If you read nothing else today, read Simcha Fisher’s brave piece

If you read nothing else today, read Simcha Fisher’s brave piece April 17, 2015

on the day she bought a steak with food stamps.

We need to stop talking as though the tiniest pleasures of the poor are acts of theft against our Righteous Selves. It’s miserly and cruel.

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  • Cypressclimber

    The link is bad…

    • chezami

      Try again. Works for me.

      • Cypressclimber

        It works now, thanks.

  • MarylandBill

    This is a pretty powerful testament Mark. Thanks for sharing. Some poor, like the families of my parents growing up in Ireland, are lucky in that their poverty is only lack of money, others are not so lucky since they live in a world where the poor are despised. They are told they are not good enough to have better, while they often watch others get rich from their labor or their suffering.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    And unfortunately, sometimes someone who needs those food stamps is turned down because they are responsible enough to not have any debts, but not enough income to pay rent and buy food. When my husband was a single father, he was told to, “Go buy a car. When you have a car payment, you’ll qualify for food stamps.” WTF

    • Marthe Lépine

      I know a woman who has been on a disability pension for most of her life (for serious health issues). The benefits are based on some obscure formula for a budget… So, one year she wanted to be a responsible citizen by being very careful on her use of heat and electricity, and actually not keeping her apartment quite warm enough, so much that it happened that she had spent $300 less over that year than the amount so “budgeted” by the bureaucrats for that particular part of her “needs”. What do you think happened? They demanded that she repay that money instead of using it for other pressing needs, although her total benefits only provided for less than $700CAN a month… I was totally shocked. I think that she should have been rewarded for her efforts, not punished. Particularly since she was never told what the social agency had “budgeted” for her and could not have known that her efforts at saving would not be recognized.

    • LFM

      I remember a story from the late 1980s in DC, reported in the Washington Post, of an African-American woman who had carefully saved her various welfare payments (I am not certain of the correct terms here as I’m not American) and managed to save enough money over many years to create a college fund for one of her children who was good at academic subjects. When this was discovered, the government “clawed back” the money, since if she could save that amount of money, she clearly hadn’t really needed it. (I’m not sure whether I have the details right here and I think the story is too old to confirm online.) Anyway, the public outcry when this was reported was so great that she got her money back.

      Stories like this help to illustrate why the rules for accepting public assistance – which do exist for a reason – also tend to discourage any kind of enterprise, thrift, or even common sense.

  • Kathleen S.

    Kathleen s.

    • antigon

      All right which is it, Kathleen, s. or S.?

  • Kathleen S.

    If anyone should be eating nutrient dense food, it’s the poor. They deserve to eat beef, and wild salmon and other foods that will build their health. How sad that people can’t afford nutritious fruits and vegetables along with good protein sources like different meats. The whole darn system is broken, every one is worried about health care and it’s costs, if you give people clean water and nutrient dense foods they are less likely to need medical care.

    • Ken

      Having them only having access to junk food is the worst thing possible for everyone involved. It leads to sickness, obesity, etc… The worst part is the kids are forced to eat this which limits physical and mental development like brain development.

      • Sue Korlan

        During the school year the kids have school lunches and breakfasts. For lunch they get a main item, 2 fruit choices, 2 vegetable choices,and milk. They have to take at least 3 and can take up to 6 in the specified quantities. Breakfast is a milk, a fruit, and a breakfast type of food. So in American schools the kids get decent food 5 days a week.

        • Linebyline

          I hope that’s true where you live. In my local school district, it’s only true if you share the government’s narrow definition of “decent food.” Sure, it’s uber-nutritious, and it doesn’t contain anything that anyone might be allergic to. It also tastes like crap. The kids going through the cafeteria line take it because they have to, so it looks like they’re getting their nutrition. Most of it gets thrown away.

          • Sue Korlan

            I tend to buy the lunches because they taste okay and they’re cheap. Yes, some kids throw out some part of it, but lots of them eat it. And certainly there are days when their vegetables are 2 or 3 things I don’t like, but you can get a big salad with lots of toppings to add on like ham and turkey and cheese and different vegetables. And they usually have fresh bananas and apples and oranges for the fruit option in addition to whatever is in the serving line. So yes, the kids mostly eat enough to stay healthy here and the food is reasonably tasty.

            • Linebyline

              It probably varies wildly from one school to the next. One of my relatives works as a substitute cook and she sees how much of the food gets thrown away, and hears from the kids who don’t want to take it in the first place because it’s terrible.

              I’m relieved to hear that it’s not that bad everywhere, though. What you describe sounds pretty good. Thanks for the reply!

        • Ken

          Sounds nice but unfortunately french fries are considered a vegetable and the quality of proteins they are given is poor.

          • Sue Korlan

            We do get french fries every couple weeks, and lots of different sources of protein. We had potatoes today; the other vegetable was collard greens, which I won’t eat. We also occasionally have sweet potatoes cooked like regular potatoes in little squares. I didn’t realize that’s what they were so I ate 1 and gave the rest away. But we mostly get green beans or broccoli or cauliflower or corn for vegetables. And sometimes baked beans with cheese as a vegetable. It varies quite a bit.

  • dasrach

    Beautiful. Thanks for posting.

    I really, really don’t understand the “no steak and seafood” thing. It’s petty and cruel. I’ve never experienced anything like the kind of poverty Simcha describes here, but my family is definitely on the low end of middle class, and we have to budget our groceries very, very scrupulously. Red meat and seafood are out of the question (other than organ meats, canned tuna, and the occasional great sale on whiting)…except twice a year. The week or two leading up to my husband’s birthday, we scrimp even more than usual so we can move ten to twenty dollars from that week’s grocery budget to the next one and buy him a steak dinner. We do the same thing leading up to my birthday so I can have shrimp or salmon. Why are people so adamant that the poor not be able to do the same thing? Food stamps aren’t enough to buy seafood and steak on a regular basis. You have to budget for them. If the poor choose to do that, why shouldn’t they?

    • Gina

      Exactly. I worked for many years at a shelter for battered women and children. Most of the families qualified for food stamps. Very often, when there was a birthday, everyone would pitch their stamps into a common pot to fund a modest birthday party. Yup, it was all junk food–cake, soda, ice-cream, etc., (and I can only imagine the rolled eyes behind them in the checkout line) but I always found the gesture and its generosity so profoundly beautiful. These wounded women would celebrate together, and bring a sliver of joy and humanity and hope into each other’s lives the best way they knew how…

  • We got easter chicks one year. After awhile they went off to my aunt’s house because they had a yard and kept ducks and we were in an apartment in the Bronx. It turns out they were all roosters. One day we visited my aunt. We ate them.

    If you have food for a catfish and electricity for the circulating pump, you have slack. I don’t hate Simcha Fisher for using food stamps or for anything at all. The welfare mentality of write a check fixes the problem is where I focus my ire. Don’t buy hot dog buns, make bread, something that still saves me about $0.5 a loaf give or take. Running without the mandatory insurance minimums is a recipe for being trapped in poverty when you factor in the towing, court costs, and lost jobs when you’re caught.

    Often poor people don’t know how to write a resume, make bread, manage their food frugally, etc. That’s part of why they didn’t save enough in the good times. Those who know should share but that sharing won’t happen if there’s no way to connect or if the poor don’t want to listen.

    The poor person who drives to my wife’s office for a medical appointment in a better car than ours, marking down the followup appointment on a phone that’s better than hers, and eating a diet that splurges more than ours is a reality (or at least until recently when our own circumstances improved). But so is the person who does everything possible and more to avoid government aid and is turned down for help that they really need.

    The solution is not to stop criticizing the poor. The solution is to pay attention to them as individuals instead of a category and criticize where they make bad decisions and give them an extra generous hand up when they are doing all that is possible but the wider economy or other circumstance doesn’t let them catch a break at the moment.

    Imagine a congregation that knew each other well enough that the better off just invited the frugal poor over for dinner a few times a month, just for fun, just for the company. That the poor family doesn’t have to pay for that meal and the better off congregants load them down with leftovers afterwards is just a matter of convenience. “We don’t have room so you’ll have to take it” I’ve found works pretty well over the years.

    One day the poor might be rich and the rich might be poor (that happens in actual capitalism), swapping money savings techniques is something I’ll always be interested in and I’ve been on both sides of the conversation.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      I can see some of your points, but it’s impossible to put everyone on food stamps into one box. I know a family of seven who is on food stamps and quite mortified about it. Dad works two jobs and picks up what extra odd jobs he can when he has any time, and is the unpaid pastor of a local parish here, but they can’t make it without help. She does a beautiful job budgeting that money so they eat healthy. Not fancy, just healthy. (and yeah, we invite them for dinner a lot.) On the other end of it, I know a family of three on food stamps who regularly run through their food stamp budget on non-nutritious junk and convenience food, and show up on our doorstep needing an extra twenty until they get more (they’re relatives). I’ve offered to help with budgeting groceries and learning more than basics for cooking, but I’m always turned down. We have them for dinner a lot too. I can’t put the two in the same category because I know the first family will be off stamps as soon as possible. The second is quite happy to glide along on them forever–they won’t marry because she’d lose her WIC (according to her–I don’t know if this is accurate or not).

      • We actually agree on not putting everyone in the same category. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

        • Rebecca Fuentes

          This is my fault. I read too fast and miss your third from the last paragraph, where you say exactly that. If government aid were handled on a smaller scale, it might be able to tailor help more specifically to people. I see many young people who are receiving SNAP or WIC who could make it go farther and have healthier diets if they had better cooking skills. Yes, a pound of hot dogs is $1.00 (when they go on sale), but for someone who knows how to make hot dog potato goulash, that pound goes a lot farther (And potatoes are cheap too). In the long run, people need job skills and a market that wants those skills. In an even longer run, I think it’s very worth it to look at bringing vocational programs back into junior highs and high schools, and maybe even apprenticeship programs starting younger. There is a need for industrial jobs, and I know a lot of boys who, in junior high, are good at welding and carpentry, or interested at least, but are staring down six more years of struggling through math and literature. A vocational focus would benefit them.

          • You just made me flash back to one of my mom’s mainstay ‘rotation’ foods. As we got better off, the potato/meat ratio increased towards meat though potatoes were always the main ingredient. All the variants were delicious. Thank’s for calling up a number of happy memories.

            I met a black chef at TEDx in Chicago who was enthusiastic about teaching black people how to sort the ‘food desert’ issue by changing how they cook. He was doing God’s work, one recipe at a time.

            Take a look at Mike Rowe works to see a really awesome initiative along the vocational lines you’re talking about including scholarship money for trade education:

            I think that, eventually, we will get rich enough that we can knock down government aid to a very minor position in the scheme of things when it comes to poor support because individual involvement is more effective and given enough money, the 1-3% we already give will meet the need. That is the long road. The short road is to collectively give more but I count on that as I count on miracles, always ready for God to lend a direct hand but I’m not going to depend on it.

            • Rebecca Fuentes

              Hot-dog potato goulash is still a family favorite here, along with beans and bacon in the crockpot. My kids like that better than steak, or just about anything, really.

          • Heather

            The lack of emphasis on vocational trades is stupid. My high school even had an auto shop wing and courses that could actually put you well on your way to a registered apprenticeship, but were these ever presented to me as an option that a kid who was good in school might be interested in pursuing? No, of course not, because smart people to go university. In fact from junior high on up, there was the assumption that everyone ought to go to university.

            • Rebecca Fuentes

              Our area still has metal and wood shop, but many schools have here phased out autoshop. Nearly everyone needs a good mechanic, plumber and electrician at some point. Contractors who do construction or repair work may have to move, but they can also usually find work. Even getting a CDL is a big advantage in the industrial job market.

    • MT

      Bake bread? If you’re poor, you’re probably working 12 hours a day and have no time to cook.

      • ManyMoreSpices

        If you’re working a 60 hour week, I’m virtually certain that you’re not on food stamps.

        • MT

          The poorer you are, the more you have to work because wages are way too low. If you are poor, you’re either unemployed or are working 2-4 jobs.

          • ManyMoreSpices

            If you are actually working 60 hour weeks, even at minimum wage, you’re making above the poverty line for a family of three. And if you’re supporting a family of three and putting in 60 hours of actual labor a week, the odds that you’re making minimum wage and not a penny more are vanishingly small.

            • Kate Cousino

              It’s more common to be working 2-3 jobs that all require you be available to work anywhere between 10-30 hours for any range of hours within the week, changing hours every week and often making last-minute shift changes. It can work out to basically being on call 60 hours a week, even if you aren’t getting to actually work all those hours. And you don’t keep all of those jobs because sooner or later they will want you for the same hours and you’ll have to decide which employer to piss off by not being available.

              And because you’re working split shifts or getting called in multiple times a day, you’re not actually spending a lot of time at home. Especially if you’re taking public transportation. Which makes cooking and baking difficult.

              • Elsewhere in this thread I did the math. It’s about 10 minutes time commitment to set up a bread machine cycle that has a sub one year payback time on a used zojirushi which are high quality machines. We ended up buying new because we started belt tightening before things got desperate so our personal payback time was 1-1.25 years. We bought our machine in 2010 and it’s still going strong so we’ve probably saved $600-$1000 (stopped keeping close track once my wife went on salary and we stopped traveling the road to the poor house) on bread so far. We’ve probably saved a few hundred on pizza as well but the economics of it all defeats me. I think we’re on our third set of paddles ($17 each set) and our second bread pan ($67, ouch).

              • Heather

                Ah, and the lovely notion of the “on call” shift. You have to be available and ready to work it, but you call two hours before it’s scheduled to ask if they actually need you to come in. It’s great for the company – it’s easy to arrange coverage if it’s unexpectedly busy or there’s a big inventory shipment to process or someone calls in sick. But for the person working, not so much. Can’t schedule anything else, but not actually guaranteed the hours. When I was working part time minimum wage, I had one job that was steady, 8 hours once a week on Saturday. My “main” job usually gave me between 15 and 35 hours potentially on paper if I got all my on calls, but more like 8-25 in practice.

            • Dave G.

              For us, that would be about 25,000 a year. Today. In today’s money. Go back to when I was in high school and I made more bagging groceries. And that was just a kid working for some extra money. Not trying to feed a family and keep a roof over my head. Salaries in large swaths of the economy are disastrously low. 60 hours for any hope of raising a family beyond bread and water and a one room apartment with optional plumbing is going to be a long shot in just about any part of the country that isn’t itself poverty stricken.

          • Peggy

            Poverty is not the cause of low wages and the need to work many hours/jobs to obtain income. Poverty is the result of low-wage and low-skill work–or no work. (or an unfortunate situation of illness, disability etc) Acquiring more skills and achieving milestones will help many folks up the economic ladder.

        • Depending on family size, this is or is not true. Gross income cutoffs for SNAP are 1.3x poverty level. Official income guidelines here:

        • Marthe Lépine

          Really? How far does the minimum wage go to support a family on 60 hours a week?

        • Sue Korlan

          I worked at a job where we were working between 48 and 52 hours a week. Those who had dependents still qualified for SNAP and Section 8.

      • Some strategies simply don’t work for some people. Other strategies work for other people. If you’re poor, I suspect that you are an individual and your availability varies just like with everybody else. Making bread just happens to be one of those things that looks from the outside a lot harder than it is and plenty of very busy do it and have been doing it for millennia.

        If my advocacy gets one person to just fact check and find out that there’s a whole subculture of people who do this and do it with relatively little time commitment, it’s worth it.

        • Peggy

          No suggestion is ever good enough for some people. You have to have perfect solutions for every one you know.

          If you’re not working, you have lots of time. I don’t think most housewives in history had cuisine-art to ensure top quality results. Suck it up. For gosh sake, what’s happened to imagination and willingness?

          One of my sisters makes some really awesome bread.

          • I actually have some sympathy for this tendency. It’s an offshoot of rational ignorance and the age of mass production. Rational ignorance is not something that you can just argue people out of. It’s rational to do it. The cure for it is changing the time commitment needed to get informed.

            Pay attention to Pope Francis on the subject and he’s brought up the idea of radical involvement with the poor.

            Radical involvement is not industrial scale. It is highly individualized. It’s something that is becoming possible as the information age gets distributed better and starts being applied to poverty. It’s also something that government does really badly which is one of the markers I used to dismiss the “Francis is a commie” talk when that flared up early in Francis’ papacy.

            • Peggy

              I do agree that assistance or charitable work etc (“radical involvement”) must be individualized in practice. Yet, in comboxes, we can’t really get down to nuts and bolts and solve every problem. We can only get to broad terms with some reference to variations that will occur. People who have the time to read and participate in comboxes should take the time to consider such limitations and recognize the reality of what we can do here. The real work in which the details will differ among real individuals is done on the ground among real people in real situations.

    • Sean P. Dailey

      ” Don’t buy hot dog buns, make bread”
      Or, let them eat cake, eh?

      • Have you ever baked bread? It’s cheaper than equivalent store bought and it’s empowering when you end up putting out a superior product that’s better nutritionally. One of the worst things about poverty is how helpless people feel. As a bonus, you can informally sell the stuff if you’re oriented entrepreneurially and make a bit of cash on the side. Plus, hot bread! Sorry, I let my temptation to gluttony out for a second.

        But yeah, obviously it’s better just to write a larger check. I must hate the poor to share something that gives me joy and saves money.

        I started baking bread when I was staring at the prospect of losing my house and have kept up the habit to this day long after the crisis passed. If baking bread is contemptuous, does that make me a self-hating plutocrat?

        Sometimes a larger check *is* the answer. But that’s true less often than most leftists think.

    • Heather

      Bake bread?

      Sorry to be the third person to pick on this particular line, but it’s a pretty goofy recommendation. To bake bread, you need one or more of the following:
      a. an electric bread maker, which is a luxury that might pay for itself eventually in savings but is probably a bigger up front cost than is feasible for someone to whom 50 cents a loaf in savings really matters.
      b. an electric stand mixer with a powerful enough motor to handle bread dough, which is the same upfront cost issue as the bread maker except more so.
      c. sufficient time and energy to make the dough by hand the old fashioned way, which takes a lot more muscle power than you’d first think and is probably the last thing you want to do if you just got home from 8 hours of being on your feet in a crappy menial job or have spent all day chasing after your children. Seriously, there’s a reason bakers in the pre-KitchenAid era had enormous arms.
      d. a reasonably decent oven, which if you’re living in a crappy cheap apartment isn’t guaranteed.

      • Josephine Kelly

        You can get a bread machine at goodwill for between 8 and 14$.. It how I get mine. And they are perfect for making low sugar hot dog buns.

      • Dave G.

        Actually no. My wife started baking our own bread when she was laid off. No electric bread maker. We did have the mixer already. But she has also made other types of bread where the dough can be made by hand, and let sit for a while on its own. Then she plops it in the oven. I think the point is, there is always a way.

        One thing that jumped out at me in the article, and I thought there were good points in it, was the idea that not everyone knows how to show up on time. Not even sure what that means. I mean, there is a sense of responsibility. We are to be contributing members of society. We do owe others. When many years ago we did have to go on Medicaid for a few, we didn’t buy anything other than what was needed. Now if we had been on it for a long time, I’m sure wanting a little extra would have been fine. But in it all, we also remember that we owe to others, our neighbors, our fellow countrymen, our country. While they take care of us, we have obligations to them. To give back. Or to do our part. And we still think that, since we’re still blessed with barely being able to pay our bills.

        Personally, I wish we could get people to look at the good and bad of all sides of this issue. I think TMLutas had some excellent points. And all without the charge that anyone is hating anyone. Just trying to find the best ways to do the best good.

        • Heather

          I think what she was getting at is that it’s one thing to fall on hard times due to changing circumstances. You’ve got your life skills, you know how to take care of yourselves, you know that life isn’t supposed to be this way, and you’ll get through it. But some people have never known anything else. No one has ever taught them how to actually cook food from scratch, or how to dress for a job interview, or how to take responsibility for things, or how to look at themselves and see someone whose life actually matters for something. These aren’t inborn skills.

          • Dave G.

            That makes more sense. Though if I’m accepting help, I also have an obligation on my part to do what I can to get to the point where I can help others. That’s how we saw it. When we did accept aid, we used it for what we needed. The day for luxuries would come later. I think that sense of being responsible for others is one of those things that cuts across the modern mentality. There’s a lacking there, as if we owe nothing to anyone – but they owe us everything. In sorting out how to help and be helped, it’s always important to maintain that as part of the equation.

            • Marthe Lépine

              You are correct, in theory. But, for an example, children born in a family where the parents themselves have never learned some important life skills would have little chance of learning that there are better ways. Children of chronically unemployed parents might have no good role models on getting to work on time and behaviour in work situations. When the parents themselves feel entitled because of bad starts in life, the kids are likely to follow suit. There are only a few situations among many other, that I can think off the top of my head. But maybe some ways of helping the poor could include things like cooking/nutrition lessons given with the food stamps, or help getting the basic appliances needed to cook better meals for less money, or life skills workshops that would include more than suggestions, but assistance, maybe, for looking for work and presenting oneself to a potential employer. AT one point in the area where I live, with several small towns at some distance from each other with practically no public transit, an organization was recruiting volunteer drivers to take people to job interviews and to drive them to their new jobs for 3 months until they were able to make arrangements with some co-workers to travel to and from work; that seem to me to be a very interesting idea, with the added benefit that some of those volunteer drivers who were retired were able to share practical advice with the people they drove around, and maybe develop supportive friendships with some families they were helping in this way. These are only a few ideas, but it seems to me that there could be a lot of ways to help the poor that are not just limited to handing out money.

              • Dave G.

                Those are all great ideas. I think with this subject the point is to avoid the extremes. We don’t want to demonize the poor. We don’t want to deify them either. They might be blessed. But they aren’t gods. And as a person who ranks in the area of lower middle class at best, I am also aware that I, too, have obligations to others. Including those helping me. Helping anyone get to the point of helping others is a great goal, and any idea that actually does so is worth, in my opinion, a second look.

        • antigon

          ‘Punctuality is the virtue of boors.’ – Evelyn Waugh

          • Dave G.

            Quotes used to pack more punch before the era of brainyquote.com.

            • antigon

              Outside the boor community, still do!

              • Dave G.

                That would be the community that still relies on learning and memory as opposed to Google?

                • antigon

                  Not to mention the (perhaps too boastful since of course it has no Waugh) brainyquotes.com. Also thy definition of learning seems a tad too broad, Dave, no?
                  And what’s Google? That’s not the site that claims 47 billion were killed in the Spanish Inquisition last Thursday like that book you once read did, is it?

                  • Dave G.

                    Google turns people into overnight experts with no real grasp of the material. Of course I could find anything that said 47 billion killed in the Inquisition. Or endless millions in Iraq. Or billions of Indians by settlers. That’s one of the things about Google. No matter how goofy your theories, there are sites out there that validate them. Hence good old learning through time and discipline. That I could type ‘Punctuality Quotes’ and come up with the quote you referenced as one of the first results means I was able to type ‘Punctuality Quotes’ on Google. It means nothing about my grasp of the subject, the individual quoted, or anything. I’ve actually spent enough years studying and teaching Church history to know that anti-Catholic propaganda inflated the figures of the Inquisition, but that some Catholics can also downplay them to near denial levels. Which just shows why Google is not a reliable first source. Those extremes are easily supported by results on Google if my only goal is to find support for one of those extremes.

                    • antigon

                      ‘That’s one of the things about Google.’
                      T’is to be sure, as also about Dave G., whom I shall spare the embarrassment of quoting his many confident assertions of nonsense about the Inquisition on Shea’s post not long past (the one about the pontiff’s hopes for avoiding war with Iran), which came despite G’s wilderness years ineffectively studying & teaching Church history.
                      ‘Hence learning through time and discipline.’
                      The latter certainly to be recommended given the failure of the former.
                      But quite right about trusting Google, for those quotes were flat wrong, since Waugh did not say ‘of the bored,’ but ‘of boors’ – categories of which the distinction a mere smidgeon of time (albeit with discipline) will reveal.

                    • Dave G.

                      Ah antigon, antigon. Your posts make me think of insults made by middle school kids wrestling their way through puberty. Note there is nothing particularly informative in your posts. You just suddenly feel the need to stop by and interrupt my discussions with infantile finger pointing. Oh well. You’re Catholic. I’ll cut you some slack.

                    • antigon

                      ‘there is nothing particularly informative in your posts.’
                      Save when they’re read of course, then they’re abundantly informative!

                    • Dave G.

                      Oh, and I don’t take you personally either, since I notice you tend to respond to others who think differently than you in the same manner. If you actually tried to listen, you might get some of what various individuals are saying. For instance, if people are going to dismiss facts about Japan, or accept the worst possible figures regarding the US, then there is no reason in the world why I can’t take the same when applied to the Catholic Church? Sounds fair. Sounds reasonable, right? What’s good for the goose after all. I’m often shocked at how Catholics who can see bad arguments when others use them against the Church are so willing to turn around and embrace the same bad arguments when convenient.

                    • antigon

                      ‘Sounds reasonable, right?’
                      Nope, Dave, wrong again.

      • Goofy is in the eye of the beholder. For most such savings ideas some people will find them goofy, others will take to them. Your mileage may vary.

        I personally bake bread (I’ve setup and am running a cycle right now in fact), and yes, have a bread maker. Zojirushi machines, which are probably the best consumer machine out there, are going for $50 on ebay 2nd hand so, yes, an effort, but we’re talking a pretty short payback window, depending on how much bread you consume (I have a family of five with three in various stages of puberty, you do the math). For awhile there we were consuming more than one loaf a day. I call that period “the locust years”.

        I just checked prices at the local supermarket. We’re saving about $0.80 per home baked loaf on a per ounce basis as compared to the store brand “wonderbread” style and for their “bake in the store” bread the savings is about $3.38 on a per ounce basis and what we make is still better than what they bake. For hot dog buns (fluffy store brand) the savings is $1.28 on a per ounce basis. Pizza has always been too complicated to get really good data on but as well as I can manage it, I think I’m saving 50-66% off store bought as the total weight you’re getting is over 32 oz of cheese pizza for about $6-7. That one does require a separate oven, the hotter the better, so that one might not be practical.

        If you’re buying that baked in the store bread, the payback is under a month. If you’re buying the store brand fluff sandwich bread, it’s more on the order of 4-6 months. Hot dog buns are an intermediate case.

        It takes me about 10 minutes to prep and set up the bread maker. Depending on humidity/flour conditions, I might have to add water so add another 30 seconds to check that about 20 minutes into the 3 hour 45 minute process. I set it up before I go to sleep and wake up with fresh bread in the house.

        As an aside, I know exactly how much muscle power it takes to knead bread. Sometimes you have to stop the cycle and recover from a mistake. Hand kneading is occasionally necessary.

        It is not for everyone. For the poor it is especially a challenge because they tend to have shortened times they are willing to wait for an investment to pay off.

        As an aside, thanks for making me update my numbers. Things are getting expensive out there.

        • I’m from the South and my Mom often baked cornbread or biscuits for supper after working all day. Making bread (of some kind or other) doesn’t require arms like a blacksmith and hours of free time.

        • Heather

          I guess it really depends on how much bread you go through. In a larger household where you go through multiple loaves in a week I can see it being a more appealing option. Back when I was living paycheque to paycheque, barely scraping together rent and basically mooching off my roommate completely when it came to groceries, it would have seemed a ludicrous idea given how quickly fresh bread goes stale or moldy when there are only two people to eat it.

          Now that we both have decent jobs, we actually do have the fancy electric stand mixer and all sorts of other kitchen gadgets… but still no bread maker.

          • The universe of US married people with no economic slack who have a paycheck coming in, even at the legal minimum wage, are not homeless, and yet still qualify for food stamps will have enough mouths to eat a lot of bread. Singles (unless you’re in a dorm and making an informal business out of it) generally won’t.

            Getting out of poverty requires moving from a structure where you’re $40 short an average month to $40 over an average month and sticking to it in the face of temptation to blow your savings. It’s largely a statistical game and depending on how many, and how big, the stomachs you need to fill, cooking and baking can be an important part of the picture to move from a charity case who feels a failure to a dignified life digging your way out of poverty over time on the strength of your own efforts.

            The fancy stand mixer is more versatile but also requires more attention. I’ve done the math elsewhere in the thread and time commitment for a fresh loaf of bread is on the order of 10 minutes. It would be much higher with the mixer/oven combo.

      • Andy

        My wife bakes great and rolls every weekend – no bread maker, no heavy duty mixed, a big bowl, yeast flour, a bit of honey and me kneading the dough for a chunk of time. Takes about 20 minutes to prepare, a couple hours to rise – our stove in not efficient – 18 years old, but we get bread and unfortunately with her homemade grape jelly I gain to many calories.

      • SteveP

        Re: hulk-armed women—I think contemporary western women have their sisters, and ancestors, beat in regard to arm size. I thought it was the obesity epidemic but, in truth, they are all secret bread makers.

      • Elaine S.
      • Gunnar Thalweg

        You don’t need to make bread that way. No-knead bread is easy and cheap, and requires a Dutch oven and an oven, and a bowl. You just need to let it sit in a covered bowl over night.

  • Katherine

    I’ve grown very tired of the bashing of God’s children who are on SNAP. The fake Christians that pretend they are not anti-poor but think if GUBMENT would get out of the way, all would be fine with private charity are just making excuses so they can get a tax cut.
    This whole issue of SNAP recipients buying steak and lobster cam from a story of a non-working California surfer. Of course, if you really bought a steak our lobster when dependent on SNAP, it would be your only meal of the week. California surfer boy’s problem was not public assistance. It was that he had a whole circle of friends who found him and his lifestyle “entertaining.” They did nothing to help him find honest work but took him in as a houseguest and dinner companion, enabling his lifestyle.

    • ManyMoreSpices

      Well… if the steak/lobster thing is an imaginary problem, then no one will suffer any hardship from those restrictions, right? Yet when someone proposes such a thing… outrage ensues. It’s almost as if it’s actually going to have an effect on people and the story that it’s just one Gnarly Surfer Dude buying all the Welfare Lobsters is just that: a fiction.

      You’ll find this same argument with partial-birth abortion: “We don’t need to make them illegal because they’re so rare!”

      • There was a time when lobster was a poor man’s food and the lobster price was quite low. We seem to be returning to those days off and on depending on the catch. 2013 saw lobster prices crater to $2.89/lb wholesale though retail prices didn’t drop as much. It’s now in the $5 range with a seasonal peak in summer and a dip in winter. Warmer waters make for more lobsters and lower prices.

        In short, it’s complicated and the legislation itself is probably not a bright idea, though the signaling that taxpayers shouldn’t be reduced to economic circumstances below what somebody on benefits lives has more merit.

      • Katherine

        Except the jerk of a politician who proposed this actually wrote his legislation to ban all seafood. The hacked press release attacks the poor for buying steak and lobster but the actual bill bans catfish and tilapia. Further evidence that the conservatives really have no principles here, when Mayor Bloomberg (I) suggested sugery sodas be banned from SNAP purchase, the conservatives dutifully stood up for their corporate sponsors in the soft drink industry and attacked the idea.

    • LSpinelli

      The problem with that story, which ran on FOX by the way, was the caricature of a “welfare moocher” representing all SNAP beneficiaries in a FOX viewer’s eye.

      I commented on this very subject a few months ago, because someone in my family – who thinks work is “beneath them” and is pursuing a non-existent musical career – applied for and got SNAP. I thought, there’s a lot of families who could use and deserve that assistance, and here it is going to support your entitled lifestyle.

      Someone at the Dept of Human Services eventually wised up, because after this person refused to attend job training classes, they lost the food stamps, cash assistance and free bus fare.

      As I said the last time, jerks like this one are out there, but they’re a tiny percentage of SNAP users, not the face of them.

  • ManyMoreSpices

    Once you’ve decided that welfare benefits should be distributed in the form of food stamps, EBT cards, wheels of government cheese, housing vouchers, bus passes, or anything else that’s not cash, you’ve decided that there should be limits to what recipients can spend that money on. Your disagreement with those who would restrict soda, lobster, candy is not one of kind; it’s one of degree. So if you’re outraged that there are Christians who don’t want to see food stamp money spent on lobsters and Yoo-Hoo, I’ll have you know that there are people out there who are outraged that you don’t want food stamp money spent on whiskey for alcoholics, video games, cigarettes, slot machines, bachelor parties, and tattoos. Those people think that you’re heartless. Ponder that for a bit.

    What’s the principle that allows you to deny them those pleasures, you heartless, cruel miser? What’s the principle that allows you to prevent poor people from using public money to drive themselves to emphysema with tobacco, but doesn’t allow you to prevent them from giving themselves type-2 diabetes with sugar?

    There’s none. It’s degree, not kind.

    Anyway, I’d replace the entire bureaucracy and red tape of SNAP, Section 8, and everything else with a guaranteed minimum income – straight cash – for every citizen and pretty much end welfare benefits there. But that’s an efficiency concern. I’m not advocating for cash payments because I think that people who don’t want welfare recipients to spend that money on body piercings, lap dances, and condoms are bad Christians.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      I reread your comment several times.

      So you’re arguing lobster is linked to adult onset diabetes mellitus?

    • Marthe Lépine

      Your mention of lobster reminds me of a story I have heard about poverty in Canada’s Atlantic provinces during the Great Depression of the 30’s. There were children of poor fishermen’s families who were ashamed of the lunches they had to bring to school. The less poor children had sandwiches and such, while the fishermen’s children had to bring… lobsters for lunch! which had been freshly catched by their dads and did not need to be bought with money. Everything is relative…

  • Slinga

    Like many of Fisher’s pieces, this is moving and thought provoking. Still, I find myself rolling my eyes a bit, and it’s because of things she’s written in the past. Very often in comboxes or her writing, she shows a disdain for those with any wealth. This is not the first time she has scolded people for being uncharitable and unkind to the poor, but when she mentions the rich, their is such anger and derision. Not all poor people are good, and not all wealthy are evil. I’d like for her to take her own advice sometime and quit judging folks. Her husband is even more vile and evil tempered than she is about the issue and it makes it hard for me to feel any sympathy. They are no better than those they complain about and their self righteousness is nauseating. I do not begrudge those on welfare good food. May they enjoy every mouthful.

    • Adolfo

      Is it worse than this?

      “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.”

      • Probably should include the follow up otherwise you might lead astray. It is the misuse of wealth, not mere possession that condemns.

        “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

        “You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”

        “You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”

        • Andy

          I couldn’t agree more about the misuse of wealth.

        • Gunnar Thalweg

          The problem with all this Bible stuff is that it applies to me.

          • Andy

            same here.

          • What a useless book the Bible would be if it didn’t apply to me.

      • Dave G.

        Or perhaps ‘Judge not, lest you be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged.’ My problem with Simcha or her husband isn’t their tone. That’s what it is. My problem is how so many trivial things end up being a cosmic duel between Heaven and Hell. I’m still reminded of the great women in pants scandal. When only the proper hemline leadeth unto salvation. Too short and you were modern debauch. Want it too long, and you’re a misogynistic puritan. We used to call that Goldilocks Christianity. This particular issue isn’t as trivial, but I do admit there is a sort of ‘this way or the way to Hell’ attitude behind it. There is also a sense of my own responsibilities, even as a poor person, that seemed to be lacking in the piece.

        • antigon

          ‘so many trivial things end up being a cosmic duel between Heaven and Hell.’
          Really? Missed that too, Dave, unless it’s just that humor sneaks past you.

          • Dave G.

            Whew. I hope that means you weren’t around to witness the example I actually provided.

            • antigon

              To the contrary, dear DG, t’was the nonsense that provoked me post.

              • Dave G.

                Yeah. The whole ‘women’s pants scandal’ was nonsense. I’ll grant you that.

                • antigon

                  Fun nonsense tho, no cosmic duel, & often with great hilarity. One sees how easily (& sometimes cosmically) hurt you get, dear Dave, but pants for goodness sake? Is that what’s behind all these garbled posts of yours about how mean & unChristian & unlike you all the other posters are?
                  Whew indeed.

                  • Dave G.

                    Moi? Hardly. Not hurt. Embarrassed by what I see at times, but not hurt. And I don’t see a garbled post in a one sentence response. You’re the one who suddenly feels the need to jump into any conversation I”m having with people who are wishing to discuss issues and put forth your own version of ‘your mamma wears army boots and she dresses you funny.’ Immature to be sure, but entertaining I must admit.

                    • antigon

                      Well, just as long as she doesn’t wear pants!

        • Elaine S.

          IIRC it wasn’t so much Simcha who made the “great women in pants scandal” a big deal, as it was the, literally, hundreds of people who commented on the issue and did so with great vehemence on both sides. I myself was surprised as to why so many people were so wound up about an issue that the rest of the world totally forgot about at least 40 years ago.

          • Dave G.

            Oh it was the following conversations. But I noticed that Simcha came out of the gate with a pretty thick line between the right way and the way of darkness regarding the issue It went down from there. And of course, that is simply one example. Part of all of this is setting it against what the Catholic blogosphere was in the early days. Back then, the emphasis was on a few major issues, and the rest of the issues that Catholics of good will could agree to disagree. Now, it’s down to political policy and exact wording over issues. The word ‘hate’ is thrown about almost as often as ‘racist’ is in more liberal circles. And that’s saying something. That’s what I’ve noticed over the last ten years. Just how many issues now divide us from the goats. And how quick we are to use the harshest, worst possible interpretation of what people are saying and why they are saying it. Quite a change from the olden days.

    • antigon

      I don’t know, Slinga, calling Mrs. F vile & evil tempered, & her husband even more so, strikes me as a tad more vile & evil tempered than anything I’ve read of theirs.
      Would also be interested to see a link to the anger & derision in her posts about the rich – teasing Apple’s mama really don’t count you know – that has also snuck past perhaps not only me.

      • Dave G.

        Perhaps Sllinga is just being humorous. I hear the definition of humor can be pretty broad.

        • antigon

          Not that broad Dave.

          • Dave G.

            I don’t know. That was pretty tame compared to some of what was said about people regarding their views of women’s fashion.

      • trjejr

        I see what Slinga means. It seems like Simcha resents the people that make food stamps possible for us. I don’t expect her to be on her knees with abject gratefulness, there is a reason welfare exists, and if she truly needed it, she should use it. But I don’t sense any gratitude for the system or for the people who pay into it from her piece. I’m so grateful we have our system, as imperfect as it is, and I am thrilled that there are people out there who pay taxes so that we can receive aid. Thank God for the wealthy! Many countries have no safety net at all, so we are very lucky. Welfare is not freely given charity. It is mandated and people are always going to gripe about that stuff. Don’t go looking for approval when you go on assistance, it would be silly to even expect to find it. Simcha talks about being drawn to arguments about this issue on the internet, and I wonder why on earth she even bothered to go looking for that-I would not actually even say people in comeboxes were judging her, they obviously did not know her personally or anything. Now if someone made a comment to her in person, then I’d say she was being judged. But it seems to me she felt guilty and resentful and went looking for approval from trolls, and found unkindness. It’s the freaking internet, why you would take that seriously is beyond me. As for her Gweneth Paltrow post, it’s true that you can’t feel much sympathy for the skewering she’s getting, but I think it’s interesting that Simcha urges us to consider that some poor people know no other life, they do not know how to live differently, so why can’t that apply to Paltrow. She too is probably limited by her circumstances. She’ll never understand how it is to be poor and desperate, and how (or why?) should we expect her to do so? Simcha’s article made very good points, but there is a tone of her being one of the “noble poor” that gives it a certain unpleasant tone. Especially at the tail end. I’d have to go digging to read her old stuff about needing assistance, but I seem to recall a vein of derision and her being a bit holier than those that are better off than she is.

        • antigon

          ‘I see what Slinga means.’
          Dear Mr. jr:
          Leaving aside wh’er they are disputable or even eminently so, your arguments save for your opening sentence & last clause are at least presentable.
          Even if (however disputably) valid, tho, to suggest as you do that they even remotely approach the not exactly measured description ‘vile,’ as opposed to the vileness of such a charge, might I fear cast a pall over the rest of your analysis in the minds of fair-minded folk.

          • trjejr

            I didn’t comment on the “vile” remark at all, but rather the animosity (subtle, yet there, in my opinion) towards the wealthy. Are they vile? I wouldn’t have used that term. I would say rude and extremely thin skinned at times, especially him. He seems to like the role of pot stirring though, so maybe it’s an act. It gets people clicking, regardless.

  • kirthigdon

    It’s hard to say whom Simcha is talking about hating her other than people who have made nasty comments about food stamp recipients on the web. She’s feeling persecuted about that? I’ve had far worse things than what she quotes said about me personally on the internet, not just about a class or group of people I belong to. And I’ve had threats of violence and death threats made to my face just for holding politically incorrect opinions on such things as war, abortion and sodomy. I hope she enjoys her steaks and prospers in her life, but if commentary on the internet upsets her that much, she should probably stay off-line.

    Kirt Higdon

  • anna lisa

    Why is Simcha being so DEFENSIVE?

    Thank God for food stamps. Good honest people need them when they are caught in a downturn. Unemployment and under employment HAPPEN to good , honest folks.. It’s terrible, miserable, and nerve wracking. It sucks for everybody. That’s why we pay *unemplyment insurance* from EVERY PAYCHECK. Darn right I’d buy steak if I needed food stamps.

    Simcha might whistle a slightly different tune if she knew a couple that I intimately know who have made living off of government checks their main source of income. Exhibit A has human hair extensions, eyelash extensions and works out at the most exclusive club in town. Exhibit B enjoys Nascar, and has been fired from every single job he has ever worked except for the ones prior to living off of his father in law. BOTH of them come from loving, monogamous households. Both have college degrees. I love them, but their entitlement complex is so huge, it sucks the oxygen out of the room. They have a maid too. She shops at the Chanel counter and spends summers at her ranch in central America. She has gamed the system for decades. She’s a charming and extremely likable woman– *smart as a whip* too. I know that she’s doing what she’s doing because she thinks it’s the only way to get ahead. Whatever.

    Con artists are con artists. God love them, they have above average intelligence to pull off the lifestyle they squeeze out. I just wish I didn’t have to FORCIBLY pay for their plotting and scheming.

    • Eileen

      Sometimes bitterness and defensiveness are what’s left after life kicks you again and again. Both my husband and I grew up in poverty. In my home, spaghetti with ketchup was a normal dinner. Sometimes, potatoes and government cheese sandwiches. We were hungry a lot. We wore hats in the house and always to bed. Before I was old enough to babysit, I remember having a job stuffing the weekend inserts into the Sunday paper. That small weekly income allowed me to join Girl Scouts and go on class trips. How wonderful that felt!A neighbor gave me her slightly ratty old GS uniform (which was already one model out of date) but I was allowed to wear it and so I did and I LOVED being a Girl Scout. And then at the end of my first year, the Girl Scouts changed their uniform. Again. I was allowed to be two uniforms out of date but I couldn’t face the looks of pity (real or imagined) from the leaders or the other girls so I quit the only thing in my life I actually enjoyed doing which also gave me a sense of accomplishment. So yes, I know how life sucking poverty can be. How it can keep you down. That said, what I have a tough time wrapping my head around is why it was so hard for Simcha to apply for food stamps. It wouldn’t have taken me even two seconds of reflection. .On the one hand my husband and I have been fortunate, but on the other hand, our earthly goals have always been aligned – it was easy for us to shrug off the bill collectors in the early years of our marriage when student loans and credit card debt loomed large. One thing I knew I was never going to do to my children was let them have bad teeth. I spent a lot of money getting my teeth fixed as an adult, but all those years being ashamed to smile lest the world see my crooked cracked buck teeth left their mark. I wouldn’t have married my husband if he didn’t feel the same way about nice teeth. Turns out he’d spent even more money getting his literally rotten teeth fixed. My husband doesn’t particularly like his high stress job but he is highly motivated to avoid the poverty of his youth and so he earns a good income. If he were unable to provide for our earthly goals, we’d rearrange our lives so that I too could bring in some income so we could put braces on the kids’ teeth. And let the kids go on class trips. And have the little extras we never had growing up. We’d no doubt go into debt to make those things happen if we had to. And we’d go on food stamps in a heartbeat if it freed up some money to prevent some misery among our children. Maybe prioritizing things like good teeth and allowing our kids to join clubs is shallow, but we’re happy and grateful for the luxuries our income brings us. So to me, I wouldn’t be feeling like a loser if I were *currently* doing everything right but had to go on food stamps. I’d be thinking what a good parent I was for being able to give the kids food while freeing up money for them to participate in their childhoods. Our parents were good parents. We were educated and we grew up in homes without abuse or addiction. Still, there’s resentment. My sister, mom and I were in the car one day when mom asked us if we were saving for the kids’ college. My sister responded with defensiveness, “See those two quarters in the ash tray? I’ve already got more than you and dad ever gave us for education.” She wasn’t really angry at mom. Not for not paying for college. She was lashing out at the general unfairness of life. And because she (and I) made poor choices in regards to college. We were both poor enough and good enough students to be able to go for free to cheaper schools on merit and financial aid, but we both choose the more prestigious college which required us to take out a lot of loans. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid on our parts. The financial consequences haunted us for years. Long, long after that stupid 18 year old choice. Life is full of choices and luck. Both good and bad. Sometimes, it’s easier to defend the bad consequences (massive debt/poor credit) and focus on the bad luck (being raised poor) than it is to defend one’s choices (a pricey college) and remember one’s good luck (like when my sister forgot that she was born into a loving, functional family where education was valued and that God had made her smart enough to have the opportunity for a debt free college education).

      • anna lisa

        Thank you so much for writing this. My husband made me promise that I would stay away from the internet today but a message in my inbox from you is I’m sure, one of the nicer things that will happen today. I’ve always been filled with admiration when I read about your life and the generosity and the upbeat good humor that flows forth from it. You are so right about focusing on the positive in life because there are tons of blessings to be filled with gratitude for. You and your husband are living, breathing proof that poor parents can raise excellent children on extremely limited means –but I am so, so sorry that the food stamp program wasn’t in place for your family. I really can’t fathom what you went through.

        How interesting to think about wealth in terms of “luck”. I grew up with so many wealthy, screwball parents and kids around, —–and really, the most miserable people I know/have known are the wealthy ones. The woman that I absolutely know is a saint in heaven had 14 kids. She wasn’t just happy, she was radiantly kind, and always smiling. She had scoliosis, so by the time of her death, she was literally bent over completely, but she never lost that beautiful smile. There were lots of normal middle class Catholic families like hers back then. For all I know, they could have been poor, but I never noticed. Now this town has almost no middle class. That Catholic school/church/ neighborhood is a bunch of million dollar cottages with an elite private school renting from the Catholic Church. There’s not much of a Catholic community anymore. I wouldn’t say that a lot of people revel in their luxuries though. I think a lot of them are working like dogs to make their mortgage and luxury car payments. The street next to the private beach in my parents’ neighborhood literally has houses in the seven figures, but on any given weekday, even when it is spectacularly beautiful there won’t be hardly a soul on that beach.

        As I look back on my childhood, I realize how many *horrible* things I was exposed to. The rich kids were pretty much into sex, drugs, rock n roll and the next good party. None of them aspired to much–least of all a good education. College meant getting away from your parents, and even more unsupervised parties. Several o.d.’d. A few landed in jail, one made a home porno and screened it to our group of friends (I wasn’t invited, but the guys would never let him live it down) and there was at least one wannabe devil worshipper, and one family of complete nudists, lol! One of my friends drove his bmw around like a maniac, and could have killed me at least a half dozen times. Three died from drinking and driving. I met my husband through that group when I was 16, and dated him when I was 17. He wasn’t like them at all. He worked hard, and always had a job and a car. He always had a button down shirt on, and would do things like bring my Mom Sees candy. I was smitten by his *goodness*, and polite manners. It was so refreshing.

        You know what all the godlessness did for me? I wanted to shove it all away from me. It made me see how right my good Catholic parents were, and made me thirst for God even more.

        It didn’t even occur to me that I would ever be anything but a poised, cool and collected Catholic housewife like my mother. How naive of me! I can’t say I haven’t tried–but when we were living in our tiny little, million dollar hippy-shack in Marin, I felt exhausted, and my joke to my husband was that we may as well *become* hippies too. The crazy shack would have made more sense from the outside.

        Eileen, you know what’s interesting? At the end of the day, money comes and money goes, and of course it’s not about whether we have it, it’s about whether we are virtuous in our aspirations. It really can bring out the beast in people. —

        Something that Simcha wrote years ago about forgiveness for ill treatment has helped me immeasurably.

        When our brother-in-law (who was earning over a million a year as the CEO of the company we worked for) We didn’t expect for our stocks to approach anything in the neighborhood of what he would earn, but we believed they would amount to something commensurate with having worked long hours from the ground floor of the company. So this guy, who himself was living in a hippy shack until the first round of funding hit, ended up walking away with 45 million after taxes. My husband’s sister who was in charge of HR, (and liked to sleep until ten), neglected to publish what had been negotiated in the way of our “parachutes” –should the new company terminate us all. They took their time to do it, but when the financial meltdown hit, the company bled out, and lost half of it’s valuation. Dozens of employees were summarily disposed of the week before Christmas in ’09. Because the terms of termination had not been published, the multbillion dollar parent company refused to honor them. One of our colleagues who was also getting the boot had a hot shot lawyer for a father, who said we were outgunned should we try to legally defend ourselves. That must have saved them over a million bucks. The whole financial meltdown was in full tilt, and my husband who had saved the company millions –getting troubled wall street institutions to pay what they owed, got the boot without any recognition or thanks for what he had done. Meanwhile, our brother in-law was buying homes all over the world. He refused to help us save our home saying “dump it, it’s lost half it’s value” (it completely regained it’s value–but it was too late for us ) The whole thing was so odd. There hadn’t even been any bad blood between us, *ever* . We hadn’t confronted him about the tiny pittance our stocks amounted to. But we figured out that our presence made him ashamed.

        I didn’t just have to forgive them, I had to renew that forgiveness every. single. day. for a while. I may be impatient with b.s. from deceitful slicksters, but I’ve *chosen* not to be bitter, and God made good fruit come of it in many other, more important ways than having a fat bank account.

        • Eileen

          I’ve known far more poor jackasses than rich ones. I think it’s just a matter of numbers – There are a lot more poor people than rich people in the world. I personally need to be careful about attributing bad behavior to economic status. Just the other morning a parent was being really inconsiderate in the school drop off line. As he drove away, I saw he was driving a Lexus SUV. I muttered under my breath, “Figures!” I have to watch myself – It’s a leftover from my poor days – I still have it in my head that rich people are all undeserving a-holes, a chip on my shoulder I’m unable to shake even though today most people would probably put me in the category of rich. Likewise, I have been known to give bad behavior a pass because of someone’s low income status. That is also very wrong and it truly is the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” I don’t know if welfare as a lifestyle changes a man or if a man who embraces government welfare as a lifestyle when it is fully within his capabilities to support his family was ever a real man to begin with. I suspect it’s the latter. I know lots of them (sadly, some of them are extended family). Able bodied men who over years continually accept a government handout rather than relocating their families to a place where their skills are in demand, who refuse to accept a higher paying job because it would mean manual labor, and who repeatedly find excuses not to take on a first or second job. These so called men never grew up in the first place and had no business forming relationships and having children. Why women would willingly hitch their wagons to such losers I have no idea. It sounds like you and your husband have been through the ringer. And by family no less. I’m very sorry for that. But it also sounds like you and your husband are a wonderful example to your children of hard work and grace under adversity. The kids see it and I believe they will remember and learn from it.

          • anna lisa

            I deleted what I just wrote, and what probably went to your inbox, because I didn’t want it floating out there for the whole world to see.

  • Peggy

    SImcha best be prepared for the further stages of Obamacare, in which, if one wants coverage for certain illnesses, one had better have not engaged in undesirable eating or other behavioral habits that could have led to the illness. He who pays the piper calls the tune. It is unfortunate when a family must rely on public aid. But surely the constraints and indignities would be a great incentive to get back on one’s feet and self-supporting again.

  • anna lisa

    I just realized something after doing the evening dishes for my recalcitrant teenagers.
    Doing the dishes helps me to think. What I wrote before makes me look like I’m mad at people who need food stamps. That’s not the case.
    Simcha does the work of three. She works 24/7. Even the mother of one works 24/7 if she is hands on.
    “Greater love hath no man than a woman who lays down her life for her children.”

  • SteveP

    Mark: Simcha buying a steak is hardly theft; mandatory paycheck deductions is theft.

    • Linebyline

      Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

      Taxes are taken out of your paycheck, but it’s licit for the government to collect taxes, so that’s not theft. Once the government has taken money it has the right to take, that money is the government’s, not yours. The way the government uses (or wastes) that money is a legitimate target of criticism, but that still doesn’t make it theft. (From you, that is. Wasting the money is stealing it from the poor, but that’s true of any material good.)

      • SteveP

        My energy is not Caesar’s. That you distrust me to be charitable and prefer “Caesar” to threaten me with fines or imprisonment is telling. Who, then, is the covetous neighbor?

        • Linebyline

          I never said your energy was Caesar’s. I said Caesar’s money was Caesar’s, and even if he spends it in an immoral way, that still isn’t the same as stealing from you.

          How charitable you are personally and whether the government has the right to punish people for not paying taxes are questions with little to do with anything I said, or with each other for that matter.

        • Linebyline

          Perhaps we’re talking past each other. Do you take issue with the right of the government to collect taxes, or just with the specific mechanism by which they’re collected, namely the government requiring employers to deduct them from your earnings before paying you? Or is it something else I haven’t picked up on?

      • Peggy

        This is odd. You might want to review the Declaration of Independence. The govt has only the power we give them–yes, we give them too much these days. We are the govt. It is “our” money. We pay taxes as lawful citizens. Doesn’t mean the taxes are all just. Simply taking money I need to feed and care for my family and giving it to other citizens is not as noble as one might think. The transfer hurts families who lost income to the govt and other citizens. Not every one is wealthy and can absorb higher taxes. The Fifth Amendment addresses govt confiscation of private property. And KELO really ratcheted up govt power, of course.

        • Linebyline

          What’s odd about it? All I said is that it is not theft for the government to collect taxes, even if it misuses those revenues.

          We are not the government. It works for us (in theory if not usually in practice) but it is not synonymous with us. Money that the government has a legitimate right to take from you, once collected, is no longer your money.

          If taking the money isn’t theft, then neither is spending it in a way you don’t approve of (even when your disapproval is completely warranted, which is often the case with our government).

          • Peggy

            The government’s money IS our money, not theirs. They only have rights which we allow them…and yes, we allow them way too much. Some civil law and taxes are unjust.

            • Linebyline

              I know not all laws and taxes are just. I said so several times. I really don’t know how to make that any clearer. As for the rest of it, I suspect we’re arguing past each other.

              The government’s job–indeed, its obligation–is to represent and provide for the people, and that includes spending its money according to the best interest of the people. In that sense, the government’s money ultimately belongs to the people. If that’s what you mean, then yes, you’re right.

              But individual citizens can only have so much say in how that money is spent. There’s a reason we’re a republic, not a direct democracy.

              This is why I take issue with calling tax revenue “our money”: When I talk about my money, I’m talking about money I could give to Charity:Water or CRS or the Red Cross or my college-student brother, or spend on stuff for me like a Blu-Ray player or a SNES game (I like old games, don’t judge me) or a chicken sandwich. I can’t do any of those things with money that belongs to the population as a whole, especially not if someone other than myself has been appointed to manage that money.

              So when people use phrases like “my tax dollars” or “our money” to describe the money the government collects from its citizens, it makes it sound to me like they think they should have that much control over government spending. If that’s not what you mean, then I apologize for the misunderstanding. (20/20 hindsight: I probably should have asked you exactly what you meant by “our money” before replying. Sorry about that.)

              Anyway, all I was trying to say was that just because the government fails in its duty to spend that money in a prudent and moral fashion does not mean that the collecting of that money through taxes necessarily becomes theft.

              • Peggy

                I agree we are a republic not democracy. It is not feasible or intended that we the public vote on specific issues such as tax decisions. I do not ever see the money as belonging to the government. It belongs to the people (who earned it in particular). The government is our agent. Yes, it is an adversary to the people as well in many regards. I think collecting our taxes for unconstitutional or immoral purposes (or useless programs to fill some one’s pockets) could be called theft. Some people on the left would consider this as well for issues they care about. I am capable of giving to charitable causes on my own.

  • Linebyline

    I really don’t get why this is so hard.

    Yes, there really are people who abuse welfare because they don’t feel like working. Yes, there really are people who need welfare because, despite their best efforts, they can’t scrape together enough money to pay their expenses. (And since people, being people, tend not to fit into nice neat boxes, there’s also a whole spectrum of people in between who genuinely need assistance but may also be legitimately accused of taking more than they need.) It’s not an either-or proposition, with all welfare being either alms for the needy or money wasted on freeloaders.

    As irritating as it is that money is taken out of my paycheck to “help” those who ought to be helping themselves, the real problem is that those freeloaders are effectively stealing from those who actually need the money.

    • Marthe Lépine

      About “taking more than they need”: Who actually decides what someone else needs? Should poor people be expected to take some kind of “vow of poverty” and live totally ascetic lives, eschewing all the kinds of material possessions that are considered normal for most people, before they can be considered as deserving poor? From some comments made on various comboxes, not just this one, one would get that impression, and it could very well be a matter of “speck and logs” in the eyes…

      • Linebyline

        In extreme cases, it’s easy enough. Most of the time, though, I think people deserve the benefit of the doubt. Simcha’s post has plenty of examples toward the end illustrating why people who look to us like freeloaders but actually have legitimate reasons we don’t know about for needing the help.

        So I’m not sure that it’s anyone’s job to dictate what someone else needs, except maybe in certain edge cases. Even if someone should be making that call, I don’t really trust our government with that kind of responsibility–it’s not a huge leap from there to the death panels everyone was talking about a few years ago.

        As with most sins, it’s not generally anyone else’s job to judge particular cases. That doesn’t mean it’s not a sin, though, and it does have tangible (if difficult-to-measure) effects on the rest of the population. Everyone has a responsibility to be responsible with the kind and amount of help they ask for from others, and to help others. Taking money intended for the needy, when it’s feasible for you to go to work and earn it instead (leaving the handout available for someone who can’t earn it), is effectively stealing from the needy. However, since it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever have enough information to accurately determine how feasible it is for someone else to go to work, I can only speak in terms of principle.

  • Shawna Mathieu

    Thank you for posting this. It is badly needed. Just looking in the comments, it is so needed.
    I’m so tired of feeling ashamed when I use my EBT card. I’m so tired of feeling ashamed when I take my WIC folder out. I’m tired
    People have all these opinions what the poor shouldn’t have – what, then, should we have?
    Most don’t really have an answer. Most have an answer, but don’t want to say it out loud, because it boils down to this:
    They should be joyless.
    And I look at the Gospels.
    I see a Jesus who was poor at birth.
    Who people looked down upon because he was homeless and depended on others for survival.
    Who was chastised for daring to eat and drink and be merry.
    He didn’t condemn them the five thousand for not having planned ahead to bring food for their families.
    He didn’t condemn the beggars and lepers and possessed for not having bettered themselves.
    He didn’t condemn the newlyweds at Cana for having wine at their wedding so they and others could enjoy themselves.
    Who did He condemn?
    He condemned the people who gave the bare minimum.
    He condemned those who turned their backs on their own impoverished parents.
    He condemned those who stood in the temple and judged the others around them.
    His life was joy, He shared that joy, and He fought those who wanted to take joy from others.
    I take joy in that I love a God who wants me to have joy, and it hurts when others who profess the same love tell me I am not worthy of joy.

  • anna lisa

    A couple of years ago I read on a blog that was featured on New Advent, that some of the more conservative Catholic colleges have graduates that network with each other to demonstrate how easy it is to apply for and get government welfare. I’m still stunned that this is even a thing. It seems so contrary to a Catholic ethic. It begins a cycle of dependence that is almost insurmountable.

    I feel sorry for the wives who get locked into a permanent welfare scenario. They are so vulnerable, caring for small children and at the mercy of their husband’s financial success. I think it inflicts grave damage upon a man’s ego to resort to welfare. –Tough in an emergency, but horrendous when submitted to as a way of life.

    I watched the couple I described below go from a hardworking couple,(he was doing well with a promising future)– to a couple that simply gave up. He says he couldn’t take the corporate stress. In the process of giving up they lost their own sense of self respect. Their kids feel ashamed.

    They have so. many. excuses. (Isn’t that how any bad habit gains a foothold?)The most obvious one is how much *more* they would have to make in taxable income to match their current level of comfort.

    The absolute worst excuse of all though was the day he put forth an *ethical* protest to getting a job that millions of other people work hard at. At that point, he was taking a course to get his Realtor license, and then dropped out with the excuse that it violated his conscience. He explained to us that working this way would violate his conscience because in his eyes it is an inherently *corrupt* industry. He then dug himself even deeper by questioning how ethical my husband’s line of work is. My husband–who has paid his bills time and time again. It was basically the same story when he studied to get his license to sell insurance. His entire extended family just shook their heads in disbelief. He developed this zoned out quality too. I think he was taking something.

    I have seen the above mentality in the com boxes. Someone who was on welfare (I didn’t know it at the time) was ridiculing the man he disagreed with. He began to taunt him for having to work in some soul-less cubicle. I think he mocked him for having huge student debt as well.

    He may be laughing at the poor working drone in the cubicle, (like my husband has been) and out working some job that fulfills *him* but if that more exciting job doesn’t support his wife and kids, he’s not fooling anybody–least of all his kids.

    The real hero is the wife who suffers the most (unbelievably!)to hold it all together, continues to choose only to see the best qualities to be found in her husband, –and stands by him.–She is more *saint* than she herself, or anybody around her realizes.

    • Marthe Lépine

      I a not so sure about the wife. Some people could consider her an “enabler”. However, I am not knowledgeable enough about their situation to make a judgement, it is just a general impression I have been getting.

      • anna lisa

        I honestly think that some of her more erratic “acting out” has to do with a form of PTSD. She was a beautiful, talented woman, but had zero street smarts. We all thought he was a fast talker from day one. We couldn’t figure out what she saw in him. She had dated very wealthy, sophisticated and educated men. I think he represented wholesomeness to her. A Catholic boy from blue collar PA, who was as American as apple pie. I think she was reacting against some of the Casanova types that she was tired of. He swept her off of her feet, and painted this Norman Rockwell picture for her of what their life would be like with him. He abused her a little and then their third child was born very disabled, He has basically settled for living off of the home/utilities her father provides for them and the checks the government gives her to care for their disabled child/large family.
        Is she an enabler? Yes. People have been whispering about divorce for decades, but her children love their father, and she wouldn’t separate them from him, or abandon him for his miserable work ethic. He has utterly *exasperated* her, but the nobility of her actions simply *stuns* me.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      What does your husband do? Very curious since you brought it up but only identified it as work that pays the bills.

      Real estate and insurance ARE corrupt industries, much like banking.

      I work 60hrs or better per week and pay my own bills, not that that should matter. But I’m in healthcare and can envision a day on the horizon where even emergency medicine will be so corrupted that I dig ditches.

      • anna lisa

        My husband works for a big corporation in the finance dept. He has 17 employees who work under him.

        Some of his employees have a rock star work ethic, and a couple of them make the rest of the team carry their weight.

        Before that he worked 12 years for a technology company from ground zero until it was sold to a multi-billion dollar hedge fund.

        He could write a book about all the unethical behavior he has witnessed and been a victim of.

        I’m not up on my high horse at all, I’m exceedingly grateful that he has a good job. Big corporations are heartless though, and the tide can turn.

        If I had to go on food stamps it wouldn’t bother my conscience at all to buy steak.

    • Evelyn

      I think what bothers me most about a person doing this intentionally, is that you have to drive a junker and have less than $2000 in the bank to qualify for food stamps in my state. That means not just “voluntary poverty” or simplicity, but choosing to keep one’s family one paycheck from the edge of a cliff, and I think that itself is unethical if a person has the wherewithal to do better.

      • anna lisa

        Oh Evelyn,
        I hear you, it’s hair raising.
        I’m not trying to traumatize you with my own small concerto here:

        I have 8 kids. Two in college. One who graduated with honors from a small Catholic university. My youngest is in kindergarten. The third will go to community college next year. I quit private Catholic schools a while ago (we spent every last cent on it as well as for our crazy mortgage for a shack in the bay area, crowding into a tiny space, and not knowing what the downturn and the loss of a job to a hedge fund would do to us).

        My car has 300,000 miles on it, and the car my husband drives is the car that the DMV took away from my second son because he had what appears to be an epileptic seizure. My son is hoping to get cleared to drive again when he gets out of school in May. This means we will go back to one car. My story is long, my husband earns an income that is high but the government has taxed the living life out of us for soooooo long. My husband worked 7 to 7 and ended up having nothing to show for it, because we paid for a shack instead of putting money in the 401k. The last downturn and some family skulduggery chewed us up and spit us out.
        We make less than 12 years ago. Right now we live paycheck to paycheck because we lost our shack and *now* we put the maximum in my husband’s 401k. I have to scrape with what is left over. I get Simcha, but I don’t think she understands that other people have to live hell too while they try to live virtuously, being parents of a large family who cry when they need a handout.

        At this point, I have very little tolerance for guys who sit at home on their very privileged hind quarters. This does not include the *willing* worker who is deprived of a job because of scarcity or the evil of holding back a just wage to the fully employed.

        Even my enabled, entitled teenagers have all been shamed out of sitting on their hindquarters HALF of the time, because there comes that moment when you have to enforce TOUGH LOVE. Teens may “hate” you for it for a little bit because it doesn’t sound nicey nice, but hey–I can’t even begin to descibe what sloth they resort to if I let them.

        Anyhow–sorry to unleash this rant upon you. Mu husband is planting sunflowers with my 15-year-old right now. His looks of reproach are showing me that I have ruined his weekend by being traumatized by this. It’s my Mom’s 79th birthday. I’m going to get going on her cake.

        But first I think I’ll go get my husband a drink. On Monday I’m going to try to swear off the internet.

        This is the kick in my own hindquarters to replace my time on the internet to clean my own house better and go volunteer more, rather than talking about what it’s like to be impoverished.

  • Kate Cousino

    I think this provides some useful context for the miserliness of attacking programs like EBT:


  • Gunnar Thalweg

    This piece was an important reminder. Poverty is brutal and saps the life out of you. It’s even worse if you have responsibility for other people.

    I once had the government pay for a $4k medical bill, because I was unemployed and broke at the time. I also accepted unemployment checks for three months in 1993 and for four months in 2010. I also accepted $10k in a bailout from my family in 2010, but I paid that back. Last year, I paid $30k in taxes.

    One thing I will say is taking free money when you have little to no income can be devastating. it nearly destroyed me to take the money. I felt like a child, not a man. Only when I paid the money back, both in taxes and to my family, did I feel whole again.

    • Marthe Lépine

      I would add to “poverty is brutal and saps the life out of you” that it may often happen that people so affected find it difficult, even impossible, to get back that “life” after a while, get discouraged, and so enter a cycle of poverty that is difficult to get out of. If they have children, those children too may suffer from that “sapping of the life out of them”. Eventually many such people might become helpless and dependent on handouts. It might be difficult to bring them out of their stupor, and certainly not helpful to treat them as if they were despicable and worthless. I think that we should try to avoid making judgements about people we don’t even know, just based on stereotypes. I would also tell Gunnar that he is lucky to have been able to get back on his feet in such a way that he could even pay back the help he received. Some people, even if they eventually get back on their feet, may not ever be able to pay back all the help, particularly monetary help, they received, and should not be faulted for it.

    • anna lisa

      I think you are being too hard on yourself. Everyone pays into the system with every paycheck. That’s what it’s there for. I don’t think the taxes you have paid need to exceed what you needed in help.

      The whole thing that I really, really dislike about what Simcha wrote, is that her truly harrowing and horrendous experience is so emotionally charged, it’s manipulative. Since when is anybody a big jerk to differentiate between the truly poor and the the guy who prefers to game the system. Saint Paul made the distinction.

      (I also really doubt that her extended family would have left her to starve on just hot dog buns. I’ve had to humble myself and ask family members for all kinds of things. That’s what decent families do–they help each other–but great that she finally resorted to food stamps, I would have done it way before she did.)

  • Marthe Lépine

    A few decades ago, I used to know (and somewhat resent) a woman who did brag about being able to live off social assistance without having to work. I could not avoid meeting her because she was part of the same group of art students as myself. But, as time passed, and as I got to know her better just because the group in question met regularly, I discovered something. She actually needed the social assistance because she did have a disability that made it impossible for her to get a job. Some disabilities are not always obvious to “the naked eye”. Her boasting was a way to try to maintain her self-esteem and her dignity in front of other people. I am relating this story as a way to say: Please do not be too quick to judge, even when people seem (or even are openly boasting) to be abusing the system.

  • LFM

    This is the kind of thing people want to prevent when they worry about the long-term consequences of living on welfare and developing a sense of entitlement about it: