Thursday, March 08, 2012

Millionaire Collects Food Stamps; Food Stamps Cover Far More Than the Cost of Food

A millionaire in Michigan is collecting food stamps after winning the lottery. “Amanda Clayton, a 24-year-old from Lincoln Park, Michigan . . . is getting away with it. Clayton won $1 million from the Michigan State Lottery this fall, but she is still collecting and using $200 a month in food assistance from the taxpayers with her Michigan Bridge Card. ‘I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn’t, I thought maybe it was okay because I’m not working,’ the lottery winner who just purchased a new house and car told Local 4 in Detroit. The station even filmed her shamelessly purchasing goods. When Local 4 asked if she felt she had a right to the money, Clayton responded, ‘I mean I kinda do.’” “‘I have bills to pay,” she said. “I have two houses.”

As James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has helped millionaires collect food stamps. As he pointed out, the Obama administration has encouraged states to abolish asset tests for food stamps, leaving even unemployed millionaires able to qualify: “Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income. Thirty-five states have abolished asset tests for most food-stamp recipients. These and similar ‘paperwork reduction’ reforms advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are turning the food-stamp program into a magnet for abuses and absurdities.”

Even the mostly liberal readers of Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog are now catching on to the fact that food stamps cover far more than the cost of buying inexpensive healthy and nutritious foods — something I pointed out at length earlier, noting that I have traditionally spent less on food than food stamp recipients do. (The ideology of his blog is illustrated by an item Sullivan recently wrote entitled, “Why Are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?”) As one reader noted, he spent more money on food while on food stamps than he did before becoming unemployed and going on food stamps:
As a family of four (me, wife, two kids) we got around $550 for food per month (~$140/person per month). This was far more than we were spending before we ended up on food stamps and more than we budget for food now that I am employed again. We bought milk, not soda, and meat, not canned food, and we had enough to build up some food storage as well. The idea that there just isn’t enough money from food stamps and people are forced into making poor food choices is flat wrong in my experience. I can see if a family insists on eating prepared food every day for every meal, or regularly uses EBT to buy take-and-bake pizza, they may run into some problems due to the convenience premium that is priced into those products. But it is well within a food stamp budget to buy healthy ingredients and make your own food.

As another reader noted,
Here in good old Oregon, where one in five citizens is on food stamps, we almost have the opposite problem: people using food stamps to purchase gourmet, organic, fair-trade, eco-friendly food. I’ve seen people purchase $20/pound wild caught fresh salmon and not blink an eye at the thought of using their EBT card.

There are now a record 47 million people on food stamps. To collect generous federal subsidies that reward states for increasing the number of people on food stamps, some states are deliberately qualifying for food stamps millions of people who are not poor, but who are lucky enough to receive small amounts of state housing, heating, or other subsidies designed to qualify them for federal food stamp entitlements. The Obama administration is busy cracking down on states that attempt to reduce food stamp fraud, as James Bovard noted earlier in The Wall Street Journal. Food stamp fraud costs America billions of dollars. This is remarkable, since eligibility requirements are so easy to satisfy that no fraud is even needed for many undeserving people to collect food stamps.

The Obama administration’s $800 billion stimulus package also largely repealed the 1996 welfare-reform law, as Slate’s Mickey Kaus and the Heritage Foundation have noted, making it easier for many people to go on welfare.



The destructive web of government welfare

A hypothetical single mother of two lives in Virginia and brings home $20,000 a year after the government takes out Social Security and other state and federal deductions. However, because of her low income she is able to collect Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), food stamps, Medicaid/SCHIP and Section 8 housing.

In another scenario a recent college graduate is fortunate enough to find a job and makes a starting salary of $39,900.

Who makes more money — the single mother or the recent college graduate?

If you guessed the single mom, you’re right. With her income less taxes plus subsidies, she brings home just about $40,000, according to economist Clifford Thies.

When applying Thies research that the relationship of earned income and after-tax income plus subsidies is basically flat from $0 to $40,000, it paints a grim picture for today’s working class. During the fourth quarter of 2011 median weekly earnings for full time wage and salary workers in the U.S. was $764 — a yearly salary equal to $39,728. This means those who make this median amount or less essentially have less spending power than those who make a much lower salary and live off the government’s myriad welfare programs.

How can this be? It’s simple really, when you consider that there are about 70 means-tested welfare spending programs overlapping in the U.S. today. These means-tested programs have nothing to do with Social Security, or other entitlement programs. Though they phase out as income increases, they keep people dependent on the government — even when they don’t want to be. They also discourage workers from moving up the ranks or from finding a job at all.

You see, someone making less than $40,000 a year might be penalized for accepting a raise or agreeing to work more hours because it might result in a much smaller personal budget. When low-income Americans move up in the tax code, they don’t just face a higher tax bracket, they also see their government benefits begin to disappear. Unfortunately for many, it economically makes more sense to stay at their current level and turn down that raise or extra hours of work.

This government trap ensures that the poor in America stay poor.

“It is no surprise that these overlapping programs only perpetuate the growing welfare state in America,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “This affects all low-income Americans and essentially keeps them in a government-run benefits prison.”

A policy brief by the Republican Study Committee states, since 1964, “Americans have spent $16 trillion on means-tested welfare. All levels of government may spend another $10 trillion over the next decade based on recent projections.”

The brief also highlights the fact that no agency has the responsibility to figure out how all these welfare programs interact with each other and how, despite their original purpose, they often deter people from working altogether.

Since $40,000 has been labeled as the breakaway point for many of these government welfare programs, what exactly does $40,000 a year look like? Breaking it down to an hourly rate, it’s a little less than $20 an hour.

That’s a far cry from today’s federal minimum wage requirement of $7.25 an hour. Of course this number also varies by state, but no state comes close to a $20-an-hour requirement. So what does this mean to America’s youth?

Year after year Democrats petition for the minimum wage requirement to go up. This hurts young workers as businesses decide paying the minimum wage requirement is too burdensome and so they don’t hire young, inexperienced workers anymore. This is where the government steps in and young people begin falling into the government’s welfare trap — often times they have no other choice.

The cries from the Left asserting America needs to do more for its youth and low-income citizens by strengthening current welfare programs, establishing new ones and even raising minimum wage laws, is only abetting the problem.

What would be beneficial for all Americans is the reduction and repeal of many of these programs. It should never be the case that someone could potentially be made financially worse off for earning more money.

And when you have a system where people have to ask themselves if working more hours or accepting a raise will result in less money in their pocket then you know the system is the problem.

A low-income earner, a recent college graduate or an 18-year-old working his first job should never be better off living off the government than by their own abilities.



Employer demands Facebook login credentials during interview

This is pretty obnoxious, a violation of the 4th Amendment, among other things. The DOC has recently replied to the ACLU saying that they have made the giving of details "voluntary". The ACLU treats that with the contempt it deserves here -- JR

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken up the cause of Officer Robert Collins, a Maryland man who was forced to hand over his Facebook login credentials during a recertification interview with the Maryland Division of Corrections (DOC). Collins took the time to describe what happened in his specific case in a video on YouTube.

On January 25, the ACLU of Maryland sent a letter (PDF) to Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard on behalf of Collins, concerning the DOC’s blanket requirement that applicants for employment, as well as current employees undergoing recertification, provide the government with their social network account usernames and passwords for use in employee background checks. It has been three weeks, and they have still not heard back.

“The demand for Facebook login information is not only a gross breach of privacy for Officer Collins and his friends, it raises significant legal concerns under the Federal Stored Communications Act and Maryland state law, which protect privacy rights and extend protections to electronic communications,” an ACLU spokesperson said in a statement. “As many of us begin to rely on sites like Facebook to stay connected to our friends and family, it’s important for employers and the government to keep in mind that, for most users, Facebook is a medium for private communications.”

It’s important to note that this is not equivalent to checking what a job applicant has posted publicly on the Internet. Collins emphasized that his Facebook account has the highest privacy settings employed, meaning that all of his messages are private. This is more like the government agency going through his personal mail.

“I was subjected to a customary usual background investigation,” Collins said. “What was not customary usual was a request or to me, rather a demand, which was the insinuation for my Facebook e-mail and login information, my personal login information. Here I am, a US citizen who hasn’t broken any laws, who hasn’t committed any crime, and I have an employer looking at my personal communications, my personal posts, my personal my pictures, you know looking at my personally identifiable information… you know, where my religious, my political beliefs, my sexuality; all of these things are possibly disclosed on this page. It’s an absolute total invasion, and an overreach, and overstep of their power.”




Obama attempts to distract from Super Tuesday with a puppet show: "Is Obama smarter than a fifth grader? If you saw his less-than-impressive nationally televised press conference (his first in five months), you might not think so. At 1:15pm yesterday, with a nation on bated breath, our illustrious president took the stage in the Brady Press Briefing Room. And for the next forty-five minutes he proceeded to say… Nothing. It was as if, in an attempt to avoid scorn from Republicans for possibly making a mistake, our Commander in Chief stumbled his way through a nearly indistinguishable series of “buts” “ums” and “uhs” in response to the barely sophomoric questions posed to him by the press. He seemed confused by the mere fact that spoken words were being uttered in his direction, and his inability to speak a cohesive sentence was Muppet-level ridiculous. Guess he’s not so smooth without his trusty teleprompter. His hands were practically shaking with withdrawal."

Sandra Fluke’s protection racket: "Cost aside, the essence of Fluke's argument is that reproductive freedom requires free birth control. By the same logic, religious freedom requires kosher food subsidies, freedom of speech requires taxpayer-funded computers, and the right to keep and bear arms requires government-supplied guns. If you do not agree with this reasoning, according to a recent fundraising appeal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, you are joining 'Republicans' disgraceful assault on women’s rights.'"

Sickening regulation: "The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it must delay implementation of new reimbursement codes for Medicare. Those new regulations would have increased the total number of reimbursement codes from the current 18,000 to more than 140,000 separate codes. The delay will undoubtedly come as a relief for physicians who will have additional time to try to understand the bureaucratic complexity of rules that, for example, apply 36 different codes for treating a snake bite .... nine different types of hang-gliding injuries, four different types of alligator attacks, and the important difference between injuries sustained by walking into a wall and those resulting from walking into a lamppost. And Democrats wonder why Americans still resist having the government control our health care?"

State attorneys general resist Obama's power grab: "Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not one to mince words, and he certainly held back nothing earlier this week when he offered the following assessment of President Obama: "This president and his administration, in my view, represent the greatest set of lawbreakers that have run the federal government in our lifetimes. The fact is, President Obama and his appointees have ignored federal laws, they've ignored binding rulings of federal courts and they've ignored the limits on their power mandated by the Constitution." Cuccinelli's comments came during a joint news conference with the chief legal officers for eight other states under the auspices of the Republican Attorneys General Association."

Libya: Tribal leaders, militia commanders declare semi-autonomous state: "Tribal leaders and militia commanders declared oil-rich eastern Libya a semiautonomous state on Tuesday, a unilateral move that the interim head of state called a 'dangerous' conspiracy by Arab nations to tear the country apart six months after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi. Thousands of representatives of major tribes, militia commanders and politicians made the declaration at a conference in the main eastern city of Benghazi, insisting it was not intended to divide the country. They said they want their region to remain part of a united Libya, but needed to do this to stop decades of discrimination against the east."

First, let’s kill all the animals: "The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom last week reported that PETA slaughtered fully 95 percent of the stray dogs and cats it 'rescued' in 2011. ... Bottom line: The organization that claims its members would 'rather go naked than wear fur' prefers to kill dogs and cats rather than find homes for them"



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