The Hill is usually pretty good, but it’s been over 24 hours since they published this untrue thing, which is still there at the time of this writing:
A 2012 study found that food stamps enable about $2 billion worth of junk food purchases each year, and that more than half of all SNAP benefits are used to buy sugary drinks. [emphasis ours]
Researchers found that 58 percent of all refreshment beverages purchased by SNAP participants were for sugar-sweetened beverages such as regular soda, fruit drinks, and sports drinks. According to the researchers, SNAP benefits paid for 72 percent of these purchases. [again, emphasis ours]
These words do not say that “more than half” of all SNAP benefits are spent on trash drinks, but “more than half” of all drinks bought with SNAP are trash. OK, Still pretty bad, maybe?
The Yale study says that “SNAP was estimated to pay at least $1.7 to $2.1 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages[.]” Yikes, is that like all the SNAP money? We asked Math, and Math said no, because we spend about $70 billion a year on SNAP, meaning that, worst case, we’re talking about roughly 3% of all SNAP money being spent on stuff that “some say” poor people should not be entitled to drink, lest they fatten with imbibed pleasure.
Interestingly, the Hill article that started all this was covering Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe’s proposal to require that all SNAP beneficiaries must buy food that meets the tougher Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) standards, which exclude junk food. We didn’t see a blue moon last night, but this could still be a decent idea from a Republican from Tennessee, and it’s a heck of a lot better than the usual debate about food assistance, in which one side is obsessed with the weird theory that giving small amounts of food to poor people will make them stop wanting to be rich.
We’ll even let Mr. Roe slide on the whole “Wait, so now you believe that the government should be used to influence peoples’ choices in markets, so all may benefit?” aspect of his proposal. But lest you think this is a good idea with a chance of passing, let Slate disabuse you:
But there was one catch: “One after another, Democrats and Republicans all said exactly the same thing. ‘You have to get the anti-hunger groups on your side. Until they are willing to support this, it’s not going to happen. Period.’ ” […] But charities do need to be in the business of receiving donations—and anti-hunger groups happen to receive a lot of donations from food companies that would not want their products stricken from a SNAP recipient’s shopping list. For example, ConAgra Foods, makers of everything from Slim Jims to Chef Boyardee, has made a $10 million commitment to Feeding America, which also lists General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kraft, and PepsiCo among its donors in its annual report.
Hey, that’s pretty evil, huh?
We’re sure there’s a compelling reason to just let SNAP beneficiaries buy whateverthefuck they want at grocery stores, aside from “dignity,” which nobody has anymore anyway, and we’re sure you’ll let us know in the comments.
[The Hill via math-wise Wonkette Operative “BD”]