A record 47 million Americans, or nearly one in six, are on food stamps.


                      Doubts about our future on food stamps!

June 9, 2013

Can’t we find some middle ground between making welfare recipients feel like the scum of the earth on one hand or patriots building a stronger America on the other?

Florida and some other states are proposing making those seeking public assistance to first pass a drug test, the same as one is now expected to do in most workplaces. Florida’s initial foray found fewer than 3 percent of applicants tested positive for drugs, mostly marijuana, and it cost the state more to administer the tests than it saved by rejecting those who tested positive.

But speaking of Florida, a recent story in the Washington Post revealed the other side of the argument. That is, our government is promoting an “entitlement mentality” by literally encouraging people to sign up for public aid. The Post reporter followed a woman in Florida who makes her living signing up people for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

The woman, Dillie Nerios, starts her day by loading her car with various gifts, then heads off looking to sign up folks for food stamps. Her quota is to sign up 150 seniors per month, which she usually exceeds. Nerios is one of hundreds of food stamp recruiters hired by state governments and partner organizations because the more food stamp recipients, the more money coming into the state which, as the Post story says, “helps to sustain communities, grocery stores and food producers.” In Florida’s case, some $6 billion in food stamp money flows into the state annually.

A record 47 million Americans, or nearly one in six, are on food stamps. The growth has far exceeded the growth in the poverty rate because hundreds of folks such as Nerios are scouring the country signing up more people who qualify. According to the Post, a decade ago, only about half of eligible Americans chose to sign up for food stamps. Now that number is 75 percent.

Rhode Island hosts SNAP-themed bingo games for the elderly, the Post said. Alabama hands out fliers that read: “Be a patriot. Bring your food stamp money home.” Three states in the Midwest throw food-stamp parties where new recipients sign up en masse.

Nerios draws applicants with free animal toys, food and other goodies, said the Post reporter who accompanied her on one of her recruiting stops at a retirement community.

The brochures Nerios hands out are direct: “Applying is easy,” “Eat right!” “Every $5 in SNAP generates $9.20 for the local economy.”

Poverty is real and painful, and the $15,000 a year income threshold to receive food stamps isn’t much money. But if American come to expect free food, free health care, free cellphones, free transportation, etc. at what point do more people decide not to be careful with their money? At what point do we all figure out that not only will “government” save us, but that “government” convinces us going on public aid is “patriotic” and “good for the local economy”?

It’s easy for those whose bellies are full and bank accounts secure to forget about those less well off. Still, the Post story raises serious questions about where compassion ends and enabling begins.

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