Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nothing in history suggests ...

"America is such a compassionate nation, nothing in history that suggests that churches and communities and our families would let people die of hunger, there is absolutely nothing." Kenneth Blackwell, Family Research Council, supporting "Food Stamp" cuts. What? & this guy's American ancestors were slaves!

How ignorant  can one be of both American & Christian history. It boggles the mind. We didn't get a fairly firm handle on widespread hunger in America until the Sixties. John F. Kennedy, when he was running for President in 1960, toured Appalachia at the request of some governors & was appalled; he saw children with bloated bellies. People have always starved in America. Churches have never made more than slight dent in hunger, well-meaning as they are. Most churches do little at all, or just enough to assuage the consciences of their congregants. It's sickening what happened to poor people in the United States from industrialization through the New Deal.

We are a "compassionate nation," but let's not be delusional about it.

SNAP may be the best social service program we have. It is entirely income/resource-based & has only one goal - providing food to people who lack income to buy sufficient amounts of food to feed themselves & their families. Food purchases made with SNAP cycle back into the economy, & the food industry from farm to retailer benefits so well that I can't understand how the Republicans can buck the lobbies. SNAP is not a welfare-to-work program because it is designed to also help able-bodied working people. Years ago the "middle class" didn't need Food Stamps except during layoffs or periods of unemployment, & the benefits tended to be short term for them. It is hardly the fault of the middle class that its income has declined into food stamp eligibility. Are we to order underpaid working people to take second full-time jobs because they are "able-bodied." Even with SNAP, food pantries cannot supply the demand for food. A lot of families that would benefit from SNAP are disqualified because they have too many "resources" - savings accounts, a late model car. The moral issues here are hunger & wages so low that people literally work themselves into debt & poverty.

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Without food stamps, I would be starving. Even with food stamps, I run out about a week before the next month, and it is tricky for me to get enough food to eat without having to visit a food pantry. And another fallacy of the right wing is the claim that people use their food stamps to buy alcohol and drugs, or that they somehow "cash in" the food stamps or sell them. First of all, the money from food stamps come on a pre-paid card. Second, one cannot purchase alcohol with food stamps. In fact, one cannot purchase anything but FOOD with them. No toilet paper, tooth paste, garbage bags, laundry soap, etc. Only FOOD can be purchased with the SNAP money.

I am not pleased with the way the right wingers in congress attempt to portray people like me on food stamps as somehow cheating the government. Likewise, I take issue with their portrayal of "us" as losers who would rather bleed the government dry than work or be otherwise employed. You know my situation, and I get $200 a month for food. That is $46.15 a week. Mind you, I have gotten better at making that money last, but you can easily see that I am not living it up on steak and lobster. I am also doing better with the food stamps now that I discovered the local 99 cent store sells a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit for 99 cents, as well as dairy, eggs, packaged and canned goods. Vine ripe tomatoes in the major grocery store chains go for $2.99 to $4.99, but at the 99 cent store they are only ... 99 cents! Fresh broccoli goes for $1.99, but I can get the same amount of broccoli for ... 99 cents. It's tough to live this way, but I am as stringent as I can be, and I still have to spend the last week before my money comes in hoping that I planned well with basic staples and can eat.
I was a food stamp worker for six months, laid off in the Clinton "reforms." I didn't like the job. But I was prepared to stick it out for a few years & arrange a transfer into the investigations office, because I enjoyed catching big cheats. I could smell them. Big Cheats (usually family units) had applications that either never fit together in a way that made sense, or were too neat when they should have been more complicated. The cheats were not legion, but they pissed me off. Clients like you were the easiest to interview & process. Single people with fixed incomes, minimal resources, I could approve your benefits for a year at full rate. Some of my most poor clients had no cooking facilities, or were homeless, & if they found ways of converting FS into a pack of ciggies or a bottle on a tough night, I didn't care.
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