A few weeks ago, Fox News ran a piece titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge," an "investigative" report that was to blow the lid, once and for all, off the current state of America's over-reliance on the SNAP program. Among the food stamp users interviewed -- and since the program aired, the most cited -- was Jason Gleenslate, a "29-year-old California surfer and musician," a description that poetically encompasses nearly every hated demographic by those watching Fox News. And, what does this Californian do instead of work an honest-to-goodness job? "Wake up, go down to the beach, hang out with my friends, hit on some chicks, start drinking." Does he plan on getting a job? "I don't see anything changing. It's free food. It's awesome." And does he care that he's living this lifestyle on the taxpayers's dime? "F--k no!"
To the viewers at home, Fox News makes sure to italicize/bold/underline the fact that Greenslate is not simply an outlier, the exception to the rule. Instead, he's the prime example of an out-of-control system, a mascot for the laziness that breeds in Obama's welfare nation, a showcase of California's liberal spending gone wild. While those first two points are wrong in enough ways to probably justify their own lengthy rebuttals, it's the third that must be dealt with today. Because, in reality, that take on how California polices its food stamps couldn't be further from the truth.
As this piece from the L.A. Times points out, California should not be considered liberal when it comes to food stamps. In fact, the state's not even on the liberal half of the country. In fact, California is the most conservative state in all of America.
A state of Greenslates, we are not.
How this "conservative" term comes to be associated with our liberally-minded state, you have to put on blinders to the mindsets of our elected officials and simply focus on the pure stats: California's participation rate -- as in, those who qualify for food stamps actually obtaining them -- is the lowest in the country.
Of those who are eligible -- which, please, head over to this site and find out if you are -- only 55% take advantage of them. That means that 45 out of every 100 people who could collect, are not. (As noted in the piece, the state of Tennessee, one that currently puts forth a Republican trifecta in their governor's mansion and both sides of Congress, has a 92% participation rate.) The Golden State's low rate is due to many factors, including a long history of forcing those applying to be fingerprinted (Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a bill to get rid of this procedure) and a lifetime ban for anyone convicted of dealing drugs. But one particular set of factors stands out:
[O]nerous paperwork requirements, inhospitable county benefits offices and confusing online applications often prevail... In California, sometimes even those who qualify get rejected, as understaffed agencies prove unable to properly process applications.
That's right. Good old fashioned incompetence is the culprit! As Ted Rall put it in his cartoon: "California: Where Bureaucracy is a Death Sentence." And perhaps worst of all, it's not only not saving us money, it may actually be costing us some:
[T]he state leaves hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money on the table. The federal government pays for almost all of the food stamp program... [and] states get an economic boost from more people with money to spend on groceries.
So, seeing as we're paying a portion of the money that's going into the federal coffers to be used to fund the program, and we're taking the least amount back percentage-wise (51st out of 51) because of the labyrinthian procedures and nit-picky requirements, we're essentially paying for the food stamps, and subsequent economic boosts, for every other state in the nation. In other words, we're giving welfare to the rest of the country.
Which is to say: Maybe those folks at Fox News have got it a right. California does have a case of terrible liberal spending. But unfortunately for us, that money's going everywhere but inside of our own borders.
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