Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Looking for a growth industry...try Food Stamps.

Just read an article in the Wall Street Journal that had me  teetering on the razor's edge between laughter and tears. I'll save you the trouble of reading it by offering this summary:

Apparently, some senator from Alabama introduced a bill designed to reign in some of the inefficiencies of the sprawling food stamp program. You've heard of food stamps, right? That's the fastest growing government program in history,  the one that is projected to spend 700 BILLION dollars over the next decade, and whose use has skyrocketed over the last 3 years or so because of the recession. Well, hard to believe, but it seems that eligibility standards have become ridiculously generous lately, to the point where people with million dollar homes, with nobody in the job market and tens of thousands of dollars in liquid assets, are now eating free food courtesy of the tax-payer. In addition, the federal government has begun paying states bonuses totally over 500 million dollars for aggressively enrolling people in the food stamp program. The effect of the reforms introduced by Senator Sessions of Alabama would have resulted in savings of 20 billion dollars in the program over the next ten years. That's right...his modest proposal would have trimmed a whopping 2.8% over ten years, a crippling .28% reduction in spending every year. In today's Washington, that doesn't even qualify as a rounding error. With trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, this might have qualified as the tiniest of baby steps in the long journey we face back to fiscal health. Each of his reforms went down to defeat by votes of  56-43 and 58-41, with every self-described "deficit-hawk" in the democratic party voting against.

I begrudge none of my fellow citizens food in time of crisis. Food stamps can provide a literal life line to those in desperate straights. But, as is often the case with well-intentioned charitable efforts, something has gone wrong with a program designed to prevent starvation and mal-nutrition among the indigent, when it has turned into a middle class entitlement. Besides, I'm confused. Is our problem one of starvation, hunger and malnutrition, or is it the epidemic of obesity? Our first lady is daily chastising us for our cro-magnon eating habits, disastrous food choices, and appalling lack of exercise.

I must allso here mention the fact that if we are going to throw money around I would much prefer that money to be thrown around on food stamps than to see it lavished on car manufacturers, banks, and brokerage firms who are "too big to fail". Still, it is disheartening to see how unserious our representatives in Washington are to our budget deficit and the mountains of debt it is creating. When a .28% yearly reduction in a 70 billion dollar program goes down to defeat amidst cries of "cold-heartedness" ..we are in deep trouble.

So...to cry or laugh...that is the question.