Food Stamp Nation goes wild

Right after Christmas came word of a woman who tried to use her EBT (food stamp) card to buy an iPad – actually, two of them.  She reportedly became physically violent when her first attempt was thwarted, and was arrested after trying again at the local Wal-Mart.

This silly woman didn’t realize that food stamps are only meant for essential purchases, such as milk, bread, pornography, cigarettes, liquor, and strippers.  “They’re on the dole – and watching the pole,” says the New York Post, looking for a rim shot as it reveals what it discovered during a massive review of EBT transactions:

Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs — where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers, a Post investigation found.

A database of 200 million Electronic Benefit Transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012, obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information request, showed welfare recipients using their EBT cards to make dozens of cash withdrawals at ATMs inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which oversees the “cash assistance program,” even lists some of these welfare-ready ATMs on its Web site.

One EBT machine is stationed inside Club Eleven, an infamous Hunts Point jiggle joint known as much for its violent history as its girls in pink thongs.

Did you realize those “food stamp cards” can fairly literally function as debit cards, pulling cash from ATM machines… some of which are located in strip joints prone to shootings and stabbings?  How much money are we talking about, anyway, New York Post?

Welfare recipients receive food stamps and cash assistance under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Both benefits are accessed through an EBT card, but only cash assistance — meant for housing, utilities and household necessities — can be accessed at ATMs.

A single-person household could receive a maximum $200 in monthly food stamps plus $158 in cash assistance. A family of four could get as much as $668 in food stamps and $433 in cash.

The food-stamp program prohibits the purchase of booze, tobacco and lottery tickets with an EBT card. But with the cash-assistance program, users can blow money on strippers or a six-pack and to tap welfare dollars from liquor stores, casinos and adult-oriented establishments.

It’s apparently difficult to work up the legislative energy to remove the welfare-friendly ATMs from the floor of gambling parlors, liquor stores, and strip clubs, even though it still wouldn’t be that hard for the fun-loving denizens of Food Stamp Nation to get their cash at another location, then hit the bars and casinos.  The Post says that some states have regulations about where compatible cash machines can be located, while New York does not.  Actually, it says something about the soul-deadening nature of welfare dependency that removing the ATMs from the immediate vicinity of vice dens probably would cut down on the abuse of EBT money.

A federal initiative to cut down on abuse by 2014 is said to be underway.  Why should it take until 2014 for Washington to penalize states that don’t crack down on the most hilariously inappropriate dispensation of food stamp cash?  For that matter, why is any of this titanic $80 billion program, which has grown at dizzying speed over the past few years, dispensed as easily-abused cash?  There’s no reason why payment for “housing, utilities, and household necessities” couldn’t be supervised and validated by program supervisors.  Assuming we should be in the business of requiring taxpayers to cover such expenses on a massive scale in the first place.  It’s not as if the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” is limited to people who would starve to death without it.

Welfare does nothing to improve the habits of mind that lead to a dissolute lifestyle.  On the contrary, it tends to make them worse.  Wealth redistribution tends to subsidize irresponsibility… and in the extreme, it apparently subsidizes liquor stores, tobacconists, and strip clubs.