Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

A note on yesterday’s EBT debacle

Written By: Bob - Oct• 13•13

As I’m sure most of you are aware, the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system in 17 states went down for a time yesterday, leading to no small amount of worry for those affected who rely upon the program to supplement their family’s dietary needs.

Thanks to the modern social media technology, the worry became hysteria rather quickly. I watch it all unfold via Twitter as the hashtag #EBT trended. There were those lamenting their misfortune wondering how they would feed their children, and despicable souls taking pleasure in their discomfort. I found myself praying for the souls of both.

Of course, it was all just a momentary computer upgrade glitch (or so we’re told), and the system is back online today.

There are lessons to be learned from this, the primary lesson being that the psychological shock of an interruption of services can hit far faster and wider than the actual effects of such a shutdown.

One of the immediate bits of disinformation spread last night were cries that the EBT cards of whites were working, but not the EBT cards of blacks. This statement is categorically false; in the areas where service were lost, it was a system-wide crash and everyone was affected.

Agitators used the tension in an effort to instigate racial strife.

Who they were can’t be known—anyone can claim to be anyone else on the Internet—but the clear intent was to fire up blacks against whites. If the shutdown were to stretch into days instead of just hours, the threat to the thin veneer of civility in our society would become frayed… to put it mildly, and rioting could rapidly break out and spread into something far worse.

What should people have learned from this incident?

The first and primary lesson is that being entirely dependent upon others to survive is terrifying. All of us depend upon others for some things—we are social animals, after all—but if you have no options and no reserves, you may find yourself in very desperate straits very quickly with very few options. As a result, you should if at all possible build up reserves of essentials such as food, water filtration (it’s usually much easier to find water than to clean it), fuel, and shelter for your family.

I would also strongly suggest that you put together a neighborhood protection plan, so that you and your neighbors can face any potential breakdown as a mutually supporting team. Lone-wolf survival makes great fiction, but is likely to lead to a swift death in the real world. There is strength and a diversity of skills in numbers. Take advantage of that.


I’m fortunately in that I’ve been able to read A Failure of Civility, provide copies to my neighbors, and speak to the authors themselves. I’ve recommended it in the past, and it seems like even more of a “must have” today.

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  1. My store manager is hoping to hire off-duty officers to stand at the front if the store if EBT is ever out for mor than one day. I’ve asked if those if is with permits could wear sidearms and he said we might have to think about that later. Corporate would not be pleased, but hey.

  2. Lazarus Long says:

    Even if you rely on the gov’t handouts – if you don’t have a few days store of rice, canned soups, condensed milk, etc. you are very foolish. But that’s they way the world and the bell curve works.

  3. Catseye says:

    We had a power outage a few years back after an Ice storm power was out for 10 days in winter. My wife worried about the food in the fridge, just put it in the grill I suggested. Animals can’t get at it and once the racks are removed it’s amazing how much food one will hold. Being able to think for oneself and find solutions to problems is the best trait a person can have. By the way if you have pets they will keep the house about 50 degrees with no heat on. Hurricane lamps can give off a lot of heat by the way. We put in a gas fireplace after that little disaster.

  4. Klingonwork says:

    I think we may surmise that when the breakdown does come, it will be far, far worse than we can imagine…it will take all my strength to not find contempt for those who kept dismissing these possibilities, kept thinking “I’ll deal with it when it comes”, and as I’ve said before, some of these are in my extended family. They will come, but the door will be locked.

    What really tweeks me is had they let the system fail several years ago we would be on the road to recovery already but now, it is questionable that we can ever recover.

    God help us all.


  5. Matt says:

    For all the blaming of Washington, what really happened is that the backend system is a piece of crap. The people in charge are grossly incompetent and don’t do even simple failover tests. Add to that the fact that the government people in charge of dealing with the contrating company have no clue how a reliable system should actually work and this was just waiting to happen.

    • Rob Crawford says:

      Walmart also screwed up by treating the cards as if they had no limit. Saner to limit them to, say, $50 with a small “you’ll have to come back again” discount to make up for the time and gas. That’s enough to get people fed until the systems are back online.

  6. Right_2_Bear says:

    With 1 out of 5 people taking some kind of government payout, the stage is set for absolute chaos if the gravy train stops running.

    I liked “A Failure of Civility”. It is an excellent resource. I also liked “Lights Out” by David Crawford, it is detailed and instructive but in a more novel-like approach. Either read makes it clear that setting up a NPP will be tough but necessary work if one wants to survive such upheaval.

    • lineman says:

      Your facts are off…There are now over 100 million people on some form of government assistance…That is not including Social Security or Medicare…

  7. Comrade X says:

    End of Civility is a must read and also as a future reference, that’s is why the authors wrote it in large print; to be able to read it in low light when the lights go out. Jack Lawson is pretty much a legend and it would be a honor to even meet the man.

    The recent EBT glitch is a good example of what happens when the government controlled drones can’t get their fixes no more; first they go after the WalMarts of the world but when given the time for that to run out then they will end up on your doorsteps.

    The fact is retreating into a bunker will only be good if you never have to go out or no one ever gets in; no man is an island; you will need to join others to survive; this book is a road map for survival.

  8. Comrade X says:

    Sorry I meant “A Failure of Civility” which will also mean a complete end of civility by those who become animals because of that failure where those of us who wish for civility & survival need to have a plan and there is one in this book for sure.

  9. Sharpshooter says:

    Praying for them won’t make them sane, responsible, honest…

    Conservatives were quite supportive of the collectivist, pyschosis-inducing welfare state as the “liberals” since Day ONE!

  10. Survival Skvez says:

    I read an article that said that EBT users were ‘stealing’ groceries by buying far more than they had credit on their cards. I don’t understand how this ends up as being stealing. When the system processes this purchase they should just end up with a negative balance. It’s not theft it’s just an unapproved loan.
    Eventually as they get more credit on their cards the balance will become positive again, in the meanwhile they can eat the food they stuffed their trolleys with when the system was down.
    Am I missing something?

    • Rob Crawford says:

      They were stealing because they knew it was theft, that they were taking what they had no right to.

  11. Catseye says:

    Doesn’t work that way Skvez the cards won’t hold a negative balance and they can’t program the system to. They could try taking the people to court but they probably don’t have any assets to take. Walmart could try filing a lawsuit against Xerox for the balance but they aren’t likely to be successful. In the end Walmart is probably going to have to eat the loss. And the carts didn’t just contain food there were big screen TV’s and other electronics and things not covered by the EBT program. My guess is the person at the office who instructed the stores to accept the cards without limits on them is going to lose his job. And should it happen again the SOP will be not to accept the cards.

    • Survival Skvez says:

      OK so assuming that the system can’t handle negative balances (stupid system) why can’t Walmart just re-submit the unpaid bill 2 seconds after the start of the next credit cycle?
      And surely EBT is restricted to certain items (that do not include TVs!) what fool permitted them to buy that sort of stuff on their non-functioning EBT?

  12. Catseye says:

    And Lazarus the psychology of a shutdown in the food supply in an urban environment is pretty well known even with supplies on hand people start to panic almost immediately and seek to grab as much extra as they can get. Things go to hell pretty fast.

  13. Comrade X says:

    An update;

    “It looks like Obama plans to crash the economy and instigate massive food riots in November. This will be blamed, naturally, on the Evil White Racist Tea Party Republicans. American Pravda, (ABCNNBCBS, the NYT, the WaPo, the LAT) will dutifully serve as Obama’s microphone for this scapegoating…..

  14. redc1c4 says:

    i second the idea that this was either a dry run, or a warning shot by Bam-Bam and friends that they will set the Free Shit Army loose…

  15. Catseye says:

    It won’t be to bad outside the urban environments. Inside the cities though as I said above things are going to go to hell pretty fast. And most urbanites are O’bama voters, somehow I don’t believe this will work out to the Dems advantage, they’ll have been shown up as weak and ineffectual in the face of a determined opposition, that won’t play well. No matter how hard they try to spin it, they will have failed their base. And a lot of lefties already see O’bama as weak.

  16. Doug Rink says:

    The way government’s actively recruiting, and swelled the Food Stamp rolls, I can’t help but wonder if EBT infrastructure is getting stressed from working a load it wasn’t designed to carry.

    If that’s the case, and the number of recipients keep expanding, expect additional outages going forward.

  17. Steve Skubinna says:

    Lone wolf is not only fiction, it’s, well… fiction. Wolves aren’t lone creatures, but pack animals. A lone wolf is not likely to survive.