Removing the Stigma from Food Stamps (But Keeping the Same Scandalous Bloodsucking Bankers)
NYT has an interesting article on removing the stigma from the safety net of "food stamps" now that a pretty signifcant number of Americans rely on them to eat. The article doesn't get into specifics and much like unemployment numbers, I imagine "1 in 8" is hard to calculate precisely since from where I stand 75% of Americans are still in denial anyway. There is an incentive to fudge the numbers and exude an attitude of "we're fine, everything is ok" when the teevee says things are looking up. But we're not here to argue the definition of "hunger". We're here to talk about "food stamps" - more specifically, what the NYT article does not get into. While it briefly touches on the facelift traditional "food stamps" underwent during the Bushy Jr years, it does not say that JP Morgan is one of the country's largest providers of "EBT" benefit services to welfare organizations and recipients. But we'll get there.
With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.
It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs.
Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare.
While the numbers have soared during the recession, the path was cleared in better times when the Bush administration led a campaign to erase the program’s stigma, calling food stamps “nutritional aid” instead of welfare, and made it easier to apply. That bipartisan effort capped an extraordinary reversal from the 1990s, when some conservatives tried to abolish the program, Congress enacted large cuts and bureaucratic hurdles chased many needy people away.
From the ailing resorts of the Florida Keys to Alaskan villages along the Bering Sea, the program is now expanding at a pace of about 20,000 people a day.
Awww, look at JP Morgan being so philanthropic, offering EBT cards to victims of Kentucky ice storms earlier this year! It really melts my heart:
J.P. Morgan has helped the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) deliver early food stamp benefits to Kentuckians recovering from the state’s recent devastating ice storm. CHFS’ Department for Community Based Services usually issues electronic monthly food benefits on a staggered schedule during the first ten days of each month. Due to the storm, nearly 252,000 food stamp recipients who typically receive funds between the third and tenth of the month were given early access to benefits on February 2nd. These benefits are delivered via J.P. Morgan-issued Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards.
The Kentucky ice storm is believed to be the worst natural disaster in modern Kentucky history. Beginning on Jan. 27, 2009 and continuing for several days, ice, snow and rain pummeled the state. Fallen trees, debris and power outages paralyzed parts of the state and left hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians without electricity, water and heat. As a result, food spoilage occurred.
Now if I were the conspiratorial sort, I would speculate that this food stamp facelift worked out well for one recipient of Bushy Jr's welfare in particular, but I don't know enough about what goes on in Florida to make wild stabs like that.
I do know that this is the same JP Morgan that bankrupted an entire Alabama county with really shitty derivatives contracts so I wouldn't go inviting Jamie Dimon to dinner just yet, Brangelina.
JP Morgan was also accused of a little skimming of EBT benefits right here in my homebase of San Francisco - which, as you may or may not be aware, has a large homeless population *cough* - as this 2007 article via NowPublic shows us:
J.P. Morgan EFS is the contracted EBT Card processor in several states but, they have been processing illegal charges for sales tax, card processing fees in several U.S. Cities, including San Francisco.
[ This article, from SFHomeless Yahoo! Group, is part of a series that addresses some dirty little secrets behind EBT Card Food Stamp programs. J.P. Morgan EFS is contracted to process EBT transactions for millions of EBT Card Holders and provide training for the employees of the stores, restaurants, markets and cafes that accept Food Stamp Food Benefits. ]
Due to an apparent lack of adequate training and oversight by J.P. Morgan EFS, participating stores; restaurants and our local and state government agencies, several million of dollars worth of taxes, processing fees and surcharges (card holder charged higher price for food than the menu or price tag states, for food and beverages only because they are using Food Stamps) have been taken away from EBT Card Holders' Food Benefits, over the past several years.
So yeah, you can take the "stigma" out of food stamps but apparently you can't exorcise the demons. That's a shame.
I would have dug through JP Morgan's SEC filings or what-have-you for numbers on how much they make off of EBT each year but the taste of bile began to rise in my throat and I had to cut this post short. Check out the NYT article. Personally I don't think there should be any stigma involved in needing help, and it's what makes things like Black Friday so hard for me to digest. How many people camped out at 3 in the morning in a Wal-mart parking lot couldn't afford any of that shit, let alone all of it? Priorities, people.
Anyway. If anyone wants to hear the story about 18 year old me, a wild hitchhiking trip across the Western US, Salt Lake City and one of these EBT cards, you know where to find me. So I do have practical experience with one myself, though that would have been the late 90s so maybe Bushy Jr hadn't sold off the food stamp facelift to JPM yet. Whatever, that's not the good part of the story.