Author Note: I do not intend this piece to be taken literally. I have written three books and dozens of articles promoting decentralization, limited government and the free market, so I would certainly never seriously advocate big-government solutions to a big government problem. My “reform measures” are intended to be as preposterous as the problem itself.
For those of you who missed it, several months ago “Mr. EBT” went viral with his hit tune “My EBT.” Classic examples of Shakespearean prose from the song include this passage: “Damn, I just want some jam. Walkin’ down the aisle ’cause I’m lookin’ for the haaaamm. Wham! Where da hell da cheese at?” And who could forget this line: “I wish I could buy some weed with my EBT, but the drug dealer frontin’ me. I mean, who cares? I mean, who cares? It’s an EBT, it’s not food stamps.” Catchy and brilliant! Mr. EBT is quite the wordsmith. Of course, he would lose his street cred without his Yankees hat and leather coat. Heck, it wasn’t even his Electronic Benefit Transfer card! He “borrowed” it from his sister! And now we have Jesse Jackson telling us Barack Obama should be honored to be the “food stamp president” because food stamps pay for everything under the sun and save lives. What’s going on, America?
These are fine examples of what many Americans witness on a regular basis. The other day, while my family and I were waiting in a check-out line at Wal-Mart, I noticed that the woman checking out in front of us was texting on her $200 cell phone (which probably costs at least $100 a month in service fees and may have been paid for by the government as well) and holding what my wife says was a $100 designer purse, with a stack of junk food, beer and cigarettes on the belt behind a line of subsistence products like milk, cheese, cereal and meat.
People pay for “necessary” items with their EBT government debit cards and then use cash for their smokes, beer and munchies. Yet, I have to fork over my hard-earned dollars for every item in my cart (and in essence theirs as well, since I pay taxes while they probably get “refunds” every April). Something is wrong here. Why is the average taxpayer both screwed by the system and forced to watch his tax dollars being wasted on people who abuse the system?
I have a solution: Dharma-style food stamp reform. Fans of “Lost” will recognize the reference, but for those who did not watch the show, the Dharma Initiative packaged its own food to supply members of the project on the island. Each item came in a package with a simple black-and-white label and a basic description. Beer cans were marked with the word “Beer.” It probably tasted as bad as it looked. In any case, here is a picture:
Dharma-style food stamp reform would have four basic components. First, the federal government would create a government “brand” of essential food items such as milk, cheese, meat, cereal, vegetables, bread, peanut butter, beans, juice, soup, baby formula, diapers, etc., and would package the items with simple black-and-white labels and basic descriptions. The word “Government” would be stamped across the top in bold letters so everyone would know it was a welfare item. These items could be manufactured by major companies through government contracts, thus not creating a net loss to private industry. Because competition is not an issue, taste and quality, with the exception of the baby formula and baby food, would not be a top priority. Snacks, soda, cigarettes and beer would not be available through the program.