Help the Economy, Get on Food Stamps

Helping people get food stamps is part of my job. I am also on food stamps myself. It’s a very complicated system – the people who truly understand it have MAs in social work – but I know some things about it. Many of the points I’d like to make have been made by other commenters (e.g., accepting aid doesn’t mean denying it to anyone else) ….

..If you are eligible for food stamps, and you do not use them, you’re hurting the economy. Food stamps mean income for grocery store owners, clerks, truck drivers, farmers. You swipe that card; they get actual money, on which they pay taxes. (In most major cities, you can use your EBT card at greenmarkets and greencarts through a token-exchange system, which boosts the local economy.)

I’ll use my case because the data is mine to disclose — without food stamps, I have $104/m after rent (incl. utilities) and transportation to my job. I can make that last all month if I have to, and I have. But I keep that up, it’s not long ’til I’m malnourished. Which means pretty soon I need medical care. Which makes me actually a drain on your tax dollars, because the doctors don’t get more income with more patients.

I give $148/m in food stamps to the grocery store, the grocery store pays taxes on the income, and I spend $65 on taxable sales like shampoo, toilet paper, a ticket to a friend’s play, and having my shoes re-soled, and the drug store got $15, a venue made $7.50, a theater company made $7.50, and a cobbler made $35 — all less tax, of course.

Support your local economy. Get your food stamps.

—Lots of people had lots of opinions about Karina Briski’s essay about being young, educated, and on food stamps. Commenter Jennet Jourdip’s response, however, hit on something that I hadn’t considered before: That food stamps are good for communities, not just for people on them.


5 Comments / Post A Comment

mishaps (#65)

This is a really important point about economic stimulus policies as well. Study after study shows that money that goes to people who are barely scraping by gets put back into the economy, and usually into the local economy at that. Money that goes to the wealthy goes into investments, not all of which will even be in the USA.

@mishaps Thank you for this, the most concise wording of this principle I’ve seen so far. You will be quoted…

Which studies?

Broken window fallacy!

All you’re doing is shuffling money around. No new prosperity is generated because the cash from the food stamps had to come from somewhere. That money still would have been spent on things, all that’s happened is it is being spent on a particular set of things you like.

The morality of letting people struggle without food stamps is completely separate, of course.

tussock (#1,296)

@Rusty Shackleford Keynes would disagree. Which is only to say that this issue (whether distributing money to the poorest members of society is shuffling tokens or priming the pump) is a matter of very sharp and longstanding debate, and Bastiat is not the last word on it.

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