Question of the Day – Food Stamps

August 19, 2008

The other night I went to Kroger to pick up some milk. I was standing in the checkout line behind an older lady. I noticed that she was holding a Lone Star Card, which is our equivalent to Food Stamps. I didn’t have a problem with this lady using a Lone Star Card. What I did have a problem with was what she was buying:

2 – Six packs of candy bars
1 – 20oz. Dr. Pepper
2 – Boxes of Extra Butter microwave popcorn
1 – Bag of Fritos corn chips (it might have been some other kind of chips, I can’t remember)

That’s it! That’s all she was buying and she was paying for it with her Lone Star Card (I mean, with taxpayer dollars). Absolutely nothing of any nutritional value.

So, here’s my question(s) of the day:

Should there be limits on what can be purchased with food stamps?

I have blogged about this topic in the past and one commenter mentioned that it would be cost-prohibitive for stores to place limits on what people can and can’t buy with food stamps. I’m not buying this argument. I think the program should be run similar to WIC, which places limits on what people can and cannot purchase.

I look at it this way:

If people can’t afford to buy groceries on their own, they should have to make some sacrifices just like everday people on a budget. If our budget was tighter, I would have to cut out any extras (Coke, chips, beer, etc.). People on Food Stamps should too!

I think some people are just way too comfortable accepting charity. I would feel guilty buying crap with taxpayer dollars.

You know how I feel. What’s your opinion?

CLARIFICATION: So that you all don’t think I’m some elitist SOB, there was a time when my wife and I were poor. We were both in college and made little money. But,… we never used food stamps or any other type of assistance (except for occasional meals and some groceries from my wife’s parents). We had a very strict budget and we stuck to it. We didn’t have cable TV, cell phones, or anything beyond the basics. We lived within our means. So, I’ve been there and done that.

98 responses to Question of the Day – Food Stamps

  1. “Oh, and by the way, this was a question of the day with the intent of getting a discussion going.”

    I would bet that reading comprehension is not a key part of the lives of some of your readers, unfortunately. I understood why you would bring up a subject like this. I seem to have the thought in my head that your site deals with financial matters. This appears to be a story that touches not only personal finances but also large scale financial matters. Asking readers to discuss a scenario is not the equivalent of condemning a person over their purchases.

    I would like to believe that every person using food stamps or WIC is using the programs legitimately. The sad truth is that many people abuse the system. JLP, as you say, helping those that need it is important. What is equally important is not allowing people to take advantage of the programs offered to help the people of our country. Experiencing situations where people refuse to get a job because they get free assistance is quite difficult to stomach. I have a simple job with a decent salary. I did nothing special to get it other than take pride in myself and focus on getting a job. If there are loopholes in the system, work to eliminate them. If the only way is to limit what can be purchased, so be it. While items that JLP mentioned in the post may be welcomed treats to the person buying them, where is the benefit to allowing them to purchase those items? The programs are designed to aid the people in need. They need to eat to survive. They do not need to eat name-branded items, candy, delicacies, huge steaks, or anything else that does not simply allow them to survive. I make plenty of money to survive on and I still find it easy to keep grocery bills low by buying store-branded items and keeping expensive purchases to a minimum. If taxpayers are offering this assistance, voluntarily or not, it is being offered as a temporary fix. Can any of you honestly say you are happy to support people for their entire lives just because they do not want to work?

    Now, since I am sure my comments will be misconstrued, I will state again that I think we should help people in need. The help we give should be temporary and it should be adequate to cover the survival of the needy. Any extravagances beyond survival should not be provided. Once the person is on their feet, whether it is a month, a year, or two years, they will then be able to afford the treats they have worked hard to earn. Allowing people to receive food stamps year after year with no sign of them putting forth an effort is ridiculous.

    JLP, keep posting interesting topics and to Hell with those that fail to understand a discussion topic.

    Adam

  2. “And for those of you who equate mortgage int deduction with food stamps, I got news for you. The mortgage interest ded hardly makes a dent in the taxes I pay.”

    Actually, considering that overall your country and many states are in a deficit, because spending is greater than revenues, then as an outsider I would equate them… the taxes you pay aren’t even equal to the benefits you receive, so basically you’re getting subsidized housing at the expense of both the rich, who pay a lot more in taxes than you do (and because of progressive taxes, most likely a higher percentage of their income in taxes), and your children, and their children, who will eventually have to pay the government debt accrued and the interest thereon so that you could deduct your mortgage interest….

    Not to pick on you, Miguel, I know the point you were getting at… but it just seems very myopic. I wouldn’t be surprised, based on what was said, if a number of people receiving food stamps also pay more than $21 a week in taxes, which would put them in the same boat as you… paying more than they get in DIRECT benefits, and not fully paying for the INDIRECT benefits they receive. Yet you feel there should be restrictions on their spending, and not on yours.

    Oh, and to all the people saying they should be ashamed for taking government handouts… well, you all sure seemed eager for your stimulus payments, even though that just increased the government… you knew you were collectively spending money you couldn’t afford, but everyone else tooks theirs, so it’s only fair you take yours, right?

  3. @bottomofthe9th and JLP,

    I agree with JLP that you cannot compare the two. However, to answer your question… if the Gov’t said in order to get the mortgage interest deduction, you must buy or build this type of house or follow some type of requirements, I would comply. I wouldn’t have a problem with it either.

  4. “Low-income Americans get CRUMBS compared with what the middle class and the rich get from government in this country.”

    Terry, you’re missing the part where the middle class and the rich (especially the so-called rich) pay most of the taxes. Also, you took my comments out of context. Basically, I’d happily give up the mortgage deduction in exchange for a fairer system where everybody (rich, middle, and poor) carried a simplified, proportionate share of the burden.

    Steve, I’m having trouble following your logic. Govt spending is greater than revenues because of the enormous amount of WASTE, not because I personally am receiving more benefits than I am paying for. Oh man, where did you come up with that logic???? When I say I pay a lot in taxes, I mean I pay a seriously large odorous heaping steaming pile of taxes. I did not get a stimulus check, but I suppose I subsidized yours.

  5. FYI, I’d just like to point out to Terry that factually speaking, even under the Bush administration tax cuts (which I am no big fan of, never have been) the top 1% of American taxpayers already pay 40% of all income taxes — the highest level in 40 years. The top 10% of income earners pay 71% of the taxes.

  6. Here in Pennsylvania, the state in addition to WIC and food stamps (EBT Access Card) has a special program for low-income senior citizens. It gives vouchers in the summer for the seniors to go to local farmers markets for fresh food. In the summer, there are farmers markets every day of the week in various sections of the city. The seniors get the pick of wonderful healthy food, and the local farmers, many Amish, reap the benefits as well.

    The seniors I have seen using these vouchers were all stocking up on the healthy produce and fruit, not cakes or goodies that might be available. I think this is a win-win situation.

    Here in Philadelphia there are various discount produce stores (Produce Junction and the independents) that offer bagged produce at low prices. They do accept the Access card (food stamps) so it is definitely possible to buy healthy food as a choice.

    There is also the SHARE program which ANYONE can participate in, not just food stamp recipients. With $18 and two hours of community service, you can receive a monthly package of $35-40 of fresh and healthy staple foods. I used the program in college and it really helped on a budget. They also have produce and fresh fruit package prices as well. This program is available in other US cities too.

    http://www.sharefoodprogram.org/

    The issue comes down to education, planning, and commitment. If you choose to eat healthy you can do so, even on a budget

    D.F.

  7. I think there should definitely be limits on what can be purchased with food stamps. I’ll take it one step further and say that what is spent with Welfare money should be controlled if it was some what practical.

    The commenters stating that people should have the “freedom” to do what they want with their government handouts are ludicrous. I work very hard at my job, I trade 45+ hours a week out of my life for money to survive. The hours I traded for this money can never be gotten back! A fairly significant part of the life I traded away is being taxed to give to the “needy”. Is it fair for these people who supposedly need help to spend it on something they do not need to survive? Is it fair for these people to waste the precious moments of my life that I can never get back? If it wasn’t for all the wasted money on social programs I would be able to spend more time with my family and maybe be able to retire before I’m 65.

    I don’t think it is too much to ask for the government to make sure that my life isn’t being squandered away on candy bars, cokes and other such drivel. Being able to choose how my life is being spent is freedom and having others choose how to spend it for me is anything but.

  8. I just wanted to make a few comments.

    1) With WIC, getting generic would not allow a family to stretch their dollars. They don’t have a value. The coupons tell them they can get 8 of whatever. It would, however, allow it to stretch the tax payers dollar.

    2) I bought my first house last year. I did not have enough items to itemize. The default deduction was my better option as it is for most people I know. (For full disclosure, my wife and I earn in the low $60k.) So everyone can keep bringing up the mortgage thing but it doesn’t apply to all homeowners.

    3) In response to the “what gives you the right to judge her” people, the fact that he pays taxes. I do not see anything wrong with people asking others to be accountable. When I get a loan from the bank, certain things are expected by the bank from me. I’m held accountable. In business, we are held accountable to our shareholders. That’s how it works in the real world when someone gives you a piece of their pie.

    4)”live on $21/week – the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance – for a month.”

    In the early 90’s I was friends with a couple who had 3 kids. They received a $600 check, $500+ in food stamps, and their rent was paid. Because their rent was less than the allowance, the difference went to them too. $21/week is not the average of people I know on ADC (Ohio welfare).

    5) “I disagree. People who receive food stamps/cash should be able to do as they please. They are responsible for the consequences they suffer (or enjoy!), but everyone deserves a chance, and everyone deserves freedom of choice.”

    Many of the one’s I know already do as they please. That’s why they receive aid. They also do not bear responsibility for their actions. The tax payers do. Nobody deserves a freedom of choice. You are entitled to your life, your liberty and your pursuit of happiness. I work hard so I can be free to make my choices. When people ask for assistance, it should not be on THEIR terms. It should be on those giving the assistance. Those who make comments about paternalism and the like probably belong to the liberal parties who think that government should be made to pay for others bad choices. No sense of self responsibility. Why don’t we keep making excuses for these people. I say let’s go back to where charity started. Put it back in the church. The government did not start charity programs. The church did 100’s of years ago and it was funded through donations, not extortion of the working class.

  9. This truly is a mixed-feeling topic as is evident by the various comments already posted. It is agreeable that some and not all people, do and will, take advantage of such assistance program every chance they get and will not purposely work in order to maintain the assistance. However, in addition to the farming idea, it wouldn’t hurt to require monthly classes and other steps in order to qualify for the assistance, such as nutritional counseling. There needs to be a give and take scenario from each party, instead of just take, take, take.

  10. JLP, are you feeling like you should have stayed out of town an extra 2 days?!! This has to be the most commented-on post since your most popular giveaway!

    I agree w/you–some limits should be in place, with a nominal value to be used at the guest’s discretion on whatever they would want (note I didn’t say “need”.) The reader @ # 15 commented on technology–I agree. Our flexplan issues a “credit card” which I can use to pay for OTC items, but not to be used on non-medical purchases. To those who think freedoms are being squashed–phooey! Why not issue “spa” cards b/c everyone deserves to feel good about themselves!! This is about NEEDS and sustaining the human body. Certain restrictions on purchases should be acceptable by any “prudent man”

    @ 33 Ken, I guess I’m the female exception!

    @47 Terry–poor vs rich debate. How do you think people improve their situations?–thru EDUCATION and HARD WORK (and keeping your pants on to delay having children until you’re capable of taking care of them and staying away from drugs and alcohol and living a healthful/healthy life so you can continue to work to support yourself/your family) Yes, crummy things happen to good people–I too, lost my job once, but you find a way to make things happen. I would choose to clean houses, waitress (again), etc. before taking welfare, which would be my last choice in addressing the situation.

    Still @ #47–I don’t know where you get off thinking “rich” people get all these benefits that low/middle class people don’t get to enjoy. 1)My itemized deductions get eliminated the more we make, 2) my real estate taxes will essentially be useless due to AMT 3) No stimulus check for us–we make too much. I don’t think it’s “too much”, but apparently the IRS does…

    Why do we make so much? Thank the good Lord, we’ve been blessed w/parents who taught us the value of education and hard work. Both of us have business degress, my husband has an MBA and he went to law school at night (while our 3 sons were ages 5 and less). Yes, that was a hell of a lot of fun for our family…Daddy’s gone all day, gone at night and studying on the weekends for 5 long years….

    We have EARNED every dollar we have–thru our hard work and family sacrifices. If someone hates the situation they’re in–a community college is certainly nearby to gain new skills and improve one’s ability to succeed.

    Miguel, I 100% agree on the government waste argument. There is no way in hell our family enjoys federal benefits greater than what we pay in. And it will undoubtedly only get worse…

    PS I’m not some unfeeling “bioche” as my DOH prefers to use. We regularly contribute to our food pantry, the Christmas food drives, Scout drives for the soldiers’ families, volunteer in various ways in our community, etc.

    Welfare should be a short-term saftety net til people can get on their feet; not a way of life.

    An up close and personal story behind my above rant about keeping ones’ pants on: my step niece got pregnant as a sophomore in college, despite her supposedly being a smart girl. But she got lucky in whom she picked to father her child–his parents have money due to their building a business. So her own folks let her rent their rental home (her boyfriend pays the rent), her boyfriend pays her student loans (b/c her father didn’t think he should help her w/school b/c he had to do it on his own), her parents drive a BMW and a Lexus, the boyfriend has a Mercedes Benz station wagon…and she doesn’t work. Yet she’s collecting welfare. Ah, the beauty of being a single mother!

    Face it, the system needs to have its loopholes eliminated.

    Bring it on ladies!!

  11. @heather,

    “On a side note, I work in social services and want to add that the poor mom picking up her welfare check and driving away in a Cadillac is an absolute myth.”

    I remember watching ODB (of Wu-Tang Clan fame) drive up to a check cashing store in a limo to deposit his welfare checks. That was not a myth, that was a fact. They were current checks. The welfare system is in dire need of reform also.

  12. @ Heather – I missed your comment that “…the poor mom picking up her welfare check and driving away in a Cadillac is an absolute myth.” Look, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I grew up watching it. I was surrounded by everything we are talking about. So, maybe these days its a tricked out Escalade instead of a sedan, but we all get the picture. Maybe it depends on where you are located (rural vs urban, Midwest vs Northest, etc.). To concede a point, I know that there are many people in real need, and I know that many of them are extremely grateful to receive benefits. And frankly, I’m more than happy to see my tax dollars going to help people in real need. My concern is that those dollars are often wasted and not enough gets to the folks who really do need it. There should be restrictions on how the money gets spent – for everybody’s sake, including theirs.

    FYI, by way of clarification from my last post #56, I supported the Bush tax cuts (before the war), I have never supported Bush (not even for a second).

  13. “If our budget was tighter, I would have to cut out any extras (Coke, chips, beer, etc.). People on Food Stamps should too!”

    I like this statement. While I was never eligible for food stamps, we were for the WIC program for a short time that my husband was laid off, and while I am very appreciative for the assistance, I do think that there should be limits on these government aids. Your income doesn’t have the be quite as low to qualify for WIC as it does for Food Stamps, and so to hear about people cheating the system to get food stamps is ridiculous. Maybe that’s where some system for better verification comes in. I’m not sure how, because it could be hard to verify everyone and everything on the application, but I feel like there should be something in place to help with the issue.

  14. I love how so many comments cast this as conservative/liberal, socialist/capitalist, etc. It seems that in order to have a discussion, you have to have some base definitions. For me, I would hope that we can all expect, in a civilized, advanced nation, some basic needs provided to us: a shelter, education, adequate nutrition, and medical care. And enough of each so that receiving them isn’t such a burden that the extent of one’s efforts goes towards procuring food or a blanket.

    That being said, the level of comfort in which a person lives is to one degree or another (simplifying and ignoring starting factors like being born poor in an inner city slum versus born in the suburbs) a matter of how much one works and educates themselves. People living on welfare, whether living it up on candy bars or making “morally correct” choices of rice and beans are paying the price of living in a nightmarish social environment. I hate getting out my car to get gas in those neighborhoods.

    I think we do, to a large extent, have those basic needs of food, shelter, medical care and education provided for us in the States. I’m not convinced the system is broken. It’s not well oiled either. There will always, in any environment, be people who will not participate in self improvement. Feeding them and giving them a place to eat, on the most base of levels, keeps them from robbing me.

    I understand the frustration of seeing somebody using unearned money on nonsense. Here in Austin Texas, on any given street corner is a disheveled person begging for money. More often than not, they are smoking a cigarette. Seriously, how much does a pack of cigarettes cost? $5? That’s several cans of beans and rice, or like 40 bags of Ramen. And how the hell did you afford all those tattoos? Those things aren’t cheap. You sir, will not get my money. That being said, let her eat her candy bars. If only because people’s decisions often serve as a foil to one’s own, allowing you to keep focused on the up and up (if that makes any sense).

  15. And as a side note and response to the Clarification: Why is being elitist bad? Holding yourself and other people up to a high standard is something we should all strive for. There are manifestations of elitism that are negative, but I think being elitist, especially for your self and your family means pursuing an ideal, constantly refining, building knowledge and experience, and never allowing complacancy. This is a good thing.

  16. No matter what limits / requirements you put on a program, people will find a way to cheat the system.

    Years ago, I knew a young man who worked grocery. He told of people with food stamps who would buy a 5 gallon bottle of water, pay for it and the $7 deposit with food stamps – go out into the parking lot, dump the water and return the jug for the deposit. They would then spend the $7 on lottery tickets, cigarettes, beer – things that were forbidden on the food stamp program.

    If those people who spend hours of their time and mental energy figuring a way to beat the system, would spend that same time and energy on something positive and useful for society as a whole, the world would be a far better place.

    It is important to remember that some of these people have been subjected to generations of poor decision making and do not know any different.

  17. Miguel… while I understand your point about government waste, you can’t just say “that’s not my debt, I’m not wasting it” because unfortunately, you’re a citizen, so down the line as long as you, or your children, or whomever makes money, you’re going to be paying that, and paying more than if they weren’t running a deficit. And yes, it’s a big kick in the balls because you know it was spent on crap that noone even wanted except a few pork-barrelling politicians. And yes, I get that you can’t control that, and that if you gave up your mortgage interest deduction they’d just spend it on more crap, but until your country demands that the government stop piling on debt for the future, it’s still spending your future.

    But let’s go with that. If you count all the spending the government does that you don’t agree with as waste, then why can’t the person receiving food stamps? Maybe they’re pretty ticked off that they have so little, STILL have to pay taxes that are significant to them, and those taxes just get pissed away for stupid things when they could use the money a lot worse than a politician using his staff budget on a limo to go three blocks.

    In short, you’re assuming that you’re getting ripped off by the government and that the food stamp recipients are ripping off the government, and heaven knows, it definately happens, probably a lot… but there are also people that aren’t and just don’t make as much money as you do but still pay more in taxes than they get back. In those cases, there is no difference between your entitlements and their handouts.

    As for myself, as I mentioned, I’m an outsider (ie, non-american) so I don’t get any stimulus payments, and like yourself, our income is high enough that we’re in the highest tax bracket here. In Canada, we’re a little luckier because we went through the belt-tightening of having the government get rid of the deficit, then we made it law that they couldn’t go back into it, and then the next government made it a policy that interest savings from debt reduction must result in tax reductions the following year, so even though we have the same problems with abusers, overall it’s getting a bit better for everyone.

  18. Steve, I’m still having trouble following your points. Far as I can tell you’re saying that deficit spending is bad for the country because its essentially stealing from the future. So, since we are stealing from the future, U.S. citizens must be getting more than they are putting in. If I understand you right, then what I think you’re ignoring is the friction cost between what we pay in and what we get out. That is called waste, inefficiency, etc., which is why in general, taxpayers do not feel they are getting their money’s worth.

    But, whatever, I’m not sure what this has to do with the food stamp arguement. FYI, you may not realize that people at the poverty level do not pay much, if any income taxes, especially since their income is often “off the books”. You may not be familiar with our “progressive” tax system. At upper income levels, a substantially higher proportion of income is devoted to taxes, not to mention phase-outs for many tax credits and benefits, which disqualify upper-income famililies from many tax-breaks. FYI, there are phase-outs for the mortgage interest deduction. Additionally, some folks (as I sometimes do) fall under our AMT tax system, where many typical tax ded’s are disqualified.

    Long way of saying, please don’t tell me how somebody getting food stamps is paying more in taxes than they get back or how there is no difference between my entitlements (what entitlements would those be exactly?) and their handouts. The logic simply doesn’t work.

  19. What a mean-spirited, judgemental post. Did you go to your car and scribble down what she bought? Why do you care what that woman buys with her food-stamps? She qualifies for food stamps, and once she gets them, IT’S HER MONEY. Of all the things to write about, and you post about a woman and her food stamps. Maybe she was having a small party. Maybe she was going to sit on her couch and eat all day. Maybe you should be glad you’re not in her position and stop picking on her. The goverment hands out cash to lots of folks–why not pick on a larger money drain? I’m taking your blog off my daily reading list. That was a mean, small-minded post. Take care.

  20. @ Beth

    “It is important to remember that some of these people have been subjected to generations of poor decision making and do not know any different.”

    I don’t buy that for a second. A persons upbringing is not an excuse for a lack of personal responsibility. They know exactly what they are doing and they know it’s wrong.

  21. my girlfriend has 3 kids, just completed her AA degree(using public assistance for tuition and daycare), is continuing on at University next month, and uses food stamps. Recently in the grocery store, she wanted to buy a whole cooked chicken for her family’s dinner. It was .40cents cheaper than an on-sale whole uncooked raw chicken – but she was unable to purchase it with food stamps because Washington State prohibits “Hot food” from being purchased with food stamps.

  22. @70–JLP was trying to spark discussion (I do believe he succeeded on that point!) and was in no way mean-spirited. Judgmental, perhaps, but not mean-spirited 😉
    Get a thicker skin, Karen, or avoid the debate team…

    @72–Where’s the father of these 3 kids and is she able to collect the child support she’s entitled to receive? Good for her for pursuing her education and showing her kids (by example) of what’s possible when one wisely uses the resources designed to help them.

  23. In terms of nutrition, not much, but in terms of caloric intake, she is being very smart because that’s about the best bang you can get for your or my dollar.

  24. I just wanted to be post #75. Good job JLP.

  25. I think we should put time limits (a year?) on welfare and food stamps. After that time limit is exceeded, you have to demonstrate your need for the benefit. Elderly, permanently disabled, etc should be able to get a permanent dispensation. If you are an adult, capable of working, you should not be allowed food stamps and welfare year after year without ever holding a job. I’m not saying it will fix the problems, but it would help. In general, I think that these types of programs need to be reined WAY in.

    RE: Other points people brought up –
    House mortgage deductions or credits or whatever they are, screw that! I don’t get a deduction for my car loan! You took out a loan, you pay your own interest. Yes, you can take away my school loan deductions too. You can also have my stimulus check back. I never said I wanted the stupid thing.

  26. @76 The mortgage interest deduction is to promote home ownership, which hand in hand, helps bankers and builders alike and the other folks along the way that get a piece of the pie (title companies, appraisers, surveyors, etc.) It’s the engine that used to turn part of the economy. And for the record, car interest used to be deductible, back when “personal interest” was…which was eliminated years ago.

    Sounds like you’d be a great proponent of the Fair Tax–a total overhaul of the tax system replaced w/a national sales tax. Of course, all of us accountants would be out of jobs…and thus looking at getting food stamps 🙂

  27. Do you remember the newspaper advice column from Ann Landers? I recall someone writing in once with a similar tale; I believe it was sweets and a cake in that instance. Just like this post, the letter set off a flurry of responses – and then, the person who bought the “inappropriate” food with the food stamps wrote in.

    She had been buying birthday treats for her son.

    I wonder if it’s similar here. That list of groceries? Maybe it was a wee slumber party.

    Maybe she bought some nutritional groceries earlier in the week, and then made a run to get some treats for her kid and some friends.

    Entirely possible.

    At the heart of all this is one simple fact: You know absolutely zip about this woman and her life.

    I get that you’re trying to promote discussion, and I get your reaction, JLP, but you tunnel-visioned yourself. You saw not even the barest snapshot of this woman. You don’t know her reasons at all.

    Did you try to ask her? Did she merit a bit of discussion, or just your high-handed judgment?

    She might have actually had a reason that you could identify with. But you don’t know.

    This makes a good blog post. But I hope you aren’t always so quick to judge strangers.

  28. I do think you could have written this post without using the woman as an example: it would have appeared to be less of a fingerpointing post and more of a theoretical debate. You can spark debate without making judgements.

  29. @Cat you made the same point that I made in the next post on this topic. If it were not directed at a single incident and more of the view of the topic then people would not be going into fits over her items and this possiblity.

  30. Miguel said:

    Terry, you’re missing the part where the middle class and the rich (especially the so-called rich) pay most of the taxes. Also, you took my comments out of context. Basically, I’d happily give up the mortgage deduction in exchange for a fairer system where everybody (rich, middle, and poor) carried a simplified, proportionate share of the burden.

    The middle class and (esp) the rich pay most of the INCOME taxes. Other taxes – sales, property, payroll, etc – tend to be regressive, i.e. the poor tend to pay these taxes disproportionately.

    Here’s a stat I would LOVE to see. What percentage of national DISPOSABLE income does the rich (and the middle class) have?

    Now compare THAT stat with the income tax burden, and tell me who’s getting screwed.

    You seem to be complaining that low-wage workers don’t pay enough taxes. Let’s compare their taxes with their disposable income and see if they are really undertaxed.

  31. And how exactly would one make things less regressive: require everyone to have their last 1040 in hand when at the checkout counter so a lower sales tax can be applied b/c they were in the lowest tax bracket last year? Why not just eliminate sales, property and payroll taxes and just roll it into one huge increase in personal income tax rates to make it easier on everyone…I think NOT!!

    That’s the carrot that should be dangling in folks’ faces: if I make more money (by working more hours or via obtaining more education to get a raise or a better-paying line of work) I’ll have more disposable income. THEN the above-noted taxes become less regressive!

  32. JLP – are you sure you aren’t my friend Buffy? Because I related the exact same (type of) experience to her – that the person in front of me at HEB and paying with a LoneStar card was buying chips, dip, steaks, candy and convenience foods with her Lonestar card and I was worried that my cart of produce & make-it-myself ingredients would bust my $75 per week budget…She told me @ a lady buying Dr. Pepper & candy bars at the Randalls!

    Anyway – having lived on both ends of the middle-class spectrum, my perspective is this – if my taxes support these programs, then the programs should have limitations on purchases – maybe proportional limits on categories of (junk) foods? I know it’d be a b&tch to administer, but I don’t care. I remember my mother (a Navy wife and teacher) bargaining for discounts with the farmers after the market closed for their bruised and damaged foods and months of PB sammies on crackers (less expensive than bread and no J – also too expensive) and red beans and rice for dinner.

    And frankly, I appreciate the PF connection – what’s in my grocery cart is a direct reflection on my personal finances every week – and what I get paid every week is directly connected to the taxes that support others’ grocery purchases.

  33. Stacey said:

    And how exactly would one make things less regressive: require everyone to have their last 1040 in hand when at the checkout counter so a lower sales tax can be applied b/c they were in the lowest tax bracket last year? Why not just eliminate sales, property and payroll taxes and just roll it into one huge increase in personal income tax rates to make it easier on everyone…I think NOT!!

    The proposed national sales tax would give all Americans a monthly “prebate” equivalent to the amount of sales tax they would spend on spending up to the poverty leval. This effectively exampts income up to the poverty line from the sales tax. If Washington can do this, states can do likewise.

    States could also level the property tax field. Currently, property taxes are higher on rental property than on owner-occupied homes of equal value in most states. This imposes a regressive burden on low-income people unable to buy a home. I believe property taxes should be the same on homes of equal value, and it shouldn’t matter for tax purposes whether a home is rented or owner-occupied.

    Right there I have pointed out two things state and local governments could do to make things less regressive.

    And the private sector could help also if it wanted to do so. Ever heard of senior discounts? Why Warren Buffett should qualify for a discount not available to someone a few years younger earning minimum wage – who probably won’t live long enough to qualify for a senior discount – is a mystery to me. Yes, it is possible to implement a lower price at the checkout counter for low-income people. (What I would do is issue an annual card – the qualifying is done once up front – which would be good for the discount.)

  34. I agree with the post – I’ve been to Wal-Mart several times and seen people on foodstamps buy several carts of unhealthy/processed food, and I always get a little upset.

    Here in Rochester there is a fantastic public market, all local produce and stuff for cheap – and it takes foodstamps. It’s in the heart of an old area of town that isn’t very wealthy, so the fact that it takes these stamps is awesome. I think there should be more incentives like that – to use the stamps on healthy items.

  35. If the government allowed us to have a truly free market by removing the exclusive production rights that it grants to patent holders, that old lady wouldn’t need charity or welfare to buy food. Welfare is a symptom of the Tragedy of the Anticommons.

  36. I worked at the midnight to 7 a.m. shift at a grocery store for six months. People would do crazy stuff with food stamps (EBT card) one no one was around to condemn them but the cashier.

    Example one (worst offender): One guy habitually would buy two shopping carts filled with six packs of soda. He would then go out into the parking lot, empty the soda into the storm drain, redeem the bottles, take the redemption money and but the cheapest beer he could find.

    One couple would always buy crap legs and good cuts of meat on their EBT card, and pay for the cheaper stuff in cash.

    Now there were people who didn’t abuse the system as well. But I believe the system has some pretty big holes in it.

    I have no problems with helping people, I only have problems with people who don’t understand that I volunteer to help people every time I pay my taxes. So if I don’t give any more money out of pocket to charity, I am still helping a lot of people just by going to work everyday.

  37. I can say that you are ng this lady wrong by judging this lady without knowing her circumstances. Many and many people who work receive food stamps. Her age and education may play a role in what type of job she can do. Probably minimum wage. Which no one can survive on. She may have custody of grandchildren which gives her dependents and qualifies her for assistance. May have been a monthly treat for the kids. I know of a woman actually a good frien who is a widow. Her husband killed in Iraq. She now has 3 kids to support without a good paying job. She works 50 hours a week to survive and it is still not enough when the bills come in. Dont be so judgemental on people without knowing the facts.

  38. I have read where fella was behind older lady.
    ok, Judging with such limited information. WOW.Hope I am never his neighbor.He probily would gripe if I cut my grass east to west instead of north to south. LOL. I was raised in large family. My Dad was too proud to accept charity of anykind. All us Siblings are living with nutrition related issues/disabilities. Our help system is not perfect, there may be abuse. But for the children and/or eldry to eat. It is the best way at present. If this fella knows a better way, instead of complaining. why does he not suggest something, or better yet get job at the food stamp office. When I hear about the under privledged getting ahead in this Country. It makes me proud. That my taxes helped them come up in this world.Abuse will not go away. Perphaps this person has diabetes (needs candy). While waiting on the day her food stamps come in, she went without for a week or so. It happens. She needed to build her strenght just to shop. A candy bar on our taxes is a lot cheaper than an ambulance ride to a hospital, i bet he did not think of that. I bet he never ever experienced true poorness. needing to make a phone call for help, when one does not even have .50 cents. I am a good capatilist i love America. Right to make as much money as desired.But I will never forget my roots. America is not perfect, But it is the best going.

  39. For the first time in my young adult life, I have slipped and fallen through the cracks, and am now on food stamps. I never thought I would need them, well I do. I have always worked since i was 16 and am now 24, but now I have a six month old son and no father, wasn’t by choice , he was abusive…so i had to be on my own. He wasn’t like that until half-way through my pregnancy all of a sudden he became satan. I couldn’t let my son go through that so I needed some help. I have been on the assistance program for about six months they also offer the free daycare and what not. So I got kinda stuck in a rut. Now I will be going back to work and will be getting a scholarship to take courses online at night so I can also be with my son, to finish my college education, and will be getting a better paying job , and than def. come off this program, the whole point is so that the government (taxpayers dollars) helps you until you get your self together (which means not at a slow pace or you can’t take five years) and work just like the rest and pay taxes like the rest. I guess a big majority of people get on the program and get lazy and just want to be taken care of forever, I guess there is only a small portion who really want to go up in life, that would be me…I understand that maybe buying candy and junk food shouldn’t be allowed, but sometimes with me being a woman I need a piece of chocolate, but mostly I do just buy fish, fruits, meats, and vegetables and sherbert ice cream (sometimes), so much better for you, but i’m human and sometimes I do want that sweet stuff. I’m a really healthy eater though. Plus if you have a child you do want to show them independance not that you have to live off others hard work, only should be your own so you set good values for your children, so in one year I will be off food stamps because I will have finished my degree and 2 years I will no longer need help with childcare….So my answer is that the program should be more strict, into making sure those living off all others should be checked on more and have tight quarters to stick with bettering themselves. It’s the system itself that allows it to go on, maybe not an actual worker but how the system works. They should re-evaluate the whole program and make it more healthy and strict. We as a whole should come up with ideas and send it off to restructure the whole system, sometimes that maybe what it needs, any ideas anyone????

  40. I am really offended by this. Do not judge those you do not know their circumstances.
    First you were standing in line next to an “older lady” how do you know if she has not worked her entire like paying taxes for others to recieve these benefits and befell hard times. If she has or has not worked in her life quite frankly it is none of your business. Perhaps she has a disability. You do not know what people go through in their lives. You sound spoiled and judgemental to me. People go through things, people suffer at times, maybe she was buying some snacks for her grandkids… you do not know, therefore do not judge. You want to come online and rant, where was your nerve standing next to her to say anything? You wouldnt confront her then, don’t come online ranting and whining.
    There are people on foodstamps who have full-time jobs, there are people who lost their jobs and are looking for work, there are college students, single mothers and fathers and yes there are those who take advantage of the system. People come in all different kinds. You do not know someones situation.
    I have been a government employee for years and years. I do not mind the little money that has been taken from my check each week to help those in need. I do not mind standing in the freezing cold ringing a bell for the salvation army to help the needy. Why, because what if I fell on hard times? I do not mind the money that comes out of my checks which helps my elderly grandmother survive.
    Why don’t you look at the whole picture before you judge.
    OMG she bought some chocolate and some popcorn, lets persecute her, judge her and think she is a bad person.
    Do you think usage is not monitored? Do a little research, get some knowledge on the system. There are home visits, office visits, phone interviews, checks with utilities, landlords, wage inquiries through WorkOne. Scammers are caught and prosecuted. I work in this system, I know about this system.
    Grow up and stop whining.

  41. About the food stamp thing. I worked for 45 years and struggled to make a living and was one of those taxpayers. then I had to retire at 62 because I have digenerative disc disease and can no longer work. which I wanted to work until I was a least 65 but I just couldn’t because of the severe pain. I am not complaining just letting you know. Therefore I am in a situation that I had to apply for some kind of assistance and yes food stamps. I just received my card and have not used it yet. I kind of felt guilty at first but I think I paid enough taxes in my lifetime to receive some help.
    Someday JLP you might be in that situation.

  42. Q: Unless your parents were rich, how did you pay for college (besides student loans)?

    A: Financial Aid…aka,GOVERNMENT MONEY. She and her husbands hard earned dollars were being taxed to put you through college, and now you’re complaining that she is buying soda with your hard earned tax dollars? Wow, I’m normally not big on cursing, but you’re a piece of shit.

    Remember, if it wasn’t for her and her Frito buying friends, you would be in the same position, buying chips and soda with your Texan star card for you and your fat wife.

  43. How about the fact that people on food stamps cannot afford high quality or expensive food. They had a food stamp challenge in Colorado I think it was, if I remember correctly. A social worker took the challenge… She couldn’t even exist on it. If you are on federal assiatance , you are going to buy the cheap stuff because that is all you can afford. GROCERIES are high. How about a gallon of milk ? At least 3.50 even at Walmart unless on sale. Sure you can buy cheap hot dogs or other low quality and non nutritional food. A box of cereal at least 2.50… So perhaps those candy bars and chips were her “Lunch.” By the way most people don’t always eat healthy nutritional food but like to go out and eat at the junk food places and like their candy bars and donuts with their coffee or the candy bar at the vending machine when they don’t have time for a lunch break.. It is something akin to those in glass houses should perhaps not throw stones?

  44. No nuthin’s can make assumptions but the fact is many who do get assistance from the government are the working poor or on disability and live well below the poverty line…SSI (Max payment is 674.00) You might be eating candy bars and fritos too if that is all you could afford.Something else that is relevant for people who actually do the homework and read and educate themselves: This is dated back to April 2008 but the rising cost of food is a concern for many Americans: Go to Walmart and a gallon of milk cost at least 3.50
    Poll: Food costs a major worry for consumers
    Updated 4/25/2008 9:55 AM

    Elinor Mantin shops for groceries at Lorenzo’s Supermarket in North Miami, Fla.

    AREAS OF CONCERN

    Some 73% of Americans cite food when asked to specify what they’ve noticed getting more expensive. Specific food items and the percentage of people expressing concern about their rising price:

    Milk: 19% Eggs: 4%

    Produce: 7% Dairy products1: 2%

    Meat: 5% Cereal: 1%

    Bread: 4% Coffee: 1%

    1 – other than milk. Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,016 American adults April 18-20. Margin of error +/- 3 percentage points.

    By Sue Kirchhoff, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON — Rising food prices are a significant worry for Americans, with 73% of consumers in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll citing higher grocery bills as a concern, and nearly half saying food inflation has caused a hardship for their households.
    According to the April 18-20 poll of 1,016 adults, food prices rank just below record-high gasoline prices in consumer angst. Eighty percent of those polled also noted energy prices as a concern.

    “I’ll drive farther, even though gas is higher, if there’s a bigger price savings at another store,” says Anna Thomas of Austin, Ind. She and her husband can handle rising food prices with planning, though it’s a pinch. “It’s hard on us, but it’s harder for families with kids,” Thomas says.

    RATIONING: Sam’s Club limiting amount of rice you can buy

    Consumer food inflation has been running at a 5.3% annual rate in the past three months, the Labor Department says. The largest price increases are white bread, up 16.3% in the past 12 months; milk, which has risen 13.3%; eggs, up 34.8%; and bananas, which are 17% higher.

    Prices are being influenced by several factors, including rising U.S. exports, growing demand in nations such as China and India, poor crops in some important producing countries such as Australia, and the emergence of the biofuels industry. Economists predict a third of the U.S. corn crop will be diverted to government-subsidized ethanol production.

    Corn, wheat, soybeans and other grain prices have surged to records this year, though prices have moderated in recent days on expectation of increased planting. While the higher prices have hurt Americans, who devote about 10% of take-home pay for food, they have been devastating for consumers in nations such as Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt and India, who spend a larger share of their budget to maintain a basic diet. The United Nations World Food Program said Tuesday that high food prices threaten to plunge more than 100 million people into hunger.

    It’s not just consumers feeling the heat. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees futures markets, held a hearing Tuesday to address concerns from farmers and the food industry that increased involvement of Wall Street investors in grain markets has increased price volatility and uncertainty. CFTC officials in opening statements generally didn’t call for new trading restrictions.

    According to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 46% of respondents say higher food prices have caused a hardship, including 10% who said they’ve created a severe hardship. By comparison, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll last month showed high gasoline prices causing hardship for 63%.

    “The higher food prices, while noticeable, aren’t a hardship for me,” says Rick Pabst of Fullerton, Calif. “There’re a lot of people who live at the margin. … It’s the staples prices going up (for them) that worries me. We’re all interconnected.”

  45. Also though this dates back to April /08 , we are still feeling the crunch today. Alot of people getting “assistance” are the working poor or people on disability or social security(SSI,max payment is 674.00) Try living below the poverty line and see if you can make it. Be a little old lady who lives on some small pension and can’t afford nutritious food for example. Or someone out of a job…..? Do your homework and read for God sake.

    Poll: Food costs a major worry for consumers
    Updated 4/25/2008 9:55 AM |
    Elinor Mantin shops for groceries at Lorenzo’s Supermarket in North Miami, Fla.

    AREAS OF CONCERN

    Some 73% of Americans cite food when asked to specify what they’ve noticed getting more expensive. Specific food items and the percentage of people expressing concern about their rising price:

    Milk: 19% Eggs: 4%

    Produce: 7% Dairy products1: 2%

    Meat: 5% Cereal: 1%

    Bread: 4% Coffee: 1%

    1 – other than milk. Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,016 American adults April 18-20. Margin of error +/- 3 percentage points.

    By Sue Kirchhoff, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON — Rising food prices are a significant worry for Americans, with 73% of consumers in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll citing higher grocery bills as a concern, and nearly half saying food inflation has caused a hardship for their households.
    According to the April 18-20 poll of 1,016 adults, food prices rank just below record-high gasoline prices in consumer angst. Eighty percent of those polled also noted energy prices as a concern.

    “I’ll drive farther, even though gas is higher, if there’s a bigger price savings at another store,” says Anna Thomas of Austin, Ind. She and her husband can handle rising food prices with planning, though it’s a pinch. “It’s hard on us, but it’s harder for families with kids,” Thomas says.

    RATIONING: Sam’s Club limiting amount of rice you can buy

    Consumer food inflation has been running at a 5.3% annual rate in the past three months, the Labor Department says. The largest price increases are white bread, up 16.3% in the past 12 months; milk, which has risen 13.3%; eggs, up 34.8%; and bananas, which are 17% higher.

    Prices are being influenced by several factors, including rising U.S. exports, growing demand in nations such as China and India, poor crops in some important producing countries such as Australia, and the emergence of the biofuels industry. Economists predict a third of the U.S. corn crop will be diverted to government-subsidized ethanol production.

    Corn, wheat, soybeans and other grain prices have surged to records this year, though prices have moderated in recent days on expectation of increased planting. While the higher prices have hurt Americans, who devote about 10% of take-home pay for food, they have been devastating for consumers in nations such as Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt and India, who spend a larger share of their budget to maintain a basic diet. The United Nations World Food Program said Tuesday that high food prices threaten to plunge more than 100 million people into hunger.

    It’s not just consumers feeling the heat. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees futures markets, held a hearing Tuesday to address concerns from farmers and the food industry that increased involvement of Wall Street investors in grain markets has increased price volatility and uncertainty. CFTC officials in opening statements generally didn’t call for new trading restrictions.

    According to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 46% of respondents say higher food prices have caused a hardship, including 10% who said they’ve created a severe hardship. By comparison, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll last month showed high gasoline prices causing hardship for 63%.

    “The higher food prices, while noticeable, aren’t a hardship for me,” says Rick Pabst of Fullerton, Calif. “There’re a lot of people who live at the margin. … It’s the staples prices going up (for them) that worries me. We’re all interconnected.”

  46. Foodstamp abuse is like anything else, the bad apples spoil the whole bunch. No, not everyone abuses the system, but there are plenty that do. For instance, I did a guys taxes that made over 100 grand for that year, and the following yr. he was self employeed and made about the same amount, but most of it was cash. He gets 900 foodstamps, medicaid for himself, wife, and 3 kids, wic for the 3 kids, and both drive nice vehicles, both have blackberry phones, and satellite, wireless internet, the whole 9 yards. My husband works and we struggle to make ends meet, and these people live a great life, go on vacations, buy new clothes, never do without. She has her electric bill paid by 2 different places, and they give her a check, made out to her, so, she takes one of the checks and makes her car payment, and the other she pays her electric bill with. Do you think this is right???

  47. Virginia Owens March 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I have been in the grocery business 22 plus years. Obviously I see what goes into the food stamp voucher. There has to be some reform. Typically you can tell who appriates the public assistance by what they buy. They buy the things that will get them the most for their money. Everyday young people come in and get our deli made subs with the most expensive meat line we have. Can’ they make their own sandwich? Our bakery items are not off limits either. Our cakes range from 15.00 and up. Cake mixes are a little more than a dollar a box. I get a little tired watching the abuse of the system when I work every day and help them support a life style of food items that I would hesitate to get because of the cost. Then if someting is not in that guideline I get an attitude. My mother just lost her husband of 61 years. Because she owns a home and a car I can gaurantee you she would not qualify for the food stamp program. She lives on social security of 1200.00 a month and still she would not qualify. I don’t want you to think that I don’t believe in helping people who really need the help, I certainly do. But I have a bit of a problem seeing a $200.00 wedding cake being purchased on an EBT card. I have also witnessed amounts left on the card of over #1000.00. How??? is that possible. What is wrong with this equation? I’m tired of supporting people that won’t try to help themselves. PS MOst of the young people I spoke of earlier have enough gold jewlery on to choke a cow.