Monday, September 12, 2011

A picture worth a thousand words. Food Stamps

Look at this picture. what do you think is the topic of the story that accompanies this photo? Smoking perhaps?  That is what I first thought when I saw the picture, but this is the picture on the front page of the Local section of The Tennessean yesterday accompanying a story titled, "Many older adults scramble to pay for food."

I know it is not politically correct to think such things but I immediately thought, that if she can afford to smoke, she doesn't need food stamps. The story says that 56 year old Therese Marrs was laid off from her factory job in February and has been unable to find work. Her household consist of she, her husband and their 16 year old daughter. The article does not say how much her husband earns. It does report however that she is receiving unemployment.  I think things like how much her husband earns and how much she receives in food stamps would be relevant to the story but apparently the author did not. The story's focus is that many baby boomers have been hit especially hard by the recession and many have had to turn to food stamps to survive.

To qualify for food stamps a family of three has to earn below $1984 a month or $23808 a year. If she is receiving $250 a week unemployment, that would mean her husband could not be earning over $10884 annually and they still qualify for food stamps. Something does not add up. The article does say her husband "recently" got a job. I wonder if they are still legally eligible for food stamps. If the household is now earning over $23808 they should not be getting those food stamps. Did he fail to report the change in income?

That aside however, what is it costing her to smoke? Assume a pack of cigarettes cost $4.84 a pack and assume she smokes two packs a day that comes to $290.40 a month. If she is making the maximum allowable to collect food stamps (1983.99) her two-pack a day habit is 15% of her family income. Assume her husband has a two-pack a day habit and cigarettes are eating up 29% of their income. Assume the 16-year old smokes a pack every other day and that adds another $72.60 and makes cigarettes eat up  $653.46 of their $1983.99 income or 33% of the family budget.

The reporter didn't tell us much about the finances of the Marrs household, but if we assume Mr Marrs is working but getting their food stamps legally, then he must be making right under the maximum limit so the household would get only about $112 in food stamps. If food stamps were awarded when he was not working, they could be receiving about $460 worth of food stamps.

Use of food stamps are at a historic high in this country with one in eight Americans on Food Stamps. This cannot continue. I believe those in the other party have a goal of making more and more Americans dependent on government hand outs.  If you are receiving food stamps or getting some other government hand out, then you are more likely to vote for the party that promises you more, not the party that promises government frugality. If the goal is to turn the whole country into a citizenry who are subjects, dependent on government largess, they are close to achieving that goal.

Do I think that food stamps should not go to people who smoke?  I am not sure I am there yet, but if we reach a point at which we must began curtailing food stamp outlays, I would give preference to those who do not smoke. If one has money to spend on cable TV, the lottery, beer, or cigarettes, I question if they really need food stamps.

One thing, I do think the government should do is vigorously investigate fraud and abuse. I would estimate that about 40% of all food stamp outlays result from fraud. I have little to base that on except my own observations. I admit it is just a guess. Working in a field which puts me in close contact with low-income people, I know that these abuses are very common.
  • The "babydaddy" lives in the home and has income, but the Mom and child receive food stamps not reporting his income. 
  • The babydaddy does not live in the home and does not pay child support but voluntarily gives the mom money each month. This is not reported in calculating food stamps.
  • Food stamps are used as currency. Food stamps are not actually issued any more. The recipient gets a debit card and a pin number. The person getting the food stamps will sell to others the use of his card. The going rate in Nashville is $100 of food stamps for $50.
  • Two or three generations of single moms will live in one house and get food stamps as if they were separate families although they are one household.
  • People will qualify for food stamps legitimately but then not report their new income when they do get a job and will continue getting food stamps long after they are ineligible. 
  • A lot of people, such as taxi cab drivers and beauticians, not only cheat on their income tax, by not reporting all of their income but they also draw food stamps because they under report their income.

Back to the picture: I also noticed that the women in the picture has a flat screen TV and is overweight. Not that that should disqualify her from food stamps, but this picture is almost a caricature of a food stamp recipient. What were they thinking?

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  1. Of course, the woman could be Buying The Tobacco In Bulk and then rolling her own - like I do [ costing about $10.00 a carton ]... The Flat Screen Television was probably bought when times were much better... she could be using A Digital Antennae [ providing her crisp and free programming for years to come ]... and on, and on, it goes.

    Your string of assumptions are actually quite reasonable, considering Our Economic Crisis. However, they are just that - ASSUMPTIONS!

    Why do you assume the worst in your fellow human beings? You can just as easily - assume the best of them!

    I agree, that many Americans are probably gaming the system. But, don't fool yourself, the really bad culprits are at the top of The Economic Pyramid!

    They say, that that the top 5 percent of Americans pay 50 percent of the taxes; and this certainly true... after all, they have the receipts to prove it. But, where do they get the money to pay it from? The Consumers!

    Tax The Landlord, and up goes the rent... Tax The Oil Man, and up go the fuel prices... Tax The Corporation, and either: the prices go up, the level of service goes down, or the jobs go overseas. So, who really pays those taxes? The people at the bottom!

  2. Facts about America's 'poor' from the Heritage Foundation. This woman is not alone.