Yes I buy ice cream with my food stamps.

When we were on the brink of transition, and facing the prospect of losing our income and home, we spent a lot of time crunching numbers. How much money would we need to survive for 3 months with no income? How about 6 months? We added up the costs for rent, insurance gas and upkeep for our 13 year old van, utilities, our life insurance policies, and diapers. And one of the costs I always included in my calculations was food.

It never even occurred to me to get food stamps. That was something “lazy” people got, who “didn’t work” and “lived off the government”.  Even when times were tight in the past, we put food expenses on our credit card, never even considering that we might qualify for welfare.  While we lived in Canada and experienced universal healthcare, my perspective changed a little, but I still saw government support as a shameful thing, even if I now saw it as necessary.

For most of our marriage we lived pretty comfortably financially. We paid our taxes. We have never missed a payment on anything and sometimes paid things off in advance.  We are both oldest children, both fairly serious, and both lean toward the “saver” side of the spectrum vs. the “spender” side.

When Haley lost her job last year, we were starting over again, with a lot less.  Moving from white-collar middle-class to blue-collar working-poor can be a jarring experience. We were lucky in so many ways!  We were able to not only find affordable housing in a decent neighborhood, but we were also able to convince the landlord to give us a chance even though we were unemployed, because we had our little nest egg and were able to pay 4 months’ rent up front. Most people in our position do not have that starting point. We already had a car, in decent working condition, giving us the ability to drive to appointments and job interviews. With my non-existent resume I didn’t get work for 3 months, and when I did it was a trial part-time position, 10 hours a week at minimum wage. My first paychecks were under $200, even with 2 of them each month, that wasn’t enough to make rent, we had to use a loan and credit cards to keep up.

Do you know how much 4 kids eat? Do you know what it feels like to open the cabinet and see canned peas and canned chicken from the food bank? I’ve lived with little food before, but now it was my kids involved, and I wanted them to eat good healthy food.

So we decided to get help. First I called our food bank and they told me they would help walk me through the application process. We went for an appointment with a huge stack of important documents and filled out lots of paperwork. A few weeks later while Haley was in school, I bundled all the kids in the car and drove down to the county office and picked up our card. We stood in line with so many other people and their children. I got up to the front of the line and they processed my application and made copies of everything and explained that the food stamps card would only pay for food, not toiletries or diapers or garbage bags or alcohol. And the card wouldn’t pay for ready-to-eat type foods in the deli section of the store.

Did you know that being poor involves saying no a lot? When your kids ask for ice cream from the ice cream truck, you have to say no. (Even if you have a few dollars in your pocket from barista tips, you know you have to hang onto it for gas money, because there isn’t any other money.) When they want more than one pair of shoes, you have to say no. When the neighbor kid gets their own headphones and your child wants some too, you can’t get them. You wash the sheets and put them back on the bed because there aren’t any other sheets.

So when we are in the grocery store buying our rice, beans, cheese, fruit, veggies and pasta, and they ask for ice cream. I say yes. Because I am efficient enough with our allotment for food that I can afford to spare 2 dollars for a box of popsicles.  And you know what? Sometimes I get some whip cream for myself, to put on top of my yogurt and granola. Sometimes working nights and watching the kids during the day wears you out, and we could not afford to go out to eat last year at all, even to fast food. So we would buy a couple of frozen pizzas, with our food stamps, for those rough nights where making a dinner wasn’t going to happen.

I don’t own an IPhone as these snarky meme’s suggest, but sometimes when I go to the store, I am in sweats. Because I changed out of my sweaty flour and sugar and coffee covered clothing when I got home from my 9 hour shift that started at 5 am. How that can look lazy to anyone is beyond me. And sometimes my wife has hair that looks nice, because she is a cosmetologist and her co-worker wanted to practice her skills highlighting hair and Haley was willing to try something different. Oh, and she knows how to do her nails nicely all by herself. Apparently that means we shouldn’t get food stamps? Because you know, if you look too nice that means you don’t need food stamps, and if you look too sloppy that means you don’t deserve them.

Let me stress again how lucky we are. We started over with a little cushion. We are not only in stable mental health, but we are physically capable of working jobs that wear on the body. We have no addictions pulling us under at a moment’s notice. We have a stable loving marriage and we pool our resources and don’t have to try to find affordable childcare since we can trade off caring for them and working opposite shifts. We even have our own wash machine in our apartment and we don’t have to spend our day off at the Laundromat. In some ways I hesitate to call us poor at all, despite what our tax return says. There are people who have so much less.

As my wages and hours go up, our food stamps get reduced.  And then Haley got a job too and our food stamps got reduced accordingly. It funny how something that I was afraid to tell anyone is what has helped us keep everything rolling this first year as we started over again. My perspective on welfare and food stamps has continued to change. No one should have to feel ashamed for feeding their family. The people and the system that makes it even harder for the working poor to make ends meet are the ones who should be ashamed. When politicians try to say that you shouldn’t be able to get food if you own a car, they are forcing people to choose between working to get ahead and feeding their children. And yet these same politicians are perfectly fine spending large amounts of the taxpayer dollars on food for themselves. What does it take to see the humanity of families who can’t fit food into the budget? The SNAP program works. And the people using it should be able to eat.

And everyone should be able to have a little beer once in a while, or ice cream.

  • jen

    I’ve never had a problem with people making snippy comments about me being on WIC but I have had to apply for food stamps and Medicaid (and didn’t get both of those the first time because they screwed up).

    http://grace-filled.net/?p=4258

  • cassielfsw

    Those welfare/food stamp memes make me absolutely livid. My husband and I both have bachelor’s degrees, but the last time we were able to support ourselves on our own was in 2008-2009 when we were both working in a call center making collection calls. In 2009 my husband had a nervous breakdown due to his existing anxiety problems and the fact that call center work is stressful, collection calls doubly so, and management treated us like crap. He had to quit and his mom started paying his half of the rent. In 2010 I also was forced to quit because I had become suicidal. My husband hasn’t been able to work, and I could only find temp work for about a year (and even then, assignments were few and far between). My mother-in-law was paying nearly all of our expenses and if she hadn’t been willing or able to help us we would have been out on the street. I finally have something vaguely resembling a job (paying significantly less despite being a much higher-skilled position than collection calls) and my husband is taking an online course to become a medical transcriptionist, but we are up to our eyeballs in debt and unable to make any progress on it, and still dependent on his mom. And through all this I have the pleasure of seeing people snarking on Facebook and politicians speechifying that anyone who can’t make ends meet is a worthless loser. It makes me want to PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE. I turn 30 on Friday and I feel like a total failure as an adult and as a human being. All I want is to be able to support myself again. Why is that so much to ask?

    • Rebecca Lane

      YOU are not a failure! Our social structure stopped supporting families a generation ago. Real wage increases haven’t been seen since the late 70′s. The impacts are hugely personal, but the causes most certainly are not. Bless you, my dear… please drop the self blame. It truly is not you.

      • billwald

        True, but this generation of high school/college students seem very slow to catch on to this “Brave New World” aka “Animal Farm.” I suspect half the kids who graduate with college loans will NEVER break even.

  • Michelle

    I really don’t like those memes. I think in a weak and uneducated moment I may have “liked” one here and there…but anymore, they really piss me off. Like my sister — she and her husband have been blessed to keep their debt levels to a minimum, and she claims that she and her husband are so much more responsible than anyone else. Anyone with too much debt is irresponsible. I’m far from the kind of person who thinks there shouldn’t be some personal accountability on stuff — but I’ve lived long enough now and struggled enough in my life to know that most people are trying to do the best they can and sometimes need a leg up. And you shouldn’t have to explain getting ice cream with your groceries.

    • gimpi1

      I hate to wish your sister ill, but a large medical expense, only partially covered by insurance, followed by a car throwing a rod, requiring a new engine, followed by an elderly relative needing help to keep a roof over their head, all in one month, might just have her singing a different tune. And yes, I have had such a month.

      Often people who are so “holier-than-thou have never really been through the fire. As I said at first, I hate to wish that kind of thing on anyone, but…

      • Michelle

        Well, she just hasn’t been dealt a rough hand yet…financially. She has other sufferings, of course.

        • gimpi1

          The Dali Lama has said that empathy is compassion plus imagination. Many people seem to lack the imagination part. Perhaps your sister simply can’t understand suffering that isn’t her own. Sort of like seeing gay people as vile sinners until your son comes out, then having a revelation and suddenly understanding that gay people were just people like your son all along.

          I wish your sister well, but most likely, she will get that rough hand. Hard times are easier to take when you have shown compassion to others earlier. I have learned that myself, the hard way

          • Michelle

            well obviously a combox isn’t the place to discuss all the different sufferings or other places a person could have and did show compassion.

            Have a nice day

          • gimpi1

            I didn’t mean to offend you, Michelle. If I did, I apologize.

      • Rebecca Lane

        I have too much debt… Because I have not very good insurance & a cancer diagnosis. Beware the blithe generalizations about who is and is not responsible.

  • jasondick

    I’m really lucky to have not needed food stamps, but I know people who do. Honestly, I think the way the system is set up it just makes it ripe for this kind of blame game.

    What I’d really like to see is an unconditional guaranteed basic income. Basically, I’d like to see everybody get a check from the government every month. Anything you earn would be on top of that. With everybody getting it, it will become much harder for people to blame those who rely on it. With no conditions, it would also probably be even cheaper to administer than current welfare programs (which are already quite cost-effective).

  • persephone

    I know exactly what you have been through. I have gone from solidly middle class to having the power turned off because my first husband lost his job and my income couldn’t pay all the bills for us and his two teenagers from his first marriage. That was 30 years ago, and it had been a rollercoaster since. I’ve worked my way up to lower middle class, with two teenaged boys of my own and a deadbeat ex (teenage boys can eat four times as much food as the average adult).

    Over 60% of bankruptcy filings are the result of medical bills. A job loss can happen to anyone. Becoming disabled can happen in the blink of an eye. Life can change in a moment. A society requires safety nets for its members. Failing to do so results in the eventual failure of that society.

  • josh

    Just so ya know, the ? Layout you have makes the blog imposssible to read from mobile. Otherwise…..nice blog

    • FA_GUY

      looks great on android.

    • Meyli

      That’s not the actual layout – every so often I come here and the background is all question marks that make it impossible to read on my phone. I’m not sure why it happens!

      • Melissa_PermissionToLive

        Weird, I’m not sure what could be causing that either?

  • josh

    Too add to my last comment, I actually saw one conservative commenter once on another blog get all pissed off because no one ever walked up to him, the taxpayer, and thanked him for providing the funds for their food stamps. Lol I’m totally serious. Gotta love the righties

    • phantomreader42

      I’ve seen a number of conservatives who labor under the delusion that they are the ONLY people who pay taxes.

  • G.R.

    I did WIC and the medical card for my first two pregnancies. I come from a family where you didn’t take a handout. You worked and did without, but you didn’t take from anyone, no matter how tough it got. Period. My husband, on the other hand, grew up on food stamps and swore he would not get those for his family. Sigh. Life has a way of doing funny things. My husband was working long hours and I was working what I could, but it was hard the first few months. We had a very understanding OB-GYN, but eventually the bills had to be paid. When I walked into the office to apply, I wanted to hide. I didn’t tell anyone that we were approved, but there was a lot of relief that I could make the doctor visits and stay as healthy as possible. Later, when I applied for WIC, there was still embarrassment when I had to hand the little coupons over and a couple times a manager had to be called to make sure what I was getting was approved. Talk about a hard pill to swallow. But my kids were fed, so I tried to just get through it as quickly as possible. Along the way I learned that while it is a good thing to have a great work ethic and a frugal mindset, some things are beyond your control. I have not had to rely on those things in years as our family situation has improved, for which I am profoundly grateful. Most of the people I know who use these programs are in the same boat I used to be in. They are working, or at least one is working, but it’s just not quite enough to make ends meet. Life has handed them a doozy and they are trying to do what they can with what they have. Yes, there are those who abuse it (I know a few). But unless you personally know the situation, it’s hard to look at someone and just assume that.

  • Anon

    I was working 80 hours a week after kid #1 was born, making less than minimum wage, so my wife could stay home. WIC was a lifesaver for us (and in VT, they deliver instead of having the cupons you take to the store), but, man, the kid was maybe 9 months old before we broke down and signed up for it (on the recommendation of my “I will work three crummy jobs and never sleep so my kids have food” father). Emotionally brutal.
    Now, I make sure that all of my patients who qualify sign up.

  • Me

    But what about the people that fill their carts with lobster and pay with food stamps? I don’t qualify for SNAP, and I can’t afford to eat like that. Or consider the people that are selling their food stamps at $0.50 on the dollar just to make a little cash? That’s why I disagree with the food stamp system. I’ve accepted boxes of canned food from a local food bank. It’s a better system. There’s nothing wrong with taking help from people who care.

    • Melissa_PermissionToLive

      I suppose someone could blow their food stamps on lobster and then live on ramen the rest of the month if they wanted too. It doesn’t make much sense to me as I prefer to eat a little more balanced and I am grateful that I can get fresh produce with food stamps instead of living solely on canned goods from the food bank. Whether one is on food stamps or not, there is usually only so much one is able to spend on food. If you click on the links in my post you can read more about the actual amount of food stamp fraud that happens, it’s a very small percentage, and honestly I think it would be pretty hard to pull off, the amount of paperwork and proofs you have to provide to even get food stamps would make the whole fraud endeavor more work that it was worth.

      • JohnH2

        The amount of money that my family could get via SNAP is more than twice our current grocery budget and we certainly don’t live off canned goods (can’t afford that). Were we to go on SNAP then we would totally be buying “luxury” foods.

        However, my wife stays at home which is why we are able to have such a low grocery budget and why we have been able to stay off of nearly all government assistance. No childcare costs and our bread is fresh baked from dough that is made at home from wheat that we buy in bulk and grind ourselves. My wives story and novel sales are the least part of her contribution to our household finances and her value to the household is by far more valuable then what my work is paying me, or what she could make at any sort of job.

        I very much realize that many people on SNAP are not in a position where a spouse (hah) can stay home and that very many of them lack the skills that my wife obtained growing up or a knowledge (and time) to acquire the further skills as my wife has. Experience with neighbors and our own situation has made me realize that while our income is low we have social capital that many others lack.

        • Melissa_PermissionToLive

          Good for you! We are very lucky given that we are able to rotate childcare between us by working opposite shifts and avoid that added expense. We also make a lot of our food from scratch which can cut down on costs. It also appears (unless you have a free place to live) that you make more than the $400 a month total income I was able to make last year when we applied for food stamps.

    • Rebecca Lane

      Slamming an entire food support system, however scanty it is, by the actions of the few is illogical. What about white collar tax cheats? Do their actions sully the entire classy white collar tax payers in your eyes? Or how about those drivers who speed? Are all drivers then suspect?

      People receiving food stamps, the majority of whom are children under the age of 12, use many strategies to get by, including SNAP, food banks, and parents going hungry in order to fed their children. There is nothing wrong with needing assistance. What’s wrong is a society that prefers to let people go hungry.

    • Angela

      I don’t often see people with food stamps buying cartloads of lobster but then again I don’t often police other people’s carts either. Even if I did I accept that there simply is no way to judge a total stranger based on 1 trip to the store. For example, say it was a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary and that a lobster dinner was the gift which had been carefully budgeted for over several weeks.

      And people who are selling food stamps for half their value spells desperation more than fraud to me. If someone was truly milking the system and obtaining food stamps when they actually have plenty cash it still would make the most sense to use the food stamps on food where they could get the full value from them.

      Finally food banks are great but they certainly aren’t a superior system. As a home health case manager I often struggled with helping my patients meet their basic needs. Food banks are limited by the items that are donated to them and people generally get very little input in what types of food they receive. This is very problematic for someone with dietary concerns such as allergies or diabetes. Also for someone who is living in their car or a hotel and has no kitchen to prepare meals. Only rarely was baby food or formula available from our food bank and no perishables such as dairy, meat, or produce. Plus the allotments are no where near enough to fully sustain a family and when donations run low then the needy are turned away.

    • jjramsey

      IIRC, the way food stamps work is that a certain amount of stamps is equivalent to a certain amount of money. That means that buying lobster with food stamps entails its own penalty — namely having fewer stamps available for other food — so even if someone is buying lobster with food stamps, it’s highly unlikely that someone is living high on the hog.

  • Rose ASL

    “Because you know, if you look too nice that means you don’t need food stamps, and if you look too sloppy that means you don’t deserve them.” This is sooooo frustratingly accurate. Ugh. I’m tired of hearing about all the addictions and luxuries people on welfare are supposedly getting. And apparently it never occurs to anyone that for many poor people, an iPhone substitutes – poorly – for the computer they can’t afford, but need in today’s society. It’s pretty efficient, really, to combine your phone service and internet access in one small device. How is that greed? I refuse to buy an iPhone because I can’t deal with that horrid touch screen. Instead, I bought a Chromebook – and as a child of middle class parents, with whom I am fortunate to live, I get to mooch their internet access. Lucky me. Thankyou for posting this. It expresses so much of how I feel.

  • Kalvin

    Melissa, just in case you haven’t seen this article, I think you will like it. It is written by the CEO of Panera Bread and chronicles his challenge of trying to buy food within the average SNAP allowance.
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/25/opinion/shaich-food-stamp-challenge/index.html?c=&page=0

  • Meyli

    Ah, food stamps.
    We were struggling with the idea of applying for them this summer. I qualify, boyfriend does not (because he’s a fulltime student with loans to cover some expenses). We live our lives and run our home as if we were married. Halfway through the paperwork process, we decided not to continue. As we’ve been ‘on our own’ a short amount of time, I wanted to really try to cut down our expenses and see if we could avoid debt and assistance. So far, its working.
    BUT.
    We don’t have children to feed. I have a reliable job/income, even if its small. Boyfriend knows he will have loans for the remainder of school, so for the next few years, we can predict our expenses. We are ( so so SO) lucky to have these things.
    I’m relieved that if things turned bad, if I somehow lost my job, we could get help.

  • Angela

    A couple years ago a good friend of mine was laid off. She was a single mom to three and has never received help from her childrens’ father financial or otherwise since he walked out on them when she was pregnant with her youngest. She had worked in a professional, well-paying position but her field had been hit hard by the slow economy and there were very few positions available. Because of this though she had amassed a nice, professional wardrobe; drove a luxury car; and owned an iphone. They lived off savings for awhile but eventually that ran out and she needed to apply for assistance and that’s when the judgements started rolling in.

    At the store she was accused of milking the system because she had nice clothes, a fancy purse, and manicured nails. She was dressed up for a job interview and and decided to stop for groceries on the way home. People at church chided her for not taking a menial, low-paying job to get by. It didn’t matter that such jobs would barely cover childcare. Some suggested that if she was really poor she should sell all of her nice things. Never mind that her car was several years old and that she needed a reliable source of transportation. Forget the fact that she would need her nice clothes when she did find work and that selling them to a consignment shop would only yield a pittance compared to supporting a family of four. And she’s still “underserving” of assistance despite the fact that she’s faithfully paid into the system before and since.

  • billwald

    This recent depression, the intentional bursting of the “middle class” bubble, is a new experience to America. None of our kids ever unintentionally missed a meal. I don’t think the 1945-1970 good old days will ever return, not in the next 100 years. 19th century, here we come.

    • David Sagneri

      If that is the case it’s completely a choice we will make as a society. In some ways we are actually dealing with an early stage post scarcity economy. In the fact that we are capable of producing all we need with nowhere near maximum labor. A good many jobs that exist currently are probably unnecessary. The problems we are having is are because we are using an out of date economic and moral framework to deal with the economy. If we continue using this approach we will recreate third world conditions and completely unnecessarily. As a culture we need a serious discussion about work, distribution, and how to meet most psychological need for productive engagement. Unfortunately I think the US is possibly the developed nation least suited to address this due to the atomized nature of the way we live, the remaining strength of the Protestant work ethic, and our own myths about independence.

  • LaShella

    Oh yeah, the whole country is decaying because of lazy people. NOT! There was a time when I had no other choice but to go on food stamps. Pride does not feed an empty stomach. I am, fortunately, not using food stamps now. But the notion that “only lazy people” or “there is massive amounts of fraud going on” or worse, only a certain group is taking advantage, is really over played. The paperwork required for ANY GOVERNMENT program is massive and ridiculous. Sometimes, it will make you wonder if it is even worth the hassle. But, that is to cut down on fraud; however, there are always going to be people who will get away with stuff. That’s in everything. And you’re not always going to catch everybody. But most people, actually the majority of people, who are on government assistance, do not want to be there. Believe me. But unfortunately, assumptions, stereotypes, condemnation, has taken over common sense and compassion. Next time, if you see someone on a government program, ask them, politely of course, what happened. Some programs are transitions, hopefully. How are you going to go to job interviews, unless you have transportation and there is no public transportation? Some people look for jobs on computers, or cell phones. Some people are in sweats, because they may be saving their good clothes for interviews. Hair and nails, makeup, is done, because you do have to look professional for these interviews, to get a job, to hopefully get off of programs. I would rather ask, if only to see if I can offer assistance or have any ideas that person may have never thought of. It’s better than sitting around, and making up stuff based upon false assumptions/stereotypes.

  • R Vogel

    I find it interesting that virtually all of those memes that I have seen mention an iPhone. There seem to be a lot of people who are seriously annoyed that a poor person might have an iPhone. They are obviously not adequately poor enough to receive their help. I went toe to toe with someone who posted one of these ignorant things , and of course they brought up an anecdote, they always have an anecdote, about someone being in line with them at the grocery store and buying a bottle of vodka with cash and some soda with food stamps. Again, not poor enough to warrant their help if they can afford what is probably an $8 bottle of vodka. So let’s assume they are right and the person buying the alcohol is an alcoholic. What all these people overlook is the vast majority of people receiving SNAP benefits are families with children. So we should deny them food stamps to provide food for their kids? Do we think that denying them food stamps will suddenly set them on the straight and narrow? We all know there is a certain amount of abuse of the system out there, but how do people justify believing that it is the majority? Even is good economic times the unemployment rate is around 5% – and those people may need help. Right now it is far higher. We were told that we couldn’t raise taxes on the rich during a recession but we can cut million of people off of food assistance?

  • LaShella

    The Food stamps program is set up with only a few restrictions. Its for Food and Food only. So, the only thing left to do is to revamp the entire program and cut out certain foods. But not cut the entire program. But how do you do that? The paperwork involved takes enough time. So, how is the government going to be able to find new policies to enact this.

  • http://www.coffeestainedclarity.com Bethany Bassett

    I was on WIC when my older daughter was a baby. We signed up for it kind of by accident when we went to a government aid office to beg for help paying the $110,000 hospital bill that our insurance wouldn’t cover from my daughter’s birth and week in the NICU. We qualified for Medicaid and applied for WIC in the process, and it kept us afloat for the first year of my daughter’s life. My husband and I were both working, though every penny I made went into paying for daycare and putting gas in the car for my long commutes. If I *didn’t* work, however, I would invite even more judgment into our reliance on government help.

    I hated checking out of our neighborhood grocery store with WIC checks. I hated all the scrutiny I knew the other shoppers and cashiers were giving to my outfit, my facial expressions, my transportation to the grocery store, and even what mood my baby was in. However, we needed the milk and beans and cereal. (I only wish WIC would have covered fresh produce as well, or let us swap non-essentials like peanut butter and juice for other staples.) I was (and am) incredibly grateful that–at least for one year–we could receive help from the system that we have faithfully been paying our taxes to. I just wish that it hadn’t come with an open invitation for others to assume the worst about us.

    I’m glad you wrote about this! The more that our stories that are heard, the more that harmful stereotypes will lose their power.

  • LizBert

    I get absolutely livid about this kind of thing. I grew in poverty, I remember times that our utilities were shut off, I remember getting evicted from our house, I remember being embarrassed to watch my parents pay for groceries with what looked like Monopoly money, but most of all, I remember that I got to eat.

    You can argue that my parents shouldn’t have had 3 kids without having a plan to afford raising us or that my dad should have quit school and gone to work full-time or whatever, but the truth is that the people you would have punished the most were me and my little brothers.

    All of us need help in some fashion in our lives, why does it make some people so angry to know that folks down on their luck can eat. I cannot understand that kind of rage. That “I’ve got mine” attitude is pure nastiness.

  • RMerriam

    One think usually overlooked by the critics is that the card used for SNAP is also used to distribute benefits for other programs, such as Disability. The dollars for those programs are not restricted.

  • http://faeriebarista.blogspot.com/ Amanda Jillian

    I really hate those memes. I was on food stamps and you wanna know something? Healthy organic food that I buy now was way too expensive sometimes. The cheap freezer foods and snacks went into the cart. I had to put things back. I still do now that I’m no longer on any assistance but that’s my choice. I have lost “friends” cause we fought over people on assistance. Yeah I had an iPhone when I was on assistance cause it was a old model that my friend gave me when he bought the newer one, and my bf paid for my service. I had a car cause I had a beat up old car. I wore nice clothes cause no one was going to give me a job is if I looked like a slob. I painted my own nails and did my own hair, as I still do. It’s ridiculous how people who never had to be on any assistance want to look down on people that are.

  • George Waite

    Why the obesity? Fat is a self-indulgence.
    And four kids? Why not stop at two? Or one? Why should other people have to feed what you breed?

    • Saraquill

      In this society, where most jobs are sedentary and many lack the resources and time to exercise, and where empty calorie goods are dirt cheap, obesity hits the poor harder.

      Also, you’re a turd for insulting their children.

      • George Waite

        I made no comments about the quality of the children, only the quantity. Feelings hurt easily? Tough childhood?

        • Saraquill

          You insulted their very existence.

          • George Waite

            Could you tell me again just why the rest of the country should feed what you breed?

          • Melissa_PermissionToLive

            My 4 children were born when we were comfortably middle class and had never considered taking a dime from the government. Circumstances change. And even if children are born in poverty that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve have the basic needs met for survival.

          • Chad Smith

            George has nicely summed up one of the fundamental differences between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives typically care very little about anything or anyone outside of their own little bubble. They can never seem to wrap their heads around the bigger picture.

          • George Waite

            Great to hear-I’ve been having problems saving for some dental work-you going to help me with that?

          • Oswald Carnes

            I would be happy to help you with your teeth! Now, stand very still…

          • houstonschic

            Well, maybe they should get abortions!!! Wait a minute…are you pro-life? Me tooooo! So put your money where your mouth is.

    • Michael W Busch

      When you find yourself saying “children should starve”, you should stop talking and go re-think your ideas.

    • Wren

      So you are ok with just having those children starve?

  • melissa236

    It is my belief that the government could do way more and concentrate on things here at home. The amount of money sent overseas is ridiculous. The middle class has been crushed and most people are a paycheck away from going under. They have done this so I say eat your ice cream with whipped cream and then add some cherries on top too!!

    • melissia

      How much do you think we spend on foreign aid as a percentage of the US government’s budget?

      It’s less than that.

      Now cut your estimate by half.

      It’s less than that, too.

      Cut it in half AGAIN.

      It’s probably still less than that.

      Cut it in half a third time. Yeah, still less than that.

      The average American thinks we spend something like 28% of the budget on foreign aid. The truth is, we spend just over a single percent of federal tax dollars on international spending.

      So while I do agree we could spend more money on the poor here, that money isn’t going to come from international aid. It’s going to come from a reduction in benefits to corporations, or a reduction in military spending, or an increase in taxation, or some other method.

  • Melissa_PermissionToLive

    WIC and SNAP are 2 different programs. The income cutoff for WIC is much higher, and it provides much much less. For my family we would have to make almost 60K a month to be disqualified for WIC. I imagine a family could be able to live quite comfortably at 55K a month, but I have no idea why anyone would plan to get pregnant and have a baby and all the work that entails just to be able to get a couple gallons of milk, rice, cereal and eggs once a month until the kid turns 5.

    • Michael W Busch

      Should that be 60K/year for the WIC cutoff?

      • Melissa_PermissionToLive

        Whoops, yes it should be. Definitely meant 60K a year. Lol!

  • AnnieN

    Hi. I’m on WIC and I have an iPhone. I got it for $1 when AT&T was doing a promotion – it’s an older model one (4S) and it’s refurbished. My data plan is only $15 extra a month over my regular phone bill. Can we please stop holding the iPhone up as a mark of affluence? Because there’s many many ways to get one on the cheap.

    • rayannegraff

      Exactly. I’m on SNAP and I have an iPhone. Which my friend gave to me after she upgrades, and which I pay $45/mo (all-inclusive) for with Straight Talk.

    • houstonschic

      Mine too! The iPhone was *free*. I don’t even own a 4S–it’s a plain 8g 4! And I just realized if I pay an extra 10/month, I could have internet turned off at my house and save 40/month. Because when you’re sick and can’t work, and your husband is in the bottom 10% of pay in his field, you have to make decisions like that. :(

  • smbakk1

    Why the sarcasm? If the “needy”, who rely on taxes that come directly out of our families income earnings and infringe on our tight budget, can afford “luxuries”, then they can afford to pay for their own necessities and don’t need our money. Iphones with media access generally come attached to a monthly bill of at least $50.00 or more, which is one expense that is not necessary and could go toward food, electricity, housing, etc. that those of us who work for a paycheck and don’t get government hand outs have to think about and pay for before purchasing such items as iphones, manicures, pedicures, jewelry, tattoos, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling (even bingo and lottery tickets). These are all luxuries that tax payers should not be forced to contribute toward. So are expensive cars and gas hog SUV’s. And people on assistance need to quit having babies they can’t afford or be financially responsible for.

    • R Vogel

      Any you get to decide who is poor enough to be worthy of assistance using some sort of formula of your own devising. I am just saying it would be helpful for poor people to know the formula is so they don’t run afoul of the rules. An iPhone costs $50 per month. How much does a land-line phone cost? If it is more than $50 then you are getting a deal since the iPhone can also allow you to access directions, email and many other services that might help you someday get a job. Maybe you should have to present your phone bills to some authority in order to prove that you, in fact, are worthy of help? Don’t want people to be spending their money on costly add-on services after all. Why electricity? If you’re poor perhaps you should go to bed with the sun and rise with it, after all Benjamin Franklin said early rising would make you wealthy, among other things…..

    • Sheila Connolly

      It’s not like the moment you lose your job, the iPhone people, out of the kindness of their hearts, let you out of your contract. Or as if you can now afford to trade-in your SUV for a car with better gas mileage …. which will probably be much more expensive than the older car you own. Any time you switch cars you lose money, and if you haven’t got money or the credit to borrow it, you have to stick with what you have.

      When you’re desperately poor, most people aren’t going to run out and buy a fancy bed or a nice new wardrobe or a new phone. But these things, if you already owned them before you lost your job, aren’t readily convertible into income.

      What really sickens me is how some legislators will argue loudly about how food stamps are stealing from the rich to give to the poor … while they and the people “on their side” take farm subsidies, corporate bailouts, and very large salaries. Isn’t that just stealing from the poor to give to the rich? What makes that okay?

      Or my brother, who argues with a straight face that no one in America is really poor enough to need food stamps, when our family was on WIC when he was a baby …. meaning, without food aid, he likely would have been malnourished. My grandpa grew up in the Depression with no food aid and had stunted growth and misshapen feet from malnourishment. In a country this rich, there is no excuse for anyone to go hungry. I pay taxes, and I DON’T MIND because that money goes to those who need it! (That is, I don’t mind it going to food stamps … I do mind it going to bailouts.) I’m mostly a libertarian but I feel every civilized country needs at least a basic safety net.

    • Rivka

      Anyone out of work needs to have internet access nowadays to search for jobs. If they get that internet access through their phone: well why not?

  • Michael W Busch

    The percent of fraudulent welfare cases is enormous, it’s not just a few.

    No, it isn’t.

    US Government Accountability Office numbers place the rate of inappropriate payments at less than 4% of SNAP spending. Here is a reference from 2010: http://www.gao.gov/assets/130/125135.pdf . Various other sources that Google will show you agree: SNAP and similar programs have only something like 3% waste. And most of that is not the fault of the recipients – far more common (although still rare) are things like clerks over-charging the program cards. Deliberate fraud is down around 1%.

    Also: the current social support programs are net sources of revenue for the US federal and state governments, so anyone who is complaining about them on the grounds of “they cost society money” has not done the appropriate calculation (the appropriate complaint to make is that the programs could be far better than they are).

    You may be opposed to social support programs, but do not spread false statements about their effectiveness. Instead, do the research. e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_Nutrition_Assistance_Program .

  • Michael W Busch

    You’re wrong if you think it’s only a few scamming the system regardless of what your liberal articles claim.

    No, she is not wrong. Nor is the conclusion that the rates of fraud in social support programs are indeed quite low something “liberal articles claim”. It is the result of repeated, thorough, and continuing non-partisan assessments of the programs – by the GAO and by many other groups.

    Your own personal experience, and your interpretation of it, is highly biased in many ways (as is true for everyone). Recognize that, and correct for it.

  • Drea

    I don’t qualify for food stamps, but my husband lost his job earlier this year, reducing our income to half. It’s tough anytime that your income is reduced. Do they have a program called Market on the Move where you’re at? Basically, restaurants donate unused produce that only has a shelf life of a couple of days. I can go there and buy 5 lbs of tomatoes for $1. The produce depends on what is available, but it helps a lot. I’ve also learned how to make my own laundry soap, bathroom cleaner, shower cleaner, carpet cleaner, and disinfectant for more savings. If we had kids, I don’t know if we would survive on one income. But luckily it’s just us so we make do be being creative.

    My family was on WIC and assistance for a brief time when I was a kid. I always hated those awkward stares, but there’s no shame in feeding your kids. I think it’s that embarrassment though that prevents me from seeking out any assistance as an adult.

  • KayNewEngland

    Lets not forget a car……it’s gotta be old, rusted out,breaking down all the time-sucking every last dollar out of your pocket. Because how are peeps going to get to work or find work?

    Or maybe it’s just escalades I’ve “heard” these are popular with poor folks.

  • Donalbain

    FRUIT?
    Seriously? You are upset that people are buying FRUIT?

  • R Vogel

    Bravo! You are model of fiscal responsibility and charity while those filthy ‘needy’ people are all profligate, lazy, drug addicts.

  • sunnyside

    Let’s not judge what’s in carts – you don’t know if it’s an anniversary, birthday, special event and buying that steak is 1/5 the price of taking the family out to dinner.

    The ONLY time I have seen welfare fraud and anything like what people put forth as “common” food stamp abuse was when I was in line behind a known shoplifter. A woman who ran a ring of shoplifters, actually, who was even paying someone in the distribution chain for boxes of a more expensive product and somehow had rolls of register tape to create fake receipts. In 10 years in retail, I never saw anyone else operating on such a scale. Stores knew her, loss prevention knew her, and when she was caught she and her accomplices spent years in jail.

    The people who completely rip off gov’t assistance are criminals and scammers in other ways, a very small percentage of the total, and they get caught. I also know of someone who was buying food stamps – his house got raided, cash and computers were taken, and he faced jail time. People really don’t get away with it.

  • Mouseketeer

    Gosh, if you know so many people who are cheating the system, why don’t you sit them down and have a heart-to-heart talk to them about it? And then maybe the college-educated mom could explain to you that $40K/year would not pay for daycare for the kids plus transportation costs and so it makes more sense for her to raise her own kids. And then she could walk you through exactly how much it costs to feed a family of 5.

    And how do you know they had steaks almost every night for two months? Were you eating dinner with your friends every night for two months? Or are you exaggerating the “facts” to match your overblown sense of outrage? Or making the whole thing up completely? I’m voting for that last one.

    Here’s the thing about all those social programs. If you think it’s so awesome to be on them, those programs are there for you too. If you have a job, stop doing your work and get dismissed from your job and apply for SNAP and welfare, and see for yourself how easy you have it.

  • Mouseketeer

    smbakk1, my family does, and has always done, all the “responsible” things that you do. Actually, we don’t even have a car. We take public transportation.

    But if I had to look for a job it would be important to dress much better than I do now in order to impress prospective employers– who do judge by appearances. If I had to look for a job, I’d get haircuts more often, and I’d wear makeup, maybe get my nails done. I might buy a name-brand handbag on sale to carry to interviews to look sharper, instead of the dirt cheap no-name bag I have now.

    I might get a secondhand smartphone to show a prospective employer that I would be capable of answering work emails anywhere and anytime, in the hopes that would give me an edge over other candidates.

    Being poor is expensive.

    I have the luxury of scrimping and limiting my spending now, because I don’t have to impress anyone to survive. If I needed a job, I would have to spend a lot more on “unnecessary” things just to have a chance to get hired again.

    And then people like you would judge me, because a jobless person shouldn’t spend money on haircuts and manicures and brand name handbags and smartphones, even though jobless people may believe they need those things to have any chance of competing for the few jobs that are out there.

  • Ursula L

    The actual aid the US sends is quite limited. And often it is structured not in a way designed to be most useful to the recipients, but rather to work with US interests.

    For example, the US agricultural support programs encourage farmers in the US to produce more of certain staple foods (grains, soy, dairy, etc.) than the US actually needs, and does so in part by buying up extra food, to keep food prices high enough that farmers can make a living while producing a surplus rather than creating an incentive for food shortages. The excess food gets distributed as food aide, both in the US and abroad.

    Even if it would be better for a recipient community to have aide that encourages producing their own food, and strengthening local food distribution systems.

    And the amount of money that the US spends on foreign humanitarian aide – food, medicine, civilian shelter, etc. is tiny compared both to what the US spends on both domestic military and military aide to allies. There is no good reason for the US to have a military larger than the next ten largest combined. And that military spending dwarfs actual useful stuff like giving food to hungry people.

  • melissia

    “Did you know that being poor involves saying no a lot? [snip]”

    Oh definitely, yes. Hell, my family isn’t exactly poor, but we still say no a lot. Want to go to the movies? No, sorry. We can wait a year and get it in the bargain bin instead. Want to eat out? No, sorry. We can make our own meals cheaper. Want new shoes? Wait till your old ones are wore out. Washed the sheets? Well, wait for them to dry and put them back on– and make sure not to tear them, they’re the only ones you have.

    We don’t indulge ourselves in a lot. It feels like a treat when, maybe two to four times a year, we might eat out at a low-class restaurant like Chili’s or Olive Garden, or go buy a dvd to watch as a family. I check Steam for sales and watch for indie games I might like, since they’re so much cheaper (ten bucks as opposed to sixty), and even then it’s a few months between purchases.

    It’s amazing talking to other peoples’ families and seeing how much they indulge themselves…

  • melissia

    “I’m all for a temporary safety net, as long as there are ways to prevent fraud”

    There is practically no fraud to begin with.

    • smbakk1

      Typical liberal comment…you have no idea, I work in a dentist office for children and most of our patients are on medicaid. Yet they come in wearing top of the line Underarmor, Nike airs, Northface, etc. They also bring their Smart phones in with them and their parents fill the parking lot with their expensive vehicles. And I’m not talking about some small minority, I’m talking about the vast majority. Many of the parents don’t even speak English and most are foreigners, whether they’re here legally or not is anyone’s guess. Don’t assume that our welfare system isn’t being abused by many, because I know for a fact that it is.

      • melissia

        “Typical liberal comment…you have no idea”

        Yes I do. Your incredibly biased personal experiences are irrelevant compared to actual proven scientific data.

        For example, unemployment insurance has a fraud rate of about two percent. Most of that fraud is done by businesses, not by the recipients themselves.
        http://waysandmeans.house.gov/legacy/humres/107cong/6-11-02/6-11find.htm

        Similarly, payment error in SNAP is about four percent. Most of that fraud is done by businesses, not by the recipients themselves. Beneficiaries ripping off SNAP account for less than one percent of SNAP payments.
        http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-956T

        Medicare and Social Security have higher rates of fraud, of around ten percent (which goes to show that younger people are generations are generally more honest than older ones) each. Defense contractor fraud is astronomically high in comparison, about 100 billion a year.
        http://thehill.com/news-by-subject/defense-homeland-security/189247-lawmakers-push-report-highlighting-11t-in-defense-spending-waste-fraud

        In truth, many safety net programs have a lower rate of fraud than in the private sector (where fraud is on average about five percent), and almost all of them have vastly lower fraud than the financial and banking sectors.

        The government is better at stopping fraud than the private sector, go figure.

        • smbakk1

          For every liberally biased source (yes most goverent sources are liberally biased because they depend on our corrupt liberal government’s funding) you quote I could find a nonbiased report that says otherwise. And it’s not just my personal years of experience in both the supermarket industry and the medical field, it’s the experience of most people working in fields that deal with people receiving government benefits which are supposed to assist those truly in “need”.

          • melissia

            “I could find a nonbiased report”

            I’m waiting for you to stop bullshitting and actually do what you say you can do.

            But I’ll state it simply: you can’t find a non-biased report. You don’t want to.

  • melissia

    “The problem is the vast numbers of welfare abusers”

    Who don’t exist.

  • LaShella

    Well the problem really is is the “need to believe ” that there are massive amounts of welfare abusers and people who are “takers!” Yes, there are some out there. I cannot deny that. But I don’t like those politicians to use this as an excuse to gut the entire program and basically say “its your own fault… God is punishing you for something YOU did!” Hey, if you think someone is abusing this program, you can always call the abuse hotlines. You do not have to give your name.

  • Wren

    What is the percentage?

  • sjreidhead

    For three years I lived, ashamed, annoyed with the fact that, through circumstances, I went through my savings. My father has Alzheimer’s Disease, my 84 year old mother is not the healthiest person in the world. Thanks to a dishonest broker, they went from wealth to poverty, almost over night. There came a day when I realized, if something didn’t break, I was going to need to go to the local food bank for help for them. To make it more humiliating, I’d worked with them, through my local church. Until that moment, I had the usual view of food stamps – yuck. My revelation was instantaneous. Food stamps are a heck of a lot better than having to crawl, begging to a food bank. I don’t know anyone, right now, who isn’t going through financial ‘insecurity’ – shall we say. The moment I realized I wasn’t the only one, it helped. You aren’t the only one. I do know, thought, that people who are experiencing rough times should be allowed to keep a little bit of dignity. Food banks rob you of that. Fortunately, I managed to scrounge up enough to get us through that bad spot. It’s still a matter of scrounging, month in and month out. I’ve learned that you can’t do anything when the credit cards are defunct. I’ve learned how to deal with the power company, I’ve bartered, traded, and talked my way out of situations. I wouldn’t take anything for the experience. I’m a better person, even though I am scrounging for the right shade of lipstick. In many ways, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me, and the worst. I just don’t care to repeat it.

    Good luck. Hang in there. You aren’t alone, trust me.

  • https://www.dlisted.com/ AGuest

    How are they getting $900 a month for two adults and three children? I know a single mother with two children, both of whom are special needs, who is continually fighting with the system because the system seems to think $100 a month is too much. The father is in federal prison, she gets zero in the way of child support. The system also recently decided that one of her special needs sons didn’t need physical therapy anymore.

    But the middle class family you know of who are scamming the system are getting $900 a month, with a working father at home?

    There’s a bias at work, but it’s the opposite of ‘conventional wisdom’ and Cadillac queen stereotypes.

  • Rivka

    i Had to apply for food stamps, and the application process involved lots and lots of documentation of all my sources of income among other stuff. Not sure how fraud would have been possible.


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