Friday, January 11, 2013

Now it’s Time to Address the Real Problem: Spending

By: Demian Brady / Townhall Columnist
Now it’s Time to Address the Real Problem: Spending

The Food Stamp Economy

The Food Stamp Economy
The New York Post headline read: "Could You Spend $500 on Food at This Bodega? A Welfare Recipient Claimed To!" A few days later, another headline: "Welfare Recipients Take Out Cash at Strip Clubs, Liquor Stores and X-Rated Shops." "They're on the dole -- and watching the pole," wrote the Post. "Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs -- where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers."

Here's how it works.

Welfare recipients receive Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, preloaded with specified dollar amounts for food and for cash assistance. The EBT card can be used to purchase eligible food products at stores pre-approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Swipe the card, enter a PIN, and the amount of the food purchase is deducted from the welfare recipient's food allowance and is credited to the retailer. Some "welfare-ready" ATMs accept the EBT cards just like ATM or debit cards, dispensing cash.

But the Post exposed welfare recipients using the ATMs located inside businesses with names like Hank's Saloon in Brooklyn; an East Village porn shop called Blue Door Video; The Anchor, a SoHo lounge; TriBeCa's Patriot Saloon; a Bronx liquor distributor called Drinks Galore; and Club Eleven and Club Heat, both Bronx strip clubs.

In case welfare recipients want to know where they can find "welfare-ready" ATMs, the New York state's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance lists some of these EBT-ready ATMs on its website.
The Post also disclosed a federal sting that found food stamp "purchases" of several hundred dollars per transaction made at low-end bodegas (aka mini-marts, corner stores, mom-and-pop stores), usually involving little or no foodstuffs actually changing hands.

Whenever there is a government program, there will be more waste, fraud and abuse than you find in the private sector. What a shock.

The real scandal is our tepid 2 percent growth in this fourth year of recovery. At 2 percent, the economy produces too few jobs to make a dent in the nearly 8 percent unemployment rate. Spending just on food stamps (now called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has gone from $37 billion in President George W. Bush's last year to over $78 billion for 2012, an increase of 210 percent.

Compare this recovery to any recovery since World War II. Based on past performances, the economy should be generating twice the number of jobs and the gross domestic product should be growing much, much faster.

Not only is unemployment still a high 8 percent, but the labor force participation rate is near a 30-year low. This means many able-bodied and able-minded work-age adults simply dropped out of the job market.

Look at the record number of Americans applying for and receiving disability benefits. The Congressional Budget Office blames this on the economy: "When jobs are plentiful, some people who could qualify for the DI program may choose instead to work. ... CBO projects that as a result of the most recent recession and slow recovery, the number of disabled worker beneficiaries will continue to rise over the next few years (although growth will slow as the economy improves)."

The EBT scandal also raises another issue: Is government welfare -- as opposed non-government charity -- the best way to help the needy and to encourage self-sufficiency?

When President Lyndon Johnson implemented the so-called "war on poverty," poverty in America in 1965 stood at about 15 percent -- nearly identical to today's rate. It had been trending downward for decades.

From an estimated 70 percent at the turn of the century, the poverty rate was 22.5 percent in 1959, 19 percent when Johnson announced his "war" in January 1964 and 17.3 percent by the time Congress enacted the Economic Opportunity Act in August 1964. It pretty much flat-lined from 1965 onward -- hitting a one-time low of 11.1 in the early '70s, but bouncing back to 15 percent or slightly higher several times.

Welfare spending -- after adjusting for inflation -- nearly tripled from 1965 to 1975. But the poverty rate barely budged. The number of long-term welfare recipients increased.

How do we know that government welfare took away incentive from able workers?

President Clinton signed the 1996 welfare reform act. It allowed "family caps" so that a welfare recipient received no additional money for having another child while on welfare. It also placed time limits on recipients. Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, called the bill "the biggest betrayal of children and the poor since the CDF began."

But welfare rolls decreased by almost half -- a much steeper decline than even the most enthusiastic supporters of reform ever expected. "The latest government statistics reveal that welfare caseloads have dropped an astonishing 46 percent since 1993," wrote Cato economist Stephen Moore in 2000. "The explanation for this progress is that welfare reforms in Washington and in the states have had a profound impact in reversing the perverse incentives of the Great Society welfare state."

The question is not whether we help, but how to do so without incapacitating the needy.
NRA Calls Biden Meeting ‘Attack on Second Amendment’
By Todd Beamon / Newsmax

“There isn’t on guns,” NRA President David Keene told CNN. “There is not on guns, not that I can see.”

Keene’s remarks came as Vice President Joseph Biden on Thursday said he saw a growing consensus for the federal government to seek universal background checks for gun buyers and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

But the NRA president told CNN that the association could work with the White House in trying to get those who have been determined by law to be mentally ill into a national registry of those who are barred from purchasing firearms.

“That would make a difference, because the people who have been involved in these shootings have been people who are severely mentally ill,” Keene said, referring to the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults died.

“We don’t think you should demonize everybody who’s got a mental problem, but the fact is that there are people who are not in the gray area,” Keene told CNN. “They should not be allowed to buy firearms.”

Earlier on Thursday, the nation’s largest gun lobby said it was “disappointed” at a meeting a representative attended with Biden’s task force seeking solutions to end gun violence in the nation.

The NRA said the session, which included five other gun-rights organizations and other Obama administration officials, amounted to a strategy session on how to thwart the Second Amendment.

“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment,” the NRA said in a statement after the session.

“While claiming that no policy proposals would be ‘prejudged,’ this task force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners — honest, taxpaying, hard-working Americans.”

In his CNN interview, Keene expanded on the NRA’s statement — characterizing many of the recommendations put forth in the session as “feel-good proposals.”

“We know, and we knew, going into this meeting, what the president’s position on the so-called assault-weapons ban is — the same position he’s had for years,” he said. “These are not new positions.

“The vice president had said that we would do this with an open mind, but at the meeting he said, ‘No, we’ve already made up our mind on that.’ No, there’s not going to be any agreement on that,” Keene said.

He told CNN that he believed that the Biden panel was “checking a box. They were able to say: ‘We’ve met with the NRA. We’ve met with the people who are strong Second Amendment supporters.’

“There are lots of areas that we can agree on, but we are not going to agree on these gun questions,” Keene said. “We don’t think, from either a constitutional standpoint or a policy standpoint, it works.”

Biden said on Thursday, however, that the consensus was growing for the background checks for gun buyers and for banning high-capacity ammunition magazines — in a preview of some of the policies he’ll recommend to President Barack Obama early next week.

“There is an emerging set of recommendations — not coming from me, but coming from the groups we’ve met,” Biden said before his session with groups representing hunters and wildlife organizations. “I have a real tight window to do this. The public wants us to act.”

Biden said that he and other administration officials, as they met with gun-control advocates and representatives of victims, repeatedly heard about the need for “near universal background checks” in firearms transactions, greater freedom for federal agencies to conduct research about gun crimes, and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines.

"There is a surprising — so far — a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks, not just close the gun show loophole but totally universal background checks including private sales," Biden said.

But while Keene told the NRA that “background checks generally are a good thing,” he said there was a broader question surrounding them, since many gun sales are between private owners: “How would you enforce a law that would require me to check you out?”

It could be done at gun shows, Keene said, but the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacks a system for such checks. “You can talk theoretically, or you can talk about the real world,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean that there isn’t an area for agreement,” Keene added. “If question is: ‘Should we ban guns? Should we ban so-called assault weapons?’ There’s not going to be any agreement there.

“If the question, however, is, ‘How do we deal with the problem of these kinds of shootings?’ then there is an area for agreement.”

As for Keene’s overall take on the Biden session, he said: “We stated our position. They stated their position. Some things you can do by executive order. Some things you can’t do by executive order.

“And some things you do by executive order, you need money for it to be implemented — and that’s up to Congress.”

Wyoming Considers Law to Nullify a Federal Gun Ban

by Greg Campbell / TPNN Contributor

Tensions are mounting in the Equality State as Wyoming legislators have proposed a bill that would nullify any federal law that increased restrictions on firearms and jail anyone who tries to enforce such federal law- even federal agents.

The Wyoming legislation comes just days after the recent candor of Vice President Biden who alluded to the use of an executive order to circumvent Congress in his effort to curtail Second Amendment rights. He stated,

“The president is going to act. There are executive orders, there’s executive action that can be taken.”

Wyoming is a frontier state and the second most unpopulated state in the union. HB0104 states that “any federal law which attempts to ban a semi-automatic firearm or to limit the size of a magazine of a firearm or other limitation on firearms in this state shall be unenforceable in Wyoming.”

According to the Washington Examiner,
“The bill is sponsored by eight Wyoming state representatives ad two state senators. If passed, the bill would declare any federal gun regulation created on or after January 1, 2013 to be unenforceable within the state.
In addition, the bill states would charge federal officials attempting to enforce a federal gun law within the state with a felony – ‘subject to imprisonment for not more less than one (1) year and one (1) day or more than five (5) years, a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or both.’
The bill also allows the Attorney General of Wyoming to defend a state citizen from any prosecution by the United States Government.”
However, amidst calls from celebrities and politicians for stricter gun control laws, it seems that many Americans disagree- as illustrated by the fact that gun sales are smashing previous records, over 1 million so-called “high-capacity magazines” for the AR15 rifle from Magpul are on backorder from the company and the NRA has seen over 100,000 join their organization in the last 18 days.
“Rep. Kendell Kroeker, the lawmaker that spearheaded the bill, explained that he hoped that the federal government would recognize their constitutional rights based on the Tenth and Second Amendments.
‘I think that it’s necessary when the federal government violates our rights in the Constitution we have to act,’ he explained.”
The bill is expected to pass and has received a large outpouring of support from citizens of Wyoming as well as from all over the country.

The introduction of the possibility of an executive order to ban guns plays directly into the worst fears from the gun rights community. For decades, gun control advocates have scoffed at the notion of some sweeping federal crackdown coming from the executive branch; though now it seems like a serious possibility.

As President Obama has wielded his executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegals, squash work requirements for welfare benefits, instruct the DOJ to not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and has used his executive power to cloak Attorney General Eric Holder from scrutiny in the Fast and Furious scandal, it appears to be increasingly likely that the broad, overreaching enforcement of gun control or even gun confiscation might become a reality.