Millionaire Collects Food Stamps; Food Stamps Cover Far More Than the Cost of Food

by Hans Bader on March 7, 2012 · 7 comments

in Nanny State, Politics as Usual, Zeitgeist

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.

As another reader noted,

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.

Joel Valenzuela March 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I really think that a lot less people would be receiving any kind of assistance if it weren’t automatically provided by the state, courtesy of the taxpayer. Besides cutting down on plain ol’ freeloaders, decreasing the tax burden would make it easier to survive on your own without assistance, and businesses would be able to hire more workers, instead of having to subsidize their unemployment.

Tom Burnett March 7, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Hunger in America: The Myth

One should imbibe alarms about pervasive hunger skeptically.

• Free school lunch kids waste 46% more food than regular price kids. How can poor kids be hungrier?
• School lunch waste is about 30%. Where’s the hunger?
• School lunch provides all the calories a kid needs; then poor kids go home and eat the food stamp pop, candy bars, take-and-bake pizza and donuts.
• A family of 6 can get $23,900 per year in food stamps, free school food and food bank food. A non-recipient family of 6 usually spends $11,500 per year on food.
• A family of 6 can earn up to $55,000 and qualify for food stamps and Women, Infants and Children, WIC.
• The poor are adding weight faster than the non-poor.
• Arguments as to why the poor make bad choices with food stamps do not stand scrutiny.
• The food stamp program this year costs $77 billion. Mr. Obama wants to add $9 billion to that. A healthy food list reform, along the lines of the WIC program, could cut spending in half; no recipient would go hungry and the nation’s deficit would be substantially reduced.
• At least 57% of food stamp spending is for foods high in high fructose corn syrup, cholesterol, fat and sodium. Food stamps buy unhealthy food.
• The USDA and the Obama Administration are aggressively expanding food stamps, free school lunch and after school supper.
• The USDA rebuffed New York City’s request to drop soda pop from permissible food stamp purchases.

joewygant March 8, 2012 at 6:17 am

Look for things you buy anyway, like yogurt or cheese, and see if there are coupons for those things. You should have a store loyalty card if your store offers one, like safeway or sample things before you buy best place would be to check is “Get Official Samples”

joewygant March 8, 2012 at 6:18 am

When I used to get samples from sites like “Get Official Samples” I would spend about $120 a week I thought that was good because I always shopped at Safeway and my receipt said I had saved 18 percent.

Anonymous Jerk March 8, 2012 at 10:05 am

While I agree with most of this article, to describe Ms. Clayton as a “millionaire” is disingenuous at best.

At a televised second chance lottery drawing she won her choice of either an annuity with pre-tax payment that totaled one million dollars over a number of years, or a $700K pre-tax lump sum prize.

She chose the lump sum, taking home what has been described rather vaguely as “half” after taxes, with no reports making clear if she meant half a million dollars or about half of the $700K.

She won a big prize in the lottery, and it is shameful that she could and did still draw food stamps, but she is by no legitimate measure a “Millionaire,” at least not if you measure in U.S. dollars.

grayswindir March 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm

This is the problem with the state taking on the religious function of charity, taking from some to give to others by some standard of ‘fairness’. Individuals receiving it no longer recognize that what they are receiving is from the sacrifices of others, they don’t see it as charity anymore or feel any obligation to express gratitude or reduce their burden on those willing to make sacrifices.
It is equally corrupting to those who want to use the government to strip property from others to provide charity. They no longer feel an obligation or duty to do so themselves. The old, ‘Why should I, it’s the governments job!!’

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