How Government Uses “Compassion” for Corporate Welfare

From the beginning the food stamp program was designed for corporate welfare.


As Americans, we need a serious conversation about the risks involved when government gets involved in the marketplace. This article at the Daily Bell, which discusses Rick Brattin’s bill in Missouri, would be a great place to start: “We’re All Welfare Queens Now.”

Limited government advocates may find a certain emotional satisfaction in proposals like that of Rep. Brattin. If we must have programs like food stamps, let’s at least attach some reasonable restrictions. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to shower luxury items on those the government deems unfortunate.

On further thought, however, the issue is more complicated than it seems.

Mr. Brattin is only half-right about the food stamp program’s original intent. Feeding people was only one side of the equation back in 1939. The other side was to help farmers sell “surplus” food. That’s why, even today, the U.S. Agriculture Department administers food stamps.

Was that food truly “surplus”? Free-market economics 101 says no. The fact that a market-clearing price is below the level farmers think they deserve does not mean the market failed. It means the farmers overproduced. Programs that encourage overproduction deliver no net benefit to society.

Nevertheless, if helping food producers is the program’s true purpose, why exclude those who produce cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak? Are they less deserving than broccoli and tofu farmers?

The temptation to vote for an intermediary to forcefully take money from other people’s pockets to line ours is strong, indeed. Beyond that, there is the too often unseen damage inflicted upon the recipients—individual and corporate. Receiving plundered goods leads to all kinds of rationalization on why “this theft is ‘good’ theft.”

Food stamps (or the politically correct SNAP) is arguably welfare for Cargill and Conagra. Such firms are its greatest beneficiaries and fiercest defenders. One man’s welfare is another man’s profit margin. In various ways, we are all on both sides of the fence. That’s why it is so hard to change the system. One way or another, most of the population are welfare queens.

Yes, it is our moral obligation to care for “the least of these.” The big question surrounds the best method for achieving that goal. When we freely donate our own money or substance, we are directly invested in ensuring the outcomes are as positive as possible. Using government as a middle-man separates us from true compassion—the literal meaning of which is to “suffer with.”

We must stop seeking every possible way to avoid the suffering of others; to “get our hands dirty” and tears in our eyes as we provide not only material assistance, but more importantly, the love of a fellow-traveler to walk with people on the road back to prosperity, and contribution to the community.