Madison County Opinion...

 June 13, 2001

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
June 13, 2001

Frankly Speaking

Food stamp recipients shouldn't eat like millionaires
Let me set the scene for you. Two people came up to a register at an area supermarket. In their cart they had two packs of snow crab claws, enough for one meal each. The price is $29.99 per pack, for a total of $59.98. They paid for them with food stamps!
Most of the people to whom I described this scene were unconcerned. "Why do you care," they ask? "It is government money, not yours."
The reason so many people are ripping off government programs is the mistaken idea that they are simply taking government money. Let me repeat what I said a few weeks ago. "Government has no money of its own.
Every penny the government spends comes out of taxpayers' pockets. You and I, the ones who work hard to create the nation's wealth, paid for those non-productive welfare recipients to eat like millionaires.
I have no objection to helping people who need help. Every person ought to have a nutritious diet. I am convinced that the federal government is not the proper agency to provide food assistance to the needy. It is too easy to rip off the government as this couple did.
I do strongly object to the government giving people such exotic foods as snow crab legs at my expense. Especially when I eat turkey hot dogs in order to save money. I object to paying for water, soft drinks, pricey prepared foods or the most expensive cuts of meat. People who need food supplements ought to receive basic foods. They should prepare their own food if possible.
Food supplements should be delivered directly to the needy from a community operated food bank operated by civic or faith-based organizations. No matter how careful you are, when you hand out cash, too many of the recipients will find a way to divert it to non-food purchases. Other than providing minimum financing, the government ought to be kept out of the process.
In the meantime, Congress needs to review the current food stamp laws.
They need to tighten eligibility, place clear limits on the price and type of food to be purchased and reduce the size of the federal welfare bureaucracy.
The Senate Democrats are crying that the recent tax cut will interfere with the government's ability to pay for current programs. If they will reduce those programs to the level necessary to provide needed, but not excessive, service to the unfortunate few in this nation, they can easily finance the programs and give us, the workers of America, an even larger tax cut.
Let us provide needed assistance to the unfortunate among us. But let us do so in an economic manner that does not penalize those who work to create the nation's wealth.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at His e-mail address is

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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
June 13, 2001

From the Editor's Desk

Public gambling good, private gambling bad?
Gambling is grimy. And those with an interest in gambling have one primary interest - themselves. The man who owns a video poker machine and the man who feeds dollar bills in to that machine are driven by the same fundamental greed.
Ultimately, we reason that gambling is an issue of personal responsibility. Yes, but the "serves them right" attitude many have towards those who blow their money is a little too simplistic. Forget the video poker player who doesn't know the value of a dollar. What about that man's kid?
You have to wonder whether the woman who shovels money into a video poker machine is doing so at the expense of her kid who needs milk, food or just more attention.
Shouldn't the government step in? Look out for the child who can't look out for himself? Make it illegal for a store to have games where his mama or daddy may squander the family meal money?
There has been a push for such action in the state legislature. State Senator Mike Beatty has been outspoken against video poker, calling it the "crack cocaine of gambling" in one press release. Beatty, who opposed the lottery years ago, is right in saying that video poker is bad for communities.
But there's a real kink in any state opposition to video poker and to private gambling. It's the Georgia Lottery.
Simply put, calling public gambling good and private gambling bad doesn't pass the smell test.
When Georgia approved the lottery in the 90s, legislators thought of the economic potential. In a broad fiscal sense, it's a prudent move - we will give more kids a chance to go to college through the HOPE scholarship fund and, in turn, we will have a more educated work force, meaning we will attract more businesses and create more jobs.
That's terrific. Zell Miller and Georgia have gotten a lot of positive national publicity. But there is a price with the success. In the PR gleam of the good the lottery has actually done, the darker notes are muffled.
Stand in a convenience store line and you can appreciate the fact that the lottery is popular, much more so than video poker. People squander millions of dollars a year on the lottery in Georgia.
Drive by the Atlanta airport and you'll see lottery billboards targeting the poor neighborhoods. These same billboards are notably absent in more upscale areas. It's clear who buys lottery tickets and who the state targets with misguided messages of quick riches.
Video poker also appeals to the poor and uneducated. So it seems strange for legislators who support millions of dollars in lottery advertising to act as if video poker is somehow worse for poor communities than the lottery.
It's no secret. In opposing video poker, state legislators are securing the state's economic interest. If you feed money into a video poker machine, that money goes to a private entity, not the state lottery.
Let's face it: it's sanctimonious for any lottery-promoting state legislator to assert that video poker is a moral issue and not a fiscal one. Such arguments have a clear ring of hypocrisy, considering the state's establishment of an enormous gambling system.
It's a moral high ground made of sand.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
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