Category: Politics

by Richard R. Tryon and others

Read a recent AP 'tearful story'and then examine how the system of food stamps and other entitlements of the welfare system fail to provide what the Liberal idealists want to force on us.

See how "Compassionate Conservatism" can lead to better answers that reflect 'tough love' in some cases and better delivery of needed help by individuals rather than government agencies. How individualism is better than asking people to be slaves to the system managed by big government.

From the...
Number of food stamp recipients on the decline
• Slide is due partly to the booming economy and a 1996 ban on benefits to immigrants

BALTIMORE (AP) — A heart attack knocked Lorraine Smith out of work in June, making her more dependent than ever on food stamps. But the benefits are fast becoming more trouble than they are worth. Meager allowances — Smith was getting just $35 in stamps per month — plus state regulations intended to cut down on fraud and errors are among the reasons the program’s enrollment has declined by one-third since 1996, say hunger relief groups Amenca’s Second Harvest and Food Research and Action Center. Slightly more than 17 million people were on food stamps nationwide in May, the latest month for which data are available, compared with 17.9 million in May 1999 and 25.5 million in May 1996. Seven states, led by Delaware, Texas and Maryland, have seen caseloads drop by more than 40 percent.

The decline is due partly to the booming economy and a 1996 ban on benefits to immigrants, but federal officials say many poor people don’t know they are eligible for the stamps or left the program because of bureaucratic red tape. The government estimates that 37 percent of people eligible for food stamps aren’t getting them.
“We need to do as much as we can at the federal and state levels to ensure that working families get the easy access to nutritional assistance that they need,” said Andy Solomon, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department,
which adninisters the program. USDA analysts say the good economy accounts for 28 percent to 35 percent of the decrease in participation since 1996. Some 935,000 legal immigrants, less than 5 percent of the 1996 case- load, lost their food stamp eligibility under a federal welfare systern overhaul that year. Congress later restored benefits to 250,000 elderly, disabled and minor immigrants.
Meanwhile, food banks report demand is as strong as ever, and the government estimates that 10 million families, or about one in 10 U.S. households, don’t get enough to eat.
Smith recently was told her stamps were about to be eliminated because she hadn’t gone to the local welfare office to have her benefits recalculated, a step Maryland requires of food stamp recipients every four months.
“I have no income, no nothing right now. On top of that I have a special diet,” Smith said as she waited this summer in a church food pantry for a bag of free groceries.

State officials say they have been forced to expand their applications and recalculate benefits more often to prevent payment errors and satisfy USDA auditors. Error rates last year ran as high as 17.6 percent in Michigan. Twenty-two other states had rates over 10 percent. Maryland’s was 13.6 percent. “On one hand, it’s a topdown overregulated program focused on correct benefit deliver’y’. On the other hand, it tries to be an accessible customer-oriented delivery program. Neither the Congress nor the Department of Agriculture has determined what it wants it to be.” said Richard Larson, a Maryland Department ofHuman Resources policy director.

More than half the states and the District of Columbia have applications of 10 to 36 pages long, demanding information about everything from burial plots to income from blood donations, and nearly alt require a 12th-grade reading level.. says a study by America’s Second Harvest, North Carolina is the only state with an application requiring only a fifth-grade education. Larson also said benefits are so meager, as low as $10, that some people don’t bother. The average benefit is about $70 per month. Smith, a 45-year-old grandmother, said she spent most ofher $35 in food stamps in one shopping trip, spending $33 for fish, beef, liver, oil, flour and fruit. “You used to be able to into a store and buy anything you wanted without going over the limit,” she said.

The Clinton administration has relaxed eligibility rules over the past year and initiated a public education campaign to encourage poor people to sign up. The administration has asked Congress for $10 million for more outreach efforts. USDA officials also held public meetings in seven cities this summer to find out what it could do to increase enrollments. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman urged the nation’s governors to identify poor people who are eligible for food stamps but not getting them. States could help by reducing paperwork and keeping offices open longer hours, advocacy groups say.

Commentary by Richard R. Tryon

Perhaps no other single issue divides Compassionate Conservatives from the concerned Liberal thinker than the emotion based one over feeding the poor. Liberals say, “How can you stand idle and let millions of people die of starvation?” Compassionate Conservatives need to respond:

1. When actual starvation is rampant among the people of our nation, then we must certainly find ways to share the available food supply with those unable but often willing to work to get it. The work may be minimal and even as cosmetic as that performed by the CCC and WPA showed in the years of the Great Depression. Even though I watched workers in front of my boyhood home take weeks to build the concrete curbs and pavement that could have been put in place in a few days, I do not lament that the WPA helped those men feed their families until they could find a ‘real’ job.

2. When nobody is dying of starvation but some prefer to spend their money on poor food and rich drink, I have a hard time thinking that Conservatives should try to take that man’s children away from him so that they will eat better, unless they are in real danger of starvation. If that man or woman, as is often the case, can’t feed the children, then they can be surrendered to adoption, unless temporary help will make a difference to that parent.

3. We need to realize that the USDA has a food stamp program that gives away $11 billion per year, less each year in stamps and more of it in cash because so many have sold the stamps in the black market to get cash to buy what they really want- not the types of food available with stamps! It doesn’t look good to be accused of giving stamps to people who don’t need them and are willing to sell them to middle men who resell them to others. Giving cash instead eliminates this problem!

The USDA is run by folks who get paid more if they find ways to hire more people to administer the programs! Is it any wonder then that they want to prove that they are needed? To do that they need to show that millions of children are dying of lack of food- some call it starving. Keep in mind that many in the agribusiness sector want the USDA to subsidize the food industry with a stamp program and better yet with programs aimed at taking surplus food and storing it in caves. We have enough butter and dried milk to live without cows for many years! Eggs too! All of this is aimed at helping farmers to get better prices for their produce.

Liberals will always want to claim that they are the only ones that care about giving help to the poor. Compassionate Conservatives feel the same way, but know that if they support the poor with the standards set by the liberals, nobody will want to work. If they provide enough help to leave an incentive, much better results are obtained.It is time for the Compassionate Conservative to be recognized for holding the high, moral ground, not the Liberals, who have only managed to institutionalize poverty and multiply it!

It certainly is clear from reading the above that some states have seen dramatic cut-backs in welfare, yet no pictures have been put on CNN to show dead children in the streets who expired from starvation. So, the cuts must have been relating to excessive distribution of benefits. Christ said that the poor will always be with us and history has shown how true that statement to be. We can either expand the number to live in poverty by taking away incentive to work; or we can provide just enough help to make a difference when it is really needed; and we can encourage that such help come via individual people rather than a formless bureaucracy.

The Gore campaign is aimed at showing that he is far more compassionate. He calls for $300 billion to sit idle in a “Reserve Fund” against a future drop in tax revenues that might make it hard to balance the budget. What he is trying to do is to postpone further the time of reckoning for the Liberal error of having created a social security system that does not invest in each persons future when they are paying the tax. He wants to get through his watch and let someone else deal with the fact that ultimately the $300 billion will be only a drop in the bucket of what will be needed by the bulk of the ‘boomers’ when they come of age to collect. When relatively few will be paying into the fund to pay those drawing funds out.

He calls for “free Rx drugs for all”, when it can only mean that the government will dictate the price to be paid, collect the taxes to pay it and remit same to the providers, keeping whatever portion is needed to administer the program. We have never yet run a government program that costs less than the costs relating to private enterprise and individual decision to buy or not to buy. We can not administer medical care and treat all alike- we simply do not have enough doctors, nurses, hospitals and equipment to give the same care to all at any age. To say that all are entitled sounds good. But, we need to be aware of the fact that it can’t be done. Some will get to die sooner, and perhaps with less pain than the rich, who can afford to prolong life when it is less meaningful.

Unfortunately, those that want to “save us from ourselves” just know that we can’t make the right choices so they must tax our money away and spend it for us. They usually claim that any excess cost is borne only by the rich, who pay progressively as well as proportionately more. So the poor voters should think that they are getting something for nothing! That will buy a lot of votes, but it doesn’t make it right or even really compassionate. Why? Because if you convince the poor that they are entitled to such benefits, they will not even try to acquire the skills needed to take care of themselves or their children. Let them have an incentive that can help them enjoy a better standard of living because of their work and not that of others, and you will produce better citizens. Men and women who will become taxpayers instead of tax takers.

The Bush campaign has been willing to show that we can underwrite Rx expense for children of the poor, who do not need a lot of it; and for seniors, who have extreme needs beyond their savings capacity to provide; but the idea of taking care of all is counter-productive and wrong. Bush can be compassionate without smothering the victims with too much free bread, prescription drugs, or even public housing. By encouraging individuals and churches and other groups to help, far better results are obtained. Ask anyone who helps with the Salvation Army, any church pantry, Habitat for Humanity, or even individuals that help others in need, if their help produces better results than any government program can provide, and you will usually find a strong affirmative answer.

Think about this and wonder: Should I vote for Bush and expect a tax cut so that I can help others myself? Or should I vote for Gore and know that he will tax me more and try to save me from myself?

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