Cliff-Diving into Dependency, and Trolling for Democratic Votes
Not that proving eligibility is particularly important. The Daily Caller carried a story in mid-February entitled "Record numbers receive food stamps as USDA turns blind eye to recipients’ finances." It quoted a letter from SNAP Associate Administrator Jessica Shahin to the program's regional administrators, telling them that "applicants will not need to provide documentation verifying their resources." This makes food stamps the no-doc loans -- er, make that grants -- of the entitlement world.
Beyond that, there's a built-in rules dodge that from all appearances is a recent "innovation" of the federal bureaucracy. Known as "categorical eligibility" (again, per the Daily Caller, supported by the letter from Ms. Shahin) it specifies that "anybody who receives other federal aid, such as Medicaid, automatically qualifies for food stamps in most states."
More than a few recipients realize, especially considering the myriad other government bennies they are already receiving (and I can cite a specific personally relayed example of this), that their food stamp allotment is far higher than what they really spend on food each month. So they let relatives or friends share in the redistributed wealth. There's also rampant fraud and abuse that the government never seems to be able to stop, to the point that one has to wonder if it really wants to stop it.
It should not surprise anyone that SNAP program costs rose 45% from $37.7 billion in fiscal 2008 to $53.6 billion in fiscal 2009. Costs are now running in excess of $5 billion a month and are on track to reach at least $63 billion by fiscal year-end.
Similar narratives could be written about "traditional" welfare (total caseload went up about 10% during the year ended September 30, 2009, to about 4.25 million recipients, after adding estimates for Michigan and Guam that are not at the link), Medicaid (enrollment was 46.9 million on June 30, 2009, up by 3.3 million during the previous 12 months), school lunches and breakfasts (a combined 7 billion meals served, obviously duplicating food stamp benefits in many cases), subsidized Section 8 housing, college aid that includes "living costs," and even cell phones.
That's right, cell phones. The SafeLink program, which provides free phones and a set number of minutes per month to over 2 million people, is so embarrassing that its sponsor tries to pretend that taxpayers aren't paying for it. The site that supposedly "debunks" the claim admits that the money for the program comes from the Universal Service Fund, and that phone companies "often charge customers to fund their contributions in the form of a universal service fee you might see on your monthly phone bill." Those of us who pay phone bills know that "often" really means "almost always." Sorry, Factcheck.org; that "fee" is a tax.
But wait. I thought that the economy was recovering, that unemployment may have peaked, and that more people are finding jobs. Shouldn't that bring the dependency numbers down?
Don't be silly. If that were the case, they should have started declining several months ago. This isn't about solving poverty. The loosened requirements and look-the-other-way attitude betray the sad truth that this is all about expanding dependency as quickly as possible and buying votes. Sensible conservatives who believe that their fortunes will go positive in November are going to have to deal with the fact that the statists have already locked in roughly 25%, and counting, of the vote.
Meanwhile, government receipts, especially from those who pay quarterly estimated taxes, continue to plummet in April as we entered what was allegedly the fourth quarter of our “recovery.” As the productive people in society peruse the landscape, is it any wonder that "going Galt" has yet to come to a halt?