April 9, 2015

Let them eat cake

Back at the turn of the 19th century there were a lot of very poor immigrants living in cities (mostly New York City) in the U.S. There was no "social safety net" then. Children as young as 6 were caretakers for their younger siblings. Poor families lived in squalor with no access to clean water, food, medical care, reliable wages. If the bread winner(s) were injured or killed or fired, the whole family could starve or be forced into crime (including prostitution).
There were "Christian charities" that attempted to mitigate the deprivations: soup kitchens, orphanages, etc. But it took the Great Depression, when millions of "deserving" poor were forced out of work because of the market crash, before our government conceived a role for itself in the fight against poverty. That role has been re-defined over the decades to a highly specific list of "benefits" that we collectively -as a society- deem necessary for the dignity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
One of these benefits is SNAP, or what we call food stamps. The federal government has a complicated process for figuring out how much a family should receive in food stamps, but the maximum allowable for a family of three is $511 per month. It must be spent exclusively on food. You cannot use it to buy toilet paper, tooth paste, or soap even though you need those things as much as you need food.
$511 might seem like a lot, but remember, that's the maximum allowed and it has to feed three people for a month. The lucky beneficiaries get to spend $17 a day to provide 9 meals (3 each of breakfast, lunch and dinner.) Can you do that?

All of the above is by way of saying, if some poor soul in Missouri wants to by a ribeye with his food stamps, leave him alone and let him. Steak is food.

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