Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Food Stamps

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According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the federal government spent $100 billion on food assistance programs last year to feed 110 million people.

Most of this total – $75 billion – was spent on food stamps issued to 46 million Americans in 2014 according to congressional testimony from the GAO’s Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Kay E. Brown.

The national school lunch program came in second at a cost of $11.3 billion with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) at $7.1 billion. Puerto Rico received food assistance worth $1.9 billion.

Brown testified that “inefficient use of federal funds” may exist due to the government’s “complex network of 18 food assistance programs, administered by three federal agencies” rendering these agencies unable to determine how effective the programs are. Brown continued:

“In 2010, research GAO reviewed suggested that participation in seven of these programs was associated with positive outcomes, such as improving nutrition among low-income households”…but that “Little was known about the effectiveness of the remaining 11.”

The GAO report referred to in Brown’s testimony included a list of the 18 federal programs which, taken together, served a total 109.9 million Americans in 2014. The effectiveness of the 18 programs as a whole could not be determined since there is no mechanism in place to identify and track individuals participating in multiple nutrition assistance programs.

Brown said the GAO has urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address potential overlaps in their programs – an effort undertaken by the USDA in 2013 “to study the impact of participation in multiple food assistance programs on the nutritional status of participants.”

“While such a study will provide important information, it does not address GAO’s recommendation,” Brown said. “GAO continues to believe that further action is needed.”

One outcome parameter missing from the GAO report was the effect that Food Stamps and other “nutrition assistance” programs are having on the motivation by beneficiaries to finds jobs and stay employed.

There is an old axiom in the theory and practice of government assistance programs that states if you subsidize something, you get more of it.

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Food Stamp Fraud

You would think a program like Food Stamps would be used by needy Americans to get the nutritional assistance that they need but you would be wrong – and there are many reasons why.

For starters, you need to know that the cost of federal food assistance programs have been rising in cost steadily for the last half-century. Beginning with a pilot program in 1961, Food Stamps were originally designed to distribute surplus or otherwise unmarketable food to the poor.

Based on the “success” this program, Congress passed Food Stamp Act of 1964 – letting it go national in 1974 and finally funding it through the Food Stamp Act of 1977. It was never meant to be an entitlement… never meant to benefit anyone other than poor American citizens… and never meant to be a way of life.

In the ensuing decades, all of this has fallen by the wayside.

The government currently spends over $110 billion a year on food assistance programs, and they’re continually attempting to get more people on board the government program.

In 2008, 28.2 million Americans were on food stamps. In the first five years of the Obama Administration, 19.4 million people have been added to the program. Today, 47 million Americans are on food stamps – particularly through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Then, to take the social stigma out of using food stamps, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) worked with states to begin paying benefits through an electronic ATM type card (called EBT, Electronic Benefits Card) accepted at most grocery stores to buy healthy foods such as bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products.

And while the USDA says items such as hot food, pet food, soap, household supplies, beer, cigarettes and wine are strictly forbidden, the SNAP program has no way of enforcing these rules. Because of this, the “rules” are more like soft guidelines, and that might explain the massive increase in welfare recipients in the past few years.

Nine Things You Didn’t Know You Could Buy With Food Stamps

Here are nine questionable items that you can (or will soon be able to) purchase with a SNAP ATM card.

  1. Fast Food: Taco Bell, KFC and other fast food restaurants are just two of many fast food restaurants that accept SNAP EBT cards.
  2. Bail: Convicted felons have reportedly used their EBT as bail money. The incarcerated instructs someone to go to an ATM to withdraw money from their EBT for bail.
  3. Lingerie: One adult store, Kiss My Lingerie in Gonzales, Louisiana, accepts EBT. Other adult stores are also been known to accept welfare transactions.
  4. Shoes: Payless Shoes also accept EBT.
  5. Strip clubs: In 2013, the New York Post reported that Freedom of Information Act documents (FOIA) revealed welfare recipients were regularly making EBT withdrawals at the ATMs near and inside infamous porn shops, liquor stores, lounges and hookah parlors.
  6. Starbucks: While corporate stores don’t accept EBT, any gourmet coffee shops like Starbucks in a Target or grocery chain is considered a grocery item.
  7. Cold hard cash: Some people sell their SNAP EBT benefits cards for cash using websites like Craigslist to find buyers.
  8. Cupcakes/Gourmet cakes: It is considered food, no matter the price.
  9. Coming Soon? Pot: Colorado became the first state to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. The may also become the first state to have taxpayer funded pot smoking. A Colorado Pot Shop called Rite Greens has already taken the steps to officially accept SNAP EBT cards.


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