Thursday, July 15, 2010

New definition of stupid

One Wednesday I met with the leaders of the Texas Department of Agriculture charged with delivery of all the food and nutrition programs designed to assist and lift low-income Texas families. 

Here' just one fact they dropped on me: 

In 2008, Dallas County left well over $479,000,000 (that's MILLION) on the table a a result of not enrolling everyone eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, the food stamp program).  But, get this:  the entire state left $3,637,063,215 unused--yes, that's BILLION!

Think with me people.

Forget the poor. 

That's right. 

Don't give them a second thought here.

Over four-hundred and seventy-nine MILLION dollars that could have been spent in local retail grocery stores.  You know, Kroger, Target, Tom Thumb, Safeway, Walmart and others.  Over $3.6 BILLION statewide lost to retail grocery sales!

The estimated local impact lost to our sluggish economy when you factor in the standard multiplier effect rises to over $750 million dollars!  Estimates are that the total lost economic impact statewide is $6.7 BILLION!

Given our current need for economic stimulation, why would the State of Texas or the City of Dallas settle for this lost revenue that could create many jobs?  Where in the world are the retail and wholesale grocers' trade groups? 

What you're looking at here is a new definition of stupid.   


Jerry said...

That is ridiculous and stupid on several counts. Shows the "genius" at work in our County Government. Makes me think of what Charles Krauthammer said: "When considering governmental action and the choice is between conspiracy and incompetence, choose incompetence." Thanks for sharing.

rcorum said...

Was there any responsibility missed by those who were qualified? Is it a two way street or is the total responsibility on the back of Texas government? I guess I would like to know why it is happening. I am not at all against food programs, but I just like to know the why behind the story.

Anonymous said...

Larry, how can we get our constituents involved in the SNAP process? Who do we contact?

Larry James said...

CDM helps enroll people on a weekly basis. Call us at 214.823.8710 and ask for information about our food pantry services and enrolling in the SNAP program.

As to the problem of low enrollment, the state is not willing to invest the resources in an adequate enrollment force to take advantage of the resources that are there for Texas. In this sense we are penny wise and pound foolish. The answer is political will and leadership at the state level. We could do much better if we wanted to. But, it's poor folks, so why bother, right?

Anonymous said...

I am attempting to find merit in your argument that money was left on the table by not availailing ourselves of the resources and that expenditure of these funds would create economic impact. However, this is tax money - funds taken from people, pressed through a bureaucratic process and pushed out the other side in the form of welfare. Clearly, a smaller percentage of money came out of the process than went in. One wonders whether the economic impact you cite anything close to the otherwise value/impact if the taxes were never collected in the first place. I only mention this angle b/c you emphasize in your post, Larry, that we should forget the impact on the poor and focus on the economic value of SNAP to our community.

Returning to the poor - and I do think we should help the truly "needy" poor, as opposed to those who are unwilling to work - why are these individuals unwilling to sign up for SNAP on their own? Why does it take for the state of Texas to create an adequate enrollment process? What is reasonable?

I've worked for several non-profits over the years and have found a significant percentage of the poor and homeless who want you not only to provide funding, food, clothing, medical care, etc., but also to cook the food, serve it on a plate, fork the food and place it gingerly in their mouths.

Further, locally our non-profits have acquired a web-based tracking system to track those who accept resources. Patterns reveal abuse as individual and families move from non-profit to non-profit requesting very specific and similar items for use beyond personal needs.

So I wonder whether spending more money to make is easy to sign up for SNAP would be worthwhile. I prefer a strong filtering & monitoring system that ensures the truly needy poor are well taken care of and nutured into the next productive stage of life along with those who are truly unable to take care of themselve due to age, medical or psychological factors.

Anonymous said...

There is such a thing as making your own way and not accepting government handouts.

Anonymous said...

You've missed the point. The federal government took the money from Texans in the form of taxes, yes, but now it's just waiting in Washington to come back in the form of benefits to Dallas County residents. If we don't take it, it will go somewhere else. This is not a policy debate over whether the taxes should have been collected or the benefots should be provided - that's a done deal. The only issue discussed here is whether we should get as many dollars back to Texas as we can. You can debate tax rates, benefits, etc., but once those decisions are made, why should Texas not get its share of those dollars, thus helping the local economy? I think that's what Larry meant by "forget about the poor." It's just a common sense issue once the policy has been decided.