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