A week ago, the technology that assessed spending limits on debit cards for food-stamp recipients malfunctioned. As a result, there was no way for stores to tell how much value was left on individual cards. Many merchants refused to accept the cards until the problem was fixed.
Not wanting to risk having anyone go hungry, Walmart allowed people to use the cards. Unfortunately, the food-stamp recipients treated the stores’ generosity as a bonanza, and filled carts with much more than they were entitled to. As word got out, the two Walmarts quickly found themselves overwhelmed by other food-stamp recipients doing the same.
That incident is far from the only abuse. The Post has carried several dispatches reporting how some city residents who get food stamps are using them to buy food, which they load into large drums and ship off to relatives in the Caribbean.
These things are worth bearing in mind as the House and Senate go into conference over the farm bill. The reason? The Democratic Senate is resisting calls from House Republicans to reform a food-stamp program that has seen the number of Americans on its rolls nearly double from the last years of President George W. Bush to today, when we have 47.5 million people — nearly one out of six Americans — on food stamps.
The Republicans are being portrayed as heartless, simply for wanting to ensure that food stamps go to the truly needy and that families who might be struggling to put food on the table are not underwriting dependency and fraud. But the critics do not want to debate; they want to slime. So we have silly stories like the one in the Los Angeles Times the other day that was headlined: “What would Jesus say about Republican attacks on food stamps?”
Like the majority of Americans, we believe food stamps serve as a vital bridge to help people who might otherwise have no way to feed their families in tough times. But when the program expands so rapidly, abuse is inevitable, and the fraud we see in those New York shipments to the Caribbean and the Walmart stampede tell us the social contract is frayed and we are losing our sense of personal responsibility.
The last thing anyone needs is for this to be the new “normal.” By all means, we need to ensure this program is there for Americans in need. But the best way to ensure that it serves the people that it ought is to take steps to cut off the people it oughtn’t.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This article was written by the editorial board of the New York Post.