Food Stamps for Cash / by kevin murray

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but better known as food stamps, is a godsend for people that are suffering from unemployment, ill health, low income and the like, because it is a program that provides an (Electronic Benefits Transfer) EBT card to individuals and to families that allows them to purchase food from their local grocery store.  On the surface, this sounds like a wonderful thing; after all, food is necessary for the body, necessary for good health, and seeing that the United States is the "bread basket" of the entire world, almost an obligation that the United States must provide to its less fortunate denizens.


There is a significant problem with this program, though, in which there are obvious winners and losers within this institution along with the $79.6 billion dollars that was doled out through SNAP in fiscal year 2013.  Some of the biggest winners aren't necessarily the obvious ones, such as farmers, distributors, truckers, lobbyists, and the grocery stores themselves, yet the fact of the matter is, the more money that the government "gives away" in a certain industry, the more money that business and its respective constituents will reap.   That is to say, of course people need to eat and to purchase food, but if there is an extra $79.6 billion or a subset of $79.6 billion that is added to the pie, that will make an appreciable difference to all of the players in the food business industry.


Another problem with the food stamp program is that food stamps are sold, transferred, and bartered all the time.  The average selling price for food stamps in my neighborhood is 50 cents to the dollar.  One might ask how is it possible that impoverished people could even contemplate selling food or the equivalent of food for cash and at such a significant discount.  While there are lots of answers depending upon individual circumstances, quite commonly the biggest reason is that the recipient of the food stamps doesn't need all that money-equity locked into food stamps, in which they would prefer to have discounted cash in exchange to purchase something else of more worth to them.


This would strongly imply that our current food stamp program is too liberal in its benefits and is consequently being abused by some of its intended recipients.  In fact, the average monthly participants receiving food stamps has nearly doubled over the last ten years, which is an astonishing increase for a country that has in theory, recovered from its economic recession.  A sensible bill has been proffered, in which food stamp recipients would be required to have their photo ID attached to their EBT card which would undoubtedly cut down on these types of third-party sales and consequently on the fraudulent usage of food stamps, but the passage of such a bill seems doubtful, since the status quo would much prefer the structure as it currently is.


Of course, you could make a very strong argument that when you place what is in essence the equivalency of money, even discounted money, into the hands of people, that they will use said money as they see fit as opposed to what the intended usage is.  This is the essential problem of a handout which can be monetized as compared to a handout that is merely a bridge to get a particular good or service.  So when it comes to our food stamp program, expect more of the same, after all it does help to pacify the underclass as well as providing extra revenue to important powerful institutions.