Federal Fiscal Follies, Part IV – Today, Free Groceries are a SNAP

| September 24, 2012

I’ve written recently about how Social Security is now poised to become the largest single expense of the Federal government next year, spending more than DoD.  I’ve also written about how Social Security is  apparently being abused to provide de facto welfare for many.  Well, now let’s look at another problematic Federal program.  Specifically, we’ll look at the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP – formerly known as “food stamps”.  Below, I’ll refer to it by the older name as that’s how it’s still more commonly known.

In theory, food stamps seem like a good idea.  The idea is simple:  help the truly needy feed themselves by giving them public assistance that they can only use to buy food.  This lets them and use what little money they have on other essentials.

That’s the theory, anyway.  In practice, things have turned out a bit differently.

The food stamp program is rife with fraud.   Costs have risen hugely over the last decade plus, in both good times and bad, with no reductions in sight for at least another two years – if then.  And the program very obviously supports far more than those who are truly needy.

You might want to grab a barf bag before you read any further.

Food Stamp Fraud – Business as Usual

Fraud in the food stamp program is legendary, so I won’t discuss it in great detail.  Let’s just say that many vendors and individuals find . . . interesting ways to defraud Uncle Sam when it comes to food stamps.

It’s well-documented that food stamps benefits are often sold or traded – never mind the fact that doing so is against Federal law.  Dirty vendors ring up phantom purchases and give back part of the sale in cash, pocketing the difference.  They also ring up false sales and allow the customer to take non-qualifying items instead – like beer.  Some even blatantly allow the purchase of non-qualifying items with food stamp benefits.  And there’s little in the way of penalties for getting caught – in some cases, repeatedly – besides being “permanently” barred from the program.  While theoretically criminal charges can be filed, they’re apparently pretty rare.

Unscrupulous vendors know how to use aliases, of course.  That’s where at least some of the “repeatedly” comes from.  Same guy or gal, different name, same scam.  Rinse and repeat.

Why risk it?  In a word:  money.  You can be looking at an extra $50,000 a month in income if you work it right – and most of that would be profit.  Say 50% is the dirty vendor’s profit from the scam. That’s an extra $300,000 a year for an unscrupulous store owner.  Yeah, they’d probably have to pay taxes on some of that – but I think they could probably manage to live on the after-tax part.  Plus whatever after-tax profit the business made legitimately, of course.

Then there are the truly blatant individual frauds.  Like who?  Why, like Ms. Brenda Charlestain, the paralegal-turned-stripper who was pulling down $85k a year in tips, spending nearly $9,200 on “surgical enhancements”, plus a bundle on a custom bright pink paint job for her 2008 Dodge Charger (monthly car payment:  $326) and paying $1,100 monthly in rent – while getting food stamps for herself and her five children because she was “homeless and out of work”.

Of course, in Ms. Charlestain’s case, the gravy train did eventually stop.  She’s recently been sentenced to 18 months in the pen for fraud.  No word on whether the IRS has a case pending against her for tax evasion.

Percentage wise, fraud may only be a small fraction the total cost of the program – the USDA estimates 1%, and while I think that’s probably a bit low I’d also guess the true fraud rate is no more than 2 or 3%.  But when you’re talking about nearly $75+ billion annually, 1-3% is still serious money.

Uncontrolled Program Growth

The food stamp program has exploded in size since it’s first major expansion in the 1970s.  In the 1970s – most of which was a pretty damn tough time economically –  approximately 1 American in 50 was receiving food stamps.  Today, it’s close to 1 in 7.  Yes, the economy is in the bad shape today.  But the economy was in the toilet in the mid- and late-1970s, too.  So it’s quite reasonable to ask:  what gives?

Further, the program has doubled in cost and nearly doubled in size since 2008 alone (data for this and the next several paragraphs is from this excellent source, which in turn uses data from USDA).  Yes, part of that expansion is due to the economy.  But as I’ll demonstrate below, the economy is only a part of the reason for that expansion.  Other factors appear to have been even more important in adding literally millions to the food stamp rolls that simply shouldn’t be there.

However, the long-term trend over time is clear:  since 1975, the program has been cyclic and generally out-of-phase with the economy.  But it never drops to previous lows in subsequent good economic times, and it always seems to reach greater highs in subsequent “bad times”.  And sometimes you even see steady growth in relatively good economic times.  Very clearly, something else is driving the growth of the program along with economic need.


Few people realize just how much the food stamp program has expanded in the last 11 years, or how explosive that growth has been.  And that expansion is not confined to periods of bad economic times.   In 2001 – which coincides with regulatory changes expanding eligibility that I’ll discuss later – the food stamp program provided benefits to roughly 17.5 million and cost about $18 billion.  By 2007 – remember, this was all during a period of relatively low unemployment and reasonably good-but-not-great economic times – it had expanded to about 26.5 million recipients and cost $33 billion   By the next year, 2008, it hit 28 million recipients and cost $38 billion.

Then things really took off. In the next 4 years – e.g., by late FY 2012 – the food stamp program added nearly 20 19 million persons and nearly doubled in cost.  And, as I’ve indicated previously:  only part of that expansion is due to today’s bad economy.

Today, roughly 48 million in America receive food stamps (46.7 million in the US proper, plus another 1.3 million in Puerto Rico – or about 34% of Puerto Rico’s population).  The cost to the Federal government for the program this year is approximately $75.7 billion ($71.8 billion in benefits distributed, plus another $3.9 billion in administrative costs; other estimates I’ve seen are slightly higher).  And that’s only the Federal cost for the program.  It doesn’t include the billions spend in aggregate by states administering their part of the program.

So, in 11 years the program has gone from $18 billion a year to nearly $76 billion, and from 17.5 million recipients to nearly 47 million.  What happened?

Non-Economic Reasons for the Expansion

Yes, the economy played a large part in the rise in participation and cost between 2001 and today.  But it’s hardly the sole reason.  Qualification for food stamps has been intentionally streamlined – with predictable results.  Eligibility was restored to many who’d lost eligibility in 1996.  The “means test” for food stamp eligibility is a freaking joke; it has more holes than Swiss cheese.  And by policy, we’ve created a few special categories that get ridiculously special treatment.


The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) – e.g., the 1996 welfare reforms – provided states additional flexibility in managing welfare programs, and imposed many changes on previous Federal welfare programs and requirements.  However, one of these changes allowed states substantially greater flexibility in determining food stamp eligibility.  In particular, states were accorded great latitude in declaring working poor categorically eligible (e.g., essentially automatically eligible)  for food stamps if they met certain criteria.  When one is categorically eligible, complete proof that one meets normal eligibility requirements is not required.

Ostensibly intended to help the “working poor”, the actual effect has been to allow states to expand food stamp eligibility broadly – some would say, without any rational constraints.  One common modification to food stamp criteria often adopted by states is termed “broad based” categorical eligibility.  Regarding states using “broad based” categorical eligibility requirements, the Congressional Research Service reports:

Typically, households are made categorically eligible through receiving or being authorized to receive a minimal TANF- or MOE-funded benefit or service, such as being given a brochure or being referred to a social services “800” telephone number.  (p. 6)

Currently 43 states – more than 8 of 10 –  have adopted “broad” categorical eligibility requirements for food stamps.  Why?  Again:  money.  More residents getting food stamps means more Federal money spent in the state – which in turn means more taxes paid to that state.


A second factor contributing to the 2001-2007 rise in food stamp recipients during a period of relatively good economic times is the fact that eligibility for many non-citizens to receive food stamps was restored beginning in the late 1990s.  The 1996 PRWORA essentially prohibited non-citizens from receiving food stamps.  (Previously many if not most legal US residents were eligible for food stamps; illegal aliens were and still are not.)   However, over the next several years, various acts and policy decisions reversed this ban.  Now legal non-citizen residents are eligible for food stamps too – albeit in most cases after a 5-year waiting period.

This is probably only a relatively minor factor – estimates put the percentage of non-citizens receiving food stamps at around 4% of the total. One can also argue that legal immigrants, after a reasonable waiting period, should be allowed to receive nutritional assistance too.  But the fact remains that 4% of 46 million is nearly 1.85 million individuals.  And virtually all of those were added to the food stamps rolls since 2001.


A third factor is the fact that, frankly, the so-called “means test” associated with food stamps is exactly that – a “so called” means test.  It is virtually worthless, and doesn’t come anywhere near measuring actual family income (and thus actual economic need).  There are so many exclusions to what is considered “income” when it comes to eligibility for food stamps that it’s ridiculous.

As an example, let’s look at California.  Here are just a few of the types of income – in kind, or in cash – that are excluded in California when determining if a household has a low enough income to qualify for food stamps.

  • Income from odd jobs – excluded.
  • “In-kind” income (benefits received other than cash, such as free housing, public housing, child care, WIC benefits or food) – excluded.  Yeah, you read that right:  if someone’s getting free housing plus all of their meals absolutely free, the value of that isn’t even considered and they can still qualify for food stamps.
  • Income earned by a child in the household under the age of 18 if they’re going to school at least half-time or taking GED classes – excluded.
  • Student financial aid, including Pell grants, Perkins loans, Guaranteed Student Loans, Stafford loans); and some parts of other student grants, loans, scholarships, fellowships – excluded.
  • Federal government payments to help pay the household’s fuel or energy bills – excluded.
  • Payments for participation in federal and state work study programs and Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) programs – excluded.

That just a partial listing; there are many more other income exclusions.   And most (if not all) of these exclusions are due to Federal policy/regulation/law, so they apply nationwide.


Additionally, for AmeriCorps and VISTA participants, it gets even better.  Even though AmeriCorps and VISTA stipends are considered taxable income for Federal income tax purposes, by USDA policy they are excluded from consideration when applying for food stamps.  AmeriCorps stipends can reach at least $2500 monthly – and additional in-kind benefits from AmeriCorps positions can include free housing, medical insurance, and childcare assistance.  So an AmeriCorps guy/gal making $2500/month – or $30,000 a year – and receiving free housing, medical insurance, and childcare would be able to exclude the value of all of  those when applying for food stamps.  And no –  stuff like that isn’t just a theoretical possibility:

Juan Diego Castro, 24, is a college graduate and Americorps volunteer whose immigrant parents warned him “not to be a burden on this country.” He has a monthly stipend of about $2,500 and initially thought food stamps should go to needier people, like the tenants he organizes. “My concern was if I’m taking food stamps and I have a job, is it morally correct?” he said.

But federal law eases eligibility for Americorps members, and a food bank worker urged him and fellow volunteers to apply, arguing that there was enough aid to go around and that use would demonstrate continuing need. “That meeting definitely turned us around,” Mr. Castro said.

Money for Nothin’ – Get Foodstamps While You Sit on Your Ass

But the thing about the food stamps program that pisses me off the most isn’t any of the above.  Rather, it’s the fact that we’re allowing millions of able-bodied adults without dependents to sit on their ass and eat Cheetos while they play X-box or watch porno videos in mommie’s basement – while they get food stamps.

I’m serious.

What’s that you say?  That’s not allowed by law?  You say it’s prohibited by those 1996 welfare reforms?

Bull. That was the case few years ago. But today?  It’s not.

The 1996 PRWORA did severely restrict the ability of able-bodied adults without dependents to qualify for food stamps.  Specifically, it restricted able-bodied adults without dependents from receiving food stamps for more than 3 of 36 months unless they

  • work at least 20 hours a week;
  • participate in an employment and training program for at least 20 hours per week; or
  • participate in a ‘workfare’ program related to the food stamps program for at least 20 hours per week.

However, the 2009 Stimulus Act allowed the POTUS to suspend that requirement.  He did.

The result was predictable.  Between 2009 and 2010, the number of such able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps more than doubled – from 1.9 million to 3.9 million, or an increase of 105% in about 19 months.  For comparison, the number of others receiving food stamps increased 43% in the two full years between 2008 and 2010.

Data from 2011 and 2012 isn’t available.  But I’d be surprised if we didn’t see at least a few million more added to this category in those years.

Hey – free food is free food.  And you gotta have your Cheetos while you’re playing X-box.


Look, I’m not opposed to helping someone out if and when they or their family literally can’t afford enough to eat.  But I’ll be damned if I want to pay for someone’s groceries when they’re already living somewhere for free, are working odd jobs for cash, and have no dependents – just so they can sit on the couch and play X-box all day without worrying about where their next meal is coming from.

And in far too many cases, that’s exactly what we’re doing today with SNAP – AKA food stamps.


Remember to tie the barf bag shut tightly before disposing of same.

Category: Economy, Politics

Comments (34)

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  1. defendUSA says:

    Personal story…My mother got food stamps and welfare for two years. Back then, you could not own anything, and God forbid you had any kind of job. The people around us were the permanently entitled. So, while my mother got a job, they would wait for their checks on the 15 and the 30th of the month…But not before they were reporting to DSS afraid that my mother was getting over on them because her father lent her a car to drive to that part time job. It was never a program that was giving anyone a leg up because you were punished in a sense for being pro-active.
    Years and years later, my family and I went through three successive unemployed periods and we took no unemployment or assistance. Then, we got a job, and the economy went south. We eventually had to take assistance for 6 months. When I went in to do the paperwork, it was mortifying but not because I didn’t need it. It was because the times had changed. The women I saw and chatted up had no jobs, 3 or 4 kids and drove a better car than I did. They asked for my bank statement and what bills I paid. I thought I would get what I told them I spent on my grocery budget. I got shitload of money in comparison to what I spent. And I was so afraid that they would take back what wasn’t spent that I stock piled food.

    That best friend I mentioned? She pounded her chest about my ideology and my hypocrisy and how *she* never took help. The thing is that I was the perfect example of who should be helped. Bad things happening to good people. And I was not out selling my card for booze, drugs, or cash. I spent it all on food for seven people. I had to point out to her that after 30 years of paying my taxes that THIS was exactly why I went and got help. It literally kept the roof over our heads while we tried to grow our business after losing everything but the house. We literally started over. We had no retirement, no college funds and no savings left. No pot to piss in but we had our family in tact.
    You know what I found really funny about my conversations with people at the County? They were saying things like “Why, because I’m *poor*(my emphasis) do I have to dress like shit and not have a car or cell phone?” I kid you not!! And the only thing I could think of in my head was, “Holy shit, they really believe they are owed something for *nothing*…

  2. NHSparky says:

    A video (satirical) that’s been making the rounds on YouTube for a while:


    But remember, all good satire is at least 90 percent truth.

    Oh, and anecdotally–never go to the local bargain grocery stores or WalMart the first Saturday of the month. EVER. You can always tell who the welfare crowds are–first cart crowded with food, steaks, chips, etc., paid with EBT. Second cart has beer and smokes paid with cash earned from working “under the table.”

    C’mon, tell me it doesn’t happen. I dare ya.

  3. Hondo says:

    I’ve seen much the same myself, NHSparky. Some years ago, I watched a couple of young ladies buy a few groceries with foodstamps – then watched them walk out of the grocery store, get into what appeared to be a brand new Chrysler convertible, and drive off.

    It’s been long enough that I can’t definitively remember if they were the ones who bought Heineken (with cash, of course) at the same time or if that was someone else. I think it was someone else, but it might well have been them.

  4. teddy996 says:

    Have a friend that owns a bottle redemption, across the street from a grocery store. He’s watched people dump out the cases of water they had bought right in the store’s parking lot, come to his place for the money, go back to the store, and come out again with beer. Good times.

  5. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    C’mon, are you trying to tell me prezidemented omammy is trying to make it easier for worthless rat bastages to go on the public dole? Nahhh…

  6. Old Tanker says:

    A couple of years ago my brother-in-law dies very suddenly and unexpectedly. My sister only worked 10 hours a week to be with the kids as much as possible. She was left with three kids under the age of nine. There was a period of about three months while waiting for his life insurance, the (along this series of stories) S.S. for her kids to kick in, etc… that she received food stamps (called the “Bridge card” in Michigan due to a picture of the Mackinaw Bridge on the card. She was flabbergasted that they gave her $650/ month. She said when her husband was alive they didn’t go through that much in groceries! Needless to say, it was an example of the inteded use. She needed it for about 2 or 3 months and that was it…

  7. Jabatam says:

    As with any system of “free money” that the government gives out, there will be those that abuse the system. I know people that have genuinely needed it and it helped them; I’ve seen a handful of those that went the other way too

  8. defendUSA says:

    The problem with “free” money is that the government knows the fraud occurs and they do nothing…pick a program- SS, medicare, and SNAP…No one does anything. How many times have you seen those collecting that 1100.00 disability check and they are working the same job that supposedly disabled them?

  9. Old Tanker says:


    While it is true that there are those that will always abuse the system it just seems like we are begging them to do it and making it even easier for them. Maybe it’s just my perception but it seems like more and more people are content to “abuse” the system. A few years back I was unemployed for about 9 months. I could have probably qualified for food stamps but I couldn’t even bear the thought of asking if I was eligible let alone pulling the damn card out of my wallet in a grocery store… As you stated, I also know people that genuinely needed it and used it temporarily as it was intended, but I see more and more people doing what Hondo said. They are in line in front of me, buying steaks I can’t afford then go out in the parking lot and get in a much nicer car than mine…

  10. OWB says:

    Oh, yeah. We all have stories about the abuse. The problem is not that it occurs, but the regularity with which it occurs. And the mathematical reality that the larger the program becomes, the more abuse occurs – perhaps even an exponential increase due to the fact that bureaucrats will do whatever it takes to maintain, and increase, the need for whatever job they have.

    It is shocking to see. I cannot go to any grocery store now without being sandwiched between food stamp users. And yes, they drive much nicer cars than I do.

    Certainly, there are abuses. And there are also those who need the assistance temporarily who really try to get off the programs and are not allowed to do so. Yes, you read that correctly. Not ALLOWED to do so!

    Some young friends did the WIC thing when she became gravely ill and he had lost his job. Didn’t take them long to recover and tried to quit using WIC. They were harrashed unbelievably by the bureaucrats who evidently took it personally that they actually thought of themselves as responsible for their own lives!

    Then there are the training programs where bureaucrats actually tell folks how to defraud the system. And we are paying them to do so.

    And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The population has been enslaved to the welfare system, with all it’s various and sundry “programs,” while the only people who benefit from it are the slave masters – mostly bureaucrats.

  11. Ex-PH2 says:

    So, the only way I can get my money back from the government is to lie my ass off and get food stamps?

    A – LBJ started this mess in 1965, when it never should have been allowed to start in the first place.
    B – People who are hurting to pay for nutritious food can find it at food pantries. No one is ever turned away.
    C – I may not have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, but I can do better shopping with coupons at Walmart and Aldi.

    In light of all this, where does the money come from? The over-burdened middle class. And if the MC runs out of money, what then? Where is it supposed to come from?

    Oh! That’s right — from the very class of people Bo hates the most, even though he’s one of them.


  12. UpNorth says:

    @#8. I’ve helped out a friend who does investigative work for insurance companies, 95+% of the people were under investigation for insurance fraud, mostly worker’s comp, welfare fraud and the like.
    The insurance companies would cut them off, and take them to civil court if the amount were small, or refer them to the local prosecutor if the amount got up in the thousands. As for the welfare and food stamp fraud, the feds would laugh and say, happens all the time, you can’t put everyone in prison.

  13. UpNorth says:

    Correction, meant to say, the feds and the state would laugh.

  14. Ex-PH2 says:

    You know, back when Hizzoner John Daley (Da Mair) died in his doctor’s office, after the abysmal behavior of his replacement, whose name (Bilandic) has been lost to the mists of time, Jane Byrne ran for the office of Mayor and won. Acquired the nickname of Attila the Hen. Tried the bread and circuses thing with Taste of Chicago. Subsequently lost her next election to Harold Washington, who also died in office while sitting at his desk.

    Bread and circuses, as the Romans found out, only go so far before the Huns and Goths waltz in and take over the Empire.

    Let that be a lesson to the whippersnapper in office now.

  15. Hondo says:

    Ex-PH2: Actually, the first Federal “food stamp” program predated World War II. From 1939 to 1943, people on relief were permitted to purchase “orange stamps” that could be used to procure any food item. For each $1 spent on “orange stamps”, they also received 50 cents worth of “blue stamps” that could only be used to procure agricultural commodities deemed “surplus” by the USDA. That program provided assistance to 20 million over 4 years.

    The current Federal food stamp program was first authorized as a multi-year experimental program during the Eisenhower administration (1959). The Eisenhower administration never made use of this authority; however, the Kennedy Administration did, instituting a pilot program in early 1961. The first food stamps were procured in May 1961.

    This pilot program ran, expanding, until the Food Stamp Act of 1964 was passed in August (making it the second major screwing the LBJ administration gave the USA that month, after engineering passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on highly suspect grounds). That act, part of LBJ’s “Great Society” program, made food stamps a permanent program.


  16. Joe says:

    Once again you’ve made a good case for increased auditing and enforcement. And congratulations on #3 – someone has finally spotted Ronald Reagan’s elusive Cadillac drivin’ welfare queen! Kinda like seeing an Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

  17. SIGO says:

    I’m embarassed to ask for help lest I be part of the “moocher” generation. I have received help in the past but the attitude of others regarding someone who needs help makes me keep my business to myself. I wish we didn’t demonize or stereotype the food stamp class because it causes undue animosity.

  18. Hondo says:

    Actually, Joe – auditing and enforcement isn’t the primary problem. The problem is the fact that the eligibility criteria for receipt of food stamps are a freaking joke. There are so many types of income/assistance – both monetary and in-kind – excluded from consideration in determining eligibility that it’s absolutely ridiculous.

    There is no legitimate reason that someone earning a taxable income of $30k a year, with no dependents, should be eligible for food stamps. Yet because of the inane exclusions to income allowed during eligibility determination, exactly that is the case for some AmeriCorps workers. And the current POTUS’ suspension of the work requirements for able-bodied/no-dependent adults is even more asinine.

    We could live with 1-3% of the program being lost to fraud if that’s all we were losing. But that’s the small piece of the problem. The bigger piece is we’re handing out food stamps to literally millions who should not qualify because of stupidly lax eligibility criteria and asinine “exclusions” to income. I’d personally guess that at least 1/3 – if not 1/2 – of the program’s cost goes to people who frankly should not qualify if we were using realistic (as opposed to “measured after asinine exclusions”) criteria to determine the need.

    Oh, and it was a Chrysler – not a Cadillac. (smile)

  19. Hondo says:

    An addendum to my comment 15: in fairness to LBJ, although he made the Federal food stamp program permanent, it was a far different food stamp program than we have today. LBJ’s program (and all predecessor food stamp programs) required food stamps to be purchased (at less than face value). That changed with the Food Stamp Act of 1977, which made the program a no-strings-attached (as well as “few questions asked”) giveaway.

    Thanks again, Jimmy the Clueless. I’d forgotten that you were responsible for giving that particular screwing to America.

  20. TheTrueAnalyst says:

    A friend of mine worked as a gas station attendant for a few months this past spring/early summer, and while there he was constantly approached by idiots attempting to use their food stamps for liquor, cigarettes, and all sorts of unrelated garbage. Down the street another convenience store would regularly accommodate these bums, although I friend never did. You want to know how they skirt the law? The clerk rings up a food item of equal value to the liquor, ciggs, etc. being purchased, subsequently ringing it up as a legitimate, legal purchase, all the while giving them their junk. My family actually qualified for food stamps many years ago at one point in time, but my parents (Both college educated and with solid careers) refused it and simply kept on working through it.

  21. Hondo says:

    TheTrueAnalyst: that’s one variant. Some others are (1) ring up 2x the amount received for something entirely bogus and give them back 1/2 in cash; (2) just say the hell with it and take the food stamp benefit anyway – works with the old-style cash registers that aren’t tied to a scanner, or with override; (3) buy the card outright at a discount, then use it for a phantom purchase; or (4) barter items for the card “off the books”, then use it for a phantom purchase. There are doubtless many more ways that particular fraud is performed.

  22. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    In 1981 when I went back to school my former wife worked and I got GI Bill payments. Working as a P/T beer tender helped but not much. With three kids, things were tight and when I suggested we might wanna look into “help” she went D.I. on me! We are children of the mid-50s when people stood on their own two foots. We ate LOTS of meatloaf!?! These rat bastages today feel they’re ENTITLED to free meals.

  23. Ben says:

    I think the easiest solution would be for all of these “poor” people to just kill themselves. Maybe we can just feed them to the wealthy.

  24. Ex-PH2 says:

    @14 – Hondo, the Food Stamp Act of 1964 is the program I was referring to.

    Were the orange food coupons part of the rationing program during World War II?

    To SIGO, I will say go to the nearest food pantry. I know people who use those facilities and there is no stigma attached to it. No one is ever turned away.

  25. Joe says:

    #18 – Hondo,

    And yes, revisiting the criteria would be a good thing too. The point should not be to stop helping people in need, but to weed out the moochers from the truly needy thru appropriate criteria and enforcement.

  26. Hondo says:

    Ex-PH2: I don’t think the “orange/blue” stamp program was related to WWII rationing per se, though it may have operated in conjunction with it. The program preceded our entry into World War II by about 2 years.

    While LBJ indeed made the food stamp program permanent in 1964, he was only continuing something that had been in operation already for 3 years. And the 1964 program was nothing like what we have today – you had to buy the original food stamps (at a discount). It wasn’t “money for nothing”; we can thank Carter for that bit of idiocy.

    Hmm . . . maybe they’re a parody in there.

    “Oh, that ain’t working –
    That’s the way to do it
    Get your food stamps for breathing
    Your Cheetos for free!”

    Damn, I think, Mark Knoffler’s gonna be pissed at me if I finish that one . . . .

  27. Hondo says:

    Joe: agreed.

    That’s IMO the major problem with the food stamp program – it buys dinner for way too many who could literally afford to pay for their own, thus allowing them to buy Nike sneakers, designer jeans, and Xboxes/DVD players with the money.

    I’d guess that close to half of the current recipients could find a way to feed themselves adequately without food stamps. Economic conditions are not worse today than they were in the early 1980s. Participation then was around 9% of the US population. Today, it’s nearly 15%.

  28. NHSparky says:

    Yo Ben…sarcasm lost. Maybe when they stop loading their “free” shit into a brand new F350 I might have some sympathy for them.

  29. Eric says:

    In the 80s my mom tried getting some assistance because she was a single mother with two kids to feed. She was told she “made too much money” to get assistance. If she quit the 2-4 jobs she was working, at any given time, she’d get assistance. She only needed a little help, not a huge amount. But, she was told no more than once.

    Yet, these days people are using their “smartphone app” for EBT/SNAP to scan their food stamp account into the system. WTF, over? You can afford a smartphone and the monthly costs for it, but you “need” food stamps?

    It pisses me off that when my mom was working to take care of her family, she was “punished” for that while others who did jackshit got rewarded. That’s the problem with these kinds of programs, many who need a little help don’t get it and others who shouldn’t get it are abusing the system because they can.

  30. will says:

    Hey, I support a lot of what you are saying about venders sccamming the governmnet for extra cash, but not all of your information is completely right. I am currntly in my second term of service with Americorps, and the amount of money you quoted is astronomical for one of our volunteers. If someone is getting that much per month for their stipend, then their certainly the exception. Last year I was making 860 dollars per month, while this year i managed to find a crew that will pay me 1100. That is nowhere near the 2500 dollar monthly number you quoted. Also that free housing you talked about varies by organization. Free housing for me was a tent in the middle of a field, and when I was lucky, a bunkhouse with no showers. Americorps member are by law, supposed to work for less than federal minimum wage, hence the ability to gain foodstamps, and work long hours. Sorry for being an ass about this, but I just wanted to clear that up.

  31. Ex-PH2 says:

    I don’t know why any of us are complaining about taxes. We don’t live in France, right?

    See this piece of news pour les Francais:


    Que c’est merde!!

  32. Hondo says:

    Dunno where you got that “an Americorps member can’t make more than minimum wage”, will – but that’s not I come up with when I look at what Federal law actually says.

    Federal minimum wage is now $7.25/hr. For a 2087-hour year (the standard workyear), that equates to an annual income of $15,130.75 – or approx $1260.85 monthly. Federal law allows Americorps folks to receive far more than that as a living allowance.

    Americorps living allowance stipends for full-time Americorps members are by law limited to 200% of the montly VISTA stipend. Federal law also allows exceptions to this limit for high-cost areas. This is specified by 42 USC 12655l(a)(3).


    The maximum VISTA stipend is specified by 42 USC 4955(b)(2)(B). This provides that the average VISTA stipend shall be set annually to be 105% of the HHS poverty line for the US, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Federal law also allows exception to this limit in high cost areas.


    The HHS poverty line for 2012 is $11,170 for a single individual outside of Alaska and Hawaii.


    Doing the math yields a maximum allowable standard Americorps stipend for full-time Americorps members of (200%)(105%)($11,170) = $23,457 annually, or $1,954.75 monthly. And remember, exceptions to this limit can be made for high-cost areas.

    So $2,500 per month as an Americorps stipend may not be common – but it isn’t out of the question in high-cost areas, either.

    And while it’s taxable income for Federal income tax purposes, it’s all excluded from consideration when it comes to eligibility for food stamps.

  33. Hondo says:

    Ex-PH2: hell, we’ve “been there, done that” before in this country.

    Every year between 1950 and 1963, inclusive, the USA had a top bracket tax rate of 91% or higher. And the top US tax bracket’s rate was 70% or greater each and every year between 1936 to 1980, inclusive.