It takes a lot for someone to have an opinion about food stamps that would make Gwyneth Paltrow‘s out-of-touch take on the subject look well thought out and thoroughly considered in comparison. But this weekend, a local politician from my home state of Wisconsin rose ignobly to meet that challenge.
According to state representative Jesse Kremer, it’s just much too easy already for poor families to use food stamps. Via The Capital Times, to make sure that being poor at the grocery store is as uncomfortable an experience as possible, Kremer is proposing that people using food stamps should be required to show a photo ID to do so, in order to cut back on fraud in the system. Under his plan, EBT cards would be issued with photo identification included on them.
Now, if you’re familiar with the food stamp program (and just by reading this far along, you’re probably better educated on the topic than Rep. Kremer is), a few questions may be popping into your head. First of all, you may wonder, isn’t it a requirement of federal law that food stamp payments can’t be subjected to special scrutiny that other payments don’t get. When was the last time you got carded over buying $10 of bread, peanut butter, cereal, and milk? The state would have to get a waiver from the federal government before being allowed to set up such a system.
Secondly, you might wonder how this photo ID plan is going to work when a food stamp card is supposed to be usable by any of the cardholder’s family members. Unless Mr. Kremer has also invented a magical form of photo ID that changes the picture based on who is currently holding the card? Don’t worry, though, he has a stellar explanation of how that’s going to work:
“The way we’ve drafted the bill is it would still be head of household getting the card with the photo ID on it, but everyone else in the household still would have to be able to use that card. So it’s kind of, yeah, a double-edged sword. It works in some cases and won’t in others.”
Oh, well, that clears it right up! It’s just … not going to work a lot of the time. This is an excellent plan and definitely work every penny of the $7 million it’s supposed to cost to set up.
While most of us would probably have called it a day after accomplishing that much poor-shaming, Rep. Kremer still had more up his sleeve. In case getting carded for your frozen peas wasn’t enough of a ‘special scrutiny’, he’d also like to keep The Poors out of the grocery store altogether. Instead, they would get to ‘shop’ in food pantries owned by private organizations (of course) but supervised by the federal government. Just in case having to get by on food stamps doesn’t suck enough already, we should definitely expect the people who use them to depend on people donating fresh bread and perishables to food pantries, instead of the unwanted cans of olives and expired Cream of Whatever Soup from the back of the cupboard like they do now.
The amount of fraud in the food stamp program is thought to be around 1.5%. According to a statistic from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reported in The Atlantic in 2013, a typical American business sees about 5% fraudulent losses every year. By that metric, the food stamp program is in good shape. Far better shape than government defense contract fraud, which The Atlantic reports to happen at a rate of around 3-10%. Funny how much of our time is spent trying to cut down on poor people’s fraudulent activities and how little we seem to worry about the fraud committed by rich guys in expensive suits. And by ‘funny’, I mean ‘politics as usual’.
(Image: baona / Getty)