Friday, December 18, 2009

Time To Stop Fingerprinting Food Stamp Recipients



By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network


New York Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum is questioning the costs of a program where food stamp recipients in the Big Apple must be fingerprinted.

While the costs of the program should rightly be questioned, the real issue here has to do with privacy and civil liberties.

Why is it so imperative that food stamp recipients be fingerprinted? Is it because the city figures that if you're poor you're more likely to be a criminal?

The program really speaks to how we, as a society, view our poor. The indignities they face are many. Local governments shouldn't make things worse for them by adding more.

Those who support fingerprinting argue that it reduces fraud. Well, then, why not fingerprint every person who uses a credit card? There's plenty of credit card fraud out there.

Of course, if you have a credit card, it's unlikely you're on food stamps. Which means that, while you may be struggling, you've not hit rock bottom. Not yet anyway.

It also means you probably still have a voice in society. You're valued. You're adding to the economy by making purchases. Not draining the economy by being on the public dole. So if you'd complain - as surely you would - you'd be listened to.

Or you might just tear up your credit cards and turn to cash to avoid being fingerprinted. A poor person, who needs his or her food stamps to eat, doesn't have the option of opting out.

New York's not the only place that has a fingerprinting requirement for food stamp recipients. So do California, Texas and Arizona.

And here's the best part of all this. The U.S. Agriculture Department which administers food stamps says fingerprinting does nothing to reduce fraud in the program.

One-in-five New Yorkers are on food stamps. One-in-five! That's a lot of fingerprint data that's being collected.

The program should be stopped. If you don't like my arguments about privacy or civil liberties, look at Gotbaum's. It costs money to run the program - and the program - doesn't work.

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Photo/http://www.flickr.com/photos/fazen/3778408/

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