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NY Times: Food Stamp Fraud, Rare but Troubling

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"... Still, at a time when a congressional committee is trying to reconcile a new farm bill spending package — 78 percent of which is devoted to food stamps and other nutrition programs — reports of black-market food stamp operations capture the public’s attention.

'It’s a small percentage of the program, but I don’t tolerate it, and I worry about it because I don’t want the American public to unfairly paint the millions of people who play by the rules,' said Kevin Concannon, the Department of Agriculture under secretary who oversees the program..."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/19/us/...?

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  1. So only 1% are fraudulent, so different that what you hear. I sort of believe it though.

    1. If I were a high ranking official in the Department of Agriculture I would want the program painted in the best possible light too, after all, it is a direct reflection of the job I am doing.

      The Government Accountability Office apparently comes up with fraud percentages. That would be like BP being the only entity investigating the oil well disaster in the Gulf.

      Key to remember is that every dollar of outright fraud and also abuse (another topic and likely higher %) is a dollar not available to those in need.

      78 Replies
      1. re: Tom34

        <If I were a high ranking official in the Department of Agriculture I would want the program painted in the best possible light too, after all, it is a direct reflection of the job I am doing. >

        A little bit of that, but there are two forces against that as well. First, pure human honesty and decency. Some people don't like to lie. Second, it is something just as self-serving to show faults. If a program is perfect and a smooth running machine, then it actually makes the person in charge less important and less appreciated. If the program is 70% working, and 30% need improvement, then it actually give more political capital to the person in charge.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          And there are dozens and dozens of abuses being investigated (including pay outs made by Tom34's example of BP).

          The frustration here is the human toll. Crunch all the #'s and stats you want (a general statement) but the people need their food assistance programs.

          1. re: HillJ

            Fraud, or the cost of fraud, is built into federal programs when they are being budgeted.

            It's why almost every single agency (at least on the federal level) has an OIG.

            In many ways, it's also job creation and job security for federal employees.

            And, to be honest with you, food stamp fraud is really a victim-less crime, and really probably the most efficient way of transforming a public benefit into a personal desired good.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I can't wait to hear Tom34's take on victim-less crime, ips.

              Talk about pot stir. Ha!

              1. re: HillJ

                HillJ, here me out.

                In an ideal world, the government gives out a public benefit (e.g. food stamp, SNAP, whatever) and the recipients then uses that public benefit on necessities (e.g. food, clothing, shelter, whatever).

                Now, in a real world (mine or yours, for example), the recipient of the public benefit places a higher social utility on what the government has deemed non-necessities -- e.g. junk food, or drugs, or sin-tax foods like alcohol or cigarettes. So, the recipient engages in fraud with a willing counterparty.

                Now, lets go back to the ideal world again, and assume there is absolutely no fraud of the kind described above. The recipient uses the public benefit to buy (for example) a loaf of bread, but what she really wants is a pack of Marlboros. So, she then has to barter -- maybe on eBay or Craigslist -- which increases transaction costs (i.e., shipping, time-lag, etc.) Not efficient.

                Fraud, much more efficient. Friction-less (or friction-lesser) transaction, with less middle-people.

                Happy Holidays, HJ.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Tell that to the small town grocer highlighted in the article, arrested for breaking the law (his 3% take) when he believed he was helping people. Tell that to people who don't misuse the assistance and tell that to people like me who don't care about all the stats naysayers throw upon a crisis facing good people, good hard working people.

                  ips, I sat day after day on the job listening to the people charged with fixing the problems you wag at. They didn't give a shit then and they don't now. We lose faith in our government entities with good reason. And in spite of all that, I don't want to focus on the criminal behavior unless we also accept that hard working people are struggling for what we take for granted. Misuse and you will lose your benefits. But for the vast majority how much in assistance they will get each month is below what they need and the idea that the figure can be lowered still continues to blow my mind.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    Hill J,

                    As per the article, the store keeper was keeping 30 cents on the dollar (30%, not 3%) The primary person he was helping was himself.

                    1. re: Tom34

                      Thanks for catching my typo, Tom34.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    You've just about changed the way a Texan feels.

                    Fraud infuriates me, but helping the poor eat does not. There's fraud everywhere. Hell, even people in my small, Republican-leaning town manage to steal from little league baseball, football, basketball, Girl Scouts and more.

                    It's a part of life. That being said, I'm rooting big-time for Mr. Christie, but not to cut food programs for those who truly need it.

                    Merry Christmas, all!

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Your comments are very well thought out and really a breath of fresh air. I mean that in a non sarcastic way. It just makes a lot of sense the way you put it

                    2. re: HillJ

                      The victims will be future generations who get stuck shouldering the crushing weight of our debt.......while at the same time earning less money, having no defined pensions and empty SS accounts.

                      I am only discussing public assistance spending because that is the topic at hand. I think EVERY government program has to be looked at.

                  3. re: HillJ

                    Fraud is unavoidable. Human beings are fallible. I think what annoy people more about fraud in Food Stamp than other programs is that there is an emotional element.

                    Just imagine you donate $1000 to an organization for a certain disaster, then you found out that the money did not go to the disaster relief effort and that someone use it for something completely inappropriate.

                    One of the many problems of food stamp fraud is that the money is almost always spent in the opposite direction. Instead of using the money for foods, it was used for alcohol or even something worse.

                    Problem is that what the recipients want is not what the taxpayers want.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Almost always spent in the opposite direction? I don't believe that and the article outlined in this OP states that is not so. Taxpayers are also recipients.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        I don't think the article actually outlined that. Can you help me find that line(s)? Thanks.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          I was referring to this part of the article, Chem:

                          Officially, the amount of money lost to underground trafficking is estimated to be 1.3 percent annually. That is down from more than 4 percent in the 1990s when paper coupons had not yet been replaced by electronic benefit cards, called E.B.T.’s, in the program that is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

                          Include erroneous payments to recipients because of errors on the part of the government or outright lying on applications, and the overall loss to the food stamp program is about 4.7 percent, according to the Department of Agriculture.

                          Although the sheer size of the program means that more than $3 billion is lost to trafficking, fraud and overpayments each year, the rate is less than other government programs, according to federal audits. The Government Accountability Office has estimated that Medicare and Medicaid lose nearly 10 percent to fraud.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            One of the many problems of food stamp fraud is that the money is almost always spent in the opposite direction. Instead of using the money for foods, it was used for alcohol or even something worse.
                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                            When you say "almost always" I don't understand that remark.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              "One of the many problems of food stamp fraud is that the money is almost always spent in the opposite direction. "

                              What I was saying is that the fraud money is often spent in the opposite direction of its intention -- as in not the necessary food. This is not to say that most of the food stamp spendings are frauds. I didn't say that. I said the fraud money. I meant, when it is fraud (that 1.3%), it is used in a way that many taxpayers disagree.

                              <Taxpayers are also recipients.>

                              When I wrote "Problem is that what the recipients want is not what the taxpayers want.", I mean to say that most taxpayers do not want to see the food stamp money being spent what they consider to be useless stuffs.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Thanks for clarifying. I was following both points very easily. I just don't share that belief.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  < I just don't share that belief.>

                                  Really? So when I wrote that "I meant, when it is fraud (that 1.3%), it is used in a way that many taxpayers disagree."
                                  So you think that many taxpayers actually agree with the way the fraud money are being spent?

                                  When I wrote "most taxpayers do not want to see the food stamp money being spent what they consider to be useless stuffs.", you disagree with that as well. You think most taxpayers actually want to see the food stamp money being spent on useless stuffs.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    What I mean is that I don't believe most people on food stamps or not are watching that closely. I think public perception is stuck, stuck believing that everyone on some form of assistance must be a bum, lazy, a bottom feeder. The fraud is down. The problems are being addressed better-not perfect. And yet, the public still believes what they wish whether it is accurate or not.

                                    This thread and others like it on CH have discussed at length the belief that taxpayers should have the right to decide how those on assistance shop. I don't agree that individuals should have that right. I find it overbearing and unnecessary. I think taxpayers on assistance and taxpayers not on assistance see things unique to their situation.

                                    It would appear today that some of us believe fraud is a necessary, unavoidable part of life. True or not, fraud is a sidebar distraction from helping people who use the program properly and need the help. Our government has already attached watch dogs to those issues-let them correct it.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      <What I mean is that I don't believe most people on food stamps or not are watching that closely. I think public perception is stuck, stuck believing that everyone on some form of assistance must be a bum, lazy, a bottom feeder. The fraud is down. The problems are being addressed better-not perfect. And yet, the public still believes what they wish whether it is accurate or not.>

                                      I don't think I have said anything along these lines (for or against).

                                      <This thread and others like it on CH have discussed at length the belief that taxpayers should have the right to decide how those on assistance shop>

                                      Hmm, this is a tough one. I don't want to get too into this, but I do like to bring up a point. Surely, we must believe in the taxpayers (or at least someone) have some rights to decide where the money should go to. Otherwise, we shouldn't even have a food stamp program. We just give them cash. The whole idea of a food stamp program is to limit where the spending go to.

                                      <It would appear today that some of us believe fraud is a necessary, unavoidable part of life. >

                                      I would say that fraud is unavoidable, but not necessary. These are different things to me. For example, I think it is unavoidable that I will get colds and flu and get sick. I don't think it is necessary that I get colds and flu.

                                      Now, getting hungry after skipping meal will be both "unavoidable and necessary" for me.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        A, I was trying to be clearer with you; whether that is what you said, agreed with or not. Just (trying) to explain how I see it today.

                                        As taxpayers we contribute to social programs. I count on the governing bodies to provide oversight and keep close tabs on where taxpayer dollars go. Of course, we need parameters and guidelines. I would never suggest that a program can work w/out them. I believe in program allowances based on income or lack thereof.

                                        Fraud and unavoidable are different things to me too. This topic has never been about a handful of opinions, right? Including my own. Armchair quarterbacking is not real life. Just a ball tossed around here on CH.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          <A, I was trying to be clearer with you; whether that is what you said, agreed with or not. Just (trying) to explain how I see it today.>

                                          I understand. I was trying to be clear that I didn't write anything along those lines. You did earlier say that you disagree with some of my beliefs.

                                          <As taxpayers we contribute to social programs>

                                          Yes.

                                          <Of course, we need parameters and guidelines.>

                                          But that is the thing. Some people agree/disagree with these guidelines. Some may say that he/she doesn't believe in the food stamp money going into soda or high fat foods. Currently, these are not considered frauds -- like buying a bottle of Coke. I am just trying to say that people have different idea about how the money should be spent.

                                          <Fraud and unavoidable and different things to me too>

                                          Yes, I didn't spell it out, but what I really meant to say earlier is that fraud is unavoidable, but it it not desirable. It would be nice to minimize frauds, but let's not have unrealistic expectation.

                                          <Armchair quarterbacking is not real life. >

                                          Yes, armchair quarterback can be annoying, but that is part of the democracy process. Forget about food stamp. People talk about immigrant policy, corn subsidies, Cuba sanctions....etc. Come to think of it.... isn't it true that most people complain that Americans do not pay enough attention to national policies and do not participate enough in politics compared to the Europeans. If so, we actually play fewer "Armchair Quarterback" games than our European brothers and sisters.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            The trick (I suppose) is to be able to stay on point. And, the size of this topic alone, it's overflowing and overlapping points and of course the exchange of differing opinions and points of view makes for one hell of an armchair.

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              For food stamp, the same people who say that the recipients should be allowed greater freedom to buy what they want will suddenly want to restrict their sugar diet the next day -- simply because it fits their world view. Yet, it is incohesive.

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883644

                                              As for armchair quarterbacking, many people who criticize that American citizens are not actively participate in the political process and are uninterested in public policy, also are the same people who complain that citizens should not be overbearing and criticize the government implementation of food stamps.

                                              Armchair quarterbacking may be annoying, but it is an expression of policy participation. We cannot ask for one thing when it is convenience, and then ask for the opposite when it is not.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Chem, for instance, when you further explain your point by lumping those critical of varying points of view together to illustrate your own point, that's armchair quarterbacking at its most easy to recognize. I didn't say this style was annoying, it's quite easy. Your last sentence I don't understand as it pertains to this discussion since participating in varying points of view does require accepting contradictions you might not endorse. I believe everyone here has done that quite happily. And respectfully.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  <lumping those critical of varying points of view together to illustrate your own point>

                                                  Ah, yes, I did. I use it to illustrate that people often ask for two different and opposite things back to back. One day they will say that "let's not criminalize people for buying alcoholic drinks with food stamps (barter). People should have the right to buy what they deem necessary", and then the next day, the same people will say "these people should not use food stamps o buy soda and chips because it is our tax money"

                                                  <that's armchair quarterbacking at its most easy to recognize>

                                                  Is that what you consider as armchair quarterbacking? I consider armchair quarterbacking as someone talks about an issue that he/she may not be all that familiar with. Similar to how an average person criticizes and discusses about football games -- an issue that an average person really don't know very much -- compare to the coaches and the football players anyway.

                                                  < I didn't say this style was annoying>

                                                  I did. Sometime it is annoying for people to discuss things that they don't understand.

                                                  <... since participating in varying points of view does require accepting contradictions you might not endorse.>

                                                  It isn't so much I endorse or not. I am ok with that. It is that some people have endorsed a certain policy and use a certain line of arguments, but then they flipped their own argument in order to support another policy.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Keen observations I'm sure we've all come across from time to time. Big, complicated subjects can do that.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      the armchair quarterbacking I'm most familiar with is when a person who is not a quarterback (or general, etc.), but offers opinions and criticism on the performance or decisions of those who are.

                                                      So in the context of this thread, folks who are not currently using food assistance programs believe they have more understanding and more at stake than those who actually are.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        <the armchair quarterbacking I'm most familiar with is when a person who is not a quarterback (or general, etc.), but offers opinions and criticism on the performance or decisions of those who are.>

                                                        Yes.

                                                        <So in the context of this thread, folks who are not currently using food assistance programs believe they have more understanding and more at stake than those who actually are.>

                                                        Actually not necessary, it is a matter of understanding an issue as well. The recipients do not necessary have a better picture than the rest. Do a cancer patients necessary know more about his/her conditions than the oncology doctor? Sometime yes, but not always.

                                                        As mentioned earlier, even if they are armchair quarterback, this is how public policies are being discussed. For example, we don't just ask the illegal immigrants to discuss immigrant reforms, and say the rest of the people are armchair quarterbacks.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          I believe you're cutting a wider swatch than I do, Chem. I wouldn't compare the experience of chemo for a cancer patient vs the knowledge of his oncologist. I would compare the boy going through chemo and his buddy not fully aware of the pain of treatment but very vocal to their circle of friends. I would compare a person standing on the check out line of X grocery store using SNAP to pay the bill while the person behind them is rolling their eyeballs in impatience and judging what's on the conveyor belt being paid for with "their taxes." That kinda thing.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            *sometimes* we PhD/MS patients DO know more than YOU do mr./mrs. MD!!!

                                                            Sorry, but that is a sticking point as I wade through healthcare in the US....

                                                            Love your science and schooling....but just realize it's"not all that" in the bigger picture. Work with me...and I'll work with you.

                                                          2. re: HillJ

                                                            I actually disagree quite strongly with your last paragraph. We are not talking about a complicated situation like a military commander trying to coordinate the actions of 100,000 soldiers performing a multitude of tasks all interdependent upon each other. One does not have to be on food assistance programs to understand basic nutrition, what basic items from each food group are necessary to achieve it and what is not necessary to achieve it. Been some time but I think I learned the nutrition pyramid in grade school.

                                                            1. re: Tom34

                                                              Tom34, pls point to the section you are referring. I'm not sure which comment box of mine you are looking at.

                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                Sorry Hill J. ......lot of jet lag on this thread with comments popping up all over. My comment was in ref to an "Armchair Quarterbacking" comment to Chem about an hour ago.

                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                  I can see why! Happy Holiday to you and yours, Tom34.

                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                    Same to you :-)

                                                            2. re: HillJ

                                                              I'm not on food stamps but I don't see why that might disqualify me from having an opinion on the topic.

                                                              My opinion is likely formed by my knowledge and experience which is likely to be different from a recipient of he programs.

                                                              In a similar vein, I can participate in Monday AM "quarterbacking." I watched the game from the comfort of my couch on Sun PM; and didn't have a 300+ lb guy trying to tear my head off; but I can still have an opinion. It doesn't equal the qb's choices but come from a point where I can see the whole field and he can't. Thats why the NFL has game films.

                                                              The military also films battle time activity when possible. Mon AM QB? sure, let's not repeat the errors we made last time.

                                                              I know and work with enough people on Gov Assistance to have formed some opinions. I don't need to walk in their shoes; assuming they have shoes.

                                                              I've mentioned this elsewhere but I see the same misinformation reposted. Being a taxpayer gives one little say in how our discretionary dollars are spent. If I pay $10mm usd in taxes and you pay 0, we have the same say in how the $ is spent.

                                                              The act of voting gives us all an indirect say in how our tax $is spent..not paying.

                                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                                Hey 9lives, excellent comments. We are all entitled to have opinions I don't disregard that at all. What I have found to be true is that you do need to walk in those shoes to understand they don't always come in your size. Sympathetic observer or not, opinions are not the same thing as experiencing. And yes as you said, likely formed buy my knowledge and experience which is likely to be different from a recipient of he programs.

                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  It's not actually unavoidable, either. Getting colds and flu is avoidable.

                                        2. re: HillJ

                                          I just have to ask: "What's so wrong with alcohol?"
                                          I cook as an avocation and use that ingredient often.
                                          In everything from soups and stews to cookies.

                                          I "get" the trend to avert alcoholism, but when do we cross the line into "mommy-state"?
                                          Like HillJ I want to see some NUMBERS. "Almost Always" isn't good enough (perhaps that comes from decades of sharing a house with an engineer?).

                                          1. re: pedalfaster

                                            I assume you actually were replying to me instead of HillJ -- based on your content.

                                            <I "get" the trend to avert alcoholism, but when do we cross the line into "mommy-state"?>

                                            Except that there is no clear line where to draw. Obviously we want to draw a line. I don't think this is even up for debate. The entire concept for the food stamp (SNAP) policy is in the spirit of "mommy state" -- to take care. The question is really about "how much of a mommy state we want to be on the SNAP program" not about "crossing the line into a mommy state for the SNAP program".

                                            It is about the state taking care of the people who cannot at the moment take care of themselves. This "taking caring" of them may or may not include of allowing them to have certain foods, like alcohol or cigarette or soda or ...whatever.

                                            Actually, I don't have a strong stance on the alcohol so I am probably not the best person to answer this question of yours. If you want me to take a devil advocator position, then I will say that there are at least two reasons. First, it is not in the spirit of SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program . I doubt anyone can argue that alcohol is a nutritious intake. This is not a gourmet cooking assistance program. It is to help someone to acquire adequate nutritious food. Second, like you said, alcoholism. I won't get into too much, but the government should not make someone worse off.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              In the two scenarios you're giving regarding alcohol purchases on SNAP, that would absolutely be true. And some of the areas of offense in reselling benefits for alcohol have been used as the poster child for what's wrong with food assistance programs. However, such restrictions aren't placed on temp. disability checks for instance. And if folks on both programs want to buy alcohol using fed programs chances are good they will unless formally restricted or/and penalized (ie: no more checks).

                                              But pedalfaster's point about alcohol is common since not all recipients are from the same walks of life, eat the same way or will use the assistance the same way but most follow the same guidelines while accepting government assistance.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                <since not all recipients are from the same walks of life, eat the same way or will use the assistance the same way but most follow the same guidelines while accepting government assistance.>

                                                Absolutely a problem, but it is a problem for any policy. A policy will always enforce common rules to different people. This is unavoidable as far as I can see. Kind of like what we were talking about of fraud being unavoidable.

                                                On the alcohol, I think the simplest argument is that it is a risk. It can be used wrong, and it is not a nutritious item. It has bad effect, and no good effect to speak of -- an unnecessary risk.

                                                The truth is that there are numerous things that we (as the public citizens) have problems with food stamp spending. Alcoholic drinks is one category, but we have problem with junk foods, and we have problem with expensive foods as well.

                                                "HuffPost/YouGov poll respondents were more accepting of the thought of food stamp recipients buying whatever they want with their own money, including either junk food or big ticket food items. A 52 percent to 27 percent majority said it was acceptable for those receiving food stamps to buy expensive items with their own money, while a larger 63 percent to 22 percent majority said it was acceptable for them to buy candy, soda and potato chips with their own money."

                                                http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08...

                                                Keep in mind, we are talking about their OWN money, not the SNAP money.

                                                Like I said earlier, if we truly believe that people should buy what they deem necessary, then we won't even talk about the food stamp or SNAP. We will just give them cash, but we don't. Since we are not giving cash, then let's admit that we do want to restrict.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  "Keep in mind, we are talking about their OWN money, not the SNAP money.

                                                  Like I said earlier, if we truly believe that people should buy what they deem necessary, then we won't even talk about the food stamp or SNAP. We will just give them cash, but we don't. Since we are not giving cash, then let's admit that we do want to restrict."

                                                  To follow that route, we need to move past "food".

                                                  Candy and soda and cookies could be "out", right?, and soap and shampoo and deodorant should be "in".

                                                  Do we want to implement this? How do we go about it?

                                                  1. re: pedalfaster

                                                    I don't know. I don't offer what we need to implement. I am just tossing these information out there. What I do want to show is that people certainly have opinions about this. Some people ignore this simple fact.

                                                    Alcohol is certainly an age old topic, but junk foods and expensive foods are also being discussed now.

                                                    Like I said, we never believe that people can spend whatever they like to spend on. If we did, we would have just given out cash, and not call it a food program. We never did that.

                                                    I don't know if we need to move pass food. I do know that people are passionate about how the money is being spent.

                                                    Yes, I am stating the obvious, but you will be amazed that some people ignore these obvious points.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      not exactly on point, but:

                                                      keep in mind that much of the "junk food" is being subsidized by gov't grants to "big corn (high-fructose corn syrup comes to mind)," "big ag," the cattle industry (very tied in with the subsidized GMO corn), and the like.

                                                      there are even "ag-gag" laws that protect lies and keep truth in the dark and WE ALL pay money for the enforcement of those laws.

                                                      if we are really going to thoroughly discuss the cost of taxpayer subsidized food, all these things should be included too.

                                                      food stamp recipients are hardly the only group getting money; the large corporations are at the head of the line.

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        Not a big fan of subsidies in general, but I will touch on the sugar policy.

                                                        The corn subsidy (if I can call that) does help and eventually made HFCS mainstream.

                                                        Corn subsidy certainly has guaranteed US's number 1 corn production in the world. The HFCS became a substitution for cane sugar due to the low price of corn and therefore lower price for HFCS. The other reason is that cane sugar price was originally set high to fend off cheaper cane sugar from south of the border. Some call it sugar tax, other call it sugar tariff. It is a legacy policy. This basically made cane sugar price more expensive in US (otherwise, US cane sugar probably would have been wiped out by the cheaper foreign cane sugar)

                                                        "The U.S. sugar industry has enjoyed trade protection since 1789 when Congress enacted the first tariff against foreign-produced sugar."

                                                        http://sugarcane.org/internal/images/...

                                                        In my mind, a lot of these policies are set up to protect US industries. The US government really is in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't". The US government did not protect the US steel industry, and now many see that as a failure. Now, the US manufacturing jobs are slowly going oversea, and many people are asking the government to place subsidy for US manufacturing factories, or put tariff taxes on foreign goods.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          we could debate whether or not that sort of industry protection is proper,
                                                          my objection is that they are trying to put sheep's clothing on it by calling those expenditures "charity for the poor," and then damning the poor for the "cost to the taxpayers."

                                                          real charity for the poor would not include supporting the production of high-fructose corn syrup from top to bottom.
                                                          let's just call it what it is: support for of big-ag.

                                                          there is no need in human nutrition for poor people or anyone else for high-fructose corn syrup.

                                                          imho, it would be a hell of a lot more honest to admit that such dollars are not, in fact, "charity for the poor." the poor should not be demonized, nor "blamed" for these expenditures.

                                                          let big-ag pay their publicity firms and spend billions of dollars to lobbyists and politicians justifying this drain on the taxpayers, but pinning this financial hemorrhage on "the poor" is completely unfair.

                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                            <real charity for the poor would not include supporting the production of high-fructose corn syrup from top to bottom.>

                                                            How is the SNAP (program) supporting the production of HFCS? Do you mean that people on SNAP buy HFCS products or do you mean something beyond that, like they get extra discount for buying HFCS food?

                                                            My understanding is that people on SNAP can buy or not buy HFCS based on their own choices, right? I get paid by my company, and I can buy HFCS cereal if I want to. You won't say that my company is supporting the corn industry because I decided to buy a box of HFCS cereal or that my company is supporting foreign companies because I bought a foreign car.

                                                            What I find interesting is that people have very different opinions about how the SNAP (program) should work. On one hand, you have people like Mark Bittman and others who want to limit the SNAP money toward a healthier food choice. For example, SNAP money should not be used to buy high sugar soft drinks and potato chips.

                                                            "The argument that soda and other junk masquerading as food should be made ineligible for purchase by food stamps, as are alcohol and tobacco, is one that’s been gaining momentum in the last few years."

                                                            http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/...

                                                            On the opposite end, there are people who advocate that people on the SNAP program are very responsible and largely make the correct choices. Therefore, greater choices for the SNAP program is necessary. For example, why limit people with SNAP from buying a bottle of wine, when you and I can buy a bottle of wine. Why limit them from buying a box of HFCS cereal, when you and I are allowed.

                                                            These are completely opposite ideas and yet I hear these all the time.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              no. i am not saying that.
                                                              i am saying that providing subsidies for high-fructose corn syrup doesn't nutritionally benefit the poor (or for that matter any other consumer).
                                                              so let's stop calling this a give-away for the poor. and let's stop demonizing the poor for the financial cost of these subsidies.

                                                              it's much more a give-away for the producers and the multinational food companies that benefit from the subsidies.
                                                              the taxpayers are subsidizing production AND consumption.
                                                              if we were to subsidize the production and the consumption of more healthful food to the extent that we now subsidize big corn and the other sugar producers, THEN we could say that the poor are benefiting from these expenditures.

                                                              bittman's point of view still doesn't give us an answer of how poor people can be the primary beneficiaries of these programs.
                                                              if, one has very limited money, and one is given a choice of a box cookies that is heavily subsidized or one large apple that is not subsidized, still the only RATIONAL choice is to buy the cookies.
                                                              a box of cookies can serve as dessert for 4 people. how many people will an apple serve?

                                                              when i was a social worker, one of the clients pointed out that a can of chile can be used for a meal for 3 people, whereas, if she cooked a roast, although pound for pound, the unit cost would be less, her two sons would polish the whole thing off in one meal and there would be no money left for main dishes for the rest of the week.

                                                              making the food last for a week is a poor person's problem--something about which the social workers (middle class) knew NOTHING. poor people will pay a higher unit cost in order to get food that will last the week.
                                                              bittman, understandably is COMPLETELY IGNORANT of the economics of trying to feed a poverty stricken family.
                                                              he is only familiar with a world in which you have the assets available so that you can choose to buy and store food in bulk.
                                                              a world that has a great freezer available at all times.
                                                              a world in which the cost of the freezer and the cost of the electricity is not an issue in any way.
                                                              and on and on and on

                                                              some of our clients only owned 2 pots, one cutting knife, and an odd assortment of plates and utensils.
                                                              no freezer wrap.
                                                              no zip-lock bags
                                                              no huge functioning refrigerator
                                                              if your choice is between buying a skillet or buying food for today, you will buy food for today.
                                                              and that food will probably be the processed drek that is sold that can be portioned out, prepared easily, and that stores well.

                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                <i am saying that providing subsidies for high-fructose corn syrup doesn't nutritionally benefit the poor>

                                                                You mean the farm subsidies and the corn subsidies, right? I don't think many people would link the farm subsidies to the poor.

                                                                < one has very limited money, and one is given a choice of a box cookies that is heavily subsidized or one large apple that is not subsidized, still the only RATIONAL choice is to buy the cookies.>

                                                                But Bittman's idea would either make the box of cookies less attractive or outright eliminate the box of cookies as a choice.

                                                                <if she cooked a roast, although pound for pound, the unit cost would be less, her two sons would polish the whole thing off in one meal >

                                                                Isn't that more of a rationing problem?

                                                                <a box of cookies can serve as dessert for 4 people. how many people will an apple serve?>

                                                                That is a cultural and personal thing, and not a money thing. Some people idea of a dessert is a plate of cheesecake. Some people idea of a dessert is an orange. You probably have been to some Chinese restaurants where they stick you a plate of orange at the end of your meal

                                                                http://static2.orstatic.com/UserPhoto...

                                                                http://www.openrice.com/UserPhoto/pho...

                                                                http://www.openrice.com/UserPhoto/pho...

                                                                I cannot tell you how many times my Chinese coworkers try to force me eat their fruits during my regular lunches at work.

                                                                <if your choice is between buying a skillet or buying food for today, you will buy food for today.
                                                                and that food will probably be the processed drek>

                                                                Would you then consider something more like prepared meals? Something healthier and prepared. The only problem is that they will further eliminate the choice.

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  One of the proposals in the Bittman article is to increase the the value of a snap dollar when its used to purchase healthy food. So for example, instead of a snap dollar being able to buy 1 can of tuna fish, it would buy 2.

                                                                  Wow, what an ingenious idea, and to think it didn't take blue ribbon panels, congressional hearings with endless testimony from gov assistance department heads or even HFCS protesters dressed in black toting grim reaper sickles......... to arrive at it.

                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                    <One of the proposals in the Bittman article is to increase the the value of a snap dollar when its used to purchase healthy food. >

                                                                    Yeah, either make the healthy food purchase "cheaper" or the unhealthy food purchase "more expensive". Same thing really, but yeah, basically encourage/discourage people purchase pattern.

                                                                    But then you never know if a decade or so later we will blame the government for assisting the Big Tuna industry or the Big Orange industry.

                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      Big Tuna & Big Orange.................that's pretty funny but probably true.

                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      HillJ and Chem,

                                                      I've read your posts for a few years now and I respect the hell out of both of you.

                                                      That being said, knock this shit off! No debating at Christmas-time.

                                                      Merry Christmas:)

                                                      1. re: KrumTx

                                                        :) Merry Christmas, Krum.

                                                        I will knock this shit off, especially I want my socks filled with presents. :P

                                                        (yes, it doesn't make sense).

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Who doesn't want a stocking filled with presents? Makes perfect sense to me:)

                                                          1. re: KrumTx

                                                            In my mind, I was trying to change your "knock this shit off" to "knock your socks off", and then I changed it to "socks filled with presents" to merge with the Christmas theme.

                                                            :D

                                                            P.S.: I am not drunk.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Sorry to confuse you, Chem. 'Knock that shit off' was said often by by father to me and my siblings. We went to his grave yesterday, so it's on my mind:))))

                                                              1. re: KrumTx

                                                                No, I understand what that means. I just wanted to somehow made it into some kind of Christmas theme. :D

                                                                I hope you had a good time at his grave remember your old man. :) Don't feel too sad.

                                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            Thanks Chem, I enjoyed this discussion. Happy Holidays!

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Happy holiday. You need to come up something to rhyme with "knock this shit off"

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                knock this wit off

                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                  No, I mean something in the holiday spirit.

                                                                  Anyway, signing out. Happy holiday or Merry Christmas to you.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    Peace, Chem.

                                                          3. re: KrumTx

                                                            KrumTx, point taken. If you look at my first comment below, you will see "i did" offer good cheer for all this season. Thanks for the reminder tho.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Oh, I know you play fair. Merry Christmas.

                                                              Just trying to encite a group hug under the tree:)

                                                              1. re: KrumTx

                                                                I never turn down a group hug, KrumTx. Peace.

                                                            2. re: KrumTx

                                                              ETA: you, too, Tom. Merry Christmas:)))))

                                                              I've heard that January is National Debating Month! I may have made that up, but I'm a little jacked up from a monster antibiotic/steroid shot that I got this morning for strep.

                                                          4. re: HillJ

                                                            Two wrongs don't make a right. A very strong argument could be made that if a person on any government assistance program has enough money to buy alcohol, tobacco or street drugs then it might be time to reduce their benefit.

                                                            I smoked years ago and one of the primary reasons I quit was the cost. I would probably still be smoking if I could force my neighbors to pay for it. Now I take the $50.00 a week smoke money and buy nutritious food :-).

                                                            1. re: Tom34

                                                              A (let's keep it pleasant, it is the holiday afterall) argument could be made that a body well fed, employed, strong and able supported while in need can contribute more not less to our world. But we don't turn our backs on good people when they are already down on their luck.

                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                I agree Hill J & I don't think anybody on this forum would advocate turning our backs. Many just feel that for the long term survival of the programs they need to be carefully looked at to ensure that the limited money available is being utilized in a manner that is the most beneficial to the core mission of the program, especially when funding is becoming more and more scarce.

                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                  What a nice point to round out our discussion!

                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                    Easy. Raise taxes on the richest folks in this country, cut spending on defense, and there would be plenty of money to go around for all kinds of more important programs.

                                                                    Oh no! I mentioned the t-word!!!

                                                                    Uh-oh '-D

                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Just imagine you donate $1000 to an organization for a certain disaster, then you found out that the money did not go to the disaster relief effort and that someone use it for something completely inappropriate.
                                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                    Yes, depending on how the organization used it, it could be very inappropriate. When the American Red Cross receives millions of dollars do you check to see how they spent your $50 donation? Do you receive a receipt? An end of the year report? Accountability? If the non profit org is much smaller than ARC, the accountability is even easier to follow.

                                                    The government, on the other hand, does not act like a non profit charity receiving my donation.

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      <do you check to see how they spent your $50 donation? Do you receive a receipt? An end of the year report? ....>

                                                      I usually check the charity organization history before the donation, and not after.

                                                      <The government does not act like a non profit charity receiving my donation.>

                                                      No, it does not, which probably piss people off even more because it wasn't even their decisions.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Hill & I receive end of the year reports from charities we support. Some are more detailed than others but most orgs are able to present accountability rather easily since their in house grant writers and their accounting department must submit financials as part of annual grant applications.

                                            2. Really there is no knowing. But what about this scenario: you are a mother and you get food stamps. Your or your kid needs meds you can't afford. Do you sell your food stamps for enough money to buy meds?

                                              Worst case scenario: a mom sells food stamps to finance a drug dependence.

                                              There are all sorts of possibilities for fraud. Some perhaps more justifiable than others.

                                              36 Replies
                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                Medicaid should cover the prescription drug issues.

                                                If I had to bet my life's savings one way of the other, I would put it on the side of more fraud involving street drugs/alcohol/smokes than is being reported, at least among certain age groups.

                                                I think the qualifying purchases also have to be looked at. Countless times I have stood in line at a small corner ethnic food store and watched people purchase several hundred dollars worth of EXTREMELY expensive ethnic food that barely filled 2 grocery bags and then pull out a EBT card and pay for it. I happen to like expensive food too but I don't think my neighbors should be obligated to pay for it.

                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                  So it's not fraud, it just puts your panties in a bunch.

                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                    Not everyone who qualifies for food assistance also qualifies for Medicaid. We've down this hot topic before. It is not a one size fits all program and there is not a one size fits all answer.

                                                    Why it bothers you that anyone on a food assistance program should not be buying all the foods that qualify on the program is hard for me to understand. Ethnic stores serve people who enjoy the foodstuffs found there. Cheap or expensive, food stamps are not designed to judge what you consume. The program determines your monthly allowance.

                                                    Sadly, whenever I hear this type remark it's typically the "it will never happen to me" believer that has displaced judgement. Would you feel that way if it was your Mother, child, friend going through hard times. Connecting on nothing more than a compassionate level is all the empathy required. No one needs pity (which some people offer) or bland judgement.

                                                    Government programs can def. let us down. But, this particular program actually raises my spirits because it helps individuals and families stretch limited funds. They wouldn't be receiving food assistance if they didn't qualify. And, folks who take advantage will always exist. But let's not rid the country of this impactful resource due to stinkers.

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      I would love to see the stats for people selling benefits for cash to buy their children prescription medication.

                                                      IMHO, food assistance money should only be used for the basics, and PLEASE, don't start an argument as to what constitutes the basics as public school system lunch programs have been serving them under Federal Guidelines for close to 50 years now and $15.00 lb Turkish sausage ain't on the menu.

                                                      And no, I don't think the futures of my children and grandchildren should be mortgaged so that people can load up and enjoy extremely expensive ethnic food. Don't even go there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                      And yes, if a family member or close friend fell on hard times I would feel the same way, their benefit should be limited to the basics and that they should do everything humanly possible to improve their situation so that they would be in a position to help someone else in the future who suffers a similar fate. That's one of the key theories behind social programs, at least it used to be!

                                                      Nobody is saying to scrap the program. The fact is safety nets are critical to society but I think we have deviated significantly from the core intent of many of the programs and "that" is what posses the biggest threat to the programs.

                                                      I may be of the minority opinion on this site, but from everything I have read, less than 50% of the working age population actually pays income taxes after exemptions and deductions and my opinion is not in the minority there, actually, its considered quite liberal.

                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                        First of all, I have no argument with you. This is a discussion of many opinions. What you're stating as your personal experience observing people using assistance does not mirror my own. I'm not suggesting that we will agree on any of the factors. I find your perspective contrary to my own on several points.

                                                        Social service programs are all intended to be temporary support when individuals need them and in this economy for many that gap is longer than they would like it to be. I surmise you believe most people are too lazy to improve their situation (as you call it). I don't happen to agree. I surmise you believe you have the right to judge how they spend their food assistance even if the government is not as restrictive. I don't agree with that.

                                                        I have read on CH individuals who do believe the program should be scraped. That it's a broken program and wasn't intended to be a long term assistance. I know people feel that way. I just (again) don't agree. If you read the most recent reports on the watch dogging taking place, cheaters are not only being found but prosecuted.

                                                        How does the working population (I don't know the stats) making less than you & I contribute significantly? How does the current unemployed? Right now in our country's history more people NEED the assistance. Why do you pick this time in history to fight against the idea that those able to help, should?

                                                        I gladly pay for social service programs.

                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                          Countries that don't manufacture goods don't create wealth. Countries that don't create wealth don't enjoy a high standard of living. Our manufacturing base has been shrinking since the early 70's and we are now at a point where our standard of living is going down at an accelerated rate. That is not in question. What is in question is where is the bottom and how long does it take to get there. Bottom line, the free ride is over. Pick too much of the remaining fruit and the tree will die. Keep producing phony fruit (printing money) and it makes whats left of the real thing worth less. This is the most important time in our Countries history to tighten our governments belt and bring fiscal responsibility to all government programs. The debt we are piling on our children and grand children is unconscionable.

                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                            We have our world leaders to thank for that. Those in the position of authority to wheel and deal away our hard earned dough. And, I expect a return on my taxes. One way the leaders of our country can pay me back for working my ass off is to give the families who need it food on their table.

                                                            Because Tom34, I have more of an axe to grind with the way our government decided to cripple the country than I ever will with a guy who buys sausage at the market with a government check.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Oh, I agree, our politicians, both sides of the isle and anything in between have both exasperated & accelerated the problem and continue to do so. Having said that, with or without them, WWII created a dramatic imbalance that was destined to right itself.

                                                        2. re: Tom34

                                                          The fact is safety nets are critical to society but I think we have deviated significantly from the core intent of many of the programs and "that" is what posses the biggest threat to the programs.
                                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                          To this Tom34, I want to add that our aging population that hasn't saved enough money for their future (retirement) or lost significant savings (thousands of Americans) due to retirement fund mishandling have spent their working lives contributing to the greater good and now find themselves needing help. They didn't drain the system during their careers, they enjoyed company perks but remained middle to upper middle class throughout their careers. They have already sold the "big house" for a smaller one, reduced themselves to one car, watch their pension income closely and still can't make it. Mortgage free, paying thousands for property taxes. Their own kids grown but recently in need of help. These folks don't qualify for assistance until they have considerable less income.

                                                          So while you're focusing on all the folks who seem (in your opinion) to be cheating us poor taxpayers what say you to those taxpayers who have contributed over a working lifetime and now find themselves unable to afford the basics?

                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            I would say that being the only surviving industrial power charged with rebuilding the world after WWII led to an unprecedented creation of wealth and an across the board increase in the standard of living the likes of which the modern world had never seen. A high school dropout could get a job in a foundry and within a few years have a single family home in the suburbs with a white picket fence, car and a wife who could stay home and tend to the kids. It was a historical fluke. The world has caught up and in many sectors passed us. We are starting to find out that the ride up is a lot more fun than the ride down. When on an unstoppable collision course with a brick wall, best to reduce your speed.

                                                      2. re: Tom34

                                                        Oh, you vastly overestimate what Medicaid will cover! You have to be destitute to be on Medicaid. You can qualify for food stamps, or SNAP, more easily.

                                                        If you are caught selling food stamps, depending on state laws, you can lose the right to obtain food stamps for life.

                                                        In fact, if you have ever been convicted of a crime that involves a weapon, you can be denied food stamps for life. Even though your kids are not legally unqualified, they will be automatically denied, and you will have to appeal.

                                                        I don't want to be judgmental about what people purchase, if it is legal. This is not my business. If the people are not breaking rules, and there are rules about what is covered by SNAP, then they are within their rights.

                                                        Not everyone has common sense, and you can't legislate that.

                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                          As I said up stream, in order to qualify for the Federal Government's taxpayer funded lunch program, public schools have had to meet strict guidelines for close to 50 years. In a nut shell, we are talking the basics from the different food groups. With computerization the same could easily be done with purchases made with the EBT cards. After all, wasn't providing the essential daily nutrition the very mission of the programs in the first place.

                                                          I think its every taxpayer's business (right) to know how their tax dollars are spent. IMHO, when a person can purchase $300. worth of extremely expensive exotic ethnic food that barely fills 2 shopping bags the rules need to be changed.

                                                          As far as the credibility of the USDA's numbers go, how well has the Fed Gov. managed your SS & Medicare dollars. They report a 17 trillion dollar national debt but these 2 programs alone are estimated to hold over 60 trillion in debt. Percentage wise, government pensions are just as broke. Virtually every toll road or toll bridge has been leveraged to the last cent. But the Food Stamp abuse #'s the USDA puts out are spot on? Really? That's fantastic as it would be the first government program who's numbers are.

                                                          Lastly, what about the future generations who this mountain of debt is being piled on. They have no say but yet they will be the ones to pay the price, and a terribly awful price it will be. Unconscionable!

                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                            Future generations may wind up having as much say as we did. Hard to predict. But, will future generations be willing and able to go into public service careers? Become an impactful part of their government and that unwritten history? Will they fight for food programs as hard as (some) they do for college tuition hikes? Will they spend as much time on their own futures as they do on social media? Because this generation has the power to speak up in ways we didn't at their age.

                                                            Not all taxpayers believe they are capable or responsible for the next generation. "They" paid their dues already and now expect to collect "their" checks. And those unable to retire full time make up the multi generational applicant now applying for the same p/t work!

                                                            I'm still living and breathing in this country, my time is far from up, and I find it unconscionable for all of us.

                                                            If you throw everything and anything into one blender Tom34 nothing gets fixed.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Based on what I have read, most economists predict a bleak future for our kids, especially if the dollar is no longer the worlds reserve currency and our current fiscal policy is heading us in that direction.

                                                              Public service careers will be few and far between without private sector wealth generation to pay for them.

                                                              No body is saying current taxpayers are responsible for the next generation. But there is a big difference between that and being totally and completely irresponsible and spending the next generations future. Where exactly did that right come from?

                                                              "Paid their dues" ......FACT, most retires exhaust their SS accounts within 7 years of retiring and are receiving their kids money and soon their grand kids money. It should be of no surprise to anyone that SS falls short of monthly expenses, it was intended to "supplement" retirement, not cover 100%. Of course the system is failing, its being tasked well beyond its design.

                                                              Blender: The government blender effect is one of the biggest problems in that accountability is virtually non existent. Nobody is saying do away with social safety nets, just bring some fiscal sanity & accountability to them before we find ourselves is such a financial mess that there is no money left to finance them at any level.

                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                Fox...hen house..same body of water. Good luck to all of us.

                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                  Social security payments are not exhausted until the recipient dies, after which a surviving spouse of 10 years receives 50%. I think you mean retirement accounts - IRA's, 401K's, and Roth IRA's .

                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                    Your right about the reality of how the system works. I was referring to the Ponzi aspect of it where within 7 years most retirees collect every penny that was ever contributed during their working years by them and their employers and from that point on their check comes from money other people & their employers put in or will put in.

                                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                                      I think you've jumbled up the originating source of diff types of retirement accounts. Care to explain.

                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                        I am referring only to Social Security and the fact that on average, after collecting SS for 6 to 7 years a person has collected every dime they and all their employers put into the program and they are now collecting their children's money and depending on how long they live possibly their grandchildren's money.

                                                                        I have not spoken to other forms of retirement, however, now that you brought it up, a far higher % of past and current retirees have defined pension plans which are much more generous than the 401's our kids and grand kids will have.

                                                                  2. re: Tom34

                                                                    Most individuals working at the higher levels of public service, began in the private sector made their money and decided to "give back to this county" or step into 2nd careers in government job placement. Mayor, Governor, Congress, etc. I don't see that stopping but I do wonder how early a young person can learn about these career paths and think about how they can impact their own futures rather than expect 'someone else' to do it for them.

                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                      I went from private sector to State Department contractor to City Manager to "stop this world, I wanna get off!"
                                                                      In China, 2014 will be the year of the horse. At Casa Veggo, 2014 will be the year of the hammock.

                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                        I went from business owner, to larger business owner, to Fed employee, to contracted player, to get me where I can relax while making money and no grand plans to retire.

                                                                      2. re: HillJ

                                                                        To my way of thinking, governments consume and re-distribute wealth which to a certain degree is necessary for a stable society. However, if the private sector does not create the wealth, than the government can't do its job. If the government can't do its job, what becomes of society? Many predict that if dramatic changes don't occur, we will find out the answer to the question, possibly a lot sooner than originally thought.

                                                                        The founding fathers saw government as one of the biggest threats to freedom and they built one heck of a mouse trap in an effort to contain it. Unfortunately, in most cases the role of politicians has gone from short term public service to long term self service which includes throwing money at large voting blocks to secure re-election. IMHO, term limits & "real" campaign finance reform are the only real answers.

                                                                        1. re: Tom34

                                                                          <However, if the private sector does not create the wealth, than the government can't do its job. If the government can't do its job, what becomes of society? >

                                                                          I agree with you largely, but please also understand that private sector is not the only way to generate wealth. A socialist country can generate wealth within the public sector. It is entirely possible. For thousands of years, much of human history wealth is not generated by the private sector.

                                                                          <The founding fathers saw government as one of the biggest threats to freedom>

                                                                          Two counterpoints. First, the founding fathers have a negative opinion of the government because we tried to get independence from England. Second, not everything the founding fathers envisioned is a good thing.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            They most certainly were not perfect.......they left out across the board term limits.

                                                                            1. re: Tom34

                                                                              :D That wasn't what I was thinking, but I can see you are very passionate about term-limits.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                I think once they get into office and experience the power and prestige and social life associated with the position its tough to go back to being just a regular joe and they pretty much sell out to the lobbyists is short order to ensure re-election.

                                                                                Aristocratic / lack of morals ex. "slavery" ................no question they were far from being perfect human beings but they did have a keen grasp on human nature as it relates to government officials.

                                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                                  <Aristocratic / lack of morals ex. "slavery" ................no question they were far from being perfect human beings but they did have a keen grasp on human nature as it relates to government officials.>

                                                                                  Beside the obvious slavery and women's right issues, I also think the founding fathers also have a very different world view as well. First, they were more into state's right and less into federal government than now. Second, the founding fathers foreign policies were very "isolationists" by today's standard. Granted that both of these may have to do with the fact that US wasn't a strong country in the very beginning.

                                                                                  If I am correct, the Senators' jobs were to represent the states, not the people. The state legislatures appointed the Senators, people didn't vote for them.

                                                                                  Not saying right or wrong, but the founding fathers' version of government is somewhat different than ours.

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    Its been a while but I think you are right about Senate appointed / house elected. Definitely different version.

                                                                                    What I find interesting is the content of their written communications where they express their concern about different aspects of human nature and the resulting effect on governance.

                                                                                    (Term Limits) It seems to me the 1st concern of a newly elected politician is getting re-elected. We as a nation face some very serious problems and much of the medicine necessary to cure those problems does not taste good. In some cases it falls into the 3rd rail of politics category and our "career" politicians refuse to bring this medicine to their constituents for fear of not getting re-elected and meanwhile the situation gets exponentially worse.

                                                                              2. re: Tom34

                                                                                tom34: speaking as a southern californian, i can tell you that term limits don't work as promised.
                                                                                the elected state officials, once they are termed out, use their slush funds and notoriety to get city/county positions. once they have their hooks in one of those, they have to die in order to get off the public dole.

                                                                    2. re: Tom34

                                                                      I once knew a man with a big idea and an even bigger dream for the next generation. He took the idea as far as any person could and gained support up until 2009. It would have changed the way young people approach college and approach career sectors and the folks who slammed the idea down the most came from right inside our government;
                                                                      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/us/...

                                                                  3. re: Tom34

                                                                    Tom....
                                                                    I've held off putting my two cents in, but after reading your comments showing resentment at what may be paid for with EBT/SNAP I find it's time to chime in.

                                                                    I have never rec'd SNAP or WIC benefits for my own family, BUT we are foster parents licensed by the State. At times we receive SNAP benefits or WIC for children in our care. If we receive SNAP, then the amount of state reimbursement per diem is decreased. WIC does not affect the reimbursement.

                                                                    The choice of foods that may be purchased with SNAP is almost any not ready for consumption meals or food sold in a supermarket. So a bag of frozen meatballs or meatballs cold in the deli case are fine, but meatballs on the hot bar are not allowed. Thus one could buy lobsters from the tank, but if the seafood department steams them they are ineligible.

                                                                    WIC (womens, infants, children) a program that tries to ensure a healthy pregnancy and growth of the baby thru age 3 restricts both the items purchased and the brands selected. One will be limited to generics or least expensive items. You can't use WIC for candy, and infant formula is the least expensive brand (unless a doctor certifies a need for a special item).

                                                                    If the US taxpayer truly wanted to get the most out of the SNAP program, than it could also be run on a restricted item basis (computer cash registers make it easy to do this). Store brand OJ from concentrate would be eligible, Tropicana Premium at $5.69 for an 89 ounce jug would not be eligible. $1.29 1 ounce bags of potato chips at Walgreens' would not have shelf talker signs reminding shopper sthat SNAP benefits are accepted.

                                                                    In our area the major chain supermarkets have programmed their cash registers to make many questionable items SNAP eligible. A $1.69 box of Jujy Fruits will pass the test, while at the small IGA grocers it comes up as non-qualifying and the customer must pay cash

                                                                    That said, you as another shopper in line don't always know how things are being paid for. A customer may put $100 worth of goods through the register and take out the EBT card. She/he swipes the card, enters FOOD as the benefit and 88.50 is paid, if also on cash welfare, she/he may then swipe that same card and hit CASH BENEFITS to pay for the 12.50 worth of soap and toilet paper. One thing the EBT card does is eliminate any sales tax on the transaction. When the state is the actual customer, it doesn't need to pay itself sales tax. Thus, the SNAP/EBT customer gets more product for the money than a cash customer when buying taxable items such as soda or candy. Bottle deposits are inconsistent. Supermarkets tend to take EBT to pay for them, while Costco collects them in cash. So a SNAP benefit recipient can have the card pay the deposit and get cash back when returning the empties at the supermarket.

                                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                                      Morning Bagelman,

                                                                      I do not know every fine point of the program or every possible way it can be manipulated for good or bad. The 3 renowned nutritional experts quoted in Bittman's article seemed to speak strictly to the nutritional end of it, pointing out some very serious concerns in areas for which they are clearly experts. They also put forth some straight forward solutions that directly address those problems.

                                                                      Risky business speaking out against "EITHER" political extreme. In this particular case, the mix of projectiles fired from the 16 inch guns include class warfare, cold, callused, no compassion, greedy and just about anything else that depicts being somehow less of a human being. After that barrage has softened up the LZ and put the opposition on their heels, its time to reduce visibility over the LZ by blowing a smoke screen of problems inherent in completely unrelated programs in an effort to mitigate the problems in the topic program. Finally, in vastly superior numbers the mob crashes the beach with their political clubs waving in the air which scares the hell out of the opposition. Feeling like a bunch of baby seals about to get clubbed, they run for their lives never to speak of such things again. And so the status quo continues.

                                                                  4. re: sueatmo

                                                                    Or toilet paper, or maxi pads, or lots of those little necessities that aren't food but are absolutely essential.

                                                                    1. re: Savour

                                                                      I suppose those who don't may be easier to detect in a crowded subway.
                                                                      Let them have Charmin!

                                                                      1. re: Savour

                                                                        Thank you! Since when has there been a cotton shortage? Price wise, I almost look forward to menopause.

                                                                        There's abosolutely no way I can tie that to a restaurant discussion. Sorry.

                                                                        Merry Christmas.

                                                                    2. The biggest source of fraud is retailers who pay 50 cents on the dollar for the food stamps then get reimbursed at face value by the government. It is difficult to catch because the retailers legitimately take food stamps too.

                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                      1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                        I've read about these cases. It happens.

                                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                                          I spent 5 years supervising a Food Stamp program in a small city in the south many years ago (when it was called Food Stamps and they used paper coupons.) I can't tell you how may times I watched retailers buy Food Stamps from people. I once had a guy offer to sell me his coupons for 50 cents on the dollar if I would buy $20. Funny thing was, I had just picked up almost a half a million in coupons an hour earlier from the vault in the bank to transport to the office where we issued them. (Tells you how long ago that was.)

                                                                        2. re: dinwiddie

                                                                          Exactly. One family member of a store owner who did this said he had a soft heart and was trying to help people. If he took 0-percent, maybe, but he took 30-percent.

                                                                          I wish I could get 30-percent for volunteer work:))

                                                                          1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                            <The biggest source of fraud is retailers who pay 50 cents on the dollar for the food stamps then get reimbursed at face value by the government. It is difficult to catch because the retailers legitimately take food stamps too.>

                                                                            I understand that it is a fraud, but why is it the "biggest" fraud? Biggest because it constitutes a large chunk of money?

                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              In my experience, this is not " the biggest fraud". Neither is cashing out a percentage of the EBT card for drugs or alcohol.
                                                                              The " biggest" or most widespread fraud is when people ..otherwise decent folks.... Cash out the EBT card, for half price, to pay for other necessities of life. Money to pay for rent (couch surfing "donations" to a friend helping them out) a fine to keep them out of jail, gas money to get to a job, probation appointment, co pay for a medical appointment, supervised visit with their kid, etc.
                                                                              medications, to pay an important life effecting bill, a field trip expense so their kid can go with the rest of the class, a mandatory court ordered class, etcetera. Lots of obligations, usually for good reason, but levied by people in authority that don't understand why you don't have 50 bucks to pay the.....whatever.

                                                                              Life is very difficult for many. The saying " by the grace of God go I" is my mantra. Some folks just continually screw up, they break rules. Not all are buying alcohol and having a big party. Some are just trying to get through the day.

                                                                              I don't think there is an answer, but people asking questions might also consider that not everyone is smart, capable and able to meet the challenges of life. I am sure my 30 plus years of working with folks that no one else wants to work with colors my opinion a bit. But, discussions like this are good :)

                                                                              Edit:I might have sounded a bit preachy, I don't mean to. It is just not so simple as abuse vs not abuse. There are many shades of gray to poverty that most people don't even think about. Kinda scary.

                                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                                <Cash out the EBT card, for half price, to pay for other necessities of life. >

                                                                                If this is true, then most of these people use the money wisely or at least responsibly. Therefore, the government should give cash, and not food stamp (or SNAP).

                                                                                As such Mark Bittman's demand (along with other demands from other people) are ill-advised.

                                                                                http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/...

                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                  Great article Chem. I have read similar articles but the Bittman one you linked to carries some pretty heavy weight:

                                                                                  #1. Published in the American Medical Association Journal.

                                                                                  #2. The 3 Authors include:

                                                                                  (A) A former assistant Surgeon General and USDA Medical
                                                                                  Adviser.

                                                                                  (B) Chair of "Harvard's" Department of Nutrition.

                                                                                  (c) The director of the Obesity Prevention Center in Boston.

                                                                                  What I like is the fact that their concerns are medical and avoid the contentious financial part of the argument. Best that one does their homework before challenging their findings and leave the emotional class warfare crap out of it!

                                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                                    Mr. Bittman has talked at length about the years he struggled with weight and health related issues when he was clinically obese. He's carrying a much leaner frame today. And on his own personal journey amassed a slew of professionals who taught him a better way to live. Now, he shares those beliefs with his readers as some reborn, guru of good health. I don't fault him for addressing his own health, it's wonderful but is he really the person we run to for advice on food assistance programs. Op Ed.

                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                      I wouldn't run to him or any other Journalists for advise on anything, especially ones that hold extreme political views such as Bill Moyer (left) or Rush Limbaugh (right). These 2 have both been discredited so many times its laughable.

                                                                                      Unlike Moyer's article which quotes appointed government department heads & politicians, Bittman's quotes highly respected doctors who are renowned leaders in the field of nutrition who's testimony would rise to the level of expert in any Court of Law.

                                                                                      Does Bittman put a spin on it, sure he does. Does he cherry pick information put forth by the Doctors that best supports his argument and leave out neutral findings of their research, probably. But absent research to the contrary from other renowned Doctors who specialize in nutrition, I have to take their professional opinion seriously.

                                                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                                                        Balance, Tom34. I'm not offended by what you select to read. Nor should you be about the link I shared below. Mr Moyer did not write the article.

                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                          "Balance" & entertainment are why my wife and I used to watch Moyers followed by any number of other colorful characters from the other end of the spectrum on Sunday Mornings. Used to be fun to rip apart both sides.

                                                                                          After the different segment collapses over the years (foreshadow) we began to find less humor in the political BS regardless of which side it came from or who's mouth it came out of.

                                                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                                                            I think it's easier and more valuable to focus on what is being said rather than who's saying it. I no longer conform to one side over another in political debates. Paid talking heads have a script, not necessarily a personal agenda. If the words, their meaning, resonates with me, I tend to listen harder. That's it. What has become of politics today makes me a non believer. You may consider that naive or you may believe someone like me has their own agenda. Tom34, I have no issue with what anyone decides for themselves, even when it makes for a very interesting discussion. I know what works for me and my family.

                                                                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                Yes. Because the largest amount of money lost to fraud in the SNAP program is not from the recipients using it improperly, but store owners who are able to "launder" them doing so. Just like medicaid fraud, in terms of $$$, is doctors and other medical professionals false billing or padding bills with unnecessary and profitable tests, not individuals using it improperly.

                                                                            2. Rather than a gravestone with bullshit about my name and when I was born and died, which nobody will ever give a flying fuck about, I would prefer a message carved in granite:
                                                                              Whenever two people meet to determine how to spend a third person's money, fraud will result ".

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                Whenever two people meet to determine how to spend a third person's money, fraud will result ".
                                                                                ___________________

                                                                                That's what happened to my allowance!

                                                                              2. In the spirit of the season, here's hoping every family has a holiday dinner before them.

                                                                                I find no joy in judging how recipients who qualify for food stamps spend it. If they misuse it, chances are good they will lose it. If it helps bring them peace of mind, nutrition for the kids, a helping hand during times of stressful job hunting, and most of all a fair shake in life, I'm glad to say my tax dollars were used for the greater good.

                                                                                Happy Holidays!

                                                                                1. The USDA is wrong.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    No can't be! When has a Government Agency been wrong? Can't be, sorry ipse you must be mistaken.

                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                      The fact that government pensions from Federal all the way down to Municipal are underfunded to the tune of trillions is unnerving and speaks volumes to government accounting practices and its concern for accountability.

                                                                                  2. I didn't notice a source for their claim of only 1% fraud. Maybe I missed it though?

                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                                                      http://billmoyers.com/2013/10/08/six-...

                                                                                      I've been reading through this article and the links embedded.

                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                        Thanks, I'll check it out.

                                                                                        1. re: rasputina

                                                                                          If you are not familiar with Bill Moyers, he is about as extreme as Rush Limbaugh only in the other direction, and like Limbaugh, he has been discredited so many times his commentary is often viewed as holding a higher entertainment value than factual value. My wife and I used to watch him pretty frequently on PBS & his most common information sources are Government Appointed Department Heads, left wing politicians & left wing think tanks. They probably hire the same spin doctors as the other extreme to piece it all together and make it sound legitimate.

                                                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                                                            In order to provide balance, I respectfully disagree. Bill Moyer did not write the article I provided above.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                              OK, your right. Dave Johnson did. Dave Johnson is also a senior fellow in the "Institute For The Renewal Of The California Dream" , a member of the "Open Left" and a host of other "extreme" left wing organizations and IMHO has about the same partiality score as the late William Buckley from the other end of the spectrum. :-)

                                                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                Yes, I read his credentials too. I have no comeback to your remarks because who the author is (except to clarify who wrote the article) doesn't matter to me. Anymore than your credentials matter to me. What he wrote resonates with me.

                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                  I have no credentials :-)

                                                                                                2. re: Tom34

                                                                                                  WFB Jr. is not with us to take exception to your insult of him, so I'll fill in.

                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                    No insult intended Veggo, IMHO, WFB jr was absolutely brilliant and I very much enjoyed his commentary. I just brought him up because he was ultra conservative and this Dave Johnson is ultra liberal. I would not say either of their opinions would necessarily be wrong, but I would feel comfortable saying they are likely to be extreme and one sided.

                                                                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                      Thanks, Tom. I had the privilege of meeting with WFB Jr. at their home in Sharon, CT, when I was only 19, in upholstered chairs with a scotch. An unforgettable experience, almost every word. Thanks again.

                                                                                      2. I know "food stamps" has the word food in it and this is a food forum, however, I think that you all should refrain from constantly discussing people on food stamps, especially because there are people on CH who are on food stamps and it is "not nice" to put it mildly.

                                                                                        Food Stamps in this country consist of less than 0.3 percent of GDP. Why not stop pointing fingers at this group and go for the groups that really cost this nation an arm and a leg.

                                                                                        BTW: As I said in a previous thread, I don't think there is a single citizen in this country that doesn't belong to some group that uses tax payer dollars - so "glass houses" people!!

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: acssss

                                                                                          What a cruel time of year to be beating up on our postal workers! Let's just raise the price of a stamp to 5 bucks, pay them their pensions, and let them retire peacefully in Hawaii when they turn 40.

                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                            lol... "are let them retire" Veggo, have you been hitting the bottle again :-)

                                                                                            1. re: acssss

                                                                                              Good catch, thanks, got it in time.
                                                                                              Hiccup!

                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                Hey, it's the holidays. You're allowed (both typos and drinks)

                                                                                            2. re: Veggo

                                                                                              Nothing happened in US yet, but during my trip to Canada, I did find out that the Canadian postal office is indeed going through a tough time.

                                                                                              "With the digital handwriting ever clearer on the wall, the Canadian postal service has announced that it will end its remaining door-to-door letter deliveries over the next five years and focus on its one clear growth area: package deliveries to a public that is increasingly doing its shopping online. "

                                                                                              http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/opi...

                                                                                          2. So, at my local food co-op yesterday. The woman in front of me unloads her cart: a large selection of freshly prepared sushi, a half dozen ribeye steaks, and a number of packages of Applewood smoked deli meats. All paid for with a food stamp card. Small potatoes, indeed, but it burned me up that she should feel so entitled to indulge herself with expensive gourmet items at taxpayer expense.

                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Big Fat Moe

                                                                                              Maybe it was for the holiday? And she skimped the rest of the month to treat her family? Just playing the devil's advocate here......

                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                Yes, perhaps that was her justification. Which I don't buy. The purpose of the food stamp (EBT) program is to provide a variety of fresh, wholesome, healthy foods to those individuals and families who need the government's assistance in order to properly nourish themselves. With sushi and the finest cuts of steak, apparently.

                                                                                                1. re: Big Fat Moe

                                                                                                  As bystanders we don't know enough about the person standing next to us to know if we are being fair. I would be embarrassed of myself to stand so close to a total stranger fixed on their purchases that I would actually retain what they were buying with assistance.

                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                    Yes. The malevolence of some people is stunning. How dare poor people not have crackers and tap water for the holidays????

                                                                                                    Merry xmas, everyone.

                                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                      At my local Turkish deli its a regular thing all year long.

                                                                                                      A friend had a small hanging beef butcher shop and the number one cut of beef purchased with public assistance money was USDA prime grade center cut fillets. It got so bad he had to supplement his hanging beef fillets with boxed beef fillets. Worked out well for us though because we weren't on assistance and couldn't afford the center cut fillets but he had so many tails left over he had to dramatically discount them :-)

                                                                                                  2. re: Big Fat Moe

                                                                                                    actually, Big Fat Moe: imho, the purpose of the food stamp program is to provide subsidies to big agriculture, and the junk food companies (Kraft, General Mills, etc) by using phony altruistic concerns for poor people as a cover.
                                                                                                    if the government wasn't interested in subsidizing high-fructose GMO corn syrup producers, coke, monsanto, and pepsico, the entire soft drink category would have been excluded from the approved mix.

                                                                                                2. re: Big Fat Moe

                                                                                                  MYOB.

                                                                                                3. Reading many of the comments above, I see a number of people who grow angry that SNAP recipients use "taxpayer dollars" to buy expensive items. This is because those "taxpayer dollars" are visible, i.e., another shopper sees someone using and EBT card.

                                                                                                  Thankfully, I've never needed food stamps. I have, however, taken advantage of many student loans, some of which feature government subsidies that keep them no-interest (for a time) or low interest. These are taxpayer dollars.

                                                                                                  Last year, after renting for nearly 15 years, I became a homeowner. Now, I receive a tax break because of my mortgage interest.

                                                                                                  So I receive taxpayer dollars because I'm a homeowner (which is somewhat ridiculous--I get a break now that I have enough money to buy; I needed a break when I was a broke-ass renter) and because I borrowed money for higher education. Yet no one is complaining when I buy expensive cheese, prepared food, or other pricey items.

                                                                                                  Most of us receive some form of government assistance--but we don't frame it that way because we haven't needed the programs reserved for the poorest among us. And because our assistance is hidden, we aren't judged for our purchases.

                                                                                                  1. Did anyone mention that farmers are paid NOT to grow food??? Now that is fraud and an accurate description of welfare queens.