DEBIT CARD REPLACES FOOD STAMPS
By Jon Christian Ryter
June 30, 2004
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the "end of an era" this week with the full-blown introduction of new electronic benefits transfer debit cards that will replace, forever, the old-fashioned 20th century paper food stamp coupons. Veneman called the coupons an embarrassing stigma on those forced to rely on them. "This month," Veneman said as the new biometric debit card program was officially launched nationwide, "the food stamp program arrived in the 21st century. States are destroying the paper coupons, and we don't anticipate that we'll ever have them printed again."
As Veneman noted, food stamp recipients like the debit cards (which resemble the traditional credit or debit swipe cards that are being used, increasingly, in America's supermarkets). The swipe cards avoid the embarrassment felt by food stamp users who call attention to themselves by tearing coupons out of the food stamp books in the supermarket checkout lines in front of the other customers. There is a poverty stigma attached to the use of food stamps that the new program hopes to eliminate.
Grocers like the program's technology better because the food stamp customers are processed through the checkout at the same rate of speed as any other credit or debit card user and because the stores are reimbursed faster since the electronic transactions are credited their bank accounts within 48 hours. State administrators like the new program because, they claim, the debit cards will help reduce the theft of coupon books and, more than anything else, they will stop the fraudulent use of food stamps. In the past food stamps have been sold on the black market and used as a second form of US currency to buy illegal drugs and other forms of contraband that is bought and sold on the black market.
Today, over 23 million families use food stamps. According to Veneman, only three out of ever five families that are eligible for food assistance are enrolled in the program. Unlike most assistance programs, food stamps are available to most low income households that possess few financial assets. In the past, close to 40% of those who are eligible have refused to consider the program—which allows them to purchase food stamps for pennies on thee dollar—because of the societal stigma attached to using the coupons in their local supermarket. That's why many food stamp recipients drive to supermarkets in other communities to redeem their coupons, believing that none of their friends or acquaintances will know they are using food stamps if they don't redeem them where they live.
When using biometric electronic balance transfer [EBT] debit cards instead of coupon books, two things will happen. First, those people who, due to the embarrassment associated with using them, travel to neighboring communities to avoid the local poverty stigma associated with using them at home where they are known, can now shop at their local supermarkets and those in the checkout behind them will believe they are using a credit or debit card to pay for their groceries. Second, many prideful people who are eligible for assistance—and whose family actually needs the food—can take advantage of the program with the privacy needed to avoid the welfare stigma generally associated with food stamps.
The food stamp program was initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression years, from 1939 to 1943. It was re-instituted by John F. Kennedy in 1961. It was made a permanent part of the welfare state of the Great Society by Lyndon B. Johnson on August 31, 1964. Today, 23.8 million people use food stamps. Over the past two years, the number of recipients shot up 38%, with 6.5 million people joining the program since the midterm elections. While the Democrats will likely attempt to use those statistics to show how bad life in America has gotten under George W. Bush, the simple reality is that, in 2002, Congress revised the program and created the debit card to encourage more participation by the "working poor" who had formerly been on welfare but were too proud to accept food stamps in the form which they were offered.
In reality, government gift horses— like the proverbial wooden horse of Troy—are never the "free" gifts they appear to be. The government off the United States, like the governments of every democratic nations of the world use grand gratuities to ensnare the freedom of their people. Generally speaking, whenever you see that gaudy, brightly wrapped gift from the State, you can figure that the colorful ribbons around the gifts are, in reality, tethers of steel that will ultimately restrict your liberty once you open the package to enjoy the societal bobbles inside.
In this case, the biometric chip within the EBT card not only records the amount of money available to the cardholder, and proves a record—and location—of the transactions debited against the available credit, there is a global position satellite tracking chip built into the card as well. Not only will Big Brother know where you are spending your food dollars, the government will know where you were before you went to the grocery store, and where you are going when you leave. Welcome to the world of George Orwell's 1984...twenty years late.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website. E-Mail: BAFFauthor@aol.com
Grocers like the program's technology better because the food stamp customers are processed through the checkout at the same rate of speed as any other credit or debit card user and because the stores are reimbursed faster since the electronic transactions are credited their bank accounts within 48 hours.