Food Stamps Are Not a Corporate Giveaway

A blog about business and economics.
June 13 2012 10:37 AM

Food Stamps Are Not a Corporate Giveaway

Back during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, some left-wing opponents of the bill had taken to describing it as a "bailout" of or "giveaway" to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. And of course in a certain light that's accurate. When you give low income people money to buy health insurance, you increase sales of health insurance and medicine. One of my standard ripostes, however, was to argue that by that logic food stamps are a giveaway to the supermarket lobby. After all, when you give poor people groceries someone makes money selling the groceries.

And now Twightlight Greenaway at Grist steps up to the plate, characterizing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as "another subsidy for Big Food."


The problem here, again, isn't exactly that the analysis is wrong. Obviously companies that sell food have an interest in giving poor people vouchers to buy groceries with. But guess who else has an interest in that program? Poor people! I am personally a fan of converting programs like SNAP and Section 8 housing vouchers into pure cash grants, which would be even more helpful to the poor and somewhat less helpful to specific vendors. But in the broad scheme of things, food stamps are pretty "cash-like" and should be seen as what they are—a redistributive program to put resources in the hands of the needy. After all even if you did replace SNAP with pure cash grants, the recipients would still spend the money on something. It might go to Big Food or Big Furniture or Big Utility Bills or Big Auto Parts or Big Clothing but there's no getting around the fact that people mostly buy things that are made by big companies so anything that increases poor people's abiity to buy stuff will benefit some big companies that sell things.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
Business Insider
Oct. 2 2014 11:16 AM Some McDonald's Monopoly Properties Matter More
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM Surge Pricing Is Not Price Gouging
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?