Subscribe

Why the government shouldn't tell people how to use food stamps

Restricting food stamps to use on certain foods is only fair if we put restrictions on dozens of other programs that assist people —to attend school, save for retirement, buy homes, take care of their children. Instead, let’s trust Americans to use that assistance as they see fit and not tell them how to live their lives. 

  • close
    A shelf of diet and regular soft drinks in a refrigerator at K & D Market in San Francisco. Missouri State Representative Rick Brattin (R-55) has proposed a bill that would prohibit Missourians who participate in the SNAP food stamp program from using their benefits to buy “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.
    Jeff Chiu/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Missouri State Representative Rick Brattin (R-55) has proposed a bill that would prohibit Missourians who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) from using their benefits to buy “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.” But why stop at food stamps? Let’s limit beneficiaries’ use of all federal benefits.

Start with an easy one: unemployment benefits. No spending that money on a new suit for job interviews. That old sport coat or pantsuit will be fine.

How about crop subsidies? Some farmers buy fancy farm implements with GPS and air-conditioned cabs. No more of that. And no spending those subsidies on high tech seeds, fertilizers, and weed killers.

But I’m a tax guy and want to focus on tax benefits. The earned income credit (EITC) is a good place to start—it can use the same rules Representative Brattin has proposed for food stamps. And do the same for the child credit—kids don’t need the omega-3 that they’d get from seafood.

The child care credit? No spending it on private nannies or daycare centers that feed into those tony private schools. Public daycare centers should be fine.

Education credits and deductions for tuition and interest on student loans? No using those to study classics or English lit. Every student getting educational assistance should require to major in a STEM subject. That might even yield a positive return for the government—those majors are the ones getting good jobs these days and they’ll pay lots of taxes.

One of my favorites: the mortgage interest deduction. Some people use the savings to buy houses with Jacuzzi tubs, walk-in wine cellars, and his-and-her master bathrooms. No more of that. People getting a tax break on their mortgages should settle for a tract home no larger than 1,500 square feet with one bathroom and no garage.

Okay, you get my point. Just because you get benefits from the government doesn’t mean the government should tell you how to use them. Maybe Representative Brattin really did see “people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs” with food stamps and maybe he really can’t afford to buy those items. But maybe, just maybe, the person had saved up and was buying them for a special occasion. You can’t afford to buy much food, much less very much expensive food, on a food stamp budget. The average daily benefit in Missouri last year was just $4 per person per day.

Congress created the various federal programs that assist people in many ways—to attend school, save for retirement, buy homes, take care of their children, and, yes, eat. Let’s trust them to use that assistance as they see fit and not tell them how to live their lives. 

The post Why Stop At Food Stamps? Let’s Limit Use Of All Federal Benefits appeared first on TaxVox.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on taxvox.taxpolicycenter.org.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK