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SNAP: The Supermarket Bailout

By Matthew Yglesias  

"SNAP: The Supermarket Bailout"

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I think one good way to think about the misguided question of whether health reform is a step forward for the American people or just a giveaway to the insurance industry is with reference to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as “food stamps.” The way this works is that eligible people get vouchers (subsidies) that they can use to buy food at stores. This generates profits for food retailers and also for food producers. For greedy for profit food retailers and food producers. Indeed, one of the biggest supporters of SNAP are truly evil agribusiness concerns that are sort of destroying the world.

That said, SNAP is good policy and it’s clearly progressive policy. Nobody would say that the real left-wing position is that we need to repeal the program until it can be made into something that only feeds people through organic co-ops or something. At the same time, it’s also true that the program doesn’t work as well as it could if it were less geared to corporate interests. And it’s good that the program has been modified lately to be more friendly to things like farmer’s markets. Ideally, I’d like to see the focus on actual nutrition enhanced and corporate interests (among other things) make this difficult.

The main point is just that in a market society any effort to give any benefits to anyone is going to create some profit opportunities. This fact doesn’t discredit the enterprise.

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