Cutting Government Spending By Improving The Economy

Last Thursday, Breitbart posted an article about the declining number of Americans using the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program. The program was altered in 2013 to add a work requirement to the program, but the Obama administration made it very easy for states with high unemployment numbers to waive that work requirement, and many states did. Now that fewer people are unemployed, many of those state waivers are no longer in force.

The article reports:

Enrollment in the food stamp program plunged by more than 1.3 million since Trump’s inauguration month, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA data reveals that the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants fell from 42,676,312 in January 2017 when Trump took office to 41,324,904 in December 2017—a decrease of 1,351,408.

Although enrollment in SNAP sharply increased by 3.5 million during the first month of fiscal year (FY) 2018 (October 2017) due to temporary SNAP enrollment in hurricane-affected states, the data shows that enrollment in the food stamp program has declined on the whole over the first calendar year of Trump’s presidency.

The most recent data of food stamp participation available reveals that from November 2017 to December 2017, 333,984 people discontinued their participation in SNAP.

The number of people dropping off the food stamp rolls is a continuation of a bigger trend that has been taking place since 2013.

Food stamp enrollment steadily declined after 2013, when participation in the government program swelled to 47.6 million—the highest amount it has ever been since former President Lyndon Johnson authorized the creation of the food stamp program in 1964. Taxpayers spent $79.8 million on SNAP when enrollment reached its peak in 2013.

After 2013, enrollment in SNAP declined as states passed laws requiring food stamp recipients to work, volunteer, be in school, or take part in job training for a set number of hours a week to receive food stamps. The improving economy also contributed to the continuing decline in food stamp usage.

The decline in enrollment is due to both the requirement that food stamp recipients work and the improving economy. Most of the work requirements are very easily met–volunteer work, job training, attending school–things that will help equip a person to find a job or find a better job. Ideally the aim of any government assistance program should be to help people become successful enough not to need the program. Unfortunately it does not always work that way. The danger (and we have watched this happen) in creating a government assistance program is that a giant bureaucracy is created to run the program. Obviously the people in the bureaucracy managing that program need people in the program in order for the bureaucracy to continue. That has an impact on the bureaucrats desire to see people leave the program. Somehow we have to find a way to motivate those in the bureaucracy overseeing assistance programs (and those in Congress) of creating a situation where these programs are no longer needed.

Why Federal Programs Need Eligibility Verification

One of the current problems with ObamaCare is that there is no way to verify a person’s income when they ask for a government subsidy to help pay for their health insurance. One aspect of the negotiations currently taking place in Washington is making sure that the people applying for subsidies are actually entitled to them. Generally speaking, can we trust people to take only what they are entitled to? Well, recent events indicate that we need to verify.

Yesterday MSN Money reported that there had been a computer glitch in the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) transfer card system and that stores had no way of reading the balance on the cards. The article reports what happened at one Wal-Mart.

The article reports:

Lynd explained the cards weren’t showing limits and they called corporate Wal-Mart, whose spokesman said to let the people use the cards anyway. From 7 to 9 p.m., people were loading up their carts, but when the cards began showing limits again around 9, one woman was detained because she rang up a bill of $700 and only had .49 on her card. She was held by police until corporate Wal-Mart said they wouldn’t press charges if she left the food.

 Lynd (Springhill Louisiana Police Chief Will Lynd) says at 9 p.m., when the cards came back online and it was announced over the loud speaker, people just left their carts full of food in the aisles and left.”

Unfortunately there are people among us who have no problem taking something they are not entitled to. To put a government program in place that promises benefits without checking eligibility is simply stupid. There will always be people trying to game the system, we don’t have to make it too easy!


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Your Tax Dollars At Work

America is a very generous country. We feed people all over the world and do everything we can to make sure that people in this country do not go hungry. However, sometimes the controls on our generosity are not what they should be.

On Sunday, the New York Post reported that many of the people receiving food stamps in New York are using them to buy food to ship to relatives in their home countries.

The article reports:

Welfare recipients are buying groceries with their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and packing them in giant barrels for the trip overseas, The Post found.

The practice is so common that hundreds of 45- to 55-gallon cardboard and plastic barrels line the walls of supermarkets in almost every Caribbean corner of the city.

The feds say the moveable feasts go against the intent of the $86 billion welfare program for impoverished Americans.

No kidding. I don’t want to see anyone starve anywhere. However, we have programs that ship dollars and food overseas. In many cases, the politics of the receiving country prevent the food and aid from going to the people who need it most. That is something that needs to be dealt with, but it is a separate issue. Why are American taxpayers paying for people to ship food out of the country?

The article reports:

The United States spent $522.7 million on foreign aid to the Caribbean last fiscal year, government data show.

Still, New Yorkers say they ship the food because staples available in the States are superior and less costly than what their families can get abroad.

“Everybody does it,” said a worker at an Associated Supermarket in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. “They pay for it any way they can. A lot of people pay with EBT.”

Customers pay cash for the barrels, usually about $40, and typically ship them filled with $500 to $2,000 worth of rice, beans, pasta, canned milk and sausages.

Workers at the Pioneer Supermarket on Parkside Avenue and the Key Food on Flatbush Avenue confirmed the practice.

If Congress were actually looking for places to cut the federal budget, they might want to take a look at the food stamp program.

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Some Good News On The Massachusetts State Budget

According to today’s Boston Herald, there is actually some good news in the 2014 Massachusetts State Budget. Thanks to the efforts of Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) and several others, MBTA pension data will now be subject to the public records law.

The article reports:

But the MBTA’s share of pension contributions increased 42 percent between 2007 and 2011, from $30 million to $52.3 million. Those “contributions” come from you, dear T rider or state taxpayer. Don’t you think you have a right to know what your money is buying?

If Gov. Deval Patrick signs the budget provision as written, you will.

Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) has been the leader on several taxpayer-friendly legislative initiatives since she has been in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She has worked to end fraud in the electronic benefit transfer card program (EBT) and to eliminate fraud in the Mass Health medical assistance program.

The article reminds us that subjecting the MBTA pension program to the public records law is a step forward, but it also suggests that the governor and legislature should also be subject to that law.


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What Are The Rights Of A Private Vendor ?

Today’s Boston Herald posted a story about Andrea Taber, owner of the Ever So Humble Pie Co. in Walpole. Ms. Tabor sells her pies at the Braintree market on Fridays. She has caused a controversy by refusing to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards as payment for her pies at the market.

The article reports:

“I don’t think American taxpayers should be footing the bill for people’s pie purchases,” said Andrea Taber, proprietor of the Ever So Humble Pie Co. in Walpole, who peddles her wares at the Braintree market on Fridays and now finds herself in the middle of the state’s raging fight over welfare benefits.

The article concludes:

Businesses must apply and be approved to accept EBT cards, and normally are not obliged to do so. Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Daniel Curley said the state wants welfare recipients to “access healthy food,” but he declined to weigh in on whether farmers markets that choose to accept EBT cards can compel their vendors to take part.

I have very mixed emotions on this issue. I would like to think that EBT cards are used to make healthy food purchases, but I really don’t like the idea of anyone being able to control another person’s food purchases. The issue is complicated by the fact that the taxpayers are paying for those food purchases, but it still feels intrusive to me.

It will be interesting to see how this controversy ends.


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