Your Tax Dollars at Work
Corporate America Latches on to the Welfare Teat
Corporations flood Democrats and Republicans with campaign money. In return both parties allow businesses to latch on to the Food Stamp Welfare Teat.
The food stamp economy is no small slice of the U.S. population, and Monster Beverage is taking notice.
The company, which revamped its label last month so the energy drinks are categorized as beverages instead of dietary supplements, is now explaining one of its motivations: to qualify for food stamp purchases reports MSN Money.
"Monster Energy drinks could equally satisfy the regulatory requirements" for food stamps, spokesman Michael Sitrick told The New York Times.
The idea of buying an energy drink with food stamps might seem, well, odd, given that the program is designed to "buy foods for the household to eat, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products." Still, while cigarettes and alcohol are excluded from food stamp purchases, the program does cover a wide variety of products with little nutritional value.
That includes Mountain Dew, Oreos, Kit-Kat bars and Cheez-It crackers, according to Live Science. Still, food stamps can't be used to buy drinks that qualify as supplements, the Food and Drug Administration notes.
While eating junk food certainly isn't healthful, energy drinks have come under fire for some serious risks. Lawmakers have asked the FDA to examine the safety of the products, while a study issued earlier this year found that the number of emergency room visits tied to energy drinks doubled from 2007 to 2011.
Monster claimed the study was flawed, noting that it didn't support "any conclusion that energy drinks are unsafe for consumers."
The label change on Monster's beverages means the company is listing "nutrition facts" instead of "supplemental facts," and it's including caffeine content, which The Times says reaches between 140 milligrams and 160 milligrams, or about half of a Starbucks 16-ounce cup of coffee.
By reaching out to the legions of Americans receiving food stamps, Monster appears to be betting it can energize its sales with some help from the government's $81 billion in food stamp spending.
Enrollment in SNAP has surged 70% since 2008, reaching a record 47.8 million Americans in December. Even more shocking, that means 15% of the country receives the benefits, nearly double the rate as in 1975, when the U.S. suffered from soaring inflation, a recession and an oil crisis.
As a result, the U.S. spent a record $74.6 billion on food-stamp benefits last year, more than double what the program shelled out before the Great Recession. Remember, that downturn officially ended in 2009, and by many measures the economy has improved since the financial crisis and housing meltdown.
So why are the food stamp rolls expanding? It can all be explained by a slow job market, more pockets of poverty and a push from states to get residents to apply for SNAP, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The program's expansion goes back to 1996, when President Bill Clinton overhauled the welfare system. That law has allowed states to loosen asset and income tests for SNAP applicants, which means people with savings and relatively higher incomes than in previous years are now qualifying, The Journal notes.
But that doesn't mean the program is courting the well-off or even the middle classes. Generally, a household's income can't be more than 130% of the poverty level, which is about $25,000 for a family of three, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit that looks at issues that affect low- and middle-income families.
It's Free Swipe Yo EBT
|Sucking on the Government Teat|
beats working for a living.
The SNAP program allows recipients to purchase these and other junk food items:
Soft Drinks - "At the very least, SNAP should bar sodas, a nutritionally empty 'food' if ever there were one," said Lane in the Post. But under current guidelines, any kind of soda of any size can be purchased with a SNAP card — even Mountain Dew, which has 170 calories in a single 12-ounce can.
Cake - Bakery items, including cakes for birthdays or other special occasions, are eligible SNAP purchases "as long as the value of non-edible decorations does not exceed 50 percent of the purchase price of the cake," according to the program's website.
Cookies - Any kind of cookie — Double Stuf Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Famous Amos, Nutter Butter, Lorna Doone — can be purchased with SNAP benefits. A serving of just two Double Stuf Oreos, by the way, has 140 calories, and 63 of those calories come from fat.
Ice Cream - Who doesn't love ice cream? Certainly not the SNAP program, which lets beneficiaries buy treats like Breyers Cookies and Cream ice cream, with 15 grams of sugars and 40 calories from fat in a little half-cup (64 gram) serving.
Candy - Just one Snickers Egg — a popular Easter treat — contains 5 grams of saturated fat and 160 calories from fat. And a Kit Kat Milk Chocolate Wafer Bar is even worse, with 11 grams of fat. But you can buy them and other candies with a SNAP card.
Snack Crackers - To get just 1 gram of dietary fiber, you'd have to eat 27 Cheez-It snack crackers, but that serving also includes 150 total calories and 8 grams of fat. All of that fat, sodium (250 mg) and carbohydrates (17 grams) can be yours under the SNAP program.
Energy Drinks - A storm is currently brewing over energy drinks such as Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar. They have recently come under increased scrutiny because of their high caffeine content and their possible link to deaths and injuries among teenagers.