I have many friends with very different ideas about life, love, politics, religion and nearly everything else. Most of us can have a rational discussion about our differences, engage in friendly debates and come away still friends. Most of my friends still maintain their own opinions even after a debate and yet we don’t end our friendship over it.
But in today’s world there seems to be a growing number of people who demand that you either agree with them or they will consider you an enemy. There is no respect for individualism, independent thought or the right to personal beliefs among these folks.
Today I was reading a very disturbing article about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. As you might already know, that program is a very big part of the farm bill, the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government.
On the surface, it appears to be a safety net for people going through hard times. Food stamps are supposed to prevent starvation, right? Well, as it turns out, food stamps are accepted at a number of stores where the kind of food being sold is far from what many people might think. In fact, convenience stores spend millions of dollars on lobbyists to keep the food stamp money flowing into their cash registers from people buying snacks and things which most of us wouldn’t think of as being included in a survival diet.
Now, despite the differences in opinions between some of my friends and me, I am fairly certain that we would all agree that a true safety net for the truly needy should not be pulled out from under people, leaving them to starve to death. Yes, I know that some of the more militant conservatives in the TEA party advocate cutting off all social programs, but I’ve yet to hear them articulate anything other than the draconian “cold turkey” method of achieving such a result.
The amount of money being spent on food stamps is admittedly staggering and the fact that the amount has doubled in the last couple of years to nearly $80 billion per year means that this “entitlement” is becoming a huge burden on the budget.
The GDP hasn’t doubled in that period of time, the economy hasn’t produced double the amount of taxes and, of course, you haven’t seen your income double either, have you? But the amount of money being spent on food stamps has to come from somewhere, and guess where that is? You got it, we are borrowing it.
Now, if all of these facts have you a bit confused about what should be done, let me add to your confusion. Did you know that despite the open records requests of a number of media companies, the government refuses to reveal who is getting the stamps, where they are being spent and what they are being used to purchase?
That’s right, the government is putting $80 billion per year on YOUR credit card to issue food stamps, but you aren’t allowed to know where the money is going.
A number of people have developed a very deep suspicion, however, which should concern you, despite your personal beliefs about the SNAP (food stamps), the Farm Bill, the national debt or cutting entitlements. With such a huge increase in the amount of money being printed up as food stamps in the last couple of years, and no transparency at all, there is a real concern that the amount of waste and fraud this kind of money inspires could be out of control.
Many people suspect that the when billions upon billions of dollars are available, criminals will find a way to get to that kind of cash. There is a very serious worry that food stamps, in very large quantities could find their way into money laundering schemes, converted to untraceable cash and then used to finance any number of dangerous activities.
Food stamps and the products they are designed to purchase are all traceable by bar codes. But the government refuses to allow the public to see where all the money is going.
I’m all for taking care of the truly needy, but this program is supported by taxpayers. It is our money. We have every right to see where every penny is going. The government stonewalling, which has thus far prevented the kind of transparency that $80 billion per year requires, is quite suspicious. You need to be alert to this problem and demand that your representatives open up the program to greater scrutiny.
Taking care of people is one thing, but printing up billions in vouchers which can be converted to cash and watching that amount double in a very short period of time raises some big red flags.
It’s not about cutting the safety net, it’s all about preventing theft, waste, fraud and abuse, and on that we should all be able to agree.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.