Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hard Times or Easy Rules?

This entry is a follow-up on John's post about the media's coverage of the economy.

Today's Globe story, "Food stamp use soars in Mass," is an illustration of how the media lacks a sense of proportion. Given the ubiquity of economic progress, are we as bad off as the screaming headlines suggest?

At first glance the reader gathers the impression that there are hungry people out there scrapping for food. But further down the inverted pyramid of the story is a useful detail that obviously doesn't fit into the messy and gloomy Globe meme of economic chaos.
The online applications made available in November, combined with the state's eight new satellite offices, help working families and disabled people who might have difficulty going into state offices for interviews and paperwork, officials say. Four of the new centers - in Boston, Lynn, Chelsea, and Fall River - are dedicated solely to food stamps. The state is also waiving the need for face-to-face interviews more frequently for working families and the disabled.

In June, the state changed its asset requirements for recipients and no longer considers bank accounts, retirement accounts, or property ownership when determining eligibility.
Basically, it's not so much that the demand for food stamps has increased because more people going hungry. Rather the rules have changed thus lowering the transaction costs for acquiring food stamps. The incentives to apply for food stamps are now greater than they were a year ago.

The downturn in the business cycle no doubt puts a strain on low-income people. However, there is little evidence that indicates a long-term rise in hunger. The bureaucrats have shifted the goalposts to ensure the survival and expansion of the food stamp program.


Anonymous said...

It seems to be true that these transaction costs have been decreasing throughout the US at about the same speed they have been is Mass. This means the statement that " has the fastest-growing food-stamp program in the country" is indeed newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

A post on a libertarian blog actually criticizes the state for eliminating the inefficient bureaucratic procedure of investigating the assets of LOW INCOME families. I would guess that in the interest of efficient government, and in light of the fact that low income people rarely have assets that would make them ineligible, the state decided to streamline the application process. That is a good thing, as access to food stamps helps towards alleviating hunger and health disparities between children of poor and wealthy families.

Even the insincere attempt at compassionate conservatism in this post sounds dubious. You state that, "the downturn in the business cycle no doubt puts a strain on low income people."

The economic recession has a much more significant impact on the jobless than on people with low incomes. Low income people have low incomes because their wages are too low, for more reasons than I care to discuss. Of course low income people are affected by rising food and fuel prices, but even this liberal knows that the price of commodoties traded on the world market have little to do with an Orwellian phrased, "downturn in the business cycle."

So why then, are more people applying for food stamps? It is the very same reason that the article clearly states. The process is streamlined so more eligible people are applying.

You took a perfectly straghtforward article and turned it into a liberal media conspiracy. Your post reads like Chomsky, except wrong.

No hard feelings, see you around RESD.

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