we got a variety of programs... this program for housing, this program for food, this program for medical care, this program for electric bill, this program for gas bill, etc. and so-on.

    So to answer your question: contempt, and skepticism that poor folks will make good choices.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    So to answer your question: contempt, and skepticism that poor folks will make good choices.

    And, unfortunately, this paternalism and condescension seems to accepted on both sides of the aisle.

  • EscherEnigma||

    95% agree.

    I would change your statement to: "this paternalism and condescension seems to accepted by most humans."

    It really isn't a political thing. It's just a human thing. Y'all† are just as contemptuous for poor folk as everyone else. You just aren't moved to do anything about it when you suspect that folks will make bad choices.
    ________
    †Meaning self-identified libertarians.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think libertarians are honest enough to say that most poor people are poor precisely because they make bad choices. Bleeding hearts find that idea to be offensive (as the truth so often is), and instead find something or someone else to blame.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Good point.

    I try and explain that saving $1 a day might not seem like much but after a year its $365. After 40 years, that's $14,600 with no interest. That is just from saving $1 with no interest.

    Some people can save and some people think of what they can spend that $1 on.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm also willing to say that I see many government issues that actively discourage people from getting into better situations.

    Here is a very real situation that happened to a close friend of mine. She was born poor, and was very poor. She was offered a good job, but it came with a huge catch. If she took the job, she would make more than 20,000 dollars a year. Because of this she would lose all health-care, all aid, and if she lost her job later it would become much more difficult to get that aid back. She did take that job, and she still has it, and she's doing okay. But she made a hard choice to give up perhaps 50,000 dollars in benefits to take a job that pays about 30k.

    This is idiotic and is almost explicitly encouraging people from taking that work, and pulling themselves up. I don't know what the correct way is, other than just getting rid of it entirely and going back to a charity based system. I have no idea what the path from here to there is.

  • swampwiz||

    This is why I say just implement Guaranteed Income; it gets rid of all the distortions.

  • Tony||

    Do you have data to back up that claim? Because I find it hard to believe that the Trump spawn would have made much of themselves without accidentally being born to Trump.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    First, you use a lot of footnotes, are you an academic or something? Archenemy to David Foster Wallace?

    Second, yes. There is very little hated more than poor people. This is broadly true. People don't like to see how they live, and they don't respect how they think, or what they care about. The things that people take issue with change from person to person.

  • sarcasmic||

    In high school and for a little while after I worked at McDonalds. One of the guys at the store was in the Guinness book for flipping the most burgers. It was the early 90s, and he'd been an employee for thirty years. The guy was simple minded, but good at what he did. He was also a millionaire. He rode a bicycle to work. He lived in an apartment. He didn't have cable. Basically, he didn't spend all of his money. He spent some and invested the rest. And retired from McDonalds a millionaire.

    The difference between rich people and poor people is very simple. Poor people spend all their money, while rich people do not. That's it.

  • Tony||

    Poor people don't have money to save you dumbfuck. Spare us anecdotes of crazy people. Link to a reliable source backing up the claim that poverty and wealth are largely the result of personal choices and character. It's important to know if it's right considering how much of your policy platform stems from that belief.

  • sarcasmic||

    Poor people don't have money to save you dumbfuck.

    I was poor once. I've worked fast food, I've been a dishwasher. Whatever. And the entire time I always had money on payday. Why? Because I didn't spend it all. I ate on the cheap. I didn't have cable. I didn't have any video games, or even a television. I didn't use drugs. I scraped by. I lived below my means.

    Most everyone I knew were broke several days before payday. Why? Because they spent it all.

    I know you hate simple explanations. You hate them because they are easy to understand. But sometimes they are true.

  • Tony||

    If it's true then you can supply the data I've been asking for.

    If everyone had a unicorn we could all fly to work. How do you propose to get everyone to be as industrious as you boast about being? Or aren't you interested in talking about the real world?

  • sarcasmic||

    Supply the data? How? This is totally subjective. My ex wife would spend every penny that she got her hands on, and then some. She was always broke. But it was never her fault. She always had a rationalization for everything she purchased.

    It's all about choice. The question I ask myself is "do I need this or do I want this?"

    I generally skip the things I merely want. And low and behold, I'm not broke on payday!

    It's simple logic, Tony. I know it is mean to say that people make bad choices, but they do. But even that is subjective. Is a choice "bad" because it's not a choice that I would make? I can't answer that. What I can say though is that when you are always broke on payday, you will never get ahead. Since I have never been broke on payday, I can only assume that those who are are that way because of their choices.

  • Tony||

    Well I've never been poor, but I'm also not terribly responsible with money. Since anecdote is the singular of data, we are at an impasse here.

    But since we're talking about large-scale policies, and since you insist on making people's personal habits relevant to the discussion about those, isn't it necessary to know whether poverty is more or less a result of personal choice vs. luck?

  • sarcasmic||

    isn't it necessary to know whether poverty is more or less a result of personal choice vs. luck?

    Poverty is a result of personal choice. Getting rich is a mix of choice and luck.

  • Tony||

    Again I'm gonna need a cite on that.

  • sarcasmic||

    Again I'm gonna need a cite on that.

    Just use your fucking brain.

  • Tony||

    My brain says that people born to poor parents are overwhelmingly likely to end up poorer than people born to rich parents. It's just common sense. Oh also it's supported by facts.

  • sarcasmic||

    My brain says that people born to poor parents who make bad choices are overwhelmingly likely to end up poorer than people born to rich parents who make good choices. It's just common sense.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony, you will need to provide a citation about the link between being born poor leads to being poor and being born rich leads to being rich.

    All the people born poor who are now rich, would disagree with you.

  • Tony||

    They wouldn't if they were clever enough not to treat anecdotes as data:

    Rich kids stay rich, poor kids stay poor

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Well sure, rich kids tend to stay rich and poor kids tend to stay poor--look at who their role models were growing up. Look at their communities. It's why the Great Society was always doomed to fail.

  • Paper Wasp||

    If it's true then you can supply the data I've been asking for.

    It's true for me. Growing up, we went to the food bank regularly, collected our brick of government cheese and bags of beans and pasta and cans of soup and boxes of powdered milk. We lived in a trailer. No car; we walked and took the bus everywhere. The TV was broken and cable was out of the question, so we had books from the library-mobile. I wore high-water pants until junior high because we didn't get new clothes every year.

    Things like boxed cereal, fresh milk, bagels, candy, ice cream, soda, and meals out were extremely rare treats. There was no such thing as summer camp or ski trips or camping trips for us. We probably went to a movie once a year.

    I'd walk to school in the early mornings and tell myself that I just wasn't going to live like that when I was grown. I was going to do whatever it took not to live like that, and I did. I studied and took advantage of my public education and applied for scholarships and grants. I worked 20 hours a week in retail hell while doing 17 credits a quarter. I bought my first house at 27; saved every penny of the 20% down myself.

    People who want badly enough not to be poor can do it. That's the truth.

  • VrbhE5081T||

    This was me and my two sisters lives growing up. Mom worked but minimal sure to 3 kids, one who was slightly deformed from birth.
    We got the cheese, rice, powder milk, other things and I think$25 in food stamps for other things. My mom was amazing frugal and made meals of the little we had. Towards the end of the month it was rice 3 times a day. With nothing else we survived mom kept doing all in her power just to get off it. Because it was a embarrassing thing walking miles with us 3 and a cart.
    Without it though we'd be probably dead so I agree with giving the food not the money set it back up like before. Have collection points and a heard to get approved delivery system for those who really can't go get the stuff their self.
    Anyhow 2 of us are semi well off and kinda frugal. The third she has to have all new toys, cable, internet, buys her kids name brand junk. Needless to say they have filled bankruptcy 2 maybe 3 times.
    Sad part her and husband would be well off being they both work and he's Union!
    So yes get rid of any snap give only low bid food products. Repackage expired food and make them go get it. Easy!

  • Johnimo||

    Tony, we're trying to have sarcastic fun with this subject and you're getting all technically argumentative about it. Lighten up, Dude.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony, yes they do. Even people on welfare have money. It what you spend it on and the other choices in life so you can create wealth.

    I have a friend who chose not to have kids so he could retire at 45 years old and he has.

    Some people spend money on stupid shit and really have horrible fiscal sense. Every dollar counts.

    Socialists don't want this as they want the state to provide all supposed needs for people which the state never can.

  • EscherEnigma||

    "[...] are you an academic or something?"
    Nah. I just like 'em.

  • Paper Wasp||

    Y'all are just as contemptuous of poor folk...

    Well, yes, I am. I haven't yet seen a good argument for why I should not be, and the Bible doesn't count as a good argument. "Poor folk," at least in America, are assholes. Perhaps not universally, but enough of them think of themselves as blameless saints and victims who are entitled to a pillar of free shit stretching up to the moon. When they're given free shit, they're never grateful, just angry and demanding of more.

    I do think most of it is their just plain stupid choices ("if I keep the baby he won't leave," "I'll make a ton of money selling purebred pitbull puppies," "I'mma buy this new car at 26% interest instead of saving for a few more months and paying cash for a used car"), but I also think government has intentionally bred dependency and entitlement into them. Created monsters.

  • Johnimo||

    How old are you, Paper? You're starting to sound like a REALLY old person. Were you born in the first half of the last century? Do you remember Buffalo Bob?

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    You hit the nail on the head, Paper. Progs are typically people who came from upper middle class backgrounds and don't know any poor people personally. I grew up without much, did well in school and used scholarships and full time jobs to get my degree. I'm not rich now, but I'm financially secure and much better off than most people older than me (I'm 40).

    There are people who happen to hit on hard times through illness, death, or tragedies. My heart goes out to them and I happily have given them money directly to help. Unfortunately most poor people fall into the category you described. Their freedom to make bad decisions doesn't entitle them a bailout from me.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    Because the majority of "food" that they buy is junk, processed and filled with sugars and fats. Guess what happens after 10-15 years of eating that way. They need more services through Medicaid because they have type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and a whole host of other issues. Note that our country is one of the few in the world where poor people are fatter than the middle class or wealthy. Now our tax dollars get to pay for their shitty decisions.

    I don't care what anyone eats, shoots, or smokes on their own dime, but if I'm paying for the meal I get to pick the groceries. If they don't like it they can get a fucking job and buy their own shit.

  • sarcasmic||

    I quit feeding my daughter breakfast on school days because she would get a second breakfast when she got to school. She doesn't need two breakfasts. She's short, but she's not a hobbit.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    Prosperous countries shouldn't allow people to starve to death in the streets, so the debate over SNAP benefits is really a question of efficiency.

    And this Ladies and Gentleman is your Libertarian moment!

    Somehow according to Reason. com Gov't recognition of same-sex marriage, SNAP and a fed gov that takes 18% of GDP in taxes are all compatible with Libertarianism. But any suggestion that borders not be wide open is the product of racist, fascist minds.

  • Paper Wasp||

    The one thing I really don't like about pushing this to "state and local governments" is that it will turn bleeding-heart blue states into magnets for parasites.

    I live in WA, where welfare benefits are already generous, and yes, people do move here from Bumfuck Flyover, Arkansas et al to latch themselves onto the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS up here) teat.

    Also, with 7.5 billion humans, and people really needing no subsidy or special benefit to breed more (even though they claim they do), I think only a sentimental case can be made for the underlying assertion that "prosperous countries shouldn't allow people to starve to death in the streets." People are responsible for their own prosperity, and when they don't take that responsibility...frankly, I feel compelled to mention that there is no shortage of people, and no practical need to treat them all as if they are rare and precious.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    "Think Amazon Prime, but for terrible canned food selected by bureaucrats."

    What about the government cheese?

  • sarcasmic||

    Fumunda cheese?

  • Rhywun||

    The government cheese stands alone.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That's nacho cheese!

  • Johnimo||

    Oh, cheetos it isn't?

  • Rhywun||

    Prosperous countries shouldn't allow people to starve to death in the streets

    Are we really proposing that the only two options are (a) throwing money at people to feed themselves or (b) watching their corpses pile up? WTF happened to getting a job...?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That's crazy talk.

  • Kivlor||

    Or charity. Or family. Or Community.

    I have a theory on why people like Reason aren't championing those options...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I was just curious at what that theory is.

  • EscherEnigma||

    From a quick google search, 30% of SNAP recipients have jobs, and 41% live in households where someone has a job.

    Further, 47% of SNAP recipients are under the age of 18, and 8% are 60 or over.

    So yeah. While a majority of recipients don't have jobs, a large chunk of them don't have jobs because they're not working age.

  • Rhywun||

    Further, 47% of SNAP recipients are under the age of 18

    Is this referring to teenaged heads of household, or the children of SNAP recipients...? Because if it's the latter, it's a BS statistic. And the former seems doubtful.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Parents receive SNAP based on household size.

    Though, if you cut those kids out that would mean that the number who hold jobs is even higher. With 56% holding jobs.

  • Rhywun||

    In my day if you were working more than 10 or so hours a week, you couldn't qualify for food stamps. I know because I got on 'em for all of a month or so one summer between college semesters and until I could get more hours at work.

    So... "holding a job" doesn't necessarily mean the right job.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nov 2016: 21,310,543 households were on SNAP.
    Oct 2017: 22,108,805
    Nov 2017: 20,798,956

    Nov 2016: 43,196,899 persons were on SNAP.
    Oct 2017: 45,666,795
    Nov 2017: 41,658,868

    That is a shitload of Americans and illegals. Over 10% of people in America are on SNAP, based on ~330 million people.

  • Ken Shultz||

    One of my fave memories from the Obama era was listening to people talk about how we're leaving people to starve in the streets--even as Michelle Obama was decrying the problem of obesity among the poor.

    There are countries all over the world where they have no food stamp program, and the only time people starve to death is when there's a famine, a war, or someone confiscates farm or collectivizes them.

  • Paper Wasp||

    It would be cheaper to get someone to just haul away the corpses, on balance.

    Don't you understand? If government doesn't do it then there's no possible way it can happen!

  • lafe.long||

    I still can't find much wrong with Barry Farber's plan.

    Eliminate SNAP - replace it with free beans and rice (sustenance starch & protein). Though I think Barry would entirely replace welfare with this.

    This idea eliminates potential cronyism concerns, and the wacky "nut allergy" concern (WTF?)

    I don't think distribution would be much of a problem, either. As mentioned above, supermarkets could be utilized for distribution.

  • Rhywun||

    You've just described WIC. It probably has a new euphemism too but it's free basics like milk and cheese for pregnant gals and small children.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's still called WIC.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    This idea eliminates potential cronyism concerns

    Until the government starts making deals to buy Rice and 30 dollars an ounce.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    supermarkets could be utilized for distribution.

    Breadlines, FTW!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    They currently grab their own bread with public money and then stand in grocery lines.

  • Rhywun||

    I hope this is just another one of those crazy Trump ideas that nobody is going to take seriously. Like completing the big, beautiful, southern border wall.

    Because this idea is really stupid.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Soviet-style box of food rations

    That's exactly what I thought this sounded like when I heard about it yesterday: "sounds like something you'd see in a communist country like the USSR. Just instead of standing in bread lines for your government rations they mail it directly to your house." I guess the good news is it'll keep postal workers employed.

    It will be interesting to see how many congressional Republicans, who supposedly are against this kind of communistic central planning horseshit, go along with it just because it was proposed by a president with an R after his name. And conversely for the Democrats. Partisans gonna partisan.

  • sarcasmic||

    Principals, not principles.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Clearly you have never been to a Communist country.

    If anything it would be bread and sport like in the Roman Empire. Sport being Oprah and other nonsense daytime tv.

    We already have welfare and food programs that pay benefits electronically. You are not going to get rid of food programs for kids. They cannot complain that they are having food insecurity if you give them food.

    Probably have to give YOU a caveat. Cutting off all welfare would be the ideal solution.

  • ||

    Enrollment in SNAP has fallen slightly since peaking in 2013, but there were still more than 42 million Americans getting food stamps in 2017, up from just 17 million at the turn of the century. The average benefit is about $125 per month.

    And that is why Clinton's Welfare Reform was simply realignment. Sure, we put work requirements on TANF (AFDC, aka welfare) recipients and shook out some fraud, abuse, laziness and reduced the rolls by 50% (allegedly) but it didn't result in any budget savings. What, government programs and bureaucrats are going to reform themselves out of funding and paychecks? No, the TANF savings went to increase food, daycare, housing, utility and other programs run by state DHS offices.

  • SusanM||

    So...they're down to loot boxes?

  • Robert||

    WF Buckley endorsed decades ago an idea I forgot who proposed to replace what's now SNAP with depots of a small # (might've been 5 or 7) of commodity foods that'd be given, no Qs Ad, in unlimited amount to whoever showed up to get them. They'd be foods that, in aggregate, provided for all nutritional needs but were the sorts of cheap, boring things that nobody'd want too much of. I think soy curd was 1 of the foods.

  • sarcasmic||

    Beans and rice. Rice and beans.

  • Robert||

    Can't get it down to just those 2 things, because lacking in vit C & some other things. But that's the basic idea. Potatoes (which could be supplied as flakes) would work better than rice for the vit C & potassium, but not sure how well its amino acids would complement those of beans.

  • Tony||

    The right's longtime obsession with what the dirty poors are eating is such a window into their damaged psyches. And then they acted all offended when Michelle Obama tried to help kids stop being fat fucks.

  • sarcasmic||

    Er, what? I wasn't aware that the "obsession with what the dirty poors are eating" was a right-wing thing. I thought the evil right-wingers were trying to abolish all government help for the dirty poors in the hope that they would all die.

  • Tony||

    Well that was the ultimate goal of the strategy of getting middle class white dumbfucks worked up into an irrational rage over the thought of some "young buck" using public money to buy foods that are above his station. You know sometimes I do tire of stating the obvious.

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh, I get it. Here I thought it was the paternalistic leftists who obsessed over what the dirty poors eat, because leftists understand that the dirty poors are so stupid that they need someone from government to hold their hand in the grocery store. But yeah, I understand what you mean. When you work for a living and have cube steak for dinner, and some fuck on welfare is eating prime rib, I think you have grounds to get upset.

  • Tony||

    Or you could not get upset and mind your own goddamn business. You "live and let live" types would be the hypocrites when you concern yourself with strangers' personal lives so deeply that you're policing their dinner table.

    The left doesn't want to do this, though it may want to change some things about the systems of food availability and production and such. More importantly we're not motivated by lizard-brain racist disgust reactions nurtured by fat propagandists.

  • sarcasmic||

    Or you could not get upset and mind your own goddamn business.

    When you're the one paying for it, and paying for it with money that is taken from you under threat of imprisonment, then it is your goddamn business.

  • Tony||

    You actually care about what strangers are eating though?

  • sarcasmic||

    No, but I can understand those who do.

  • Tony||

    What about understanding those who just don't like the idea of the wealthiest country on earth letting people starve for no reason?

  • sarcasmic||

    Nobody in this country has any excuse to starve. Between government and charity, there is no excuse. Show me a church and I'll show you a food pantry or people willing to write a check.

  • sarcasmic||

    The wealthiest country on earth where the poor are obese? And you're talking about starvation? Seriously?

  • Tony||

    It never ceases to bewilder when, in a debate about the merit of food stamps, food stamps are offered as a reason we don't actually have starvation. How true that is. But what if we tried being a 3rd world shithole with no government safety net, as you prefer? Might there be starving Americans then?

    That the poor are obese in wealthy countries is a counterintuitive factoid at first glance, but we've established that we don't have a dire malnutrition problem like you might find in Uganda. The fact is obesity and poverty correlate in complicated ways (lack of access to good foods and leisure time for exercise, among many others). So given the conditions in America, we're all likely to be fat except those of us who can afford not to be. And we are a pretty fucking fat country. Let's decrease wealth inequality and see what happens about that, how about?

  • sarcasmic||

    food stamps are offered as a reason we don't actually have starvation

    It's called recognizing reality.

    But what if we tried being a 3rd world shithole with no government safety net, as you prefer?

    I was homeless at one point in my life. Exactly zero of the people I knew in that time got government help. They all relied on charity. Because charity is here and now. Government is wait and wait and wait.

    (lack of access to good foods and leisure time for exercise, among many others)

    Supply and demand. You can put natural food stores and gyms in these neighborhoods, and they'll go out of business. It isn't a lack of access. It's a lack of demand. Again, choice.

    Let's decrease wealth inequality and see what happens about that, how about?

    What does that have to do with anything? Other than an emotional "That's not fair!" I see no problem with wealth inequality. The rich are not a static group, and neither are the poor.

  • sarcasmic||

    And how do you reduce "wealth inequality" except by the government robbing the rich and giving to the poor?

    Robin Hood's enemy was the sheriff. The guy who collected taxes. Robin wasn't the tax man.

  • Tony||

    At least we're down to two differences of premise. You think the trappings of poverty are the result of poor character. I think they are symptoms.

    You think it's bad to tax and redistribute. I on the other hand am not an anarchist.

  • sarcasmic||

    I never said anything about character. I said that bad choices get bad results. You spend all your money and you're going to be broke. Duh.

    As far as tax and redistribute, yes I think that is bad. Whenever government does something that would be unjust if done by an individual, then it is unjust ("bad").

    For example if your neighbor robs you then an injustice has been committed on you. You have every right to seek justice on your neighbor.

    When government does it it in the name of "fairness," it is still robbery. The difference is that you can't go to government for help for this injustice, because government inflicted the injustice upon you.

    What you support is injustice committed by the people who are supposed to deliver justice.

  • Tony||

    I have every right to seek justice on my neighbor [by calling in government goons paid for by forcibly extracted taxes]. And don't give me crap about "retaliatory." The taxes that pay for the goons' salary were taken the same way any taxes are taken.

  • sarcasmic||

    We've been here before.

    This is one of the few instances where I believe that intent matters.

    Money taken for the purpose of doing things that we could all justly do, like going after criminals or defending our property, is a price I am willing to pay. Not that I have any choice in the matter.
    Those duties of government are just. They are a use of force that is in response to a use of force.

    Redistribution is not just. No matter how you slice it. It is unjust.

    It is flat out robbery and divvying out the loot.

    The difference being that they guys who commit the robbery are the same guys who are supposed to help you when you are robbed.

    You want it both ways. You want the government to both be your robber and the people who help you when you are robbed.

  • Tony||

    But you just said you're OK with "robbing" people and redistributing that money to the goon squad. Thievery! Market distortion! Pure immorality!

    You can't have it all ways. Police protection of property rights is a public service. Taxes are taken to pay for that public service much in the same way they're taken to pay for all others.

    There is no difference on the principle "thieving is bad" or "public services can be good." We just differ on how much we want the state to do. I don't know why that's not good enough for you guys. Is it because you can't justify your positions on their own merits?

  • sarcasmic||

    There is no difference on the principle "thieving is bad" or "public services can be good." We just differ on how much we want the state to do.

    You say that and then leave. But you are wrong.

    I reluctantly support the state using force instead of me. If I am wronged, (in theory) the state uses force to get me justice. I don't ask anything from the state, nor does it ask anything of me (other than a tax bill). But if an injustice occurs (An act of force or fraud on another, as opposed to someone feeling envy or jealousy), then there is a reason for state action.

    Yes it is paid for by taxes. An unavoidable evil.

    You draw no distinction between taxes collected for the purpose of paying government employees to administer justice, and taxes collected for the purpose or wealth distribution.

    I do.

    In one case you are paying people to do a job, and on the other you're just paying people.

    There is a difference between giving someone a paycheck for doing a job, and giving someone a check.

    Please be honest and recognize that distinction. Not just with me, but in general.

  • sarcasmic||

    The method of collection says nothing of how it is spent.

  • Tony||

    I don't recognize the distinction and neither does any civilized society on earth. If it's OK to take taxes for one purpose, it's OK to take it for another. The purpose itself may be morally permissible or not, but you can't get out of the principle "taxation is theft" just by saying you support it "begrudgingly." If it's necessary for the form of society you think is idea, then it can hardly be evil.

    Admittedly given our country's political rhetoric it's not immediately clear why "redistribution," i.e., policies that increase the wealth at the bottom deliberately, are the same kind of public service as police or roads. I happen to think there's no essential difference--we're taxing and spending to achieve some social end in all cases. But if you don't like a policy, why can't you just say so? Stop with the "because God says so" crap. I'm never going to buy it anyway.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I don't recognize the distinction and neither does any civilized society on earth. If it's OK to take taxes for one purpose, it's OK to take it for another."

    So it's OK to take it for anything anyone can imagine?

    "policies that increase the wealth at the bottom deliberately"

    Um, no? They are poor. They spend it all. Wealth is destroyed. There is no increase at the bottom. Only a lowering of the top.

    "we're taxing and spending to achieve some social end in all cases"

    Government is force. I'm not after any "social end" via government other than force being used justly in response to unjust uses of force.

    Force doesn't make good schools, good charity, or good roads. Force is the means of acquiring the funds, which are generally misspent because that's what happens when people spend money on things they don't want with money that is not theirs.

  • sarcasmic||

    "because God says so"

    I ain't never found that to be appealing. Especially to a god with such an unimaginative name. Might as well call my next cat "Cat."

  • sarcasmic||

    "you can't get out of the principle "taxation is theft" just by saying you support it "begrudgingly." If it's necessary for the form of society you think is idea, then it can hardly be evil.

    Benjamin Franklin is attributed to saying similar to "Nothing is certain except death an taxes."

    As long as people have been alive, there have been others who say "pay up or we'll kill you."

  • sarcasmic||

    "Police protection of property rights is a public service. Taxes are taken to pay for that public service much in the same way they're taken to pay for all others."

    Paying people to do a job that does not involve handing out OPM is distinctly different from paying someone that does involve giving away OPM. Other Peoples' Money... A badge of honor among thieves.

  • sarcasmic||

    Show me a 'third world shithole' and I'll show you a government that promises everything, and restricts liberty.

    The logical conclusion of what you support.

  • SteveDDD||

    Shut up snowflake. Make a decent living and you can eat what the fuck you want!

  • Paper Wasp||

    Can that virtue-signal get any brighter, Tony? Did you repurpose the Bat-signal or something?

    *raises hand* I'm one of those evil right-wingers who thinks that people who can't or won't take care of their own needs can die off. Humans are not an endangered species.

    Why take money from me to support people who make stupid choices? That's never been satisfactorily explained, AFAIC. I'm not "letting" anybody starve by keeping more of my own money in my pocket. False dichotomy. Aren't there any other options here on the spectrum between "either pay for poor people's groceries, or you're letting them starve?"

  • Bacon-Magic glib reasonoid||

    Yeah Michelle and that school lunch program though...

  • Social Justice is neither||

    Prosperous countries shouldn't allow people to starve to death in the streets, so the debate over SNAP benefits is really a question of efficiency.

    Apparently prosperous countries rob their citizens under threat of imprisonment or death to provide for people. How exactly does this wholesale capitulation to the all encompassing welfare state line up with libertarianism?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    All this complaining about delivering state-sanctioned healthy food to the poor instead of food stamps. I think it's nice that Trump has found a place in his cabinet for Michelle Obama.

  • Eman||

    I know this is just food for poor people who might not even be white, but putting the same incorruptible geniuses who gave us the food pyramid in charge seems a little unusually cruel.

  • Tionico||

    he unhealthy oils its usually fried in (for the cheap chips, anyway) and an overdose of salt and other chemical substances. For that same nine bucks the pound one can buy a 25 pound bag of good spuds..... Bottled soda pop is another one. Most of the "snack" foods, "lunchbox" packaged tiny portions, one ounce boxes of raisins, are riduculouly dear bought that way. And much of it is VERY unhealthy. Prepared pasta meals, chemicals and all, etc.

    WIC programmes in some states restrict the kinds of items can be got through that programme. The registers are already programmed to separate food items from soap and TP, how's about deciding which classes of item can not be got with the card. Then all the funds will go much farther when one uses the credits to buy REAL foods. And the cost of medical care down the road from rotten diets will be greatly reduced.

  • Johnimo||

    Do you think it bothers Tony at all that we think he's so-very-insufferable? Tony (are you listening?) why do you even bother with the "Reason" website? I'm interested in knowing. Furthermore, which websites can I go to where they reflect what you believe in?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I recall reading years ago an SF novel about a libertarian society. There was welfare, of a sort. If you lived in the West, there were 'soup kitchens that were all you can eat fried insects. In other cultures, it was other repulsive food.

    The idea was that you certainly wouldn't starve, but if you wanted to eat something you liked, earn it.

    I think there's a lot to the idea. We don't want people to starve. But, if you want a choice about what to eat, work for it.

    I bet Purina could come up with a highly nutritious people chow that would be shelf stable, not trigger food allergies, and probably even make its own gravy when you add water. And it would be dirt cheap.

    You don't want to eat dog food? Get a job.

  • mpercy||

    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."

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Going to college back in the 70's, studying engineering, me and my friends used to compete to see who could eat cheapest. (Poor college students wasn't a stereotype back then, it was just reality.) Access to pre-fad books on nutrition helped.

    It always involved cooking from scratch. I ate a lot of liver chili. A friend invented a nutritionally complete bread.

    The dirty little secret of poverty is that the poor are ignorant, and have poor decision making skills. Generally that's why they're poor, people with good decision making skills lift themselves out of poverty.

    You give them money to buy food, they end up applying those poor decision making skills. They'll eat a lot better if you just give them ingredients to cook.

    But our welfare programs aren't intended to get people out of poverty, they're intended to maintain them in poverty, as a reliable voting base for urban political machines. Otherwise they'd look enormously different.

  • mpercy||

    I've long favored the notion that foodstamps should just provide access to sacks of rice, beans, and multi-vitamins.

    I don't want anyone to starve, but I've got no reason why anyone should be able to buy whatever the hell they want with taxpayer dollars.

    If you've got money for tattoos, iPhones, smokes and beer, you've got money for food. If you want to spend your food money on tattoos, iPhones, smokes and beer, and say you cannot afford food, okay, but you get rice & beans. Want something else instead of rice & beans, skip a trip to the tattoo parlor and buy some chips or whatever other low-nutritional-value food you want to stuff in your face.

    Beggars can't be choosers, right?

    Also, let's consider the correlation between foodstamps and obesity. There should be no cause for people on foodstamps to also be obese.

  • Thor||

    The better solution is end the program. I doubt anyone would actually starve. Most of these people are overweight anyway. Since I know this will never happen I'm much happier knowing they are getting actual food. It should be the most basic food that meets the minimal nutritional requirements. These people do deserve a choice. Anyone who cannot feed themselves has already demonstrated they cannot make good choices in life.

  • Bob Straub||

    $63 billion a year for SNAP. That's starting to be real money, 1.5 percent of a $4 trillion budget if my math is correct.

  • SteveDDD||

    You have a phone with a calculator. BFD.

  • Mark22||

    You're right. Instead of shipping, people can use the existing cards to identify themselves when they pick up boxes at government distribution sites. Problem solved.

  • Longtobefree||

    Of course, some court in the ninth district will rule that forcing people to cook food is slavery.
    Why not just say that all existing food delivery services have to deliver to all the 'poor' as a condition of getting a business license? Then fund the program with a 1,000% tax on the wealth of liberals who own more than one house, more than one business, or who make more than the $15.00/hr minimum wage? Gates, Bezos, Pelosi, Soros, Clinton, and Sanders have enough money to fund the program for a decade or more.

  • SteveDDD||

    'SNAP spent more than $4.3 billion on "administrative costs" in 2017—that consume tax dollars without helping anyone' Um dumb ass the people who received the 4.3 billion spent the fucking money you ignorant shitbag! Any entity's spending some other entity's INCOME. Spending of any sort is an economic benefit. Fuck you for being so lame.

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