Food Stamp fraud & abuse: “Business as Usual”

You can be forgiven if the Senate vote on S.3240 didn’t actually register on your consciousness. It made a splash in the news like a pebble does in the Atlantic: none.

For those of you unfamiliar with what the bill covers, we discussed it here a short time ago. And from the sounds of it, Senator Ron Johnson read our post.

Johnson came out with an extremely blunt assessment of the Senate vote last week, which sums it up perfectly:

The 2012 Food Stamp bill – more commonly known as the ‘2012 Farm Bill’ – will spend about $995 billion over the next ten years.  Of that nearly $1 trillion, 78% ($772 billion) will be spent on Food Stamps.

“During debate on the Senate floor, I made a Motion to Recommit the bill back to committee with the simple instruction to split it into two separate pieces of legislation – a Food Stamp Bill and a Farm Bill. That motion was defeated by a vote of 40-59. Why are these measures combined? The answer is simple – to keep much of the legislation out of the light of day and to make spending $1 trillion far easier.

“This is business as usual here in our nation’s capital, and it is bankrupting America.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the fancy new name for the Food Stamp program, has doubled in under four years. Yet no one in government wants to really fix it, and risk looking like the bad guy. “Why do you want to starve poor people?” their critics will say.  But when we look at the ways in which it is being abused, we really don’t have much choice.

The first thing to do is highlight the black market which has been created with the lax/non-existent oversight of the Food Stamp cards themselves. Just look at this quote from the official Government website on the replacement of “lost” cards:

FNS (Food and Nutrition Service) proposes to amend regulations in order to provide States with options when clients request an excessive number of EBT card replacements. States would be able to withhold a replacement card until the client makes contact by phone or in-person with the State agency and provides an explanation for the excessive EBT card requests.

The State agency would need to determine what it considers to be excessive, but the threshold may not be less than four card replacements requested within 12 months prior to the request; unless the State agency has sufficient, additional evidence indicating potential misuse that warrants noticing the client sooner than the fourth card request. These might be individuals about whom the State agency has gathered other evidence of suspected fraudulent activity. In these circumstances, the State agency may require the client to provide an explanation by phone or in person before the fifth card request……..

Whoa, whoa, ….those sure are some Draconian rules! Wow, you mean that I can “lose” my card 4 times in a year, but then I may have to “explain” before I get my 5th card? You may as well put up a billboard for the crooks: ‘Please, take the cards and sell ’em for cash, drugs or booze. We don’t mind. Really.’

—–

You can also see the focus of the Food Stamp bureaucrats when you look at who they are looking to hire. Are they hiring more fraud investigators? Bean-counters to lower the amount of money spent, maybe? Nope, just the opposite.

Here’s a post directly from the fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach website (emphasis mine):

The purpose of outreach grants is to implement and learn more about effective strategies to inform and educate potentially eligible low-income people, who are not currently participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), about the nutrition benefits of the program, eligibility rules, and how to apply.

State and local food stamp offices and for-profit organizations are not eligible for these grants. Applicants receive up to $75,000 per grant for outreach activities lasting for 1 to 2 years, depending on the project.

Yes, you read that right: $75,000 to come up with ways to bring even more people onto the government dole, and to get them hooked on just a little bit of “help” from Big Daddy.

Because he cares, doncha’ know.

—–

Senator Johnson’s suggestion of splitting the bills makes perfect sense, but an even better way to deal with this would be to get it out of the hands of Federal Government altogether. Not coincidently, Johnson’s fellow Wisconsin native Paul Ryan has been suggesting that food stamps be handled by block grants to the STATES. It has been proven time after time: the closer you get the government to the governed, the better and more efficient it is for everyone. Such a loss of power & control is something the Federal Government, and this administration in particular, is not anxious to lose…..which is a sure indicator that it’s probably a great idea.

—–

The bill goes to the House this week. If this topic bothers you even a little bit, you may consider dropping an email to your Representative. And if this somehow doesn’t bother you, I’ll leave you with this little graphic, showing just how much Food Stamp spending has gone up, vs. other sections of the Federal Budget.

Like Johnson said: “This is business as usual here in our nation’s capital, and it is bankrupting America“.

Advertisements

One response to “Food Stamp fraud & abuse: “Business as Usual”

  1. Pingback: A Great First Step: Voting Down the bloated, pork-laden Farm Bill | Two Heads are Better Than One

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s