The Colorado Springs Gazette is about as solid on economic issues as a newspaper could ever get. With Wayne Laugesen at the helm of the editorial page, it’s no surprise. However, something must have slipped through the cracks over on the news side this weekend when reporter Emily Wilkins wrote on food stamps in the Springs. The article focuses on the fact that although many people are eligible for food stamps, only about 40% actually apply for them – despite our persistent unemployment and down economy. Great right? Well, not according to Emily Wilkins. Instead of praising folks for not going on the dole, she laments this fact. The article paints the picture that it’s unfortunate that many of the folks eligible for food stamps in the Springs are choosing to either hunker down, take responsibility, and work hard through this tough time or rely on private charity for help (or both). I happen to believe quite the opposite. Like Seth Richardson in this fantastic Broadside blog response, the nearly 60% who are not taking more money from taxpayers should be commended.
What’s more, the article espouses an egregious economic fallacy: that taking money from taxpayers and giving it to a select group of people to buy food promotes “job growth” and helps “economic development.” Worse still, the article goes on to explain that the unused dollars from the majority who do not apply for food stamps “translate into wasted dollars that would otherwise spur economic activity.”
Let me get this straight. The money that was not taken from taxpayers by force and transferred to people who did not earn it, sits idly and unused? The taxpayers who earned the money would have put it in their mattress? They would not have purchased anything with the money? They would not have invested it? But through the magic of government transfer, the money in the hands of the food stamp recipients creates “economic development?” So the government transfer itself creates growth? Is that it? I don’t understand because it makes no economic sense.
The next time Emily Wilkins wants to write anything on economics, she ought to ask at least one of the many economically literate people in the Springs. Her story offered no alternative perspective, just the pro-government transfer, economically devoid perspective. She could have asked her colleague Seth Richardson. Or the always venerable Sean Paige. Or even better, she could have consulted Colorado Springs’ resident economist Paul Prentice. Not only is Paul a senior fellow with us at Independence, he’s part of the faculty at the Mises Institute and co-founder of the Pikes Peak Economics Club. Perhaps those credentials were too lofty for such an article. Maybe next time she’ll contact someone with 5 less economics degrees than Paul Prentice. Like me.