Rampant food stamp fraud is another big myth. Huge in fact. Public Televisions Market to Market featured this story on farm program overpayments and bad record keeping.
But surprise, the food stamp program had NO problems. Why do Republicans say things that are just the opposite? Check it out:
The Dept. of Agriculture paid out more than it should have, by $20.3 million, in 2012. That's 239 overpayments, and increase in 67 percent since 2011. The largest number of overpayments were processed by the Federal Crop Insurance corporation. There were 70 overpayments totaling over $14.5 million.
My conservative friend in Milwaukee once told me the story of a guy buying shrimp with food stamps. I asked him why he thought that was unfair. He was angry he didn't make enough to buy food like that. I asked him if he knew why that guy purchased the shrimp, suggesting perhaps a birthday, a new job, his last day on food stamps....? It didn't matter to him. Here are a few real life stories behind the stories so many Republicans tell their friends:
HuffingtonPost: Janina Riley noticed a woman muttering behind her in the checkout line … "I can't believe she's buying that big-ass cake with food stamps," the woman said, according to Riley.
Riley, 19, had just used a government-issued debit card to pay for most of her groceries, which included a cake for her son that said "Happy First Birthday Xavier" in a theme from the movie "Cars." She glared at the women for a second, then decided to confront her. "I was just like, 'Shut the fuck up,'" Riley said. She figured it wouldn't have started at all if the person had known that she was studying to become a nurse, and that she already worked more than 30 hours a week as an aide in a nursing home.
It's a gripe going back at least 20 years. In 1993, the Columbus Dispatch ran a letter to the editor lamenting a food stamp recipient buying "two bottles of wine, steak and a large bag of king crab legs.'' The crab complaint has recurred more than a dozen times in newspapers around the country.
A government survey from the late-'90s found that meats accounted for 34.9 percent of food stamp purchases, grains 19.7 percent, fruits and veggies 19.6 percent, and dairy products 12.5 percent. Soft drinks made up 5.6 percent and sweets 2.5 percent. Elizabeth Lower-Basch, an analyst for the Center for Law and Social Policy said, "You can't win. When someone's going to think you've got too much sugar, someone else is going to think you've got too much fat.
Patrick McCallister's vegetables annoyed another. McCallister said that in 2003 and 2004, he used nutrition assistance to feed his three kids. "I focused on buying fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread." McCallister had been standing at the Publix supermarket register … when the confrontation happened. "This woman comes up behind me," he said. "The woman remarked, 'I wish I could eat so well. Maybe I should go on food stamps so I could eat that well." The lady seemed annoyed by both the quality and quantity of McCallister's food. "I felt disappointed in the human race," McCallister said.
Last fall, Cynthia Nerger of Warner Robbins, Ga., had a dispute with a manager at a Kroger grocery store over whether SNAP covered an item in her cart. After she prevailed in the argument, the manager delivered a low blow: "Excuse me for working for a living and not relying on food stamps!" Nerger burst into tears. What the manager didn't know is that Nerger couldn't work because she'd been waiting for a kidney transplant and had to spend 12 hours a day in dialysis. She took her case to a local TV station and soon won national attention. Kroger transferred the manager and offered Nerger a $15 gift card.
The trafficking rate is down from 4 cents per dollar of benefits in 1993 to 1 cent from 2006 to 2008, according to the department's latest data. More broadly, the idea is that the poor should feel poor at all times until they're not poor anymore.