Whose Money Is It?

Over at the reason.com blog, I ran across a post about a fellow who tried to buy cigarettes with his EBT card. Ed Krayewski explains:

A sixty-five year old store clerk in New Hampshire was fired last month for refusing to sell cigarettes to a twenty year old using an EBT card. The man’s foster mother came in to complain, and eventually the store management fired the clerk. It is perfectly legal, after all, to buy cigarettes with government assistance.

So they got a man fired. But the young fellow, Christopher Borges, who wanted his cigarettes was not through. He also wanted to shame people who think EBT funds should not be spent on cigarettes. So he wrote a letter to the paper.

Can I spend $5.87 on a pack of cigarettes? Is that okay, I wonder, as tears well in my eyes reading commentators describing people like me as social parasites. Ironically, the same people obsessed with individualism and the free market seem to need to tell individuals how to spend their money. Why do people who are sick or unemployed need to justify their spending habits, simply because they are in receipt of support from their community (transferred via the government in the form of cash)?

Is every taxpayer I encounter entitled to a rundown of my medical condition, shelter expenses, etc.? Why do people feel license to lambaste the poor, speak of us as leeches, as a problem that needs to be exterminated?

Sigh. Clearly this poor young man is confused. He believes the money the government lets him use is his money. He fails to grasp that it is not his money. The money was taken from taxpayers. It is their money. Which means, yes, they have good reason to be upset that he not only bought cigarettes with the money, but got a man fired.

Clearly Christopher Borges expects sympathy. He got a man who had a job fired from that job. Mr. Borges did not just take his business elsewhere, he got the clerk fired. He is not going to get much sympathy from me.

But his confusion is easy enough to understand. He believes the EBT money he uses is his. He gets it from the government, which is run by people who think the money is theirs. The money belongs to the taxpayers. It was taken from taxpayers. But so few people in government seem to remember this.

So when Christopher Borges takes EBT money that is not his and spends it on cigarettes, does he deserve some criticism? Well, yeah. But why is he such a whiny baby about it?

Mr. Borges also says, “I’m poor, I’m on welfare, I smoke cigarettes, and I am not a social parasite.” He takes EBT money, buys cigarettes, and what did society get back in exchange for this investment? A store clerk fired from his job. Is Mr. Borges a parasite?


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