D.C. NPR Host Fights Caller About Buying Lobsters with Food Stamps, Then Surrenders the Point

On Washington's NPR station WAMU on September 11, afternoon talk-show host Kojo Nnamdi organized a typically one-sided hour on food-stamp policy, with three liberal advocates trashing Republicans for proposing some kind of limit on skyrocketing "SNAP" spending.

But callers ruined the tilt by asking: What about fraud? "John from Chantilly, Virginia" talked about watching a person buy lobsters with their SNAP card. John asked if there was a party, and was told lobsters were all the dogs would eat. The NPR host then started a debate about corrupt governors in Illinois:

JOHN: I have a comment about potentially one of the big problems the public perception is, there's a lot of perception of fraud. And pretty much I and everyone I know and if you go online, you can easily see examples of fraud. Let me give you an example. I was in a shoppers and someone was buying six lobsters and they used a SNAP card. And I wondered if, were they having a party? And they commented to me that lobster was the only food their dog would eat.

So these examples kind of give the system a dim view. How is this person who apparently can't earn enough to eat yet -- and requires public assistance, yet be feeding lobster to their animals? And their animals are eating significantly better than the taxpayers who are paying for this program.

NNAMDI: I'll allow my panelists to respond, John, but I don't know if you know that the last three governors of Illinois all are -- all were sentenced to jail. Does that suggest to you that every politician in America is a crook?

JOHN: Well, no. And I agree that...

NNAMDI:  But you're suggesting that having seen one person buying lobster with a SNAP card, you seem to be suggesting that this might be a widespread problem.

JOHN: If it were just me, I'd agree with you, but it's not. You can pretty much poll --

NNAMDI: Well, allow --

JOHN: -- people and everyone sees examples of this. And you can go online and there's plenty of examples online. '

Nnamdi then turned to Stacy Dean of the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities so she could trash Republicans again: "I think Majority Leader Cantor has taken a similar approach of trying to repaint the face of the typical SNAP participant as a white unemployed young man who chooses to surf (unintelligible) work. And somehow SNAP is able to afford him that lifestyle. You know, it's extraordinary to me. There are 48 million people on this program. Nearly half of them are children. The vast majority of them are struggling with extremely, extremely low incomes."

Dean also claimed during the hour that "economists from across the political spectrum agree that $1 in SNAP spending generates about $1.70 in economic activity."

Then Nnamdi confessed that John had a point about voters getting discouraged by supermarket cashier-line incidents;

NNAMDI: I guess I said that to John because in my neighborhood when I go to the supermarket, I see the same thing that John sees. But I do understand that, as you say, there are 48 million people in this program. And that the individual or two that I may see in my supermarket from time to time is not representative of those 48 million people. But it's not my turn to speak on this issue. I have guests here. John, thank you very much for your call.

Poverty NPR Stacy Dean Kojo Nnamdi
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