US Senator David Vitter (R-LA) obviously didn’t get the memo from Bobby Jindal about “stop being the stupid party.” Nola.com is reporting that he has introduced the “Food Stamp Fraud Prevention and Accountability Act,” which would require all “food stamp” SNAP users with an EBT card to show a photo ID when making purchases. His justification for this is based on an incident last fall in which a glitch in Xerox’s systems created a buying frenzy in some Wal-Mart stores in northern Louisiana, when EBT balances were accidentally shown as unlimited. Some people rushed out to take advantage of this glitch, the police were called, and politicians like Senator Vitter rushed to make political hay out of the story. The truth is that photo ID would have done nothing to deter this incident – but hey, never let logic or the facts get in the way of pushing new red herring legislation.
Here’s what Vitter had to say:
“Using a photo ID is standard in many day to day transactions, and most of those are not exclusively paid for by the taxpayer dollars,” Vitter said. “Food Stamps have more than doubled in cost since 2008 and continue to grow in an unsustainable way, and the events in Louisiana unfortunately highlight the fraud surrounding the taxpayer- funded program. My bill will restore some accountability to the program so it’s not ruined for people who use it appropriately.” (Source)
First of all, SNAP (food stamp) usage has increased sharply since 2008 – he’s right about that. However, didn’t we also have a major recession in 2008 in which millions of people lost their jobs and had to rely on SNAP to feed themselves and their families? Oh right, he conveniently left that out. And while the economy has recovered for corporations, a record number of people are on food stamps because they aren’t paid enough to make ends meet.
Second, Nola.com’s article stated that the photo ID would have provided zero deterrent to the October 2013 situation. Hell, Wal-Mart often fails to check my ID on the very rare occasion that I stop there late at night to buy a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey and checking ID for alcohol purchases is already the law.
Third, wouldn’t Wal-Mart have attempted to prosecute the people who abused their EBT card privileges that day? Actually, Wal-Mart’s business model is partly based on cheap groceries which allow SNAP users to maximize the amount of food they can get in one month. Without EBT users, Wal-Mart would likely not turn the huge quarterly profits it tends to make.
Fourth, food stamp fraud is very rare. but when it does happen, retailers are often involved as well. If you do witness fraud or abuse of the SNAP system, then please report it by following this link.
Let’s be politically honest here – Senator Vitter’s proposed legislation is nothing more than yet another attempt by the far right to use an isolated incident to demonize people who receive government assistance. Whether it is calling for drug tests or photo IDs, they’ll never pass up an opportunity to portray the working poor as lazy, fraudulent addicts. Meanwhile, they’re falling all over themselves to hand out tax money in the form of subsidies to the very corporations like Wal-Mart who use cheap labor which is further subsidized by – you guessed it – food stamps. This is the same Senator Vitter who proudly flouts his “family values,” has a 100% rating from National Right To Life and even tries to bring up abortion during votes on unrelated legislation. Yet when it comes to actually getting food to the poor or their children once they’re born, he’s anything but “pro-life.”
The problem with requiring a photo ID to use an EBT card is that too many of the people who rely on them are also elderly, infirm or children – something I’m sure Senator Vitter both knows and cares nothing about. However, let’s make a compromise. I’ll go along with this on one condition – that your proposed food stamp card come with a photo and it can be considered a valid form of identification for voting. Deal? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
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