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Hullabaloo


Friday, February 07, 2014

 
Conservatives can't have it both ways on ID requirements

by David Atkins

Republicans don't just want poor people to have to show an ID to vote. They also want them to have to show an ID to feed themselves:

A dozen House Republicans say people who use federal food stamps should be required to show a photo ID when they use their electronic benefit cards (EBCs) to buy groceries.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) introduced the SNAP Verify Act, which is aimed at reducing the amount of fraud that he said is leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted food aid each year. Salmon said the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), informally called the food stamp program, is aimed at helping people in need, and that Congress must ensure those benefits are not being diverted.

"It is the duty of our elected officials to protect the integrity of this program and discourage abuse from those who seek to game the system," he said. "My bill simply requires the photo identification of authorized users of SNAP electronic benefit cards at the point of transaction."

Salmon said a recent Government Accountability Office report found that $2.2 billion in food stamp benefits were improperly handed out in 2009. He said current law requires efforts to ensure food stamps are only given to eligible people, but said there is no requirement that recipients show their ID when buying food.
There is something to be said for this idea in theory. Unlike with voting where there is essentially no voter fraud, SNAP fraud does exist. It's frankly not even close to the top of the priority list given the mindboggling amounts of money being stolen and wasted through Wall Street and the Pentagon, but the idea that waste and abuse should be curtailed wherever it exists is a bedrock principle of good government.

The problem, of course, is that many people in the United States cannot easily get a government ID, largely due to disability, or the need to hold multiple jobs, or cuts to hours and locations of government services in poor comunities, or transportation problems, or language barriers, or some combination of all of the above. And, of course, the people likeliest to have trouble obtaining an ID are also the people likeliest to need the SNAP program. Which functionally means that forcing people to show an ID to receive SNAP benefits means that many people and their children will be forced into starvation.

It's true that most other major democracies around the globe do require an ID card to vote and to receive benefits. But those countries also make sure that those IDs are automatically provided to every citizen and very easy to obtain.

But the deeply paranoid black helicopter crowd on the Right is terrified that if everyone is provided a national ID card, then the government will round everyone up and put them into FEMA internment camps or something. So they strongly oppose the federal, easily provided national ID card system that most other sane countries implement.

They don't get to have it both ways. If they want people to have to provide ID, they need to make sure that everyone is able to get an ID, and they need to make it a federal program in order to prevent tampering by the states. In other words, they need to put up or shut up.

Or they could admit that they simply despise poor people, and want to starve and disenfranchise them. Either one works.

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