Despite what you may have heard, Wisconsin has not banned poor people from buying ketchup, shellfish, or potatoes.
By now, it’s possible that you’ve seen a headline – likely coming from an undeniably partisan liberal source – making the claim that poor people in The Badger State will no longer be allowed to buy certain foods that the rest of us take for granted.
While the headline above contains a couple of small kernels of truth, the reality is far from what it would have you believe.
First, what’s being discussed here is a proposed bill, currently making its way through the Wisconsin legislature. Assembly Bill 177 has been passed by the Republican-dominated Wisconsin State Assembly. However, it still has yet to pass the Wisconsin Senate where, as The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, its future is uncertain.
Second, the bill in questions does not “ban poor people” from buying anything. Instead, what it seeks to do is limit the products recipients can buy with food stamp benefits. Wisconsin’s “poor” who don’t receive food stamps can buy whatever they please (as long as it’s legal, of course), and those who do can continue to buy shellfish, ketchup, and potatoes with their own money – just not with food stamp benefits. Further, the proposed bill – while it does forbid the purchase of lobster and other shellfish with food stamps – doesn’t “ban” buying ketchup or potatoes; rather, it mandates that only one third of a recipient’s food stamps benefit can be used for those things, according to The Washington Post.
“Under the proposal, people couldn’t buy crab, lobster or other shellfish with food stamps and would have to spend two-thirds of their benefits on produce, beef, pork, poultry, potatoes, dairy products or food available under the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.”
So, in other words, startling headlines about Wisconsin’s attempts to manager poor people’s grocery store purchases are, at best, overblown.
Wisconsin’s move to limit how food stamp and WIC recipients can spend their benefit money comes as other states have attempted similar restrictions. Most famously, Kansas, for example, has made it illegal for some welfare recipients to use their cash benefits to purchase movie tickets, among other “luxuries,” according to this Inquisitr report.
Whether laws restricting how food stamp and other welfare benefits can be used are a good thing is a debate for another post. But if we’re going to debate, we should at least debate on the facts, and not on alarmist headlines that don’t tell the whole truth.
So, let’s wait until Wisconsin actually passes a law banning poor people from buying shellfish, potatoes, and ketchup before we start debating whether or not they should have.