No. 940



Several years ago I remember hearing the late Earl Nightingale tell a story about the Punch Island seagulls. It seems that a fishing fleet made its center of operations at a small village on the coastline. Each day when the fleet came in with its catch, the fishermen would clean the fish and throw the entrails to the hundreds of seagulls that were waiting for the feast they were sure would come. This went on for weeks, until one day the fleet decided to move to another village further down the coast.
By this time the seagulls had given up fishing for themselves and just depended on the leftovers from the fishermen’s catch each day. What happened over the next few weeks was really a tragedy, as many of the seagulls literally starved to death, as they had become so dependent on the generosity of the fisherman they could no longer fish for themselves and take care of their own needs.
While this story was told to illustrate a point, and I am not sure if it’s true, I am sure you see a parallel here between the seagulls and what is taking place in our nation with regards to the food stamp program that I am calling “The Great Food-Stamp Binge.” The food stamp program is part of the farm bill, which is another column, and is the second most means-tested aid program, increasing from $19.8 billion in 2000 to $84.6 billion in 2011, a 327 percent increase. I believe this is part of the reason our national debt is more than $17 trillion … that is with a capital “T”. This debt will be left to our children and grandchildren, and theirs, for decades to come.
To be sure, a part of the increase in the food stamp program is due to the recession. We have millions of Americans out of work and real suffering is taking place all across our land, but it’s more than that, as it has become a tool for many politicians to get re-elected. It has been demonstrated in innumerable ways that Americans are the most compassionate people on earth, and I would never suggest putting to a stop helping those who are truly at risk, especially those who are there because of no fault of their own. But I do resent past and present administrations using food stamps, like the Paunch Island seagulls, to make our citizens dependent on them for the sake of getting their votes.
If you keep up with the news at all, you know that the government is not only sending teams of government workers to the streets to get people to sign up for food stamps, but has also changed the name from food stamps to the SNAP program, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This was intended to remove the stigma of being on welfare, as the users now use plastic debit cards to make them appear to be just like everyone else. You may have seen the incident recently when there was a computer glitch and every user was given unlimited purchasing power, and they literally cleaned out several stores.
It is important to note that food stamp benefits were cut in November 2013 -- for a family of four it was cut from $668 per month to $632 per month. Our whole economic system is based on hard work, self-reliance and each able-bodied person pulling his or her own weight. What we have now, that we must change, is to not have more people riding in the wagon with fewer people pulling it.
Here is a thought that I hope you will ponder: We all have a stake in our nation’s future. Older Americans are living longer while young couples are having fewer children. We are still the greatest nation in the world and I want that to continue for future generations.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)