The “let ’em starve” solution to poverty

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The latest “gotcha” from the rich to the poor:

More Than 500,000 Adults Will Lose SNAP Benefits in 2016 as Waivers Expire

Affected Unemployed Childless Individuals Are Very Poor; Few Qualify for Other Help

One of the harshest pieces of the 1996 welfare law, this provision limits such individuals to three months of SNAP benefits in any 36-month period when they aren’t employed or in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week.

Why is this a “gotcha”? Because in order to receive benefits, a childless individual must earn no more than $1,276 gross per month (annualized to $15,312 gross).

So in order to maintain benefits, the impoverished must find a job that pays no more than $1,276 a month. Let’s say he finds a job that pays $1,500 a month. That would mean he would work a full month for an additional $224.

The rules dissuade the recipient from taking any job that pays less than what? $2,000 per month? $2,500 per month?

A job paying $2,000 would gain him an additional $724 a month, or $8,688 per year. Would you be encouraged to work for a full year, to gain an extra $8,688?

Few people would, especially considering the nature of those low-end jobs: Mindless, backbreaking jobs with no future, supervised by harsh taskmasters.

So the system is designed for failure.


This provision limits such individuals to three months of SNAP benefits in any 36-month period when they aren’t employed or in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week.

Even SNAP recipients, whose state operates few or no employment programs and fails to offer them a spot in a work or training program — which is the case in most states — have their benefits cut off after three months irrespective of whether they are searching diligently for a job.

Gotcha, again!

You have to find a job or enroll in a work or training program, even though your state doesn’t offer one.

And this program must take at least 20 hours of your time every week, which limits your ability to search for jobs.

Gotcha, yet again!

And yes, we know. You probably live in a neighborhood that doesn’t have any food stores, so you have to spend time and money travelling to another neighborhood to buy your necessities. (Gotcha!)

And yes, we know. You probably live in a high-crime neighborhood, so you dare not go out at night to buy what you need. But your days are filled with “training,” such as it is, or with trying to find a job. (Gotcha!)

Because this provision denies basic food assistance to people who want to work and will accept any job or work program slot offered, it is effectively a severe time limit rather than a work requirement, as such requirements are commonly understood.

And then what will the poor do? Starve?

The 1996 welfare law allows states to suspend the three-month limit in areas with high and sustained unemployment.

In 2016, the time limit will be in effect in more than 40 states.  In 22 states, it will be the first time the time limit has been in effect since before the recession.

As a result, at least 500,000 and as many as 1 million SNAP recipients will have their benefits cut off in 2016.

A few southeastern states that are electing to re-implement the time limit statewide even though some or all of the state qualifies for a waiver, such as Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

Among those who report their race, about half are white, a third are African American, and a tenth are Hispanic.  Half have only a high school diploma or GED, and one-quarter have not completed high school.

The popular myth is that providing food assistance enables the lazy poor to to sit back and let the dollars roll in. Punishing the poor supposedly “encourages” people to work.

Cutting off food assistance to poor unemployed and underemployed workers doesn’t enable them to find employment or secure more hours of work.

Congress could make the three-month limit in a given state contingent on the state offering a job or training position to all nondisabled childless adults subject to the limit who don’t otherwise find employment.

Congress could also allow diligent job search to count toward the requirement, as it generally does under work requirements for other programs.

But such congressional action seems unlikely.

Consequently, states and local charities that work with this population need to prepare for the consequences as substantial numbers of indigent individuals in their communities lose food assistance.

So what will the poor do? Starve?

Yes, some will. Some may attempt to obtain help from their impoverished friends and relatives.

But many will turn to crime: Dope dealing, burglary, robbery, prostitution.

Did you ever wonder why poor neighborhoods have more crime than wealthier neighborhoods? It’s not that “those people” were born criminals. It’s because they cannot find legitimate work.

Starving the poor leads to crime, which leads to violence, which leads to more people in prison, which leads to higher prison costs and more ex-cons back on the street.

And these ex-cons can’t find work, partly because they are ex-cons, so the problem grow and multiplies.

Some people may sneer that showing compassion to the poor (the open hand) rather than the closed fist, is being a “bleeding heart liberal.”

But lifting the poor benefits everyone.

Impoverishment saves you no money. In fact it costs you money, as well as costing you your personal safety if you become the victim of crime.

Rather than taking delight in stomping on the poor, we should take delight in implementing the Ten Steps to Prosperity (below), in this case, especially Step #3.

Why will Congress not take the simple steps to reduce the problem?

Because Congress is ruled by the rich, and the rich want a steady supply of desperate slaves, willing to take any job, no matter how unpleasant — and afraid to complain about treatment or condition.

As Project Runway Junior host, Kelly Osbourne said,  “If you kick every Latino out of this country, who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?”

Stereotypical, but you can’t beat that for honesty.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty


Ten Steps to Prosperity:
1. Eliminate FICA (Click here)
2. Federally funded Medicare — parts A, B & D plus long term nursing care — for everyone (Click here)
3. Provide an Economic Bonus to every man, woman and child in America, and/or every state a per capita Economic Bonus. (Click here) Or institute a reverse income tax.
4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone. Click here
5. Salary for attending school (Click here)
6. Eliminate corporate taxes (Click here)
7. Increase the standard income tax deduction annually Click here
8. Tax the very rich (.1%) more, with higher, progressive tax rates on all forms of income. (Click here)
9. Federal ownership of all banks (Click here and here)

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99% (Click here)

The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.

10 Steps to Economic Misery: (Click here:)
1. Maintain or increase the FICA tax..
2. Spread the myth Social Security, Medicare and the U.S. government are insolvent.
3. Cut federal employment in the military, post office, other federal agencies.
4. Broaden the income tax base so more lower income people will pay.
5. Cut financial assistance to the states.
6. Spread the myth federal taxes pay for federal spending.
7. Allow banks to trade for their own accounts; save them when their investments go sour.
8. Never prosecute any banker for criminal activity.
9. Nominate arch conservatives to the Supreme Court.
10. Reduce the federal deficit and debt


Recessions begin an average of 2 years after the blue line first dips below zero. A common phenomenon is for the line briefly to dip below zero, then rise above zero, before falling dramatically below zero. There was a brief dip below zero in 2015, followed by another dip – the familiar pre-recession pattern.
Recessions are cured by a rising red line.

Monetary Sovereignty

Vertical gray bars mark recessions.

As the federal deficit growth lines drop, we approach recession, which will be cured only when the growth lines rise. Increasing federal deficit growth (aka “stimulus”) is necessary for long-term economic growth.


Mitchell’s laws:
•Those, who do not understand the differences between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
•Any monetarily NON-sovereign government — be it city, county, state or nation — that runs an ongoing trade deficit, eventually will run out of money.
•The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes..

•No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money growth.
•Cutting federal deficits to grow the economy is like applying leeches to cure anemia.
•A growing economy requires a growing supply of money (GDP = Federal Spending + Non-federal Spending + Net Exports)
•Deficit spending grows the supply of money
•The limit to federal deficit spending is an inflation that cannot be cured with interest rate control.
•The limit to non-federal deficit spending is the ability to borrow.

Liberals think the purpose of government is to protect the poor and powerless from the rich and powerful. Conservatives think the purpose of government is to protect the rich and powerful from the poor and powerless.

•The single most important problem in economics is the Gap between rich and the rest..
•Austerity is the government’s method for widening
the Gap between rich and poor.
•Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.
•Everything in economics devolves to motive, and the motive is the Gap between the rich and the rest..


2 thoughts on “The “let ’em starve” solution to poverty

  1. Agree with your sentiment but not with your math.

    A childless individual with no job might receive, at most, $194/month in food stamps. If he took a job paying $1,276/month he would be $1082/month ahead before taxes (yes he would pay payroll taxes but probably also receive an EIC, so let’s ignore taxes to keep it simple.)

    If he took a job paying $1500/month he would be $1306/month ahead.

    So yes America’s safety net sucks but there is no significant financial incentive to not work. The notion that lazy people are living the good life while drawing “welfare” (whatever that is, Clinton ended welfare 20 years ago) is an urban myth.


  2. Yes, you are right about the amount received.

    I was making a slightly different point, but your point is more accurate.

    An extra $194 a month can be the difference between eating or not eating several days a month. But those not suffering in poverty don’t (wish to) understand what poverty means.

    And food stamps provide each person about $4.75 a day, which surely allows “food stamp mamas” to dine like queens, doesn’t it?


    Good article:

    Bill Black: Krugman on the Corruption of Our Nation via Perverse Incentives


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