BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – News that Hawaii is enjoying an influx of money from an unusual source – welfare and food stamp payments from other states – may point the way to a vast new income stream that could help save our economy.

Apparently some Mainland welfare recipients are sneaking off to the Islands to spend their own state’s money here – God bless ‘em. A Missouri TV station uncovered what it perceives  to be some kind of a scandal, that welfare payments aren’t staying in the “Show Me” state but migrating to “Show Me The Money” states like Hawaii.

The TV news spoil-sports reckon that nearly $400,000 in welfare and food stamp funds were spent in states outside Missouri in the month of January alone. Hawaii got only a small slice of that, about $3,000. But you have to figure that if Missouri welfare beneficiaries were spending their dough in Hawaii, then people on the dole from other states must be, too. (TV stations in most other states apparently have better things to investigate then how welfare money is spent, God bless ‘em.)

This is the perfect answer for Hawaii’s economic problems: Possibly millions of OSM (Other States’ Money) flying to Hawaii.

The welfare awardees aren’t actually leaving their states with pockets full of government-supplied greenbacks. It’s easier than that. They are given food stamp bucks and welfare payments on credit-like cards that incredibly (some would say “insanely”) can be used at any supermarket checkout line or automated teller machine.

You’d think that states would be bright enough to embed some sort of computer code that would block those money cards from being used outside of their state’s borders. (You’d also think that most states would figure out a way not go bankrupt, but you’d be wrong.)

This isn’t the first time that government  payments to the impulsive impoverished were not used for their intended purposes (i.e. food, clothes and cheap wine). The Los Angeles Times discovered last year that thousands and thousands of dollars in California welfare payments were being spent on at least 14 cruise ships sailing out of Miami. Adding even more insult to penury it was learned that government handout cards handed out in California were being used at ATMs in Las Vegas casinos.

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger found out that the greedy needy were using taxpayer money to finance vacations he almost fell out of one of his Hummers (the green, hybrid one).

Getting the poor to use money given to the by the government in only ways that the government approves has always been a problem. Jesus said – and I tend to agree – “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

Today he might say “spend Caesar’s cabbage the way Caesar tells you to spend his cabbage, Jack, and that means on CABBAGE, not expensive bottled water and poker chips.”

That seems unfair and rather demeaning. I know that when I am in the market checkout line and I see a guy using his food stamp card to by brie instead of American cheese and filet mignon instead of Hamburger Helper, I always slap him on the back and say, “Good on, ya, mate! Don’t let the man put his boot on your gullet!”

If a state wants to give out money to the destitute, then the destitute-ee should be able to spend that dinero in any state he wants.

We are citizens of one nation, free to travel across state borders for fun, excitement or to escape messy legal entanglements. That right goes for the poor as well as rich.

If that poor soul is from Missouri and wants to come to Hawaii and spend his government endowment on a Zippy’s plate lunch and a few cocktails and companionship at Club Rock-Za, well, God bless ‘em.

 

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Charles Memminger is a national award-winning columnist, screenwriter and author. His first novel, "Aloha, Lady Blue" will be published nationally Jan. 22, 2013 by St. Martin's Press. Memminger is a senior writer at Communications Pacific, Hawaii's premier communications, marketing and PR firms. Memminger's commentary represents his personal views and are not affiliated with any organization. To keep up with developments regarding "Aloha, Lady Blue," like him at: http://www.facebook.com/charles.memminger. E-mail him at cmemminger@hawaii.rr.com