ebt

By now you’ve probably heard about the EBT card breakdown during a power outage in which shoppers at a couple of Louisiana Walmarts purposely took advantage of the situation by “buying” a huge number of groceries for amounts that greatly exceeded their EBT limits in normal times.

You might say the Walmart managers were stupid not to ban the use of the cards for the duration of the problem, or limit the amount that could be charged on them. And if you said that, perhaps you’d be right. But perhaps they thought that if they did that they would face a riot, or at least some very bad PR, and so they decided to let people continue to use their cards freely (pun intended) and hope for the best.

As for the lawbreakers, we don’t know how big or small a percentage of the EBT-carrying population they represent. But it seems that quite a few cheaters happened to be in those Louisiana Walmarts that day. They stole from Walmart (if Walmart is left holding the bag) or from the taxpayers, or perhaps from both. Why did they feel they could and should do it?

I don’t profess to know all the reasons. Some of it is mob mentality, some greed. But some of it is a growing amorality that comes from the welfare system itself, and especially its more recent political manifestations (let’s soak the rich; they owe it to the rest of us to help us) that engenders the idea that it’s your right to get free stuff and have others foot the bill if you’re poor or even just somewhat poor. So, why not get more free stuff when you can?

For some people, it’s a slippery slope from one idea to the other. The payor is unseen and unknown in each case. The people who might be hurt by it are unseen and unknown as well. The mechanism is the same for each transaction: a card. And the venue is the same: Walmart.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]