USDA Food Stamp Program Benefits Yemen

photo courtesy LegalInsurrection.com

photo courtesy LegalInsurrection.com

About 25 years ago my wife and I were on a vacation trip in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  We had just got out of our car on a downtown street near the post office when a wild-eyed, shaggy-haired young guy ran up to us.  “Hey!” he yelled.  “You guys wanna buy some food stamps?  50 cents on the dollar!”

We were so caught off-guard, all we could say was, “No thanks.”  He ran off to the next stranger on the street – “Hey!  You wanna buy some food stamps . . . ”

After we figured out what had happened, we realized we should have called the police.  But we were a couple of naive middle-class Americans, who, like most, never had the time or inclination to figure out ways to commit fraud.  It honestly never crossed my mind that one could sell his taxpayer-funded benefits at a discount, receive cash, and spend it on whatever floats his boat more than groceries for the kids.

Even then, before EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards, the fraud was painfully easy.  Food stamps were printed on paper and they were as good as cash. I could have easily saved 50% on my next grocery shopping trip.  And the “needy” young guy on the street could have landed a weekend supply of Ludes and Mary Jane, compliments of the taxpayers.  Neither of those outcomes were the intention of LBJ, or the legislators who passed his Food Stamp Act in 1964 and upgraded it several times since, or the taxpayers who write checks to the IRS every year.  Little did we know that the food stamp fraud problem was going to get worse – much worse – over time.

We all exchange frustration about being in the grocery checkout line behind somebody with a cart full of extravagant fare, paid with an EBT card.  We are alarmed when we hear that SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) will cost over $84 billion in 2015.  We wonder why schools plan to feed kids during the summer months, as well as throughout the school year, when their families already presumably receive food stamp benefits.

photo by Tameka Moore AL.com

photo by Tameka Moore AL.com

This week a Birmingham, Alabama task force raided twelve convenience stores and arrested 17 suspects involved in an alleged food stamp fraud ring.  The convenience store owners had been buying EBT cards from their customers at 50 cents on the dollar, and using the cards to buy merchandise for resale, including steaks at Wal-Mart.  Worse yet, some of the Muslim store owners were accepting EBT cards in exchange for cash payments to individuals in

Yemen.  This was no small operation, as officials identified hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent transactions.  And authorities only have the resources to deal with a tiny tip of this huge Alabama iceberg.  Food stamp fraud cases like this show an accelerating trend all over the country.

While it is somewhat reassuring that some fraud cases are being prosecuted, it is disheartening to know that we are not even scratching the surface.  Citizens question why our government agencies aggressively promote benefit programs regardless of whether recipients are legal citizens or not.  There is inadequate prevention and policing of the rampant fraud by both consumers and providers.  Our border and immigration policies invite throngs of third-world indigents who hold little hope of becoming contributors to the economy and land here fully expecting benefits.

A group of clear-headed conservative Congressmen have lined up behind Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to introduce the ‘SNAP Verify Act of 2015’ in hopes of putting the brakes on the food stamp fraud program.  The law would require EBT users to present photo ID cards when making purchases.

Unfortunately, until Democrats and less-conservative Republicans recognize the scope of the problem, and put some teeth into enforcement, food stamp fraud will only get worse.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

It’s a cheating situation,
A stealing invitation
To take what’s not really ours
To make it through the midnight hours

A Cheating Situation – Moe Bandy

 

 

The Poor Don’t Need More Food

food driveEvery day, especially during the holiday season, we are buried in news reports about low-income Americans who don’t have enough to eat.  There are food drives, community food banks, charity events, and fundraisers galore collecting food and money for food, all based on the premise that the poor just aren’t getting fed.

Contributors to these food charities get a temporary, warm fuzzy feeling.  But the whole “starving children” thing is a big sham, and food charity does little or nothing to actually help the poor improve their lives.

Our citizens, through government welfare programs, provide generous food subsidies for the poor.  As I reported recently, the SNAP program grants up to $632 per month on EBT debit cards for a qualifying family of four.  There are deductions based on income, but cash from most welfare programs is excluded. The monthly SNAP dollar allowance is considerably greater than most non-welfare families spend on food, resulting in high incidence of obesity among SNAP participants.  In addition, 68% of students get one or two free or heavily-subsidized meals at school every day.

I’m not saying it’s fun to be on welfare, or that we should abolish all food subsidies.  I am saying that lack of food is NOT the main problem for the poor, and providing more food via charities is NOT helping them.  The few scarce hungry Americans are victims of neglect, abuse, and mental illness – problems that must be addressed, but in a completely different way.

So why are we so obsessed with providing EVEN MORE FREE FOOD for the poor?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to direct this huge pool of charity funds to something that actually does some good? 

We could provide economic education, job skills and actual employment opportunities so poor families might escape the sad trap of welfare dependency.  We could monitor and counsel poor adults and children, helping develop good decision-making, parenting, and life skills.  We could actually get involved at the personal level, helping with individual needs – a car repair so one can get to work; a plane ticket so another can help an ailing relative; a home-cooked meal for a senior who can get food but can’t cook.

This sounds like charity as it once was in this country.  Charity that was most often organized by churches.  Charity given in the form of time, personal involvement, and caring, in addition to money.  Sadly, today’s secular liberal culture discourages faith.  Forced charity funded through taxation and administered through soul-less government computers has dried up the river of personal, church-sponsored work that used to actually help people.  Now, the extent of our caring for others is reduced to buying them more and more food, making them even fatter, while leaving them dependent on the government and making the same bad choices as their parents and grandparents did.  We don’t want to get involved, so let’s throw them another can of food.  We can wear ribbons, join a publicized walk to promote “awareness”, and then leave our neighbors behind.

The poor don’t need more food.  Frankly, they don’t need that carload of junk from WalMart that many have come to expect from charities every Christmas.  They need jobs, and they need guidance from good people – caring and constructive shepherds who can show them the way to a better life.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side Who can I believe in?  I’m kneeling on the floor.
There has to be a force, who do I phone?
The stars are out and shining,
But all I really want to know –
Oh, won’t you show me the way?
I want you to show me the way.

Show Me the Way – Pete Frampton

EBT – Our Government “Fatness” Program

EBT cardThis from USA Today, today:

“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.”

Let me get this straight . . . a single mom, with two girls, can’t survive on $497 a month worth of groceries?

Once again, I am forced to do the simple math exercise (remember, I went to school before Common Core).

30 days x 3 meals a day x 3 people = 270 meals a month.  The two girls get “free” breakfast and lunch (actually paid by taxpayers) at their government school.  There are 19 school days in November, so subtract 76 meals.  That leaves 194 meals at home per month for the taxpayers to buy.  $497 divided by 194 meals = $2.56 per meal.

Now if you eat most of your meals at Olive Garden, that doesn’t sound like a lot.  But who eats 194 meals a month at a restaurant?  These are two schoolgirls and a single mom who can pack a lunch when she babysits (I’m guessing Annie scores a few free meals while babysitting.)

My family can afford to eat anything we want.   Like most Americans, we eat too much, and our profiles reflect it.   Here are some typical menus at our house (my wife helped me calculate the per meal costs):

Typical breakfast:  yogurt, OJ, cereal, milk = $1.50 per meal.  Or 2 eggs, toast, OJ, banana, milk = $.90 per meal.

Typical lunch:  ham sandwich, fruit, cookies, iced tea = $1.90 per meal.  Or tuna salad w/dressing, crackers, cheese and boiled egg, iced tea = $1.95 per meal.

Typical dinner:  our favorite beef goulash, with veggies, drinks and brownies for dessert = $1.58 per meal.    Or pork chops, baked potato, veggies, and ice cream = $1.50 per meal.

An average meal costs my family $1.56 for each of us.  We don’t consider this a “subsistence” diet at all; in fact, we really need to cut back.

Now, back to the simple math.  If the Annie Crisp family ate meals like us, they would have about $194 a month left over from the taxpayers.  They could easily go out to Olive Garden once a week, or eat steaks at home twice a week, or enjoy 50 items each from the dollar menu at McDonald’s and still have money to spare.

Am I missing something here?

I am not a grinch.  I don’t want kids to starve, and I understand there are families in trouble through no fault of their own.  But it gets harder every day to stand in line behind the 350 lb. mama in the Wal-Mart checkout line, whipping out her EBT card to pay for basket loads of junk food.  And never – ever – ever saying “Thank You.”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I was travellin’ down the road feelin’ hungry and cold,
I saw a sign sayin’ food and drinks for everyone,
So naturally I thought I would take me a look inside.
I saw so much food, there was water coming from my eyes!

Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance) – Leo Sayer


Adrian Peterson’s Love Child – Never Meant To Be

AdrianPeterson[update 10/17/13 th to Hank Jones, related article from Baltimore Sun]

 

Another sad headline via the sports pages:  “Adrian Peterson’s Young Son Dies After Assault”.

Peterson has received much sympathy from the public and his teammates, and has reported that he will unquestionably play in today’s game against the Panthers.  Yes, it’s a tragedy, but it’s not Peterson’s fault.  Or is it?

It’s certainly a tragedy for the two-year child, who did not pick his parents. He was born to Peterson and a “girlfriend”.  Then shaken to death by her new “boyfriend”.  Call me old-school, but I still think kids should be raised by married mothers and fathers, not boyfriends, girlfriends, gay lovers, and Hillary’s “village”.

Kansas City Chiefs fans still wail about the tragedy when star defensive end Derrick Thomas was paralyzed and later died from a car crash while driving to the airport in a snowstorm.  One of his two passengers was also killed.  Thomas left behind seven children by five different mothers, he was not married to any of them, and he blew his millions of dollars so fast he didn’t leave them a penny. State Senator Bill Kenney, a former Chief, called Thomas “a true hero.”

Marriage is now obsolete, and I think this may be the biggest threat facing our society and our economy.  Look at the listing of births in your local newspaper.  Only about half of these precious little creatures are born to parents with the same last name.  The other half begin their journey through life with two strikes against them.  Some will succeed, but most will face poverty and will be dependent on their peers who were raised in a traditional family.

The breakup of the American family, and the subsequent dependency of unwed mothers on the government, has caused an avalanche of social problems.  By eliminating the economic need for fathers, we have done untold damage to generations of kids that will be tough, if not impossible, to reverse.  The solution is not as simple as just cutting back spending on welfare and food stamps – that would only do more damage to the kids. A culture shift is the only thing that will get us out of this tailspin.

Too many parents are now conditioned to think it is “somebody else’s” responsibility to see that their kids get an education.  That they get breakfast and lunch.  That they have school supplies and warm coats.

My wife recently visited with a single mom who was concerned about the federal government shut-down.  “What if they stop Head Start?” the stay-at-home welfare mother asked.  “My kids are supposed to know their ABC’s before they get to grade school.  What am I going to do?”  It obviously never occurred to her to turn off the TV and teach them herself.

I’m guessing all of you who read this are old enough to remember the Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story about a young Puritan woman who was branded as an adulterer and shunned by her community.  It was required reading for junior high kids back when we were in school, when marriage mattered.  The Scarlet Letter is no longer in the curriculum, for two reasons:  One is Common Core, which limits most school reading to non-fiction, featuring themes such as global warming and diversity.  The other is the fact that today’s kids don’t “get it” when they read about adultery.  What’s wrong with two unmarried people having sex?  Doesn’t everybody do that?

I know, I am a social dinosaur, severely outnumbered and out-dated.  But I was here when life was better – back when kids had moms and dads with the same name.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Love Child, never meant to be
Love Child, born in poverty
Love Child, always second best
Love Child, different from the rest

Love Child – Diana Ross and the Supremes

Why Do Democrats Hate the Working Class?

foodstampFor years the media has claimed that the mean old Conservatives (especially the Tea Party) only care about the rich, and don’t give a damn about anybody else.  Only progressive Democrats care about the poor, the average Joe, the “working class family.”

Huh?

Wasn’t it the Democrats who rammed ObamaCare through against the wishes of the majority of Americans?  This is the program that cuts the work hours of millions of “working class” employees, forces them to buy insurance that they don’t want or can’t afford, raises the cost of their existing insurance, or causes their employers to drop coverage.  Here’s a dirty little secret – most of the working poor who are not already on Medicaid are not going to buy their own insurance whether you threaten to punish them at tax time or not.  They don’t know how, won’t learn how, don’t pay taxes, and frankly aren’t interested.  They will still be getting their medical care at the nearest hospital emergency room – after all, the hospitals have not been relieved of the legal responsibility to care for everybody regardless of ability to pay.  Remind me again now, how does ObamaCare help the poor?

Wasn’t it the Democrats who fought like crazy to stop drilling and fracking and pipelines for oil and gas, and mining for coal – resources that would create millions of jobs, lower the cost of energy for all Americans, and get the economy back on track?  Instead they continue to print fiat money, devaluing the currency so the average Joe can’t even afford to put gas in the family wagon.

Wasn’t it the Democrats who refused to allow working-class families to choose the school that will best meet the needs of their children, and instead herds them into chronically under-performing, high-cost schools, wasting students’ time with ideological nonsense instead of teaching them how to make a living?  Don’t even get me started on Common Core.

Wasn’t it the Democrats who destroyed the manufacturing job base in our country by taxing our corporations at the highest rate in the world, making them move production facilities overseas?  We could straighten out our negative balance of trade and bring those jobs back in a few years with some intelligent management of tax rates and tariffs to level the playing field with China, who continues to eat our lunch and demand dessert.

Wasn’t it the Democrats who demanded amnesty for illegal aliens, and called for open borders so that the few available low-tech jobs open to Americans are even harder to get, and pay third-world wages?

Wasn’t it these same Democrats who destroyed the American family, the traditional work ethic, and the economy by replacing the role of working fathers with a huge and growing  “entitlement” culture?  Fewer than half of our citizens pay income tax, and one in five families is on food stamps.  Illegitimacy is normal now as single mothers no longer need to worry about feeding and housing their children.

The news media has been little more than a propaganda wing of the progressives for a long time.  All of their so-called “compassion” since the onset of LBJ’s Great Society has only resulted in more misery for the poor, the average Joe, the “working class.”  And they didn’t do it alone – some corrupt and self-serving liberal Republicans along the way did not exactly help the situation.

Conservatives do care about the poor, the average Joe, the “working class.”  We know that a functional free-market economy offers the best opportunity for everyone to succeed, and is healthy enough to care for those who deserve help.  History proves that heavy-handed, top-down, corrupt big-government enriches those few in control, and steals freedom, opportunity, and wealth from everyone else.

Next time some phony Beltway progressive politician or MSNBC lacky feigns outrage because “Conservatives don’t care about the poor”, you might hear a loud bang – that would be my head exploding.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

With you by my side
They can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town

The Poor Side of Town – Johnny Rivers


The New ‘Immigration Reform’ – It’s A Mistake!

Mexican WalmartWhile living in Montana for many years my opinions about illegal immigration were based on what I heard in the media.  Montana doesn’t have an illegal immigrant problem.  I saw the growing numbers of Mexicans and Central Americans when visiting western cities like Denver, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City, but still didn’t have any first-hand experience.

For the last few months I have been traveling full-time throughout the Southeast, based in Charlotte, and have gained some perspective on the issue.

Shortly after arriving here, I was shopping at a WalMart store and was struck by how many people were speaking Spanish.  It seemed at times like I was the only English-speaking white guy around.  I don’t know what proportion of these immigrants are illegal – some may be here on current visas.   But it is likely that a good number of them either crossed the border illegally or were born to someone who did.

These foreigners have money to spend.  And that is the centerpoint of my curiosity and interest.

The media paints us conservatives as racists, bigots and homophobes who have no tolerance for people who don’t look and speak like us.  There are a few who fit that mold, but I think most are like me – concerned about the fiscal integrity of our nation and worried about the economic futures of our children.

Does it bother me that there are so many foreigners in the frozen foods aisle?  Not in the least.  I find them to be friendly, hard-working family people.  What bothers me is that laws exist to protect U.S. citizens, and it is clear that a lot of law-breaking is being tolerated – even encouraged – to a greater degree every day.  What is the economic impact?

I have a soft spot for anyone who works hard and takes care of his family.  So when Hector came into my store a few days ago to buy a $6,000 dump trailer, I enjoyed learning about his roofing business.  He had two of his ten employees with him, and they spoke no English.  We had earlier outfitted his shiny new Ford truck with expensive accessories and this was the fifth trailer he had bought from us in a year.

When it came time to pay the bill, Hector, as always, pulled out a wad of hundred dollar bills that would choke a horse.  The sixty C-notes he peeled off to pay for his trailer barely made a dent.  It made me wonder if the two guys with him were actually bodyguards.

Hector has built a great business and is making a lot of money.  We need entrepreneurs in the United States, right?

Not like Hector.

He is obviously not paying taxes – his wealthy customers pay him in cash because he charges less than his native-born, honest, tax-paying competitors. He is not paying workers comp, or unemployment, or insurance bills.  He does not provide health care for his employees.  Hector pays his men minimum wage or less –  they have to work for low wages because any legitimate business would be in big trouble if they hired illegal workers.  But it works out because they receive all kinds of government benefits, including food stamps, medical care, subsidized housing and education for their children.

Hector is doing great.  So is his family.  And his employees are much better off here – they buzz the aisles at WalMart, chattering in Spanish with big smiles on their faces.

At the same time more and more of our own under-educated citizens have given up on work.  They are encouraged to stay home and collect welfare, plus the same food stamps, free medical care, subsidized housing and education for their children that Hector’s employees get – all paid for with money either borrowed from the Chinese or printed out of thin air.  American entrepreneurs who would start businesses as tradesmen and employ other Americans are beset with regulations, taxes, fees, and red tape.

Our political leaders continue to claim that we need illegal immigrants to do the work that “Americans won’t do.”   Even Republicans in the nation’s capital are beginning to embrace amnesty and “immigration reform”, totally abandoning the laws that were created to protect U.S. citizens and our standard of living.

It’s a serious mistake.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

We’ll not fade out too soon, not in this finest hour
Whistle your favourite tune, we’ll send a card and flower
Saying it’s a mistake.  It’s a mistake!

It’s A Mistake – Men At Work

Looking For Benefits?

For some time now, President Obama and his PR department (the mainstream media) have contended that our nation’s biggest problem is inequality.  Not unemployment, not lack of GDP growth, not the national debt and deficit, not the growing number of people on food stamps and other government assistance.  The most important problem, according to them, is the gap between the rich and the poor.

Defining rich and poor is subjective and difficult.  Most often lately, “rich” has been defined as a couple who earns more than $250,000 per year.   Presumably the threshold is lower for singles.

“Poor” is almost never really quantified.   Some of us are old enough to remember the television ads showing skinny Appalachian kids leaning on stick-built porches, wearing rags and sad faces.  I’m not saying those were the good old days, but times have sure changed.  Kids on food stamps today are, as often as not, obese.   Recipients of federal disability payments has increased by 50% in the last ten years.  Since January 2009, the number of individuals on food stamps has skyrocketed from 31.9 million to the current record high 47.1 million. By comparison, in 1969 just 2.8 million Americans received food stamps.

If you are reading this, I’m pretty sure you have never seen the federal government’s “Benefits” website (see graphic above).   The banner headline is:  “Looking For Benefits?”  Apparently plenty of people are – 70% of federal spending in 2010 went to “dependence-creating” programs, compared to 28% in 1962.  Our Secretary of “Labor” (see Hilda Solis’ statement above) now promotes benefits, not labor.

According to the 2012 Index of Dependence on Government:

The great and calamitous fiscal trends of our time—dependence on government by an increasing portion of the American population, and soaring debt that threatens the financial integrity of the economy—worsened yet again in 2010 and 2011. The United States has long reached the point at which it must reverse the direction of both trends or face economic and social collapse.

Programs considered “dependency-creating” are federally paid housing, health care and welfare, retirement, federal payments for higher education, and agricultural subsidies.  One could argue that retirement is not a benefit, because it is supposedly self-funded.  Or that agricultural subsidies are not a benefit – but much of that budget is food stamps, and the rest is mainly farm subsidies to large corporations, both of which cause dependency.  I can think of other spending that creates dependency too, like corporate bailouts and other government investments in chosen industries. In any event, we are looking at the same spending categories from 1962 to 2010 – and they jumped from 28% of the budget to 70%.

We can argue until the subsidized cows come home about what is fair, or whether taking property from one American to give it to another is even constitutional.

But anyone who thinks we can continue our current spending habits, or continue to encourage the use of government benefits – regardless of how much tax is paid by the “rich” –  is dangerously ignorant.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel no where could be much colder
If we don’t change the world will soon be over
Living just enough, just enough for the city.

Living For the City – Stevie Wonder