An article in Salon this morning caught my attention.  The author who grew up in Baltimore, in and around public housing, reported being very familiar with food stamps and how they are used.  There were a couple of assertions that were startling; that the group most benefitting from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) are white men, and that those men were probably all in the 62% of white men who voted for Donald J. Trump in 2016.

Secondly, there is a move to cut SNAP in order to encourage the recipients to be more self-sufficient.  Consequently, the MAGA (Make America Great Again) group will suffer most from the cut back.

Why is this surprising?  First, since the presidency of Ronald Reagan there has been the idea out there that food stamps are all collected by “Welfare Queens”.  Welfare Queens were portrayed as all black.  Anyone who has ever been poor enough to have to choose between rent and food knows that that is not true, but for a certain segment of the population that was accepted as true.

As a young medical student at a state University our patients were poor, principally black, and many received commodities.  I’m not sure what was included in commodities, but I think they were the raw materials for cooking; things like cornmeal and flour.  Commodities were phased out and those who qualified got food stamps.  Food stamps were originally bulky pieces of paper that could be exchanged for food.  Subsequently SNAP converted to a plastic card with a dollar amount of credit to be used at the grocery.

My daughters at one point each applied for and received SNAP.  Their income was monitored and as soon as they reached a certain level of income they no longer got SNAP.  They were glad to get off of SNAP.  I think that getting qualified involved sitting for hours like cattle waiting for slaughter.  Neither of them talked much about it.  I never heard either of them talk about sitting in a waiting room full of men, but they might have.  Since they were both living in the Pacific northwest at the time it is probable that most people in the waiting room were white.

An article in the Washington Post reported that a South Carolina man took his entire $70.00 on his SNAP card to buy groceries with which he fixed a Christmas dinner for the community.  I can’t imagine that it was much of a dinner, but that’s what he did.  The question, of course, is how he ate the rest of the month if he relied on SNAP.  As magnanimous as was his act, he did it on someone else’s dime.

All of those people who wanted to “drain the swamp” were oblivious to the fact that they were mostly denizens of the swamp. Someone observed at the run-up to the 2016 election that Trump’s supporters did not think of themselves as poor; they were just rich people down on their luck, temporarily disadvantaged. I can understand that.  At the time I met L we were both students and I was eating one meal a day because that was all I could afford.  I never thought that that would last. I had a ladder up.  I can’t imagine what the MAGA crowd thought was going to make them “rich” again. I’m guessing that they thought it was going to be Trump, but how?  I imagine that it was by reversing “reverse discrimination”.

I’ve had conversations with some of the Trump supporters.  They can sound perfectly sane and then go off about some conspiracy theory that they have.  It’s then that I realize that some people are capable of believing anything; the world is flat, the moon landing was faked, the government blew up the Twin Towers, SNAP recipients are all black women, Barack Obama only got into law school because of the Civil Rights Act, “Medicare for All” would be socialism, but Medicare is not.

Jumping a bit to a related topic; Paradise, California and the Camp Fire.

From time to time we still hear some bits of news about the aftermath of the Camp fire.  People are still in sleeping bags.  One boy, asked what he most wanted back, answered, “My bed.”  People call wanting to donate worn out clothes, sleeping bags they no longer use and a variety of hand-me-downs.  They are told that the relief effort is past that.  What is needed now is money to buy new clothes, a place to live, and other amenities of normal life.  People are disappointed.  They seem to want to help as long as it doesn’t put them out any.

A giant problem to rebuilding Paradise is one of clearing the rubble.  Apparently, there is nothing to salvage.  What is proposed now is bulldozing the debris, hauling it to some central site, and then sending it to various landfills.  Several proposed central sites have been suggested.  The residents in those sites have all said, NIMBY (not in my back yard). 

Many of the refugees have been resettled, but many haven’t.  Apparently, there is real resistance to temporarily settling the refugees in various nearby communities.  One resident said that he didn’t want a lot of tiny houses in the area. They would pull his property value down.  It sounded like his milk of human kindness curdled a long time ago.  This is not an indictment of Californians; it is really an indictment of all of us.  All of us have seen communities pull together following a disaster.  St. George Island, Florida residents, following the last hurricane, had someone with a cooker making dinner for everyone.  There was no electricity or water so this was a major benefit to everyone.

My own experience has been that following the cleanup and assistance to each other following a disaster people went back to being their old self-centered selves.  All the community cliques were reestablished.  That appears to be human nature.  As much as we would like to be different, we are as my daughter said as I bemoaned the fact that a third of our population still support Trump, “Dad, we haven’t evolved at all.  Until recent times public execution was considered entertainment.  Until 1910 rape was considered a property crime. We’re still just apes in fancy clothes.”  For a brief time I was able to ignore that and believe that we were actually evolving to something better.  It seems to be that societies and cultures are able to evolve faster than biology.  Our basic nature keeps pulling us back in terms of culture.  We live in an age of high technology and crowding and still function as members of tribes.

Views: 117

Comment by koshersalaami on December 28, 2018 at 6:17am

Pretty much

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on December 28, 2018 at 7:17am

yes, far too often

Comment by Ron Powell on December 28, 2018 at 8:38am

" I think that getting qualified involved sitting for hours like cattle waiting for slaughter. "

I went through the process as a semi-experiment just to see what it entailed and whether my living on retirement and social security would qualify me for the SNAP assistance.

After enduring the demeaning and dehumanizing process, I was awarded a monthly "benefit" of $15.00...

I gave the card to a friend who used it until it was terminated because I refused to go through the recertification process...

$15.00 a month for food is not a "benefit", it's an insult....

I wrote the head of the Connecticut agency responsible for administering the SNAP program and made that statement as plain and as clear as possible....

The hours spent waiting and answering invasive and probing questions are not worth $15.00 a month for anything under any circumstances...

The system is designed to discourage all but the absolutely desperate....The majority of whom seem to be the white folks who permit the false and erroneous stereotypes to provide cover for their dependency on the assistance and benefits derived from publicly funded "entitlement programs" like SNAP.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 28, 2018 at 8:53am

"I’m not sure what was included in commodities"

Well, sir, I can tell you what was included in those commodities, since they saved our family, Mom and Dad and five kids age 2-11. It was back in the Fifties, during the Eisenhower recession, a recession Conservatives seem to have conveniently forgotten. Our family got USDA yellow corn meal, canned spam, powdered milk, butter and cheese.

Dad was a truck driver, but there was NO truck driving work for him, so he and my brother (10) and I (11) went to work during the summer helping tear down buildings on an abandoned duck farm. I dimly recall there had been 400,000 ducks on that farm, and everything you touched was covered in duck shit. I don't know what Dad was paid on that job, not much I'm sure, but my brother and I got two dollars a day each and lunch. The money went into the family subsistence fund.

Dad was a very proud man, and he is the only person I've ever known who, after he went back to work on a real job, paid back the welfare funds we received. Me? I got a lifelong education about what it's like living on the government dole; and years later, a song:

Guvermint Cheese

Daddy was a trucker, done the best he could

Bringin’ home the bacon like a good man should

But ev’ry now and then he had to knock on wood

And bring home the guvermint cheese

Guvermint cheese, oh, guvermint cheese

Gimme another package, mister, if you please

Rich man keep the poor man down on his knees

Beggin’ for some guvermint cheese

Momma's in the kitchen with the fryin' pan

Cookin' up some supper with what she had on hand

Powdered milk and butter and some nasty Spam

And a little bit a guvermint cheese

Guvermint cheese, oh, guvermint cheese

Gimme another package, mister, if you please

Rich man keep the poor man down on his knees

Beggin’ for some guvermint cheese

So poor we didn’t know it, but a-lookin’ back

We had it pretty good despite the things we lacked

Turnin’ nickels into quarters was a mighty tight squeeze

So we lived on guvermint cheese

Guvermint cheese, oh, guvermint cheese

Gimme another package, mister, if you please

Rich man keep the poor man down on his knees

Beggin’ for some guvermint cheese

©2011 Tom Cordle

Comment by alsoknownas on December 28, 2018 at 10:51am

I remember reading these lyrics of yours in the past Tom. Rabble rouser. :-)

Comment by Maui Surfer on December 28, 2018 at 1:25pm

Food Stamps originally resembled the staple food stamps of WWII which rationing handed out to all but the wealthy who were of course living it up in private. For a short time, I found myself in a single parent home, on Welfare and receiving as they call it in Creole (De Stamp Food). The white folks who either worked at the store or happened to be in line with you when you broke out the perforated book and tore out the necessary amounts could not have looked at you with more contempt. Many also began insults, and, dog forbid you were a kid who had a birthday and wanted a cake, well, imagine the nerve! Buying desert with those! How unseemly!

Now, opiate addicted white trash get what amount to debit cards and there is little to no public humiliation, though I'm sure it can be hard on little elementary school kids like I was. Karma is something , n'est ce pas?

And, all of us got the government cheese, American Cheese, of course. Horrible, orange dye, but, when grilled between slices of Wonder Bread it beat starvation.

As to your jump to Paradise, what this country needs to stop ALL HOMELESS PROBLEMS, whether economic, mental, or natural disaster driven, is simply the construction of Hygienic Camps a la The Depression (not cardboard Hoovervilles, today's little houses would be perfect, just simplified to contain costs, and the whole thing would be based on need and with exit strategies --- but, Repukes won't let it happen. Progressives will, however, and just such a project is now going on a hundred miles south of Paradise in not so paradisaical East Oakland. We need them scattered everywhere, and they don't have to be next to some asshole's subdivision, though they should be.

I now live in Hawaiian Homesteads, yes, we got some, very little of our land back. Someday another Hawaiian family will take over the plots we currently maintain. The homes are nice, we built them ourselves. The farms produce like you cannot believe, that's just due to our weather and soil, hopefully man will not ruin it.

Comment by Maui Surfer on December 28, 2018 at 1:26pm

P.S.-   I really admired this post, you seem to be "evolving", at least it seems so to me ... maybe it will become contagious.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 28, 2018 at 2:28pm

As for the other side of the story, tears ago, before debit cards, I was in a grocery store in Maitland, FL, in line behind an attractive woman dressed to the nines, as they say – though I'm not sure why they say it. She had some fancy t-bone steaks among the fare, and she paid for it all with food stamps. I happened to be behind her, when she exited the store, and I saw her deposit her groceries in the trunk of a shiny Rolls-Royce – I shit you not!

Don't know what her story was, but she surely didn't strike me as someone in need of government assistance. Probably voted Republican, though, I'd wager.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 28, 2018 at 3:00pm

M.S. a couple of years ago in a T.V. documentary about homelessness and what to do about it, a man was interviewed who looked out his window one morning and saw a woman sleeping in his yard.  She was there for the next few nights so, while she was away he built her a shelter.  It wasn't fancy, basically a rectangular box big enough to have a twin bed along one side, and a door with a lock on one end.  He put in some kind of window with a drop down shutter for privacy.  She asked no questions, just stated using it.  One day she didn't return, and he had no idea what happened to her.  The point was he saw his chance to help one person and took it.

The Walmart employees where I used to live noticed a car parked at the far end of the lot.  A young woman was living in it and someone followed her one day and found out that she was working at Shoney's nearby.  They knocked on the door and told her that they had figured out what she was doing and wanted to offer her access to the employee lounge for clean-up and restroom necessities.

Eventually, she got enough saved to get into an apartment.  Every homeless person has a story.  A little kindness goes a long way, and people who have been homeless, or would have been except for family and friends understand. I had read that about Oakland.  Personally, I would like to see a tiny home in every gated community.  I don't know how evolved I am.  I am open to change, though.

Tom, maybe the woman in the Rolls Royce was buying groceries for her gardener.  Who knows.  I've heard similar stories with a different make and model of car.  Scrapping an entire program because a few people are scamming the system hardly seems like the right approach, but some people would rather withhold from everyone rather than see one person misuse the program.

Thanks to both of you for stopping by and commenting.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 28, 2018 at 4:18pm

I hope I'm not misunderstood – I'm certainly not advocating scrapping such programs; as I witnessed in my first comment, the govt saved our family when we were in dire straits. I mentioned that story only because it was not some apocryphal tale of the sort Reagan used to invent or at least repeat to great effect, and as he Fool Who Would Be King  continues to do as well. Like I said, I don't know what that woman's story was – fact is, a lot of otherwise well-to-do people do get down on their luck, particularly since so many of them are often in debt up to their eyebrows.

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