Follow by Email

Monday, September 23, 2013

Paul Krugman, "Free to Be Hungry": Should Food Stamps Be Used to Purchase Junk Food?

We were recently told in a New York Times op-ed by Maureen Dowd that she attended an event at Georgetown University honoring Warren Buffett, who spent the evening drinking Coca-Cola, a product with almost no nutritional value, manufactured by a company whose shares he owns (see: Does Warren Buffett buy Coca-Cola using food stamps? Not a chance. But should recipients of food stamps be allowed to use them to buy Coca-Cola and other junk food?

Surprisingly, I agree with some of what Paul Krugman has to say in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Free to Be Hungry" ( Krugman writes:

"The recent growth of SNAP [the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program] has indeed been unusual, but then so have the times, in the worst possible way. The Great Recession of 2007-9 was the worst slump since the Great Depression, and the recovery that followed has been very weak. Multiple careful economic studies have shown that the economic downturn explains the great bulk of the increase in food stamp use. And while the economic news has been generally bad, one piece of good news is that food stamps have at least mitigated the hardship, keeping millions of Americans out of poverty."

Makes sense? Yes. But Krugman continues:

"Beyond that, however, you might think that ensuring adequate nutrition for children, which is a large part of what SNAP does, actually makes it less, not more likely that those children will be poor and need public assistance when they grow up. And that’s what the evidence shows."

Hold your horses, Paul. Given that food stamps can be used to purchase junk food, they cannot possibly ensure adequate nutrition for children.

Moreover, the link in the US between poverty and obesity is clear (see, for example:

I agree with Krugman that food stamps are a necessary safety-net at times like these, when the US economy remains in the doldrums. However, I also believe that various proposed laws to prevent food stamps from being used for junk food desperately need to be enacted. As reported by Yahoo! News in a September 11, 2013 article entitled "GOP bill would ban using food stamp funds on junk food" by Eric Pfeiffer (

"Newly proposed legislation in Congress would ban recipients of food stamps from buying junk food.

The Hill reports that a bill proposed by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., would require food stamp recipients to purchase only healthy food.

The Healthy Food Choices Act, H.R. 3073 is the latest salvo from Republican members of Congress who have criticized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps or the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC).

. . . .

Roe’s legislation is specifically in response to a 2012 study, which showed that recipients from the food stamp fund spend approximately $2 billion a year on junk food."

Does such a ban, proposed by a . . . Republican (there, I said the nasty word), make sense? Absolutely, positively.


  1. Sorry, Jeff, but Krugman is correct.
    This safety net and a number of others (such as access to health care) are absolutely necessary.
    Warren Buffett who has had a privileged life has the right to indulge, but poor people (and some are probably more decent than Warren) shouldn't have ANY rights.
    In your (and Republicans) preaching one tiny element is missing - understanding what humanity is why we should care.
    Their is a huge difference between the life of Warren Buffett and the life of poor people. Unlike Warren Buffett, poor people live in constant stress - stress of not being able to feed children, stress of not being able to take them to a doctor, stress of being afraid of losing one's shelter, constant stress of humiliation, etc. But in the eyes of the Republicans, they must live in this constant stress without any possibility of stress reducing joy, even the tiniest one, such as a drink of cola. They are not humans.
    This is American tradition - the tradition of slavery, the tradition of negative eugenics, the tradition of "trickle down," the tradition of Ayn Rand, the tradition of Chicago school.

    1. You missed the point: I very much favor SNAP, but relieve stress with a drink of cola? Don't you think a glass of milk, particularly for children, is more important?

      Query: Should food stamps be used to purchase cigarettes, which for some can relieve stress? Absolutely not, inasmuch as cigarettes are not food. Similarly, I would argue that Coca-Cola is not food . . .

  2. No, Jeff, the I didn't miss anything. The Republicans know what this particular mother needs to go on ... to take care of her child in spite of horror of her situation and, of course, they have all the rights to dictate.
    Yes, she should give a child milk, leave the child with a personal doctor and nurse, meet her personal trainer, go to a spa for half a day, than have lunch with other ladies who lunch, then exhausted spend the afternoon on Madison Avenue, shopping. She just deserves some instant gratification after the exhaustion of the morning.

    Unlike subhumans. Tell me this isn't a variation of negative eugenics and euthanasia.