A millionaire in Michigan is collecting food stamps after winning the lottery. “Amanda Clayton, a 24-year-old from Lincoln Park, Michigan . . . is getting away with it. Clayton won $1 million from the Michigan State Lottery this fall, but she is still collecting and using $200 a month in food assistance from the taxpayers with her Michigan Bridge Card. ‘I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn’t, I thought maybe it was okay because I’m not working,’ the lottery winner who just purchased a new house and car told Local 4 in Detroit. The station even filmed her shamelessly purchasing goods. When Local 4 asked if she felt she had a right to the money, Clayton responded, ‘I mean I kinda do.’” “‘I have bills to pay,” she said. “I have two houses.”
As James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has helped millionaires collect food stamps. As he pointed out, the Obama administration has encouraged states to abolish asset tests for food stamps, leaving even unemployed millionaires able to qualify: “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.”
Even the mostly liberal readers of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog are now catching on to the fact that food stamps cover far more than the cost of buying inexpensive healthy and nutritious foods — something I pointed out at length earlier, noting that I have traditionally spent less on food than food stamp recipients do. (The ideology of his blog is illustrated by an item Sullivan recently wrote entitled, “Why Are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?”) As one reader noted, he spent more money on food while on food stamps than he did before becoming unemployed and going on food stamps:
As a family of four (me, wife, two kids) we got around $550 for food per month (~$140/person per month). This was far more than we were spending before we ended up on food stamps and more than we budget for food now that I am employed again. We bought milk, not soda, and meat, not canned food, and we had enough to build up some food storage as well. The idea that there just isn’t enough money from food stamps and people are forced into making poor food choices is flat wrong in my experience. I can see if a family insists on eating prepared food every day for every meal, or regularly uses EBT to buy take-and-bake pizza, they may run into some problems due to the convenience premium that is priced into those products. But it is well within a food stamp budget to buy healthy ingredients and make your own food.
Here in good old Oregon, where one in five citizens is on food stamps, we almost have the opposite problem: people using food stamps to purchase gourmet, organic, fair-trade, eco-friendly food. I’ve seen people purchase $20/pound wild caught fresh salmon and not blink an eye at the thought of using their EBT card.
There are now a record 47 million people on food stamps. To collect generous federal subsidies that reward states for increasing the number of people on food stamps, some states are deliberately qualifying for food stamps millions of people who are not poor, but who are lucky enough to receive small amounts of state housing, heating, or other subsidies designed to qualify them for federal food stamp entitlements. The Obama administration is busy cracking down on states that attempt to reduce food stamp fraud, as James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal. Food stamp fraud costs America billions of dollars. This is remarkable, since eligibility requirements are so easy to satisfy that no fraud is even needed for many undeserving people to collect food stamps.
The Obama administration’s $800 billion stimulus package also largely repealed the 1996 welfare-reform law, as Slate’s Mickey Kaus and the Heritage Foundation have noted, making it easier for many people to go on welfare.