Do Food Stamps Contribute to the Obesity Problem in America?

Posted by Jay Louineaux on
Daily News

Food stamps have always been the boogie man of people looking to cut back the size of the government. That’s the bottom line. At the back of their heads, if you are applying for food stamps, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with you because if you are an able bodied person, you should be out there working.

It is no surprise that a lot of people are asking themselves, “Do food stamps contribute to the obesity problem in America?” The idea is that there’s a lot of people, and I’m talking about millions of Americans, who simply don’t want to get jobs or who have such poor paying jobs that they have to be on food stamps.

The idea is that the vast majority of these people live such sedentary lives that they just flop down in front of a video game or a TV and while away their time. Based on this sedentary lifestyle, it’s no surprise that people’s waistlines get bigger and bigger.

As you probably already know, there’s an obesity epidemic in the United States. More and more people are coming down with obesity related diseases and we are sitting on a ticking demographic health time bomb.

It’s only a matter of time until this massive obesity epidemic translates into an explosion of type 2 diabetes cases, certain types of cancer and, of course, cardiovascular diseases. Indeed, the leading cause of death for Americans for many years now are heart attacks and strokes.

It is in this context that a lot of people are saying that we need to look at different government policies and see what the long term health ramifications are. Unfortunately, given the political hot potato that the welfare state and welfare programs tend to be, it often becomes a moralistic argument.

A lot of people keep saying to themselves and to other people who are willing to listen the basic question. Do food stamps contribute to the obesity problem in America? Well, what they’re really trying to say is that maybe it’s a good idea to cut down on the food stamp program so that more people could go out there and work.

The problem here is there’s an 800 pound gorilla in the room. A significant chunk of all the jobs in the United States pay barely minimum wage. In other words, even if you wanted to work, the best you can do is a minimum wage job.

Now, if you are living with your parents or you’re a young person or you just moved out, maybe you can get by with a job that pays less that $15 an hour. However, if you have a couple of kids and you don’t have a life partner or you’re a single mom or single dad, you’re probably going to have a lot of problems on your hands.

That’s why even working single parents still have supplemental nutritional assistance from the government aka: food stamps. That’s the bottom line.

Any kind of talk regarding just getting lazy people to get off the couch and find work is overly simplistic and ultimately unrealistic.

You can call it cruel. You can call it asinine. You can call it a lot of names. But that sentiment is actually very strong in the United States because as you probably already know, the US is very big on individual responsibility.

It’s very big on freedom. But freedom has a twin. That’s right. That twin is called self responsibility. It is no surprise that the United States is the richest country in the world primarily because of its heavy emphasis on individual freedom.

What people don’t understand about freedom however is that it’s very easy to get excited about the freedom to succeed. It’s very easy to get excited about that person who quits and job and founds a multi-million dollar company. Those are the kinds of stories people love to hear and in fact in many cases, those are the only stories that you do here.

But you don’t hear about the people who try and fail. You don’t hear about the people who fall between the cracks. The reality is that the freedom to succeed also has a twin. The freedom to fail. It really all boils down to the central question of what will society do and is society even obligated to help up or give a hand up to people who have fallen behind?

Please understand that welfare benefits like food stamps might indirectly contribute to the obesity problem. They contribute, indeed, but only indirectly. How come? Well, when a person has a fairly low set budget for their monthly food what do you think they will do?

Are they going to go to their nearest Whole Foods or Trader Joes and buy tons of arugula and kale? Or are they going to go straight to the nearest Dollar General or Dollar Store to load up on a whole lot more heavily processed foods?

Poor people are drawn to cheap food because they get more bang for their buck. Can you really blame them? You probably would make the same decision because, at the end of the day, it’s all about financial and budget efficiency. This is why they are drawn to to cheap food.

The problem is, most of the cheapest foods on the market are cheap precisely because they use highly processed ingredients like super processed flour, corn, and mashed potatoes. Many make up for flavor deficiency by being drenched in saturated fat or gobs of sugar. Not exactly the healthiest of nutritional profiles.

This is going to be a debate that will rage on for many decades to come. After all, it’s been going on for several decades now. Ever since the New Deal, Americans have been debating this issue. But the truth is when you look at the rest of the world, there seems to be some sort of forward march to greater and greater government control. That trend is probably not going to go away anytime soon.