By David Paulin
Nearly 15 percent of the population -- 45.8 million people - were on the food-stamp dole in August, the Wall Street Journal reported. How come?
According to the paper, it's all because of the horrible economy, with the number of people on food stamps having risen 8.1 percent in the past year.
What the WSJ doesn't mention is that the exploding use of food stamps has much to do with changing attitudes over the years about what food-stamp recipients are entitled to -- and that now includes junk food and sugary drinks. In addition, soaring levels of fraud have helped to drive soaring food-stamp use, according to a recent Op-Ed in The Journal, "The Food-Stamp Crime Wave." (Do WSJ reporters read their paper's Op-Ed page?)
Interestingly, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried some months ago to stop the use of food stamps for sugary beverages like soda pop in an effort to curb exploding levels of diabetes and obesity among New Yorkers. However, the Obama administration rejected Bloomberg's proposal for eliminating soda. Among other things, administration bureaucrats claimed Bloomberg's plan lacked "a clear and practical means to determine product eligibility, which is essential to avoid retailer confusion at point-of-sale and stigma (emphasis added) for affected clients."
Stigma? Now that's an interesting word, because there is no stigma left anymore for those using food stamps, which incidentally are no longer actually "stamps" but debit cards that you swipe like a credit card. And food-stamp cards can buy just about anything your stomach desires. Nationwide, 6 percent of food stamp benefits are spent on sugary beverages, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program and that was the source of the WSJ's statistics about soaring levels of food-stamp use.
As to fraud, that WSJ Op-Ed by James Bovard noted that "The number of food-stamp recipients has soared to 44 million from 26 million in 2007. Not surprisingly, fraud and abuse are rampant."
Among other things, he explained:
Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income. Thirty-five states have abolished asset tests for most food-stamp recipients. These and similar "paperwork reduction" reforms advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are turning the food-stamp program into a magnet for abuses and absurdities.
Ultimately, soaring food-stamp use is not just another anti-poverty program for the Obama administration. It's all about "spreading the wealth around."
Unfortunately, poor people who really need food stamps must now endure the "stigma" of being lumped together with the many deadbeats now on the food-stamp dole.
Originally published at The American Thinker blog