Missouri Lawmakers Want to Keep Welfare Recipients From Buying Steak or Seafood

Missouri Lawmakers Want to Keep Welfare Recipients From Buying Steak or Seafood

A new bill proposed in the Missouri legislature by State Representative Rick Brattin would severely limit the type of food that could be purchased by the state's 842,500 food stamp recipients.

According to House Bill 813, food stamp users would be restricted from buying steak, seafood, soda, cookies, chip and energy drinks. For Brattin, the law is critical for curbing abuse in the program. "I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards," Brattin told the Washington Post

The bill would also prevent food stamp recipients from buying things like:

A $4.98 pound of brisket at Sam's Club

Or these $0.75 cans of tuna at Wal-Mart

Brattin was adamant that there was nothing retributive or mean-spirited whatsoever in the bill. "The intention of the bill is to get the food stamp program back to its original intent, which is nutrition assistance," he told the Post.

The numbers, however, seem to paint a different picture. According to the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a single-person home can qualify for $194 a month in food aid. A family of four, $649.

So in other words, these reduced-price Walmart.com filet mignons at about $18.25 apiece are probably not on the menu.

As for nutrition, it's been repeatedly shown that diets high in fish come with numerous health benefits, and that beef (while certainly not good every day) is one of the best sources of vital protein.

What lies beneath. The Missouri bill is only the latest effort by Republicans to demonize the poor by providing misinformation about government assistance.

Earlier this month, the Kansas legislature sent Gov. Sam Brownback a bill that he is expected to sign that seeks to end the perceived epidemic of welfare abuse in that state. The proposed legislation would finally crack down on use of benefits for theme parks, movie theaters, swimming pools, psychics and cruise ships. What, you didn't hear about all those welfare cruises?

Cruise ship industry officials in the landlocked state could not be reached for comment.

For good measure, the Kansas bill also caps benefits to welfare recipients at no more than $25 per day. "We should all be taking a look at how we can build ladders of opportunity, rather than breaking down vital assistance programs and making it harder for struggling families to get by,"  Rebecca Vallas from the Center for American Progress told Mic, and added that bills like those in Missouri and Kansas are "a step backwards." 

In fact, offering assistance to those in need often results in the exact opposite outcome that conservative fearmongers would have you believe. Previous reporting by Mic found that social welfare programs actually encourage greater entrepreneurship and deters dependency. 

Let's get a few things straight. Whether it's Missouri or Kansas or wherever, being poor invites scorn and judgment from others. It forces Faustian choices between medicine and food. It can mean bankruptcy and ruin at any moment. 

Professional fraudsters that bilk the system probably exist, but that holds true for almost anything. Grifters and "welfare queens" should be punished when they are found, but their activities should not be used as blanket justification for punishing everyone. 

America is the richest country in the world. It's time we start acting like it. Penny-pinching over steak and tuna is beneath us.