Lame Excuse for Welfare: Bogus Food Stamp Challenge

by Hans Bader on August 3, 2008 · 2 comments

In a letter today in the Washington Post, Maryland food stamp bureaucrat Kevin McGuire tried to justify more spending on food stamps (and his own job) by making misleading claims.  (Maryland’s liberal government recently raised taxes to pay for more welfare and public employee salaries.)  McGuire put himself on the “Food Stamp Challenge,” a deceptive exercise in which participants deliberately live on less than any actual food stamp recipient has to spend on food.  Participants live entirely ”on an average food stamp benefit,” even though it’s just part of the food budget of the people who actually receive it.  The “average” benefit is given to people who have income of their own to spend; it is less than the maximum food stamp benefit, which is what people with little other income to spend on food receive. 

Only a gullible person would believe McGuire’s claim that “living on such a budget meant meals consisting of peanut butter on white bread, night after night of pasta, and drinking enormous amounts of water in an effort to fend off hunger.”  Both I and my wife, back when we were single, were able to eat properly on less than the “average food stamp benefit.”  Neither of us drank water to fend off hunger, or made the foolish food choices McGuire recounts, which artificially generated his alleged hardship. 

You can easily spend less on food than the poorest food stamp recipients and still enjoy a healthy, low-fat diet rich in vitamins and fiber.  That’s what a Quaker vegetarian found when he decided to limit his weekly spending on food to a food stamp budget. The Quaker was able to live well even though he ate only organic food (organic food costs much more than typical food).

Indeed, last year, the Washington Post had a story in its health section about how various people, such as a chef and a natural foods store owner, were able to live quite well on a food stamps budget.  For example, Rick Hindle, executive chef for the Skadden, Arps law firm, “showed recently that you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to prepare healthful food for $1 or less per meal.”

Similarly, back when I was single, I ate a well-balanced diet while spending far less over the long term than the “average food stamp benefit.”  I ate lots of potatoes (which are cheap and nutritious, more so than the pasta McGuire ate, which, unlike potatoes, contains no vitamin C and few minerals), plenty of cheap canned fish and vegetables bought in bulk (I bought 500 cans of tuna, an excellent source of protein, on sale for 20 cents each, and filled my small car with them), plus milk, bananas, and carrots.  My wife, when she first immigrated to America, managed to eat plenty of nutritious vegetables while living on a salary of less than $1200 per month, and spending less than food stamp recipients do on food (even though she lived in one of those predominantly-minority urban areas – southwest Washington, D.C. — where welfare advocates claim it’s hard for residents to find cheap, nutritious food).

My aunt was once a welfare case worker.  She never encountered a welfare recipient who complained of hunger (although they did complain to her about things like not having a TV, even though welfare recipients often enjoy luxuries, such as cable TV, that are the envy of middle-class people in other western countries).

Yet liberal lawmakers continue to falsely claim that it’s impossible to live on food stamps.  Last year, Massachusetts Congressman James McGovern (who supports the anti-American left-wing terrorist group FARC), did so while participating in the “Food Stamp Challenge,” engaging in deceptive practices reminiscent of McGuire’s (like purchasing costly, fatty foods to use up his food stamps in order to make hunger seem inevitable on a food-stamps budget) to try to justify more welfare spending.

Because it increased spending on food stamps, welfare advocates supported the passage of the bloated farm bill, which contains tens of billions of dollars in handouts for wealthy farmers, plus some extra money for food stamp recipients to buy off urban lawmakers who would otherwise have little reason to vote for costly farm subsidies. 

The farm bill will increase, rather than reduce, world hunger.  The costly subsidies for U.S. cotton farmers contained in the bill undermine the livelihoods of poor cotton farmers in African countries like Burkina Faso, by artificially destroying the market for their product.  In the absence of subsidized competition, those African farmers would be able to compete in the global marketplace, owing to their low production costs.  The farm bill also contains many provisions that damage the environment. 

anonymous August 3, 2008 at 6:42 pm

wait maryland raised taxes recently? sorry for asking such an ignorant question… but until i read this i was actually considering moving to maryland *because* of the income taxes.

Hans Bader August 5, 2008 at 5:53 am

Maryland recently raised sales taxes, and also raised income taxes on certain high-income households.

Note that in addition to state income tax, there is also a piggyback county income tax in Maryland, which varies from county to county, and which can bring the overall state-and-local income tax rate to something like 9 percent for middle-income households in high-tax counties. In such counties, income taxes are no lower than they are in surrounding high-tax jurisdictions, like the District of Columbia.

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