Charles Payne
Posted: Dec 14, 2012 12:01 AM
I happen to be a fan of Cory Booker, mayor of Newark and raising star in the Democratic Party. He's young, articulate, and represents a new school of politician in the black community. His struggle to displace the old guard that focused on fire and brimstone and shakedowns and intimidation was epic. Armed with a great education and outgoing personality, he used charm and tricks learned in debating class to get in office and gain high regard.

Yet the longer he's in office, the more it appears his goals are not unlike those of predecessor Sharp James.

Promoting victimization, income redistribution, and focusing on shame of success.

Case in point is his involvement in the SNAP Challenge - living on $33.00 of food stamps for a single week. Obviously, it sounds like a daunting task because it is a daunting task. Yet, his initial premise that young children go to school hungry because there aren't enough food stamps (the old name for SNAP) despite its meteoric rise to $76.0 billion a year with more than 47.7 million recipients. The premise is misleading and disingenuous. Mothers can qualify for SNAP and other programs including the WIC plan, child nutrition benefits, and meals-on-wheels.

In fact, WIC is specifically designed for mothers, infants, and children under 5 and available for people that are already getting food stamps.

Be that as it may, Booker took the plunge and chronicled it on Twitter.

He skipped out on coffee and Pepsi but bought a bottle of olive oil and bags of salads.

A small can of Spam and a head of iceberg lettuce would have been a lot cheaper, while Target sells a five-pack of Kool-Aid for just a $1.00. Of course, it's not all the money in the world, but people are surviving on food stamps. Most people in the system understand how to work the system as well - getting more than a single check in the household by claiming they make and cook their own meals separately from the head of household.

Moreover, SNAP is supposed to augment monies coming into a household, hence the name of the program:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

No Justice?

The idea is to help people with low earnings and help them until they get on their feet. Now there is a different movement under the guise of "Food Justice," which seeks even higher payouts to recipients and expensive incentives to farmers markets and other healthy food providers. This slippery slope would eventually also mean paying recipients' money to get to those isolated farmers markets maybe even an auto-travel allowance.

Most supermarkets have adequate selections of healthy offerings. Mayor Booker is pushing a program that would pay farmers market vendors extra to accept food stamps. This is also part of a greater cop out; poor food selection by food stamps recipients not out of necessity but from choice. Mayor Sharp would never speak badly about constitutes, and somehow it's politically incorrect to point out the waste in the food stamp program.

Despite Mayor Booker's challenges to stay alive, it's a fact that large swathes of SNAP money are poorly spent on things like potato chips and lottery tickets.

Efforts to find out just how much money is misspent have been futile even through acts designed to create government transparency. The bottom line, however, is waste is enormous and lots of kids are eating the wrong stuff. But in a world where everyone is a victim, the last thing we could expect is for recipients of taxpayer funds to be held accountable.

Political Folly

Cory Booker will decide on whether he'll run for governor of the state of New Jersey in a week. It's no secret he wants to be more than the mayor of Newark and I suspect more than governor of New Jersey. I'm sure he cares about people, but the food stamp campaign just says to people the country owes you a lot more as a birth right not tied to individual effort or contribution. There was once a young hot guy in the party that asked people to consider what they could do for their country.

Politicians including Nancy Pelosi have gone as far as to suggest SNAP and welfare helps the economy through a multiplier effect that sees $1.73 in local economic activity from each dollar doled out. Why these same politicians can't apply this principle to allowing people to keep more of the money they earn is beyond me. But the plan has been to swell the food stamp, welfare, and other dependency program rolls. The more people that are indebted to government assistance, the less opposition to larger government.

A recent letter to the Huff-Post said it all - it is hard to get off SNAP.

A college grad wrote about getting on the program in an emergency but how it's structured to kick people off abruptly at certain economic levels. Her beef is those levels should be higher, but in the process, she revealed the reality of these programs. They are designed to make poverty just comfortable enough that recipients lose the impetus to get off them. Increasing amounts paid out and places vendors that accept food stamps will create more not less dependency.

I call that political folly and it's existed with the old school guys and with the new guys, too.

PS: during his press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talked about all of the people unemployed and working in part time jobs by remarking "it's an enormous waste of human and economic potential."

You're not going to live off steak and lobster on the food stamp program, but it's not designed for that - it is designed to keep people alive so they can go out and seek the American Dream. How disappointing that so many are born and die on the program.

Ben Bernanke and the Forked Tongue

The Federal Reserve announced more money printing operations bringing its monthly total of stimulus to $85.0 billion in its desperate effort to jump start the economy. It's a plan the money-printing organization admits has been and will be futile. Case in point is their latest assumptions on the economy and unemployment. It's not until 2014 that GDP growth is high enough to provide a backdrop for widespread prosperity and even that's iffy.

Initially, the market was okay with the idea that the Fed would keep printing, but once the Q&A session began it felt like Big Ben was tripping all over himself with new and very odd parameters.

Told printing would go on until inflation moved north of 2.5% or the unemployment rate hit 6.5%, investors learned those milestones aren't written in stone or as Bernanke said the "Fed isn't on autopilot." The Federal Reserve Chairman also took a swipe at the unemployment rate saying the economy is not as strong as the 7.7% number might suggest. Then why the heck would he base future policy on that same flawed number?

It was very confusing, and in the end, the midday rally faded under a cloud of confusion mixed with the realization the economy is going to suck for a long time.

PS: Ben Bernanke made it clear there is nothing the Fed can do if the country goes off the Fiscal Cliff.

On that note, I know everyone wants marching orders for such a scenario, and I'm grappling with this because on one hand I don't want to fall victim to a knee-jerk reaction, yet there are risks. I promised more answers today but give me one more day to work with the team and put together parameters of a game plan. We are dealing with a bunch of variables.