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Laura at 11D offers some first-hand insight into WIC.

... The vouchers are made out for very specific items. You can't blow it all on Twinkies. There were vouchers for cheese (Monteray Jack or cheddar), whole milk, frozen juice (orange, apple, or grape), and formula. Formula was the real prize. Baby guzzles about $100 of formula a month.

The vouchers have very specific dates on them. They have to be used up by a certain week or they become void.

Now for the weird part. You can't redeem your voucher for formula and walk out of the supermarket. You had to buy everything, the cheese and the juice and the milk, whether you wanted it or not. Most annoyingly, they required you to purchase vast quantities of milk. Like two or three gallons per week. Far more than an average person could consume. We had to give away some of the milk to neighbors so it wouldn't go bad.

Now for the annoying part. You had to cart all that milk home. Not every supermarket accepts WIC vouchers. We had to walk to a far off supermarket over on Broadway. All that milk doesn't fit in the back of babystroller, so you had to have someone help you get it all home. I suppose if you had car it wouldn't be such a big deal. But I'll let you in on a secret. A lot of poor people don't have cars.

Surely, there was some deal with the milk farmers over this one. Some Vermont Senator got a little pork back home in exchange for my backache.

That was the abbreviated story of us on WIC. I could tell you how humiliating it was to get the voucher signed by the store manager. Or long waits at the WIC office to get recertified. Or the required parenting classes.

That Senator would be Jim Jeffords, he who titled his autobiography My Declaration of Independance. Vermont has extorted far more than its fair share of ridiculous dairy subsidies from the USDA; I presume that all the former undersecretaries of the last fifty years are even now lounging in complementary ski resort condos while hoovering down free pints of Ben and Jerrys.

This is . . . a word I won't use on a family blog. If you can't trust people to figure out how much milk they need, then they should be in a group home.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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