This morning I stop at a downtown Pittsburgh McDonald’s for breakfast. While in line, I observed an elderly black man and a middle aged white guy negotiate a cash-for-foodstamp transaction. Often, white collar professionals, working class and the very poor cross paths without actually interacting. We lead very separate lives, so I try not to make snap judgments.
I thought about what I saw.
While I can appreciate entrepreneurs, as a tax payer I must disapprove of Welfare fraud.
Can we solve the issue of waste and fraud without resorting to criminalizing the very poor?
I believe we can. I used to live in a very poor neighborhood. I noticed people scamming the system for food stamps and then converting the excess into beer, cigarettes etc.
I never observed anyone doing this with WIC coupons.
First of all, women must present their children in person and answer basic (specific) medical questions about their children on a regular basis.
This discourages fraud and promotes responsibility. Second, the WIC rules state very clearly WHO can make purchases, WHICH stores can accept WIC and even WHAT can be bought.
You can’t buy steak or Lobster with WIC coupons. A stranger can’t use your WIC at all. Each transaction requires photo ID. The store that sells unapproved products to a WIC customer, (say cigarettes) may lose their WIC license.
The store has a powerful economic incentive to follow the rules.
Not so with the EBT cards. They are anonymous ATM style cards. Anecdotes of users purchasing steaks and lobster are common. The obvious observation is that these users are either not as poor as they seem or they are spending taxpayer money unwisely.
Further, it is entirely possible the user is abusing the cash option. The cards can be used at standard ATM terminals to make withdrawals. Such transactions have been recorded in bars and strip clubs! The average tax payer has a reasonable expectation that purchase made with taxpayer money is for the benefit of a documented poor citizen. The expectation is that the funds are wisely used to aid in survival.
Our food stamp system as it stands is a way to buy votes from the poor. It does not encourage personal responsibility. No one is held accountable for abuses. This much change. Everyone has a vested interest in reform.
The taxpayer obviously is concerned. The legitimate poor should be even more concerned. If abuses continue, funding for EBT/cash might be drastically decreased.
Concerned citizens need to pressure Congress in a respectful, calm manner.
Those who benefit from this crude form of political patronage will pounce on obnoxious, bitter taxpayers as proof of class warfare.