Maureen Scott
EBT, ObamaCare, and lessons from the ugly Americans
By Maureen Scott
October 17, 2013

This past weekend the government EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer – food stamps) system suffered a technical problem and caused havoc in several states. Spending limits were not showing up or had been accidently removed from the users' accounts. Thus, stores could not determine how much customers were permitted to purchase and managers were left in a quandary about what to do for their shoppers. Across the country people discovered that they could not buy food because there was no way the computerized system could validate and approve what they wanted to spend on groceries. Most were turned away. Naturally, there was a wide-spread uproar as EBT recipients became enraged, aggravated and impatient. Many blamed it on the government shut-down, but they were incorrectly jumping to conclusions (although the timing might seem suspiciously coincidental, like perhaps a test, as some have wondered). As a result, there was chaos; some people even threatened to riot, and police were called to several establishments.

Most EBT users, although angry, remained calm and simply left. Some grocers permitted customers to take up to $50.00 in groceries, allowing for people to buy necessities. However, at several Walmart stores customers were permitted to "purchase" whatever groceries they had selected. Even though the company knew there was a problem, it showed concern and did not limit or deny purchases to anyone. In essence, Walmart extended a helping hand. Sadly, those efforts were not appreciated, nor wise. Unscrupulous, uncontrolled shoppers quickly filled numerous grocery carts (sometimes up to 8-10) with everything they desired (not just what was actually needed) and queued up at the cash registers knowing full well that the balance on their food stamp accounts would never cover the amount of groceries that they were, in truth, stealing.

Word spread in those communities, and soon, in locust-like fashion, people swarmed in and emptied grocery shelves and trashed the aisles. It didn't take long before a pack mentality emerged. Amazingly, some truly incredulous individuals even piled electronics, clothing, and even televisions into their carts – trying to get them past the busy cashiers who were plagued by hordes of hotheaded shoppers. These crowds of freeloaders took over and selfishly provided themselves with a windfall of confiscated goods – all feeling they were "entitled" to take advantage of the problem, the store, the government, and the taxpayers.

Later, when Walmart announced that the EBT system was back on line those greedy "customers" quickly abandoned their filled-to-overflowing carts; left them sitting in aisles everywhere and literally ran out. Employees then faced the enormous task of replacing food goods back on their shelves and cleaning up the mess. Many items simply had to be tossed away. Groceries were ruined from being crushed under the weight of heavier items, or had broken containers, or opened boxes. Fruits and vegetables, expensive meats, eggs, and dairy products had been mashed and damaged from being hurriedly tossed into carts.

The EBT customers who saw this as an opportunity to commit a crime showed no patience, no understanding, and no compunction about pilfering and became an uncontrollable force locked into the belief that taking what they could not pay for was justified because the system had failed; Walmart was a big company and could afford it, and...simply...because they could get away with it.

What this reflects is how, so often, those whom the government tries the most to help – such as the life-long recipients of government services – are the ones who do the most to display an unappreciative, indignant attitude and cause damage and bedlam when something goes awry or they do not get all the "free stuff" they have been told they can expect.

These were not the decent people who were shopping simply because they needed milk, cereal, or lunchmeat for their children, or baby food for their infants, or any actual necessities for a few days. Mostly these were the people who regularly abuse the EBT system and ruin the reputation of the law-abiding, deserving recipients who respect others' property and have been placed in the position of need due to personal tragedy, illness, age, loss of employment or other understandable reason they are receiving assistance.

The lesson here – for the government – is: Watch out for more of the same when the ObamaCare/Affordable Care Act program's system has a major break-down, is shut-down or off-line, or gets screwed-up in any way and causes patients any inconvenience, or extended waiting periods, or negatively affects what they expect from their medical care providers.

Of course, the incompetence of the program is already obvious, and there are doubts that it will ever be viable before the scheduled fines are due to be enforced on those who have not been able or even want to sign up. Since the first moment the ACA website went on-line, it has experienced multiple problems, crashes, and data entry/retrieval complications. People are already exasperated just trying to register and check premium costs.

The future will hold worse challenges since the ACA system is, by necessity, much more involved, and complex than the EBT system. But, if in the future, when the registrations are completed and people anticipate smooth sailing for health care coverage for medical procedures and visits to doctors, there is a major technical fault or incident, or when government employees deny the medical attention people believe they should have, or when coverage is not forthcoming for any reason, or recipients realize the intrusions to their privacy that has resulted, (combined with the high premiums they did not expect), there will be very angry citizens some of whom will become demanding and outraged.

The same types who lacked patience and discipline and could not wait a few hours or a day for their groceries will turn the hospitals into areas of chaos, terrorize doctors and medical staffs, converge on government offices and intimidate employees, and behave as disorderly and disruptively as they have in the past.

When people are conditioned to believe that just because they exist the government is completely responsible for their total well-being from cradle to grave they expect immediate satisfaction. They have no ability or desire to accept excuses. Nor do they desire to try and comprehend confusing explanations of why something is not handed out as promised. To them, the government is liable to provide service when, where, how – as fast, often, and as free – as they want it. They have not learned the lessons of persevering over trials, setting goals, or having the fortitude to wait for the rewards of their own efforts and sacrifices.

We saw these same "gimme" types who broke store windows, stole merchandise, and took advantage of a bad situation after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans where the disgruntled wreaked even more havoc on the city. Unfortunately it seems that in the U.S. this occurs after almost every natural disaster. We saw it when unruly Occupy crowds damaged business fronts, expected food handouts, spread debris, and took over public areas (which they quickly destroyed) so they could camp out indefinitely until forced to leave. Sadly, we even see that the possibility for this "I want mine now" behavior is always just a few feet away – just visit any Social Security or Unemployment Office. Today armed guards are stationed in the waiting areas in order to discourage disenchanted, frustrated individuals from threatening or creating problems in those locations. And, this past weekend, our country again saw this conduct at the hundreds of food stores and markets affected by the EBT "glitch" – just because customers had to wait or return to make grocery purchases.

We will see them again. Problems will arise with the government health program – whenever it actually starts – because there has never been a government run program that has operated efficiently, successfully and without malfunctions or complications – from the USPS, to the DMV, to the EBT system. And when that won't be nice. The base greediness of infuriated, impatient, intolerant, and undisciplined people who have been told by the government that they "are entitled and have a right" at all times, to almost everything they want, and for whom whatever assistance they are given never seems to be enough...will remind us just how ugly Americans can get.

© Maureen Scott


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Maureen Scott

P. Maureen Scott is an ardent American patriot who was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and retired to Richmond, VA, in 2000. Free from the nine-to-five grind of writing for employers and clients, she began writing political commentary to please herself and express her convictions... (more)


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