12/10/11 — Class warfare: Pay attention Mr. President. It's not the poor. It's the cheats.

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Class warfare: Pay attention Mr. President. It's not the poor. It's the cheats.

Imagine this scene: Two young women, able-bodied and young, come to the checkout at Walmart. They are buying four small plastic bottles of Mountain Dew and what looks like a form of Gatorade.

They pull out an EBT card.

Something goes wrong with the purchase and one of them shows extreme irritation and begins to complain about how "that money had better be put back on my card."

They walk off with the bottles of Mountain Dew.

Here's another: A woman comes to the checkout at the same store with four small, individual servings of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and a package of cupcakes.

Out comes the EBT card.

Both these are actual experiences, actual people using what American taxpayers fund each year -- food stamps.

And if there were a few cashiers who could do so without losing their jobs -- at not just this store, but many others -- they would tell stories of all sorts of fraud, misuse and bad attitudes.

Those who criticize programs like food stamps are often labeled heartless and selfish. And those who dare to suggest that there should be limits on how those programs are used are labeled "anti-poor."

Truth is, those who call for new rules and more scrutiny are champions for those who are truly in need and who use the program properly.

If we weeded out those who cheat, lie and steal, we could help more people in need -- perhaps a few of those who are facing economic challenges for the first time.

There is a program that does it right -- and one a leader could use as a model for a food stamp reform.

WIC gives families a voucher, which they may exchange for products that promote healthy eating for children. Cereal, milk and juice are all on the list.

WIC vouchers allow no discretionary purchases and the approved products are marked on the shelves. That way, it is assured that the money goes for the right foods.

Why can't that be done for EBT cards?

No pop, no expensive convenience foods and no garbage. EBT funds could be used for meat, staples, vegetables, fruit and bread and milk.

Bulk sizes would be encouraged and perhaps a few recipes and tips on storage would be provided, encouraging families to do more with less.

And if, in the end, a family uses that money wisely, they would get a bonus of some sort -- a free voucher for one luxury item a month.

That way, families would get the food they need and the chance to use the available funds for no good would be greatly diminished.

And the program would accomplish what it was designed to do -- help those who are poor feed their families and to make sure children get proper meals.

And there might even be a way to expand the program -- to include household necessities like toilet paper, soap and laundry detergent, which are much more important than soda pop and expensive ice cream.

President Barack Obama often talks about the haves and have nots as if there is a war between the two.

There isn't. Americans have nothing against those who have fallen on hard times, who need an extra hand to get back on their feet. To prove that, all you have to do is watch what happens when there is a call for donations to help a family in need.

What Americans are tired of are those who cheat, who won't help themselves and who take a good program and corrupt it, all the while complaining about the help they receive.

It is not right and it is a threat to the future of this nation.

And it is high time someone did something about it.

Published in Editorials on December 10, 2011 11:16 PM