Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Look, I'm not against helping people who are in need. I do have a problem with the current food stamp program as it's currently run in this country. The biggest problems we face with most government programs are fraud, both by the politicians in charge of the various programs, and by the people who are abusing certain programs and undermining those truly in need of help.
I'm going to take on the food stamp program with this post by submitting to you an idea I had about a year ago on changes we could implement to the program that I think prevents fraud and still helps those who truly need the help.
With the government killing jobs as fast as it can under all of these misguided policies it's no surprise that unemployment and food stamp expenditures have increased all across the country. Unfortunately, when more money gets dumped into a government program with no increase of fraud prevention the fraud always increases. That is one of the major arguments against the health care bill as I've discussed previously. Here's what I would do about food stamps and as always comments are welcome on what you think.
The first thing we should look at is cash benefits. Cash benefits allow a person on food stamps to get cash back when they buy food, like when you get cash back with a debit card. In many cases the cash back given is then used to buy things you can't get on food stamps, like cigarettes and alcohol. I've seen it for myself. Why should the taxpayer provide you with cigarettes or alcohol after they've already paid for your food? If you want things like that then you should have to pay for it yourself.
The next thing we need to look at is the amount of money given to the food stamp program and added to EBT cards. The news stories that usually whine about people not getting enough usually leave out one major factor....kids.
The number of kids you have greatly impact the amount of money you get. I watched a news story on CNN a few months ago, (I'd post the link but I haven't been able to find it through YouTube). They went through the supermarket with a woman, she talked about having to buy mostly store brand products, (so what I buy store brand products), but that wasn't what was important. She mentioned that she had 3 kids and you'll see why that's important in a minute.
When the reporter went up to the register he used a card saying that the amount on his card was $170 for the month and that wasn't much money, I agree. However, the $170 a month figure was for a single person with no kids, in other words the woman they used in the story never had to reveal how much she received but it certainly wasn't the $170 figure they were trying to sell to you. It's interesting that CNN didn't reveal the difference in money you get when 3 kids are added, maybe they knew we wouldn't feel as bad for this woman.
Now here's how I'd solve this problem. Take money completely out of the equation. When you register for food stamps you disclose, and prove, how many kids you have, whether you're single etc. Instead of putting a dollar amount on the card you get a shopping list, like WIC only more specific. You're allowed a list of grocery's based on your needs. We'll be generous enough and make sure you have all food groups covered, including produce and some meat, formula is covered by WIC but if you don't already get formula through WIC then we'll cover the necessary amount of formula you'll need. We'll know how much you'll need through your application for the benefits and the age of your children. The same system will be used to determine other things like how much milk, produce, meats, and dry grocery items you'll need.
No candy, or luxury foods like lobster, shrimp, fillet mignon, sushi, or expensive organic products (like organic milk) will be covered. You'll have to pay for those on your own, remember no cash benefits. I would allow for an average, not huge, birthday cake for any of your children's birthday's. Which again will be known by your application, since every child deserves a cake on their birthday. Since the programs based on items instead of money you won't have to worry about whether or not the prices have gone up. You will have to get mostly store brand items since they are cheaper than the national brands. If you want to complain remember beggars can't be choosers and you should be grateful that you're getting food for free and not starving on the street.
There is one more rule that I'll probably get criticized for at first but hear me out. You're shopping list will not be increased. Remember you're talking items not money so you'll still have the same amount of food regardless of prices. What I mean by no increases is that if you have any more kids then you won't get any more food added to the list. Let me explain before I get attacked for that one:
If you can't afford to feed the kids you have then how is it fair to bring a new child you can't care for into the world? You need to set priorities and take care of the kids you already have before you take on the responsibility of another child. This will assure that someone getting benefits doesn't keep irresponsibly having more children they can't take care of since they won't have to worry about providing for the next child. While the government helps you, you have to do all you can to help yourself. That is the key to getting out of poverty, strong families with morals, hard work, and the will to do for yourself what government can't do for you.
This program would have many benefits. For example, no one will be able to get things like alcohol and cigarettes with the benefits. Also, if you give your card to anyone else to use all they can do is get groceries which will come directly out of your own food supply.
Remember when food stamps weren't on a EBT card. You could get drugs with them and the drug dealer could just use the food stamps for his own food. EBT cards have certainly helped solve that problem but many cashiers don't check to make sure the EBT card is being used by the right person. Under this program it wouldn't matter as much because you let others use your card at your own risk to your food supply.
As long as your children attend school we'll provide the benefits for them through high school until graduation as long as they don't drop out, get charged with a serious crime (like drugs not a speeding ticket), and work part time at least for the summers from age 16 on.
I believe this system would work much better than the one we currently have. It would save money, teach more personal responsibility, teach better eating habits, still provide food for the needy, and eliminate fraud by the not so needy.
Maybe you agree and maybe you don't. I'd welcome any comments you have about this plan. If you think I'm wrong then by all means let me know why. Just remember that a blank check with no oversight causes this.