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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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65 Responses

  1. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused November 30, 2009 at 10:08 am |

    Could you link the article? It looks like you intended to link it in the first line, but forgot.

  2. stonebiscuit
    stonebiscuit November 30, 2009 at 10:34 am |

    “Generally, if you’re up at that hour and not working, what are you into?” he said.

    I dunno; perhaps you’re just getting off work? When I was waiting tables in college (which was prime food stamp territory), I frequently went to the grocery store, the ATM, the movies, Waffle House, etc. at midnight or later. I’d get off work and be too jazzed to go straight home and go to bed, so I’d do what errands I could.

    It also occurs to me that some/many of these shoppers may be eating for the first time since their food and benefits ran out X number of days ago.

  3. Personal Failure
    Personal Failure November 30, 2009 at 10:54 am |

    Stonebiscuit: bingbingbing!

    I don’t qualify for food stamps, I tried, but as soon as I cash my check every Friday, the first thing I get is food- because I didn’t eat Thursday night. I guarantee you most of those people are out at midnight getting food for their children in the morning, children who probably had either nothing or something completely anutritious (think Ramen noodles) the night before.

  4. Aftercancer
    Aftercancer November 30, 2009 at 11:03 am |

    I have had this experience in my own family and it makes me insane. My parents are serious Kool Aid drinkers but when my sister needs assistance it’s okay because “She REALLY needs it”. I have argued about this for years and now I just ignore them.

  5. Phrone
    Phrone November 30, 2009 at 11:20 am |

    The comment about ‘food stamps being quasi-money’ just seems ridiculous to me. Food is like money in that you can use money to buy food; it is unlike money in any other situation. The reason that the government gives out aid as food, rather than cash, in certain cases is the fear (problematic or not) that people will abuse the funds (for example, buying drugs.). I think the idea that you are abusing the system if you use food stamps to buy coffee is at best strange and at worst represents a desire to control the very lifestyles of poor individuals in a way that would be inconceivable of better off people. If you give people food stamps and they decide to buy coffee with it, maybe that’s just what they need and you, Robert Rector, have no idea what their lifestyle or personal needs are.

  6. SarahMC
    SarahMC November 30, 2009 at 11:25 am |

    That’s funny – I was reading an article about food stamps in my hometown newspaper yesterday, that concluded with a quote from a man who had judged people on food stamps all his life… until, of course, he went on them.

  7. Joni Golden
    Joni Golden November 30, 2009 at 11:59 am |

    I have always been of the mind that all conservative social program bashers needed to stop judging the poor was the experience of having to walk in their shoes.

    Turns out, not so much. Wow.

  8. Michele
    Michele November 30, 2009 at 12:33 pm |

    I have a republican conservative friend. Her niece was getting a check from socail services to cover incidental expenses, like cigarettes. Her niece really needed the help since her ex husband was a total loser and doesn’t help with the kids. I had to actually tell that woman her niece was on welfare. She seemed stunned at the concept that her niece was on welfare.

  9. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe November 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm |

    I really wish this Robert Rector would miss a couple of meals. Or better yet, explain to my sister, who takes care of our mother (Alzheimer’s) and our brother (autism), how she’s supposed to find the time to meet his work requirements for using food stamps.

  10. Andrea
    Andrea November 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm |

    I have a super conservative, and incredibly ignorant uncle who’s always tell me that *those* unmarried, uneducated women are only getting pregnant and having babies so they can get more money. We literally had a “conversation” about this two weeks before his unmarried, uneducated daughter admitted she was pregnant. I doubt it changed his tune, though, although I won’t ask for the sake of his daughter.

  11. Shiyiya
    Shiyiya November 30, 2009 at 1:18 pm |

    Those statistics about how many people end up on food stamps are staggering – is there a cite?

    I really doubt there are very many people actively abusing the system.

  12. besidethebed
    besidethebed November 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm |

    I was under the impression that food stamps already came with work requirements. In Washington state at least, you’re told during the application process that you must participate in the “Food Stamp Employment and Training Program, if required in your area“. I emphasized the “if required in your area” portion because I don’t know if that eligibility requirement is ever actually enforced. I’m currently on food stamps myself, but as I’m employed full-time I haven’t come up against that piece of it. That said, I think a work requirement is preposterous. There are a million reasons under the sun why someone is unable to work, and more often than not those are the same reasons that they are in need of food assistance.

  13. Carol
    Carol November 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm |

    For 30 years I worked for a county economic support agency and one of the things we did was determine eligibility for Food Stamps. What most people don’t realize, is the food stamp program is administered by the Dept. of Agriculture. It was not originally developed to primarily help the poor, but to help the farmers. During the “WAR on Poverty” it made more sense to stop paying farmers not to plant acreage and instead develop a program to use the excess to feed low income people, most of whom work.

  14. Katherine
    Katherine November 30, 2009 at 1:35 pm |

    This is one of those irregular verbs isn’t it? I am down on my luck, you are feckless, they are fraudulent money-grubbers.

  15. garnet
    garnet November 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm |

    At the time authorizing legislation was passed (60′s, I think), the food stamp program was designed to help the agricultural sector–help get rid of surplus food–as much as to assist low income people have enough to eat. In the late ;80′s when I first moved to the small coastal town I still live in, there were still free cheese distributions. Of real cheese (if not great cheese), the USDA or another federal agency purchased the cheese to help the dairy industry/cheese producers & then distributed it to low income people. That was before the feds decided to let the dairy industry in the US die or manage on its own–lunlike AIG or the banksters.

    Not sure about now, but I was working part-time in a natural foods co-op (years ago) when the WIC program started (or got bigger) & we had to carry foods/food brands we normally didn’t (non-organic & a few corporate brands of cereals, etc., we wouldn’t normally have carried) as the large food corporations (Gen. Mills, et al) had successfully lobbied Congress to require name brands. That may have changed later. I remember sitting with the manager & trying to choose the least sugary brand name cereals to carry. If a reader doesn’t know, WIC is a program that (may do more by now) was designed to make sure pregnant women could obtain adequate nourishment for themselves & the fetus they’re carrying. We had co-op members or people who shopped there because they wanted to be able to save $$ by buying grains, etc,. in bulk & organically grown produce, etc. At that time, you could volunteer for X number of hours to “pay” for the annual membership and more hours/month to earn a 10% discount. For some people who were short on work hours, volunteering meant some could buy the foods they wanted.

    The only way most disabled or elderly people who receive SSI benefits (SSI is Supplemental Security Income–it can be received by: a person who is disabled, didn’t work enough to get SSDI, or the SSDI benefit is low & who is very low income, or an elderly person who is retired who is very low income) is to also received food stamps &/and live in subsidized housing. Maybe. That is how low the federal SSI monthly cash benefit is (some states supplement the base federal rate). It helps they are able to grow some of their own produce during the growing season & freeze some of it.

    From what I know of the food stamp program, food stamps are not intended (& generally don’t) provide for all of a family’s (whether one person is the family or there are 2 kids or whatever) food needs/month. A year or so ago a few legislators, at least one in OR, tried to eat for a month or two using only the standard food stamp allocation and generally, if they managed it at all, they didn’t eat well.

  16. garnet
    garnet November 30, 2009 at 1:52 pm |

    Sorry, I meant to write that the only way people on SSI survived was to also receive food stamps and live in subsidized housing (or share a home w/other people) because of how low the federal SSI cash monthly benefit is.

  17. buttercup
    buttercup November 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm |

    Federal SSI is now $674 a month. Some states supplement the payment-PA gives a $27.40 per person-I think CA is the highest at $100+.

    Disclaimer-I am a welfare caseworker in Pennsylvania.

    We had work requirements for certain categories of people until recently. If you were over 21, able to work, and had no dependents, you were only eligible for food stamps for four months out of a three year period unless you started to work at least 20 hours a week. This was known as ABAWD policy-Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents. Certain counties and metro areas in PA were designated ABAWD waiver-meaning there were no Food Stamp work requirements. Now, the entire state is waived from work requirements.

  18. Evrybdy44
    Evrybdy44 November 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm |

    That statistic is startling. I would never have guessed it would be so high.
    Of course there are people who take advantage of govt assistance. I know a few of them myself. It’s disturbing, but that isn’t the majority of people. Just like the idea that all homeless are just lazy drug/alcohol addicted bums. . .it’s just NOT true. This sort of ignorance is what the right wingers do best!

  19. A.W.
    A.W. November 30, 2009 at 3:16 pm |

    Why is it whenever someone mentions ‘abusing the system’ it’s always someone they think they know? The numbers would be astonishing if the amount of people I’ve heard of from friends and family – actually – abused the system. Something else that’s ‘funny’ is that temp agencies have used that as an excuse – the latest was “We can’t afford to temp you out, what with your visual impairment, but you should go on ssi – this guy I temped rides a motorcycle, so he’s obviously screwing the system and if he can get on it, you can.”. Paraphrased, but not by a whole hell of a lot. If I ever ‘hear’ about someone abusing the system again it’ll be too soon. It’s hard enough to get back ssi, let alone monthly.

  20. Diane Morgan
    Diane Morgan November 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm |

    I am so glad that someone else who read the article had the same reaction I did. I could not believe the ignorance of some of the statements by Mr. Dawson. Especially the comments of the late night shoppers. Did he ever stop to think that it could be the only time these people have to get out and shop? So many families in this country were food insecure before this crisis, and millions more are now, yet many of those families before the crisis had a parent or parents that were lucky enough to cobble a couple of part time jobs together at minimum wage, with no benefits and yet have to struggle to put food on the table.

    I would like to suggest that everyone read the well written book, All You Can Eat –How Hungry Is America? This was written before this whole crisis exploded. And things are only going to get worse because congress doesn’t have the balls to make real change that would be good for America and bad for the rich. Here is a link to the book: http://joelberg.net/book/

  21. Evrybdy44
    Evrybdy44 November 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm |

    So true Jill!. People abuse any system govt or otherwise. No sytem is exempt from that.

    @AW The person I know who abuses the system is a 30something year old white male who is married and has two kids. He lives w/his mother(who enables him in a million different destructive ways) and refuses to get a job and so does his wife. It’s the only case I know of first hand, but I know it. It’s not someone who knows someone who knows someone. I know it. But he’s still only one person. I will never judge a group or system based on a few miscreants. That would make me part of the ignorance I so despise.

  22. SarahMC
    SarahMC November 30, 2009 at 4:27 pm |

    It takes a lot of nerve to say “Get a job!” when unemployment is around 10% and people are desperate for work.

  23. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers November 30, 2009 at 4:31 pm |

    He lives w/his mother(who enables him in a million different destructive ways) and refuses to get a job and so does his wife.

    To be perfectly honest, I’m actually quite comfortable with the idea of living in a world where my tax money pays for some people to sit around the house and play Xbox, because if you are dysfunctional enough that you’d *rather* jump through the humiliating hoops the government puts you through and barely eke out an existence rather than work, I don’t want you doing any job where I might depend on you for anything, including making my hamburger. And if you have an invisible disability, such as depression, that makes it impossible for you to work but also impossible to get on SSI, then I’d rather you “scammed the system” to get what you need rather than that you go hungry.

    I have no resentment in my heart for these people. It’s the corporate welfare that I despise. There’s no good reason that dysfunctional, sociopathic immortal giants should have all the rights that I have as a human being, *and* none of the responsibilities. I’m not thrilled with high levels of military spending either, but if the money was going to the troops, and to American defense contracting companies that employ Americans and are legally bound by all American laws (and who know it and don’t seek to find loopholes), *and* it wasn’t in the service of an illegal occupation a la Iraq, I wouldn’t have a big problem with it from an economic standpoint. But I can’t see how corporate welfare benefits anyone but large corporations and their CEOs and top shareholders.

  24. afurrica
    afurrica November 30, 2009 at 5:34 pm |

    I work retail, and the number of people quietly trying to get my attention so that they can ask me (in a mortified whisper) if this store takes (whisper drops lower) food stamps? has been on the rise lately.

    Yes! I tell them. Yes, any register is fine. Yes, the cashiers know how it works. Yes, it’s okay.

    Oh, and Katherine’s grammar lesson rocks.

  25. metabonbon
    metabonbon November 30, 2009 at 5:55 pm |

    He has noticed crowds of midnight shoppers … “Generally, if you’re up at that hour and not working, what are you into?” he said.

    Well, as long as we’re judging people: in the spectrum of things he imagines people do in the middle of the night (satan-worshipping cocaine abortion party!), shopping for groceries at that hour probably indicates that you’re leading a pretty darn wholesome life.

  26. Wen Scott
    Wen Scott November 30, 2009 at 6:16 pm |

    1. work requirements —- I assume that caring for the elderly or disabled at home, and raising children, isn’t real work.

    2. work requirements —- here is a sample of duties (typical 8-hour shift) to earn minimum wage, without benefits:: serve customers; smile and thank customers who call you bitch, bimbo, whore, liar, thief, etc.; PR and Complaints manager to deal with customers when prices rise, tables aren’t cleared quickly enough, or just plain screaming, demands of instant service etc., etc., because their own lives aren’t perfect; clear and clean tables; wash, dry and restore dishes, utensils, pots and pans; clean bathrooms to government health standards; clean floors, walls, shelves, display cases to government health standards; clean commercial appliances to meet health standards; restock shelves; inventory; garbage; learn and operate computer programmed tills; shovel snow; pick up customer garbage from perimeter of building and parking lot; and more, including purchasing uniforms and safety-mandated shoes out of pocket.

    At the end of the day, a measureable number of these lazy minimum wage earners return home to care for children, elderly or disabled family members, which, of course, everyone knows (who hasn’t actually done it) isn’t real work.

    3. work requirements —- to earn government bailouts, perks, stock options and bonuses, top-notch benefits and retirement packages worth millions of dollars — nothing and/or know the right people. What would this group of welfare recipients’ duties entail, based on the above example of a typical 8-hour day, if they actually had to work to receive their handouts?

  27. Emma
    Emma November 30, 2009 at 6:28 pm |

    To be perfectly honest, I’m actually quite comfortable with the idea of living in a world where my tax money pays for some people to sit around the house and play Xbox, because if you are dysfunctional enough that you’d *rather* jump through the humiliating hoops the government puts you through and barely eke out an existence rather than work, I don’t want you doing any job where I might depend on you for anything, including making my hamburger.

    This is exactly what I thought when I read this story: someone who is able to work (and I think this job market is a factor in “ability”) and would rather submit to the government requirements for getting aid doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to work with or depend on. It only makes sense to insist that these people work if you think having to perform labor is punitive, instead of something we contribute to our society and ourselves. But then, conservatives seem to be in the habit of interpreting a lot of merely unpleasant things as punitive, when they’re not attempting to devise new punishments for behaviors they don’t like.

    In particular, I know people who’ve been fired for the effects of mental illnesses that they were afraid to disclose in being hired; plenty of people can function and would like to work but struggle to seem like ideal employees because of conditions they can’t, disclose, or are afraid to, or don’t realize they can. That the effects of those “invisible” problems may not fit the letter of the program’s intent has more to do with the shortcomings of those services than with those of the people supposedly cheating the system.

  28. Faith from F.N.
    Faith from F.N. November 30, 2009 at 7:03 pm |

    “While policy analysts, spotting similar crowds nationwide, have called them a sign of increased hunger, he sees idleness. “Generally, if you’re up at that hour and not working, what are you into?” he said.”

    I haven’t read all the comments, so someone may have already made a similar comment…

    Of the people I know on food stamps, many of them shop at midnight because there are fewer people shopping at that hour and they are ashamed because they are using food stamps. Fewer people means fewer chances to have someone stare at you like you’re some disgusting piece of shit they scrapped off of the bottom of your shoe when they see you are using food stamps to pay for your food…

  29. libdevil
    libdevil November 30, 2009 at 7:32 pm |

    In this economy, when people are at the grocery store at midnight or whatever, it’s often going to be a sign that they were staying late, putting in unpaid overtime to cover for their ‘laid-off’ or ‘downsized’ coworkers, and hoping to avoid the same fate themselves.

  30. Joe
    Joe November 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm |

    Those, at least the religious, who like to complain about government “hand-outs” to the poor (or to anyone, so long as we’re talking about a service like food-stamps) should be reminded of all those theological hand-outs God gives. Government Intervention, divine intervention: frickin’ communist Jews, who quit their job working for the Pharaoh, just so they could go wander the desert like a bunch of bums, living off of mana that just fell from the sky. Oy vey!

    Frankly, I think that food-stamp shame is a crock-of-shit, that is played up by both conservatives (directly) and liberals (indirectly, by apologizing for the shame the poor feel, “because they can’t help it”). My recourse is not to say I am “proud” to be on food-stamps though, because that’s really just the feel-good flip-side of the shame in question. Rather: I don’t feel my or anyone else’s dignity is compromised by being on food-stamps. In fact, mine and your dignity is basically affirmed by this miraculous system of social justice. To that end, why do liberals continue to perpetuate the disgusting myth that social services like food-stamps are something that only the poor “deserve”?

    That kind of right by poverty is another condescending reflection of the shame that one is supposed to feel for receiving those services. I buy practically all my food with food-stamps, and ration myself quite closely to the budget that entails. That some people would “abuse” this service by glutting themselves, relying on their food-stamps as kind of Christmas bonus, says far more about consumption-driven economics and the gluttony it *demands* we practice, lest the market fall to pieces, than about the merits of making sure *everyone* has a reasonable diet. To that end, food-stamps and like services have no place in our political rhetoric as “for the poor,” but should always be available to everyone.

  31. Joe
    Joe November 30, 2009 at 8:55 pm |

    “From what I know of the food stamp program, food stamps are not intended (& generally don’t) provide for all of a family’s (whether one person is the family or there are 2 kids or whatever) food needs/month. A year or so ago a few legislators, at least one in OR, tried to eat for a month or two using only the standard food stamp allocation and generally, if they managed it at all, they didn’t eat well.”

    I live in Portland, Oregon and have been on food-stamps for the last three years. I don’t know about supporting a family, but I buy mostly from food co-ops, New Seasons and the like. What may be necessary from a food-policy perspective is teaching people how to maintain (healthy) staple diets. I am very active too, riding a bicycle everywhere, most every day and I basically don’t ever buy meat. Sure, I have my privileges (educated white male, though from poor background), but I do not think these are the lynchpins of my making food-stamps work for me.

    Growing up, I was always under the impression, though I never bought into it, that we should be eating something different all the time. I’d eat rice and beans two nights in a row, and my grandmother would scowl and say, “aren’t you getting sick of that?” My grandma! Buy your groceries with this in mind, and I can see how you run into problems living on a food-stamp provided diet. Making food-stamps work is not impossible, nor is it even that hard, but it does mean letting go of what was never really a sensible approach to food in the first place.

  32. Troy
    Troy November 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm |

    After losing a job, living on unemployment for over a year and finally finding work at 40% less than I used to make, I found that I qualified for food stamps–and need them to be able to eat. I don’t hide in shame when I use my EBT card. For all these years I’ve been voting for progressive candidates who would advance minimum wage laws so that people can actually make a living when they work. My candidates have continually been voted down by the people in my city, state and country. If they’ve got a problem with me using food stamps, they have only themselves to blame for it.

  33. Vegina
    Vegina November 30, 2009 at 9:57 pm |

    The fact that they “cleanse” Dawson in this article by establishing his whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality and conformity to marriage and family norms is MADDENING.

    @ Jill: Thanks for posting this. People in power (here, white righties) are so good at rewriting rhetoric to fit their needs. A single minority woman could never get away with simultaneously vilifying people who rely on government assistance while also justifying her own use of it like Dawson does here.

    @Carol #14: This is a great point to bring up. Almost ALL food policies in the US are due to government subsidies of farmers. The gov’t is willing to demonize and demoralize the people that it feeds the unhealthy surplus of its beef and dairy to (the gov’t buys up the surplus animal products to keep the grain supply flowing to livestock since it subsidizes the growth of grain–its a crazy horrible cycle). The gov’t puts surplus beef and dairy into school lunches and makes cheese a staple of WIC programs. This is horrible considering most races (excluding caucasians) have a majority of their population lactose intolerant:
    “95 percent of Asians, 60 percent to 80 percent of African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews, 80 percent to 100 percent of American Indians, and 50 percent to 80 percent of Hispanics.
    Lactose intolerance is least common among people of northern European origin, who have a lactose intolerance prevalence of only about 2 percent.”–NIH, doc #05-5305B, Jan. 2006. So essentially, WIC and food stamps are racist on multiple levels.

  34. Vegina
    Vegina November 30, 2009 at 10:04 pm |

    Clarification on that last comment I made: The government is racist in its vilification of and administration of WIC and foodstamps.

  35. jemand
    jemand November 30, 2009 at 11:17 pm |

    the other thing is, these people who “abuse” food stamps like the one example given in this thread by sitting around doing nothing after jumping through all the paperwork hoops… well, I just think it likely they’re dealing with mental stuff, either environmental or genetic or a combination, and… given that it’s a fair possibility someday they’ll figure it out and get mental help and a good job they have a pretty good chance of paying back in taxes whatever pittance was required to keep them alive to that point anyway.

    All that to say, I’m really not worrying about “abusing the system.” It’s rhetoric used to shut it down, not do anything constructive with.

  36. Manju
    Manju November 30, 2009 at 11:19 pm |

    How do we know Greg Dawson is a right-winger, or white?

  37. FW
    FW December 1, 2009 at 1:28 am |

    A big part of what conservatism is about is forcing people into situations so that they have no options left but to turn to “Faith-Based” charities, it was one of the things that Bush pushed for early on in his first term,

    “Creation of the office is in concert with Bush’s pledge to spend $8 billion in expanding ‘charitable choice’, in which churches and religious groups receiving federal funding to provide social services may now proselytize.” sourcewatch

    It goes back further to the “contract with america” and some stuff they snuck in Stupak style with the welfare reform in the mid-90′s.

    Sickest thing? No Really! The sickest thing! Is that a few (so far that I know of) of the conservatives in government at the time, who changed the laws to allow religious charities to get federal dollars would consistently vote against women and childrens services getting funds, – and then when they left office – they went to work for faith based charities where they now ask for, and are given funds. Seperation of Church and state my fat ass.

    Here’s a good example: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/15011

  38. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis December 1, 2009 at 2:01 am |

    This reminds me of the bunch of articles that came out a few years ago about college students using food stamps and making it out to be the worst thing ever.

    Guess what? I can either use my spoons on going to the dining hall for my meals, pay more for a larger meal plan and not be able to attend classes, or I can use the ebil food stamps for some of my meals, not have to pull money that doesn’t exist out of my ass and not waste spoons. Oh and I’ve actaully able to go to all my classes. I suppose that’s kind of important.

    That’s just me. I don’t know how many of my friends have meal plans at the bare minimum so they are able to attend school. Not every one has parents willing or able to pitch in.

    All this article shows is another way we vilify the poor and point out that only the right kind of people are deserving poor. If you don’t grovel and look down in shame, you just don’t deserve aid, becuase you must be milking the system.

  39. Manju
    Manju December 1, 2009 at 2:20 am |

    “A big part of what conservatism is about is forcing people into situations so that they have no options left but to turn to “Faith-Based” charities”

    Yeah, that really explains why, according to the article linked to by Jill, “the Bush administration led a campaign to erase the program’s stigma, calling food stamps “nutritional aid” instead of welfare, and made it easier to apply.”

  40. sonia
    sonia December 1, 2009 at 7:08 am |

    This is hardly surprising. While we notice conservative exceptionalism mre since it sticks out in our eyes, the conservatives notice liberal exceptionalism because it sticks out in their eyes. It really isn’t that different.

  41. Craig R.
    Craig R. December 1, 2009 at 8:02 am |

    MANJU
    — I thought I lived tyhroiugh the Bush years, and I certainly don’t recall any concerted effort to make food stamps seem more acceptable to use.

    And the opposition to use of the tis not limited to the right wing. For a while I was only able to get short-term assignments, and was on unemployment at least once a year (now I’ve got perm work, but at about 40% less than I did have. When I picked up the forms to apply for the food stamp program, wife was my wife was resistant to applying, because “there were other people who needed it more.” (with two kids, trying to make mortgage, car, car insurance payments, keep the old credit-card payments up there wasn’t a lot of extra cash)

  42. Ex-Republican
    Ex-Republican December 1, 2009 at 8:58 am |

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the Left at one turn worries about access to food and the food stamp program, but is then the first to make all attempts to block low cost food alternatives offered by the Wal-Marts of the world to rural areas and the inner cities. (Such big box retailers also offer low cost medical services such as optometry services etc.)

  43. jpe
    jpe December 1, 2009 at 9:49 am |

    1. work requirements —- I assume that caring for the elderly or disabled at home, and raising children, isn’t real work.

    My assumption is the opposite: I’d think that that care would provide exemption from regular work requirements.

    work requirements —- ……

    That list that follows? That’s what work is. It’s not pleasant all the time, but we do it because it is a duty.

  44. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers December 1, 2009 at 10:10 am |

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the Left at one turn worries about access to food and the food stamp program, but is then the first to make all attempts to block low cost food alternatives offered by the Wal-Marts of the world to rural areas and the inner cities. (Such big box retailers also offer low cost medical services such as optometry services etc.)

    I don’t see *nearly* the acrimony on the Left toward Target as Wal-Mart, because Target is not infamous for firing sick workers, busting unions, making their employees apply for state health care instead of giving them benefits, undercutting prices until they’ve driven everyone out of town and then hiking them again, censoring music, forcing employees to work unpaid overtime by locking them in the store, and refusing to carry birth control pills in the pharmacy.

    The problem isn’t nearly as much “big box retailers” as it is, specifically, Wal-Mart and the various evils it commits against its communities, its customers, its suppliers, and especially its employees. If Wal-Mart was driven out of business everywhere and Target or K-Mart came in instead, the world would be a better place *and* the nice things you describe would also exist.

    Also, BTW, Wal-Mart’s food is not cheaper than any other supermarket’s. Their discounts are on the stuff they can bring in from China, not the stuff they still mostly have to buy from American suppliers. You want *cheap* food, a dedicated discount supermarket like Shoppers (high end) or Sav-A-Lot (low end) will do a community a lot more good than Wal-Mart.

  45. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler December 1, 2009 at 10:33 am |

    Coffee isn’t a luxury There are regulations about what you can and can’t get with food stamps, are there not? Like, I’m pretty sure you already can’t use them for soda. So in principle the electorate is fine with people on food stamps getting coffee (overlooking that regulatory capture tells us the regulations are written by Maxwell House and A&P and, garnet points out, General Mills).

    I really doubt there are very many people actively abusing the system.

    I do too, but I suspect you and I have different definitions of “abusing the system” than Mr. Rector does.

    It is astonishing to me how much of the application process is designed to eliminate fraud. I would imagine the few people who want to defraud their fellow citizens are finding ways to do so that the USDA hasn’t thought of yet — or are lying on the forms — while a certain number of people who really need food stamps either give up or make a mistake that gets them rejected or are victims of type II errors.

    The fact that they “cleanse” Dawson in this article by establishing his whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality and conformity to marriage and family norms is MADDENING.

    Yeah. If they’d written the meta-story — “White middle-class America has these horrible destructive stereotypes of welfare recipients, and now people are shocked to learn…” — I’d be fine with it. But the white middle-class NYT would rather join its readers in their shock.

    (Disclosure: I’m white and (upper)-middle-class myself)

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the Left at one turn worries about access to food and the food stamp program, but is then the first to make all attempts to block low cost food alternatives offered by the Wal-Marts of the world to rural areas and the inner cities. (Such big box retailers also offer low cost medical services such as optometry services etc.)

    Tell me more about those dirty liberals trying to outlaw Wal-Mart.

  46. Blitzgal
    Blitzgal December 1, 2009 at 10:36 am |

    Manju, if you read the linked article before posting you would have noticed the prominent photo of Dawson and his wife right at the top. They are white.

    Regarding his comments about seeing midnight shoppers, in the paragraph that introduces Dawson, it says he works the night shift as an electrician installing lighting at a chain of grocery stores. So he’s actually at work when he sees the midnight shoppers. It doesn’t change the fact that he is making a LOT of assumptions about why people shop at midnight. As others pointed out in this thread, maybe they are also night workers and shopping after they get off work! Shopping at midnight does not automatically mean a person is unemployed.

    The fact that food stamp use has increased alongside unemployment is a very good indicator that most people depend on social aid WHEN THEY ACTUALLY NEED IT and to me it is evidence that the majority of people are not merely “gaming the system.” I’d much rather have my tax dollars go toward feeding the hungry (and education!) then blowing up families in Iraq and Afghanistan, personally.

  47. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery December 1, 2009 at 10:49 am |

    There are regulations about what you can and can’t get with food stamps, are there not? Like, I’m pretty sure you already can’t use them for soda.

    There are, but you can use them for soda. Pretty much anything that’s non-alcoholic and has a nutritional label on it. Here’s an answer from the USDA.

    SNAP is a great program for small-government types to support. It addresses a problem — people don’t have enough food — with elegant simplicity, by giving them money to buy food.

    If only we could run public education and public healthcare like that.

  48. jpe
    jpe December 1, 2009 at 10:55 am |

    I would imagine the few people who want to defraud their fellow citizens are finding ways to do so that the USDA hasn’t thought of yet

    My sense from people exposed to the system (either as social workers or as corner shop workers) is that’s fairly common. Ya sell a $120 WIC card and get $100 cash, for example.

  49. jpe
    jpe December 1, 2009 at 10:59 am |

    It’s actually not so common, per the GAO, which in 2006 estimated the sales on the black market (trafficking) to be about 1% of total benefits.

    So, commenters are correct: that sort of fraud is pretty darn uncommon.

  50. Ex-Republican
    Ex-Republican December 1, 2009 at 12:44 pm |

    Alara Rogers – most anti-Wal-Mart ordinances include other big box retailers such as Target and Meijer. I’ve done big box developments throughout the country, and it is often just as difficult to bring in a Target as a Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, the grocery unions, NIMBY groups and the Whole Foods crowd are the biggest obstacles.

  51. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 1, 2009 at 12:46 pm |

    Jill, Alara, and Jemand (& many others here): yes! yes! yes! this is so right on. In my experience, most people really are doing the best that they can — the bottomless mean-spiritedness of the attitude that assumes that lots and lots of people (other than ME!) are not is just baffling.

  52. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler December 1, 2009 at 1:41 pm |

    “The Whole Foods Crowd” are not the people trying to help the poor, I gotta say, NIMBYs aren’t by definition, and the unions would be satisfied if Walmart weren’t unionbusting.

  53. Susa
    Susa December 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm |

    For those who are interested, here’s a little more info on the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge.

  54. DaisyDeadhead
    DaisyDeadhead December 1, 2009 at 6:05 pm |

    At the disastrous town hall meeting/right-wing mob scene I went to during the summer, a guy behind me yowled non-stop that the VA had put his eye-operation off for a year and that’s why he was “against government-run health care”… I finally turned around and told him it’s better than no eye operation at all!

    He just looked surprised, like he had never considered that.

    Made me furious. (Well, not as furious as the whole meeting!)

  55. Athenia
    Athenia December 1, 2009 at 9:39 pm |

    Actually I think going through the deepest recession since the great depression is probably the best thing that could happen to Healthcare–a surefire way to get it passed.

    Sure, people don’t like change, but as more and more people lose their insurance and can’t pay for something to replace it—I think they’ll come around cuz it’s gonna be all about “them.”

  56. Andrea
    Andrea December 1, 2009 at 9:47 pm |

    Athenia, that is so true. Cobra is going up into the $1,000′s a month, and I know several conservative people who, while anti-healthcare reform before, suddenly find that they need it and want it to pass. To me, however, this is like Cheney deciding not to come out against gay rights. It doesn’t mean they believe in a deeper social responsibility, just that they’re willing to make exceptions when it actually affects them or the people closest to them. (To be clear, I’m pro both healthcare reform and gay rights, what I’m saying is that subscribing to a conservative dogma until it’s more convenient to make exceptions, only makes you a hypocrite. Unfortunately, we really need the hypocrites right now!)

  57. jemand
    jemand December 1, 2009 at 9:54 pm |

    @Athenia, but will it really work? I’m so pessimistic, I just think the current legislation will be *worse.* The insurance companies will skim off *all* the profitable cases, and the public will uderwrite all the unprofitable cases.

    Sorta like how we privatize all business successes through grand bonuses, but then… when it comes to losses, we socialize those through bailouts.

    It’s a *marvelous* gravy train for industry. Not so much for, you know, people.

  58. preying mantis
    preying mantis December 1, 2009 at 10:21 pm |

    “Why is it whenever someone mentions ‘abusing the system’ it’s always someone they think they know? The numbers would be astonishing if the amount of people I’ve heard of from friends and family – actually – abused the system.”

    It’s not like each person who’s “abusing the system” only knows one person, though. The one person I know of who’s “abusing the system” is at least 20 different other people’s “abusing the system” story. It drives most of my family absolutely nuts that she can just “get away with it” like she was personally stealing food off their tables. It drives me nuts that they can get all weepy over fetuses and then turn around and refuse to see a problem with the idea of letting this woman’s kids go hungry because their mother is negligent and/or suffering from an undiagnosed mental disorder.

  59. Seemingly Jobless
    Seemingly Jobless December 2, 2009 at 1:36 am |

    The food stamp system (in my state at least) is flawed in that it doesn’t allow for a full time homemaker/ child care option to qualify as employment. I was on food stamps 3 years ago, and during the application process I was told that I had to check ‘unemployed’ as my occupation. This also meant that before receiving any food stamps, I had to go to the social services building and take a test assessing my reading and math abilities so they could determine what kind of job I should and could have. Of course, the real reason I didn’t have a “real” job was that I was caring for children and running a household, not because my lazy behind was sitting around squandering my “grade 12 +” reading and math abilities.

    Well, I got my food stamps, but what I wonder is how “unemployed” people like me factor into the statistics for how many unemployed receive food stamps and/or any welfare benefits. It really gives the left and right politicos a talking point to quote statistics with false factoid based percentages built on a discrepancy like this. To call a homemaker unemployed is laughable, but apparently, ‘women’s work’ isn’t work at all.

    Sigh, and to think all these years I’ve actually been doing nothing except being unemployed. Which, as everyone knows, involves watching daytime talk shows, eating bon-bons, gossiping with my girlfriends, and plotting ways to further abuse “the system”.

  60. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers December 2, 2009 at 12:49 pm |

    The food stamp system (in my state at least) is flawed in that it doesn’t allow for a full time homemaker/ child care option to qualify as employment. I was on food stamps 3 years ago, and during the application process I was told that I had to check ‘unemployed’ as my occupation. This also meant that before receiving any food stamps, I had to go to the social services building and take a test assessing my reading and math abilities so they could determine what kind of job I should and could have. Of course, the real reason I didn’t have a “real” job was that I was caring for children and running a household, not because my lazy behind was sitting around squandering my “grade 12 +” reading and math abilities.

    And yet they don’t want to subsidize day care, either.

    If you dig just a little bit into any conservative rhetoric surrounding home and children and women’s roles, you’ll find a profound desire to enslave women. Their actual, stated objection to subsidizing child care is that it will destabilize American marriages. Yes, subsidizing child care will allow women with small children to go out and get their own jobs, and we can’t *have* that because then they wouldn’t be totally economically dependent on the father of the kids! And if they’re not totally economically dependent on a man, how can you expect them to want to have anything to do with one? It’s not as if women are capable of actually *loving* men; after all, men are cads who only want one thing from women, and women are gold-digging bitches who only give men sex because they want the men’s money. How dare anyone attempt to prevent men from being able to economically dominate women? HOW WILL MEN EVER GET LAID, THEN?

    Sometimes I feel so, so sorry for conservatives. Imagine living in a world where men and women are constantly at war, where men dominating women is a *good* thing and necessary because neither men nor women can possibly actually love the other and so if men couldn’t completely control women the human race would die out. They must have such miserably unhappy marriages.

    Then I remember that they’re trying to impose the roles and beliefs that cause those miserably unhappy marriages on the rest of us, and then I don’t feel sorry for them anymore.

    I cannot comprehend how anyone could have thought it was a good idea to force women on welfare into “workfare” without taking the money that was theoretically saved and investing it into expanding child care. Did it never occur to *anyone* that the reason many of these women already didn’t have jobs was that they had small children at home? (Oh, but I forgot, welfare is an incentive to have more kids because you get more money per child! Never mind that children cost more money than welfare ever provided.) This is why 50% of Congress needs to be female, and of that 50%, 30% at least should be mothers (i’ve got nothing against the childfree, but they often have the same blind spot about children that most men with or without children do, because for them as with most men, children are invariably primarily Someone Else’s Problem. I’d also like to require that the majority of men in Congress have working wives, so that they don’t fall into the “someone is at home to do all this stuff” trap as well, but how could we possibly enforce that?)

  61. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis December 2, 2009 at 7:13 pm |

    Can we please kill the “if you just work hard enough” trope, forever?

    On rereading this article, I’m even more annoyed by how they are trying to contrast this guy with the “undeserving” poor.

  62. Tyrone Borelli
    Tyrone Borelli December 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm |

    What seems to be missing from this conversation is how conservatives/Republicans have no quarrel with welfare when that welfare is targeted at the rich. There is a fascinating little book published by Odonian Press titled “Take the Rich off Welfare.” Most conservatives/Republicans I have talked too about welfare for the rich either don’t believe it or come up with the most wonderfully twisted logic why the rich deserve government handouts.

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