There's nothing Tea Party freshman and ace troll Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin hates more than a handout: he's vocal on his feelings that welfare is "a bribe not to work that hard" and that food stamp programs "encourage sloth." Now Grothman is reportedly encouraging his constituents to ask a few hard questions of anyone they suspect is getting food assistance, followed by a peek into their shopping carts.
Grothman has previously written that people who are getting help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) tend to use that money to purchase "steak and lobsters." And he very much wants to "reform" Wisconsin's SNAP program, which is called Food Share, because, in his opinion, the people using it don't act poor enough:
Observations of people who work in food stores indicate that many people who use food stamps do not act as if they are genuinely poor. Routinely top brand names are purchased instead of generics. While cigarettes cannot be purchased with food stamps, they are routinely purchased by people who use food stamps. While I'm not an anti-smoking fanatic, I've always felt that if you can spend 25 dollars for a carton of cigarettes, you're not poor. The same is frequently true of liquor and beer.
It's not clear what "acting poor" looks like to Glenn Grothman, but one rather suspects it's something involving buying only shriveled vegetables while aggressively flogging oneself. Now, according to a report from Northwestern Media, which we saw via the Huffington Post, Grothman would like Wisconsin citizens to start working a little harder to keep those Food Share recipients from skating through life on greased wheels made of steak and nicotine:
Grothman said he hears stories about seemingly able-bodied people receiving disability payments, Social Security payments and Food Share benefits. He told the people in attendance to keep an eye on the types of things people on Food Share buy at the grocery store or ask people for more information if they boast about being on disability.
"I would argue some people are arranging their life to be on Food Share," Grothman said. "You just look at them and kind of wonder."
One does wonder how that conversation would go: "Can I see what's in your cart? Should you really be buying brand-name egg noodles? What kind of disability do you have, anyway? What do you mean, 'None of your fucking business?'"
The idea that SNAP is rife with fraud and abuse is a common canard, but it's not really true: food stamp fraud is exceedingly rare, much more so than many other federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid. And as a fairly recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, it's investigated aggressively by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2012, "retailer fraud investigations" involving stores that accept SNAP resulted in 342 convictions and some $57.7 million being recovered.
The USDA isalso quite humorless about prosecuting individuals for food stamp fraud, which is a federal crime. In July, 54 people in Georgia were indicted for allegedly selling their SNAP and WIC benefits; some of them face up to 20 years in prison. But the "SNAP recipients are lazy lobster eaters" talking point is a reliable hit for Grothman, it seems, and thus, not one that's going away any time soon.
Grothaman, right, party poses with House Speaker John Boehner, January 2015. Photo via AP