We all hear it every day, “I saw this guy who is obviously able to work, he’s healthy and young, and he’s using food stamps in the store.” They are always buying extravagant items such as steak and lobster and in many cases, purchasing cigarettes and beer with food stamps as well. Let’s not bother with the fact that in order to purchase items not eligible under the SNAP program one would need to operate in collusion with the retailer and I hardly think that grocers are making deals with hundreds of food stamp recipients to defraud the government.
In their continuing campaign to discredit those receiving SNAP benefits Fox News has trotted out Rich Lowry of National Review Online to bolster their argument that the program is rife with abuse and corruption. Once more they ran their footage of California surfer “Jason” who they present as a typical food stamp recipient. Their cameras follow “Jason” as he purchases lobster, steak and other exotic and expensive food items. These items are actually legitimate purchases with food stamps but they are hardly typical. People relying on any kind of government assistance are highly unlikely to make such purchases, much more likely is a lot of pasta, potatoes and the least costly cuts of meat.
Lowry, of course was more than willing to be the team player asserting that, the “…government has gone out and deliberately eroded the natural sense of stigma Americans feel about being on the dole in any form and that’s a disgrace.”
Kirsten Powers replied, “That’s kinda like the homeless guy that lives in a mansion… but the Center on Budget and Policy did a study and found that 87% of the people that were receiving SNAP benefits had worked the previous year and then the following year…” I have a feeling that those people are feeling somewhat stigmatized by having no choice but to rely on assistance of any sort.
Bill O’Reilly, in keeping with Fox policy on those in need says that food stamp availability encourages people to ‘Take As Much As They Want’ .
Those in service industries, such as fast food workers comprise a large proportion of those who have employment yet make so little that they must rely on SNAP to keep food on the table. Fox Business’s Charles Payne said recently of them and their one day strike in NYC, that raising their wages to $15 an hour was tantamount to rewarding them for mediocrity and that we should be encouraging them to find better jobs rather than raising wages and getting them off of food stamps.
Just last week Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma told a town hall meeting the story of how he saw a very fit and well dressed young couple ahead of him in line at the supermarket who proceeded to pay for their cart full of groceries with “that card.” He went on to say that he looked up and down the line of registers and saw that almost everyone was paying with “that card” and when he attempted to pay with cash the cashier seemed not to know what to do with an actual cash payment.
Mullin is a perfect example of why these people are not qualified to talk about the program. He is the one who is out of touch with the real world if he thinks that everyone in the store paying with a card is using an EBT card and that the use is so prevalent that cashiers are surprised by a cash payment. He is partly right, the cashier is not used to processing a cash payment since the majority of purchases made today are made using a debit card. From the vantage point of a checkout line one cannot tell if the person at the head of the line is using an EBT or his own personal debit card and that is even more true of those at other checkouts.
It is time to stop demonizing those who are forced to rely on the safety nets and fix the economy and the business environment that allows, nay, causes the increased need for food stamps.
Watch the video, courtesy of Media Matters: