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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trouble with the system

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Got an email from a good friend of mine, currently living in Round Rock, Texas. This friend served as a U.S. Navy Seal for 12 years before retiring to the private sector. Here is the email I received.

"I'm not saying that there aren't people who need help but....46 million households? Really? 'nuff said.

"By the way, last weekend on the way to watch Hunter and his high school team win their 3rd playoff game in their quest for the Texas 4A Divisional State Championship (two more games), I stood in line behind a young man, probably 23 years old, who bought two grapes with a food stamp "credit card" (that's what the card looks like). He bought two grapes because he used two DIFFERENT food stamp cards and got $50 cash back on EACH ONE!!!"

Wow. Two grapes and $100 of taxpayer money in his pocket to spend as he will. Wonder where those dollars will go? Maybe some beer, or cigarettes, or who knows what?

Before you start tearing into me about making value-based judgments, please allow me to remind you if he had wanted to use the money for groceries, he wouldn't have needed to get the cash back from the cards. The cards are meant to buy groceries.

So one can only assume these dollars aren't going to be used for their intended purpose. He's taking those bucks and spending them on other stuff, stuff he can't use the cards to purchase.

And that's part of the problem with our safety net system. People take advantage of a system with no recourse or accountability for abuse or misuse of the taxpayer dollars.

Just one of many frustrations I share with many others regarding a flawed system.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a government providing a temporary landing spot for someone who falls on hard times. It happens, especially in today's economy. I don't want to see people on the streets or going without food because they were caught up in the middle of some corporate layoff, or lost their job because of a closure.

What I do have a problem with is people who see the government option as a solution to laziness. Why work when Uncle Sam will bleed the working class and distribute it to those who would rather play X-Box and watch reruns of Jerry Springer than contribute to society in some meaningful way.

For some, age and physical limitations could play a role in their ability to continue working. Others might face mental restrictions. They should be able to take advantages of service and care provided through the system. So should those caught in an emergency jam, but their stay should be limited.

For the able-bodied, assistance is supposed to be a safety net, not a hammock.


Comments
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Randy:

I thought you might find the following article from snopes.com interesting:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/taxes/gra...

I would like for you to research the information in your article, Trouble With the System, and print the truth about getting cash back from food stamp cards.

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 5:19 AM

Randy,

Please let me clarify my statement in my last message:

I would like for you to research the information in your article, 'Trouble With the System,' and print the truth about getting cash back from food stamp cards when purchasing two grapes from food stamp cards.

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 5:31 AM

http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Legis...

A Short History of SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program)

The Food Stamp Act of 1977

. replaced store due bills with cash change up to 99 cents

I know, in researching food stamp cards, that there have been some improper and illegal use of food stamp cards across the country, but individuals cannot receive cash back of more than 99 cents from a food stamp card.

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 6:37 AM

Correction in my last message: (uses not use)

"there have been some improper and illegal uses of food stamp cards across the country"

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 7:55 AM

http://watchdog.org/43198/ebt-fraud-and-...

http://bostonherald.com/news/regional/vi...

There are many more. This is all kinds of fraud in the use of EBT cards. Please don't be naive about it. Our Goverment does not think of details nor what if's when it comes to passing bills. This is what happens when you have to many cheifs in charge.

-- Posted by acerdj on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 8:09 AM

I did not say that there was not fraud in the use of food stamp cards.

I stated that the story about an individual purchasing two grapes and getting $100.00 back from the food stamp cards was not true.

If you can find legitimate research that an individual can receive more than .99 back from their food stamp card, please post it.

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 1:01 PM

Judith, what is the the point of doing this "legitimate research" you refer to? It's much more fun to just pass along whatever is viral or trending!

Sincerely,

Citizens of a Post-Truth World

-- Posted by deweyrb on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 5:43 PM

As a person that has used the food stamp "debit card" I know that you can only get money back using the card if A. you are receiving cash assistance from the state in which case they load the money on the card instead of mailing you a check, or B. Some states apparently will load child support onto the food stamp card as a way to only have one card per family instead of multiple cards for different reasons. That is information that was given to me from the Iowa DHS when I inquired about it a few years ago. I'm sure different states might work differently, but this is what Iowa had told me.

I also believe that the change over from the old paper food stamps to the "debit card" was so that people couldn't get cash back. In the old paper "stamps" you could get back change but it was change less than $1. With the debit card you do not get back change as they automatically take the exact amount of what you owe off the card.

This information may be outdated as this is how it was all explained to me a few years ago but thought it might help provide some insight.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sun, Dec 9, 2012, at 10:37 AM

The bad stories seem to overshadow the ones that really need the program. Example: Just last week at the checkout, the person in front of me used the card for the food, then rang up $30 some dollars of liquor and had cash to pay for that.

-- Posted by clayfarmer on Sun, Dec 9, 2012, at 5:23 PM

People on food stamps should not be allowed to ever have a drink, go anywhere or ever have any fun at all in any way. They should spend every waking moment looking for work, praying or thanking the hardworking citizens who make thier freeloading miserable existance possible!!!!!!

-- Posted by Cookster on Mon, Dec 10, 2012, at 9:21 AM

I'm not going to challenge the legitimacy of your friend's story. I really don't need to as Judith already has.

I will challenge the perspective, though. Why are you speaking out against assistance for 46 million Americans and not assistance to numerous, grossly profitable companies? The majority of SNAP funds - 92 percent - goes to the elderly, children and the working poor. These are people who need the assistance. Why are there so many? Have you looked at the economy lately? Just because someone has a job does not mean the finances are stretching as far as they used to. Paychecks are either staying the same or getting smaller because overtime for many people is going away. Is the cost of living going down? Of course not.

While Tea Party types hate on Welfare recipients, many of them seem to have no problem with corporate welfare. I'm not even talking about incentives for fledgling industries like alternative energy. I'm talking about incentives for well-established industries, such as oil companies. Republicans talk about not picking winners and losers and yet they do it anyway. It's disgusting and disingenuous.

I really hope you look at the whole picture in the future and not just the low-hanging fruit, such as a poor who can't lawyer up like the BPs and Monsantos of the world.

-- Posted by No. 3121 on Mon, Dec 10, 2012, at 10:44 PM

Here you go Judy.....

http://www.ehow.com/info_7825469_can-cas...

This is most likely what happened here.

https://dphhs.mt.gov/sevp/teams/teams_to...

http://www.ehow.com/info_8422662_can-sta...

This is just a couple of them. Did not know they exist but do.

-- Posted by acerdj on Tue, Dec 11, 2012, at 4:53 AM

No 3121....

http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/07/c...

Before you go spewing crap that you really don't understand, you should try sitting down with someone that doesn't think like you and see if that is really how they view this situation. Sounds like you are just repeating things that you have heard, not sure but it does sound familiar, ALOT. You have whack jobs in every orginazation, so don't come back with that either.

Don't throw out facts at me, but try having a conversation with out "blame game". We have had two elections with that, and some how you, dems, and the republicans seem to blame the tea party for everything. You should learn exactly what they stand for, and what they are really interested in as a whole.

-- Posted by acerdj on Tue, Dec 11, 2012, at 5:14 AM

acerdj:

Your three (links) state:

The only way to withdraw cash from an EBT card is if you're receiving food stamp benefits in conjunction with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

This is not what Randy's article, 'Trouble with the system' was referring. He was referring to purchasing two (2) grapes and receiving $100 back from two (2) FOOD STAMP cards. He did not state anything about the possibility of a food stamp card being linked to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Tue, Dec 11, 2012, at 8:11 AM

Judith Olson has stated many times that *this* particular scenario does not make sense. Of course there is food stamp/EBT/TANF fraud. Of course there are undeserving and lazy people taking advantage of the system. However, this story appears to be an exact copy of one that's been floating around since before the age of the internet. For this reason, I suspect that Randy's friend simply passed it along and tried to pass it off as his own. This happens every day on facebook and other social media sites- person sees others posting a "hot" story, picture, etc and takes it at face value. With absolutely no research on the subject (and feeling properly indignant about said subject), they pass it on. While this is an aggravating side effect of social media today (most causes can be explained more fully with a few clicks, people refuse to invest the time), I expect more of a journalist, even in his opinion column.

-- Posted by notinia on Tue, Dec 11, 2012, at 2:53 PM

Acer, I have in fact had several conversations with Randy and people whO agree with him. I know we will never agree, but I still want him to think about all angles of things before writing such columns. I know we have family and friends receiving some sort of assistance and I don't understand the rationale of attacking those people or the system that helps them.

-- Posted by No. 3121 on Tue, Dec 11, 2012, at 11:59 PM

Judy....meant to include that you were right and that most likely this is what probably happen. They had the TANF and needed to get the cash to pay bills. So sorry :)

No 3121....I don't know where Randy is coming from, but I didn't take that he was actually attacking welfare ppl, just what was sent to him, and maybe just throwing something out there. Why did you feel the need to throw a group name into your conversation. Also when ppl are gripping about welfare fraud, THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PPL THAT REALLY NEED IT! They are talking about what they said. WELFARE FRAUD. So lets take it for what it is and stop putting words there.I am one of those ppl that gripe about it. I am not talking about old ppl, disable, ppl who are trying to HELP THEMSELVES UP. I am talking about these girls that sit there and keep getting knocked up, blackmarcketing EBT cards, selling them for more profit for themselves, not working when they can work, etc.

-- Posted by acerdj on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 5:40 AM

Honestly, acerdj, I don't think he was "attacking" people on welfare either. However, I do think he carelessly passed on a story that was emailed to him without checking it out, and to me, that lack journalistic integrity. I expect more out of someone with a public forum.

-- Posted by notinia on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 9:20 AM

46 million on food stamps. 1 in 6 people according to the current US population. These programs often times benefit those who know how to work the system instead of those who it is intended for and who need it the most. Everyone on any type of government assistance should be subjected to random drug/alcohol testing. If you can't afford food, clothes, rent etc. you should not be able to afford smokes, beer, drugs at any time. I bet that would reduce the number of people on assistance in a big hurry.

-- Posted by Spencer Lifer on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 12:29 PM

notinia:

I agree that this article, with false information presented by Randy, lacks journalistic integrity, ethics, and standards. Yes, we do expect more out of someone with a public forum.

What this article allows individuals to do is to believe that individuals can receive cash back from a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Program) card when purchasing two (2) grapes. This is completely wrong for an editor of our local newspaper to print false information.

Do you think that Randy will respond with the truth and an apology for printing false information?

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 4:44 PM

I have a question about this whole matter that no one else seems to be bringing up.

At the beginning of his article, Randy states he received an "email from a good friend of mine, currently living in Round Rock, Texas. This friend served as a U.S. Navy Seal for 12 years before retiring to the private sector. Here is the email I received."

He then goes on to quote the email from his "good friend" in which said good friend states he was the person who actually witnessed a young man buying two grapes with a food stamp card in order to get $50 back on each purchase.

Oh, the outrage!

Yet, this story has been debunked in Snopes as an urban legend that's been circulating for many years, right down to the detail of "two grapes."

So, my question is this: Has it occured to Randy that his "good friend" must have been LYING to him about witnessing this event? And does Randy intend to confront him about it?

-- Posted by DHarris on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 8:07 PM

You're right DHarris, and I said somewhere in my comments that I believe Randy's friend read it somewhere and tried to pass it off as his own. Apparently, being a retired Navy SEAL makes you more trustworthy, as he felt the need to bring that up in a completely unrelated story. If I mention that my spouse is currently serving in the military, will that mean everyone will be more likely to respect my opinion? ;)

-- Posted by notinia on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 8:32 PM

In a Mr. Burns of The Simpson's type voice "Excellent" You have all fallen into the Op-Ed trap set by Randy. You are having discussions about a printed topic. Opinions from both sides of the issue are presented. Judith is critical of Randy's journalistic integrity. All you try and do is create some discussion from an Op-Ed, hence the title. You wouldn't see this as a news article which requires more accuracy and integrity, which much of the media isn't always good at either.

Ya'll keep commenting. I'm enjoying the responses.

-- Posted by Steelerfan100 on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 9:34 AM

The food stamp program should be run similar to the WIC program. No pop, no processed food, and certainly non transferrable and no cash back under any circumstances. And it does happen because I have seen it right here in Spencer. The exceptions from the following should be single parents supporting a child, disabled people or elderly on a fixed income: there should be time limits, money limits and all recipients should have to pass a drug test. And they should have to prove that they are actively seeking work. And they should only get to dip from one source not multiple ones. If they are living in subsidized housing than that should also be taken into consideration. If you can afford a cell phone, cable and internet service than you can afford your own groceries too. If you don't believe the fraud is being committed on a large scale, drive over to E. 19th St. and take a look at all the young, able bodied people not working but watching cable, playing on the internet and socializing.

-- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 10:51 AM

Leah, I agree that SNAP should be run like WIC. WIC is a wonderful program that focuses on giving healthy food to families. I am not of the opinion that people on assistance shouldn't be allowed treats/junkfood/alcohol, etc, but the actual food supplied by the government should support healthful living. Alternatively, there could be a set allowance for "treat" food each month, with a feasible dollar amount set.

However, I am curious what/where you have seen "right here in Spencer". Are you referring to cash back? If so, it must have been TANF, which is not the same as SNAP. You CANNOT get cash back on SNAP, it doesn't work that way, and statements like that are the reason the "2 grapes" story has hung around since the early 80's. Nobody here is saying that fraud is not happening. Its just not happening in the way that has been claimed in this column. Further, I'm curious what your take on your friend's email is. Do you think he deliberately fudged his story in his email to your husband?

Steelerfan100- isn't the point of an opinion column to inspire discussion by getting one's opinion out there? I fail to see why it's a "trap".

-- Posted by notinia on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 11:38 AM

notinia I was being sarcastic. you are all doing what your suppose to do.

-- Posted by Steelerfan100 on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 11:47 AM

The story was not fudged at all. Randy called him and asked him if it was a personal experience. He said it was and went on in greater detail about the experience. Snopes is not 100% reliable either and I don't know how they became so infallible. This person has no reason at all to lie...he's not a politician or someone hammering for a cause. He's simply a tax paying citizen. And as for my personal experience here in Spencer...I was with the person who got the cash back from Hyvee last Thanksgiving so it happens whether anyone chooses to believe it or not.

-- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 12:14 PM

Since Randy has the name of his friend who reported seeing an individual receive $100 back from two food stamp cards after purchasing two grapes, his friend has the name of the grocery store where he observed this, this can be investigated.

Since Leah knows the name of her friend who received cash back from a food stamp card at HyVee last Thanksgiving, this can be investigated.

http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/pressrelease...

Program fraud complaints of any kind may be filed with the USDA Office of Inspector General; contact information is found at: http://www.usda.gov/oig/hotline.htm Fraud may also be reported to State fraud hotlines which are available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/contact_inf....

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 1:03 PM

I would advise individuals to save this column and comments to your computer, so if the comments are deleted, you will still have copies of them. You will then have the links for filing complaints with the USDA Office of Inspector General or the State fraud hotlines.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 1:18 PM

@Steelerfan - I've said it before, it's absurd that the paper's news editor is allowed to have a recurring op-ed column.

-- Posted by Sony on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 1:55 PM

Its funny that he checked with his friend and his friend did witness this because I too have received the two grapes email. Why do people believe every email they get?

-- Posted by joev on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 2:36 PM

Notinia: Your earlier comment about the friend reading about the incident somewhere and passing it off on his own slipped right by me. Thanks for pointing that out.

Steelerfan100: A "news article which requires more accuracy and integrity." Seriously?

Synonyms for Integrity: Honesty; Truth; Truthfulness; Honor; Veracity; Reliability.

Integrity is a quality one either possesses or doesn't; it's not something to have more or less of, depending on the occasion.

As for Snopes, I'm sure it's not infallible. But the "2 grapes" story is way too specific and is currently being circulated so widely that anyone's claim to have actually witnessed this event has to be very suspect. I still firmly believe that SOMEONE - and I'm not saying who - but SOMEONE is lying. Not fudging.

-- Posted by DHarris on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 3:01 PM

Let me throw another scenario out there. What if it wasn't a food stamp card but a pre-paid Visa or Mastercard. Some businesses will give cash back on these cards only if you make a purchase. The customer avoids the fee they would be charged if they went to an ATM machine. Some people behind a person at the checkout will just assume the person in front of them is using a food stamp card by their appearance.

-- Posted by Henry Blake on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 3:14 PM

First off, as a citizen of spencer Iowa with a young family, I know very well that government help is needed on a minimum wage salary. How can one possibly pay all their bills when making less than $1,000 a month. Also, it is absolutley impossible to take cash out on a food card... I can show you in person if that is so hard to believe. And without at least a phone-forget the Internet- how are you supposed to get a job and keep it? How would that look on a resume or application? Hope you don't expect a call back because you have no phone number. And what of there was an emergency? Can't count on 911. There are also limits in receiving state benefits. You have to go through a million interviews, proof of pay stubs, employer statements, etc. Then they figure it out as a big math problem- the amounts you get differ with your wages, and If you have a change in income- you have 14 days to notify your worker. It is so irritating to read this... To read how evil and judgmental the world is. Educate yourself before you express an opinion. Assuming is not an answer, you can't just make things up in your head and assume they are true- that is an opinion

-- Posted by Neco on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 11:48 PM

Leah, nobody said Snopes was infallible. However, in many cases, they provide links to websites that clearly refute the claims circulating (for example, in the instances where Target is accused of "not supporting the troops", they provide a link to Target's page listing the services they provide US military as well as the originator of the myth's retraction and apology). In this case, they posted several variations of this same story, all of which involved two grapes, and one of which is a Reagan-era story. Sure, the writers at Snopes could have made all this up. But what are the chances the scenarios they provide are EXACTLY THE SAME as your friend's? And I find it interesting that "checking with your friend" makes HIM infallible. People lie all the time, and not always when they have something to gain from it- commiserating about the BS of the welfare system is enough for many people who pass on this story, I'm sure.

That said, since you have the name of the person who received the cash back (since you- and your friend for that matter- are so certain it was not TANF cash assistance, which can be put on the same card as EBT and CAN give cash back while the food stamp portion cannot) I'm going to assume you turned them in for fraud, correct? ...

-- Posted by notinia on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 12:10 AM

Who should I turn in for fraud? The store for not following protocol? The person for taking advantage of a system that has loopholes? or the government for allowing the program to be run in the manner that it is? What difference does it make if it was two grapes or two hams or two anything? The system is flawed and there are people who take advantage of that. We need to give people an incentive to work and do better for themselves. And families who need help should get it and be rewarded for working not for being lazy. The good thing about the column is that it brings awareness and gets discussion going. Instead of bashing everyone, call your lawmakers and talk to them about making the system better.

-- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 8:49 AM

@Leah Cauthron - Don't change the subject. This isn't a discussion about systemic change. You and Randy have alleged fraud agaisnt two individuals and two stores (one being in our community), which shouldn't be taken lightly.

Can you confirm that your thanksgiving friend received EBT funds back from the store (fraud) and not TANF assistance funds that may be on the same EBT card (not fraud)? Can your Marine friend also confirm this is the case?

No one is bashing anyone else, but the facts as you describe them do not make sense.

-- Posted by Sony on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 9:11 AM

Somebody getting cash back from a food stamp card is not just taking advantage of a system that has loopholes. It is fraud. The person doing it and the store both need to be punished. It is your responsibility to report a crime you have witnessed. To not do so makes you an enabler.

-- Posted by Henry Blake on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 9:18 AM

It is time for those of us reading this column to seek the truth concerning receiving cash back from SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Cards), formerly called food stamps.

I would advise individuals to print this column and take it to Hy-Vee and visit with the manager or send it to the Corporate Hy-Vee office.

I would advise individuals to send Randy & Leah's specific information about individuals receiving cash back from SNAP cards to the USDA Office of Inspector General or the State fraud hotlines.

http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/pressrelease...

Program fraud complaints of any kind may be filed with the USDA Office of Inspector General; contact information is found at: http://www.usda.gov/oig/hotline.htm

Fraud may also be reported to State fraud hotlines which are available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/contact_inf...

The USDA provides information that individuals cannot receive cash back from a SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program).

http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Legis...

A Short History of SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program)

The Food Stamp Act of 1977

. replaced store due bills with cash change up to 99 cents

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 9:31 AM

So let's say that the money back issue was on TANF...should the government be assisting in that manner with cash so that people can use it for booze, cigarettes or the like instead of for food or utilities or necessities? That is not a personal issue, that is a systemic issue that is flawed.

-- Posted by Leah Cauthron on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 9:44 AM

Where's all the outcry about millionaire farmers & corporations receiving 90% of the "farm subsidies"?

-- Posted by Doctlby on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 9:46 AM

I would again advise individuals to save this column and comments indicating alleged fraud agaisnt two individuals and two stores (one being in our community) to your computer, so if the comments are deleted, you will still have copies of them.

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 9:59 AM

@Leah Cauthron - Can you confirm that you witnessed illegal activity when your thanksgiving friend received funds back from Hy-Vee? Thanks.

-- Posted by Sony on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 11:28 AM

Leah, my point (and, I assume, that of Judith, Sony, and others) is that either your friend passed this story off as his own/you are lying about the person getting cash back on EBT or both parties actually witnessed cash back on TANF and assumed that it was EBT. In either case, the stories were printed as truth in this newspaper to raise "outcry" against people getting cash back from foodstamps. The merits of receiving cash back from TANF are irrelevant, since that is legal. Cash assistance is just that: cash assistance. Not all (or even a majority) of people on cash assistance use their cash to buy "booze, cigarettes or the like".

Don't get me wrong, to do so is a gross misuse of federal funds. However, as you advised everyone else to do, why not contact your congressman? If you are of the belief that everyone on TANF is boozing it up, how do you propose to ensure that the system be changed to prevent this? For example, how would the government ensure that the money is used for utilities (I'm leaving food out of that, as it is covered by EBT, not TANF)? Would the gov't need to set up an alliance with a particular energy provider (MidAmerican, for example) in each area and funnel the particular amount of money for each individual bill to that provider? How would the gov't not be "supporting" a certain company over another? If you have the answers to the logistics, here, please contact your congressman. I will directly quote you, here: "instead of bashing everyone, call your lawmakers and talk to them about making the system better."

The point of the two grapes, to answer your question, is that two grapes are $.02, supposedly allowing the individual in question to get the maximum amount of illegal cash back. Two hams would mean they didn't get as much "free spending cash", correct? The other significance is that every story that's popped up has specifically featured two grapes, and to me, that sets a story up as suspicious for being nothing more than the passing on of an urban legend. Why is it never two cherries? A pack of gum? A clementine?

Finally, I would say that if you felt you had witnessed fraud, the proper thing to do would have been to turn in both the customer and HyVee. Asking whether you should have turned the government in for allowing a loophole (that doesn't exist) is inane. Clearly, you feel strongly about this issue- or is it only when the accused aren't friends of yours and plan on buying "booze, cigarettes, and the like"? Let me stress that I feel that far too many people on government assistance end up taking advantage of the system. However, I just don't feel that any of this adds up.

-- Posted by notinia on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 11:56 AM

HEADLINE: "Unknown Man Buys Two Grapes In Order To Legally Withdraw $100 Instead of Using ATM"

-- Posted by Sony on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 1:29 PM

I am here to report that in Iowa, you cannot get any cash back from an EBT food assistance card. I'm aware that some people also receive TANF cash assistance on the same card. I know those cards will work at Wal-Mart and anywhere else you can use a debit card at point-of-sale. I have no idea if they will work to withdraw cash at an ATM. It would not surprise me if, like an ATM card, you can get some money back with a purchase. I don't think anyone would bat an eye if someone bought a $15 item and got $10 cash back. I think a few cents then $100 cash back would draw attention, even from someone using a Farmers State Bank debit card, and wanting to avoid the ATM fees.

"Just get a job."

I surely wish it was so simple. Will you hire me? Call me 712-578-8122. No? Then please read on. Because I would far prefer to earn money for my family, but since that has not worked out well, we are in the bottom 12% of the nation or more using food assistance.

I have professional experience in law offices, other secretarial work and writing. I worked for myself as a writer for 12 years, and in the last year was Director of Communications for an up and coming tech firm. I did a lot of work with promise of payment that never materialized, so financially, we are in really deep.

"What about the fast food places and big box stores? They're always hiring? Or are you too good for that?"

I'm not too good for that, and if you really knew me, you'd know there was a time I would do a lot of things for money for my family.

Let me take you on just one journey of applying for a job in a supermarket. I have a good friend who works there, and she was super-excited for me to get a job there. I dutifully filled out the online application. It was a lot harder than sending my letter and resume to a professional job. It was probably ten screens on the Internet, and then they start the "predictive index."

The last time I stole from my employer was: 1-12 months ago, more than 12 months ago, every day, never, once in a while, or Ronald Reagan (choose one). There were about 17 variations of this.

The last time I sold drugs at my workplace was: 1-12 months ago, more than 12 months ago, every day, never, or Mickey Mouse (choose one) There were also about 17 variations of this question.

I get a call to come in for the interview. My adorable friend gave me a hug before I went to the back office.

Most hostile interview ever. And that includes panel interviews with entire organizational boards of directors, and going up against a family member within a workplace. She stepped on my brief answers to her questions about "why do you want to work here?" The whole thing lasted less than five minutes. I wore navy and khaki, nothing over the top, and my pits and breath didn't stink. I brushed my hair and cleaned my nails and everything.

"We'll call you if we decide on you." Two weeks later I followed up, and on my third attempt she told me, "I would have called you if I'd hire you; I didn't hire you."

"Okay, thank you."

Professional jobs will at least give me the time of day, and sometimes will give honest feedback about why they didn't hire me. It's never about my skills or talent. It's always something, usually something I don't control.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 2:27 PM

Anyone that believes 1 in 6 of the citizens of this country really needs food stamps has a much different definition of need then I do. The real question is what minimum standard of living do we need to insure with tax dollars. I think this requires two different standards a higher one for those that can't work and a much lower one for those that choose not to work. The fact is the closer we get to more people on the dole than not the closer we are to a Hugo Chavez solution. What amazes me is we can watch Spain, Greece, and Portugal in real time and see the conclusion to socialism and we don't seem to care.

-- Posted by Bison on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 7:25 AM

It's odd that we haven't heard from Randy when there seem to be false statements in this story.

-- Posted by Sony on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 9:53 AM

Sony:

It is also interesting that Leah Cauthron did not answer your question:

@Leah Cauthron - "Can you confirm that you witnessed illegal activity when your thanksgiving friend received funds back from Hy-Vee? Thanks."

The whole point of Randy's message, 'Trouble with the system' is to make readers believe that individuals can receive cash back from a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) card, formerly called food stamp program.

This is a quote from Randy's message; "He bought two grapes because he used two DIFFERENT food stamp cards and got $50 cash back on EACH ONE!!! Wow. Two grapes and $100 of taxpayer money in his pocket to spend as he will. Wonder where those dollars will go? Maybe some beer, or cigarettes, or who knows what??"

Randy's message in today's paper (December 15, 2012) still does not clarify his information in the story, 'Trouble with the system.'

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 10:29 AM

This is a quote from Randy's article today, "Recognizing, both in Iowa and Texas, these types of SNAP cards are not designed to provide cash back to users, I would entertain the possibility he witnessed some other form of payment option."

"I would entertain". . .

Why not explain to the readers what another 'payment option' might be?

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 10:37 AM

It states right here, "Please be respectful of others and try to stay on topic."

The topic, I believe, of 'Trouble with the system' is to make readers believe that individuals can receive cash back from a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) card, formerly called food stamp program.

Let's stick to this topic.

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 10:52 AM

In Randy's new column, he addresses the comments here, and lists the reasons he has to trust his friend (while admitting the friend may have witnessed a TANF transaction, which, honestly, still does not make a lot of sense. But whatever). The bulk of the column consists of a rebuttal to *this* column, but at the end, he brings up Sandy Hook. Does that not deserve a column of its own? I'm sorry, but it just seems like he (rightly) assumes that people aren't going to argue with him on a column about deceased schoolchildren OR he's giving a nudge and saying "see how petty you people are?" The way he approached it just left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

-- Posted by notinia on Mon, Dec 17, 2012, at 8:35 AM

It's a hard world when you see everything in black and white, and worry that some how others don't see it like you do.

-- Posted by Cookster on Mon, Dec 17, 2012, at 10:19 AM

It's irrelevant which type of govt. assistance debit card this gentleman in question used to withdraw money after buying grapes.

I think the point Randy was trying to make was that he is frustrated that all these able bodied younger adults are on entitlement programs but somehow still find money for beer, cigarettes, iphones, designer jeans, souped up cars, etc.. And most of those young people qualify for these programs by having multiple illegitimate children with different "baby daddies"; They're not indigent elderly or truly disabled, they're just young adults who suck at life.

Surely Randy, like myself and probably many of you are sick of watching the news every day about the fiscal cliff and how our taxes are going to go up- of which a large percentage will be used make for these folks' welfare payments. To make my point, 19% of the federal budget for fiscal year 2012 went to pay for "welfare and other entitlements", this is the same percentage of our budget that goes to pay for defense spending (according to the office of management and budget). "Welfare" refers to means tested entitlements which include a myriad of programs like food stamps, housing assistance, etc., (not spending items like medicare,medicaid,and social security which made up 40% of our UNFUNDED budget).

The problem is that most of the people on these means tested entitlement programs don't use them as temporary help to get them through a rough patch in life, but use them for many years and it becomes part of their lifestyle. Randy is just sick of having to subsidize that lifestyle, as am I.

-- Posted by Dagny Taggart on Tue, Dec 18, 2012, at 7:11 PM

1) I don't think it is irrelevant that the news editor published false statements in an article.

2) Do you have anything that we can look at to support your statement, "...most of the people on these means tested entitlement programs don't use them as temporary help to get them through a rough patch in life, but use them for many years and it becomes part of their lifestyle."?

-- Posted by Sony on Tue, Dec 18, 2012, at 7:51 PM

I'm a college graduate with a "faded Obama poster" and I have a job which I love (thanks directly to Barack's policies). I am happy and I am contributing to our country.

I believe in God, but I don't think that He cares about the success of the United States. I can't relate to anything a majority of you are saying. Just wanted to clarify who I am in an effort to spare any false indignation from some of you angry readers.

Anyways, I once dated a girl who was eligible for what you folks call "food stamps" because of her circumstances. She was no dummy and explained to me that "food stamp" eligible households could not buy:

Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco

Any nonfood items, such as:

pet foods;

soaps, paper products; and

household supplies.

Vitamins and medicines.

Food that will be eaten in the store.

Hot prepared foods

While I was a poor college student, she would treat me to many of the goodies from the bulk candy section during those dreaded cram sessions courtesy of her "food stamps." (I felt more focused after a 1/2 lb. of brachs circus peanuts) We didn't up staying together long after college, but I don't harbor any contempt for her. In a way, I feel like I owe her credit for some of my college success. In fact, it may have been those tax payer gifted circus peanuts that helped me become the productive citizen I am today.

Now to get around to my point: If the 23 year old man in the story was truly a savvy government assistance exploiter, he would have bought two pieces of bulk candy. The price per pound and is far less than grapes, and perhaps if he bought two root beer barrels he could have spent 1 cent instead of two. I think he just was hungry for a couple of grapes.

-- Posted by Noah Lott on Tue, Dec 18, 2012, at 9:20 PM

Again, nobody is saying that it is ethical to defraud the US government, nobody is saying that there aren't plenty of people who could go without government assistance or use it in a way that others disagree with.

The point is, the legitimacy of the story has been called into question, and as a managing editor of a newspaper, it is Randy's responsibility to fact check (which involves going beyond "asking a friend" if his story is true). Further, the fact that Randy's wife is in the comments section of this column claiming to have witnessed fraud without reporting it does not speak well for either.

-- Posted by notinia on Tue, Dec 18, 2012, at 11:11 PM

@ Sony, In response to question 1: Randy wasn't intentionally deceiving his readers, he was merely relaying a story told to him by a friend.

In response to question 2: I suppose you could go look at the website for Congressional Budget Office if you want exact figures, but I believe last year we spent something like 16x more money on means tested entitlement programs than at the beginning of the War on Poverty (this is in 2011 inflation adjusted dollars). I have my doubts that the increases in spending year after year for decades are due to people who are down on their luck and using the system for a short while. It would seem difficult to produce data for how long the average welfare recipient receives benefits since "welfare" is such a broad term. But all one really has to do is look around at your neighbors for further proof. Or better yet look at the inhabitants of inner city slums if there is any doubt that we have a culture of dependency in this country.

-- Posted by Dagny Taggart on Tue, Dec 18, 2012, at 11:22 PM

It states right here, "Please be respectful of others and try to stay on topic."

The topic, I believe, of 'Trouble with the system' is to make readers believe that individuals can receive cash back from a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) card, formerly called food stamp program.

notinia:

In my opinion, your comments reflect my concern with 'Trouble with the System' and with the comment section:

"The point is, the legitimacy of the story has been called into question, and as a managing editor of a newspaper, it is Randy's responsibility to fact check (which involves going beyond "asking a friend" if his story is true). Further, the fact that Randy's wife is in the comments section of this column claiming to have witnessed fraud without reporting it does not speak well for either."

Thank you.

Judith Olson

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Wed, Dec 19, 2012, at 6:47 AM

Whether he really had a friend tell him this or not, it was an provacative story that brings a real issue to light. The story is obviously made up. Use any internet search engine and type in his story. I highly doubt his friend happened to be in line behind this man because there are many different accounts of this same story coming from many different locations. Look at the discussion his story has sparked. Had he written an opinion article on how beautiful the christmas lights in downtown Spencer looked, he would have lost most readers within a few sentences.

-- Posted by Noah Lott on Wed, Dec 19, 2012, at 10:41 AM

Noah:

So, are you saying that to get people to comment, it is ethical for a managing editor of a newspaper, to present made up, false information?

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Wed, Dec 19, 2012, at 3:11 PM

It is possible to spark discussion about a topic without flippantly tossing out falsehoods one knows will get responses. I don't think Randy intended to pass on an urban myth, but failing to fact-check is also an issue. Also, most of the conversation has been about the legitimacy of the story.

-- Posted by notinia on Thu, Dec 20, 2012, at 1:13 AM

Instead of going on this subject...how about we look at what is it that the government is wasting our money on. This is a debate that can go on forever!!!!! So look up on google..Wastebook 2012. It should be in pdf form and is very interesting.

Example...Out-of-this-world Martian food tasting -- (HI) $947,000

Imagine pizza so out of this world, you would have to travel to Mars to have a slice.

947,000 to have this and 100 other foods tested and ready if we end up on MARS. Seriously?

ex....Phantom, unused grant accounts draw fees -- (Department of Health and Human Services) $2 million

The government pays as much as $2 million annually in monthly service fees to maintain about 28,000 phantom grant accounts that are empty and have expired.175

Each of these accounts have a zero-dollar balance and their authority to operate has expired under law, yet because they have not been closed out, the federal government pays about $173,000 per month to maintain them.

LETS GET MAD OVER THIS KIND OF STUPIDITY!!! And you thought the stop of funding Big Bird was an outrage? I think these and many more are just the tip of out of control spending that WE THE PEOPLE are tolerating.

-- Posted by acerdj on Sat, Dec 22, 2012, at 8:33 AM

acerdj: Right above this box where I am writing it states: "Your Comments: Please be respectful of others and try to stay on topic." If you want to write a column on government waste, you could write it in the blogs area.

However, I believe that the topic of Randy's column, 'Trouble with the system' is to make readers believe that individuals can receive cash back from a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) card, formerly called food stamp program."

Randy specifically states:

"His friend stood in line behind a young man, probably 23 years old, who bought two grapes with a food stamp "credit card" (that's what the card looks like). He bought two grapes because he used two DIFFERENT food stamp cards and got $50 cash back on EACH ONE! Wow. Two grapes and $100 of taxpayer money in his pocket to spend as he will. Wonder where those dollars will go? Maybe some beer, or cigarettes, or who knows what? Before you start tearing into me about making value-based judgments, please allow me to remind you if he had wanted to use the money for groceries, he wouldn't have needed to get the cash back from the cards. The cards are meant to buy groceries. So one can only assume these dollars aren't going to be used for their intended purpose. He's taking those bucks and spending them on other stuff, stuff he can't use the cards to purchase."

-- Posted by Judith Olson on Sat, Dec 22, 2012, at 8:30 PM

I just want to know why it seems to be the popular opinion that he was going to use that money to buy booze and cigarettes...

What if he was going to use it to buy food or gifts for his children? I cannot stand how anyone that gets government help is looked down upon as nothing.

Sidenote - Judith Olson, you don't happen to be a retired teacher, do you?

-- Posted by PleaseThink on Mon, Dec 24, 2012, at 1:22 AM

He probably WAS going to go buy booze and cigarettes. I see the way these young people who receive govt. entitlements behave and it is disgusting! For example, every day I see young people come to the hospital with their designer shoes, cigarettes and iPhones and then their chart says Title 19 as their payee. I guess my thought is if you're broke enough to need food stamps and HUD assistance and Medicaid then you shouldn't be able to afford sweet shoes and pricey cell phones.

-- Posted by Dagny Taggart on Wed, Dec 26, 2012, at 12:14 PM

Judith.....if you would read the article that I posted(government person wrote this article) also states that in some states do and will allow SNAP to be used for such items and to get money back from this card. This was put out there by me to see if anyone would be interest how our government does and is willing to allow this even when ppl are not to be using the system like this. So please read the introductory of it and you will stop defending this action. Sorry but I am tired of some ppl turning a blind eye to it. Hell strippers will even take food stamps or these cards as tips! WOW So please read it. Besides its part of your hard earned money that pays for this kind of info, might as well read it the entirety of it!!!!

Thanks for the suggestion tho. :)

-- Posted by acerdj on Thu, Dec 27, 2012, at 2:24 PM

LOL Thank you acerdj!!! The visual I have in my head of some greasy low life stuffing food stamps into a strippers G-string in priceless! HAHA I will chuckle all day about that one! :D

-- Posted by deweyh on Sat, Dec 29, 2012, at 10:03 AM

Too bad people didn't worry this much about corporate welfare bought and paid for by the corporations that write the laws then buy politicians to pass them. The puny pennies lost in welfare fraud is a drop in the ocean to corporate welfare.

There would be less need for safety nets if working wages hadn't been stagnant for the last 30+ years while the wealthiest get richer faster and faster. The end started with Reagan. Why do those that invest and risk their $ (while not creating jobs) pay less tax than those that invest and risk their bodies, time, skills, blood, sweat and tears?

Then just to kick people when their down, they're criticized for not suffering enough to 'earn' compassion and help. Suggestions to have them give up all conveniences (that they've most likely paid for themselves before they needed help) and their rights to privacy, etc. just shows how mean spirited some people are. Why not make them live in tented concentration camps without electricity and running water while you're at it?

Here's a clue for ya, those with no power, no $, no resources, no political/corporate contacts are not the problem, but those that have all of those things have succeeded in making you think so. Shame on you.

-- Posted by helped_myself on Sun, Dec 30, 2012, at 7:26 PM

I couldn't agree more "Helped". And the middle class, who has been exploited and robbed, has been taught to think that they have a chance to become one of the 1% by politicians and the media. The middle class is now the struggling lower middle class, working two jobs, needing public assistance and complaining about those who are worse off than themselves. The problem is the powerful..not the powerless.

-- Posted by Cookster on Mon, Dec 31, 2012, at 8:21 AM

New Journalism at its finest. And posted by the Managing Editor, no less! I pray for humanity.

-- Posted by leannsj on Wed, Jan 2, 2013, at 7:20 PM

Just found this on the you tube and thought it was put together very well. This problem does not just tends to be in the states that were named but everywhere. Please watch the whole vid.

http://youtu.be/1SLnAMg8rOA

-- Posted by acerdj on Sun, Jan 6, 2013, at 8:49 AM


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Randy Cauthron
One Man's Perspective