This Makes No Sense

When President Johnson began the “War on Poverty,” the idea was to help people get out of poverty and become working members of society. President Johnson wanted to make sure that in a land as rich as America, people did not go hungry or homeless. It was (and is) a laudable goal. It becomes a more difficult goal when it encounters the specter of human nature.

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting today on one of the programs that was set up to make sure no Americans would go hungry.

The article reports:

The number of individuals receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, has exceeded 45 million for 56 straight months, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture.

…The USDA has been tracking data on participation in the program since 1969, when average participation stood at 2,878,000. Since then, participation in the program has increased by more than 1,470 percent.

The number of food stamp recipients first exceeded 45 million in May 2011. Since then, the number has consistently exceeded 45 million, hitting a record high of nearly 47.8 million in December 2012.

Changes to food stamp policies made it easier for people to apply for benefits, made food stamps available to more people and the benefits became more generous, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Economic factors alone do not fully explain the growth in SNAP participation,” states the agency. “Changes in SNAP policies, some of them associated with the 2002 and 2008 Farm Acts, have made benefits easier to apply for, available to more people, and more generous.”

There is a lesson here. The SNAP program was started with the best of intentions, but what it did was take charity out of the hands of the local church and the local community. The local church and the local community were in a position to know who actually needed help and who was taking advantage of the system. I have heard many stories from people who remember a time when their spouse was out of work and they found a bag of groceries on their front steps to get them through. Charity needs to return to a time when it was the result of personal caring. The obvious question here is how much of the SNAP money goes to food. We have all heard stories of people selling their SNAP coupons or EBT cards and spending the money on alcohol or drugs. We are not doing anyone a favor by supporting a destructive habit.

In April 2015 I reported the following:

A Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) spokesman tells the Associated Press that 12,000 non-disabled adults were in Maine’s SNAP program before Jan. 1 – a number that dropped to 2,680 by the end of March.

More than 9,000 Maine residents have been removed from the state’s food stamp program since Republican Gov. Paul LePage‘s administration began enforcing work and volunteer requirements.

I can’t image the impact it would have on the federal budget if all states followed the example of making people work a few hours a month in order to receive food stamps. The problem is that federal money makes people dependent, and dependency determines how people vote. Politicians who want to stay in office will work to make sure that the freebies keep on coming. Politicians who love America will begin to move to cut spending.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences Strikes Again

Yesterday Byron York posted an article in the Washington Examiner about the coming increase in the minimum wage for federal contractors. The minimum wage for federal contractors will go from $7.25 and hour to $10.10 an hour. This will include fast food workers, laundry workers, and other low paying jobs on military bases. So what are the consequences?

The article reports:

In late March, the publication Military Times reported that three McDonald’s fast-food restaurants, plus one other lesser-known food outlet, will soon close at Navy bases, while other national-name chains have “asked to be released from their Army and Air Force Exchange Service contracts to operate fast-food restaurants at two other installations.”

…The administration is making it very expensive to do business on military bases, and not just because of the minimum wage. Under federal contracting law, some businesses operating on military installations must also pay their workers something called a health and welfare payment, which last year was $2.56 an hour but which the administration has now raised to $3.81 an hour.

In the past, fast-food employers did not have to pay the health and welfare payment, but last fall the Obama Labor Department ruled that they must. So add $3.81 per hour, per employee to the employers’ cost. And then add Obama’s $2.85 an hour increase in the minimum wage. Together, employers are looking at paying $6.66 more per hour, per employee. That’s a back-breaking burden. (Just for good measure, the administration also demanded such employers provide paid holidays and vacation time.)

These are the actions of an administration that does not understand or value our military and does not understand basic economic principles. The Obama Administration has already begun to make changes in the way the military exchanges are run that will change the savings our military get on food and clothing (see rightwinggranny.com). We need to elect leaders who value our military and take care of them.

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Speakeasy Restaurants???

CBS 2 in New York City posted an article Wednesday about an investigation they had done into New York City’s illegal dinner parties. There are a number of underground supper clubs operating in the city, and they are as of yet, unregulated.

The article reports:

But some critics have concerns about these unregulated dinner parties.

“It definitely falls into a gray area,” said Leon Lubarsky, owner of Letter Grade Consulting.

Lubarsky’s staff of retired New York City health inspectors advises restaurants on health regulations.

When asked if the underground restaurants should be regulated, Lubarsky told Leitner, “Yes, they should be regulated by the same system that regulates every restaurant in New York City.”

The article continues:

But if caught hosting an underground dinner party, the hosts could be fined $2,000 and ordered to shut down.

The price to get into one of these underground supper clubs ranges from $40 to several hundred. Some of the hosts say they are in it simply for the love of food, while others hope to turn a profit.

I have very mixed emotions about this. In Massachusetts I was involved in a church that was offering a monthly free dinner to whoever wanted it. Our kitchen help had to be certified, all food had to be cooked on the premises, and all ingredients posted. The rules were there to protect those eating the food. My feeling is that if the hosts (or hostesses) of these dinner parties are charging for the dinners, they should be regulated–they are essentially operating a restaurant–in their homes or wherever. I also wonder what would happen if anyone got sick after one of these dinners. Would the host (or hostess) be at risk of being sued?

I am not a big fan of government regulation–I think taking salt off of the table at restaurants or banning large sodas is stupid. However, I do think that food preparation should be overseen by the Board of Health in order to protect the public.

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A New Take On The McDouble Cheeseburger

On Saturday, the New York Post posted an article about the McDouble Cheeseburger sold at McDonald’s.

 

English: A close shot of the McDouble, a chees...

English: A close shot of the McDouble, a cheeseburger from McDonald’s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The article quotes the Freakonomics blog run by economics writer Stephen Dubner and professor Steven Leavitt:

 

What is “the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history” Hint: It has 390 calories. It contains 23g, or half a daily serving, of protein, plus 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and so on.

 

Also, you can get it in 14,000 locations in the US and it usually costs $1. Presenting one of the unsung wonders of modern life, the McDonald’s McDouble cheeseburger.

You will note that the article failed to mention the amount of fat involved, but I guess you can’t have everything.

But there is another very interesting bit of information in the article. We have all heard of the horrors of fast food–blaming it for the obesity problem in America. Well, not so fast. A 2008 study out of Berkeley and Northwestern stated that people who eat out tend to eat less at home on that day to compensate–the net gain is actually only about 24 calories a day.

Not everyone is willing to admit that the existence of McDonald’s might actually serve a purpose. The article reports:

The outraged replies to the notion of McDouble supremacy — if it’s not the cheapest, most nutritious and most bountiful food in human history, it has to be pretty close — comes from the usual coalition of class snobs, locavore foodies and militant anti-corporate types. I say usual because these people are forever proclaiming their support for the poor and for higher minimum wages that would supposedly benefit McDonald’s workers. But they’re completely heartless when it comes to the other side of the equation: cost.

Driving up McDonald’s wage costs would drive up the price of burgers for millions of poor people. “So what?” say activists. Maybe that’ll drive people to farmers markets.

Fast food consumption, on occasion, is not a horrible thing. I will admit that I prefer Wendy’s to McDonald’s, but neither one in moderation is evil. There are more horrible things in life than fast food.

 

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One Place We Need To Consider Cutting The Budget

I realize that I am about to sound like Scrooge at Christmas, but I really feel this situation is getting out of hand.

From The Weekly Standard:

The article is not clear on how much of that money goes to the recipient and how much supports the bureaucracy; but either way, I think we need to do some re-evaluating of the success of our poverty programs.

There is no incentive for someone in government to help someone on welfare get off of welfare–if there is no one on welfare, the government worker has no program to administer. There is no incentive for the person on welfare to get off of welfare because not working takes less effort than working. Also, in many cases, welfare pays more than working. Thus our welfare programs have become the government equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.

The article at The Weekly Standard states:

For fiscal year 2011, CRS identified roughly 80 overlapping federal means-tested welfare programs that together represented the single largest budget item in 2011—more than the nation spends on Social Security, Medicare, or national defense.

…The diffuse and overlapping nature of federal welfare spending has led to some confusion regarding the scope and nature of benefits. For instance, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has recently received a great deal of attention for adopting the “food stamp diet” in which he spends only $4 a day on food (the median individual benefit) to apparently illustrate the insufficiency of food stamp spending ($80 billion a year) or the impossibility of reductions. The situation Booker presents, however, is not accurate: a low-income individual on food stamps may qualify for $25,000 in various forms of welfare support from the federal government on top of his or her existing income and resources—including access to 15 different food assistance programs. Further, even if one unrealistically assumes that no other welfare benefits are available, the size of the food stamp benefit increases as one’s income decreases, as the benefit is designed as a supplement to existing resources; it is explicitly not intended to be the sole source of funds for purchasing food.

It’s time for a Mulligan on welfare programs. We fought the war on poverty and we lost.

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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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