Policy wonk food stamp extravaganza!

None of the policy talking heads will discuss doing away with food stamps, but they'll argue for hours about whether recipients should be able to use them to buy soda.

Edward Reed / New York City Mayor's Office / AP
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, and New York Gov. David Paterson, center, unveil an initiative excluding sugar-sweetened beverages from food stamp purchases on Oct. 7 in Brooklyn. Bloomberg and Paterson are seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the nation's food stamp program, to add sugary drinks to the list of prohibited goods for city residents receiving assistance.

I'd like to preface this post by citing the most recent statistics for the federal food stamps program.

Currently, there are over 41 million food stamps recipients coming from over 19.4 million households resulting in a monthly cost of over $5.6 billion or just over $67 billion annually.

As many longtime Paper Economy readers know, I have been tracking these numbers since the summer of 2008 and in that time the rolls for both individual participants and households have nearly doubled!

NPR’s “On Point” segment yesterday was dedicated to the food stamps program and a recent initiative by NYC Mayor Bloomberg and NY Governor Paterson to petition the DOA in an effort to ban access to sugary soft drink items for area food stamps recipients.

Though this is a very comical NPR segment … nothing short of a melee of policy junkies lost in a vicious circle of cyclical logic and do-gooder nonsense... it should leave one with the sense that America’s future is far less then bright.

At one point, Ellen Vollinger (the Legal Director at the Washington DC based Food Research and Action Center… whatever that is), a policy junkie against the proposed ban on junk foods, suggested that there is a paradox in America, “many of the people that are hungry [in this country] are also people who have trouble with obesity”.

While I realize she could probably have added a bit more color to shore up her sentiment, that statement was truly a CLASSIC! ... Fantastic!

Meanwhile, no one on the panel was actually against the food stamps program in general, all being policy junkies of one ilk or another, they simply disagreed on the implementation and debated the merits of limiting access to junk foods or providing more education to recipients.

Even in the face of multiple callers offering eye witness testimony of food stamps being traded for cash, gasoline and even booze and drugs, the policy junkies didn’t waiver from their devotion to their religion.

Of course, NYC area recipients are mad… even furious… that they would be limited to using their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP the fancy Washington name for the food stamps program) credits on actual nutrition... to them this is an issue of rights!

Readers, I can only think that we are nearing an end of sorts… something big is brewing and it can’t simply be a larger incarnation of the status quo.

No… I fear we are pushing ever closer to a critical breaking point.

The federal government is a disaster and the fact that in its largess it has spawned an industry of policy research institutions teeming with imbeciles just salivating at the chance to fritter away generations of wealth on wasteful illogical boondoggles while breeding immense classes of needy recipients (for one program or another) is a disgrace.

In the end this whole game will come down to simple math and crude economics…

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