Friday, December 26, 2014

The Double Standard Over Welfare Abuse

Christmas dinner with the extended family is always an eye-and-ear opener. While The Curmudgeon lives and dies politics, the rest of the clan lives in the real world. Listening to them chat about the issues of the day can be most instructive.
They complain about Obamacare even while benefitting from their state-government-funded health insurance. There is anger over immigration, even though the family isn't far removed from immigrants who came over from Europe a century ago. There is outrage over the "anti-gun" Obama administration even though the President hasn't done a damned thing about gun control.
In other words, it sounds like an in-person version of "Fox and Friends."
One conversation thread this year was about people buying "luxuries" with their EBT cards (that's the tech version of Food Stamps), or selling their EBT benefits for cash: people buying steaks and lobsters and junk food instead of kale and peanut butter; others trying to exchange their benefits for cash so they could buy cigarettes or weed or iPhones or whatever. The consensus: there's a lot of abuse of the program. They confuse the exceptions for the ordinary.
But of course there is abuse. Name me anything of value that isn't abused, something where there is 100% compliance with the rules.
The Curmudgeon doesn't condone abuse of government benefits or anything else. We should all play by the rules. But one wonders...

  • Do you pay the state's use tax on your internet purchases? You are supposed to report that on your annual state income tax return.
  • Do you always obey the speed limit? Ever run a red light?
  • Do you stretch the truth on your federal tax deductions, or "invent" some cash charitable contributions or exaggerate your tax-deductible mileage?
  • (This is for just one special person) why don't you pay state excise tax on your cigarettes that you buy from a friend with a "roll your own" machine?
  • Have you ever returned something to a retail store even though you didn't buy it there?
  • Do you report income made at garage sales, or selling on eBay, or reselling stuff you find at estate sales?
  • Do you smoke marijuana without benefit of a medical marijuana card? Or lie to the doctor to get a card?
  • Do you shop merchandise at a local retail store, and then order it (for less) over the internet?
  • Ever text while driving?
  • Ever drive after drinking?

The EBT program serves an important purpose: providing sustenance for people who might otherwise go hungry. Yes, it is abused. It shouldn't be. Human nature being what it is, some people will inevitably take advantage of the generosity of others.
But we shouldn't be judging a program by the exceptions to the rule, anymore than I judge you for fudging other rules that impact your life.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
And the rest of you, shut the hell up.

1 comment:

  1. I challenge people to count how many bars, tobacco shops, and restaurants are on this list (http://www.michigan.gov/documents/FIA-EBT-atmlist_11068_7.pdf) for bridge card ATM withdrawals, and not think that being more selective for locations wouldn't cut down on abuse.

    If the state of Michigan restricted bars, liquor stores, Tobacco shops, and others places like this, alongside restricting luxury food purchases, the 99% of good people might get a small increase in their monthly allotment.

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