June 27, 2012

"Do you think that the man in line behind you and the lady behind him want to buy you your cigarettes?"

The 65-year-old cashier who scolded the 20-year-old with the EBT card and refused to let him buy cigarettes.
The next day, the 20-year-old’s “foster mother” showed up at the Big Apple to complain about how her “son” had been mistreated. Jackie Whiton talked back again.

“I told her, ‘Use the money you get from the state to buy his cigarettes.’ She said, ‘Absolutely not.’ ”...

“He was very capable of working,” Jackie said, “so I told him to get a J-O-B.”
Whitton was fired.

Should Whiton have been fired?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

By the way, were you familiar with the term "EBT card"? Do you know what the letters stand for? (I didn't.)

138 comments:

edutcher said...

Not just, "No", but, "Hell, No" .

That's our (and hers) tax dollars he wants to blow on smokes when they're supposed to go for food.

Like ethanol and school lunches, the food stamp program is another boondoggle for the farm vote and it's notorious for the fraud in it.

You want to cut spending, there's a great place to start.

kdackson said...

Uh, I thought it was ILLEGAL to sell cigarettes to ANYONE under 21 regardless of how one intended to pay.

dreams said...

I don't know what the letters mean but I see signs on stores saying they accept or don't accept EBT cards so I assume they are food stamps or something like them.

X said...

food stamps aren't for cigarettes. it shouldn't even work on the POS system.

does althouse know what POS is?

Matthew Sablan said...

I thought cigarettes were 18, not 21. Is an EBT an ID? If not, then that's what she should have taken her stand on.

She was told once not to mouth off to a customer, she did it again. Her loss. You can be as right as rain, but when you're told to straighten up and fly right, if you insist on not doing so, well, them's the breaks for hewing to your convictions over the boss's order.

Sometimes doing what you think is right doesn't get rewards, just consequences.

Renee said...

Write to your elected officials about the incident, instead of treating the customer in such a manner.

dreams said...

"Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is an electronic system that allows a recipient to authorize transfer of their government benefits from a Federal account to a retailer account to pay for products received. EBT is used in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. EBT has been implemented in all States since June of 2004."

Leon said...

That's beer, you can smoke as son as you vote our join the army, at 18

kdackson said...

I stand corrected. And stunned. I thought that tobacco was a bigger public health issue than alcohol, yet alcohol minimum purchase is 21 and (at least in NY) it is either 18 or 19, depending upon the county.

Matthew Sablan said...

Dackson: The difference is that alcohol can be an immediate problem right this very second if you get drunk and, say, drive or something. Smoking is, generally, only a direct, immediate threat to you (and people with extremely weak lungs, certain medical conditions, etc.) At least, I think that's the reason for the difference in ages on purchasing. Maybe.

DADvocate said...

According to the USDA website, it's illegal to purchase "Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;" I bet the Whiton could sue and win, plus the retailer could lose their authorization to accept EBT cards.

BarryD said...

Food stamps should be eliminated. Our society produces plenty of cheap food, and there's government subsidy at the production end, too.

Our poor people are our fattest people.

If we want to help the poor, this isn't the way to do it.

Brennan said...

Kennedy country? Dewars is still in the water right?

This doesn't surprise me in the least that you can use an EBT card, not only to buy tobacco and liquor, but that you can use that as a valid picture ID to acquire them.

But food stamps are for people in need. Real need folks!

X said...

OTOH EBT cigs recoup a good bit of the money to the government.

Sally Bennett said...

What X said: Cigarettes cannot be purchased with food stamps ("Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program"--the SNAP program), which is what the EBT card was for, so the cashier was being rude but merely enforcing the terms of the USDA program. That's hardly a firing offense.

Matthew Sablan said...

Can money from other programs besides SNAP go on an EBT? If so, maybe he was using funds from a source where that purchase is legal? In which case, I'd think, you'd want some way for a retailer to know the difference. I was assuming the article was correct that the purchase, itself, was legal. If it was not, I revise my statement and she should not have been fired.

kcom said...

Yes, that's what surprised me. They made it sound like it was her call not to let him buy cigarettes with the card. But isn't that policy? It should be a blanket restriction on the whole program regularly enforced by the store. No?

lemondog said...

Eligible Food Items

Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to 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 foods.

Matthew Sablan said...

See, but things other than SNAP can be on the EBT card: "Common benefits (in the U.S of America) provided via EBT are typically of two general categories: Food and cash benefits. Food benefits are federally authorized benefits that can be used only to purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages. Food benefits are distributed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program. Cash benefits include state general assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and refugee benefits."

Do all of those prohibit the purchase of booze and cigarettes? If not, that's... a really dumb system.

Pogo said...

Obamacare should require smoking by EBT recipients, as it will reduce costs in long run.

dreams said...

You think its bad in the USA but its far worse in Europe (Social welfare state) which is what the liberals and the socialist Obama want for the USA.

James said...

Restaurants want a piece of food stamp pie

phx said...
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Dust Bunny Queen said...

Food stamps should be eliminated. Our society produces plenty of cheap food, and there's government subsidy at the production end, too.

YES. We should go back to a commodity based program with a very small amount of food stamp allotment.

Give people who need it actual, and healthy food. Twice a month, line up for your allotment of food. Don't like it and feel demeaned. Tough shit. Get a job.

Perishable items like milk, eggs, could be bought with a small allotment of food stamps. Families with children would need more of those types of things. NO potato chips or Little Debby's snack cakes.

Of course this would require that people actually know how to cook and require them to take some responsibility for themselves ......so it will never happen because we have created generations of dependent, demanding, entitled leeches.

Scott M said...

Do all of those prohibit the purchase of booze and cigarettes? If not, that's... a really dumb system.

Doesn't matter. Every neighborhood in areas where EBT use is commonplace has one "shop". You go to the real store and get the allowed items on your government-provided card. You take those items to the "shop" and they buy them from your for cash. Usually at half the value or worse, but you walk out with cash that can then be used to buy booze, cigs, or other less legal items.

AND BONUS...most of the time the "shop" has those less legal items IN STOCK!

Convenience.

Jane said...

Here's what's unclear from the article: welfare recipients are allowed to use their welfare money to buy cigs. Are retailers who accept EBT cards required to sell them cigs? Or can they say, "we won't sell X, Y, and Z to welfare users?"

I am curious about this man being on welfare in the first place -- I didn't think there were cash benefits available to single people, only single moms with children.

Balfegor said...

There's no poll option that expresses my view -- I would not be surprised if there is an antidiscrimination law of some sort implicated here (the article doesn't say anything like that, but I've seen source-of-income antidiscrimination provisions in other jurisdictions), so I think the business was probably playing it safe by instituting their policy, and as a result, was quite right to fire her for noncompliance.

But I think she was absolutely right, morally, to speak up, and I absolutely do not think that people on the dole ought to be allowed to buy whatever they want. Your liberty interests go out the window once you start siphoning away other peoples' money through redistributive taxes.

So I think the business was right to fire her for non-compliance with the policy, but that she was also right to reject a repugnant policy.

Lyssa said...

I was a cashier when I was 16-18, and it was an enormously eye-opening experience about America's "less fortunate." To a naive teenager, it was shocking to see that so many people who were supposed to be too poor to afford food could still manage to buy what seemed like luxury items of alcohol and cigs. I kept count for a while (boring job), and found that 80% of my customers who purchased with food stamps also bought cigs, beer, or tabloids. Yes, these aren't major expenses per piece (though they were to me at the time), but if you're buying them every time you buy food, they certainly add up.

This was before the EBT system, when food stamps were still "stamps." The cash register was programed to separate out the money due from food stamps and the extras. I don't know how the systems work today, but I can't believe that they don't still do that.

kimsch said...

According to the article there are two kinds of EBT cards, one for food (here in Illinois it's called a LINK card) and a "cash" one for welfare benefits that one uses for items other than food. Also from the article, strip clubs, casinos, and porn seem to be the only things prohibited from purchase with the regular "cash" card.

You'd think the "cash" card should be used for non-food essentials such as toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, cleaning products, maybe clothing, shoes... But you'd also think you'd be limited to, say, shoes from Walmart and not $100+ Air Jordan's....

Definitely prohibit alcohol and tobacco. That's a no brainer. But then again, we're talking about the government here.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I am curious about this man being on welfare in the first place -- I didn't think there were cash benefits available to single people, only single moms with children.

Doncha know? People are now classified as children until the age of 26 (for insurance purposes anyway). Soon!! you can be a child until the age of 45. Like Peter Pan....>NEVER grow up.

G Joubert said...

They should start a PayPal donation account for her, like they did for that school bus driver who got mobbed by the little darlings.

Mary Beth said...

If he's buying cigarettes, a good portion of that cost is going back to the government in taxes. Win-win.

I mean the government and the guy wanting the smokes wins, not the rest of us.

Shanna said...

Can money from other programs besides SNAP go on an EBT?

That was my question. Not that it makes it better, per se, but it's different. I thought you already couldn't buy that stuff on SNAP.

Calypso Facto said...
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Calypso Facto said...

Another chance to link my favorite EBT PSA: "It's Free! Swipe Yo EBT"

Warning, may be NSFW, depending on your work environment.

Jane said...

Oh, and here's the other thing I'd like to know: liberal politicians are always moaning about how stingly food stamp benefits are, but they must be fairly generous or no one would even think of selling their allotment at pennies on the dollar. Are these parents whose kids are getting all their meals at school? People who load up at the food bank?

Johnula said...

The source of funds in an EBT card is indeterminate: It is not restricted to the SNAP program: Funds could be from TANF, or state general assistance.

If you think general welfare rates should be reduced, then fine. But given that the funds may have been provided with no restriction on their use, I support the customer's right to spend them in the way he wishes.

The cashier was wrong, and rude. Whether or not this was a firing offence is up to her employer.

bagoh20 said...

If the government plucked a single butterfly's wing it would end up costing a good person their job somewhere.

Nearly all of our public problems now have a single source. Things we would have overcome by now linger and worsen, festering in puddle of good intentions.

There was a time when that kid would have looked in the window, seen other people in the store and not even tried this. He would have gone to a store where no adults would see him.

ricpic said...

The yute didn't express his legitimate rage and beat the biddy to death? Such restraint.

Rabel said...

EBT cards are used for several different programs, not just food stamps. They're just Visa or Mastercard debit cards. The benefits go into a debit account managed by a local or regional bank.

The SAP or "Food Stamp" cards have purchase limitations. Unemployment Compensation EBT's don't.

The card in this incident may have been unemployment. Thus the J-O-B reference.

acm said...

Eh, when you own the store, you get to make the choices and be rude right back to snotty customers. If she genuinely didn't know that EBT-cash cards could be used for cigarettes (which is dumb and surprising; I knew what the letters stood for and that there were non-food cards for some people, but I thought you wouldn't be able to buy tobacco) she still should've been polite about it---"Sorry, sir, I don't believe we're allowed to sell you cigarettes with that card." You can *always* stick to your own principles, or you can work for someone else. Not both.

phx said...
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Carol said...

Another chance to link my favorite EBT PSA: "It's Free! Swipe Yo EBT"


Eh, too thin to be realistic.

Rabel said...

SAP should be SNAP.

Damon said...

Is the store required to accept EBT for smokes? Certaintly they are allowed to, but can they refuse? It says they CAN.

"and was told that cigarettes — and beer — can be purchased with a cash (as opposed to a food) EBT card."

PatCA said...

It does seem there's another cash card for those purchases that we mean taxpayers object to. It's all a shell game; it's welfare. It never did go away, it just got another name. Obamabucks!

I feel another online cash bonanza for this clerk coming on...

BarryD said...

"80% of my customers who purchased with food stamps also bought cigs, beer, or tabloids"

We are the wealthiest society the world has ever known.

There are people with legitimate disabilities, and some of us will always be down on our luck at the moment.

However, able-bodied people in America who are poor in the long term, to the point of qualifying for government assistance, are poor because they are irresponsible at best, and self-destructive at worst. This comes as a surprise only because it's not what we were taught in school. It's not PC to call bums, bums. They're always "homeless".

But in the real world, there actually ARE some bums -- not people who are down on their luck right now, not "less fortunate" people, but legitimate bums.

acm said...

@Damon, it's my understanding that if a vendor agrees to accept EBT he or she has to also agree to accept for everything that it can legally be used on. I know there was a store that got into trouble because they were trying to get foster parents (who get some benefits for their kids on EBT cards, to buy clothes and school supplies, separate from their monthly checks) to choose from only a small selection. Besides, even if they are allowed to say "we don't accept EBT for tobacco" it would be a pain and a hassle and it's the owner's/management's decision to make.

Tom Spaulding said...

And what quantifiable benefits do the 45 million recipients of our munificence provide society?

What is our ROI?

Jane said...

Any chance she thought she could cash in like the school bus lady? She'd been working there for 4 years; this can't have been the first time someone bought smokes with their welfare card.

Or else she was ready to retire and decided she was finally free to express her frustration.

Franklin said...

"Foster Mother" in scare quotes?!?

RAYCISSSSSSSSSSS!

bagoh20 said...

"The cashier was wrong, and rude."

No, she was right, and considerate of the people paying the bill.

Is there any doubt that nobody in that line wanted to pay to buy that kid cigarettes? Is there something wrong with adults warning a young person that what he's doing is dangerous and immoral?

Smoking is a dangerous habit that few people would choose to have after they are addicted. The money being used to buy the cigarettes has come from the hard work of others and is meant for the poor to buy necessities. Is it really wrong for an adult to point that out. I probably would not have said it, but I wish I had the guts.

The employer can decide to do what he wants, but I would not fire her, but tell her from now on she must keep it to herself. I would also put up a sign over all the registers:

"Although you can buy anything with your EBT card, we ask that you consider only buying necessities with this generous gift from your fellow citizens."

Rusty said...

That's our (and hers) tax dollars he wants to blow on smokes when they're supposed to go for food.



No. Once you give something to someone it is no longer yours. How they use what they are given is totally up to them.
I like the womans opinion, but it's wrong to dictate what they can do with what is essentially theirs.
Don't want them to buy cigarettes, booze, and hookers? Don't give them the money.
Stupid people will always do stupid things. A wise person realizes there isn't a fucking thing you can do to make them any less stupid.

TMink said...

Foodstamps should only work for raw foods. No cokes, no chips, no beer, no frozen dinners.

Just raw broccli, meats, and such.

People on foodstamps have time to cook. And it is a useful job skill. If they are destitute, a hot plate and a decent pan are cheap.

Trey

BarryD said...

"destitute" like having to get by with only a 32" HDTV and basic cable, Trey?

It's just occurred to me. I'm done with this crap.

Also, money is fungible. Food stamps just increase the amount of available cash for food stamp recipients to use for cigarettes and booze. That's something an old girlfriend of mine (a bleeding heart Democrat until then AFAIK) discovered as a grocery store cashier. All the food stamps went for food, and all the cash went for plastic bottles of Vodka, in the neighborhood where she worked.

Judith said...

Ann, can't believe you're not one of the half million who have viewed the "EBT card" rap at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o64Fz-KW1Dk

bagoh20 said...

"Once you give something to someone it is no longer yours."

Bullshit. Is that from a hallmark card?

Money is given all the time with strings attached. The primary problem with government doing things is lack of strings.

The gift is food and necessities. We just give it via money to make it easy.

What is purchased should be recorded and analyzed just like it is with every store club card, and the card should be revoked if it's not used properly. This is simple technologically, and would save a ton of money and wasted lives.

MadisonMan said...

I'm trying to figure out in what universe I would go to a store that talked to my kid that way just to chew out the Cashier. The guy is 20 and can't speak up for himself?

I'm wondering if the smokes were for the "Foster Mom".

bagoh20 said...

The store fired someone with principles who is very unlikely to ever steal or let it happen in her presence. She will be replaced with someone who keeps that shit on the down low.

I'd hire her in a second. She is valuable and rare type.

kimsch said...

Bagoh20 said:

Money is given all the time with strings attached. The primary problem with government doing things is lack of strings.

Lack of strings for "preferred customers", lots of strings for returning tax monies to states and localities for things such as "high speed rail".

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shanna said...

they must be fairly generous or no one would even think of selling their allotment at pennies on the dollar

Indeed. That's why they should be scaled back, instead of the govt spending millions of dollars to try to get more people to take them out.

A healthy, single 20 year old who probalby lives with his foster mother (if she's running around taking up for him) doesn't need extra government money to buy cigs.

Geoff Matthews said...

Seems like this is appropriate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luo40WjBKWI

Yeah, I'm sure it is horribly racist. Complain to the singer.

Scott said...

I initially voted, "Eh, it's complex..." but then I read the article. I would change my vote to, "Yes, and in fact customers should be allowed to buy what they want." Fire the clerk, no question.

The store is a place of public accommodation. If the law allows people to buy ciggies on an EBT card, and the store sells them, and the person is of legal age, then there is no issue. Sell the damn cigarettes and shut up about it. If she doesn't like the law, then she should phone her state representative and complain.

If I managed that store and a complaint like that came back to me about a clerk, I would be very concerned about what else she was saying to patrons. Better to get rid of her before further reputational damage is done.

TomB said...

@Leon, not to nit-pick, but you can enlist in the military at 17 with parental consent.

caseym54 said...

Of course, many EBT card balances can be rolled into a personal checking account electronically, at which point there's no way to tell. I would imagine most unemployment benefits go that way.

Only people with no other banking would use an actual EBT card. So in some sense this is discriminatory.

Johnula said...

Is there any doubt that nobody in that line wanted to pay to buy that kid cigarettes?

Is there something wrong with adults warning a young person that what he's doing is dangerous and immoral?


Whether or not someone else in line wants their tax funds to be restricted from being used in particular programs is irrelevent. I may not want my taxes to pay for military intervention in other countries, but that does not give me the right to refuse to serve active military personnel because of the source of their income.

As for the various references to "young person", "kid", etc. he's twenty years old. Not a kid, by any stretch of the imagination. He can make his own choices.

So, given that we know that the funds were not restricted, the purchaser was an adult, and the cashier's role is to ring up the goods within the framework of the law, she screwed up. Simple.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

SAP should be SNAP.

No. I think you got it right the first time.

We are all SAPs for letting this theft and abuse of our taxpayer dollars continue.

Matthew Sablan said...

"So, given that we know that the funds were not restricted,"

-- We don't, and can't, know that. If he only had SNAP funds on the card, for example, then he was restricted. It could be either.

Jay said...

allows a recipient to authorize transfer of their government benefits

And what, exactly, did this 20 year old do to receive these "benefits"?

Jim Howard said...

From the point of view of liberal government planners, cigarettes are a very good thing.

They are highly taxed, so more money today from the subject.

They kill the subject in his or her 50s or early 60s, at or near the end of their productive years.

That's a very good thing, because we don't have pay government retirement or medical benefits to dead people who would otherwise still be alive but not paying much in taxes.

Every patriotic liberal should be a heavy smoker. For the children!!

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fivewheels said...

An individual cigarette mandate might work. Current theory on the left is that the government can definitely force you to buy cigs as part of interstate commerce, but can you be forced to smoke them?

Charles said...

The employment isssue is between employwee and employer so I wall not address that.

As to public moneis used for welfare. If you take my money to lkive you should have to only use it how it was intended. If you want cigs, alcohol, or other nonessentials you should have to have your own money not mine.

EWIth modern tarcking it woudl be easy to deny purchases of any type against the rules. You shoudl not be able to lump all benefits with other rules into one place.

I do not really think there should be any FEDERAL welfare. State level is up to states citizens to decide (I am against that also).

cubanbob said...

After 46 years its time to declare victory in LBJ's War On Poverty and bug out. Abolish all of the programs now. If illegal aliens can find work so can the welfare moochers. Besides most welfare recipients do work for cash on the side.

mccullough said...

The owner should tell the kid's mom that he will fire the cashier if the 20-year-old who wanted the smokes will take the cashier's job.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I'm with other commenters here: It was my understanding that tobacco (and alcohol as well) wasn't legal to buy on EBT.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

After 46 years its time to declare victory in LBJ's War On Poverty and bug out.

Just think!! If we had taken all the money that has been spent/wasted so far in the War on Poverty and just cut everyone a check.

We'd all be instant thousandaires if not millionaires. THEN if you are still in poverty....no fucking excuses.

TMink said...

Barry, everyone knows it takes a 22" tv to make one destitute! 8)

Trey

fivewheels said...

mccullogh's option I like. Probably not helpful or productive, but funny.

jimbino said...

One great thing about lots of welfare benefits is that they discriminate against married folks, who are favored over singles in most all our laws and gummint policies.

I know single mothers who are getting hundreds of dollars in SNAP and other benefits that would be canceled if I married them. As a single guy I shouldn't complain about this gummint policy of subsidizing sex between singles.

lemondog said...

Appears the war has lost ground.

US Census Bureau
US poverty rate timeline


From Heritage Foundation:
Since the beginning of the War on Poverty, government has spent $15.9 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dol­lars) on means-tested welfare. In comparison, the cost of all other wars in U.S. history was $6.4 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars).

EMD said...

If he's buying cigarettes

To be honest, he isn't buying anything.

Jane said...

Here in Northern Virginia, the stores are using their neon flashing signs to say "EBT accepted here!"

It's a great moneymaker.

george said...

The clerk had the extreme misfortune of being the only sane person in a crazy world. That never ends well.

Nathan Alexander said...

@Jane,
It's a great moneymaker.

Considering the context of how "moneymaker" is used in rap, now I'm totally confused.

Rusty said...

bagoh20 said...
"Once you give something to someone it is no longer yours."

Bullshit. Is that from a hallmark card?

Money is given all the time with strings attached. The primary problem with government doing things is lack of strings.


The primary problem is that the government is involved at all.

The gift is food and necessities. We just give it via money to make it easy.


No. The gift is money. If you want to give them food. Give them food. If you give them money don't complain about what they spend it on.

What is purchased should be recorded and analyzed just like it is with every store club card, and the card should be revoked if it's not used properly. This is simple technologically, and would save a ton of money and wasted lives.


No. Unless they are given the actual commodities the state wants them to consume, people being people, the recipients will use their credit to obtain what they desire most.


Why do insist on trying to get the state to change thousands of years of human behavior? If you don't want the money thrown away don't give them money. They will throw their lives away no matter what you give them.

phx said...
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phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Balfegor said...

Re: phx:

That's all anyone's arguing, right? You gotta keep it to yourself when you're on the clock.

Not even that, really. She was fired because company policy is that you sell, and she wouldn't. According to the company spokesman in the article:

Company policy is to follow rules and regulations, and the sale of cigarettes to EBT card-holders is legal. She didn’t wish to follow company policy, so she was let go after four years.

After all, there are lots of shops with snotty clerks. I can think of at least one (a bakery) near where I work.

wyo sis said...

Parents who get food stamps sell them for 50 cents on the dollar and their kids go hungry. So, schools start first breakfast programs, then summer food programs to make sure the kids get fed. Eventually those kids use free government money to buy cigarettes. And a clerk in a convenience store who works for minimum wage is in the wrong to mention it? Judge Judy gets the big bucks to do the same thing in a TV court reality show.
This is a seriously screwed up society.

Lyssa said...

wyo sis said: Parents who get food stamps sell them for 50 cents on the dollar and their kids go hungry. So, schools start first breakfast programs, then summer food programs to make sure the kids get fed.

I've never been able to figure out why not ensuring that your child is fed on a regular basis (particularly if you've been handed the means to do it) is not grounds for termination of parental rights and child abuse charges.

But if I say that, then I get accused of being in favor of starving children, or something.

Wally Kalbacken said...

Yes - I knew what EBT stood for. Do I get something for that? Some Althouse schwag? A keychain, can coozie, t-shirt, or perhaps an Althouse logo ashtray?

After Hurricane Katrina EBT cards were used to get "quick cash" to lots of people. What wasn't anticipated was the perfect chain of evidence created by EBT/debit system, which meant that we know that some of these were being used in liquor stores, at dog racing tracks, casinos and other places that weren't in the contemplation of the folks at FEMA.

I think that most people would be surprised if they could have a more explicit accounting of the benefits distributed by the federal government. It's there under the surface, but lots of people (at least in my generation) look away when they see food stamps or EBT cards coming out. As if there was some shame in receiving such benefits. Word up to people who are over 50 - there is no shame left anymore, and these benefits are accepted, without gratitude or concern over where the funds come from.

The IRS has acknowledged that $6.5B in tax refunds have been paid to identity scammers who file a false return on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers, and often request then the refund be dispensed via EBT/debit cards - which allow the
funds to be more quickly laundered into other forms (money orders, cashier's checks, ultimately cash.) These scams are so lucrative in Miami and Tampa that local police have noticed a decline in drug trafficking on the street as organized crime devotes resources to the scamming IRS, because it provides a much better return on investment.

acm said...

Judge Judy gets the big bucks to do the same thing in a TV court reality show.
This is a seriously screwed up society.

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Judge Judy gets paid to do that because that's what her boss wants. This woman's boss wanted her to be polite to customers, even if they are leeches. I don't know what is so hard to understand about this. If this cashier wants to say what we're all thinking, she's free to do that. If she wants to get paid while doing that, that's a different story. If she wants Judge Judy's job, she can apply for it. She can go pitch her own reality show or write a book or open her own store and set her own EBT policies.

As to why the man was on assistance, I imagine he's a foster kid and possibly has some disability (real or drummed-up, anyone's guess). Some states allow foster parents and kids to keep getting paid until the kid is 21 if they fit certain criteria. The old way is to kick em out with $250 at 18, and the not-heartless foster parents who let the kid stay on after get jack.

Blue@9 said...

I'll go against the grain here: I really don't care if these people buy cigs or beer. And the cashier should have just done her job. Why should I get morally outraged that a person buys cigarettes with food stamps? I smoke and I drink. If I were on a subsistence budget, I might well skip a meal so I could buy a pack. That's a choice, and I have no problem with poor people making that choice.

This doesn't tell me that food stamps should be restricted-- it tells me that these people are getting too much in benefits. I do see people with foodstamps using iPhones and driving nice cars. The issue isn't that people are misusing foodstamps, but that the wrong people are getting them and the amounts are too much.

Trying to put restrictions on this type of activity just doesn't work. People are clever and will find workarounds, like doing a like-kind exchange with your neighbor.

Balfegor said...

Judge Judy gets the big bucks to do the same thing in a TV court reality show.
This is a seriously screwed up society
.

Welllll ... the difference would be that Judge Judy or whoever (the man on the street) doesn't stand in relation to the boy as a customer. In general service etiquette requires that you behave to your customers with appropriate deference, even if you're telling them no. It's just that in this case, the clerk is also a citizen addressing people who are dependents who themselves ought to stand in a relation of gratitude/deference to the people they're leeching off of. So in any event, it's not surprising that Judge Judy would have more leeway than the clerk in a shop.

Bertram Wooster said...

Some benefits are restricted as to what can be purchases. Some are not.

To a merchant, this business is as good as cash. It's a serious disadvantage to be cut out of this market. Turning a customer away is the exact opposite of what an employee should do. If there are rules about what you can purchase it should be impossible to use the card for such purchases. This would seem to be one of the main points of an electronic system.

phx said...
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Balfegor said...

Re: Blue@9:

Trying to put restrictions on this type of activity just doesn't work. People are clever and will find workarounds, like doing a like-kind exchange with your neighbor.

My thought is that people who are receiving government handouts should be required to make themselves available for government service. If some of them are too low skill to be employable at minimum wages, then sort of like prison labour, this could be a way of supplying labour to the economy below the artificial minimum wage -- government could rent them out and defray some of the cost of supporting them. Certainly, some who are lame or ill couldn't work (other than, perhaps, cottage industry, which I think is pretty much dead in the US, although it would be well suited for the urban poor if it could be revived). But many are able bodied.

Of course the natural, and correct, objection would be that government helots making sub-minimum wage could undercut freemen and force more of the poor into permanent dependence and helotry (cf. illegal immigration). So perhaps this would not work.

phx said...
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Calypso Facto said...

She's just the new version of the soup Nazi:
"No smokes for YOU!"

Synova said...

About the worst experience I've had at a grocery store was buying Huggies with my own money, and getting lectured on not buying a cheaper brand by the cashier.

Maguro said...

Heartwarming to know that our tax dollars are funding smokes for 20 year old layabouts. America is truly a great country.

wdnelson93 said...

EBT cards. There's got to be a D that can be added to that moniker to reflect what they really are to the US of A.

bagoh20 said...

The arguments you see here are the type of process obsessed legal thinking that end up creating and continuing the turd results we have.

Everyone is doing there part. Politicians give the money, recipients take the money, store sells the stuff, and clerk keeps her mouth shut.

Citizens do their part by blowing wind on the internet, but never facing any of these facilitators down and saying stop it. When one does, she gets taken to the Soylent Green mill, and citizens say "yea who does she think she is thinking in moral terms when the rest of us are being good socialist suck ups? Oh, no that's not right, we're conservatives, it
's just that the way we act makes it seem like we're socialist.

Yea, that's been working out real well. I guess at least that process is completely intact. Well done. You bunch of Tories.

Ken said...

Ann,

Why do you insist on asking poorly worded questions, then putting ridiculous qualifiers on your "polls"? Your questions and answers of some of the most leading questions you can ask. For example, why not just ask "Would you have fired Whitton?", then have the responses either "yes" or "no".

The question itself is poorly worded. What is it you want to know? Are you asking if your readers think there should be a law against firing Whitton for this action? Are you asking your readers if they were her boss would they have fired Whitton? "Should" is such a bland, vague word your question isn't asking one question, but is wholly dependent on your readers who can interpret this question in any number of ways. I would have thought you'd be able to ask clear questions.

Additionally, the qualifiers attached to the answers nullifies any reason why I would answer yes or no to this question. I would not have fired Whitton, but not for the absurd qualification you give. Whitton is not a heroine for refusing this sale. Her boss is not a hero for firing her for refusing the sale.

Are lawyers simply trained to not ask neutral questions and inject their own personal opinions when gathering information? Or is this just how you personally go about gathering information?

phx said...
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Balfegor said...

Again, so long as you don't call for a double-standard when someone reads you the riot act for purchasing goods from non-unionized workers in South America, or thinks your porterhouse is immoral. Do you mind?

(A) I think it's bad manners, but I don't particularly mind. I've experienced snotty clerks talking about fair trade this and that. On balance, I avoid those shops, but it's not particularly bothersome.

(B) I see the situation differently when someone is using government handouts that my taxes paid for. It would be one thing if they "earned" it in some sense -- if they had put in their share of corvee labour, or were a government contractor providing some service to the government, or even if it were partly paid-in social security benefits (i.e. retirement, not disability). How they use money they've somehow earned isn't really my business at all.

But much welfare is totally unearned and unmerited. We give it purely as a form of coerced charity not as something to which they are morally entitled in any way, shape, or form. So I don't think the average citizen, even a shop clerk, need feel the same reluctance to speak out. Indeed, since they don't have any individual say in their money being seized by the government to pay for this kind of thing, they have more reason than most to complain.

Revenant said...

I picked the first option. It is terrible government policy, but also terrible employee behavior.

Blue@9 said...

Citizens do their part by blowing wind on the internet, but never facing any of these facilitators down and saying stop it. When one does, she gets taken to the Soylent Green mill, and citizens say "yea who does she think she is thinking in moral terms when the rest of us are being good socialist suck ups? Oh, no that's not right, we're conservatives, it's just that the way we act makes it seem like we're socialist.

That's because some of us don't see a moral issue in the purchase of cigarettes.

The issue for me is that the gov't is giving people so much that they have enough surplus to buy smokes and cable tv and cars. That doesn't get solved by lecturing some dependent sod in the checkout line. The problem is way above his pay grade, so I figure I do my part by voting and talking policy. People don't need to be coddled or lectured or nannied into behaving well, they just need actual incentive in the form of consequences. If a poor guy wants to skip a meal to buy smokes, that's fine with me--that's his choice; my issue is that the poor guy can buy smokes, some meat, some beer, go home and watch HBO on his flatscreen before getting in his luxury car to go clubbing.

phx said...
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Dust Bunny Queen said...

Again, so long as you don't call for a double-standard when someone reads you the riot act for purchasing goods from non-unionized workers in South America, or thinks your porterhouse is immoral. Do you mind?

I/we EARN our money. We work hard and provide a service in return for the money. Once we are paid, it is OUR money, except for the parts that we have to cough up to the government for various taxes, licenses, fees etc etc etc. I can do whatever I want with MY money as long as it is legal. If someone wants to 'read me the riot act' they can just eff off.

These people do doodly jack squat and take money from the rest of us who pay taxes. When you are getting money for welfare WE have the right to put restrictions and strings attached to what you can do with the money. If you don't like it....earn your own damned money and then you too, like me can do what you want.

When the Government is providing to you a product such as roads, schools, fire protection etc, they have the right to put restrictions and rules on you. We can't drive at 110 miles an hour. We can't burn our trash just whenever we want. There are limits and rules.

This is precisely the problem with Obamacare and Government being in charge of our medical delivery system. When the government is in charge, they can put rules and limits on your coverage. Deny you coverage and tell you what KINDS of treatments you must have or can't have. We have lost our freedoms.

Welfare people have rules too. If they don't like it get a fucking job and get off of welfare. It is your CHOICE. Unfortunately, under the Obamacare vision, we have no choices.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The point of EBT was (1) to remove the stigma of food stamps, by making it look like you were using a credit/debit card; and (2) to make it harder to sell the benefit to others (at a discount, naturally) for stuff it didn't cover. Like, say, smack.

"Harder," not "impossible." I gather that there are all manner of schemes in play, mostly of the "buy my groceries on the EBT and I'll give you so much cash" variety.

phx said...
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cubanbob said...

phx said...
The clerk sounds like some party apparatchik from the old Soviet Union haranguing a hooligan or slacker on behalf of the people. God spare us from the self-righteous indignant.

6/27/12 2:15 PM

Why the old lady is a regular Mayor Nanny Bloomberg.

Blue@9 said...

When you are getting money for welfare WE have the right to put restrictions and strings attached to what you can do with the money. If you don't like it....earn your own damned money and then you too, like me can do what you want.

I don't disagree with you in principle, but from a practical perspective it's a waste of time and resources. We're already dumping money on these people-- should we conduct surveillance to make sure they're spending it properly? To some extent it just perpetuates the nanny-state mentality of government.

My feeling is that people are cunning and imaginative-- any restrictions you put on purchases will just get circumvented. Money that's not quite money will get laundered into money by the most efficient means possible. Instead of trying to micromanage what happens at 7-11 #2411, there should be better means testing on the front end and diminution of benefits over time. People can and will do this stuff and behave irresponsibly when there are no consequences to such actions.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Blue

You are right, of course. Changing human nature and trying to stop the theft and fraud is almost impossible.

Your ideas of better means testing and a definite limit to the time a person can receive benefits is probably the most workable way to at least cut down the costs. Just like those people receiving unemployment benefits, who collect to the last dime and then TA DAH find a job. Or more likely working under the table while collecting.

The more you pay someone for something, like not working or getting welfare, the more you will get of it.

I'm also in favor of drug testing for both UI and Welfare. If you are doing drug, you aren't working or looking for work. If you have the money to do drugs then you don't need to be getting money from the taxpayers to support your habit.

None of these reforms will ever happen because the mentality of the welfare gimmme gimme state is so strong. You will be accused of racism and being heartless. Well, I'm not a racist and but I am pretty hard hearted.

ken in sc said...

In some states it is illegal to use an EBT card to buy tobacco products. In others it is not. This reminds me of when I was in the Air Force and I was transferred from MAC to ATC. In MAC, an aircraft that taxied with the flaps down was a signal that a high-jack was in progress. ATC didn't use this signal. I called a high-jack alert on a student pilot who taxied in with his flaps down. Very embarrassing.

bagoh20 said...

"Of all the proposals I've heard to solve our many social problems, yelling at people strikes me as one of the most foolish, one of the least helpful."

I disagree 100%. The main problem with welfare and most of our social problems is that you don't have to listen to anybody's shit to get free money. If there was no welfare, that kid would have to ask someone for that money to waste. You know what? He wouldn't do it. It would be much easier to get a job.

That's what the clerk was doing, trying to put back what's missing: accountability to each other, and shame when we take the easy route.

She was, in fact, doing the only thing that will work, the only thing that one person can do, and she was doing that kid a huge favor. Everything else is just kicking the can, throwing up your hands, and saying it's too big a problem.

If there were a lot more like her, there would be a lot less like him and his mother.

If that means I have to take some shit too, so be it. It's worth it. This is the way it used to be. Was it so bad? Was it worse?

She's did something. The rest of us are just yapping and making excuses. We wouldn't know courage and principle if it kicked us in the face.

n.n said...
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n.n said...

She's a conscientious dissenter.

The social assistance system in America requires revolutionary reform. It remains a sponsor of progressive corruption.

wyo sis said...

Bagoh does it again!

Psychologists tell us we don't change behavior until it becomes too uncomfortable to remain the way we are. It's very comfortable to be a lazy leech. Why work when everyone gives a pass to being a non-functional human being?

AllieOop said...

Bagoh, give your fellow man a bit more credit. I know nurses who have reported things to administration and were promptly fired in retaliation and then blackballed from working in that town again, knowing hey had no real protection from any whistleblower law.

I've seen as much selfless principled acts as I have seen apathy and cowardice.

bagoh20 said...

Bagoh, give your fellow man a bit more credit."

That's exactly what I'm doing, but the fellow man I'm giving credit to happens to be a 65 year old woman, who I assume needed that job, but was principled and brave enough to do the right thing. The risks you mentioned are exactly what makes this type of action/protest/compassion so exceptional.

I would have been very happy if she just informed him of how unjust it was for him to waste money that hard-working people gave up to help the poor. He is wasting their money and making it less like that the poor will get the help they need. That's what I meant by the moral angle.

She could have sold him the cigarettes too, and that might have saved her job, but her sacrificing her job is what makes this a big story and likely to accomplish more than anything we do about it, which is probably nothing. I'm certainly a coward compared to her.

Chip Ahoy said...

The cake!

On the table. In the It's Free Swipe Yo EBT video that Calypso Facto linked.

bagoh20 said...

And Allie does your avitar mean you're turning back to the left. You know what they say: "Once you go right - you'll never be wrong."

AllieOop said...

Bagoh, I'm sure you and more of our fellow humans are principled and brave than we think or want to give ourselves credit for.

I've seen some amazing acts by people I didn't think had it in them, and some cowardly selfish acts from those I expected more of.

It's the striving that counts, no?

AllieOop said...

Bagoh, I'm just me. I'm not a good representation of either ideology.

bagoh20 said...

"Again, so long as you don't call for a double-standard when someone reads you the riot act for purchasing goods from non-unionized workers in South America, or thinks your porterhouse is immoral. Do you mind?"

It depends. If I know that clerk is right, and I'm doing wrong (like this young man does), then it's good that she makes me feel that.

If I don't agree and think my porterhouse is just fine then I'll ignore her, and if she won't sell it, then she gets fired too. Vegans stop going to that store and us carnivores become loyal customers. Winning!

The thing is, she was right to tell him it was wrong. She took it farther to the point of corporate and civil disobedience. I love it, but like many sincere protests - it's not free of risks.

AllieOop said...

Yep, when taking risks , sometimes ya wins, sometimes ya loses.

bagoh20 said...

Oh and BTW, the vegan checkout protest is not currently prevented by allowing people to buy crap with the money we sent to the poor. Vegans can tell people off all they want right now, and it won't change if there were more people like this lady. That argument is an organically fed, farm-raised "red herring".

bagoh20 said...

If that lady comes to L.A. I'll give her a job. She can talk to customers when they decide to start insulting my sales people for not giving them more free stuff. She could get on and say stuff like: "Sir do you speak to your mother with that mouth?"

Oh my god no! It's a business. You can't do that. You might piss off that customer that just called your sales person a "cunt". You have to fire the cunt for pissing him off.

Businesses do not have to be amoral. It's time we start having a moral compass and a spine.

Methadras said...

This woman should be upheld as a paragon of virtue against the illegal use of tax payer money for vice. Also, there should be an investigation against her employer for allowing welfare/ebt recipients for buying booze and cigarettes from his store.

Give this woman a job in the GSA. She'll set shit straight in a hurry.

Methadras said...

AllieOop said...

Bagoh, I'm just me. I'm not a good representation of either ideology.


Wow, shocking truth right there.

AllieOop said...

Hey Meth , honesty is my policy :)

AllieOop said...

Independents, like herding cats.

bagoh20 said...

Cats are like nurses - they sneak in and steal your breath when your sleeping or drugged. I don't mind. I'm just sayin - I've seen it happen.

phx said...
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