Monday, February 13, 2012

Media Monday - Food Stamps

Last week a disturbing report was released stating that 45.8 million are now receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) benefits.  To receive assistance from the program a single American has to have a demonstrated income of $14,088 per year.  If they qualify, they receive benefits of up to $133 per month.  A family of four must have an income of less than $28,668 and may receive benefits of up to $290 per month.

In order to put the severity of the issue in context, if who received the benefit represented a country, it would be the 27th largest nation in the world.  There are 11 states in which one in five are receiving benefits (figure 1).  While some contend that number in increasing because of fraud, the Department of Agriculture based on a study of electronic purchase tracking stated that 96% of revenues have been spent as per program guidelines.

Figure 1 - Percentage of Americans on 'Food Stamps' By State

Perhaps the most telling argument was written by Bill Schiller in the Toronto Star.  In his article he notes the following,

In the first minutes of each month, food stamp purchases at 24-hour Wal-Marts across the country surge as Food Stamp Nation drives through the dark to purchase sorely needed food.

“Our sales for those first few hours on the first day of the month are substantially and significantly higher,” Wal-Mart CEO William S. Simon told a Goldman Sachs conference 18 months ago. “If you really think about it, the only reason somebody goes out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it — and they’ve been waiting for it.”

No matter what your political affiliation, when a nation as wealthy as the USA  has 15% of its population is on a social assistance program due to poverty, perhaps there needs to be a reexamination of the system.

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