Paul Jacob

“Man does not live by bread alone.”

But, at year’s end and as the holidays kick into high gear, that’s not the Biblical passage that strikes the traditional Christmas tone.

After all, good folks who enjoy some level of abundance (or have the available time during this season) want to help others achieve a little bit more in the Life and Happiness departments of America’s promised “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But how best to do that? As I’ve pointed out previously in this column, no one seems to give that extra dollar dedicated to helping others over to the federal government. We want giving to be effective.

On the other hand, in politics, this time of year merely marks the hurling of labels like Grinch or Scrooge to those who question expanded “safety-net” programs — for instance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which doubled in cost during eight years under President George W. Bush and essentially doubled again in Obama’s first term, from $20 billion annually in 2000 to $78 billion today.

One in seven Americans receives Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which they can use to buy food . . . and perhaps much else.

Can we afford this? Does one in seven Americans need the assistance?

A sign at my local grocery reads in bold print: “DON’T DO IT! BUYING OR SELLING SNAP-EBT BENEFITS (FOOD STAMPS) OR WIC BENEFITS IS A FEDERAL CRIME.”

Recent news reports tell of the illegal selling of the EBT cards on Craigslist and crackdowns on fraudulent stores participating in the program, including one store allegedly owned by an illegal alien that allegedly stole $400,000. The federal government now estimates that illegal scams account for one in 20 “food stamp” transactions.

Fighting poverty matters. From this it follows that how we go about it matters. Big bureaucracies have a great track record of splurging out taxpayer funds like a fire hose, but not for actually helping people get their lives together and become independent.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.