States are using a loophole to negate Congress’s food-stamp savings

posted at 2:41 pm on March 27, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

Earlier this year and after quite the drawn-out kerfuffle, both chambers of Congress finally managed to agree to move beyond the stopgap legislative maneuvering they’d been using in place of a long-term farm bill — and despite making very few and really only cosmetic changes to the shameless corporate welfare that is agricultural portion of the legislation, House Republicans and Senate Democrats settled on cutting the federal food stamp program’s almost $80 billion/year budget by a total amounting to one percent. Republicans had originally been looking for something more along the lines of a five percent budget cut, seeing as how the program’s enrollment went from about 34 million in 2009 to more than 47 million in 2013. Even though Democrats keep informing us that the recession is over, the economy is rebounding, and employment has genuinely improved, they loudly insisted that five percent in budget savings more or less amounted to a spitefully inflicted human rights violation. They still weren’t happy about the one percent cut, mind you — citing it as an example of Republicans’ allegedly perverse penchant for watching people starve, rather than their actual desire to pare down our tremendous national debt and metastasizing government and welfare state in an effort to grow the economy back to health — but Democrats went along begrudgingly.

For a hot second, that is. Via WaPo:

Governors in several states are using a loophole in the farm bill to restore food aid for thousands of low-income families, potentially wiping out billions of dollars in savings Congress agreed to last month. …

The loophole concerns a provision, known as “Heat and Eat,” that allows people to get added food stamp benefits if they also qualify for a program that helps pay heating costs for the poor.

To qualify, people previously needed to get as little as $1 in heating aid. Several states provided that amount so residents could get more food stamp benefits. Congress sought to curb the practice – and save $8.5 billion – by raising the minimum requirement to $20.

Governors in eight states have responded by simply giving people another $19 to qualify for the extra food stamp benefits. …

“Clearly, Congress intended to grant states the authority to provide this vital benefit which is a lifeline to some of our most vulnerable constituents,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) wrote in an angry letter [pdf] to Boehner.

The Democratic governors of Montana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as Republican Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, have all moved forward, and it looks like the governors of Washington, California, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, and Wisconsin might be joining up soon — with most of the money coming from federal blocks from which a lot of states end up with extra money at the end of the year. I suppose it is these states’ prerogative to use that cash how they please, and you can bet that they’ll happily hammer away at those starvation-loving Republicans while they’re at it (elections, you know) — but this is a great example of how big government, once grown, is almost impossible to trim back.


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Looters and moochers, rejoice!!!

Schadenfreude on March 27, 2014 at 2:48 PM

Let the good times roll!!!…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Keep printing more money…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 2:53 PM

but this is a great example of how big government, once grown, is almost impossible to trim back

…fixed!

KOOLAID2 on March 27, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Work harder taxpayers!!!…we have to pay for all those lobster and steak dinners…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 2:54 PM

While the rest of us are told to cut our cell phone bills and cable off to pay for Obamacare… the ‘poor’ dine on filet. Welcome to Amurrica.

nullrouted on March 27, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Loophole my a**. There is zero doubt that this is a ‘feature’ quietly advertised to all Governors.

M240H on March 27, 2014 at 2:58 PM

It’s patriotic to pay more taxes so we can eliminate income inequality…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

But god forbid states drug test those receiving the stamps.

nobar on March 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

God help the next moocher I get behind at the supermarket using an EBT card…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Keep printing more money…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Matt Yglesias says it’s ok.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Matt Yglesias says it’s ok.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Then it must be so…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 3:03 PM

Loophole my a**. There is zero doubt that this is a ‘feature’ quietly advertised to all Governors.

M240H on March 27, 2014 at 2:58 PM

A ‘loophole’ is a hole in the wall through which you can shoot at the middle class taxpayer until he shows no signs of life. So ya, loophole fits.

Fenris on March 27, 2014 at 3:03 PM

God help the next moocher I get behind at the supermarket using an EBT card…

PatriotRider on March 27, 2014 at 3:01 PM

I’ve embarrassed my nieces and nephews more than once, they just don’t see the humor.

Fenris on March 27, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Why is Boehner pissed? The “loophole” is obvious. Did Boehner not think this is exactly how Dems would respond?

Mark1971 on March 27, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Food stamps isn’t a terrible idea if time limited and restricted to fresh fruits/veggies, meat, dairy.
It pisses me off to see sodas, candy, and frozen junk food meals purchased with my money. That’s not helping to feed your family.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:08 PM

It pisses me off to see sodas, candy, and frozen junk food meals purchased with my money. That’s not helping to feed your family.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:08 PM

It’s because food stamps/welfare are just as much handouts to the big crony capitalist corporations as they are to the poor government dependent class.

Crony capitalists want food stamps/welfare to keep money flowing.

tcufrog on March 27, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Yet one more reason why 1) government should not be involved in charity and 2) the national government needs to be cut back massively to retore it to its Constitutional boundaries.

GWB on March 27, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Food stamps isn’t a terrible idea if time limited and restricted to fresh fruits/veggies, meat, dairy.
It pisses me off to see sodas, candy, and frozen junk food meals purchased with my money. That’s not helping to feed your family.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Just use the WIC guidelines. The program is already in place and the food available for that is supposed to be healthful and varied.

cptacek on March 27, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Crony capitalists want food stamps/welfare to keep money flowing.

tcufrog on March 27, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Hostess didn’t grease the right palms. They would have been deemed too big to fail. Little Debbie, on the other hand…

Big Snack Food lobbies for an increase food stamp disbursements, the poor buy more snack foods, Big Snack Food profits. All under the guise of “helping the children.” Evil genius!

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:21 PM

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:08 PM

They are an abomination when funded from the national level. They are a terrible idea at all times when distributed by the government – which has no business being a charity.

GWB on March 27, 2014 at 3:21 PM

They are an abomination when funded from the national level. They are a terrible idea at all times when distributed by the government – which has no business being a charity.

GWB on March 27, 2014 at 3:21 PM

In a Libertarian world, I’d agree 100%. At this point, I’ll take a roll back of 20 years, and work from there. Progressive liberty.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:25 PM

More beer and lottery tix.
YIPPPPEEEE!

Pelosi Schmelosi on March 27, 2014 at 3:32 PM

All EBT/SNAP cards should be at least 3ft X 5ft bright yellow cards with a built-in speaker that automatically loudly plays, “Thanks to all working Americans for supporting my ass” everytime it’s scanned.

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on March 27, 2014 at 3:35 PM

In a Libertarian world, I’d agree 100%. At this point, I’ll take a roll back of 20 years, and work from there. Progressive liberty.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:25 PM

I understand your point. Unfortunately, I don’t think pushing the boulder partway back up the hill will work.

GWB on March 27, 2014 at 3:38 PM

**Reposting from dead thread**

Conservatives always struggle to understand simple economic principles, so let me break it down and simplify this for you.

People receiving welfare aren’t burdened with work. Americans who don’t need to work have free time to buy products. Consumers who buy products produce profits for companies, which results in more tax dollars for the government, which produces more substantial welfare payments and even more citizens relieved of labor necessities. Which enables even more spending….

Eventually, thanks to President Obama’s ingenious efforts and leadership, no American will have to be concerned with working and we will finally achieve true economic equality for all

Frank Lib on March 27, 2014 at 3:39 PM

Why don’t they do it like the WIC program which really works. Maybe it isn’t the same in every state but I worked in a supermarket and pregnant women and women with babies had to go to Job and Family Service or something where they would get a voucher. The things they were allowed to buy were listed on there. They could only buy milk, baby formula, certain cereals, real juice, etc. I’m sure someone could figure out a way to abuse this system but I didn’t see any of it.

crankyoldlady on March 27, 2014 at 3:41 PM

All EBT/SNAP cards should be at least 3ft X 5ft bright yellow cards with a built-in speaker that automatically loudly plays, “Thanks to all working Americans for supporting my ass” everytime it’s scanned.

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on March 27, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Best comment I’ve seen here in a very long time!

Redford on March 27, 2014 at 3:41 PM

disband EBT/SNAP.

once a week they have to line up and get a 5lb bag of rice, 3lb bag of beans, 2 gal of milk, 1lb of beef, 1lb of chicken, 5lb mixed fruits and veggies, and 25grams of chocolate.

and line up is mandatory unless the entire family is bed ridden.

todler on March 27, 2014 at 3:43 PM

But god forbid states drug test those receiving the stamps.

nobar on March 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

I’d propose a weight test. For every 1 pound you are overweight, you get a 1% reduction in food stamps.

It would be the healthy and compassionate thing to do for women and children.

Larding them up on free junk food is cruel.

MichaelGabriel on March 27, 2014 at 3:50 PM

I sure hope Texas is at the bottom of per capita welfare spending. If its not we better take care that it is. By a lot even.

DanMan on March 27, 2014 at 3:51 PM

My mother briefly worked for the welfare dept. during the depression. She said they didn’t give money to people. They gave them things like food and clothing. You could tell who was getting help because they were all wearing the same sweaters.

crankyoldlady on March 27, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Larding them up on free junk food is cruel.

MichaelGabriel on March 27, 2014 at 3:50 PM

One of the best ever.

crankyoldlady on March 27, 2014 at 4:15 PM

There are no jobs. 90 million out of the workforce, and people in Camp Right are being told to worry about a drop of cash in an ocean of debt. Foodstamps are such a tiny expense in a government that routinely spends $4-5 trillion on God knows what: $70 billion a year out of that budget is a rounding error. And half the budget is printed and borrowed anyway.

What about all that money that gets handed to the parasites who destroyed the middle class? They should have been allowed to reap what they had sown and been destroyed by the market. But instead due to insider connections with the government, the printing presses were cranked up full bore and ran day and night to make them whole again- at everyone else’s expense.

The problem is not the half the country that is a victim of government/elitist partnership. The problem is the incipient American Aristocracy that has bent the system to its will.

The money flowing to this master class is in the trillions, all the while people’s sense of right and wrong is tweaked to aim them at the poor. Half the country is poor now, if not more. Most jobs don’t pay enough to afford rent, food, and taxes. The 20% of the country that isn’t poor yet hears the wolf at the door, and their fears are directed at their fellow victims rather than where they belong.

America needs to get to work again. How does that happen when the government and system have been stolen out from under us?

Another Libertarian on March 27, 2014 at 4:18 PM

While the rest of us are told to cut our cell phone bills and cable off to pay for Obamacare… the ‘poor’ dine on filet. Welcome to Amurrica.

nullrouted on March 27, 2014 at 2:54 PM

How many are using their food stamps to satisfy their pot induced munchies and soon if we legalize pot it will even get better. Because we need more lazy, unmotivated people to work the system.

Neitherleftorright on March 27, 2014 at 4:24 PM

The Democratic governors of Montana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as Republican Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, have all moved forward,

SO PROUD OF ‘COVER-UP OREGON’ KITZHABER!

I’m an Oregonite. I don’t say ‘Oregonian’ – that’s the name of the lib/prog bird-cage liner in Portland.

Marcola on March 27, 2014 at 4:32 PM

How many are using their food stamps to satisfy their pot induced munchies and soon if we legalize pot it will even get better. Because we need more lazy, unmotivated people to work the system. keep their heads down and do what they’re told to get their next fix.
Neitherleftorright on March 27, 2014 at 4:24 PM

fify

Marcola on March 27, 2014 at 4:34 PM

I’m with ‘Lib”. I say we get the pitchforks out and kill everyone actually working, providing jobs (besides Unka – well, Him, included) and creating wealth. That will provide the rest of us 99%-ers enough stuff to last a couple of weeks. Then, we can…we can…oh. well…

vnvet on March 27, 2014 at 4:38 PM

Spend it and they will come!

GarandFan on March 27, 2014 at 5:24 PM

Big Snack Food lobbies for an increase food stamp disbursements, the poor buy more snack foods, Big Snack Food profits. All under the guise of “helping the children.” Evil genius!

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:21 PM

This is the reason that so many of the “starving poor” look like they are one dinner mint away from exploding.

SubmarineDoc on March 27, 2014 at 7:11 PM

As I said I worked in a supermarket. Carts were full of chips and cookies. That’s not to say there aren’t people who actually need and deserve help but those people usually don’t ask for it. I could qualify for food stamps but I don’t want to be a part of the parasite class.

crankyoldlady on March 27, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on March 27, 2014 at 3:35 PM

I spent a short time on food stamps 1999-2000…and I APOLOGIZED to the cashier every time I pulled out my link card.
I HATED being on welfare because the taxpayers had to pay for my bad choices.

annoyinglittletwerp on March 27, 2014 at 8:27 PM

Food stamps isn’t a terrible idea if time limited and restricted to fresh fruits/veggies, meat, dairy.
It pisses me off to see sodas, candy, and frozen junk food meals purchased with my money. That’s not helping to feed your family.

tdarrington on March 27, 2014 at 3:08 PM

This.

The problem is not the half the country that is a victim of government/elitist partnership. The problem is the incipient American Aristocracy that has bent the system to its will.

The money flowing to this master class is in the trillions, all the while people’s sense of right and wrong is tweaked to aim them at the poor. Half the country is poor now, if not more. Most jobs don’t pay enough to afford rent, food, and taxes. The 20% of the country that isn’t poor yet hears the wolf at the door, and their fears are directed at their fellow victims rather than where they belong.

America needs to get to work again. How does that happen when the government and system have been stolen out from under us?

Another Libertarian on March 27, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Good points. Corporate Cronyism sucks up vast amounts of money, compared to which EBT really is peanuts (although the complete tally of welfare handouts is much larger). Better controls, and less fraud, help in a psychological sense: if we can’t tame this relatively straight-forward program, what can we do about the larger, more ferocious ones?

As for “mooching” — many people really can’t get by without some “government help” — aka taxpayer redistributions.
We have an out-of-work child (1 of 5) for whose family we pay mortgage, utilities, non-food expenses, transportation costs, and school loans.
If we weren’t paying 50% of our income in taxes, we could cover their food expenses as well.

I consider their EBT card as my ROI (aka tax payments), and it’s negative at that.

Add what his 4 siblings are taxed, and our immediate family is a net surplus production unit of the government.

(Counting the extended family (our own siblings and parents), we do even better: out of 50 adults and children, 25/37 adults are employed, 5 are retired, 6 are home-moms (2 work part-time), 1 is unemployed-looking-for-work; and the only “welfare” cases other than the job-seeker are 2 military pensions, 1 SS pension, 1 medical practitioner with Medicare patients, 1 University employee, and 1 handicapped child with special-needs educational assistance. So, we could easily take care of our own family, if we weren’t taking care of so many others as well. And that doesn’t count substantial charitable contributions.)

I am getting a little testy about the subject, because of a bumper sticker I saw a couple of years ago, which read: “Focus on your own damn family” (the reference should be familiar, and you can guess the other stickers on the car).
In light of the disastrous economic policies, Obamacare, welfare insanities, LGBTXYZ bullying, and Common Core, my response is:
I would be happy to Focus on my own Family if you would just leave us alone!

AesopFan on March 28, 2014 at 1:02 AM

Interesting, but then I am not surprised. Given the incentives and opportunity, all legal, the outcome was obvious.

If States are willing to spend any surplus (or projected surplus)funds in their block grants on food stamps – food stamps has more political bang than some back-end program like a new park or another policeman – then why not? Just hold them to it. No begging for more supplemental block-grant or other funds because those States, that went this route, find that food stamps happen to eat up all the surplus and more.

Budgets are primarily means to plan how one will spend one’s funds. They are subject to change depending on the situation. If one chooses to shift funds from one use to another, by all means. BUT, don’t cry that you can’t pay for something else (maybe really worthwhile) that has arisen because you spent it all for something else.

Russ808 on March 28, 2014 at 2:13 PM