Criminals have to eat this stuff, not the poor

Donald Trump’s budget includes the idea of replacing food stamps (more accurately, SNAP benefits) with “harvest boxes” of government food. This idea hasn’t received nearly as much derision as it should have done.

It’s a dumb, dumb, dumb, idea. It also makes us all poorer. Seriously dumb idea.

The first problem is that we all know what government food is going to be like. That Nutriloaf pictured is what some prisoners are fed upon. OK, sure, prisoners and all that but the poor ain’t to be punished in the same manner. And can anyone point to a single person who has voluntarily consumed government cheese?

We might also attack this idea from a slightly different nutritional point of view:

She points to the nutrition issue with the boxes, highlighting the sodium present in government foods and how the box doesn’t provide fresh produce.

We don’t share that hypertension over salt in food nor do we worry overmuch about the absence of fresh food. This is all supposed to be a supplement to a food budget (it’s the Supplementary NAP after all) not the budget itself. However, even the left can sometimes get close to being right:

“It takes away the voice of the American citizen,” Johnson-Faniel says. “People should have a decision in what they eat.”

Close but not quite the cigar there. This is the truth though:

Even more fundamentally, though, we know from studies that people place less value on things they are given than they do on gifts of cash. We even know how much more they value it. When food stamps are illegally traded for real money (usually not for drugs but for diapers, the most common item bought this way) it’s 50 cents cash for $1 on the card. This problem will only become worse when we start distributing food, not cards to buy food. What will be the exchange rate of government-canned vegetables to diapers?

People, yes even poor people, value agency. A dollar to be spent as we wish is worth more to us than a dollar of goods or services that people think we should have. Thus it is economically efficient to give people money if they’re poor, not things. Give them money to buy food, not what food you think they ought to have. If this means a nation on Pop Tarts then so be it – it is supposed to be the land of the free after all. An underlying meaning of that being obese and free is better than slim and slaves.

The importance here being that if we distribute food instead of money then what is received is worth less than what is sent. Value just disappears into the ether, we’re all poorer.

That’s before we even consider the expertise and efficiency which government will bring to distribution. We can all see how good they are at delivering the mail and we’re going to use that same expertise to deliver the food without which people will die? And another food logistics system, instead of just going to the stores which already exist? Puerile nonsense is too kind for this.

It’s entirely feasible to insist that the poor should get nothing. Not that it’s going to happen but there’s a logic to it at least. Equally, it’s reasonable enough to argue that we should give money to poor people so that they’re less poor and are able to buy things. But to argue that we should distribute government food to them in a land heaving with grocery stores is idiot delusion. Don’t do it nor allow it to happen folks.

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  1. It seems obvious that this proposal is more aimed at motivating people to get off welfare than it is at spending welfare dollars more efficiently. So the fact that poor people would rather have cash is a feature rather than a bug.

  2. And can anyone point to a single person who has voluntarily consumed government cheese?

    Yes. I have.

    My grandmother was given it as a pensioner (no, I don’t know the reasoning behind that either; she was anything but poor, but there you go). She said she didn’t want it, but she was told that if she didn’t take it it would just be binned. So she took it and gave it to us. It makes the best damn grilled cheese sandwiches and mac & cheese you could ever have.

  3. Yes, the “client” making his own purchasing decisions would choose more wisely than Trump filling boxes for the client. (At least, after he takes a taxi to the 7-Eleven and has it keep running while he shops.) But it is not the client’s money, it was mine before they stole it. I don’t want the client to have the best; I want him to be kept from starving to give him a few weeks to change some life decisions. Massachusetts has just debated a law to prohibit EBT cards from being used to buy tattoos and lap dances, futile in any case, as the cards work perfectly well at the cash machine, and as mentioned, there are shadier ways to monetize benefits for less than 100% of face value.

    The real question is: How bad does a federal program have to be before Trump will actually propose to kill it rather than design an unworkable, feel-good half-measure? Welfare is a state function and there never was any authority for Washington to set minimum standards, dictate form of delivery, or dictate that it be rendered “stigma-free” via electronic card.

  4. Mr Trump, don’t make SNAP worse, abolish it and fire all who administer it.

    “American cheese.” – that’s the artificial cheese MacD etc use isn’t it?

    Ranks alongside American bacon, chocolate & deep fried whole turkeys as a “why, just why?”

  5. I love the idea. Partly because being on welfare shouldn’t be comfortable. There should be shame.

    But mainly because it is such a wedge issue. It means driving the thin edge of the wedge through the alliance that makes up the Democratic Party. As soon as food is given, the urban leftist greenies will demand that it go full, or at least partially, vegan. The urban poor who get those packages are not intimately acquainted with argula. They will want pork fat and lots of it. They will fight and fight and fight.

    Britain ought to copy this policy immediately. As soon as some idiotic Leftist opens their mouth, they should be invited to sit on the committee that chooses the food.

    (As for American cheese, the post-WW2 C Ration had government-issued cheese for a while. The modern American MRE has cheese spread. Which is to cheese as, well I don’t know, dog sh!t is to Kew Gardens? But MREs for everyone! What an inspired idea.)

    ((Actually the C Ration is a great example of what happens when the government listens to experts who tell them what soldiers should eat rather than what soldiers want to eat. Frankly soldiers probably ate better in the Napoleonic Wars))

  6. Its a really dumb idea if the aim is to get food into the stomachs of those currently in receipt of food stamps. Its really clever idea if your aim is to destroy the concept of food stamps in the first place. Because what government dept will be able to resist making the food parcels low sugar, high fibre, low fat, low meat etc etc? No pizza, no chips, no sausages, no cheesecakes, just lentils, brown rice and some vegetables? Thus destroying the demand for them except from the actually hungry?

  7. “People should have a decision in what they eat.”

    Well, yes. They can eat it. Or not. If not, they aren’t hungry enough.

    ‘Give them money to buy food, not what food you think they ought to have.’

    Rilly? With the money, they will decide what they spend it on. Which MIGHT include food.

    ‘The importance here being that if we distribute food instead of money then what is received is worth less than what is sent. Value just disappears into the ether, we’re all poorer.’

    So what if it’s worth less ?!?! The idea is that government must step in because people are hungry (which is, in fact, none of the government’s business). The cure for hunger is food. It doesn’t need to be GOOD. It doesn’t need to be what the hungry LIKE. It must just be able to stop hunger. It the hungry don’t want it, they really aren’t hungry.

    I knew a man 60 years ago who told me of eating a mockingbird when he was a kid. It was all they had.

    ‘Thus it is economically efficient to give people money if they’re poor.’

    Soup kitchens/public feeding places would be efficient. GIVING MONEY AWAY is NOT EFFICIENT! It is destructive.