Poor? Still want to eat out, gamble at the local Indian Casino, or take a Caribbean cruise? Never fear. Just sign up for Food Stamps.
Here's how it works.
Matching hungry Depression-era Americans with farm surpluses motivated the first Federal food stamp program in the 1930s. Today, to remove the stigma of paying at the supermarket with the stamps, some 120 Million Americans get Electronic Benefit Transfer debit cards (EBT) from the renamed Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
Applications are pouring in every day as radio and TV ads, paid for with taxpayer funds, inform the world how to get free food.
Since the states administer the program for the Feds, individual states have gotten creative.
California, for example, calls the program CalFresh conjuring images of organic, wholesome, vegan diets for the poor, who no longer have to worry about starving and can concentrate instead on getting "medical" marijuana. California is the green state, you know -- we have even recycled our Governor.
In California, the poor can use the EBT card at the farmers' market, and the flea market, and even dine out. Under a new state law, counties can permit the use of the CalFresh EBT cards at approved restaurants.
The San Diego County program limits the EBT restaurant use to seniors, the disabled, and the homeless. The San Diego list of approved restaurants includes KFC, McDonald's, and other fast food franchises. So, at least in my home town, obesity is not such a problem that it can't be subsidized by the government.
Arizona, Florida, and Michigan have similar programs. In Michigan, the food stamp program is now called the "Bridge Card."
But California is the leader here as in so many programs which will shortly bankrupt government.
The CalFresh EBT debit card lets the welfare recipient access two accounts: cash through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program accessed through approved ATM networks, and an electronic version of the old food stamp program. The monthly cash grant for a "family" of three ranges up to $694, with "families" of 10 getting $1,469.
While the "food stamp" part comes with rules on what you can buy and which restaurants you can patronize, the cash can be withdrawn and spent anywhere. In early 2010, the Los Angles Times found the EBT cards worked at ATMs in 32 of 58 tribal casinos and 47 or 90 state-licensed poker rooms in California.
A Los Angeles Times report also found California's poor spent $69 million from January 2007 through May 2010 using their EBT cards on at least 14 cruise ships sailing from Miami and other ports, at Florida's Walt Disney World, in Hawaii and Guam (!), and at hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. While the major Vegas casinos would not accept EBTs at their ATMs, the nearby businesses were more accommodating.
In California, we think the poor deserve to live just like the rest of us who had to work to afford to gamble, or eat out, or take nice vacations.
Besides, as Nancy Pelosi recently reminded us, CalFresh money generates $1.50 (or $1.84, or $2, depending on which day she said it) in the economy for every dollar spent with an EBT. Why aren't we all getting EBTs? That would end the recession for sure.
While you might debate the "stimulus" effect of EBTs, there is one certainty. CalFresh is generating a tsunami of Democrat voters in the once Golden State.
- Roger Hedgecock
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