I want you to
understand that this article isn’t a critique of the food stamp
process. Sure, I have my own opinions about government support
and charity and the way programs should be run or determine eligibility.
None of that is along the road I am looking to travel here.
when we get there, the idea is more that this program recently
has given me a few moments of head scratching.
this article began with a link to a story from the Associated
Press. I have maintained the quotes here, because they deal with
statistics that fall in line with numbers I have seen in many
places. But the link is no longer active and I have not been able
to located the actual piece again. It was cross-referenced to
the census and uninsured.) Let’s visit that opening paragraph
ranks of the nation’s poor have swelled to a record 46.2 million
– nearly 1 in 6 Americans – as the prolonged pain of the recession
leaves millions still struggling and out of work. And the number
without health insurance has reached 49.9 million, the most
in over two decades.”
big ideas kicking around in that one. First, the number of people
living in poverty. Article says 1 in 6. And second… well… didn’t
we supposedly fix health insurance just last year? No… really…
I’m asking. (I guess the healthcare stuff from a year ago didn’t
make big news… but I seem to recall seeing something on it.) Because
this article -- after giving us 1 in 6 people for poverty -- gives
us a number 3 million higher without health insurance. (And it
does not say that the 46.2 million are all rolled up in the 49.9
million. In other words… we are almost certainly well over 50
million people either in poverty or without health insurance,
and frequently both.)
add just a bit more to the foundation, let’s piece together two
last pieces of information from that article.
overall poverty rate climbed to 15.1 percent… last year, the
official poverty level was an annual income of $22,314 for a
family of four.”
you have a full time job, you work 2,080-hours per year. That’s
40 times 52. For a family of four, one person working, at the
income noted, that equates to about $10.73 an hour. And honestly,
I’m just not sure I know what that means or where to take it next.
if you want to start doing fancy math involving 9.1 percent unemployment
and 15.1 percent poverty and 4 people in a home… go ahead. If
you want to talk about minimum wage and tax rates… have fun. But
I tend to be skeptical of numbers. I believe the results aren’t
always clean and simple when it comes to math, because people
have motives to generate specific results. In short, numbers absolutely
I simply want you to understand that we are looking at some really
crazy numbers as we begin. And on that, I think we can all agree.
~ ~ ~
you heard about water
a term used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And, basically,
it covers the situations where people buy water with food stamps
in locations where there is a bottle deposit, dump the water out,
and then return the bottles for cash.
let’s say you purchased a case of water… 24 bottles… using food
stamps. And let’s say that case of water cost you $3. Many states
not only require deposits on beverages like soda, but also on
bottles of water. At 5-cents a bottle, you would pay $3.60 for
the water plus the bottle deposit. You go out into the street,
dump out all 24 bottles, and head back to the store to return
them. A cashier will give you two quarters and a dime.
cents. It cost you more than three dollars to obtain them. You
converted the food stamps into currency at a rate of 1-cent returned
to you for every 6-cents spent.
~ ~ ~
you know that fast food restaurants want to be allowed
to accept food stamps?
they do. According to this article, “…Taco Bell, KFC, Long John
Silver’s and Pizza Hut, is trying to get restaurants more involved,
federal lobbying records show.”
importantly than the issue of whether or not it happens, or when
it began, is a simple underlying point… lost revenue is driving
businesses to search for and consider any and all possibilities
for generating sales.
are the days when food stamps bought groceries at the local supermarkets.
They are being accepted at restaurants… as well as gas stations,
convenience stores, and other locations that can meet the government
criteria (federal and/or local) for the goods and services offered.
~ ~ ~
stamps aren’t really called food stamps these days. The U.S. Department
of Agriculture has a Food and Nutrition Service, and they oversee
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Food stamps are
now known as SNAP benefits.
Hurricane Irene? Recently… back in late August… the storm worked
its way up the east coast. And SNAP came into play, reportedly
to the tune of replacement benefits amounting to roughly 25% of
a monthly allotment in Connecticut.
thing… see… other articles about the storm and loss of food included
information about how almost anyone with a homeowner’s
insurance policy likely has food items included for circumstances
such as loss due to storms and power losses. But… as one source
noted (link no longer active, but others worded in similar fashion):
“Many homeowners’ insurance policies cover food spoilage from
extended power outages, though the reimbursement usually kicks
in only if the value exceeds the policy’s deductible.” Did you
catch that? The value of the loss has to exceed the deductible
in order to qualify for any type of reimbursement.
SNAP recipients received a 25% replacement, while many homeowners
with insurance policies didn’t file claims since the deductible
total either exceeded the value to be claimed or made it effectively
pointless to be filing a claim.
~ ~ ~
few years ago… yes, years ago, it was February of 2009… I wrote
an article called “The
economy? Drink your fluids, get some rest, and check back in seven
to ten days.”
that piece, I quoted an article from The Providence Journal
that said: “An estimated 91,000 Rhode Islanders would be added
to the food stamp rolls by 2013, injecting an additional $55 million
into the state economy.”
today, I don’t think I could sum up my frustrations on that story
any better than I did back then:
this statement say that adding 91,000 people as food stamp recipients
will be good for the economy? Can that be true? Now hold on…
before you jump in with a quick yes… remember, the comment also
talks about 2013! This is not addressing people of immediate
need. This is not extending unemployment benefits for 2009…
2010… 2011. This is not working with stores and people in need
to pay bills and get food for the next 24 to 36 months. This
is talking about an increase in need more than four years away!
government assistance programs… when the results are showing
that more people are qualifying for them… good for the economy?
What am I missing? Because it sure sounds to me like a way of
saying increased unemployment… rising demands for welfare programs…
and efforts like this are positive things.
~ ~ ~
think it’s safe to say that anyone willing to literally pour $3.60
worth of SNAP benefits away for a return of $0.60 in cash is acting
in extremes. There’s no sense in the action… since if the needs
were food or water, two of the most basic and important of human
needs, then the SNAP benefits on their own or the water purchased
would have satisfied those needs. We’re talking desperation.
could debate… we won’t though… whether there is some merit in
a situation where, for example, a parent has no time to cook for
a child and utilizing SNAP benefits at a restaurant does provide
a warm meal. Instead, I’ll rest on this one with the idea that
a well-planned shopping list is far more likely to produce healthy
eating than a burger and fries handed out a drive-thru window.
put, to apply reasonable thoughts to unreasonable conditions never
works. (Often… for those fans of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid… it leads to the feeling you would get if you were the
one wondering why anyone would want to clarify rules for the knife
fight you are about to begin. But I digress.)
I don’t have the ability to connect the dots right now, but the
reality is that all of these examples… and so many more… have
me wondering about the picture we are getting from the dots we
third article no longer active, from associatedcontent.com and
Wes Laurie, with a surprising observation worth sharing and also
found in other sources). We arrive at the idea of presenting need
as a scam to make money. Want a good quote from an article? Ok:
“Outside of a Target store in Ventura, California, on the lot’s
exit and entrance section there is always one single homeless
person waiting for donations from people in passing cars. It is
almost always a different person, yet it appears to be the same
sign they are holding up; very neat print on a cut out of cardboard.”
As Laurie so wonderfully asks: “…how do you know who to trust
when feeling charitable?”
that is where I am ultimately headed with this piece.
stamps used to collect the prize of the week from the children’s
the economic troubles by placing more and more people into government
not the idea of helping those in need that is so upsetting. It’s
a system being taken advantage of, catering to extremes, and predicting
growth for the future. Seriously… should government assistance
programs, such as SNAP benefits, really be the foundation of a
successful business model?
and water are essential to life, and yet people are willing to
trade them at rates not much better than pennies on the dollar
for cash in hand.
groups at federal, state and local levels predict things like
“an additional $55 million into the state economy” almost with
pride. The source doesn’t matter… pay no attention to this hand
over here… just look at the bottom line. (Sidney Bernstein… Beverly
Hills Cop II… “Is there something that I have in this office
that I could hand to you, and that would make you kind of forget
that you’re holding those, uh, pink tickets there?”)
makes no sense. And I suppose it shouldn’t… since reasonable thought
is being applied.