Surf and Turf Law: Are New Rules Fair?
The Welfare system has been a concern in the United States since its insception during the Great Depression. Although absolutely not the only country to have such as system, it is considered by most people to be one of the most disfunctional. We are entering an election year and as usual the public systems in the United States are on the debate and will bewatched closly by all. But underneath the pomp and arguements of the poltiicans are the actual results of the system. Below, two of our auhtors chop away at the fat (or lack there of) of Food Stamps, while doing our best to not be Judgey.
Welfare: Meant to Keep People Alive, Not Happy
Recently a number of states have instituted laws regarding how recipients can spend welfare money. These states have also been taking a lot of flak. In particular, the Washington Post blasts republican representative Rick Brattin from Missouri for his “Surf and Turf” law proposal. Brattin isn’t the first either, at least ten states by the writing of this article have passed laws restricting the use of Welfare benefits. These laws expand on those already in place from the federal government, which forbids welfare money from use for things like cigarettes, liquor stores, and strips clubs. I completely fail to see how Washington Post writer Dana Milbank in the above linked article finds this a cruel thing. Welfare originated during the Great Depression as an effort to keep people, especially children, from starving to death. After the economy recovered, it remained in place and adapted for when working men and women met unexpected and often unfair TEMPORARY challenges. Franklin D. Roosevelt never intended it to be long term or to sustain any individual. It absolutely was never intended to keep people happy and satisfied with life, it was intended to keep people alive long enough to get back on their feet and working again. So why should people on welfare be allowed to spend tax money on things like crab and steak (hence the Surf and Turf)?
Some states, like New York , even have systems that allow welfare recipients to withdraw their benefits into cash! That is simply foolish. Whenever I walk into 7-11, I see items like Cheetos and Pepsi covered by EBT (a debit card system for welfare). You know convenience stores and gas stations charge high prices for things like snacks. At Food Lion you can get a CASE of water for what 7-11 charges for Cheetos. I love them, you love them, but Cheetos are not food. If you are hard on your luck and need tax funded help to get you through a tough spot, which should you (in good conscience and simple logic) buy?
I consider myself a progressive. I support equal marriage laws for all people in love, a national health care system, and freedom of speech and human rights. I also support the welfare system, for what it was intended. I have also been seriously poor as well. At one time in my life I was crippled by debt and for over a year lived off of $15 a week for food. It was hard, I was always hungry. I did not go to strip clubs or buy Cheetos. But I made it through, got out of debt, and got back on track. Mainly through hard work and the occasional treated dinner from friends. I never went on welfare, but I probably should have. I would have been healthier. My point is that every person has the potential to stumble, and as a society it is our responsibility as brothers and sisters to help pick each other up, dust off the road, and help. It is not our responsibility to fund steak dinners and Pringles and beer to people who have quite trying. Poor does not mean pathetic, but no one should be happy and satisfied on welfare. It should be hard, it should suck, people should want to be off it ASAP.
The food stamp program provides needed assistance to Americans who can’t quite make ends meet. The program, like many federal welfare programs, originated in the Great Depression. After lapsing in the immediate post-WW2 years, the program was re-started in the years preceding the Great Society programs of President Johnson.
The modern incarnation of the program has always been controversial. Early concerns focused on the lack of uniform standards of the program. As time went on, Congress continued to tweak the eligibility requirements concerning income, household assets and other factors. But in the mind of the public, the perception that food stamp recipients were receiving unearned benefits loomed large.
The Food Stamp program is administered by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and its funding is tied to overall agricultural funding including farm subsidies. Because one of the main missions of the USDA is supporting agricultural production and the food insdustry, its not surprising that the types of foods eligible for purchase with food stamps (now EBT - Electronic Benefits Transfer) has expanded. Due to lobbying by restaurants, many fresh prepared foods are eligible for EBT purchase including McDonalds and even 7-11 hotdogs.
As both the eligibility criteria have expanded and the types of foods available for purchase have increased, the media has focused on stories designed to stoke moral outrage. For example, many news outlets focused on the story of one California man who bought lobster using his food stamps. What outraged people was the fact that the man was under-employed and content to use food stamps not for necessities but for luxuries. There is pressure to reduce the types of food eligible for EBT purchase due to stories like this.
However, the outrage is misplaced. The Food Stamp program isn’t meant to be punitive, and restricting food choices because one doesn’t agree with what is purchased is very paternalistic. Would the same people objecting to purchasing McDonald's be in favor of restricting food stamps being used only for organic foods? What about foods that are approved by the FDA as healthy? The end result is that the debate over food stamps has become a proxy fight over government dependence.
But even in Cuba, under a socialist government that imposes an income limit, the government recognizes that small luxuries loom large. Two U.S. journalists recently traveled to Cuba and video-taped a two hour line to get ice cream at a government store. Most Americans would probably object to a government policy restricting ice cream to one flavor and a two hour line to get it. If food stamps are restricted to prohibit unhealthy, sugary or too luxurious foods, poor Americans would have fewer food choices than Cubans. It would be an ironic result for a program that was intended to bolster consumption if it ended up restricting food choices instead.