Friday, August 16, 2013

121.3 - Clown Award: Rep. Markwayne Mullin

Clown Award: Rep. Markwayne Mullin

Now for the Clown Award, given weekly for meritorious stupidity.

This week, the big red nose goes to US Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma. At a town hall last week, Mullin said he would like to “do away with" many programs to help low-income folks because, he said, they allow people to be lazy.

How does he know? Because he personally had witnessed fraud in the food stamp program.
So I’m buying my groceries and I noticed everybody was giving that card. [I assume he means an EBT, an Electronic Benefit Transfer, card.] There’s a couple beside me. This guy was built like a brick house. He had muscles all over him. And she was all in shape and she looked like she had just come from a fitness program. She was in the spandex, and they were both physically fit. And they go up in front of me and they pay with that card. Fraud. Absolute 100% all it is is fraud. It’s all over the place.
And on that level of evidence - he saw a physically fit couple using food stamps - he concludes that "100%" of it is fraud and the whole thing should be brought crashing down.

That itself would be enough to win him this week's award, but there is more in that he is as appallingly ignorant of fact as he is of logic.

First, consider the very simple, very basic, fact that he knows absolutely nothing about this couple except that they look fit. How about maybe they recently lost their jobs, say a few months ago, maybe they are new to the program, and they work out at home to stay fit? Impossible! says Rep. Melonhead. It's fraud! All of it!

Well, according to the Department of Agriculture, which runs the program, nearly half of participants were under age 18 and nearly 9 percent were age 60 or older. In terms of income, it's the poor who get the help. Only about 17 percent of SNAP households - SNAP is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name for food stamps - had gross income above the poverty line, while 43 percent had income at, or below, half the poverty line. Twenty percent of SNAP households had no cash income of any kind.

Despite that, only eight percent of all SNAP households received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and another four percent received State General Assistance benefits - so only 12 percent received what we used to call welfare. Income support, what there was, came mostly from Social Security, received by 22 percent of SNAP households, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits given to the aged and disabled, received by 20 percent.

More: The average SNAP household size was 2.1 persons, which is smaller than the national average of 2.55 persons per household.

Remember, this is all according to the Ag Department.

So why, in the face and fact of all that, do clowns like Melonhead keep screeching "Fraud!" even as the actual level of fraud, even broadly defined, in SNAP is about 1 percent, far below that of many other programs both public and private? I'll give you two reasons:

One, it's efficient. About 95% of SNAP costs go directly to families for the purchase of food. Only five percent goes to all administrative costs, including determining eligibility, monitoring of retailers that accept SNAP, and anti-fraud activities.

And two, it works. When SNAP benefits are added to gross income, 13 percent of SNAP households move above the poverty line. The impact is even greater on the poorest households, moving 15 percent of them above 50 percent of the poverty line.

It works. It reduces poverty. It reduces hunger. It reduces malnutrition. It works. And the jackasses with their jeremiads and the bozos with their bleatings cannot stand, they utterly hate, the simple truth that a government program to help the poor clearly, undeniably, does exactly that and they are more than willing to let millions go hungry rather than admit their intellectual and moral failure.

US Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma: clown.


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