That Aravosis post I linked to the other day, complaining that poor people are getting a rebate check and he's not? It's not there anymore. Pity. Just makes him look worse.
But never mind. Now there's another Scrooge Award winner -- Megan McArdle, who tells us that it's a good thing food stamps were cut out of Pres. Bush's "economic stimulus" package, because "The poor don't need more food":
1) The poor don't need more food. Obesity is a problem for the poor in America; except for people who are too screwed up to get food stamps (because they don't have an address), food insufficiency is not.
2) Food stamps only imperfectly translate into increased cash income, meaning that the poor will spend . . . more money on food.
3) If the increase in food stamps takes the form of expanded eligibility, rather than larger grants, the administrative issues and public outreach will delay your stimulus until well after it is no longer needed.
4) The limits on the type of goods available to food stamp consumers, and the growing season, mean that some (it's hard to say how much) of the food stamp spending will simply draw down perishable stocks rather than generating new economic activity. Eventually this will probably generate more economic activity, but probably well after your stimulus is needed.
5) The economy doesn't need a food sector more distorted by daft government programs than it already is. If you want to give money to the poor, give it to them. Even if they spend it all on drugs, it will hardly be much worse than spending it all on increasing their already astronomical obesity rates.
The next day, after much criticism from readers, McArdle followed up with this:
The mental model most Americans use for dealing with poverty is Dickens-with-a-hotplate. Thus the raging anger triggered by the statement--which has rich supporting evidence from places like the Census Bureau and the USDA--that however many and varied the needs of the poor may be, food is not among them. If you mentally equate poverty with hunger, then denying the hunger means denying the poverty.
But the poor don't need to be hungry to be poor. There is little to no systematic evidence that poverty-linked undernutrition--malnutrition caused by too little food intake--is an actual problem in America. "Food insecurity" numbers batted around by the FDA do not mean that people actually went hungry; they mean that people worried about going hungry, or changed their diet--usually by altering the composition of the diet, not by forgoing food--to avoid going hungry. But of actual sustained hunger, there is no evidence.
There is, on the other hand, a lot of evidence of obesity among the poor; their obesity rate is estimated at 36%, and the obesity rate among poor children seems to be about twice the rate among non-poor children. The poor people are eating more calories than they need. Yet we propose to stimulate the economy by giving the poor money that can only be spent on more food.
Becks at Unfogged, Tom at Just One Minute, and TBogg think McArdle needs to take the Food Stamp Challenge.
Hilzoy does McArdle's research for her:
"How Many People Lived in Food-Insecure Households?
- In 2006, 35.5 million people lived in food-insecure households, including 12.6 million children.
- Of these individuals, 7.7 million adults and 3.4 million children lived in households with very low food security.
- Children’s food security is affected to some extent in most food-insecure households (see the ERS report, Food Assistance Research Brief—Food Insecurity in Households With Children). However, children are usually protected from substantial reductions in food intake even in households with very low food security. In 2006, 430,000 children (0.6 percent of the Nation’s children) lived in households with very low food security among children."
Gary Farber, in Hilzoy's comments section, writes that, in fairness, McArdle does make some good points:
Megan's point #1 is idiotic.
However, her other points are arguable, and I tend to think it's unfair to not equally note her #5:5) The economy doesn't need a food sector more distorted by daft government programs than it already is. If you want to give money to the poor, give it to them. Even if they spend it all on drugs, it will hardly be much worse than spending it all on increasing their already astronomical obesity rates.
I don't understand how her post can be addressed and this point ignored; it seems to me to perhaps be a somewhat unfair reading, if she's willing to see a monetary stream instead of EBT cards.
I can agree with that -- although I have to say that the blatant contempt for poor people that drips from McArdle's point #5 might make her critics less willing to acknowledge the soundness of her point underneath the disdainful words.