At NRO, Charles C. W. Cooke writes that the “Food-stamp fraudsters should be punished to the full extent of the law:”
On Saturday, Louisiana’s “EBT” system malfunctioned, causing spending limits on users’ food-stamp cards temporarily to be lifted. In two counties at least, recipients noticed the error, spread the word, and set about trying to check out as much as they could fit into shopping carts. At Walmarts in the towns of Springhill and Mansfield, employees called corporate headquarters to ask what they should do. They were instructed to “keep the registers ringing.” This they did — and with a vengeance.
By the time that proper limits on the cards had been restored a couple of hours later, the shelves had been all but stripped bare. “Just about everything is gone, I’ve never seen it in that condition,” Anthony Fuller, a customer in Mansfield, told the press. Will Lyn, the chief of police in nearby Springhill, agreed, telling the Daily Mail that “it was definitely worse than Black Friday. It was worse than anything we had ever seen in this town. There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Walmart was totally decimated.” One man even managed to spend $700.
“I saw people drag out eight to ten grocery carts,” Lynd reported. Those who did not manage to take advantage in time simply abandoned their hauls in the middle of the aisles.
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Presumably, the people most annoyed at this behavior will be progressives who do not consider this latest incident to be symptomatic of a wider ill. In addition to sticking their fingers into the eyes of taxpayers, what shoppers who spent beyond their allowances did in Louisiana was take aid away from other users who did not. Conservatives who suggest that the food-stamp budget has ranged wildly out of control and needs trimming back are immediately accused by their ideological foes of “stealing food from the mouths of children,” to borrow a favorite phrase of Nancy Pelosi’s. What, then, are individual citizens doing who diminish the available food-stamp budget? What responsibility do they carry?
Conservatives are fond of repeating the old line that the republic “can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.”* In Louisiana this weekend, many citizens got the opportunity to do this without even having to bother to vote — and they took it. Whatever legitimate disagreements there are about the role of democracy in a free society, there should be none here. This was theft, pure and simple, and its perpetrators should be treated as any other thief would be.
Oh sure — let’s see Arkansas-based Walmart, already so loathed by the left, and so self-loathing that it hired a “Progressive” former senior aide to Al Gore in an abortive effort in the mid-naughts to transform its product line into something that was more “green,” “organic” and PC, and/or local officials in the southern state of Louisiana arrest food stamp recipients en masse.
Instead, as spotted by Bryan Preston at the PJ Tatler, “The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, which oversees the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, said Walmart will have to foot the bill for store losses in Springhill and Mansfield, La., during a food shopping frenzy.”
It’s probably cheaper for Walmart than the mountains of bad PR they would face if they prosecuted those who committed the thievery.