…and will lose. What sticks out is the sheer gratuitous stupidity of the thing, as well as the transparent contempt for the poor.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing.”
Close, but not quite. More like “For I was hungry, and you gave me an EBT card that I can use to buy Snickers bars, root beer, and Pringles.”
The system needs to be tightened up – however, try and remove an item from the approved list and see how quickly the fan becomes covered in brown materials, and not just from the “liberals” but from the candy makers and the like. We I think live in an era when all that mattes to politicians is money and their own personal power. As a kid my family had to use surplus food – that was before food stamps – because my father was unemployed. Without that support I am not sure how we would have survived. I think that we need to change the foods available to what are essentials, I ma not sure how to do it though.
Right. Because of course anyone on food stamps must be too stupid to know what foods are essential or healthy.
No actually – look where most of these folks are able to shop – the local convenience store since large grocery stores rarely open in the areas of urban poor. Second nutrition education is what you are talking about and many people who rely on SNAP do not have a lot of knowledge about nutrition. By the way I never mentioned the folks who use SNAP – I am not saying they were without blame – but it more than what exists in you comment that makes the problem real.
Most of the people on snap aren’t urban poor. And yes, there are food desserts in urban areas, but there are other reasons why people choose junk food.
Actually – I didn’t say that there weren’t other reasons – people not on SNAP make equally stupid choices about food. My point was that to try and restrict what SNAP can be used for it will lead to a fire-storm of screams from many corners of the world, not just the “liberals”. Your focus is to blame the poor or those using SNAP, and my focus is to say SNAP will be hard to change or modify to prevent the abuses. The existence of food deserts as you call them exist in many rural areas as well. The grocery store phenomenon by the way has priced many of the foods that would be nutritionally appropriate above the SNAP allowance and the money that many people using SNAP have. So it frequently comes down to what fills the stomach and removes the hunger vs. what can I afford or what would be good for the stomach.
The McDouble is 0.256 cents/cal. That’s a pretty good deal in the short run.
Indeed, “desserts” – and the ability to purchase them with government money – are part of the problem.
Really, I don’t see why the Department of Agriculture can’t use WIC guidelines for SNAP. When we were on WIC, there was a wide range of nutritious food that we were able to get on the vouchers — and a wide range of non-nutritious junk that we weren’t. Yet somehow our freedoms weren’t affected.
If it were that easy I would agree. I think since SNAP is an entirely different kettle of fish that the lobbiests for all sides will be involved, much to the detriment of those folks who use SNAP.
Yeah, those shiftless poor. Screw ’em. They don’t know how to responsibly handle money like Goldman Sachs, Enron, Washington Mutual, and the Wall Street.
Funny – I had just been thinking that it’s past noon already and I hadn’t had anyone put words in my mouth all day.
You stay classy, Mark.
Nobody would argue that a steady diet of snickers, root beer, and pringles isn’t a very bad idea, but we have to be careful we don’t get too paternalistic or condescending. Is the occasional snickers bar ok, as a treat? How many a month is improper use of food stamps? Or should people on food stamps never be allowed to buy junk food? And while we are at it, what would be the definition of “junk food”? Are we going to mandate a certain nutritional level, or dictate the proportions of different food groups? Are we going to plan all their meals for them, or allow them to choose for themselves what they want to eat? And who would be the “we” deciding all this?
I hope you appreciate the irony of stating that we don’t want to be paternalistic, then asking if people on food stamps are entitled to the occasional treat. Lady, I don’t care. Under a system that bans junk food purchases, we don’t have to determine, as a society, how much dessert John Q. Unemployed gets. Nor must we figure out a way to track his purchases so that he doesn’t exceed his monthly allotment of Cheez Doodles. If he wants a Snickers, he can cobble together the seventy-nine cents.
The food stamp system should not be about behavior control or what anyone deserves for being a good boy. It should be about supplying nutritious food to people who cannot afford to purchase it for themselves and not assisting them to poison themselves with garbage.
And while we are at it, what would be the definition of “junk food”?
This – and your other questions – are not hard. The government manages to define food categories for taxation purposes. For example, in Wisconsin, “candy” is defined as “a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweetener combined with chocolate, fruit, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces.’ Candy’ does not include a preparation that contains flour or that requires refrigeration.”
What irony? My whole point is that I don’t feel comfortable telling people what they should and should not be buying with food stamps; i.e., I am not inclined to be paternalistic.
As for your point that categories of food are already defined for taxation and other purposes, that does not address the other questions. Should our government then determine that x percent of food stamps be spent on vegetables, y percent on meat, z percent on candy, and so on? Not only would that be an administrative nightmare (percentages per purchase? per month? Who keeps track, the government, the stores, the people themselves?), how would we decide the percentages, and why? Whose nutritional theory would we use — Atkins, Paleo, low-fat, vegetarian, no-sugar?
But the bigger question — given that conservatives were in an uproar when Mayor Bloomberg limited trans fats in the city and tried to limit the sizes of sodas (“how dare the government tell us what we can and cannot eat!”), how do we then turn around and tell food stamp users that they have to check with us, first, when they buy their groceries?
Should our government then determine that x percent of food stamps be spent on vegetables, y percent on meat, z percent on candy, and so on?
I don’t care how meat and vegetables spending is apportioned. But “z” should be 0%. And that requires no tracking. If the bar code scanner picks up a candy bar, it doesn’t go on the balance that can be paid for with food stamps.
how would we decide the percentages, and why? Whose nutritional theory would we use — Atkins, Paleo, low-fat, vegetarian, no-sugar?
There may be some close calls in places where it’s tough to decide if a food is nutritious or junk – sugary cereals, for example. But that’s no reason to throw up our hands and say “oh gosh, it’s just so hard to tell the difference between broccoli and grape Fanta! Therefore we can’t restrict anything that anyone buys with food stamps!” There are plenty of easy cases. We don’t allow people to buy bourbon with food stamps, and yet the system still manages to function..
how do we then turn around and tell food stamp users that they have to check with us, first, when they buy their groceries?
Something about the piper and whose tune he plays comes to mind.
SNAP is an acronym. It stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This is important to know.
SNAP as a program is to supplement your food money so you don’t go into slow starvation. It is neither intended nor designed to be the entire food budget. Go buy your milk, potatoes, cooking oil, etc on SNAP and buy your snickers on your own dime. I don’t think that this is a hardship that committed christians really should be concerned about, especially since a number of people have proven that it is possible to shoehorn in your entire food needs into a SNAP budget.
We should be concerned at the low penetration of knowledge in our poor communities on how to shop frugally, but that you don’t fix with a simple check.
My expectation that they’ll disappoint is the only thing they almost never disappoint.
While I refuse to vote Democrat for an increasing number of reasons, I keep waiting for the Republicans to give me a reason to vote for them (other than they are not Democrats).
Both political parties pander to their own interest groups. The difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats are able to make their pandering look better (it helps that the News Media assists them in this).
The Vatican II decree Gaudium et Spes provides the context within which the debates about food stamps, torture, wars of choice, immigration/deportation and other issues should occur:
“27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,(8) so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.(9)
In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.”
From this perspective, there is a lot more than abortion/euthanasia/same sex that belongs on the Catholic “non-negotiable” list.
I love the Vatican quote, and whole heartily agree with it. The only thing I would say is, for the purpose of the food stamp discussion: when the gov takes a large portion of my paycheck, before I even see it, and uses that money to pay for someone else’s food stamps…I’m not sure that that counts for me “doing for the least of these”.
I may be wrong, but what I get from the quote is more what I should be doing. And I’m not against food stamps, believe me, I’ve been there as a child being raised by a single mom, and as an adult with a wife and 3 kids when my consulting business was in a slow season. I just think we need to be careful not to equate “giving to Cesar what is Cesar’s” with “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat”…. But what do I know, I’m just a former reformer, “returning” to the Catholic Church, and loving the journey!
Anyone who thinks there is a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats needs their head examined. They are both bought and paid for by the same corporations. The Democrats want Big Government running our lives, with most of the input from Big Business. The Republicans just want to go straight to Big Business and leave government out of it unless it involves bombing something. A cleaned up version of Lewis Black’s analogy: Republicans and Democrats are like a bowl of poo looking in a mirror at another bowl of poo.
Yes. But I will say the Democrat party loves abortion and all other deviancy.
GOP just hasn’t gotten (fully) there yet.
One likes to party with Moloch, while the other likes to party with Mammon. Both lead to Hell.
I think they both like Mammon and the Democrats are getting the GOP acquainted with Moloch. One big happy party.
I think the democrats are really bringing another form of moloch to the table, not introducing republicans to it, just republicans brought their favored form of moloch to the table. That they both have a deep love of mammon, of that there is no doubt.
Our whole food system is a mess of corporate influence and government mismanagement–and that’s the nice way to put it. The vast majority of the food in stores is highly processed and based on corn and soybeans (mostly GMO at that–different discussion, I know). The farmers who plant and harvest these crops are caught in a cycle of needing to plant more and more per acre to keep themselves in the black, or at least not too far into the red, so they rely on the system that set up that cycle in the first place. It feeds into the demand for cheap quantity in everything and quality and nutrition be damned. The corn goes into our meat as animal feed, into everything else as processed additives, and it float on the backbone of petroleum–necessary for the fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides needed to produce such massive quantities of corporate produced corn. People like to point fingers at big banks and big oil, but big ag ensures that the price of corn and soy will stay cheap through subsidies. They have no interest in seeing if the food on the grocery store shelf is nutritious or healthy unless they need the perception of that to sell it. Then they can jack up the price, and those on limited incomes or food stamps are limited in the nutrition and variety they can choose–if they have the knowledge. It does seem that many on food stamps are also poorly educated, with only a HS education or less, which can put them at a disadvantage. People who come from a broken home, or multi-generations of broken homes, often don’t have the cooking skills to create healthier choices at home. Real mashed potatoes have more nutrition (And likely come out cheaper) than those from a box, but if someone has never learned how to make mashed potatoes, they’re going to opt for the box. Some (obviously not all) people relying on food stamps need the knowledge and skills to make the healthiest choices possible in their situation
The corporations directly benefit from keeping people inside the tradition food system and away from buying local food (when it’s available). They don’t benefit when I buy my eggs or my beef from a local farmer. But there’s no system I know of that will let local people on food stamps buy eggs from the local farmer selling them for LESS than grocery prices. There is certainly no program that will help them buy a 1/4 beef from one.
Actually, in NYC the number of farmers’ markets that now accept food stamps is growing rapidly. There is still the issue of access — many of the poorest neighborhoods do not have a Greenmarket — but it is progress.
Whether the prices are routinely cheaper than a supermarket I could not tell you, although I think they are at least competitive.
I knew a few larger cities had people pushing for this, so it’s good to hear that it’s happening. I know several people here are working for something similar at our (tiny) farmer’s market, and we have a pretty good network of people who will help teach others to keep their own gardens.
They might want to contact GrowNYC; according to their website, they are putting together national programs and whatnot to help with this.
Thank you. Good to know.
If the GOP care so very little about the poor getting food, does anyone really believe they care at all about the middle class? The GOP are the caricature made out by the political left: love the rich and hate the poor.
I wonder what Fr. Sirico has to say about this.
The problem with the move isn’t that they didn’t pass food stamps. That’s scheduled for a different bill and if they whip their caucus correctly, will pass as well. The actual problem is that they didn’t take the opportunity to put a heavier squeeze on the corporate ag gravy train. With a bigger majority, they likely would have been able to make a trimmer bill.
Ag subsidies/food stamps is a perfect example of corrupt logrolling. Breaking apart the mess into two, more focused bills is actually good government which, supposing both bills eventually get turned into law before the current authorizations run out, will have zero impact on actual poor people or struggling farmers.
Every corrupt interest in the ruling class who has a death grip on the government teat also has a story about how ending their access to government largesse will actually be killing widows and orphans or facilitating the invasion of the USA by hostile forces. Those stories are mostly there for effect to get people like Mark Shea to punish those who are maneuvering to make it possible to end corporate welfare.
So Dreher, Shea, and the rest of you who agree with their take have a challenge. How do you tell the difference between a professionally crafted cover story by ruling class lobbyists designed to manipulate you into supporting their goals and an actual assault against christian charity and solidarity? I don’t mean about this specific bill, but a general procedure that will work on the sob stories surrounding all bills to separate out the real problems from the cynical manipulations.