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What the EBT Glitch Says About Welfare and America

Saturday night, there was a glitch in the EBT system in some southeastern states that removed spending limits for a few hours. In that short period of time, Wal-Marts in Louisiana were basically ransacked of all goods. When the EBT system came back online, shoppers with carts full of merchandise abandoned their loot and went home, leaving Wal-Mart workers to clean up the mess. According to some reports, the restocking wasn’t complete until Sunday night at some stores.

For our purposes, EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer (not to be confused with Electronic Balance Transfers—what debit card transactions were once sometimes called). EBT is a service of state welfare departments that aims to make welfare purchases more convenient. Removing the need for checks and paper stamps, EBT expedites welfare recipients’ shopping experience, allowing them to feel more like “normal” shoppers. Even the use of the acronym EBT, because it might be confused with a debit transaction, lessens the possibility of public shame.

In any case, the EBT system had a major failure over the weekend, and in the case of the Louisiana EBT system, this resulted in a temporary suspension of spending limits on cards. Wal-Mart decided to accept EBT cards during the outage anyway. Within hours, the glitch was being exploited by shoppers. Springhill, LA Police Chief Will Lynd says it was “worse than any Black Friday.” When the spending limits were brought back online, one woman was detained with $700.00 worth of goods when her card indicated she had about fifty cents left of legitimate funds. How word spread so quickly is unclear, but the police had to be called in for crowd control very soon after it became known that Wal-Mart would accept EBT cards even during the temporary blackout.

One shopper, when interviewed after the incident, had this to say: “That’s plain theft. That’s stealing. That’s all I got to say about it.”

Yes, it is theft. But this begs the question: when is welfare as it is currently practiced ever not theft? This event just underscores the fact that welfare boils down to legalized looting. The nature of the system is made more obvious by these kinds of events, but that nature remains unchanged even when the system is functioning without glitches. The fact is that hard-working people who work for a living are forced to pay for the lives of people who would rather steal than work. Not only this, it is apparently the case that many welfare recipients are willing to take far beyond what they need when and if they are allowed to. EBT covers mostly food and necessities. Who needs $700 worth of groceries in one go? This was not just theft. It was greedy over-reaching theft. And when even a few people are willing to do this, everyone suffers. As we have.

I’m not trying to be cold-hearted here. I know there are people out there who really have needs. But the welfare system “benefits” many people who do not really have legitimate needs, and a strong case can be made that it does not even benefit people who really do need help. Private and voluntary charity with accountability and life training are the only real ways to benefit those poor people who, because of circumstances outside of their control, have come upon hard times. As Alfonzo Rachel says, “People don’t need a hand out. They need a hand up.” The welfare system doesn’t accomplish this. It subsidizes laziness, joblessness, and broken families. It is legalized theft. The most recent EBT debacle only illustrates this.

But let’s go deeper. The people who cleared Wal-Mart stores of merchandise are not fundamentally different from the rest of us. What was displayed in Louisiana on Saturday night is just an outworking of basic human nature, and particularly, of the basic American human nature that has left this country reeling. If you remove spending limits through easy credit or, I don’t know, a practically non-existent debt ceiling, Americans obviously don’t have the self-control to exercise restraint. This isn’t a low-class, poor-class, no-class American situation. This is the reality in every sector of America, from Wall Street to Congress to suburbia. We are a culture with a larcenous heart, and unless that changes from the top down or the bottom up, we are going to be left with a mess none of us is prepared to—or able to—clean up.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Michael Minkoff

Michael Minkoff writes, edits, and typesets from his office in Powder Springs, Georgia. He honestly does not prefer writing about politics, but he sincerely hopes you enjoy reading about it. He also wonders why he is typing this in the third person.

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