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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Expansion of the Dependent Class

“Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.” Frederick Bastiat, The Law.

While at the checkout counter in my local supermarket today I witnessed a classic example of the misuse of food stamps. There was a lady and her daughter checking in front of me. They spoke Spanish to each other and very broken English to the clerk. The lady began separating all of the items for the clerk. She put all of her food stuffs including meat, milk, bread, canned goods, diapers, doughnuts, and candy bars in one pile and her beer, wine, soft drinks, and snack food in another. The clerk rang up the foodstuffs and the lady pulled out her EBT card and paid for those items. She then pulled out cash and paid for the beer, wine and snacks. After walking away from the counter she went to the lotto machine and bought some lotto tickets.

After the lady left and I was being checked out I asked the clerk if this was unique. The clerk rolled her eyes and said no. She said she saw this on a daily basis. I reserved my comments, but thought why couldn’t they use some of their cash for the food, not buy the beer and wine and save the taxpayers some money.

These folks know the system and how to make the most of it. In a recent post I wrote about the scam of the SNAP program by quoting a woman on the program:

“As a recipient of the federal food stamp program, I now eat far better than I ever did when I was working and scrimping by on $100/month budget for my children and me. Besides the substantial $525/month I receive as a family of three, I was shocked and appalled to learn what the tax payers are providing for my unworking ass.

Your taxpayer dollars will pay for energy drinks such as Red Bull. I also can purchase ANY candy or gum product. Gum is a food product, right Michelle? I also may purchase any mixers (strawberry daiquiri/margarita drinks) without alcohol in them. People always drink margarita mix as a substantial nutritional beverage, right?

One of my favorite things about this is that I may go to the deli or bakery section and get fresh donuts, customized party cakes, party subs, fresh salad bar, deli salads, etc. – all things I could not afford when I worked for a living. I also can purchase soda (which has a deposit in my state) and then return my empty cans to make some actual cash. Thanks guys! Keep paying your taxes!”

Altogether, there are now almost 46 million people in the United States on food stamps, roughly 15 percent of the population. That's an increase of 74 percent since 2007, just before the financial crisis and a deep recession led to mass job losses.

At the same time, the cost doubled to reach $68 billion in 2010 — more than a third of the amount the U.S. government received in corporate income tax last year — which means the program has started to attract the attention of some Republican lawmakers looking for ways to cut the nation's budget deficit.

According to a recent report by Reuters; Genna Saucedo supervises cashiers at a Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera, California, but her wages aren't enough to feed herself and her 12-year-old son. The Reuters report states:

“Saucedo, who earns $9.70 an hour for about 26 hours a week and lives with her mother, is one of the many Americans who survive because of government handouts in what has rapidly become a food stamp nation.”

The Reuter’s report continues:

“While there are clearly some cases of abuse by people who claim food stamps but don't really need them, for many Americans like Saucedo there is little current alternative if they are to put food on the table while paying rent and utility bills.

"It's kind of sad that even though I'm working that I need to have government assistance. I have asked them to please put me on full-time so I can have benefits," said the 32-year-old.

She's worked at Wal-Mart for nine months, and applied for food stamps as soon as her probation ended. She said plenty of her colleagues are in the same situation.

So are her customers. Bill Simon, head of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations, told a conference call last Tuesday that the company had seen an increase in the number of shoppers relying on government assistance for food.

About forty percent of food stamp recipients are, like Saucedo, in households in which at least one member of the family earns wages. Many more could be eligible: the government estimates one in three who could be on the program are not.

"If they're working, they often think they can't get help. But people can't support their families on $10, $11, $12 an hour jobs, especially when you add transport, clothes, rent." said Carolyn McLaughlin, executive director of BronxWorks, a social services organization in New York.

The maximum amount a family of four can receive in food stamps is $668 a month. They can only be used to buy food -- though not hot food -- and for plants and seeds to grow food.

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all made efforts to raise awareness about the program and remove the stigma associated with it.

In 2004, paper coupons were replaced with cards (Electronic Benefit Transfer cards) similar to debit cards onto which benefits can be loaded. In 2008 they were renamed Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits though most people still call them food stamps.”

Whiles this story plays on your emotions and like all such tales in the liberal press it is anecdotal. Why is a single mother of 32 working for $9.70 an hour? Where is he father what education did she have? These are questions not answered in the Reuters’ article.

The Reuter’s article continues by stating the SNAP is a wage support system:

“Over the past 20 years, the characteristics of the program's recipients have changed. In 1989, a higher percentage were on benefits than working, but as of 2009 a higher percentage had earned income.

"SNAP is increasingly work support," said Ed Bolen, an analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

And that's only likely to get worse: So far in the recovery, jobs growth has been concentrated in lower-wage occupations, with minimal growth in middle-income wages as many higher-paid blue collar jobs have disappeared.

And 6 percent of the 72.9 million Americans paid by the hour received wages at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2010. That's up from 4.9 percent in 2009, and 3 percent in 2002, according to government data.

Bolen said just based on income, minimum wage single parents are almost always eligible for food stamps.

"This becomes an implicit subsidy for low-wage jobs and in terms of incentives for higher wage job creation that really is not a good thing," said Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, whose research shows raising the minimum wage would spur

As Bastiat wrote:

“Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property. But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.”

The Obama administration is busy expanding the exact type of vicious, ungrateful underclass which recently exploded in London. An administration program will expand free school meal coverage to millions of young people who are not even supposed to be eligible.

A stated goal of the program is to eliminate the stigma of getting a free lunch. But that stigma is one of the only things separating dignified free people from wretched government dependents. There is a lot of gray in between, but the Obama program would take students from a young age and nudge them in the wrong direction.

Here's how the program works: if 40% of students at a school qualify for public assistance, then every student in the school will get free food. That's free breakfast, lunch, and a snack. If that sounds like arbitrary welfare waste, it is. Sixty percent of the student body could be above the poverty line, ineligible for welfare, or even upper-class — it doesn't matter. Every student magically becomes entitled.

This welfare trap is named the Community Eligibility Option, part of President Obama's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Three states will be involved in a pilot program starting now, and more states will be phased in over time. By 2014-15, the option will be available in all states, if this law is kept on the books.

Any student at a school with 40% of the student body on welfare is going to get his free lunch, whether he needs it or not. That 40% can be made up of students already eligible for programs like Food Stamps or welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – TANF)). Interestingly, the category of eligibility also includes "migrant youth." So illegals can get in on the boondoggle as well. If 5% of students are "migrant youth, and an additional 35% of students are on some form of welfare, the remaining 60% are automatically entitled if their school opts in.

Entire school districts, like Detroit's, will receive free food for every single student in all grades, K-12. The policy is coming into effect right as we learn that Michigan, for instance, recently kicked thirty thousand college students off food stamps for abusing the system.

Some of you might be asking, if you are already eligible for food stamps, then why do you need free lunch as well? Of course, people can buy groceries with food stamps. People could be making lunch for their children to bring to school. But that would be asking too much. The brown bag is probably considered a mark of caste. We need to make everyone feel good by creating mass dependency.

This is a perverse and wasteful policy. Not only will it entrench the existing lower class, but it will pass a contagious sense of entitlement around the entire school. Students who had no need, and whose families had no desire, to receive this welfare will now receive it. They will be exposed to the coercive influence of dependency and the politicians will benefit.

But not to worry — the policy is well-greased. If the free food option kicks in at a school, then there will be no need for parents to make individual applications anymore. You don't even have to think about asking; not one bit of reflection or hesitation to trouble you. Everyone will receive the food, like manna from the skies.

The rationale behind this policy is spectacularly foolish: "One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash," said a Detroit Public School official. "Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income. Now, all students will walk through a lunch line and not have to pay. Low-income students will not be easily identifiable and will be less likely to skip meals."

For fear of stigmatizing the few, we will enfeeble the many. But stigma exists for a very good reason. It directs behavior along morally desirable paths. People should have a sense of shame for taking handouts, even when they really need them. Stigma upholds a strong work ethic and self-sufficiency. These used to be our shared moral standards. But we don't have shared moral standards anymore — just a desire to be nonjudgmental and "compassionate." Because we don't want some children to be stigmatized, we're going to make all children dependent.

This policy is defined by welfare-state paternalism, which breeds and nurtures immoral, undesirable people. This policy shows a reckless disregard for the consequences of dependency, which will be terrible. Everything we need to know about entitlements comes from the great English prison psychiatrist Anthony Daniels, (who writes under the pseudonym Theodore Dalrymple) who worked face-to-face with the most severe dependents in Western society. Daniels said that government entitlements create one of two attitudes towards society: either ingratitude or resentment. If you receive what you're entitled to, there is nothing to be grateful for because you're entitled to it. Or, if you haven't received an entitlement, then you're resentful because you haven't received what you feel you are entitled to. Daniels said:

“The doctrine of rights, while it can prevent certain abuses, also gives rise to a sense of entitlement, which in turn means that people veer between ingratitude if they receive what they believe they are entitled to or outrage if they do not. Neither of these states is attractive to others or beneficial to the person himself. In short, complaint has been privatized into mere querulousness.”

A few disgusting examples of this attitude can be seen in news interviews with government dependents in Clayton County, GA that have to be seen to be believed.

It's a mystery how anyone could honestly believe that strengthening the chains of dependency will produce self-sufficient citizens. Fourteen point four percent of Americans use food stamps. Of the households using food stamps, one in three is black, according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Getting free food from Nanny State surely takes the sting away from fatherlessness — and adds to the pressure for cradle-to-grave welfare.

We have no reason whatsoever to think that giving people food stamps will make them better. Free government meals are not going to create stakeholders in society. Instead, we will be taking a mass of young people, who up until now have not been deemed aid-worthy, and marking them as aid-worthy. Surely this is going to create an unhealthy adjustment in their own attitudes and expectations.

Conservatives will see in this policy the early stages of a dependency epidemic. Liberals, on the other hand, will emote about compassion. Everyone should be able to eat, they say, the assumption being that the government is the necessary provider. Liberals genuinely want society to produce healthy people. But didn't society produce healthy people in the past? If so, how did we do it without welfare?

The people in our society who are charged with making good judgments about social policy and group behavior are actually the most ideologically blinkered among us. The utopian are leading the ignorant.

With this policy, the Obama administration has taken a silent but significant step towards mass welfare dependence. Worst of all, it will push the welfare mentality on to more students and families, including those who are not truly disadvantaged. More people will suffer the devastating moral corruption that comes from dependence.

The result will be to rob more people of their work ethic, drive up the financial burden on government, and destroy even more of this nation's productive wealth. The human result will be an expanded pool of ungrateful and entitled people, ready to riot and destroy if their new handouts are ever jeopardized by fiscal reality. If we expand the ranks of dependents in this country, we will reap a whirlwind.

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