Hand-Out Ethics: Buying Junk Food With Food Stamps, Or A Leap Down The Slippery Slope?

Maybe I got something out of law school after all.

11-nanny stateWhen I read opinion columnist Charles Lane’s lament that food stamp regulations didn’t limit the kinds of nourishment that could be bought by them to things Mrs. Obama would approve of, my mind flew back many decades to a memorable Contracts class in my first year of law school. The late Professor Richard Alan Gordon was thundering in his most stentorian tones—and boy, did he have stentorian tones!— about the class reaction to a case we had just discussed involving a Washington, D.C. family on welfare that had gotten itself in legal trouble by purchasing a stereo system on credit. One poor student was the target of the verbal barrage, having just opined that the family should have spent its government assistance on necessities like food, and not entertainment.

“And who are you, Mr. Anderson, to make the determination of what is a “necessity” for a fellow citizen? Shall the family in question not be permitted to feed its soul, as well as its gut? Is it the attitude role of the government to assume that accepting its assistance in dire circumstances involves one’s surrender of the basic human rights of choice, preference, taste and self-determination?”

I miss Dick Gordon, who became a cherished friend (and a terrific Learned Judge in “Trial by Jury”), and I miss the scathing letter he would have written to Charles Lane. In his column, Lane writes:

“The point is to increase the amount of real nutrition per taxpayer dollar. The counterargument is that it’s not fair to restrict poor people’s grocery choices. You hear this a lot from the food and beverage industry, for which SNAP has grown into a significant subsidy. Sorry, I don’t get it — morally or pragmatically. Of course the federal government should be able to leverage its purchasing power for socially beneficial purposes. If you take Uncle Sam’s help, you play by his rules. I repeat: This is a nutrition program, or so the taxpayers who fund it are told. It should nourish.”

“If you take Uncle Sam’s help, you play by his rules.” This is the crux of Lane’s argument, Mr. Anderson’s, and all the Nanny State advocates who cheer on Mayor Bloomberg’s assault on personal freedom. Ethically, there are strong arguments in all directions:

Argument 1: A citizen who accepts taxpayer assistance for a given purpose must agree to give up self-determination and liberty in the realms where that assistance in relevant, to the extent necessary to minimize future needs in the realm. Food stamps can only be used for that which has the First Lady’s Seal of Virtue. Health care benefits come with mandatory weight requirements, fines for failure to exercise, and death panels. “If you take Uncle Sam’s help, you play by his rules.” Fairness, responsibility, prudence.

Argument 2: The government’s role is to assist citizens in exercising their rights and liberties. Financial hardships constrain choices in every realm. To the extent it is financially feasible, the society should try to supplement the resources of indigent citizens to enable them to have a full range of choices, and to have the opportunity to exercise them wisely. The government should not use its assistance as a means of dictating conduct or limiting choice. Autonomy, benevolence, charity, compassion, respect, restraint.

Argument 3: The government should do as little as possible to force some citizens to pay for the hardships of others. The aide that is given should be the minimal level necessary to preserve life, and it should be contingent upon the recipient’s responsible conduct aimed at minimizing both the duration and the extent of the assistance, which should also expire after a reasonable time. Each citizen is accountable for his or her own choices and own fate. Accountability, responsibility, self-reliance, justice.

And every possible hybrid and permutation of the above. I, like Professor Gordon, prefer the second alternative, though it is far from perfect. The third charts a course to a heartless society lacking community and cooperation; the first, where Bloomberg reigns, is built on a slippery slope to tyranny. I know that a lot of citizens, indeed probably a majority, are quite prepared to make a series of trades with government authorities to give up their choices, their rights to take risks, their ability to make foolish, eccentric or unpopular choices, in exchange for security and insulation from calamity, personal or otherwise. I know that given a change, many human beings will sell their liberty cheap, which, in a democratic republic, means that they will sell my liberty as well, and there will be little that I can do about it.

When you agree with Charles Lane, you move to that slippery slope, and place your own liberty on the market, to be sold in trade by the likes of Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Feinstein, and President Obama’s slowly tightening regulatory network.  All of them embrace the argument that since you accept police protection, national defense, roads and social services from the government, they can dictate to you what to eat, where to live, what cars to drive, what toilets to flush, what light bulbs to purchase, what you “need” to protect your home, how to raise your children and what you and your children should do for a living, among other choices. We are not all the way down the slope, it’s true, but there is plenty of support for going there, and it’s growing.

“If you take Uncle Sam’s help, you play by his rules.” Professor Richard Alan Gordon, I realize now, was trying to sound the warning to a group of likely future regulators and legislation drafters the danger of a society that accepts Charles Lane’s nostrum.

I wonder if I’m too late, indeed, if all of us are.


Pointer: Althouse

Source: Charles Lane (Wash. Post)

Graphic: The Federalist

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.


40 thoughts on “Hand-Out Ethics: Buying Junk Food With Food Stamps, Or A Leap Down The Slippery Slope?

  1. I remember reading somewhere that “Other people’s patterns of consumption are always illogical and slightly immoral”. Whoever said that will have to forgive my quote from memory.

    The proponents of argument #1 should remember that in the United States, there once was a state that played by those rules. This state gave everyone all the food they needed, all the education they needed, and all the healthcare they needed. Everyone was provided with shelter.There was no unemployment in this state. This state made sure everyone was taken care of. This state stepped in to make sure people didn’t eat a lot of junk food or make bad choices because everyone knows you can’t trust people to make the right choices.

    This state was slavery and there was a long and sometimes violent disagreement in this country about it. It would do everyone a little good to learn about that history.

  2. Mr. Lane’s approach appears consistent with other situations where government money is handed out, as with highway construction or funds to augment one’s public safety agencies. That money is contingent on proper attention to the rate of pay to contractors and/or employees, racial make-up of the work force, even the speed limits on the resulting highways (in the case of highway funds). Fail to follow the rules, lose the funding.

    On the other hand, everyone has differing opinions as to “what is good for us”, so letting people make their own choices and live with the results is the best way to go.

    Every time this kind of discussion comes up I am reminded of being in line at the market behind a person trying to determine the correct category on the EBT card for a purchase of a can of Red-Bull. At least this was not being done at the expense of actual nutrition (based on the heft of the person).

  3. Your law school training shows (in a good way); that’s a very well-presented set of arguments, nuances, counter-arguments. Not an easy issue, but very well stated, thanks.

  4. I think I agree with Mike Martin’s point, but I can’t exactly tell if he is serious or not. The fact is that Welfare programs, including SNAP (“Food Stamps”), are constructed exactly as are other Government Grant Programs, that is: with restrictions as to usage.

    Use of Food Stamps is for Nutrition. You cannot use them to purchase cleaning products, toiletries, paper goods, tobacco or alcohol. Many restrictions as to what actually constitutes “Food” already exist under SNAP Law, like some prepared (hot) foods, vitamins and certain diet supplements. Likewise, if someone on Cash Welfare Assistance, or Food Stamps, qualifies for a Transportation Grant to buy a Vehicle, or to pay for Childcare, that individual is required to use her payment to pay for the product or service for which the Grant was intended.

    If a person receives the Childcare Grant, and chooses to use the money to pay her rent instead, or if she receives a Vehicle Grant and decides to buy a new refrigerator with it, the individual would be found liable for an Overissuance and would be required to make restitution to the Department of Welfare. Further, even if the Vehicle Grant were used to purchase a car, it has to be used for a specific car, approved by the Department of Welfare; i.e., one can’t just go out and buy any car and apply the Grant to its purchase. Same with Childcare– approval of provider, circumstances and amount is required in advance.

    It would be nice if people could be trusted to exercise ethical thinking and conduct, and possibly even grow in self discipline skills and responsibility in the course of using Government Grants, but this has never been their purpose.

  5. Great educational law piece. But don’t you think with all of the government assistance programs that the greatest problem is the lack of accountability? I call it fraud. How can a person with no job but a house full of kids gets a $7,000 tax refund? And what happened to the old days? When those who had more than enough shared with others. I don’t think we are too late. But time is short.

  6. I think evangeline gets it exactly right.
    I don’t think one should be able to buy an Xbox with food stamps, but (despite its lack of nutritional value) one should be able to buy a birthday cake.

    • JB:

      Interesting choice of words there because, as it happens, “Birthday Cake” is actually one of the specifically restricted foods under SNAP provisions! This applies when the Cake is embellished in any way which significantly increases its cost– for instance, if a Doll, or a Baseball, or an excessive decoration for which there is a seperate charge, is part of the purchase. The restriction also applies to Gift Baskets of Food with other items like Wine, Gift Cards, Coffee Mugs, and even the Baskets themselves. Also restricted are things like boxes of Candy when they are accompanied by something lother than Food, such as a Stuffed Teddy Bear. The point being that Food Stamp participants are already restricted by Law as to what they can buy, this proposal about Junk Food would just be more of the same.

  7. I don’t know if its out of bounds to say that, public food assistance, paid by taxpayers is limited to certain food choices. In other words, you can’t buy candy bars with food stamps. Is that limiting THEIR choices? Not necessarily: We, the taxpayers, are simply setting some boundaries on what *we* are willing to pay for. The person on assistance can still EAT candy bars, but taxpayers are not necessarily on the hook to pay for them.

    Here is a good allegory. Your wife throws you out of the house. Your best option is to move in with me. I say, sure you can live with me, until you get back on your feet, BUT the house has some rules. There is no smoking in the house. There will be no extra-marital sex on the premises. For dinner, you will eat what I eat/what you are served… etc… etc…

    Now, have I limited your choices? Not necessarily. *I* have set some boundaries on what *I* am going to facilitate. I will not enable any of your bad choices. I won’t simply because I don’t have to. If you want to do those things, do them somewhere else.

    Now, back to the public food assistance issue: If 51% of voters decide that public (taxpayer funded) food assistance programs should consist of basic food items only, then thats the end of it as far as I’m concerned. If the person desiring/requiring food assistance desires something beyond that, Say, pheasant under glass, washed down with a Chateau De Blanc 1966, followed by Creme Brulee, all served on solid sterling tableware. They certainly MAY have that, but they have to find someone else to pay for it or get a job.

  8. This is an issue I frequently wrestle with, especially as I walk into the checkout line at Food 4 Less with a bell pepper, a carton of eggs, and ground turkey, ready to pay the 12 dollars or so that is going to cost me, and I see a morbidly obese person right in front of me with a grocery cart full of chips, soda, frozen garbage, etc. and pays for it with food stamps. My feeling has always been that there is something wrong with this, that my tax dollars are going to help fund this person’s slow descent into the grave and probably his/her children’s road to diabetes. Your post did give me pause though, because you are right that the government could take the reasoning as you outlined it and the assumption that BO made in his “you didn’t build this” speech, and gradually impose restrictions on all of our freedoms.
    Ideally, though, I still think the government should impose strict regulations on what people buy with their food stamps. Although I agree with your reasoning in argument 2, the premise in my argument is different:

    The government’s role is to protect the rights of citizens and to provide infrastructure for a productive society. These roles do not require the government to actively intervene in an individual’s life, and when the government is acting in these roles it should not impose restrictions on individual liberties. However, when a citizen asks the government to go outside of its natural role and take care of him/her, that citizen foregoes some of the liberties that they, acting as independent individuals, would normally have.

    I think it’s important to remember that the general population has given up a certain amount of its rights in order to fund Food Stamper X’s choices, and it makes sense that their sacrifice should impose something of a burden on its beneficiary.

    • Good Point. Taxpayers (now I’m talking about those who do NOt participate in Assistance Programs) routinely make unheralded sacrifices in their everyday lives in order that those Assistance Programs continue to be funded.

      I live in the frozen tundra known as the “Northeastern United States,” and have worn the same down winter coat for 4 seasons because @$300.00, it is so expensive to replace, and there are many other demands upon my income. I just have to bundle up and deal with it. Similarly, many people go to work sick because they cannot afford to take a day off, and do not see Doctors because they do not have money for co-pays and prescriptions. Sadly, I have even spoken to young married couples who started out wanting to have a few kids and live happily ever after, only to find out just how expensive raising children can be. Result: One child each.

      Americans are so deep in tax-shock these days that they are often numb to their own government-induced deprivations. I do not think it is too much to ask those who benefit from the Assistance Programs in question to use them responsibly and only when absolutely necessary.

    • I consider that often, as well. Some folks figure they have a “right to choose” how they spend the money subtracted from my paycheck. What about MY choices? What about what is important to ME? What about what I want? What about MY needs? If everyone receiving a transfer payment from that deduction were cut loose, I could make a LOT more choices.

      Every 2 weeks, I make a Federal Tax (incl. SS) of $1408.95 out of a gross payment of $4860.00. Yeah, I am not a poor person, but I am not a movie star either. Sure, some of that payment goes to things that benefit me (infrastructure, law enforcement), but the bulk of it goes to paying people to do nothing, or nothing that’s of any benefit to me. To further the atrocity, consider that the feds are borrowing another $700.00 or so to “match” my “contribution”.

    • I am a mother of four and have been disabled since 2003 due to a car accident. I am not able to work due to more than one chronic medical condition. So I am a food stamp recipient.
      I only have one thing to say about buying unhealthy foods instead of healthy ones. Go to the grocery store and buy 100 healthy foods in one cart and then in another cart buy 100 unhealthy foods. Can you guess which one would cost more? The healthy foods. My children love healthy foods but I cant afford to buy all healthy foods. If I did the food would be gone in two weeks. But if I buy both I can make it last the month. Were I live if I want to get more healthy foods I have to travel 50 miles to a bulk discount store. Not everyone on assistance has the convenience of traveling that far. If they made healthy foods cheaper people on assistance would be more likely to buy the apples instead of the bag of chips. At my local grocery store I an get a bag of chips for $3.50 but the bag of apples is $6.97 now imagine if it was the other way around. Most people would buy healthier foods. Not all but most.And thus the weight problem is reduced without telling people you are restricting what they buy because they are to fat. This is coming from a fat person who gained her weight due to a health problem who dose not eat to much but I have not been able to loose weight because I can not exersize or even walk more then 5 minutes at a time due to my broken back. Out of my 4 children only 1 has a weight problem due to insulin resistance not because he dosn’t eat healthy. http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/prediabetesanddiabetes/a/insulinresistan.htm

  9. At the risk of sounding like Marie Antoinette:

    If a participant wants cake, there is nothing in SNAP regulations to prohibit the purchase of flour, eggs, milk, oil, sugar and vanilla.

    Aside from the poor nutrition involved, I believe a major objection to the purchase of junk foods with Food Stamps is that they are so comparatively expensive. A large prepared Birthday Cake costs about $14.00, but in purchasing the above ingredients at roughly the same cost, one could bake probably 6-7 cakes. Average cost of 5 lbs of raw potatoes is just $2.50, while packaged potato chips cost $4.00 for less than 1 lb. The same holds true down the line for pre-packaged frozen and other convenience foods.

    No one is suggesting SNAP participants be restricted from buying such products, just that perhaps SNAP should not be paying for them. Bill G’s point is well taken.

  10. I agree wifh all those in support of controlling what welfare dollars are used to purchase. Of course purchases should be restricted and recipients jeered in the streets. A punitive and paternalistic approach to welfare delivery, through the denial of opportunities to exercise self determination and the disempowerment of recipients; with resultant lowered selfesteem and stigmatization, definitely assists to move families of welfare. Please note my sarcasm. I thank god that I live in Australia where, should I one day fall on hard times and require welfare, I will be generally treated with dignity by my peers. My right to self determination with be respected and I will be able to access evidence based programs that will assist me to transition back to work.

    • Who said anything about jeering at people in the streets? Many people who receive Food Stamps, not all, but many, also receive cash assistance. They are free to use that money to purchase anything they want (including junk food). Likewise, many people on Food Stamps work– and they are free to use THAT (their hard-earned) money to purchase junk food or anything else they want, as well.

      Many people on cash and SNAP (both Federal Entitlement Programs) also get subsidized housing assistance grants. It is intended to pay their rent and utilities. The implication is that — in the interest of autonomy, and promoting self-esteem– they should be allowed to spend these grants on Bingo and the Lottery instead, if that’s what builds their self-esteem. If they get a voucher to buy a winter coat, they should be allowed to spend it on an Easter bonnet, so they won’t be depressed in Church on Easter morning when they see all the pretty Bonnets around them. All of these (and dozens of other) Welfare expenditures come with restrictions for their useage– ALL of them! Why do people think that Food Stamps should be any different?

      Honestly, I fail to understand how spending money that someone else gave you is ever going to build anyone’s sense of empowerment and self-determination.

  11. How much of this principle, “If you want to benefit from our enterprise, then you’re going to have to abide by the rules of our enterprise” is ethical to apply to employees in the private sector? What expectations of beneficiaries of “public enterprise” to prove themselves worthy of benefits (/“with the program”) are unethical? Why, or why not, would the same expectation of current and potential employees of a private enterprise be any more or less unethical?

    Before I say another thing: I am close to landing a new job, and the private sector employer (whoever it shall be) will expect me to submit to “drug testing.” I absolutely consent to the tests; I welcome the opportunity to test “negative” – or, “positive” in the way the employer expects and demands. I accept that proving my “drug-free” status further assures my future employer of my reliability to perform as expected on the job. As a competitor for a position, to “win” a job, I am willing to expose some detail about myself that I otherwise would refuse to disclose.

    But, I would not necessarily be so agreeable to every “test” that a private sector employer – or, a government – might conceive as a “necessary” prerequisite for me to benefit from the enterprise.

    I would not agree to, say, divulge my personal social media access passwords, or submit a copy (or original) of my grocery receipts (either directly or by disclosing where I buy my groceries), or disclose details of every appointment with a doctor that I have had in the past 10 years.

    News of this “employee incentive” is what prompts me to ask:

  12. Now that we are intent on destroying all intermediates between the people and the government, such an approach would indeed be interesting. I see more and more restrictions on driving (the government gives you the driver’s license, so they can tell you where and when you can drive), what we can eat (the government will provide you with food stamps, so it can tell you what you can and how much you can eat), with health insurance (so they will tell you how much you must exercise, how much you can weigh,and what blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rates measurements you can have).

  13. Slightly different take. The United States has the fattest “poor people” in the world. Why, because “good” food (fresh vegetables, lean chicken, etc.) costs much much more than a can of chilli, Spaghettios, or the now-defunct “dollar menu” at McDonald’s. Michelle Obama can spew all she wants about nutrition, but a family has to be able to AFFORD it. If you can feed a family of four on Hamburger Helper, and can’t bake chicken and make a nice salad to go with it, how can you question that decision?

    As Berthold Brecht so stunningly put it: “First feed the face, then talk about right and wrong.”

    • Healthy food is more expensive than fast food?


      When I cook a healthy dinner, I’ve only paid for materials. When I buy fast food I pay for materials + labor + overhead markup + profit mark-up

      • Exactly right.

        Fact is that it’s easier to go for Fast Food, or to stay home and boil a couple of hot dogs, or open a can of Spaghetti-o’s, than it is to plan, and shop and cook healthy foods. If you stir half a stick of butter and a packet of cheddar cheese flavoring into a pot full of macaroni, it is much simpler than learning how to cook nutritious basic foods using herbs and seasonings. Unfortunately, once kids are used to the taste of sugar and salt and fat in their foods, it takes a lot of patience and education to point them in the right direction. And it may never really take hold, even after arguing with them till you are blue in the face.

        But I think this is a much bigger issue than paternalism on the part of the government with regard to restricting what poor people can buy with their Food Stamps. It is both a Humanitarian and an Economic Issue. When 10 year olds are developing Type II (Adult Onset) Diabetes, and 17 year olds are dropping dead from coronaries due to advanced heart disease, their Health is in a very serious state.

        And even if you don’t care about their Lives, at least you should care about your own money. Medicaid costs in this country are soaring over the treatment of children with these and other adult diseases related to obesity. Tough Love is just that– tough; but I don’t think it’s wrong to want to protect the children of poor people from junk food, anymore than it is wrong to try to protect them from predators. At least I know I would rather not go on paying for the junk food that is making them obese and sick.

        If only this idea were practical, I would be for it 100%. Unfortunately, hundreds of new junk food products are introduced to the Marketplace each year, and there would be no way for Welfare to keep pace with that. Still, it wouldn’t be bad to at least eliminate carbonated drinks, which are bad on so many levels, and offer virtually nothing to the nutrition equation besides empty calories.

        • And we all know only poor people are fat and eat junk food! I do not recieve any welfare and am raising two children alone. I have a degree and work full time. However, should I ever lose my job and require assistance, I will give thanks that I do not live in America. A country such as yours was founded on freedom, was it not? Yet, from overseas we see that your country now resorts to draconian regulation to control its peoples, rather than working with them. You will tell me this is none of my business. But I disagree, in my country, we watch the path you take and begin to wonder what we still have in common with you anymore. Why should we back up a country inhabited by a middle and weakthy class so seemingly intent on inhibiting the freedom of its poorer population. All a bit victorian really. And guess what, in my country I pay taxes that also help those on welfare everyone has access to free healthcare. I do not mind paying tax that goes to welfare as I know that if I ever I am ill or acquire a disability, I will be okay.

          • Some people can only argue dishonestly and in hyperbole.

            Previously you accused us of “jeering at people in the streets,” yet not one poster here has suggested anything near shaming Food Stamps recipients (which is what I assume you meant by that remark). Now you imply that we are suggesting only poor people are obese from eating junk food. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every poster in sympathy with the restriction policy has consistantly stated that Food Stamps recipients are free, as are all Americans, to purchase whatever foods they choose– just without using Food Stamps NUTRITION BENEFITS to do so.

            I know MANY physicians who refuse to treat people who don’t follow their medical advice. This includes heart and lung patients who refuse to reduce, start exercising and stop smoking. In America, physicians are free to decide not to go on wasting the benefit of their education, and their valuable time, on patients who do not care about their own health.

            Since the US Dept of Agriculture decided to get into the business of feeding poor people (by issuing Food Stamps), the Government is now in a logical position to act as a Food Counselor to the poor. In fact, they already do this through pamphlets and videos suggesting nutritious purchasing and preparation of foods.

            The Government has also already restricted the use of Food Stamps with regard to what is considered eligible food purposes. It is only a small step for that same Government to now say: “Enough! Welfare Administration, SNAP processing and Medicaid is expensive and time-consuming. We will no longer waste our staff power and money on people who will not take an interest in their own, and their children’s nutritional health. If you want junk food, buy it yourself. “

              • On March 22 you were going on about how you agreed that poor people should be restricted in the use of their Food Stamps benefits, and in that statement you said “PLEASE NOTE MY SARCASM,” which I did. Then you went off on the whole “It’s so much nicer to be poor in Australia” vein, which you continued on March 26th. So, I assumed that your position is that Food Stamps useage should not be restricted.

                Now you come back, yet again, saying that your comment was meant to be sarcastic. Which part of it? Maybe instead of just being sarcastic, you could try really making a point this time?

                • To clarify, I do not agree at all with placing restrictions on what food items people recievinv welfare buy. I live in a culture that thinks differently about welfare to thr way you do. We do not restrict what they buy, provided it is a legal product. We expect people to survive on the welfare provided, with emergency support available for one off events. It sits very badly with me to make the assumption that people recieving welfare should be singled out in such a way. You make assumptions about the lifestyle choices and buying habits of people on low incomes. That is discrimination. This would stigmatise and demean. Change, meaningful change, with the change internalised does not occur through force. In my country if this were proposed the response from most would be ‘why unfairly target the poor’. Isnt that unethical? It simply is not possible for everyone to have high incomes. Economically that cant be done. It is fair to control those in need of additional assistance due to low incomes in this way? Doesn’t it infringe on the right to self determination? It is very easy to work full time, very hard manual labor, but only pull in a low income. Is this really fair on those people? I give thanks that I was born with the advantage of opportunity and intelligence, i was somewhat lucky. I would not be happy to prescribe the diets of only those less affluent than I.

                  • The post did not advocate restricting what people could buy with food stamps, and the slurs on America are unwarranted: the various assistance systems do not generally limit what recipients can purchase either.

                    On the other hand, those who are accepting charity are also in no position to get indignant about the restrictions placed on it, if restrictions are.

                    • Wow! Don’t know what’s up with this format today! I promise you I did NOT type my first paragragh that way.

                  • In the US we have a Nutrition Program called WIC. It stands for “Women, Infants, Children” and provides vouchers, similar to Food Stamps, which permit pregnant women to “purchase” dairy products and related items for themselves and young children. Now, you might say that a pregnant woman, on any given day, might prefer a dill pickle with chocolate syrup or oysters with guacamole sauce to the more mundane milk, butter, eggs and cheese. Under WIC, however, she is restricted to purchase only those items because of the Nutrition they provide for fetal growth, development and nursing purposes.

                    Americans spend billions of dollars each year on feeding pregnant women here and around the world, and I have never heard anyone complain about or refuse that assistance. Americans also send High Nutrition Food Aid to people all over the world, for the feeding of general populations, even where their own leaders are indifferent to their needs. At home, Americans continue to feed and clothe and house and heat and provide training and childcare and books and vehicles and tools and supplies to poor people and their children, in order to improve their lives, and the lives of future generations.

                    I really believe that it is intelectually dishonest to portray Americans as stingy or mean-spirited when it comes to meeting the needs of the poor. The American Taxpayer works hard for his money and requires of his Representatives that Welfare regulations be enacted to assure that the benefits paid out to feed the poor are well spent. It would be wonderful if people had the sense to use Food Stamps benefits to the best advantage for themselves and their families. Certainly many do, but the Government which provides this aid must retain the right to assure that the aid is being used for the purpose for which it is intended.

                    • Do you not see that you target the poor. Many of my affluent friends are overweight consumers of junk. Why only the poor? It looks like class discrimination to us over here.

                    • What are you talking about? WHAT looks like class discrimination? One columnist suggested that junk food should be excluded, and I wrote that he was wrong, and why. What is it you think you “see” all the way from Australia?

                    • Sorry I couldn’t figure out out to get this sin the right sequence. Maybe that means I’m supposed to butt out. . . .

                      Anyhow, Jack, I think lee is probably talking about me when s/he says that “WE” are targeting the poor. I have said before that if this matter could be regulated I would be in favor of some form of restriction on what can be purchased with Food Stamps. Having had many years experience with the Welfare Bureaucracy, however, I know that #1) This idea has been floated unsuccessfully) many times in the past, and #2) Due to constant changes and the introduction of new products, it would be too impractical, and nearly impossible to accomplish in the US Food Market.

                      My answer to lee is this though: S/he says we who favor restrictions are “targeting the poor. ” Targeting them for what? Better Health? That was the purpose of the Food Stamps program from its inception.

        • I definitely understand the “it’s easier” vantage pint.

          I wa merely discussing the fiscal nature of it.

          Healthy eating is actually much less expensive than unhealthy eating.

          • I agree with you about costs.

            A $5.00 package of chicken, $2.50 sack of potatoes and bag of frozen vegetables @$2.00 will feed 4 people, with leftovers for less than $10.00. Raw beans and rice with a green pepper and an onion, will feed the same 4 people (again, with leftovers) for probably half that amount. A box of raw oatmeal, raisins, cinnamon and 1% milk can provide dozens of servings, in a good hot meal; and so much more nutritious than sugary commercial cereals.

            As far as snacks go, a 3 lbs bag of apples would last a family a week and cost just $3.00. Potato Chips or Cookies last one or two days in most houses and cost @$4.00.

            Junk food is just that: JUNK. And EXPENSIVE JUNK at that. Remember how mad we all got when we found out the Pentagon paid $300.00 for a hammer? And some legislator (forget who now) paid $200.00 for a toilet seat? Buying junk food with Food Stamps is essentially the same thing. Only worse, when the health issues are factored in.

  14. Jack,
    Off the topic of Food Stamps, but on the topic of Australia and Ethics, what do you think of the story about the storekeeper there who is charging customers $5.00 for “just looking”? Says she’s sick of people coming to her place to windowshop, and then going home to do their buying over the internet.

    • No, she can charge for whatever she wants to, and her potential customers are free to go elsewhere. Not unethical. I believe the proper descriptions is “futile” or perhaps “stupid.”

  15. Reading these comments brought to mind the debate on the vegan wedding reception dinner.
    A similar writing style, perhaps.

  16. As that Vegan Wedding discussion took place long before my time, I had to go back and read it for myself.

    WOW! Homeric. . .

    Not sure to which party’s “writing style” FinlayO’S is referring above, so– just to be on the safe side– looks like I’m going to have to retire from EthicsAlarms. Just to prove to myself that I can. . . .

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