Gaming Food Stamps (and not where you think)

Several years ago many Maine residents were surprised at how high their state ranked in percentage of the population receiving welfare benefits. It went against the self-image of the state's population for rugged self-sufficiency.   Thus there was political support for tightening the food stamp rules, as Thomas Lifson noted

Note, too, that there are probably a lot of Maine voters who know someone who has chosen to work in highly paid but seasonal fields like commercial fishing, logging, heavy construction and the like who no longer seek lower paid work the rest of the year. Instead they game the welfare system.  The driveways of such people can be full of expensive toys like motorboats, ATVs, snowmobiles and the like.  The perception is that food stamps and unemployment benefits allow some of these people to spend their wage on toys rather than save money to see them through the months when their chosen industry is shut down.  Since many of these seasonal workers also hunt, sport fish or keep vegetable gardens in their spare time, food has seldom been scarce for them. Non essentials items purchased with food stamps can become something more to barter.

There is a lot of this going on in other states, too. Rural residents in particular have opportunities to game the system because so much of the local economy is cash and barter.  Many of the people I know who collect disability also work under the table. Then there are the opportunities to convert food stamps to cash.  One that the National Review documented on its profile of poverty in Appalachia 50 years after the Great Society involved buying items like soft drinks or chips with food stamps at Sam's Club or the Walmart Supercenter and then selling them at a deep discount to the owners of rural ma and pop cafes and convenience stores.

The state with the worst level of abuse may be the one with the greatest image for rugged self sufficiency: Alaska.   Part of this is the intensely seasonal nature of so many of the state's jobs.  Another part consists of special eligibility rules for those who live in the areas under the control of the Alaska Native Corporations.  I seem to recall the Native Corporations were instrumental in the political survival of Senator Lisa Murkowski in 2016. 

Several years ago many Maine residents were surprised at how high their state ranked in percentage of the population receiving welfare benefits. It went against the self-image of the state's population for rugged self-sufficiency.   Thus there was political support for tightening the food stamp rules, as Thomas Lifson noted

Note, too, that there are probably a lot of Maine voters who know someone who has chosen to work in highly paid but seasonal fields like commercial fishing, logging, heavy construction and the like who no longer seek lower paid work the rest of the year. Instead they game the welfare system.  The driveways of such people can be full of expensive toys like motorboats, ATVs, snowmobiles and the like.  The perception is that food stamps and unemployment benefits allow some of these people to spend their wage on toys rather than save money to see them through the months when their chosen industry is shut down.  Since many of these seasonal workers also hunt, sport fish or keep vegetable gardens in their spare time, food has seldom been scarce for them. Non essentials items purchased with food stamps can become something more to barter.

There is a lot of this going on in other states, too. Rural residents in particular have opportunities to game the system because so much of the local economy is cash and barter.  Many of the people I know who collect disability also work under the table. Then there are the opportunities to convert food stamps to cash.  One that the National Review documented on its profile of poverty in Appalachia 50 years after the Great Society involved buying items like soft drinks or chips with food stamps at Sam's Club or the Walmart Supercenter and then selling them at a deep discount to the owners of rural ma and pop cafes and convenience stores.

The state with the worst level of abuse may be the one with the greatest image for rugged self sufficiency: Alaska.   Part of this is the intensely seasonal nature of so many of the state's jobs.  Another part consists of special eligibility rules for those who live in the areas under the control of the Alaska Native Corporations.  I seem to recall the Native Corporations were instrumental in the political survival of Senator Lisa Murkowski in 2016.