Should We Restrict Food Stamps to Healthy Food?

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Kevin Drum reacts to a bill which aims to limit the stuff that welfare recipients can buy with their food stamps:


What a dilemma. On the one hand, this bill promotes the exact same nanny-state behavior that Republicans howl about when Michelle Obama or Michael Bloomberg starts nattering on about salt consumption or fatty foods. On the other hand, it punishes welfare recipients, something that's always good for a round of applause from right-wing audiences. What's a conscientious conservative to do?

This doesn't seem like much of a dilemma, unless you think that favoring drug legalization, and selling heroin, are morally equivalent.  


Not, mind you, that I mean to imply that fatty foods are just like heroin.  But it doesn't seem like some sort of crazy stretch to believe that 

1)  People should be free to buy fattening foods without government interference
2)  The government shouldn't necessarily pay for those foods.


Myself, I think this sort of nannying is mostly pointless; if you want to help the poor, give them cash, and if you don't, then leave them alone.  But if we are going to have a food stamp program, that implies exclusions--things like laundry soap are already verboten from the program.  It's not especially crazy to put unhealthy food on the excluded list.


(Graph via Adam Ozimek)
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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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