Food Stamps: Why They’re Worse Than You Thought
The US Development Agency’s website about the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, a federal food subsidies program that provides nutritional assistance to women and children, boasts a statistic that over fifty percent of infants in the United States participate in this program. It is also worth noting that other federal food assistance programs that help provide food to families do so to an unnecessarily large number of families, as will be noted later.
This article is intended on tackling the general rebuttals to food stamp programs as well as some you may not have thought of.
Being someone who works retail for a multinational corporation – Target – that accepts these programs as payment, I’ve seen many of its fundamental flaws firsthand.
Here’s some reasons why food stamps are worse than you already may have thought.
1. The Products
I see an indescribably large amount of people using these programs for reasons other than what they’re intended for. The supposed intent of these programs is to help people put food on the table every day. Many people I see at Target that pay with SNAP/EBT buy bulk soda, candy, and general junk food, most likely because it’s cheaper and gets them more food. Sometimes it is only candy, or only soda. We can’t refuse them according to the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, which states that all these forms of junk food specifically are eligible.
Let’s also discuss other things that resulted around this time. In 2007, 27 million people were on food stamps. This figure skyrocketed in 2008 and now is used by 43 million people. The average payout in food stamp benefits in 2007 was approximately $96; in 2014 it had raised to $125. I doubt that the inclusion of candy into food stamps was the causation for these things, but one thing’s for sure — it is now way more widespread and affecting more people. We can draw correlations all day, but one that bears noting here is obesity rates: In a 2007 obesity report titled F as in Fat, the average obesity rate in 47 states was over 20% in adults, and up to 30.6% in Mississippi. In 2007, 26.6% of adults were obese in the US, and it spiked to 33.8% in 2008 — all Centers for Disease Control reported numbers. In 2015, the most recent number, obesity has relatively stagnated and is at 34.9%. Again, this in no way proves causation, but there’s a good chance that the allowance of candy, soda, and junk food to be bought with food stamps did have at least a decent effect on these rates.
If government is going to have a welfare system in place (which it shouldn’t), it should be to try to help citizens maintain their well-being; let’s put an emphasis on ‘try’, as we know it doesn’t. These programs don’t even bother to make an attempt. They say that the programs are meant to keep food on the table for those who can’t afford it — to keep people afloat. But what these programs are likely going to do, is result in literally keeping people afloat by making them morbidly obese, if they continue to allow junk food — the cheapest foods you can get anywhere — to be purchased in mass quantities with food stamps.
2. Abuse of the System
Since the system calls for not using one’s own money, I’ve often seen people purchasing as much as they can with the funds that these programs provide, and then turning around and attempting to bring these items back and return them without a receipt, for cold hard fiat currency. Just ask anyone at a grocery store or retailer that sells food, especially someone who deals with returns. Some people are stupidly obvious about doing it right after they bought it, and we are able to stop it. But most people come back with all baby food, and we can’t stop them according to our own policy from doing a return without a receipt.
While this is a reflection on our own flawed policies as a corporation, this is a widespread problem that needs to be addressed at its root cause, and not only that: it shows how people are willing to abuse government safety nets. People see a system that benefits them, and they want to leech off of it. They don’t just become dependent on it, they take advantage of every bit of it that they can.
3. Resource Allocation
This third and final point is highly subjective, and I definitely understand that this – like the aforementioned situations – is not always the case, but from my own perspective I have seen a lot of people on these programs that I personally feel shouldn’t be. Well, I don’t think anyone should, but definitely not these people.
If you saw someone with a Michael Kors bag, an iPhone 6s Plus, and an Apple Watch, and you see them pay with food stamps of some sort, you’d be right in questioning their ability or willingness to allocate resources efficiently. You can easily pay $200 for an iPhone like that on contract (it’s upwards of $1000 without one), anywhere between $200-$400 for an Apple Watch, and easily $150-250 for a Michael Kors bag, and that’s just assuming those are the only things some people have — trust me, I’ve seen worse.
Let’s break down the metric here. Being conservative with the numbers, that alone means the person has spent at least $550 on highly unnecessary things. Let’s say by that token, you could live off of $150 a month for food yourself, which is very feasible. That’s almost 4 months of food money, and that’s just being conservative with the metric, and assuming they aren’t spending outlandishly on other things. It’s likely much worse.
The problem is, people don’t know how to budget, and frankly, don’t care. They’re fine with doling out hundreds of dollars on unnecessary things before they take care of the bottom-most part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the physiological need of food. They’re fine with taking money from the more well-off people in society.
The bottom line is that not everyone takes advantage of food stamps. The point is: enough people do, the system is irreparably flawed. Food stamp programs are bad. Let’s do away with them.
* Nicholas Amato is a writer and contributor for Being Libertarian. He’s an undergraduate student at San Jose State University, majoring in political science and minoring in journalism.