So, I keep seeing this seriously problematic image circulating on facebook. It’s an ugly beige and red graphic with the following text: If you can afford beer, drugs, cigarettes, manicures and tattoos, you don’t need foodstamps or welfare.
Now, first of all, let me critique this thing as quickly as possible:
1. What you’re basically saying is that you can take one quick look at somebody and decide that they don’t deserve to eat or have a roof over their head. Wow, who made you god when I wasn’t looking?
2. You are not an expert on anyone’s needs when you bump into them in 7-11 and notice them buying cigarettes with nicely painted nails. See #1.
3. Targeting the poor as though they are stealing from you is stupid when your employer and insurance company are more likely the ones stealing from you in much greater amounts.
4. The poor don’t owe you an explanation for why they’re poor or what they do with what little they have.
5. The reason we have welfare and food stamps is to prevent assholes like you from withholding charity from the starving because you don’t approve of their lifestyles.
6. Compare the following:
Case of beer: $9.
Carton of cigarettes: $50.
Rent (per month): $500.
Food (per month): $400.
Foregoing all those things still leaves you $626 in the hole, and we haven’t even mentioned electricity or running water or a phone line.
As for drugs, I have three responses:
- Even if there were as many people abusing drugs and using welfare to survive as the Right seems to think, I’d rather pay an extra ten cents a year to have them not starve to death. Starvation is not a motivator. It’s a killer. If someone is so addicted to drugs that they can’t get it together enough not to be homeless, I doubt they’re in a position to stop doing drugs when their situation gets worse. What do you think got them started in the first place? A master’s degree and a new job at Google?
- If someone is so addicted to drugs that they can’t get it together enough to keep a roof over their heads, they probably aren’t all that successful keeping up with the onerous paperwork that is required to stay on welfare. They’re probably leaning on the charity of family or friends.
- If we had adequate, accessible psychiatric and health care for the poor, fewer people would turn to drugs in the first place.
7. The poor do not have to perform for you by “looking poor” or foregoing things that you classify as luxuries to be deserving of basic human needs like food and shelter. Their survival should not depend on how much you like them, unless you want to return to the days of parents injuring their kids so they can receive more money begging on the street from pompous businessmen in fur coats. Read some Charles Dickens, for heaven’s sake.
8. If you’re academically minded, read this.
9. People turn to destructive creature comforts like cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to escape a life without real opportunity. How many poor kids have you sent to college lately?
Okay, now that I’m done with that, here’s the snark I promised. Sometimes you can only fight a picture with another picture: