Imagine this scenario: You are starving, and then the opportunity to get free food appears. The catch? You have to fill out ten forms and have your photograph taken. Would you do so?
No wait, bad example.
Imagine this scenario: You are starving and the only way to get food, is to have people make you feel like a freeloader. Would you accept feeling like a freeloader?
This is the reason why New York City Council Speaker, and future mayoral candidate, Christine Quinn, formally asked Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to stop the practice of fingerprinting applicants to the federal food stamps program.
Opponents of fingerprinting argue that is deterring legitimately poor people from receiving the services that they need. The New York City Coalition Against Hunger has called the fingerprinting requirement “electronic stop-and-frisk,” and that it treats “poor people as if they’re basically criminals for trying to access a program to which they’re legally entitled.” The New York City Council has argued that fingerprinting has prevented nearly $54 million worth of benefits from reaching low-income families, and the businesses they would have spent it in.
Mayor Bloomberg, and his supporters, insist that the program prevents fraud, as it has prevented the same person from receiving more than one benefits package, as well other incidents of fraud. The mayor’s office claims the policy has saved $4 million from being illegally distributed.
This story has been blowing up on the internet, with writers from all perspectives taking a position, so it’s time for me (reluctantly) join the crowd and do so as well.
The program should continue.
First of all, the woman leading the charge is a dubious individual. Christine Quinn has been one of Michael Bloomberg’s biggest lackeys in recent years, supporting his every move, from his undemocratic election to a third term to his anti-teacher educational policies. Her formally challenging Bloomberg, is just an attempt to prevent people like me from calling her spineless when she runs for mayor in two years.
Second, let’s face it, if this were a charity that was fingerprinting individuals, it would be completely different. But governments aren’t charities, and they have a responsibility to tax payers to ensure that the hard earned money they take from us is going to the right places. Fingerprinting food stamps applicants isn’t pretty, but if it prevents fraud it should be continued.
On a personal note, growing up around immigrants and the urban poor, I worked in local supermarkets and had plenty of customers pay with EBT Cards (“food stamps”). The vast majority of them were legitimately poor and deserved the aid they received. Occasionally, there would be that customer who makes you scratch your head; the old woman with the chinchilla coat, the young guy with the Lexus, the young girl with the Coach bag – all of them paying with food stamps. These people were by no means typical customers, but with fraud there is never a typical, and the government still has a duty to prevent it.