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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Food stamps in Delaware and the real welfare queens

17% of Delaware citizens are on SNAP [Food Stamps].  That's 157,000 people.

Many of those, and thousands more, receive food assistance from the Food Bank of Delaware.

25% of Delaware citizens are on Medicaid, and that number will grow in the Medicaid expansion.

This leads to several recurring arguments:

First, there are the arguments about people deserving or not deserving the assistance.  Today's WNJ story certainly hits that note [and you know the authors knew it would]
Currently, this year's food stamp benefits average out to pay $1.40 per person per meal, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It's not a lot, said Lawana Pipkin of Wilmington, a mother of seven children ages 18 to 2, with another on the way."It can become, like, stressful, very depressing," said Pipkin, who one morning last week had no milk for her children's breakfast and was unable to afford more. She was about a week shy of receiving her March food stamps.
This brings out the folks who want to argue about Ms. Pipkin's choices in having 7+ children with no means of support across two decades, and that's certainly a realistic observation.  It is an observation made on the strength of a single sentence, with no information about mental illness, or injuries, or other life conditions, but it is still a legit question.

My immediate response would be that eight individuals receiving $4.25/day equals $34/day and therefore $12,410 per year if Ms. Pipkin received SNAP benefits every day of the year.  A welfare queen?  Possibly.

But, hey, if she is, she's an amateur compared to Dennis McGlynn of Dover Downs, who managed to talk the General Assembly into an $8 million bail-out of his industry so that he could keep his $700,000+ salary.  

Or how about the tens of millions the State of Delaware has handed over in welfare payments/subsidies to likes of Delaware City Refinery ($32 million), Fisker Automotive ($21.5 million), Bloom Energy ($16.5 million and counting), Amazon ($7.5 million) . . . ?

So while I deplore fiscal waste and bad choices as much as the next guy who wants to be your State Representative, here's my thought:  let's deal with the welfare queens taking tens of millions of my tax dollars before I start worrying about Ms. Pipkin.

Now my second observation:  as a Libertarian I don't like Food Stamps or other such programs, because I really do believe that society could be structured so as not to need them any more.  Someday. But not in the foreseeable future.  So my solution to SNAP and other domestic transfer programs is similar to what Utah is doing for the homeless.

Instead of programs, let's just kill the bureaucracy and give poor people the money in the form of a guaranteed annual income.

Lest my Libertarian friends think I've gone crazy, please note that there are plenty of Libertarians out there who support this idea.  Take Reason, for example:

Perhaps the best example of the demeaning nature of the current welfare system is the SNAP program, otherwise known as food stamps, which works by giving recipients a card that can only be used to buy a selection of government-approved goods. Alcohol, tobacco, pet food, and vitamins are only some of the products that those on food stamps cannot buy because the powers that be have determined that they know what is the best lifestyle for food stamp recipients. 
Instead of treating those who, often through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times like children who are incapable of making the right choices about the food they eat or the drugs they may or may not choose to take, why not just give them cash? Doing so would not only cut down on the huge administrative costs of America’s welfare programs, it would also promote personal responsibility and abolish much of the humiliation and stripped dignity associated with the current welfare system.
Or take Mungowitz and Angus of Kids Prefer Cheese [if you really are a Libertarian, you know who they are, right?], who have long advocated for such.

Here's the real point: if we actually get around to cutting corporate subsidies and other forms of welfare that allow the government to pick the winners and losers in the private sector, we'll have plenty of money to use to figure out the best way to feed hungry children and put them in a position where they'll never need hand-outs again.

So if you're not willing to go after the politicians who subsidize the corporations, don't come to me complaining about Ms. Pipkin and her kids, OK?

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