Yes, this is a post about food stamps

9 Jul

(Wrote the following very quickly and didn’t have time to proofread. Expect typos. Forgive me.)

Here is a piece of news that seems to suck: the US now has a record number of people on food stamps. Whoever said we were almost out of the recession owes me an apology, which I will accept in the form of cold hard cash.

Regarding the heaps of people whipping out their EBIT cards for groceries, my guess is Republicans are frothing at the mouth in frustration, because  if there is anything Republicans hate, it’s minorities government handouts.

While I’ve typically argued their anger is misplaced – since our taxes mostly go toward military defense rather than social programs – the truth is that was just an educated guess on my part. I was never sure. So I’ve done some recon on the burgeoning food stamp progr’m to try to learn a little sumthin-sumpthin. My admittedly amateur sleuth work is below, in easily digestible bullet-point form. What’s say we get our learn on together.

–  The program is administered by the US Department of Agriculture, for some reason.

– As we’ve suspected, there is no nutritional requirement on the types of food that can be purchased with food stamps. This seems stupid to me, as I’m not sure Sunkist and Charleston Chews are the best options considering your scarce income. On the other hand, I suppose such a restriction would be a nightmare to regulate. (FYI: purchase of alcohol is prohibited, much to the chagrin of the makers of malt liquor and Boone’s Farm.)

– Typically about 10% of our population is on food stamps. Which is a rather astounding number to me.

– The program was created in the late ‘30s to shorten the chasm between farm surpluses and starving people. It lasted a few years, was deemed unsustainable, and reinstated in the early 60s. It was piloted again then by Kennedy and made permanent by LBJ.

– 79 percent of food stamp funding goes to households with children. Not surprising, but still somewhat good news.

– 41 percent of participants are white; 36 percent are African-American; 18 percent are Hispanic.

– 71% of recipients are on the program for two years or less.

– 98% of the benefits in ’05 were spent properly, which makes the reports of program abuse/overuse generally unfounded.

– The average benefit from food stamps per person equates to about $1 per meal.

– Only an estimated 4 out of 10 poverty-level people participate in the program.

None of the stories explain what the overarching goal of the program is, but it seems to me that the economic theory is the government funding $1 per meal will save money in the long run, because those people would likely be at risk of hospitalization for malnutrition and other health-related issues. Not to mention starvation, all problems of which lead to more government-funded hospital care. In addition, a nutritious child is a smart one, and smart kids are important to the future. Furthermore, let’s not forget the whole “crime goes up when poor people are unhappy” theory.

Also, if you want to be noodle-spined pantsy about it and refuse to base your opinions on something beyond the money in your pocket, you just might be a big enough pussy to think that an abundance of starving people in our filthy-rich country is unbecoming and downright shameful considering our vast resources. Which is all true. So, the reality of an increasing number of people applying for food stamps is not necessarily the end of the world or even bad. In fact, it may even be positive news for America, in a number of ways. Conclusion: hooray?

Sources:

USDA: http://www.fns.usda.gov/FSP/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_Stamp_Program

Social Security site: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10101.html

Results.org: http://www.results.org/website/article.asp?id=358

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