Tabloid’s “Exclusive” Food Stamp-Foreign Aid Story Stacked With Bullshit

July 22, 2013 | Bucky Turco

The New York Post–a shameless tabloid that’s known to get its “facts” wrong a lot–published an “exclusive” story in Sunday’s paper that is erroneous from the outset:

Food stamps are paying for trans-Atlantic takeout — with New Yorkers using taxpayer-funded benefits to ship food to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Wait, what? Takeout? Like from Shake Shack? No, of course not:

Welfare recipients are buying groceries with their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and packing them in giant barrels for the trip overseas, The Post found.

First off, note how the tabloid characterizes the persons doing this as “welfare recipients,” even though there’s plenty of people in New York who receive only food stamps and no other form of public assistance. They do this purposefully, as it allows the tabloid to take a shot at the welfare system instead of just the food stamp program. It’s subtle, but even Joseph Goebbels would be proud.

So, how widespread is the problem? According to the Post, it’s very “common”:

The practice is so common that hundreds of 45- to 55-gallon cardboard and plastic barrels line the walls of supermarkets in almost every Caribbean corner of the city.

Hmm, isn’t it plausible that those barrels are there because there’s communities of Caribbean people who are legitimately sending goods back to their loves ones? It’s quite common for New Yorkers, of all ethnic backgrounds, to ship things to their less fortunate families members. And not just food. Clothing and other items that can easily fill up a barrel are shipped to foreign countries as well.

But let’s move past alternate possibilities and get right to the figures:

The United States spent $522.7 million on foreign aid to the Caribbean last fiscal year, government data show.

Interesting. What percentage of that was food aid? What government data was the Post referring to? Why not source it? Also, the Caribbean is quite a big region with over two dozen countries. Perhaps we should compare that $522.7 to the $2.3 billion the U.S. gave to one country—Afghanistan—in 2012 to put things into perspective.

So, what evidence does the paper have of all this wrongdoing?

“Everybody does it,” said a worker at an Associated Supermarket in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. “They pay for it any way they can. A lot of people pay with EBT.”

The paper goes on to claim that a single worker isn’t the only one who says it’s happening:

Workers at the Pioneer Supermarket on Parkside Avenue and the Key Food on Flatbush Avenue confirmed the practice.

They said food-stamp recipients typically take home their barrels and fill them gradually over time with food bought with EBT cards.

“Gradually?” How gradually? One can at a time? Two? No matter. It’s time to bring up welfare again:

When the tubs are full, the welfare users call a shipping company to pick them up and send them to the Caribbean for about $70.

Again, the paper makes no distinction between so-called “welfare users” and those who only receive food stamps.

Now the best part. Since the Post wasn’t able to find a SINGLE person in all of New York City directly involved in this scam, it shifts focus at the very end of the article from the alleged “welfare recipients” gaming the system to a woman who isn’t on public assistance and doesn’t receive food stamps, but was sending back food to her family. Keep in mind, by this time, most tabloid readers have probably glanced over the fact that this woman’s using her own money.

Last week, a woman stuffed dozens of boxes of macaroni and evaporated milk into a barrel headed for her family in Kingston, Jamaica. She said she didn’t have welfare benefits and bought the food herself.

“This is all worth more than $2,000,” she said. “I’ve been shopping since last December. You can help somebody else, someone who doesn’t live in this country.”

That means it took her over six months before she was able gather enough foodstuffs to send. The $2000 is also important, because that’s an amount cited earlier on in regards to the alleged scammers:

Customers pay cash for the barrels, usually about $40, and typically ship them filled with $500 to $2,000 worth of rice, beans, pasta, canned milk and sausages.

Naturally, this story got picked up by several right-leaning websites, including the Examiner, which decided to re-blog the story with an added layer of racism and inaccuracy, technically making it more repugnant than New York’s most repugnant tabloid.

(Photo: Zachary Korb/Flickr)