“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Food stamps then and now

Maine residents to work for food stamps, governor says

People considered to be  able-bodied’ must work a minimum 20 hours a week or lose benefits, governor says - (Food stamp usage across the U.S. had dipped to 46.6 million people at the end of June, a 2.1 percent drop from the program’s peak of 47.6 million a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program._

July 23, 2014 9:09PM ET

Maine's Republican governor on Wednesday launched a push to make more “able-bodied” people work for their food stamps.
“People who are in need deserve a hand up, but we should not be giving able-bodied individuals a handout,’’ said Gov. Paul R. LePage.
LePage will reportedly stop seeking a federal waiver — issued at the height of the Great Recession — allowing some food stamp recipients to bypass requirements that they work or volunteer, according to local news channel WCSH.
About 12,000 of the state’s residents receiving $15 million annually in food stamps are considered to be able-bodied by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which administers the aid. That means that they are between the ages of 18 and 49, have no dependents and are not pregnant or disabled.
In the next three months, those who are deemed able-bodied must work or volunteer with a community organization for 20 hours a week or lose their aid. 
One in seven Americans receive food stamps. Some have called movements to make people work for food stamps – and a recent congressional bid to cut the program by $800 million – a war on America’s poor. But for LePage, it’s about uplifting a developing post-recession underclass.
“We must continue to do all that we can to eliminate generational poverty and get people back to work,” LePage said. “We must protect our limited resources for those who are truly in need and who are doing all they can to be self-sufficient.”
Over the past six months, Maine's DHHS has worked with the state’s Labor Department to help families receiving food stamps and other assistance get on a “pathway to employment,” the DHHS said in a news release. The effort connects people with employment centers and performs vocational assessments.
“We are committed to helping people use these resources, as well as providing training, to get people back to work as quickly as possible,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
Maine’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in June, down from 6.7 a year before, according to the state’s Labor Department. 


  1. The big issue about food stamps seems to be the size of the program, the amount of people receiving benefits and claims of wide spread fraud. The actual amount per recipient is $133 a month for one person. That is not a lot of money, so clearly if a person needs the help, there is not much room for fraud at $4.43 per day. For the working poor, that is an hourly supplement of $.55 per hour.

  2. From a political standpoint, I cannot see the benefit from hard-assing the program. From an economic standpoint, I doubt that it costs us anything. Most of the money gets turned into ordinary income in the retail, wholesale, processing and farming payrolls. It also helps keep prices down as it levels out consumption levels, which should also decrease waste in distribution.

    I think there are good reasons to encourage people to work but having people show up at make work community centers is absurd, unless you want to organize them for political purposes.

    The best method is to be creative with incentives to increase wages and workforce participation. Instead of a program where “able-bodied must work or volunteer with a community organization for 20 hours a week”, it would make more sense to incentivize workforce participation in higher paying jobs.

  3. How do you incentivize workforce participation in higher paying jobs?

    Why should you have to if the jobs are higher paying in the first place?

    Where do the higher paying jobs come from?

    Economics isn't my gig.

  4. Mike Rowe now heads a foundation which is pushing politicians to start funding trade schools instead of diploma mills. There are good paying jobs going begging for lack of trained tradesmen. For instance, North Dakota, on any given day, is hundreds of welders short for its petroleum and NG fields and plants. People with this skill can earn more than twice the median family income in Georgia, if memory serves.

    How much will it cost the state to supervise 12,000 people? A great deal more than the cost of the benefit I would guess.

  5. As of right now, we can all fly to Tel Aviv again.

    Let's go !!

    1. FAA Ends Ban on U.S. Airlines’ Flights to Israeli Airport
      By Alan Levin Jul 23, 2014 8:54 PM PT

      Photographer: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images

      Passengers check a flight information board displaying various cancellations at Ben... Read More

      The U.S. lifted an almost two-day ban on flights to Israel’s busiest airport.

      Flights by U.S. carriers in and out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International airport were to be allowed to resume at about 11:45 p.m. New York time, the Federal Aviation Administration said tonight in a statement. The agency had ordered U.S. airlines yesterday to avoid the airport, citing the hazard from rockets fired by Palestinian militants.

      Because the flight cancellations have the effect of isolating Israel from global travel networks, the actions by the airlines and FAA assumed a foreign-policy dimension. Israeli Transport Minister Israel Katz had said a suspension of flying would “give a prize to terror.”

  6. While talking tough, Hamas is keen on a “humanitarian” ceasefire – not out of sudden concern for Gaza’s civilians but in desperation for an answer to the Chariot-4 tank’s Armored Shield Protection-Active Trophy missile defense system, the Windbreaker. The Russian Kornet-E and the Concord guided missiles which Hamas has fired against them don’t leave a scratch. Hamas fears that the IDF’s 401st armored brigade’s tanks, the only ones fitted with this armor, will spearhead Israel’s decisive assault on its underground high command, and has asked Tehran to find a counter-measure.