A local newspaper wants to know exactly how much money retail stores earn from food stamp transactions, and the retail food industry is fighting the disclosure all the way to the Supreme Court.
Last week, Justice Neil Gorsuch temporarily stayed a lower court’s order requiring the government to cough up the data. Now grocers have a chance to try to convince the Supreme Court to take the case.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the federal government’s most responsive economic safety net, giving 40 million Americans a monthly food allowance that can only be spent at food stores and farmers markets. The program dishes out $60 billion in benefits annually, which amounts to a significant portion of retail stores’ income.
Throughout the program’s history, politicians and news reporters have obsessed over what people purchase with their benefits. In the 1970s, President Ronald Reagan speechified about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks, a fist-shaking tradition Republicans have continued to this day. The benefits used to be distributed on actual stamps but now go on debit cards that are still highly visible in checkout lines.
The legal case is more about who is selling the food than what the beneficiaries are buying. The Argus Leader, a newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, filed a records request for store-level SNAP spending data in 2011. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, didn’t hand over the details, the paper sued.
“Taxpayers need to know where their money is spent,” Cory Myers, the Argus Leader’s news director, said earlier this year. “This information has importance beyond South Dakota as SNAP is one of the nation’s biggest safety net programs.”
The USDA already provides some detail about where food stamps go. Half of all benefits were spent at superstores like Walmart in 2017. Nearly 30 percent were used at supermarkets like Safeway. More than 258,000 firms were authorized to accept SNAP benefits that year. The USDA has also put out detailed information about what people buy.
The Argus Leader wants to know exactly how much was spent and at exactly which stores. The government argued that disclosing dollar figures for individual firms would hurt their business and that the details should be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Courts sided with the paper and the USDA gave up on the case, but then retail trade associations swooped in with additional appeals. Among other things, the Food Marketing Institute argued that negative attitudes toward food stamp recipients could cause landlords to increase rent when they learn their tenants process government benefits.
“The stigma might also cause non-SNAP recipients to avoid stores with high SNAP volume, either because of beliefs about the store or a fear of being perceived as SNAP customers,” the Food Marketing Institute told an appeals court in 2017.
Stewart Fried, an attorney for the National Grocers Association, argued in an August 2017 brief that retailers would stop accepting SNAP benefits. He said the disclosure “does not shed light on what the federal government is up to,” since so much detail is already available. Additionally, he said, “gaining access to a competitor’s store-level sales data is the holy grail of the retail food industry,” because the information can influence decisions about where to open new stores.
So far, courts have not agreed, calling the stigma argument “speculative” and saying releasing the data seems unlikely to hurt anyone’s business too much. Gorsuch has given retailers a chance to argue this month that the disclosure should be further delayed so the court can consider whether to take the case.
Finding Uncensored Political News Online
The time was once that we were seriously limited as to the news we received. Newspapers in the old days had to try to offer a balanced perspective – all sides of the story in a quite limited space. Television and radio news had the same limitations – and they had a very short amount of time allotted to cover everything that was going on in the world at any given time. These were not the only limitations either. News sources could only afford to print so many pages and only a select few people were qualified to be reporters or journalists. Now days though, this has changed considerably. With the advent of the internet, we can get our news much faster and there are not nearly as many time and space limitations to contend with. Because of these things, we now have a multitude of political blogs and political news sites to choose from for a daily dose of news and current events.
Nowadays, we can choose from any number of Republican blogs, for example, for our news. With a Republican blog, we are likely to get more new news on Donald Trump than we might get from differently affiliated political news sites. If you want thorough, Republican coverage for “Trump trade war,“ you can probably find it faster on Republican blogs than you can on otherwise affiliated blogs.
Of course, if you prefer to vote non-partisan, that is – not limited to or affiliated with a specific party, there are a number of political news sites out there for you as well. It is still important, especially if you are nonpartisan, to read from as many Republican blogs as you can, as well as political news sites that are affiliated with the other political parties out there. You see, if you are dedicated to any specific political party, you will be limited to that party’s candidates when it comes time to vote so you do not need to worry about what all of the other parties are doing. If you are nonpartisan, however, you can vote for any candidate from any party that you choose – that means that you need to be considerably more informed than someone who is party-affiliated. The best way to be thoroughly informed is to read news from as many political news sites as you can – that will give you exposure to more of the candidates and political parties that are out there as well as more perspectives on all of the issues that are going on in this country.
No matter where your political line might lie, it is always a good plan to gather a variety of information from political blogs or political news sites. At the very least, you will know what your opponents are up to if you read political blogs from parties other than your own. Whether you prefer Republican blogs or not, the important thing is to stay informed to the best of your ability – otherwise, you cannot hope to be an informed and responsible voter!