Newark Mayor Corey Booker has embarked upon a publicity stunt of sorts. He has dedicated himself to living an entire week on the equivalent of $33 worth of food stamps. His goal would appear to be to expose how difficult it is to actually survive on nothing other than food stamps. Yet, this entire exercise seems to be a case of “missing the point.”
The food stamp program was never designed to provide a 100% subsidy for the food needs of Americans. It’s a supplemental income program; it’s not meant to be a substitute for permanent employment. Yet, Booker’s experiment seems to assume just that.
I generally like Cory Booker as one of the few market-oriented Democrats left. My recent criticism of America’s Democratic Party is no secret. The party has turned back the clock to the 1970’s, advocating failed economic policies such as price controls, high taxes, massive budget deficits, “stimulus spending”, and central planning; after shifting away from these policies in the 90’s and much of the 00’s. Cory Booker has been one of the few that has opposed this shift and understands the importance of small business and policies that promote economic growth. But, he has to be taken to task for this silly food stamp experiment.
By suggesting that one should be able to survive on $33 per week of food stamps, Booker seems to be implicitly arguing that the Federal government is supposed to be providing 100% of the income for food purchases for a large number of Americans. That’s a dangerous position.
While the food stamp program may be better designed than Medicare and Medicaid, for instance, we can still create a dangerous slippery slope here. We’ve already caused healthcare and education costs to skyrocket with Federal micromanagement and poorly thought out programs. We know factually that American healthcare costs only started to spiral out of control after the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. Ultimately, these programs have done more to harm lower income Americans than help. Do we really want to do the same thing to food that we’ve done to healthcare?
I’m not sure that any meaningful conclusions can be drawn from Cory Booker’s experiment, except that maybe he doesn’t understand the basic premise of the program. This is a silly publicity stunt that does little to address the real problems facing lower income Americans.