Saturday, November 2, 2013

More crass stupidity about the food stamp cuts

I was annoyed to read a wishy-washy, touchy-feely article about the forthcoming cuts in the food stamp program. Here's an excerpt.

Food stamp benefits to 47 million Americans were cut starting Friday as a temporary boost to the federal program comes to an end without new funding from a deadlocked Congress.

Under the program, known formally as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, or SNAP, a family of four that gets $668 per month in benefits will find that amount cut by $36.

"It may not sound like a lot but to a person like me, it is," says Annie Crisp, 30, a single mother of two girls in Lancaster, Ohio. "It's not just a number."

She says she received a little less than $550 a month in food stamps and now will receive $497. Crisp, a babysitter who brings home about $830 a month, says the food stamps help her buy her family fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.

Crisp worries now she may end up trying to supplement her family's groceries by going to a food bank or cutting into her electric or gas money for the month. The cut, she says, also means she will have to buy more canned fruits and vegetables, foregoing her daughters' favorite fruit, kiwi, and buying packaged meat.

. . .

SNAP, which benefits one in seven Americans, is administered by the Department of Agriculture and is authorized in a five-year omnibus farm bill covering all agricultural programs. Congress is currently debating the bill, which has additional cuts to the program totaling up to $40 billion. A cut that size, say advocates ... would be devastating.

There's more at the link.

This whingeing and whining about the cuts is simply nonsense. The SNAP program has more than doubled in size since 2007, which is completely unsupportable. It's done so largely because it's been actively promoted to the poorer sections of society by the Obama administration. This was done as a political ploy, not out of hardship and necessity.  I have no moral qualms whatsoever about reining in such wasteful and unnecessary expenditure - particularly when there's so much fraud and abuse of the system.

Furthermore, much of the food assistance provided is wasted on luxuries.  I witness people buying steak, frozen pizza, soda and candy using their EBT cards almost every time I go to a supermarket.  Many of my friends can say the same.  I'd love to know who authorized the waste of public funds on such frivolous expenditures.  If you can't afford to feed your family out of your own pocket, why should you be allowed to buy luxuries at taxpayer expense?  The mother quoted in the article whose daughter's favorite fruit was kiwi - too bad!  If you're poor, you don't buy kiwi fruit.  Period.  It's as simple as that.

If SNAP were limited to buying staple foods only - no fast food, no candy, no sodas, no pre-prepared or pre-packaged food like frozen meals - I have little doubt that its cost could be cut substantially without impacting the quality or quantity of decent nutrition available to families.  I think I could provide a nutritious, tasty diet for less than one dollar per person per meal. Three meals per day for a family of four would probably cost no more than $10;  and over a month, that would come to about $300.  Throw in a third extra for emergencies, and I reckon that family could feed itself for $400.  According to the article above, it's currently getting $668.  There's your waste, right there!  $400 per month will provide an adequately nutritious diet for a family.  There wouldn't be many desserts or treats, but there'd be more than enough food, and good-quality food at that.  Sure, it would take more time to prepare it;  but that's part of the penalty for taking money out of taxpayers' pockets.  Why should taxpayers pay for convenience as well as the food itself?

If you cut out the fraud and abuse, and limit SNAP benefits to staple foods only, that would probably cut the program's cost in half . . . or by the same amount as the $40 billion Congress might cut from it.  That works for me.



Glenn B said...

I could not agree with you any more than I do!

hawk205 said...

peter you misunderstand the nature of current government programs. They are intended to increase profits of companies who are involved. SNAP aides local grocery stores to increase their sales. Have you ever looked a rental companies who deal in 8C rentals. There is plenty of money to be made

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

There is great virtue in charity, but there is none in Welfare. We need to go back to charity and get the government out of this part of the redistribution business.

Glenn Mark Cassel said...

It is all about the "entitlements"

Anonymous said...

Yep, it sounds like her family is eating better than most of us who pay for her food.

However, how would you mitigate what is "frivolous" and what is not? What are "staples" and what are not? Who is to decide? Yet another panel of un-elected b'crats, the "Too Fancy Food" panel? The idea of trying to limit what can be purchased with SNAP funds might lead to more jack-booted tyranny.

I'd rather eliminate the program completely and let the care for people who truly need it be done at the local level, the way it was in our founders time.

Local programs, whether through religious and local charity organizations, or local governments are closer to the person in need, can know more about the person in need, and provide appropriate care, not wasteful care.

Anonymous said...

Let's see. When I started grad school at Flat State U, I spent $140/month on all household consumables for a one-person household. That's food, cleaning supplies, and paper goods. Yes, I got lots of dried beans, meat on discount, and stuff for five-day stew (Make it on Monday and thank G-d, you finish the last of it on Friday), and not too much exotic produce (i.e. imported and/or out-of-season). Granted, we've had inflation since then, but not that much. Pardon me if I don't have much sympathy for most of the producers of the plaintive wails.


Angus McThag said...

There's your next book!

A cook book of those simple $10 meals from staple ingredients!

The thing that floored me when I learned how was macaroni and cheese. A gigantic pan of home-baked stuff is about 1/4 the price per prepared pound than the Kraft stuff and is MUCH better tasting.

It's especially good for the poor student that the home-made stuff makes enough to last a week whereas the box makes two meals tops.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Hawk, knowing several landlords who take Section 8 tenants, it's not nearly as much money made as you'd think. You see, renters are harder on property than owners not only from lack of maintenance and lack of reporting maintenance, but at heart, it's not their stuff so they don't care.

Section 8 tenants? Not only is the property not theirs, but the money that pays for it isn't theirs, either, so they really don't care. It's paperwork intensive to get, and the tenants tend to rack up police, fire, and EMS visits - which some municipalities will then fine the landlord, because they're a "nuisance property". You can bet on replacing the carpet and patching drywall, at best, and major structural repairs after the eviction at worst (assuming they don't burn the place down 'so they can get a better one' after they've trashed it.) You can imagine how thrilled insurance companies get about landlords taking section 8 - they look positively jubilant about trampolines, ungated pools, or renting to college kids by comparison.

For that reason, most landlords refuse to take section 8, and those that do, demand a much higher payment so they can build the damage reserve (not the damage deposit, the amount over and above that it'll take to repair a unit at turnover.) And when the market for rentals gets better, the section 8 are the first to be 'discriminated against.'

Anonymous said...

They would starve if they had to prepare their own food from scratch.

JC said...

Peter, I must take exception to some of your points. Back when I was at bottom level, I didn't have access to a real cooking stove - all I had was a microwave and a common fridge, from which 70per cent. theft was accepted.

I now have my own apt with no crack dealers.

Fucking A I took food stamps! I took them when I was blind (cataracts - 20/600 on my good eye,and you can only imagine what that means to a consistant 9 ring shooter).

Then I had a nice case of tuberculosis.

SNAP covers only food. Not toilet paper. Not dish soap. I really did request paper bags for this reason.

I must admit that I did go for bargains - "own brand" mac and cheese and cheap tuna, but fresh meat: beef, pork and chicken were purchased only when on major discount, and lots of that was offal.

So yes, I did indeed buy a couple of frozen pizzas. Special occasions. So yeah I bought a bunch of shrimp. Pure protien at 3.09 a pound? Damn right.

On the other hand, the area where I live is ghetto/rehab. The ghetto folks go to the close store, and the rehab folks go to the good shop.

And that just breaks my heart. The classic ghetto grocery, with higher prices, poorer selections, and lousey service and no-one thinks to go another half-mile.

B said...

In some areas of the country you can get fast food (McDonalds and Taco Bell and such) with SNAP.

After all, it is FOOD. The argument is that if frozen pizza (prepared foods) is acceptable, then why not hamburgers and tacos?

I agree with you, Peter: Staples only. THat way they can get the most food for their dollar.

Strings said...

Actually, Spoon and I did a quick bit of rough calculating. Since I have some time tonight, methinks I'll hit the nearby Sprawlmart and get actual figures. I'll back link to this post