Food Stamp Realities

Last week I asked a clerk at a store where I was picking up an item for my parents if her store accepts EBT cards, food stamps. She said they did but not for the item I was purchasing. I said I was not on food stamps; I had just noticed all the snacks and beverages they offered and thought the store might be cashing in on the food stamp program.


She said, “You’d be surprised what people buy.”

I said, “I’m sure it’s all healthy stuff, right?”

She said, “Not in the slightest!”

Then she said, “One man even asked if he could buy cigarettes with his food stamp card. I told him ‘no’.” Then she thought that even if rules allowed it she would try to find a way to refuse. And then she thought, “And besides, that’s my money you are using!”


I have found store clerks universally appalled about the way the food stamp program is designed by government and used by its recipients. Clerks are the ones who know; they are front-line observers of this bloated spending program.


I asked a grocery clerk today, as I was paying for 8 bags of Halloween candy, “What do you think causes poverty?”

He said, “Well, there’s quite a bit to it.”

I said, “What’s the first thing that pops into your mind?”

Smiling, he said, “Government.”

I told him that I’ve gotten that from numerous people.

I asked, “Do you mean that government programs cause it, or make it easy to be in poverty?”

He said, “If the government gives them money, what’s the use of working?”

I said, “You probably see a lot of government money coming through your station here, don’t you?”

He looked at me like I had made an understatement.

I said, “I’m sure it’s all for carrots and lettuce, right?”

He scoffed and said that was not the case.

I said, “A lot of pop and chips?”

He confirmed that. He also said purchases include a lot of TV dinner-type of prepared foods, expensive and high in fat and calories.

He was obviously discontent with the realities of the food stamp program.

Montana Colleges That Spend More Than Dartmouth

Two Montana colleges spend more per degree than Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Dartmouth College spends $292,000[1] per degree.

Stone Child College in Box Elder, Montana, spends $294,000 per degree. It’s a 2-year college.

Chief Dull Knife College, in Lame Deer, Montana, spends $309,000 per degree. It’s also a 2-year college.

The predominant degree produced at Chief Dull Knife is General Studies[2]. Stone Child degrees earned include Early Childhood Education and Native American Studies. Dartmouth grads earned degrees[3] in engineering science, mathematics and neuroscience. Some earned master’s and doctorate level degrees.

Stone Child library





Stone Child library

Dull Knife campus










Dull Knife campus



State Government Leased Spaces Spacious

State Leases Database Indicate Spacious Workspaces

Leased spaces in Helena exceed industry and government standards. Are taxpayers paying too much?
The state leases database finds 10/10 leased properties where the square footage per employee exceeds national standards of 175.
Inline image 1
Government standards suggest less square footage is needed.
Inline image 2
The general rule of thumb is to allow 125 to 225 usable square feet per person depending upon the type and style of the business. – See more at:
In my manufacturing business, we had about 180-200 SF per employee. We had broad sewing and cutting tables and inventory storage, too.
WSJ says the average office for middle managers in the private sector is 120 SF.

Pregnancy Verification Not Needed

Need Some Crowns? Lost Your Eyeglasses?


Montana’s Medicaid eligibility workers are aghast. Hearing this rule change made their jaws drop. Prior to October 1, 2013, for a woman to obtain Medicaid[1] because she is low income and pregnant, she had to provide a doctor’s verification[2] of the pregnancy. The new rule allows the woman to claim pregnancy without a doctor’s verification.


Here is the rule:


Do not begin Medicaid for a pregnant woman before the first day of the month her pregnancy began. Staff must verify the month the pregnancy began. The applicant’s (pregnant woman’s, case name’s or authorized representative’s [AR’s]) verbal or written statement of the start month, the number of expected children and anticipated date of delivery is an acceptable source of verification[3], …


And further,

Verify pregnancy by using:

  • Form H3037, Report of Pregnancy;
  • another document containing the same information as Form H3037; or
  • applicant’s (pregnant woman’s, case name’s or AR’s) verbal or written statement of pregnancy, including start month, number of children expected and anticipated date of delivery.

The verification must be provided by an acceptable source such as:

  • a physician;
  • a hospital;
  • a family planning agency;
  • a social service agency; or
  • the applicant.


This alarms Montana employees of the Department of Public Health and Human services working in the Office of Public Assistance (OPA). They imagine a 60-year-old woman applying and stating that she is pregnant, thus qualifying for full Medicaid[4]. They cannot state the obvious, that 60-year-old women do not get pregnant, and disqualify her application for Medicaid; they have to accept her statement. She proceeds to get a panoply of services, then calls OPA and says she had a miscarriage, cancelling her Medicaid enrollment.

It appears that any income qualified[5] female from age 0-90, for a period of about nine months, can receive full Medicaid by merely stating that she is pregnant. This is an open invitation to many more applicants and recipients.

[4] Full Medicaid is vision, dental and all medical services. “Medicaid recipients get either full or basic Medicaid coverage depending on which eligibility group they fall into. You may be eligible for full coverage if you are: Under age 21, Blind or disabled, age 65 or older, pregnant. That means you can get all services that Medicaid covers that are medically necessary.” Basic Medicaid excludes “dental care, audiology services, vision exams, eyeglasses, durable medical equipment, and personal-care services in your home.”

[5] Income less than 150% of federal poverty level, excluding some forms of assistance, and assets less than $3,000 excluding home, one vehicle with the highest equity value and any income producing vehicles.

Food Stamp Steaks for Dogs

A friend told me yesterday about recently standing in a check-out line at the grocery store. The woman ahead of him presented an EBT card to procure her food stamp groceries. As my friend left the store, he noticed the woman feeding her dogs that were in the back up her pickup. She was tearing the plastic wrap off steaks that cost $5-6 per pound and handing them to the dogs. This caused my friend consternation. He shook his head in disgust and said, “The system is broken.” He is a volunteer at a food bank.Hugging dog








Generic photo, unrelated to content. Credit


Books, Books

I recently re-read Gulliver’s Travels. I enjoyed it more this time. I’m a different person now, with more experience and books behind me, than I was at my previous reading. One of the old Greeks said something like “You can’t walk through the same river twice.”


I also read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. It is a monumental book. I got accustomed to the humor and really enjoyed it. The intellectual tussles left me a little dazed: when was Mann mocking the combatants and when were their arguments legit? This is a book whose images stick in the mind.


Now I am reading Little Dorrit, by Dickens, Catastrophic Care, by Goldhill, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in Portuguese and English..

Shutdown Circumlocutions

The current federal civil service inanity provides a sweet opportunity to quote Charles Dickens’ book Little Dorrit.

The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.

This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving—HOW NOT TO DO IT.

Through this delicate perception, through the tact with which it invariably seized it, and through the genius with which it always acted on it, the Circumlocution Office had risen to overtop all the public departments; and the public condition had risen to be—what it was.

It is true that How not to do it was the great study and object of all public departments and professional politicians all round the Circumlocution Office. It is true that every new premier and every new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it. It is true that from the moment when a general election was over, every returned man who had been raving on hustings because it hadn’t been done, and who had been asking the friends of the honourable gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell him why it hadn’t been done, and who had been asserting that it must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be done, began to devise, How it was not to be done. 


Because the Circumlocution Office was down upon any ill-advised public servant who was going to do it, or who appeared to be by any surprising accident in remote danger of doing it, with a minute, and a memorandum, and a letter of instructions that extinguished him. It was this spirit of national efficiency in the Circumlocution Office that had gradually led to its having something to do with everything.


Present-day bureaucracies are filled with “people who couldn’t get rewarded for merit, and people who couldn’t get punished for demerit.” Public employee unions assure this.

Projected Growth in Entitlements and Discretionary Spending

From the Wall Street Journal: Over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office predicts discretionary spending-that is, everything except entitlement programs and debt payments-will grow by $202 billion, or roughly 17%. Meanwhile, mandatory spending- which mostly consists of funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security-will grow by $1.6 trillion, or roughly 79%.

Sugary Beverages in Food Stamps

New Estimate of Sugary Beverages Purchased

Using Food Stamps


$14.54 billion a year


Coke Stack

14% of my $997.16 sample of receipts, in full-service grocery stores, was for sugary beverages.[1]

85% of food stamp purchases are in full-service grocery stores.

$78 billion is the annual food stamp program expenditure.


$9.28 billion for sugary beverages in full-service grocery stores.


Assume that 45% of food stamp purchases in convenience stores are sugary beverages.

15% of food stamp purchases are in convenience stores.

$78 billion is the annual food stamp program expenditure.


$5.26 billion for sugary beverages in convenience stores.


$9.26 billion

$5.26 billion

$14.54 billion for sugary beverages in full-service and convenience stores.

[1] Shenkin and Jacobson quote a study where 6.19% of grocery bills of SNAP participants was for carbonated drinks, a subset of sugary beverages. He got this number from a large grocery chain which was not willing to be cited out of concern for media and government pushback. In my receipts, carbonated drinks comprise 50%, $70.26 of $139.33, of the sugary beverages. Double 6.19% and you arrive at nearly the 14% of sugary drinks in the $997.16 sample, lending weight to the 14% number.

Diabetes Prevention Programs: Not Working

Diabetes Prevention Programs: Not Working

Tribal Program Troubles

File:Rosebud ambulance.JPG

Photo by B. Beauvais: Wikimedia

I spoke to the director or a tribal diabetes prevention program. They are expanding, adding a mobile facility and doubling the size of their exercise facilities[1]. They have two government grants that have been running for about 11 years, the Initiative Grant and the Community Grant, as she called them. They spend about $1 million each year. They teach about healthy lifestyles and eating. One grandmother who had received some of the teaching wanted “to ban the Frito-Lay man from the rez.”

I noted that there seems to be scant evidence that food selection and cooking education programs in WIC and SNAP in non-Indian populations are changing habits. I suggested that her program’s cooking education efforts may not be changing habits. She said, “I agree.”

I said, “In Montana, food stamps don’t buy many cooking ingredients; people seem to want instant tear-open consumables.”

She agreed that the same thing occurs in her community. “They buy highly processed, packaged food.”

If the rate of uptake of diabetes on her reservation is similar to overall trends among
American Indians[2], the $1 million in spending is completely ineffective. The epidemic rages in spite of programmatic spending. Indian youth 10-19 are developing diabetes at a rate 8.6 times higher than non-Hispanic whites. $11 million spent for nothing.

The director admitted that much eating happens at “grease pits,” the reservation’s substitute for fast food franchisees. Residents “eat fry bread at almost every event.” (I drove to the back of the Crow Agency Headstart program’s building one day about lunchtime. Two portly women were cooking fry bread on a deck behind the facility, obviously for serving to the kids. A new government diabetes treatment facility a few blocks away was getting the finishing touches. Its future customers were being readied in Headstart.)

The director said, “The lifestyle is hard on people. There’s a lack of resources. Running and walking is dangerous because of so many stray dogs.”

I asked if the rise of gangs and unruly young men is a danger that keeps people from walking in the open. She confirmed it.

She said, “Stores open at midnight on the 9th, food stamp night. People line up. Stores stock up on pizza and ready-to-eat items.” (The government replenishes food stamp credit on electronic benefit transfer-EBT- cards at midnight on the 9th.)

It seems that the tribal program was not effective at preventing diabetes, only at pulling down federal funds.

Montana Program Troubles

Is Montana’s Diabetes Prevention more successful? It is successful at spending money and hiring employees. It has seven full-time equivalent staffers, some of them half-time. It’s been running about 4 years and spends about $600,000 each year. Cost per participant is $881. Over four years[3], 2,724 participants lost on average 12 pounds each, 32,688 pounds. For $2.4 million spending, that is $73.42 per pound lost. Weight loss recidivism[4] is 94%. Government spending per pound kept off is $1,223.66. For whom is this effective?

It seems diabetes prevention programs have a dismal record. The desired results are non-existent. An Indian filmmaker documents his own diabetes.

[1] She said the exercise center was well-used.

[2]  Among children and adolescents aged 10–19 years with type 2 diabetes, the estimated rate of new cases was 3.7 per 100,000 per year for non-Hispanic whites; 19.0 per 100,000 per year for non-Hispanic blacks; 11.6 per 100,000 per year for Hispanics; 12.1 per 100,000 per year for Asians/Pacific Islanders; and 32.0 per 100,000 per year for American Indians.