SNAP Out Of It
On December 27th, a Fox News article stated that Food Stamp fraud was at an "all time high". I've never been on Food Stamps. I'm not saying that as any sort of boast, I just want to make it clear that this is not a personal matter for me.
That being said, fuck them and fuck that. Perpetuating the myth of the "welfare queen" is an age old tactic used to demonize the poor and further turn the screws on a segment of the population that is struggling with just being able to feed themselves and their families. The tone I hear from such articles ends up fanning the flames of calls to drug test recipients or just slash benefits across the board. That's fucked because...
1. There Are Much Bigger Fish to Fry
Never mind that there's no source even implied for where Fox got their data. Let's play along for now. What they neglect to mention is the alleged $70 million worth of fraud represents 0.1% of the money going into the program. The GOP guest Fox brought on to expand on the issue even admits it's less than 1%. Also, SNAP spending represented only 2% of the total budget in 2012.
Contrast that with corporate subsidies and energy subsidies and it gets a bit depressing. While critics of SNAP bemoan a dime out of every Benjamin not being spent as intended, massively profitable companies are allowed to take a bite out of the US budget with little to no criticism from left or right.
Even if you discount other notorious taxpayer funded money sinks such as wasteful military spending, corporate subsidies should be the easiest of targets for those critical of public money being surreptitiously funneled upward where it does little to no good to the average citizen rather than the $135/mo given to the average SNAP recipient.
2. It Doesn't Work
There seems to be this overriding notion from Conservative circles that putting in place tough deterrents and making examples is enough to shame people into more appropriate behavior.
Considering how well this mentality has worked for curbing online file sharing, illegal drug use, and immigration, it raises the question of whether the goal of SNAP critics is to save taxpayer dollars, or to simply punish those they view as getting a "free ride" without taking into context the bigger picture of what they have to deal with every day.
Here's the thing though. If someone is so down and out that they're trying to game the food stamp system, not only are they not ever going to get rich doing so, but it would be a tall order to make their life any worse than it already is. It would be like stepping on the toes of a cancer patient. Sure it might hurt them, but they've got much bigger problems.
Whether it's via articles such as this latest one by Fox trying to paint a negative picture of recipients or more official means like invasive drug screens, these are nothing more than spiteful and they end up being harmful to those most in need.
3. It Misses the Point
The aim of the SNAP program is to ensure that fewer people go hungry. Given the heavy religious leanings of the GOP and the already implicit support of such programs from the left (not to mention all the good it does for local economies), SNAP should be heralded as an example of the federal government unambiguously doing its job, and the extremely low rates of fraud written off as no more than the loose change in the budgetary couch cushions.
Instead, we get the constant vilification of anyone who, due to shitty wages, lack of affordable childcare, disability, elderly fixed income, or simply the apparently grave sin of being born to parents that don't quite have their shit together yet.
Where one stands on this issue correlates to a philosophical dilemma. Would it be better to allow the guilty to go unpunished in order to spare the innocent, or to more viciously go after all offenders knowing that some innocents will get caught in the crossfire? There is no completely right answer to this question that works for any scenario you apply it to.
But looking at SNAP, who it helps, what it accomplishes, and how ridiculously little is lost to fraudulent use, any criticism geared towards reducing or restricting the program only serves to cut off our nose to spite our face.