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Monday, June 18, 2012

READER'S POST #16 - Observations From the Grocery Store

By: 32slim32

I am sure we have all been to the grocery store and seen someone pay for their groceries with their food stamp card.

On one occasion, I saw a lady run through all of her groceries and swipe her EBT card. She was informed that one of her purchases was not covered (a Monster energy drink I think it was). Then she noticed that she was charged sales tax on that item. She was livid. “What am I paying taxes on?” she demanded. 

So not only do they get their groceries for free they stiff the state on sales tax too using their patriotic looking card.

Another day, I stopped at a convenience store. A woman was paying for 4 fountain drinks with her EBT card.

This past weekend I went to the little store close to my house to grab a six pack of cold beer. The young man in front of me was getting a half gallon of milk. He pulls out his EBT card. He was wearing a brand new pair of Air Jordan’s that sells for $205 (according to Nike’s website). His cell phone rang and he pulled out a smart phone and answered it. After we (no, that is not a misprint, he didn’t pay for that milk, we did) paid for his half gallon of milk, which he could have got a whole gallon at Wal-Mart for that price, he then asked for a cigar which he paid cash for. Do I think the young man smoked cigars? No, he was going to roll himself a Blunt with it.

I am standing there thinking this is sad. He can’t afford to buy his groceries but he can afford a smart phone and the monthly service, $200 sneakers, weed and cigars. After I paid for my beer I walked out and the same young man is getting into a 3 or 4 year old car.

How many of you taxpayers that pay for these peoples groceries have $200 sneakers, a smart phone and a car under 5 years old? I don’t begrudge people for having things like that, but, if I am paying for your groceries I have a different view of it.

I could buy 3 pair of sneakers for $200, I am not really into the high tech phone stuff so I have a cheap phone that rings and sends texts. My car is 7 years old. It is paid for and gets 45 mpg so I am very happy with it. I buy my own groceries.

How is it that the “poor” can afford such items (oh yeah and weed too) yet they can’t afford to pay for their groceries?

Have any of you have seen things like this before at the store? What are your thoughts?

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  1. My son has custody of 6 yr old son, lives with me since losing his job. I pay for his cell phone and smokes. His Dad gave him a truck that is in great shape but 11 years old and Dad pays for the Ins.
    This has been a hardship on the whole family.
    My son looks for work daily, places that have ads, no call backs, their just building their lists for the time they can hire. Trust me a 32 ye old with no money is not having fun, and neither am I.

  2. "NO he was going to roll himself a blunt with it" What are you implying? Do you realize the racial undertones you exude with this.

    1. Your kidding right? How do you know what Race this guy was , where you there? Every Race has it's worthless piece's of garbage that suck the System Dri. Point in LA there are More Whites on the Welfare Rolls then any other Race. In Al there are more Blacks on the Rolls. So who is the Racist here Anonymous? Who exudes Racism by your comment? Apparently you don't understand the ALL RACES have People that work the System. Everyone has a tale to tell when it comes to this, I have seen all races work the system and if you want to call me a Racist thats cool, I have been called worse and Racist as a Word means nothing now a days anyway. Watered down because folks use it as an EXCUSE for Bad Behavior and an inability to take Responsability for ones own failures!

  3. This is always a difficult topic, mostly because of all the unknowns.

    I certainly agree with the general message, in that we should only be providing this kind of the assistance to people who truly can't afford to regularly keep food on the table (due to whatever unfortunate circumstances that may or may not be within their control). Which yeah, will of course come into question when someone collecting assistance appears to be still spending money (and good amounts of it!) frivolously on non-essential items.

    But that is part of where it gets difficult. I don't like to plague a scenario with 'what-ifs' and such, but the truth of the matter is we have no idea as to the circumstances of their situations. Sometimes, the difference between living as an upper middle class citizen and being on food stamps is simply a lay-off. Sometimes, friends/family will help you through it (lending you a car or buying you gifts). Other times, it's merely different priorities.

    Food stamps eligibility is determined by income, and what people do with the discretionary spending portion of their income is always different. Even at American poverty levels, in general people still can afford more than just food and living. And how people choose to spend their discretionary income is always different; some may choose clothes/shoes, some may chose smart phones, others may choose a car, or cable, or internet, or a home PC, or a new TV, or education, any combination there-of.

    It's just that some of those choices are more 'rubbed in your face' than others. The single person on the poverty line that chooses to spend $1000 saved up from their $12k/y salary on a TV and a cable plan with HBO, or on a class at a local college, doesn't rub it in as many people's faces as the guy that instead gets an iPhone with $250 shoes. Some choices are more responsible than others.

    There are of course major exceptions to the above though, in that food stamps are subject to abuse and exploitation. Particularly the case for those partaking in illegal activities to make their income under the table, which Uncle Sam has no way of knowing when it sees someone's reported income below poverty.

    But, most seem to agree that the number of people that abuse this is infrequent enough to where it would cost more to crack down on it than it would to allow it to happen. A bazaar conundrum.

    At the same time though, I also don't necessarily believe in punishing the many for the exploits of the few. Particularly when it comes to whether or not we potentially allow citizens, families, and/or children to starve in our country. I'm against fraud and waste as much as any other guy, but yeah, again, this is a difficult situation.

    If there was some easy way to eliminate the fraud, I'd be all for it. But I don't see that being the case, short of getting rid of food stamps all together. And so long as that means that we leave people to starve if bad times fall upon them, I can't fully be for it. I'd rather have the occasional a-bag exploit the system and get free food, than leave families to potentially starve to death, even if I have to pay for both (which, I do).

    1. Slim is right. If you can afford $200 shoes, you can afford to feed yourself. The government shouldn't be feeding people anyway, but if it does, those people should be taking care of priorities. If people can't afford their own food, maybe it's because of the poor decisions they made. Because of that, they should be allowed to pay the consequences. If you spent $200 of your last $220 on shoes, that's your personal choice.

      Welfare fraud is more rampant than you think. I'm speaking only of fraud. This doesn't mention the selling cards scams and all the other associated other intentional cheats of the system.

    2. I don't think I ever said that slim was wrong about anything in this? I was just sharing my thoughts on it, and the reality that in all fairness we don't know the circumstances of these situations.

      I'm sure in the majority of the cases with a '$250 shoe' example it is in fact some kind of fraud or fault in the system. But that doesn't mean it is for every case; it could've just as easily been a gift, something attained before falling on food stamps (perhaps in the case of the car), or just a product of different circumstances for the person.

      Because food stamps eligibility is based off of income and not discretionary spending available, some people will appear to do better than others. Because one guy can live comfortably at $12k/y, and still be on food stamps and afford $200 shoes, doesn't mean that applies for everyone. Someone else could be making the exact same money, but also be paying for rent and/or not living for free at home, and can’t afford even afford to shop at discount stores (much less get expensive shoes).

      It’s just not as simple/easy of a situation as either side of the debate wants it to be.

      Although, I’m curious. This discussion is mostly calling for people’s thoughts on it, but what do you (or, everyone here) think we should be doing about this? Cracking down on fraud more? Revamping the system? Lowering the poverty threshold? Getting rid of it all together?

      How rampant do you believe welfare fraud is? It's an extremely difficult number to figure out, of course, but if anything it seems people are more likely to overstate how frequent it happens than understate it:
      "Overall, food stamp fraud costs taxpayers about $750 million a year, or 1 percent of the $75 billion program that makes up the bulk of the department's total budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program."
      "The US Department of Labor reported that 1.9% total UI payments for 2001 was attributable to fraud or abuse within the UI program."

      From those numbers, even if we assume they only reported around a quarter of the cases of fraud that still puts general welfare fraud at ~5-10% max. Which yeah, shouldn't be happening, but is hardly the 50% fraud rate that I could swear people seem to think it is.

    3. I never said you said he was wrong. I'm just saying that I think he is right in his overall thoughts.

    4. I am sorry RKen I have a real hard time following your logic processing. You worry yourself sick over a friggin CEO making $20,000,000 per year at a profitable company while you make excuses for $535,000,000 in failed Solyndra handouts and $750,000,000 per year in fraud in the food stamp program which are funded by a government that loses a TRILLION and half bucks a year.

      Of course if they only reported a quarter of the cases of fraud, couldn't we also assume they only reported a quarter of the cost? That would get the fraud cost up to $3 Billion a year. Is that still an acceptable level of loss to the taxpayers since it didn't exceed 100%?

      I am glad you don't mind paying for all that crap but I am sick of it.

    5. No offense Slim, but I'm having a hard time following your logic of about how Solyndra got in this convo.

    6. Eh slim? I think you're confusing me with LW.

      First, CEO compensation doesn't concern me anywhere near as much as you seem to believe, the only point I recall making when it comes to that topic is that top level salaries are getting excessive, and do little to help our economic recovery. Employing 100,000 people at $50k/y produces a far better overall economic result than employing 100 people at $50m/y.

      Second, my contribution to the Solyndra discussion was merely inquiring as to why people feel that subsidizing green energy was so much worse than subsidizing profitable fossil fuel energy. I didn’t make any point about whether the loss was a big deal or not (in fact, I even said I understood why people would feel that way).

      Third, at no point did I say that the fraud/abuse of the food stamp system was nothing to worry about. I only made the point that most research on the topic seems to indicate that the fraud is so infrequent, that the amount of resources it would take to eliminate it completely would cost more than the fraud actually costs us. Heck, I just replied to your post saying in more words that I agree in steps being taken to eliminate it.

      But I also do believe that given the choice between supporting fraud and continuing as is or eliminating the entire system and punishing everyone for the abuse of the few (and, potentially allowing people to starve), I'd choose the former. Which I feel is a perfectly fair statement to make without it necessarily meaning I think the waste is frivolous.

      All of that said though, as TexasTea mentioned, these are also completely different topics. While they all do concern the budget, it’s a bit disingenuous to try to equate the value of waste between every program as it suits our political agenda.

      Under that logic, if you’re so concerned over the $750m/y lost on food stamp fraud, why aren’t you equally if not even more concerned again about the $4b/year in oil subsidies? Or the $715 BILLION military budget that is riddled with excess and waste? And the $40m/year we spend on military Nascar advertising? Or over a trillion in total from lost revenue of the Bush Tax Cuts?

      It gets a bit silly when we try to equate waste as equal across all spending as we see fit for our political agenda.

    7. Right off the bat RKen, if I confused you with Loyal Watcher I am terribly sorry. If I mixed you up with anyone else I am sorry.

      When you used this quote: "Overall, food stamp fraud costs taxpayers about $750 million a year, or 1 percent of the $75 billion program that makes up the bulk of the department's total budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." and provided a link I took that as a defense of your position as it wasn't that bad. Sorry if I read too much into that.

      As I recall that was your point about Solyndra (back when we had that discussion) it was only a small percentage of the Stimulus bill (or is that where I may have you mixed up with someone else?). While yes those things were only "small percentages" they were $535 Million and $750 Million. May be "small percentages" but that is BIG money especially when one costs that much every year (food stamp fraud). But if I have you and someone else mixed up, my bad, sorry.

      Anyway, I didn't mean it as an insult or anything. I just was confused on your reasoning, turns out I may have just been confused. LOL@me.

      As far as "big oil subsidies", all manufacturing companies get the same exact tax deductions that "big oil" gets. Why does the left and media have to try to imply that these are tax deductions that are specifically for big oil? But, to answer your question, I am not concerned about tax deductions businesses take because I didn't give the government my money and give it to "big oil". They allowed big oil the same tax deductions that General Motors gets (thereby keeping more of THEIR money). The government did, however, take my money and give it to Solyndra and to people that don't really need food stamps.

      Also, RKen, do you know that it is quite common for people to sell their benefits for fifty cents on the dollar? I have had people come up to me at the grocery store and ask me if I wanted to buy $100 worth of groceries for $50. If they really need that for groceries why are they selling them? They give you their card and code and you give them half of what you spend on their card. I flat out said no, my wife inquired about how the deal worked, then I said no again.

      I do know that there are some people that legitimately need assistance for food but 44.7 million people? I doubt the fraud rate is 1%.

      There is not one single thing that our government spends money that I oppose cutting, RKen.

    8. No problem about the confusion lol. I inserted that quote only to help assign a percentage to how common the fraud is (as opposed to both of us guessing).

      Regardless of how small the percent truly may or may not be, I do agree with you in that any amount of waste is still waste and not unimportant... I just wanted to provide an estimation for the true frequency of the fraud.

      The oil industry as a whole actually gets specific tax breaks/subsidies unique to that business. It isn't a matter of whether they should be taxed at a special higher rate than other corporations; it's about them being taxed at the same rate as other corporations.

      Some further info:
      "But an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process.

      According to the most recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, released in 2005, capital investments like oil field leases and drilling equipment are taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent, significantly lower than the overall rate of 25 percent for businesses in general and lower than virtually any other industry."

      Though, I don't want to side-track this into an oil subsidy discussion.

      But yeah, again, regardless of how frequent or infrequent the abuse is I do still agree with you in that we should strive to limit it.

      Have a good evening slim.

  4. RKen, good afternoon.

    You mentioned people earning income under the table. While you were more specifically referring to illegal activities (selling drugs, prostitution, thievery, etc I assume), I would like to touch on under the table income.

    In my Reader Post above I mentioned a woman buying 4 fountain drinks. She and another woman carried the 4 ice cold sodas out to a pickup truck pulling a trailer that was full of lawn mowing equipment (mowers, weedeaters, blowers). That is pretty much an all cash business, mowing. Sure they may do some businesses and receive a 1099; but how many homeowners issue them a 1099 every year? My point, they aren't claiming a lot (if ANY) of the income they earn.

    Here in Tennessee you could have a million dollar home, a few rental properties, a Ferrari, and $20,000,000 in your IRA/401k and get food stamps if your Income level is low enough and you have under $2,000 in cash, stocks and bonds (not in your IRA).

    Your residence is exempt, rental property is exempt, your primary source of transportation (even if it is a Ferrari) is exempt and your IRA/401k is exempt.

    I think there may be a fundamental flaw in the qualification process.

    1. Oh I agree on that. You are correct in that I was mostly referring to illegal activities, but like you pointed out there are many jobs and legal activities where income earned is often unreported (or, certainly not in full).

      It is an unfortunate situation that exploits the system and makes the whole thing look bad, and I couldn't agree more that it shouldn't happen and we even should take better steps (within reason) to prevent it. It's particularly terrible as the people that truly need food stamps for food are having that jeopardized because of the selfishness, greed, and laziness of others.

      This is also one of those issues I have to fault Democrats over. On many occasions, any time there's an attempt to prevent this kind of fraud some members of the party will attempt to spin it into a 'war on poor' type escapade. But the reality is, the system is far from perfect and does need improvements... and this is one of those areas.

  5. Are you implying we should end food stamps?

    Are you implying that a majority of food stamps are being misused?

    And to your question:
    How is it that the “poor” can afford such items (oh yeah and weed too) yet they can’t afford to pay for their groceries?

    It makes me sad to read posts like this.

    what in your brain makes you attack the people with the least and then protect the ones with the most?

    What is it about you that you like to pick on the less fortunate and the ones who can barely make it and at the same time defend obsessive wealth and corporate abuse.

    Its sad to me that we as american's choose to fight the poor like this.

    We all know that the government is being used by the rich and the poor. The level of use is extremely lop sided though.

    Banks are able to take near interest loans from the fed and loan that same nearly free money out to the poor at 20% - 30% interest, effectively making money from the government with no real risk ar all.

    Millionaire farmers receive subsidies

    GE makes over 5 billion in the US and pays no taxes.

    I never hear a word of this from conservatives but all the while they attack the poor.

    Look we all agree abuse is abuse and we want it to stop but to imply that food stamps are ravaged with abuse and that this is some big issue we should focus on is SAD.

    Please focus on abuse from those that are rich beyond their wildest dreams before you come talking to me about some broke dude with some jay's who smokes a blunt.

    1. I want to know one thing. Every man works for his pay, right? Whether you're a CEO or a toilet cleaning janitor, the thought is that you go out and do something to earn money. That could be cleaning toilets. That could be putting YOUR money out there to win or lose more money (I know you hate the rich, Loyal, and this makes no sense to me, but yes, the rich earn their money, and they take risks with their money to earn more), but if the notion is that you need to EARN your food, why should we take money from the citizens of this country to simply GIVE people free food? If we are all supposed to go out and get it by earning it, why should we simply give it away?

      And what is excessive wealth? You talk about it often. Define it. Tell me what is excessive? Who determines it? Who in the world should have so much power that they can tell someone they have too much of something? I believe in privacy and freedom and that means I, ME, and ONLY ME has the right to determine how much wealth I need. Not you, not the government. Get that through your head. I want to hear what the definition of excessive wealth is, and I want to hear who determines it.

    2. texas did GE earn the right to not pay taxes,

      Did those millionairs earn those subsidies from the government?

      Did the banks EARN the right to get a near 0% loan and flip it to make money?

      What are you talking about.

      and yes sorry we can agree to disagree but i am fine with feeding everyone in this whole world for free. I don't care if you're a piece of crapp person you should be able to eat some food.

      Does that mean you get steak dinners no, but im fine with giving someone some bologna and milk.

      What the heck happened to this country? we are really debating people eating food? wow... yall are something else.

    3. I guess since you utterly failed to answer my question, I will ask it again:

      And what is excessive wealth? You talk about it often. Define it. Tell me what is excessive? Who determines it? Who in the world should have so much power that they can tell someone they have too much of something? I believe in privacy and freedom and that means I, ME, and ONLY ME has the right to determine how much wealth I need. Not you, not the government. Get that through your head. I want to hear what the definition of excessive wealth is, and I want to hear who determines it.

      I'm not going to answer your question into you answered mine. The liberal technique of bringing up a side unrelated argument only shows that you have no clue about what you're talking about. I never mentioned GE, it was never brought up, but it oddly made it in to this conversation. Nice defection, though.

    4. Loyal Watcher.

      How is it that the “poor” can afford such items (oh yeah and weed too) yet they can’t afford to pay for their groceries?

      It makes me sad to read posts like this.

      what in your brain makes you attack the people with the least and then protect the ones with the most?

      I didn't attack anyone. What in your brain (or a lack thereof) makes you think I should buy someone's groceries so that they can buy $205 Air Jordan's and weed? Or that I can pay for their fountain drinks while they are out earning money that they aren't going to claim as income, pay any taxes on and then get government subsidized groceries? Get real.

    5. Great post Slim : )

      And HERE's why stories like yours make me SICK!

      My mom is 83 yrs old. She went through treatments for cancer and major abdominal surgery. She's now pretty healthy (for her age) but is unable to work on her feet for long periods.

      She's been a para-legal her whole life, and she WANTS to work, but EVERY job in her field, she's applied for has required her to speak SPANISH, which she does not.

      She receives $1000 in SS each month. Her house payment and BASIC utilities total $955... which leaves her less than $50 per MONTH for FOOD, toiletries, etc.

      She can NOT afford telephone, internet service OR cable TV.

      Mom made some VERY bad financial decisions after my dad died, one of which was a re-fi of her home, BEFORE the crash. Short version: The mortgage is in my sister's name (Mom pays her), but it's WAY upside-down, so even if we COULD talk her into moving out of Vegas to live with one of us - it's not feasible at this time.

      My point in this whole sob story: By the Government's calculations...SHE is NOT eligible for food stamps! She's also NOT eligible for Meals-on-Wheels!

      No food - but she was 'offered' an ObamaPhone - with a hot FIFTEEN MINUTES a MONTH.

      We're not rich, by any stretch, but I'm not comfortable with ANYONE not having a phone, so I pay for her Cricket cell-phone every month (unlimited minutes, so she can call ALL her friends : ).

      Von's home delivers for a small fee - so we send groceries, toiletries, pet food, etc.

      She got one of those 'free' analog to digital boxes - so she has TV. I send a bit of cash whenever I can - so she can get out of the house and socialize with her friends.

      Mom's car is a beater that runs when 'it feels like it'. I can't afford the service fee for a 'smart phone' - so she has NO internet service. Her TV's (2) are OVER 20 yrs old; she has NO 'big screen'; NO cable.

      That $200 the joker in your story spent on 'designer' tennies... WE spent to replace Mom's 35+ yr. old microwave that finally bit the dust.

      MOM has little/NO money (of her own), for FOOD.

      I was raised to 'take care of our own', so helping out in Mom's situation is NOT the issue.

      My issue is using MY tax dollars to 'subsidize' the lavish lifestyles of people (cheaters) such as the guy you mentioned in your post... (and we ALL see it ALL the time!!!)

      ...while people like my MOM... that the system was DESIGNED TO HELP get ZIP!

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