… is alive and well, and being funded by US taxpayers. Take THIS for example:
Step 1: Get food stamps. (Food stamps are good for only a limited number of products, and excludes things like smokes and booze)
Step 2: Go to the grocery store and buy, using the food stamps, cases of bottled water for $86.79
Step 3: Go around the back of the store, dump the water out of the bottles
Step 4: Go back into the store and feed the empty bottles into an automated “redemption machine”
Step 5: Collect $24 in cold hard cash
Step 6: Wisely invest that $24 in stocks, bonds or funds; buy gold or silver or real estate. Or spend it on beer and hookers. Whichever.
Sure, the rate of return is pretty poor… you get less of a third of the cash value of the food stamps. But you get *some* cash for free, while screwing over the suckers (AKA taxpayers). What’s not to like?
The article talks about how this is all very terrible, and that while illegal (Why? Not one single step in the process here is morally repugnant… except perhaps Step 1), it’s not often punished because there are no penalties.
There is, of course, an incredibly good solution to this sort of thing.
1) Get rid of food stamps *entirely.*
Now, we could stop it right there, and that’d be just fine. Those who aren’t in actual need wouldn’t be able to abuse the system. Those who are in need can visit charities.
But, sigh, some people will nevertheless bitch and moan about how horrible this is that we’re not providing free food to people “in need.” So, fine. Then here’s my proposal: provide free food. Not “food stamps,” but actual *food.* Specifically… “food loaf” (AKA “Nutraloaf.”)
“Food loaf” was developed for prisoners with behavioral problems (which would seem to be pretty much all prisoners… if they didn’t have behavioral problems, what are the chances they’d be prisoners?) Basically, it’s an entire days worth of food – institutional size in preparation – fed through a blender and baked into meatloaf-style loaves and served like slices of bread. All the nutirition you could ever hope for… all your cereal, peas, carrots, bread, taters, oatmeal, chicken, cheese, pork, eggs, fish, nuts, whatever all mashed together into an apparently tasteless – or slightly nasty-tasting – slab of nutritional goodness. You can’t stab anyone with a slice of bread.
Food loaf can be dehydrated so that it weighs approximately nothing, and, kept sealed, will last approximately forever. It has all the nutritional value you could want. The US could crank out food loaf by the kiloton and stockpile it, for use in disasters, emergencies… and as a food stamp replacement. Grocery stores or government offices could have one small corner constantly stocked with food loaf; any person could walk in, grab a set amount (a weeks worth for a family of four, say) and leave… don’t have to pay, don’t have to flash a special card, don’t need food stamps.
Food loaf would not be a real competitor with standard food items because it is, again, at best bland. It comes in one flavor, one texture, one format. Nobody who’s not in financial distress would willingly eat much of the stuff. But it *is* perfectly, and wholly adequately, nutritious.
So, food loaf could be made freely available to all. If you don’t need it, you can buy regular food. And if you choose not to eat it…. then you didn’t *need* it, and thus you don’t need government food assistance. Does it suck to eat the same bland crap every day? Yes, I would imagine so (says the guy who survived four years at university surviving on a pretty stead diet of Ramen noodles). But at most it is the government’s job to keep you from starving, not to supply you with treats. Don’t like surviving for years on blandness? Fine. Get a job. And instead of food stamps being used on crap junk food, food loaf is nutritionally balanced, and few people are likely to eat much more of it than they have to. America’s problem of fat poor people might finally begin to abate.
Unlike food stamps, free food loaf would seem to be immune from corruption and scams. First off, very few people would actively try to seek it out. Second…. it’s free. It’s impossible to have an underground economy using a medium of exchange that’s freely available to all. While someone might try to score a bag of crack using a bunch of food stamps – because in the proper hands food stamps can be turned into cash – food loaf would be useless as a medium of exchange, since the drug dealer could get his own free for the taking.
Replacing food stamps with food loaf would seem to be a winner on many levels. It would be cheaper. It would reduce bureaucracy. It would be healthier. It would incentivise getting *off* the government dole. It would reduce options for crime, corruption and scams. It would naturally stockpile vast amounts of storable food useful during disasters. And it would separate those in actual need (who will eat it, and be happy to have it) from those who are simply trying to scam the system.