US Politicians buy caviar with their food stamps

From the Real Time Economics Blog on Wall Street Journal dot com:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke ranks No. 1 in Foreign Policy magazine’s list of top 100 Global Thinkers for preventing Depression 2.0, putting him one notch above President Barack Obama.

Really? Preventing Depression 2.0? From the NY Times Nov. 28:

Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades

MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.

It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs.

…From the ailing resorts of the Florida Keys to Alaskan villages along the Bering Sea, the program is now expanding at a pace of about 20,000 people a day.

Clearly there are some major discrepancies between the reality of the world’s top thinker and his president, and  the reality US citizens are faced with. At Human Action we like to keep our focus squarely on the real world. Perhaps our policymakers should too.

Further browsing: Interactive map of food stamp usage across the USA.

UPDATE: A ‘food stamp’ is basically a token or coupon handed to mainly no- and low-income people from the government, which gives the token-holder the ability to purchase food (or petrol, or whatever the token specifies), without having to tender his or her own cash, but rather by exchanging the token for the good. It is a form of direct subsidy granted by the government. Wiki says “recipients must have near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits.” Food stamps ensure that the subsidy is definately spent on pre-determined goods, and not booze or whatever else may be top of the holder’s priority list. Food stamps were first introduced in the US in 1939, and was officially enacted in 1964. According to Wiki the average monthly benefit is $133 per person.

2 Responses to “US Politicians buy caviar with their food stamps”

  1. Weskusklong says:

    Hi JGalt,

    Could you please tell us more what a food stamp is and how a it is used and how it came about during the Great Depression?

    Thank you

    • JGalt says:

      Weskusklong, I stuck an update to define a food stamp in…I can come back to origins of food stamps another day, but the jist of it is that they came about as a response to mass poverty and unemployment toward the end of the great depression…the way the government dealt with no-income people during the depression was in fact through soup kitchens – which began to spring up in 1929. The food-stamp is a form of modern-day soup kitchen, where pre-issued ‘electronic benefit cards’ (EBT cards) are electronically loaded up with cash by the government. It makes it much easier for the government to redistribute from the wealthy to the poor.