The Corner

Re: Stigmas pt. 2

Should food stamps be stigmatized? The debate continues.

E-mail #1:

Another point from the food stamp story you referenced.  Everyone says that food stamps “help feed” people, but they don’t.  For the vast, vast majority of food stamp consumers out there it just helps free up some disposable income for other things.  When I went to graduate school in Pittsburgh, I felt like I was the only person at the grocery store not using an EBT card (Electronic Benefits Transfer, the new, hip version of food stamps).  It also seemed that every teenager who got on the bus with a free low-income pass had a $60/month cell phone jammed in their ear.

When obesity is the number one health risk of poverty in this country, food stamps don’t feed anyone.  They might as well give out Best Buy gift cards, instead.

E-mail #2:

I am a surgeon and deal with a lot of low income patients.  I am interested in their perception of the public assistance they receive.  By and large, the attitude seems to be that food stamps are their due, like earned income.  The second most common sentiment is frustruation at the difficulties encountered in applying for and utilizing the assistance.

Furthermore, I have found that what is netted from food stamps/WIC is fungible, and there is an underground economy in it.  For the most part, these programs allot WAY more food than most families can reasonably eat.  ”Excess” food is frequently purchased/obtained via stamps/WIC and sold or traded for goods or services from non-assistance recipients.

E-mail #3:

I have to agree with you on the concept of social stigma.  There should be some degree of embarrassment attached to accepting what is, after all, a handout. Are there extenuating circumstances that make it necessary?  Sure.  But, for many, it’s an accepted part of their daily lifestyle, and taken as a “right”. The concept that others have to sacrifice to make their use of welfare possible is beyond most people. Yes, I know that unemployment can strike anyone; still, I wish that more people would look at food stamps as a short-term fix, and be humbled enough to work non-stop to find a way to avoid using them.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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