Archive for Sunday, October 13, 2013

Editorial: Basic need

It may be time to trim the number of food stamp recipients in Kansas, but the state shouldn’t go too far in restricting a program that provides an important safety net for low-income Kansans.

October 13, 2013


Food stamps likely are one of the nation’s most accepted forms of public assistance for low-income people because they address a basic need of all humans: food.

Funding for the food stamp program comes from the federal government, but states have authority over how that money is distributed, and a couple of recent decisions in Kansas have made it more difficult for low-income people to obtain that assistance.

Last month, the Kansas Department of Children and Families announced that about 20,000 unemployed Kansas adults no longer would be eligible to receive food stamps after Oct. 1. The benefit now is available only to people who work at least 20 hours a week. The work requirement was part of the 1996 federal welfare reform plan, but the 2009 economic stimulus bill allowed states to waive the requirement temporarily. Because of its relatively low unemployment rate, Kansas no longer qualified for the waiver, but it and several other states were given an opportunity to continue it.

Kansas declined. Childless adults who want to continue to receive food stamps now have three months to get a job or enroll in a job training program. The move may seem harsh, but the food-stamp waiver for able-bodied adults always was envisioned as a temporary measure tied to the struggling economy. Now that the economy is improving, it may be time to wean state residents from that assistance.

More difficult to justify is the state’s move last week to reject federal funding that already had been approved for five Kansas groups to provide outreach and assistance for people who qualify for food stamps. “We simply do not believe taxpayer dollars should be used to recruit people to be on welfare,” said a DCF representative.

That seems like an overly harsh characterization of a program that provides food, often on a temporary basis, for low-income Kansans, about half of whom are children.

The five agencies were notified just one day before they were scheduled to receive their grant money. The groups scheduled to receive grants were Catholic Social Service in Dodge City, Rice County, the USDA Food Bank in Wichita, Harvesters of Kansas City and Community Access in Independence. The five grants weren’t huge — they totaled about $71,500 — but they were important to the groups that received them. That federal money, which includes Kansas tax dollars, now will go to other states, and the Kansas groups will have to dig into their own meager budgets to try to continue their outreach programs. The DCF representative noted that Kansas joins South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming in not using federal funds for outreach programs so Kansas apparently is in a pretty small minority on this issue.

Getting people back to work and off of public assistance is a good goal, but many Kansans likely question a decision to turn down federal funds intended, at least in part, to providing a food safety net for Kansas children.


Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

I want my tax dollars helping the less fortunate. These types of tax dollars coming back to our community stimulate the economy,help keep local farmers in business, help keep local grocery stores in business and keep employees on the job.

Would I rather have these tax dollars in Lawrence,kansas or Washington D.C. where nothing is being accomplished? In Lawrence,Kansas of course. Bring them on.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

I believe that I saw a statistic in the last week or so that indicated that about 33% of us are now on food stamps.

Another statistic suggests that about 15% or so of us are below the poverty level.

Seems to me that some portion of the food stamp effort is going to people who are not poor??

With a one trillion annual deficit perhaps it is well past due that we look at our criteria and make sure we are doing what we collectively intend with this program

We are a nation with a massive obesity problem. I have read or heard precious little of emaciated or grossly underweight people being hospitalized - maybe I missed those articles.

Are we really addressing a food need or are we enabling more money to be spent on the weekly bar bill (or texting bill)??

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Well, you raise another question even before I go look up the statistic _ I think it reflected growth and not actual numbers.

Mississippi is also a low cost of living area (most of it) so we need be careful in applying a national poverty standard for them.

Of course if the rest of us bail out Mississippi then those rich locals need do nothing to help their own people. Mississippi is a state of much contrast.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

You are correct. Nationally about 17$. It has increased about 30% in the last five years.

Having admitted my error will you now address the other half of my point - the lack of emaciated or mal-nurished people being hospitalized because they have no access to food? Of course, here again I may have missed the data. Help!

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

MIxed bag - how do I respond.

Children are a complex challenge. We have many programs to address them. Anecdotally I have observed that young single mothers are frequently overwhelmed by the responsibility and do not provide for the children - even when the resources are available. I would rather spend my social services resources addressing that problem rather than providing food (at time misused) to people who are not children and who are not mal-nurished.

As a citizen I can only do so much in attempting to address the continuing bad decisions made by a portion of our population. Perhaps we should be armed with better methods to enforce good nutrition and proper care on those dependent on us?

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Well Mam, the statistics suggest that we are feeding more people then we need to feed. The data suggests that there is abuse. My anecdotal comment is supported by research.

You have avoided every substantive comment I have made by either ridiculing it or me.

I want my social services resources spent on those who need it with a goal of returning them to a productive life. Long term use of programs such as SNAP should be limited. Checks should be in place to insure only nutritious food is purchased and that if there is a child involved it is getting to the child.

We increased SNAP by 30% in the last five years yet there was no demonstrable mal-nutrition supporting that increase. I recognize that early mal-nutrition can be a life altering problem. That said I demand that we be more proactive in making sure the resources we provide reach the intended recipient.

As to the rest of the people on the program - prove they need to be there. It is not my responsibility to proves they don 't. Evasions like mal-nutrition is not always visible are just that. Bad choices can cause the problem no matter the effort we make to address it.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

My argument is the reverse. We had no real upsurge in mal-nutrition yet we increased food stamps. In my world there needs to be substantive data to support ever increasing taxes.

Now you and I disagree on the substance. I hold that is the responsibility of those who want increased social services to justify why. You have chosen to focus your argument on children - maybe to make me look like and idiot. I have no problem with providing food to children who lack it.

I have a problem supporting people who have children when they lack the means to support them. I have a problem supporting adults who choose to not provide for themselves.

Now you switched the argument to nutrition as a basis for SNAP. For children - fine. That is a dangerous place to go for the rest of us. There are fat people who have poor nutrition. I suspect a significant percentage of us lack proper nutrition as a result of our dietary choices. I can not afford to fix that.

I continue to look for some scientific basis for all the money (particularly the increases) I accept your argument that we are not addressing hunger but nutrition. How we sort poor nutrition resulting from lack of food and poor nutrition resulting from personal choice is my problem.

I am sure there are volumes of studies that support widespread poor nutrition. I suspect that there are precious few if any that try to distinguish. between causes. I do not support funding poor choices.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago


  1. I don't have a problem with the program but with how we have implemented it.
  2. Never had a problem with pro-active caring for children. I am unhappy with the presumption that the mother is the best caregivers but have no workable solution to not doing that - other than requiring employment and constant monitoring. A simple quality assurance program would probably suffice - like most commercial programs employ.
  3. Food aid for employable adults is a waste of my tax dollars. I am sure you can find many studies on nutrition in this country. I have also. IMHO that is a personal responsibility thing for adults to address. Trying to use SNAP to correct self-indulgence is a waste of my tax dollars.
  4. I am well aware of the slippery slope here. If we start them out with good nutrition they will hopefully continue. If we intervene with good nutrition they hopefully will not become a medical drain. That logic applies to just about all or major social services programs. While I accept the logic I extend it and quickly reach a point where a smaller and smaller portion of the citizenry must support more and more people because of their bad choices. That is just a sophisticated Ponzi scheme. It cannot endure. Worse, you are taking increasing sums from people who are only marginally better off. Yes, go get the rich but unfortunately there are not enough of them to support your crusade.
  5. Yes, if you do it my way people will suffer because they fail to make good choices. IMHO a bit of suffering will quickly lead most of them to a more rational course at great savings to the rest of us. Yes, there will be some that simply cannot act in their own self-interest. Instead of trying to make them the equal of those who work we should treat them as we historically have treated our soldiers. Community living in austere facilities.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Nice argument but again a distortion.

  1. Yes, we are subsidizing the family because there is a child.. Why?
  2. SNAP is a supplemental program. The people receiving it are not supposed to live on it entirely. Providing SNAP to adults (parents of children) means they have more money to spend on other things. If we don't give it to them they will have to use their own money (supplemental - remember) to buy what they eat. Make sure what we provide goes to the kid.
  3. Back to my original argument. Nobody is starving (unless they are really stupid). I support resources directed at children. The expansion from 2008 until now just can not be supported by some massive increase in neglected benefit populations but comes from liberalizing the participant requirements.
  4. It is not my job to address adult stupidity in not buying nutritious food. IMHO the cost of eating nutritionally is less - probably a lot less - then buying big macs.

The real problem here is that we do not address the actual problem. For example many of the elderly are hurting for cash because we tax them unmercifully after they retire and try to live in their home. Why give from SNAP and take away to support Lawrence?

The entire social safety net is poorly focused and contains a number of perverse incentives. We need to go back and focus it. I am sure that each and every component (from free phones to federal supplemental unemployment) has a strong advocate and a strong rational for it. I am not as sure that there is any rational for the total resources expended through all the different programs.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 8 months ago

George, I have to agree with you there about the overweight. I am on disability and I do get food stamps and I am overweight. To me the strange thing is that while I would never think of using cash to buy snacks or sweets I do not hesitate to use my food stamps. I believe that is partially because I have little and a really nice desert is like a little luxury, I am thinking of food as the only really special thing in my life.

I am being quite truthful because I hope that someone else who is overweight and on food stamps will at least make the effort to start using some self discipline to use those food stamps wisely.

Yes, I know that means me too. I am curious as to how this "experiment" will affect my food budget.

However, it does seem as though it is only poor women that are fat, rarely is it the men. I have heard that under stress women go for ice cream and men for booze. Does anyone know if this is true or not? None of this means that the food stamp program is ill run or that people do not genuinely need it. It is as difficult to work on an empty stomach as it is to study on one.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago


I by no means want to reduce assistance to those who truly need it as it sounds like you do.

I would caution, however, that being overweight (I too chase comfort food) leads to nasty problems like diabetes which leads if unresolved to strokes, heart failure, loss of limbs and other nasty outcomes.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 8 months ago

Yes, I am finding that out as I have a bad knee that I have to get cortosol shots in and have fallen down twice in the last month, and each time I landed with all my weight of my two knees. Not good. I think that ultimately it comes down to self-discipline, making myself do what is good for me, not what I might want to do.

And, practice good economy at the same time!

Joshua Montgomery 4 years, 8 months ago

Matthew 25:40 "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 8 months ago

You can sure tell the difference between Jesus and Paul. :P

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 8 months ago

And, the differences between Peter, Paul and Mary? :-)

Joshua Montgomery 4 years, 8 months ago

FDR - "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

Joshua Montgomery 4 years, 8 months ago

Martin Luther King, Jr. - "There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it."

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Addressing the above three notes. The bible was not suggesting that Rome raise taxes to help the poor. It was addressing my and your responsibility to contribute voluntarily to those in need.

Joshua Montgomery 4 years, 8 months ago

The financial "bind" we find ourselves in was caused by a reduction in taxes in 2001. Ironically titled the "Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001".

The rational was that by cutting taxes and eliminating regulation, the United States economy would grow, and a rising tide lifts all boats.

Unfortunately the real world, the world we live in, does not live by the voodoo economics espoused by this rational.

This is the same logic that Mr. Brownback has espoused in his continued drive to cut taxes.

The results will be the same. Economic stagnation, suffering for the poorest among us and continued expansion of the gap between the rich and everyone else.

If you want to solve the problem, return the taxes to their pre-2001 level and funds will become available to provide services for the poor.

Cutting taxes to encourage prosperity is as nonsensical as quitting your job in order to pay for a new car.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Do you have some statistics to support your claim?

I have seen data that suggest that within a year or two income tax revenue recovered from the cut. What we completely overlook in the discussion of that tax cut is that part of that action was the reduction in deductions for the middle class and the expansion of the EIC to where we now have close to 50% of taxpayers not paying for the social safety net.

Yes, the real winners in the "Bush" tax cut were the wealthy. How about we do something about that. Since they use capital gains and tax exempt income to hold down their taxes and since the tax rates cease being progressive at about $500K maybe there is a nice source. We could cap the amount of capital gains and dividends given tax preference. We could do likewise with tax exempt securities.

That said the amount of righteous revenue recovered would not probably reduce the annual deficit by $100 Billion - leaving $900 billion to be found elsewhere. There are just not enough rich people.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 8 months ago

I'd like to know where you got your data because, by 2003, we were mired in a war that was unfunded while the deficit sky rocketed.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Cait, there is a difference between revenue and spending. Revenue increased while expenses sky rocketed. I was only speaking to revenue - what we raise with taxes. The issue I was addressing was the Bush tax cut and the argument that reversing it will make all well. It will not.

The data by the way came from the IRS web site that tracks revenue from various sources by year.

I will also add that at several check points in income (all in the $75K to $100K range) the amount of revenue extracted today adjusted for inflation is about the same as it was before the "Bush" tax cut. I used Quicken to calculate tax due.

The winners, as I said, are the wealthy and those couples with children earning $50K and below.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Here is a chart on US income distribution. Note that 80% of us earn between 0 and $100K with the meanand median in the high forties and low fifties. The average is in the high sixties.

Note it is not a bell curve. It has a long tail at the high end. with about 4% of the families earning more than $200K.

I focus on $100K because that is about the amount that a two wage earner blue collar family makes as they near retirement. It is also the 80% point. They are certainly not rich.

In fact income for most of us is relatively tightly grouped around the mean (80% with in a factor of two.

Seth Peterson 4 years, 8 months ago

I think you are mistaken in your assumption that a two wage earner blue collar family will approach 100K as they near retirements. Many families never come close to that and many of those who are working poor tend not to have much ability to advance in pay grades past a certain point.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

I n ever said all - see follow on chart. Look up what we pay teachers and deputies. As longevity increases income increases and it does exceed $100K (even here). If you do the same in new York the income rate is even higher.

The follow on chart also agrees with you on the working poor. For convenience I will group them into two categories. Those starting out with limited skills and experience who will move up the system as they age (as the chart shows). The second category are those who simply lack the ability to successfully compete in our world. That may be because they are at the low end of the intelligence scale or because they have chosen to not compete. In either case exactly what is our responsibility to them. We provide a social safety net that in the aggregate if properly focused would eliminate poverty.

Beyond that just how much do you think you have a right to extract from the hard working middle class to address a fact of nature?

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

No, the chart just shows that the number of families with incomes exceeding $100K increases with longevity - until retirement. Certainly not all of them our rich plutocrats.

My argument for the $100 K blue collar income comment was not based on that chart and had two caveats. Two wage earner family and longevity. I suggested you look up the combined income of a sheriff deputy and a teacher in Douglas County nearing retirement - I did and it on average exceeded $100K. I also have looked it up for other parts of the country like NYC and found it to be much higher (higher costs of living). The examples are public employees. Are you suggesting that we are overgenerous to them or are you willing to accept by logic that many non-government employees share the same trend. I can find no data one way or another on non-government employment.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

No Barbara I am not. Certainly not all blue collar families top out at $100K. Many do. The whole point is that people's income increases with longevity so that poverty is not a permanent condition except for a limited population. Exactly what are you arguing about other than just being grumpy. Misstating what I say is a typical debating technique and is despicable in discourse about real issues. I never said all blue collar employees top out at $100K. But since you want to argue what is your number?? Do you have any facts or are you just an obstructionist.

Retirement today does not always wait until 65. Many people chose or are forced to retire at 55 or there about. That drops their income. Perhaps your notion is that when you turn 55 the big bad bogeyman cuts your pay because it is his/her nature???

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

If your challenge was meaningful that would be so. It is not. I picked $100K because it is at the 80% in income in this country and sounds like a lot to many people. The point also being that income in our world is fairly grouped. I could argue $80 K or $120 K but why - $100K is a nice round number.

I asked you if you had any better data. Your have avoided that question. Why, because you are just obstructionist? I went back to the beginning and can see how one could opine that I was listing all blue collar employees as making $100K late in their working lives. I corrected that post haste.

I chose the two groups because the data is available. I can find little data on salaries on non-government employees. That is usually confidential to the company paying the bill. Again I asked you if you believed that government employees are substantially rewarded better than non government employees. If not it is reasonable to accept that there are more than a few blue collar employees making a very good living late in their life (like $100K)

It is time for you to put up or shut up. You have this $100K thing like a dog with a bone. Exactly what is you point? I did not use that chart to make any point about blue collar income and have said so twice at least. The chart is a distribution of income for all families whatever pursuit. One can infer no information as to the employment of the families.

The ultimate point is that taxing the rich, which I support, just will not solve our debt crisis in part created by the 30% increase ion SNAP

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Another chart that addresses who makes how much by age. Note that we sart out and end with less and have our peak earnings in our mid years.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Yes and he also required work as an element of receiving social services - a requirement increasingly waived in recent times. He also limited payments for children so that someone on social services no longer received ever increasing payments depending on the number of children. The statistics show that there was a marked reduction in the size of welfare families.

Collectively those initiatives along with selective tax increases balanced the budget. I wonder if a Republican could have made those policy decisions.

Kevin Elliott 4 years, 8 months ago

Social support programs are a drop in the bucket compared to corporate welfare and all stats shiw social welfare is far less likely to be abused than corporate welfare. Shouldn't.we spend more time fixing more significant problems? Most omb records.suggest social welfare has a very low fraud rate.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Do you have data to address your argument about corporate welfare?? Do you even have a definition for corporate welfare? One mans "welfare" is another investment just like with social services.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

How about a reference to that OMB data. Do we have any common definition of what constitutes fraud in our various programs.

Now, I am not really chasing fraud (although reducing it would be good). I am challenging the need for the government to provide "food" to all sorts of people that are really not poor. Look at the revised eligibility for SNAP. Tell me that it limits what we do to "poor" people that are actually hungry.

Yes take care of the kids. In part by forcing the parents to do so. When the parents truly are in need than extend public support.

George Lippencott 4 years, 8 months ago

Now I started out in this thread to protest the 30% increase in the SNAP program. I do not interpret that anyone ever addressed the reason for what appears to be a permanent increase. I opined that there is no evidence of wide spread hunger (true hunger – not missing a meal or two while fifty pounds overweight)

I have been told that we are not addressing hunger with this program but nutrition. I opined that supplemental nutrition for children is just fine (providing we make an effort to insure it gets to the children). I further opined that treating nutrition for adults is wasteful, costly and ultimately futile. I digressed to observe that nobody provided any resources for the expanded program – but added it to the deficit. I observed that there are not many rich people in this country (not enough to pay for the SNAP increase) and that income is closely grouped around the average.

To defend my choice of $100K as the high end of average I pointed out that some, perhaps many, blue collar workers who are married make close to $100K as they approach retirement. In that discussion I noted that income is related to location and local cost of living. I provided a chart that depicted income by age and noted that income disparities vary with age.

We have wandered far afield but I stand on my comments.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 8 months ago

I prepared healthy meals for my daughter and granddaughter when they were young so I ate healthy also. We had country week where we only ate foods from a certain country and we went to the library to do research. Now I am a liberal arts major so all this was fun for me and might not be to someone else. Over time my granddaughter and I baked twelve different kinds of breads together.

In all fairness to all I loved it when all three generations were in the kitchen together.

Then time passed and they moved away. I allowed my food choices to become bad.

Okay, here is my thing, I have a natural inclination to do research and to like a lot of diversity in my life and it is more fun when you can share it with someone. But, what about those who were raised with zero knowledge of how to be a mother, make a budget, manage a household? Those who give their kids a can of coke and a candy bar for breakfast? Those who are actually insulted at the suggestion that they should cook.

WIC vouchers can only be used for very specific foods. But that is simple compared to reprogramming every computer in every store to make sure that the SNAP card is only used to buy certain foods. And, we need a little leeway here. I really, really do not want to live on rice and beans.

Watched a show on Netflix about the obesity rise in America. Saw people who weighed four or five hundred pounds. Holy moly! That is actually impressive.

Today I am starting my new diet and exercise plan. One that I am making out, doing research on the Web, for me with my needs and goals in mind. How long will I stick with it, this time?

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