I know how much it bugs
you when someone who is poor has the audacity to have a tattoo. After all,
those things are expensive, and if those poor people can afford to ink up their
bodies, they sure as hell shouldn’t be entitled to any assistance with food.
They also shouldn’t have cell phones and cable TV, and they definitely shouldn’t
be driving a car that’s newer than ten years old.
I understand exactly how you feel because, see, I’ve witnessed it all firsthand. For most of my adult life I’ve worked in the retail grocery business, and I’ve watched how these welfare recipients work the system. I’ve seen how they reproduce like rabbits just so they can get a bigger food stamp benefit each month. Some have four or five kids, all by different fathers, and they get about five or six hundred bucks worth of food stamps each month. And the things they buy! Candy bars. Ice cream. Energy drinks! Some even have the nerve to buy shrimp and steak on the taxpayer dime.
There’s something that is kind of interesting about these food stamp recipients, though. Unlike the big businesses that get taxpayer subsidies and pocket their humongous profits, these poor people, well, they actually spend each and every dime of their benefit every single month. And you know what? When they do that, it really increases the sales of the businesses I’ve worked for. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that contrary to popular belief, it never is the business that creates jobs, it’s the customers. The more customers a store has, the more hours they’re allotted to schedule their employees. The more hours they have, the more employees they need.
Then interestingly, these workers who’ve been employed to stock shelves, run cash registers, and manufacture these products that the food stamp customers are buying, turn around and go out to spend the money they’ve earned in their paychecks. Most of these workers are not wealthy. Lord knows a retail establishment like a grocery store can’t possibly afford to pay its employees much more than minimum wage. So these low wage employees spend the majority of the money they make…well, usually ALL of it. They don’t have any left over to save. And by spending this money, it creates even more jobs. And guess what? All these workers also have to pay taxes!
Then, I know this is hard to believe, but those same poor people I mentioned earlier, the ones who have four or five kids and get a butt-load of food stamps, they have jobs, too. See, there is this rule…a law, actually…that went into effect while Bill Clinton was president. The law is that unless you are disabled or retired, you cannot receive food stamps unless you work. I think they called it “welfare reform” or something like that. I remember Clinton giving a speech where he said “the era of big government is over.” So these welfare recipients, the ones with the tattoos, cell phones, and cable TV, they all have jobs, and they all are also spending almost every cent they make back into the economy.
I’m not sure why the government allows people on food stamps to buy energy drinks and candy bars. In all seriousness, I don’t think it’s a great policy, and we might do well to revise the system to prevent this kind of abuse. But it’s not because I’m worried about wasted tax dollars. It’s because those products aren’t healthy. I’d much rather see those recipients use the money to buy fruit, vegetables, meat, canned goods, etc.
Some have complained that the food stamp recipients spend a lot of money on cigarettes and beer, and if they can afford these things, then surely they should be able to pay for their own food. Yeah, I guess you have point, but I also know that a disproportionate percentage of poor people, whether on food stamps or not, are smokers compared to middle and upper income folks. There are a lot of reasons for this, and as someone who has smoked for many years myself, I understand how difficult it is to break a nicotine addiction. But regardless how you might feel about smoking and drinking, the reality is that when determining eligibility for food stamp benefits, these habits are not factored into the equation that’s used to establish qualification for food assistance. Neither is cell phone expense, cable TV, or tattoos.
And speaking of tattoos, I believe they’re permanent. If a person gets a tattoo when they are young (and often foolish) they’re still going to have that same tattoo ten or twenty years later. Simply because someone has a tattoo doesn’t mean they got it recently.
I’m a taxpayer, and I’ve worked hard all my life. I don’t like the idea of my hard earned money going to freeloaders who are too lazy to work. But it’s not the poor people who get food stamps that upset me. It’s the huge corporations who get subsidies and enormous tax breaks, who pay little or no taxes themselves due to loopholes, that bother me. The percentage of tax dollars we spend on food for the poor in minuscule.
Is there abuse? Sure. Is there room for improvement in the system? Absolutely. But let’s focus on the bigger picture. Poor and middle class people getting angry at poorer people because we don’t like the choices they make is just petty. It’s a distraction, and it isn’t helpful. What really needs to change is not the food stamp program. It’s the system that allows for such drastic income inequality, that allows a tiny percentage of the population to amass enormous amounts of money while the numbers of those in poverty continue to ever increase.
Posted by Jeff Erno.