- Publisher unveils Hillary Clinton’s new memoir — ‘Hard Choices’
- Britain’s Labour Party hires David Axelrod — but can’t spell his name
- Washington and Lee law students demand ban on Confederate flag, say Gen. Lee was racist
- Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for ferry captain in South Korea
- Ann Coulter takes up ‘Mitt Romney for President’ chant again
- Mount Everest avalanche kills a dozen Sherpa guides
- Vice principal saved from South Korean sinking ferry found hanged
- ‘I Am Alive’ app gains popularity in terror-ravaged Lebanon
- Gun giveaways gain popularity among Republican candidates
- S.C. hospital worker slapped with $525 federal fine for refilling $0.89 soda
SCANLON: Bubbles out of the bottle
The nannies aim the hopeless soda-pop war at food stamps
The history of welfare programs in the United States is chock full of restrictions on how recipients go about their daily lives. Some are reasonable and in the public interest, but others are heavy-handed and unduly intrusive.
For example, the recent push to block food-stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase carbonated soft drinks reeks of overreach.
Hopping on New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s anti-obesity bandwagon, South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has gone too far, proposing to curtail what food-stamp recipients may purchase in her state.
“You are looking at $1 billion that will no longer be put toward candy and chocolate and sodas and chips, but may be put into apples and oranges and things that are healthy.”
It is wishful thinking to expect that forbidding food-stamp users to buy soft drinks with their benefits will stop them from buying soft drinks altogether.
Food-stamp benefits may currently be used to buy “any prepackaged edible foods, regardless of nutritional value (e.g. soft drinks and confections),” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), the formal name of the food-stamp program, whose benefits are distributed by individual U.S. states. Items available in “fast-food restaurants and similar retail settings” cannot be purchased with food stamps.
A 2007 USDA report concluded that prohibiting the use of food stamps to purchase specific items would probably be pointless.
“There is no guarantee that restricting the use of food stamps would affect food purchases — other than substituting one form of payment (cash) for another (food stamps),” the report found. In other words, if you block food-stamp users from buying soft drinks with their benefits, they’ll probably buy soft drinks with cash.
And compiling a list of foods “acceptable” under SNAP would require increasing the federal bureaucracy.
According to the USDA, there are more than 300,000 food products available on the market, and each year about 12,000 new products find their way on to supermarket shelves. The department observes that “the task of identifying, evaluating, and tracking the nutritional profile of every food available for purchase would be substantial.” Government officials would squabble with manufacturers over whether their food items meet USDA standards. Marketplace winners and losers would be decided by a political process instead of by sovereign consumers.
Nine years ago, healthy-eating zealots in Minnesota, along with then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, tried to forbid food-stamp recipients from purchasing soft drinks, candy bars and other items considered to be “junk food.”
The USDA quite properly refused Minnesota’s request to banish certain foods from the food-stamp program.
USDA Regional Administrator Ollice Holden found that in addition to causing “confusion and embarrassment” in the checkout aisle, Minnesota’s proposal would arbitrarily ban “only certain types of candy and soft drinks.” Mr. Holden thought it didn’t make sense that Minnesota would allow food-stamp users to buy Kit-Kat and Twix candy bars because they contain flour, but not Hershey bars, which do not.
Using similar reasoning, in 2011 the USDA slapped down a request from the obesity-obsessed Mr. Bloomberg to forbid New York City’s food-stamp beneficiaries to use their benefits to buy soft drinks and similar beverages.
USDA Associate Administrator Jessica Shahin said at the time that Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal was nixed because it would have been incredibly difficult to decide which beverages could or could not be bought with food stamps and to ascertain if banning some drinks helped to curb obesity.
TWT Video Picks
By Tammy Bruce
Team Obama's bizarre behavior helps Gitmo terrorists foil justice
Get Breaking Alerts
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'
- CBO shows it's Paul Ryan 4, Obama 0 on budget targeting
- PRUDEN: When a bored president just 'mails it in'
- Joe Biden's biggest gaffe: VP blowing his 2016 head start
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- With pot and e-cigarettes, Big Tobacco is just waiting to inhale emerging markets
- Golden Hammer: Easter candy bitter taste for taxpayers?
- Obama taunts GOP, takes nationally televised victory lap on Obamacare
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
Recent Letters to the Editor
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Probe Boston teen's medical, custody case
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bundy support a modern-day Tiananmen protest
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: An honorable president would resign
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bundy support demonstrates voters' distrust
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Obamacare disasters were avoidable