This conversation is closed.

Why are or why aren't food stamps considered in investment?

Why is it that proponents and opponents of different parts of the welfare state appeal to different arguments for the respective welfare policies?
I am interested in hearing perspectives on the economic and moral arguments for and against aspects of the welfare state, and the reasons why rhetoric appears to one or the other.
For example: The proponent arguments for food stamps tend to appeal toward moral arguments, while the opponent arguments are economic.

  • thumb
    Apr 8 2013: I was on food stamps last year. Because of such support I was able to survive to get a job and now I am paying taxes again. Without such social services our country likely would have lost a productive citizen. From am economic viewpoint this was a huge win. I don't know how valid it is to generalize my experience, but here It it is for your consideration.

    From a moral perspective, abolishing social services such as this would lead to great human misery and suffering. WhatY exactly would we do with starving children without food stamps?
  • Apr 10 2013: The world is more or less living in civilization. Biggest tenet of civilization is that land is privately owned and food is stored lock and key. This set up means we no longer live in the garden of eden so to speak. Traditional societies did not experience this wretched poverty we civilized societies can't seem to kick.

    In light of this, it is my opinion everybody deserves access to some food. It is a right.

    Thomas Paine in Agrarian Justice: 'To preserve the benefits of what is called civilized life, and to remedy at the same time the evil which it has produced, ought to considered as one of the first objects of reformed legislation'
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2013: Were we to abolish food stamps (without replacing that with anything else), I believe that would mean that a number of parents could no longer afford to feed their children. Perhaps some believe that starvation would be strong enough motivation to get a job and feed your children. Yet our social economy is founded on the very premise of structural unemployment and the necessity of having poor people in order to balance out wealthy people. Please challenge these assumptions if you believe this is incorrect.

    I don't understand what those who would like to abolish food stamps would do with the starving children in their neighborhood? Could someone please explain that to me? (Please check your emotions if this question angers you!)
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2013: here is a moral argument: it is wrong to rob a person in gunpoint, and give the swag to a nearby poor guy. please note that i omitted the actor from this sentence, meaning that it does not matter. if it is the state, it should not change the picture.
    • thumb
      Apr 9 2013: I agree that whether it's the government taking taxes or a robber stealing cash, in both cases cash is being taken from you by force. But I think when you add context, both scenarios are quite different. In the case of government taking your taxes for welfare, I could argue that the money is intended to be put to good, humanitarian use and could well save someone's life. In the case of stealing cash at gun point, it is most likely being taken for non-humanitarian reasons, and therein lies a critical moral difference in my opinion.
      • thumb
        Apr 9 2013: in our current legal system, motivation is not a key factor when we judge robbers. i would say that robbing money to save your kid's life in case of otherwise lethal illness is a more noble cause than giving food stamps for someone that already has AC installed. so the very question of what are the intentions is a double standard. if a black guy robs a rich guy, i can assure you, very few people will care about his motivations.
        • thumb
          Apr 9 2013: I do not believe the intention of food stamps is to give them to someone who already has AC installed. That may well be what happens but I do not believe that is the intention. I think you are comparing the intent of one thing (robbing money to save your kid's life) with the outcome of another thing (some percentage of food stamp recipients using food stamps who do not need them). As a result, I do not think that comparison is valid.

          I believe our legal system does recognize intent (somewhat different from motivation but also quite similar) in a number of cases. Intent is a critical part of a murder charge, and the entrapment defense is also about improper police action that leads to motivating someone to commit a crime they otherwise would not have committed, a duress defense may be used (the case of the Florida white man who claimed he was "standing his ground and defending himself" as he shot a black man was all about his intent), and there are other cases as well.
      • thumb
        Apr 9 2013: you have a great sense of spotting irrelevant details :) AC was not central to my point. my point was, we can easily find more cherishable goals that those behind foodstamps. yet i can not rob anyone in order to achieve such goals. this is double standard, not matter how hard you push it. simply there is no legal condition that would render an armed robbery morally acceptable, let alone something to condone, unless the state does it.
        • thumb
          Apr 9 2013: Thanks for hanging in with me. I thought that by saying that "recipients using food stamps who do not need them" I demonstrated that I understood that AC was not an irrelevant detail, and was attempting to verify that I understood you properly, as well as highlight the hyperbole you presented as being not very helpful or clear, at least to me. I apparently failed miserably!

          I thoroughly agree with you that we can find more worthy goals to pursue! Yet I disagree that means we should abandon less worthy goals. Perhaps we agree to disagree.
      • thumb
        Apr 9 2013: my point is not that we need to abandon some goals. rather, we should give up some ways. one way to give up is taking by force in order to serve something that is perceived as good. it is generally accepted as morally wrong. and that would be my argument against the welfare state.
  • Apr 9 2013: This is highly emotional - Some people could care less about the poor.
    • thumb
      Apr 9 2013: Yup Geo you are right. Some people would prefer to enslave them with government handouts robbing them of their life.

      But poor people is a statistical category where very few of them stay in that category. The important thing to look at on this subject is economic opportunity and freedom to improve oneself.
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2013: Another thing to consider is that public transfers (all welfare) does not show up as income on goverment records. This makes the income of the poor appear to be much lower than it is.
  • Comment deleted

    • Apr 9 2013: It's different in each state but generally they come on a card like a credit card with a monthly allotment that can only be spent on food.
    • Apr 10 2013: People whose incomes were low enough could buy stamps, which were like a book of coupons. They would go to the grocery store, and use the stamps in place of money. Stamps had a value (for food) that were higher than the amount paid for them. If you were poor and thus eligible for welfare benefits (cash assistance), you would stretch your money by using some of that cash for food stamps. If you were in a grocery checkout line and someone used food stamps, everyone knew they were poor, and knew they probably received welfare benefits. It was a shameful thing. The food stamp program is run by the Dept. of Agriculture (a federal agency), and originally was seen as a way to get surplus farm products to the poor. The welfare (cash assistance) programs were run by the Human Services departments of the various states. Now, they don't use coupons. It looks like a credit card and is replenished every month. It's not so obvious at the grocery store, so it's less shameful. The types of food you can buy are limited. For example, you can't buy prepared foods. So, you can buy a raw chicken but not a roasted chicken. They can't buy cigarettes or liquor, etc. They have to be poor. They may receive welfare benefits (very small cash assistance) or federal welfare (supplemental social security benefits, about $732 monthly), they might receive energy assistance (for their power bills), they get medical assistance (limited health care), and they might live in public or subsidized housing. Some people always imagine the welfare families as living off the fat of the land. In reality, they almost always have an impediment that keeps them from working, like a disability. Children get a lot of the benefits. I know many people who receive benefits and I wouldn't want to trade places with any of them. It's a depressing, dead end way to live. The system needs improvement and so forth, but it's for poor chidlren, and their poor uneducated parents. Very yucky way to live.
  • thumb
    Apr 8 2013: Philosophically one side espouses to more and more government services the other side wants the rule of law and freedom. The main freedom being economic freedom.