Why America’s fiscal hole is SO BIG: #3 the abuse of government benefits

Did you hear about the $41 ice cream cake? You didn’t?  Okay, below is quoted portions of the May 18, 2012 op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Food Stamps and the $41 Cake” by Warren Kozak.

Recently I had to run into [a high price grocery] store and, sizing up the three lines, chose to stand behind a woman with one item in her cart.  It was one of those large ice-cream cakes.  When the checkout person said “Forty-one dollars,” I wasn’t the only one who blanched.  The shopper’s son, around 12, repeated it as a question: “Forty-one dollars?”

I quickly calculated that the woman’s cake was eight times more expensive than the kind I make at home to celebrate birthdays.  The mother ignored her son’s question.

She took out her benefits card, swiped it through the machine, and they were off.  My turn.

I stood there, wondering what lesson the young boy takes away from this transaction.  Does he grow up with the faintest understanding of delayed gratification – that you have to earn your money before you can buy candy – or, in this case, an ice-cream treat? I wondered how we arrived at this point as a nation.  I also felt like a chump.

The vast majority of Americans – Democrat, Republican or Independent – will readily help someone who cannot make ends meet in a bad economy.  Americans want a hungry child to be fed.  I know this because in on other country do people donate more to charities.  Americans still go far beyond what our taxes already pay for to help the less fortunate.  We have been blessed with overabundance in this land, and we are a very generous people.

But over the last four decades, our government has quietly done away with almost all of the restrictions once placed on food assistance.  SNAP cards (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can be used to purchase practically anything with the exception of liquor and cigarettes.  These cards are also openly  and illegally sold for cash, which allows the recipient to buy anything they want, including cigarettes and liquor.

Yes, there is indeed a problem.  Why spend $41 on an ice cream cake?  This woman could have spent less buying a cake and ice cream.  And obviously, she’s getting more than enough in benefits from the government toward food if she has the luxury to spend a chunk of her food stamps on an ice cream cake.

I agree the government needs to “crack down” and clearly define what type of foods may be purchased with the SNAP card. Fruits and vegetables, meats and bread.  Not a fancy dessert.  If the mother wants to purchase such a cake, she should pay for it with her own earnings.

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