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"Let Wisconsin be the test case. Let us lead the way."
May 8, 2013 12:02 PM   Subscribe

By a bipartisan vote of 68-26, the Wisconsin state Assembly has approved AB-110, a measure requiring beneficiaries of SNAP -- known in Wisconsin as FoodShare, or more colloquially as food stamps -- to spend at least 2/3 of their monthly benefits on items from "a list of state-defined healthy foods" [PDF].

Even if the bill is approved by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Scott Walker, its existence remains purely symbolic; its proposed application is illegal at the federal level. Since the federal government provides the vast majority of funding for the FoodShare/SNAP program in the state, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services (DHS) would need to acquire a waiver directly from the Obama administration in order to implement the bill -- a procedural move that has been attempted several times, none successfully.

"[T]here are no figures on how much of the nearly $1.2 billion a year in FoodShare benefits in Wisconsin are spent on junk food," and the DHS has confirmed that "no studies have looked at the spending on different kinds of groceries within Wisconsin's FoodShare program" [source]. Even the bill's lead sponsor, state Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) "acknowledges he hasn't seen any figures on what portion of FoodShare goes for unhealthy purchases and that he can't be sure his proposal as written would increase the amount of nutritious food purchased" [source].

Although the bill is both unable to be legally implemented and resoundingly opposed by groups as disparate as high-powered corporate lobbyists, megaconglomerates like Kraft Food Group, and local non-profit organizations like Hunger Task Force, its passage remains a top priority for a number of Wisconsin's elected officials. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, AB-110 co-sponsor Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), husband of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, stated, "We are just simply saying if you are going to take the money that we have worked so hard for as taxpayers and use it . . . there should be some limitations" [source].
When asked about current FoodShare spending levels on "healthy" vs. "non-healthy" foods, lead sponsor Sen. Kaufert admitted, "Nobody knows anything except anecdotally" [source], and continues on his quest for Wisconsin to be the first state allowed to restrict SNAP purchases via USDA waiver: "Let Wisconsin be the test case. Let us lead the way" [source].

Six years after a 2004 "no food stamps for junk food" bill introduced in Minnesota by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty was rejected by the USDA, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines -- and merited another USDA rejection -- with an attempt to ban food stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase soda and other sugary beverages (previously).
In 2012 alone, eight states introduced measures to limit or restrict food purchases made using SNAP benefits, but none were passed or implemented [source]. One such bill was introduced in Florida in January 2012, and April 2012 saw Gov. Nathan Deal sign HB-861, which required all Georgia welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits (previously). In light of a similar bill in Florida being suspended by a federal judge in late 2011, the ultimate fate of Georgia's HB-861 remains unknown. In June 2012, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed an amendment to the federal Farm Bill designed to cut $322 billion in SNAP funding; the amendment was defeated in a 65-33 vote.
And just last month, the Tennessee state legislature advanced a bill that would have reduced TANF (cash) benefits paid to parents by 30% if their children failed to maintain a state-approved level of scholastic performance (previously). The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) withdrew it from consideration after being publicly shamed by an 8-year-old constitutent, Aamira Fetuga.

Bonus rounds:
* SNAP eligibility levels, sorted by household size and maximum monthly income.
* Nearly 15% -- almost 47 million -- of the United States' 312 million citizens received SNAP benefits in CY 2012.
* In FY 2012, the average monthly benefit paid to an individual SNAP recipient in Wisconsin was $116.50. SNAP beneficiaries in Guam and Hawaii get the most at $216.14 and $213.65 per month, respectively, while Minnesota and Wisconsin come in at the bottom of the pack at $115.91 and $116.50 per month, respectively.
* In 2011, the USDA wrote a position paper decrying attempts to restrict food purchases made with SNAP benefits [PDF], stating in part, "No clear standards exist for defining foods as good or bad, or healthy or not healthy."
* USDA Food and Nutrition Service SNAP Program Data, including interactive maps and annual data at the state and national level.
* Learn more about how amendments to the annual federal Farm Bill can affect SNAP benefits.
* The history of SNAP.
* More previously on MeFi: Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker spent a week living on food stamps.
* South Carolina's legislature has inserted a clause into the 2013-2014 state budget that would ban Gov. Nikki Haley's office and mansion from purchasing junk food with taxpayer money.

Extra bonus:
* Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel poll: "Should food stamps be used on junk food?"
posted by divined by radio (312 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's just about punishing these people.
posted by cherrybounce at 12:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [70 favorites]


First of all, fantastic post.

Second of all, nothing makes me angrier than pointless legislation that is blatantly illegal/unconstitutional and wastes taxpayer money. WTF, Wisconsin, again.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


NO SALSA

WHAT THE FUCK
posted by phunniemee at 12:11 PM on May 8, 2013 [29 favorites]


It is all about pushing back because of the massive increases in SNAP since 2008
posted by Gungho at 12:11 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let me be the first one to point out that food stamps are already limited in scope -- you can't buy alcohol , for example. The "should we limit it" argument is pointless. Now the argument is about specifics.

It's the old Churchill joke about the prostitute. We've already established what you are, now we're just haggling about price.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:12 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


How about this crazy idea? Rather than punishing people, we give people more SNAP funds when it is spent on healthy foods.

I believe that people care about the health of the poor when I see that argument.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:12 PM on May 8, 2013 [55 favorites]


Don't they provide a nourishing gruel at the parish workhouse?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [25 favorites]


To some degree, food stamps are corporate welfare for junk food companies (such as Kraft). One proposal that should get past federal restrictions and encourage healthy eating is to double food stamp dollars that are spent on local produce. This benefits the local economy while also (1) encouraging better choices and (2) not limiting people's choices, for those who don't want to change purchase decisions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [29 favorites]


It's weird that there's so much bluster about something that is clearly ineffectual. This isn't even the political equivalent of a voodoo doll.

That said, limiting SNAP to "good" choices makes complete sense to me.

That said, the fact that conservative politicians and talking heads are into this idea makes me think I am very wrong.

At the least, I suppose that it is nice to have the litmus test.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


As a Milwaukee area resident who works in a low income area, I have some issues with this idea: on the surface it makes tons of sense: "Hey, let's make sure that people are spending their money on good food instead of stuff that's bad for them!!"

But the reality on the ground is a bit different; fast food is cheap and plentiful, it's not good, but it does have a lot of calories that can make an empty belly feel full. And if you ever walk into a downtown grocery (here it might be worth reminding everyone that Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the US), you'll notice an absence of really good produce and other healthy options.

So, many of the low income people most likely to use food stamps (and I need to emphasize this; not just the unemployed that people like to point at as users and "takers" in the system, but many, many of my 40+ hour a week coworkers who still can't afford to make ends meet) are not able to reasonably find the same kinds of healthy foods available in the more affluent areas, or if they can, the prices are so exorbitant as to eat up a much higher percentage of their aid.

If the people proposing this bill want to make sure that cheap good quality healthy food is readily available in low income areas, I'm totally on board, because that certainly isn't happening now. Until then, let people buy what makes them happy. We shouldn't be regulating in this way until many of the kinds of economic disparity are equalized, and the people can actually get the good food that lawmakers seem to believe are available everywhere.
posted by quin at 12:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [58 favorites]


We are just simply saying if you are going to take the money that we have worked so hard for as taxpayers and use it . . . there should be some limitations he said while depositing a paycheck from mysterious and inexplicable sources.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [50 favorites]


Perhaps a better use of the legislature's time would be to redirect subsidy money from corn and meat to fruits and vegetables?

We get what we pay for.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen, the party of small government.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:16 PM on May 8, 2013 [95 favorites]


on the one hand, i don't really think government food money should go to things like soda pop and junk food - on the other hand, the cynic in me wonders how many lobbyists from food corporations are going to pay congresspeople to get their food certified as "healthy"

let's not forget these programs aren't just handouts for the poor - they're handouts to the food industry
posted by pyramid termite at 12:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Note: I'm not even entirely on board with my own argument above.)

And yes, it would be wonderful if everybody had time to make their own spaghetti sauce using locally grown ingredients. But those who must use the stuff from a jar are also the same folks who probably don't have the fucking time either.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


"You need to only buy healthy foods with taxpayer money! You can't buy organic, though. And definitely nothing higher-quality than what regular people buy. And no sharp cheddar for you in the dairy state, either."
posted by altopower at 12:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


It is all about pushing back because of the massive increases in SNAP since 2008

Yep. What they want is a large body of people who are very, very poor - barely able to feed themselves - and they also want these people to have as little access to any form of state benefit as possible. Emotionally, it's because it's fun and reassuring to hate and punish the poor; strategically, it's about producing a beaten-down, disenfranchised lumpenproletariat who will not only be desperate enough to work for pennies but also will not cut into profits with their demands for "health insurance" and "retirement planning". The rich as well as the poor have the right to eat garbage and sleep under bridges, etc etc.
posted by Frowner at 12:18 PM on May 8, 2013 [23 favorites]


Can we take away Congressmen's pay (and more importantly their campaign donations) when they spend their time on junk legislation?
posted by edheil at 12:18 PM on May 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


Finally, someone is cracking down on all those poor people and their flagrant eating of brown eggs.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't know why this is such a big deal. The food benefit targeting women, infants, and children, known as "WIC", has an extensive, exhaustive, and alarmingly prescriptive list of "allowable" items and anything not-on-the-list cannot be purchased with WIC. If you've never seen a WIC allowed-foods list, you can check them out here: http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/Contacts/stateagencyfoodlists.htm

The current WIC rules for my state (PA) are about twenty pages of PDF and they explicitly list allowed brands, sizes, and flavors of item for many types of item. The amount of nanny-stating going on in the WIC allowed foods pamphlet for PA is enormous. And yet, nobody is there complaining that WIC dollars have to be spend on "allowed" foods. I don't see how regulating the spending of SNAP is any different than what the government already does with WIC.
posted by which_chick at 12:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


And they want the poor to be subject to as much social discipline as possible - as many things should be illegal as possible, as this provides a mechanism for interfering with any poor person at any time, plus feeds people into the prisons and gets them kicked off of such benefits as there are. These are people who make the capitalists of the gilded age look like mere amateurs, because they have all the resources of a modern state at their disposal.
posted by Frowner at 12:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


I was surprised to recently discover that SNAP funds can be used to buy pretty much anything in your local grocery store - including a large decorated sheet cake for a family reunion, multiple large boxes of fried chicken from the deli and copious amounts of prepared side items. I witnessed this on a recent trip to a local Wal-Mart as a group of three people in line in front of me made this purchase of upwards of $150.

Honestly, I'm about as liberal as a person can get, but when I see items being purchased like this with funds that are meant to be feeding people who actually need assistance, it boils my blood a little.
posted by BrianJ at 12:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like the idea of having government owned and run grocery stores in areas that have a population that can support it. They would sell only healthy food. To shop there, a person would need to have a card issued by the government with a monthly limit of credits. Everything purchased there would be healthy and affordable.

The goals of such a program would be to get poor people eating healthier, taking away financial incentives from companies that prey on the poor in grocery stores, and making things more affordable by giving the government buying power to negotiate prices with the suppliers.
posted by flarbuse at 12:21 PM on May 8, 2013


How did Beech Nut and Gerber come to be the only allowable brands of infant fruit/veg/meats and cereals?
posted by Slugette at 12:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


but when I see items being purchased like this with funds that are meant to be feeding people who actually need assistance, it boils my blood a little.

So people who are low income don't want to have cake at their family reunions? They shouldn't be allowed to enjoy fried chicken? Are they less human?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [104 favorites]


Here is the WI Legislative Council's summary of the bill as amended.

I don't know why this is such a big deal. The food benefit targeting women, infants, and children, known as "WIC", has an extensive, exhaustive, and alarmingly prescriptive list of "allowable" items and anything not-on-the-list cannot be purchased with WIC.

Can anyone verify/refute the claims made here?
posted by Jpfed at 12:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was surprised to recently discover that SNAP funds can be used to buy pretty much anything in your local grocery store - including a large decorated sheet cake for a family reunion, multiple large boxes of fried chicken from the deli and copious amounts of prepared side items. I witnessed this on a recent trip to a local Wal-Mart as a group of three people in line in front of me made this purchase of upwards of $150.

Honestly, I'm about as liberal as a person can get, but when I see items being purchased like this with funds that are meant to be feeding people who actually need assistance, it boils my blood a little.


Yep, because poor people aren't allowed to have fun, or have a party or anything like that.
posted by altopower at 12:23 PM on May 8, 2013 [29 favorites]


How did Beech Nut and Gerber come to be the only allowable brands of infant fruit/veg/meats and cereals?

it's the invisible hand of the market throwing invisible darts at an invisible dartboard
posted by pyramid termite at 12:23 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


Honestly, I'm about as liberal as a person can get, but when I see items being purchased like this with funds that are meant to be feeding people who actually need assistance, it boils my blood a little.

As if poor folks - and how many of us will be/have been poor at some point? - should not get to celebrate anything, because god forbid you should live like a normal human being when you're poor. Yes, we should use the figure of the "deserving poor person" - who eats oatmeal and carrot sticks at every meal, never complains and works happily for sixty hours a week at minimum wage and no benefits - to beat the "bad poor person" who might sometimes have a family party.

One reason I fucking hate charity - and SNAP isn't an entitlement like we'd have in a real welfare state, it's treated as charity by every toffee-nosed white collar worker in the country - is because it's used as an excuse to meddle, browbeat, put down and other the people who get it.

And:

As the poet said, give us bread but give us roses.
posted by Frowner at 12:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [74 favorites]


Fried chicken and other deli items can be useful for people who or don't have a working kitchen, or any kitchen at all.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


I was surprised to recently discover that SNAP funds can be used to buy pretty much anything in your local grocery store - including a large decorated sheet cake for a family reunion,

No, no, no! You've got it all wrong!
You're supposed to LET them eat cake!
posted by Floydd at 12:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [73 favorites]


I'm actually a little surprised at the number of people here so far who are OK with the basic concept. The notion that we, as a society, will only lend a hand if someone is willing to give up their choices to us is sort of repugnant to me. I hope that if anyone here ever needs the help, it comes with no strings, nor any paternalism that we know better than you.
posted by tyllwin at 12:25 PM on May 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


I wonder if we can get a handy PDF for all the corporations that get about the same amount of money and tell them to invest in healthy investment stuff?
(i know....keep dreaming)

How Much Does SNAP Cost?
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Updated March 28, 2013
In fiscal year 2012, the federal government spent about $81 billion on SNAP. About 92 percent went directly to benefits that households used to purchase food.

Remember That $83 Billion Bank Subsidy? We Weren't Kidding
Feb 24, 2013
Bloomberg
In a 2012 study, two economists -- Kenichi Ueda of the International Monetary Fund and Beatrice Weder di Mauro of the University of Mainz -- estimated the value of that too-big-to-fail subsidy at about 0.8 percentage point. We multiplied that number by the top 10 U.S. banks' total liabilities to come up with $83 billion a year.
posted by lampshade at 12:25 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


When conservative states create shame and obstacles for SNAP, they are turning away the best possible kind of economic stimulus with one hand and quite often accepting the worst kind of porkbelly waste with the other. Every dollar of SNAP results in $1.70 of economic activity. From store clerks to managers to local farmers and farmers' markets: SNAP keeps the most vulnerable (and usually full-time working) Americans fed and trickles up the benefits through the community.

In the 70s, everybody understood this stuff, it wasn't a wedge issue and hunger was barely a smidgen of the problem it is today. Now the weight of solving hunger is put on the non-profit sector and, unlike the government, non-profits are subject to shrinkage, greater need and fewer resources during a recession.

The Archbishop Dom Helder Camara quote comes to mind: "When I fed the poor they called me a saint, when I asked why the poor had no food they called me a communist."
posted by Skwirl at 12:26 PM on May 8, 2013 [47 favorites]


See also: Australia's income management scheme, which I've mentioned here before.
posted by zamboni at 12:27 PM on May 8, 2013


Honestly, I'm about as liberal as a person can get, but when I see items being purchased like this with funds that are meant to be feeding people who actually need assistance, it boils my blood a little.

I visited my long-distance girlfriend this last weekend. On Sunday, her boyfriend (her "primary" relationship) was going to come over to have dessert with us. She decided to get him a cake he'd been coveting at Whole Foods, so we went there. The cake was $17.99, and we picked out about $20 of other stuff as well. She used her SNAP benefits to pay for it--she always buys the groceries when I visit her. We talked in line about what people might think about her using her SNAP card to buy an $18 cake. It was an extremely rare indulgence to celebrate her boyfriend coming back from a trip, and the three of us being together for the evening (a rare occurrance). And it was only possible because she had an accumulation of funds left from some prior months. She is a single mom with two kids who works two jobs, so definitely a person who "actually needs assistance."

When you see people buying a bunch of stuff that looks indulgent, remember that you're only seeing a single data point--maybe they always shop like that, or maybe they saved up for it, just like you might. Even poor people are allowed an indulgence from time to time. If you saw my shopping cart, you might sometimes be just as judgmental, even though I'm paying for my groceries with my own money. For instance, I recently did a grocery run where I bought nothing but candy and frozen lunches, or some ridiculous assortment like that.

On the plus side, my girlfriend told me that where she lives, she is now allowed to use her SNAP benefits to subscribe to a CSA box, which she is very excited about, and there are people working on making it possible to use their cards at farmer's markets.
posted by not that girl at 12:29 PM on May 8, 2013 [67 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen and altopower: I'm not begrudging anyone the right to eat what they want, whether they're purchasing the funds with money they earned, picked up off of the street or purchased through SNAP funds.

I've been so poor that I've had to eat a can of tuna fish and make it last for three days, with nothing else to supplement it. I remember the days when a package of ramen noodles was a luxury. I never received government assistance or asked for it. I simply made do with what I had. Had I the option of purchasing food for a family reunion or feeding myself and my loved ones, I'd have chosen to spend those precious funds on food that would do quite a bit more good than a sheet cake and fried chicken.

I'm a little surprised by the hostility expressed over my opinion.
posted by BrianJ at 12:29 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every dollar of SNAP results in $1.70 of economic activity.

I would favorite this a million times if I could.

Of course, "economic activity" and "trickle up" aren't important if your main interest is creating a large reserve labor army of the desperate and immiserated. This obviously isn't the intent of average conservative voters, and probably isn't even the intent of the hicks in the state legislature, but you'd better believe it's an idea that's floating around in right-wing think tanks.
posted by Frowner at 12:29 PM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen, the party of small government.

Sure, the economically small get to be governed, while the economically big make the laws. That's what that means, right?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:29 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I never received government assistance or asked for it.

But that's on you. Government assistance is why we have government.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [39 favorites]


How did Beech Nut and Gerber come to be the only allowable brands of infant fruit/veg/meats and cereals?

My guess is that Beech Nut and Gerber are "supporting" a few politicians in the Wisconsin state Assembly
posted by freakazoid at 12:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never received government assistance or asked for it.

I want to point out that it would not exactly have been the world's greatest tragedy if you'd gotten some food stamps and bought some groceries here, nor would this have turned you into history's greatest proletarian monster. If you don't want foodstamps, fine, but that doesn't give you a special moral perspective.

If I choose to be cold all night because I don't want to get the blanket out of the closet, this doesn't make me an authority on why homeless people don't have blankets.
posted by Frowner at 12:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [134 favorites]


While I completely appreciate the sentiment -- he who pays the piper calls the tune, beggars can't be choosers, etc. -- it's ultimately counterproductive. All forms of unearned assistance -- TANF, SNAP, EITC, WIC, Section 8, housing projects, Medicaid, SSI -- should be converted to a single, no-strings-attached cash grant, with taxpayers retaining the (very substantial) discretion of setting eligibility limits and grant amounts. While the dependent class's ills are mostly self-imposed, the welfare system certainly comes in for blame with systems which load up administrative and supervision expense and artificially concentrate the poor.
posted by MattD at 12:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never received government assistance or asked for it.

But that's on you. Government assistance is why we have government.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:31 PM on May 8 [+] [!]


That was your choice. Other people have made different choices and should not be judged more harshly. There's no prize for the biggest martyr.
posted by altopower at 12:32 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was surprised to recently discover that SNAP funds can be used to buy pretty much anything in your local grocery store - including a large decorated sheet cake for a family reunion, multiple large boxes of fried chicken from the deli and copious amounts of prepared side items.

None of these things should be prohibited; just because you are poor/ low income/ receiving aid, doesn't mean that you need to give up your basic rights to happiness. Consider this, this person may have saved up to buy that cake, because it provides a moment of real happiness and family connection.

Or maybe they just wanted cake. Honestly, it shouldn't make a difference. My only agreement with the prohibitions is for alcohol. I understand it can make people happy, but it also can cause problems far outside of the scale of useful or helpful and push into feeding dangerous addictions.
posted by quin at 12:32 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


MattD: While the dependent class's ills are mostly self-imposed

Please clarify this statement with studies, examples, facts... anything, really. Because that is pretty much bullshit right there.
posted by tzikeh at 12:33 PM on May 8, 2013 [27 favorites]


One main reason why SNAP is so hated by conservatives is that there is no legal limit to how many people can receive benefits so long as they qualify. If you need food assistance and qualify, you should have no guilt over applying. Nobody who is more needy than you will be put at a loss. It is not a zero-sum system. It's a system that's built to scale with need, which is exactly the way to do it if one believes at all in stimulus economics.
posted by Skwirl at 12:34 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


My insane idea that would never happen ever would be for the government to run free restaurants or grocery stores that would be intended to be used by everyone, the same way that public schools, public libraries, social security, and single-payer universal healthcare are for everyone. If you want every citizen to have access to healthy food, giving the poorest people a voucher and hoping that everything will work out in the private sector is a great way to ensure that rich people get the best and poor people get screwed over.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:35 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


That said, limiting SNAP to "good" choices makes complete sense to me.

That's what WIC is/was for. The thing is with food stamps is that it is too much trouble and effort to micromanage everyone's decisions (store owners as well as consumer beneficiaries), compared to just allowing them to use their own best judgment (however flawed). It is a greater waste of the government's resources to try to come up with continuously-updated lists about what is and is not allowed.
posted by deanc at 12:35 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


How did Beech Nut and Gerber come to be the only allowable brands of infant fruit/veg/meats and cereals?

Lobbying on behalf of Big Baby.
posted by elizardbits at 12:36 PM on May 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


and that he can't be sure his proposal as written would increase the amount of nutritious food purchased

So, just being an asshole to people who can't afford lobbyists, then. Good for you. Asshole.
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, god forbid that a single mom be able to use her SNAP benefits to buy her kid a birthday cake, or to pick up deli fried chicken to feed her family so that she can get some protein into her kids even though she had to pick them up from daycare at 6:00 and they need to be in bed by 7:45 to get a good night's sleep before getting up at 6 the next morning.
posted by KathrynT at 12:38 PM on May 8, 2013 [35 favorites]


As a Milwaukee resident, I am cautioning you all to never, ever read the comments on our local news site (jsonline). I don't know who these people are; I hope they don't live next door.
posted by desjardins at 12:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


All forms of unearned assistance -- TANF, SNAP, EITC, WIC, Section 8, housing projects, Medicaid, SSI -- should be converted to a single, no-strings-attached cash grant

Which many economists agree is a more efficient allocation of resources anyway since it gives individuals in a wide variety of situations the ability to figure out where the assistance is needed the most. You'd think a party purportedly interested in fiscal responsibility would care about stuff like this, but then they don't get to moralize.
posted by Phire at 12:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


What very odd things count here. Organic fruit is fine, but organic beans aren't. Frozen fruit in a bag is ok, but not in a box. Bread is ok, but not frozen bread dough or pitas. Brown rice is fine, but only 1 pound or less, and no other kind. Milk ok, but not goat's milk or buttermilk or milk with vitamins added. Baby food is ok, except for mango, peach or corn. (It appears that what would be allowed is this list, plus meat.)

It's interesting that you can buy pre-made bread, but not stuff required to make your own bread, which -- for people who can do it -- is cheaper and often tastier and healthier. But if you're on food stamps, too bad.
posted by jeather at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Seriously though reading those "allowed/not allowed" lists reminded me of that scene in Apocalypse Now where the ARVN dude slaps the canteen from Col Kilgore's hand and says that the VC prisoner can just drink paddy water. Like, get by on the barest fucking minimum and be fucking thankful we're giving you anything at all.

Ugh.
posted by elizardbits at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Waiting in line behind a WIC recipient at the grocery store and waiting in line behind someone sliding an EBT card is... Well, the WIC scenario is a good time to meditate on why we shame poor people as a society and the EBT scenario is something 9/10 times you won't notice.
posted by Skwirl at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm a little surprised by the hostility expressed over my opinion.
Yeah, totally weird when someone tells you what you can and can't do, amirite?
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:41 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is so dumb. If people receive any government assistance at all, whether it is stamps or welfare or student loans, and they then go on to spend any money at all on anything luxurious or frivolous, you could argue that the government is paying for it. And that is a shitty argument.

The point is to try to help people eat/survive, and even if some percentage of that money goes to Kools or beer or birthday cake, it STILL is moving people farther than they would be without it. There will always be a smidge of misappropriation, but the cost in money and HONOR to the program is negligible.

The Republican stance seems to be "Hey, slacker, if you didn't want to eat poverty loaf you shouldn't have lost your job", and that is as realistic and nuanced as every stance of theirs seems to be. Argh.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:43 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also I am fucking appalled by the ignorant racism inherent in disallowing the purchase of lactose-free milk without special permission.
posted by elizardbits at 12:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [67 favorites]


The Republican stance

I didn't actually mean to make this a Republican slur. There is overlap, but Republicans are not solely or exclusively the purveyors of this.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, the WIC scenario is a good time to meditate on why we shame poor people as a society and the EBT scenario is something 9/10 times you won't notice.

oh, i notice all the time; the cards aren't hard to identify

oddly enough, my blood doesn't boil when i see what they're buying because damn near all the people using those cards seem to be buying fairly sensibly

i must have missed the cake and fried chicken sale ...
posted by pyramid termite at 12:45 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of contempt for people who use food stamps to buy junk food or prepared food. There's also a lot of contempt for people who use food stamps to buy fresh ingredients and cook healthy meals.
posted by deanc at 12:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


but when I see items being purchased like this with funds that are meant to be feeding people who actually need assistance, it boils my blood a little.

Let me extend your argument. Do you think that people don't need assistance because they buy something sugary?
posted by jaduncan at 12:46 PM on May 8, 2013


I'm a little surprised by the hostility expressed over my opinion.

People are hostile because you sound like a right-wing talking point, and because the monstrous poor person who doesn't use their food stamps right is a propaganda stereotype for the right.

Remember welfare queens? The women who were allegedly popping out babies so they could use their lavish welfare benefits to ride around in cadillacs? It's the same thing - this concentrated image (and I'd argue, an image that is implicitly not a white person), this poisonous stereotype that is used to create a climate of belief that poor folks are lazy, stupid, weak scroungers who need to be disciplined and controlled, cheats and clowns who need a firm hand. And remember what a lie that was? And how we got rid of welfare and didn't replace it with anything better? How they refused to keep statistics on what people who were kicked off welfare actually did and how they fared?

I have a friend who is desperate right now - I've talked about her here before. If there were welfare like there was in the eighties, she could wait out the three more years til her kid is school age in only moderate constraint and discomfort. As it is, her life is...well, to a child of the middle class, her life is virtually unbelievable, it's so precarious. I have seen with my own eyes what getting rid of welfare did to marginal people.

Right now, the stakes are both smaller and greater - SNAP is a less powerful program and more about emergency support, since we've lost so much social safety net, so the stakes are "smaller", but because so much has been lost and SNAP is about all that's left, the stakes are "greater".

Everyone wants to blame downward - point their fingers at the stupid, lazy, dishonest poor person buying a sheet cake with the benefits that the so-generous, so-charitable nation has given them. And getting all sanctimonious about it - stop hitting yourself, poor person! we say. You're too stupid and sickly to understand that you are just making yourself sick, when as a recipient of charity you have a duty to the nation to turn yourself into a healthy working animal.

But don't think it will stop with the poor. This stuff never does. What happens to them hits us all, and if we don't protect the most vulnerable, we'll find ourselves in their shoes. How are you going to feel when the same controlling, punitive rhetoric of "health" is used to discipline you? When your health insurance becomes contingent on your successful compliance with a strict medical regime? When you are blamed for your own illnesses, and your minor indulgences are seen as something that should be halted?

A paternalistic and policing rhetoric of "health" - treating real, living, individual bodies as things that must be brought into healthy conformity in order to be patriotic, deserving citizens, treating "noncompliant" bodies as threats to an imagined national body - that's just going, so to speak, to bite us all in the ass.
posted by Frowner at 12:47 PM on May 8, 2013 [100 favorites]


My insane idea that would never happen ever would be for the government to run free restaurants or grocery stores that would be intended to be used by everyone

It's been done.
posted by modernserf at 12:47 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Certainly the goal of this measure - making sure people don't use their public dole just to get fatter - could be implemented far more effectively with a state-operated or contracted healthy food pantry and straight voucher system (oh noes! socialism!), but I don't see any problem with the goal itself. People can spend money they earn as they wish, but when you're spending public money - money others have earned and surrendered through taxes - I think the state has a legitimate public interest in ensuring it is done efficiently and effectively.

tyllwin

When one is in a position to need help, it very often follows that the choices that brought them to that juncture were less than ideal. I don't think it is the least bit improper to combine public assistance with some guidance or correction.
posted by The Confessor at 12:48 PM on May 8, 2013


I don't see any problem with the goal itself

The goal is not what you think it is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:49 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


could be implemented far more effectively with a state-operated or contracted healthy food pantry and straight voucher system (oh noes! socialism!)

Yup. If you want rations, provide rations. Rationing in the UK actually increased the quality of diet for the majority of the population.
posted by jaduncan at 12:49 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


NO SALSA

It's a pretty Germanic population in Wisconsin the last 150 years or so, and they may not know what salsa is in White Fish Bay. But there is some powerful cognitive dissonance when those same burghers ban sauerkraut. WTH, Wisconsin?
posted by wenestvedt at 12:50 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


When one is in a position to need help, it very often follows that the choices that brought them to that juncture were less than ideal.

Sources?

I have seen with my own eyes what the system puts people through who are getting help. You have no, no, no idea.
posted by KathrynT at 12:50 PM on May 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


I never went on public assistance, but I qualified for it. And these rules infuriate me.

Yes, there were times when I spent 2 dollars on a five pound container of animal crackers, instead of 5 dollars on 2 pounds of bananas. Why? Because 2 pounds of bananas are gone in a day or so. The animal crackers mean my hungry kids get SOME kind of snack every single day for a couple of weeks.

It would have been great if I could afford to shop for fresh fruit every single day, but I couldn't. It's not like I wasn't aware that bananas were healthier than animal crackers. But I also knew that letting my kids go hungry was worse than feeding them less healthy choices more frequently.
posted by headspace at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2013 [33 favorites]


Fried chicken? So what?

At my local grocery store, I can get an entire rotisseried chicken for less than a whole uncooked chicken. I presume that's likely true for fried chicken too. So, the cooked chicken is cheaper and more useful to someone without a working oven.

And it isn't as if a healthy whole chicken can't be fried. But this isn't about helping the poor, nor about their being healthy. It's about making them crawl.
posted by tyllwin at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2013 [34 favorites]


"A new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities underscores that the poor are no longer the primary beneficiaries of the government safety net.

Terms like entitlements, government benefits and safety net often conjure images of tax dollars sliding from the hands of the wealthy into the pockets of the poor. But as we reported Sunday, that image is badly outdated. Benefits now flow primarily to the middle class.

The center’s study found that the poorest American households, the bottom fifth, received just 32 cents of every dollar of government benefits distributed in 2010."

posted by elizardbits at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


"Honestly, I'm about as liberal as a person can get, but when I see items being purchased like this with funds that are meant to be feeding people who actually need assistance, it boils my blood a little.

"There's only one rule, babies, God damn it, you've got to be kind."

"And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn't." (Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier)
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.
Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?
First Collector: Plenty of prisons.
Ebenezer: And the union workhouses - are they still in operation?
First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.
Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I'm very glad to hear it.
First Collector: I don't think you quite understand us, sir. A few of us are endeavoring to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.
Ebenezer: Why?
First Collector: Because it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. Now what can I put you down for?
Ebenezer: Huh! Nothing!
Second Collector: You wish to be anonymous?
Ebenezer: [firmly, but calmly] I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish sir, that is my answer. I help to support the establishments I have named; those who are badly off must go there.
First Collector: Many can't go there.
Second Collector: And some would rather die.

People wanting a christmas pudding or birthday cake. Fuck them, right?
posted by jaduncan at 12:52 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


My insane idea that would never happen ever would be for the government to run free restaurants or grocery stores that would be intended to be used by everyone

Indeed, it has been done even in the US. It wasn't a success:
Ellen Richards, for example, founded the New England Kitchen in 1890, which sold inexpensive and nutritious food to working-class Bostonians for them to take home and eat. This experiment was not a success, as the people targeted by Richards' plan resented the implied paternalism of her efforts to improve their eating habits. The New England Kitchen exemplified the shortcomings of home economists' approach to food: in emphasizing nutritive value and convenience, too often they did not sufficiently take into account the sensual, communal side of eating. They also frequently sought to impose Anglo cooking styles on immigrant and minority groups.
posted by Ouisch at 12:52 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is ubiquitous, never-ending, among the more socially right wing elements of society that equate wealth with morality. There is little that gets them more hot and bothered than the sight of poor (particularly poor and brown) people buying cheap palliatives while on the dole. And god forbid that said poor person be spotted in possession of some quasi-luxury consumer good like a large television.
posted by chicxulub at 12:53 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also? Now that I'm not living subsistence level, I spend 80 dollars in fruit a week for snacks-- and it's still not enough for my family. Good luck being on TANF and having the luxury to spend $320 a month on fruit.
posted by headspace at 12:53 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid I was on foodstamps (oh, the shame of physical stamps you pull out to pay for your groceries, you might as well scream - "I'm POOOOR!!" every time you buy food.

Offhand this legislation (in addition to being a punishment to the poor) feels like it was written entirely by large food companies. From specifying the size that things must be in (only 46, 48, or 64 oz sized juices for you), to the comically obvious brand requirements "• 4.23 oz juice boxes (8-pack): Juicy Juice brand only; All flavors"

The supposed aims of this bill are belied by it's details... Why should a family not be allowed to buy more than 1 lb of dried beans at a time (indeed many poor folks buy dried beans, rice, etc in large bulk for economic reasons)?

All that being said, I'm very comfortable with a blacklist of foods (instead of a whitelist like this is). Buying soda, chips, and other food that is only marginally food (and has little to no nutritional value) doesn't seem appropriate for a program designed to help feed our poor. And this already exists in some form - no buying coffee, for example (although vitamin supplements seems like a wise thing to allow).

"We are just simply saying if you are going to take the money that we have worked so hard for as taxpayers and use it . . . there should be some limitations". I agree with this, and this is already true (although I wouldn't mind some careful adding to the existing blacklist - but this whitelist approach is pure insanity).

I have a counter-proposal: what if we started this regime in school lunches - where kids could only be fed items from a whitelist of approved healthy foods in their schools... (and heck, might as the same policy for the legislative cafeteria (if they have one)).
posted by el io at 12:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love how arbitrary this is.

You can't buy potatoes at all. No pickles or anything pickled. No frozen fruit in cartons. (Why?!) No canned sardines (which are very healthy). Of course you can buy a shit-ton of worthless carb cereals. You can't buy sugar-free bread. (What?!) No sharp cheddar. No buttermilk. (NO CORNBREAD FOR YOU, POOR PERSON!) No brown eggs. (The fuck?)

You also have to buy in ludicrous quantities; several items are listed as "1 lb. or less bag."
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm going to make one final comment before I bow out of this discussion and, I suspect, out of MeFi as well.

Blue_Villian - I didn't tell anyone what they could or couldn't do. I expressed the opinion that better choices could be made than spending $150 on food that, in all likelihood, was going to be indulged in by people not receiving the benefits. People make stupid decisions every day, though, amirite?

Frowner - ...you sound like a right-wing talking point
And this is what happens when people make assumptions about other people. I'm about as far from right-wing as you can get. I'm a leftist, gay man in my 40s. I was bringing up a talking point, but something that I witnessed with my own eyes. I didn't manufacture some scenario to prove my righteous indignation, nor do I HAVE righteous indignation about this issue. In my original comment I referenced people that NEED assistance. I don't begrudge anyone the benefit of government assistance. Had I qualified for it when I was raising my younger siblings without any parental assistance on an income of slightly over $7 an hour fifteen years ago, I certainly would have taken advantage of it.

Is it wrong that I feel a little irritated when I have to budget and scrimp and save for even the smallest of luxuries and I see someone using funds to buy things like that? Around here, I suppose it is.

I would like to thank so many of you for piling on with the attacks directed towards me. So much for the blue being a place where "the best of the web" and intelligent discussion shine through.
posted by BrianJ at 12:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Around here there's been a lot of effort set things up so people can use food stamps at farmers markets. In Detroit proper there are significant food deserts where fresh produce is hard to find and people have actually worked to make mobile trucks selling produce - not sure if those will take food assistance or no but probably do given the intent behind the program. It's naive to judge people who use assistance to buy junk food when that may be all that's available in a place they can actually get to. Significant amount of urban farming in Detroit now too - will be interesting to see how that changes things over time.
posted by leslies at 12:54 PM on May 8, 2013


Required reading: Ami's Guide to Food Privilege, Part 1: Food Stamps.
posted by Ouisch at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


"While I completely appreciate the sentiment -- he who pays the piper calls the tune, beggars can't be choosers, etc. -- it's ultimately counterproductive. All forms of unearned assistance -- TANF, SNAP, EITC, WIC, Section 8, housing projects, Medicaid, SSI -- should be converted to a single, no-strings-attached cash grant, with taxpayers retaining the (very substantial) discretion of setting eligibility limits and grant amounts. While the dependent class's ills are mostly self-imposed, the welfare system certainly comes in for blame with systems which load up administrative and supervision expense and artificially concentrate the poor."

It's actually worth taking this one step further, to the guaranteed minimum income for everyone. It allows people to, in the main, make their own choices and most people do decently at that, and would drastically cut the cost of administering the patchwork of social services we have now. We'd still need some — mentally ill or incompetent people won't vanish — but it would also have the benefit of making businesses easier to start, and entrepreneurship more common. You could also eliminate the minimum per hour wage then, since if people are guaranteed a survival amount, they'll work without the current necessary protections against exploitation.
posted by klangklangston at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


When one is in a position to need help, it very often follows that the choices that brought them to that juncture were less than ideal. I don't think it is the least bit improper to combine public assistance with some guidance or correction.

Then begin with those who have taken trillions out of the common welfare through their bad economic choices. The we can talk about the people whose bad choices were to trust that the economy wouldn't throw them out of work, and the people who were unable to avoid that juncture because they didn't have family wealth to fall back on.
posted by tyllwin at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


I hope we admit defeat in the drug war soon so that we can start spending that money micromanaging everyone's diet and exercise regime instead.

I'd support taxing unhealthy food, subsidizing healthy food, and providing free or subsidized gyms, but all these measures serve equally to everyone, not just the needy. Ideally, your healthy food subsidies should make food stamps unnecessary, but if you're unwilling to spend that much, then yes restricting food stamps to the food you already subsidize for being healthy makes sense. In this dream senario, there is no micro-management issue with restricting food stamps because you must manage the health food subsidy anyways.

In reality, we subsidize the unhealthy foods like corn, sugar, wheat, meat, etc. and leave the healthy foods like fruits and vegetables comparatively expensive, meaning this bill directly conflits with the federal governments express priority of enriching the companies that fatten up the population.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:56 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been so poor that I've had to eat a can of tuna fish and make it last for three days, with nothing else to supplement it. I remember the days when a package of ramen noodles was a luxury. I never received government assistance or asked for it.

This isn't something admirable; this is rank stupidity. Society is there for the benefit of all its members, not just those lucky enough to not be poor.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:57 PM on May 8, 2013 [21 favorites]


"his obviously isn't the intent of average conservative voters, and probably isn't even the intent of the hicks in the state legislature, but you'd better believe it's an idea that's floating around in right-wing think tanks."

Can you provide us with any evidence that this is the case?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:57 PM on May 8, 2013


Blue_Villian - I didn't tell anyone what they could or couldn't do. I expressed the opinion that better choices could be made than spending $150 on food that, in all likelihood, was going to be indulged in by people not receiving the benefits. People make stupid decisions every day, though, amirite?

That is in no way what you said.
posted by hoyland at 12:57 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


If you'd been behind me at the grocery store yesterday at 6:30, you would have seen me with my two hollering children, a frozen lasagna, a loaf of ready-to-toast garlic bread, and a box of Popsicles, because I had had it up to HERE that day and just needed to put some food on the goddamn table and into my children's screaming noise tubes. Total cost of the meal was $11, and it fed all four of us with leftovers for my husband to take for lunch the next day.

I paid for it with a bank card and not an EBT card, though, so I guess I'm above reproach.
posted by KathrynT at 12:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [36 favorites]


Dear Congress peoples of Wisconsin, SNAP is by definition a Supplemental program. I would hazard a guess that the cheezdoodles and soda could be purchased from their other not- supplemental monies.
posted by Gungho at 12:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a Wisconsin resident who spent her first 17 years on earth sucking up all y'all's hard-earned tax dollars, I can provide a human face to the "no spending my hard-earned tax dollars on your stupid birthday cake, undeserving/lazy/greedy poors!" argument. It might get punched, but them's the breaks.

My family always received SNAP and TANF benefits. As far as I know, they still do. Outside of school, I did not have much (if any) parental or adult supervision; my parents did not work or wish to interact with us in any way that could be construed as positive or healthy. We dutifully visited the food pantry to scrounge around for peanut butter and canned salmon (now with 25% fewer bones!), we could visit the grocery store to hunt for WIC stuff once a month (those goddamned aluminum cans of Juicy Juice still makes me want to hurl)... and as long as mom didn't trade too many of our bennies for cash, we could buy fast and easy garbage food with SNAP so that us kids could leave her alone and feed ourselves.

I was never taught how to do anything remotely like "cook an actual meal," "work with raw ingredients," or "make time to prepare and feed myself nutritious food." I could not do any of that stuff as a kid and was not magically inculcated with that knowledge as an adolescent or young adult. I did not have a mentor or adult friend who could show me the ropes, so I was flying completely blind. The most complicated meal I cooked in these years, something I ate literally hundreds of times, was a package of instant ramen with an egg cracked into the boiling water to add protein. I took raw potatoes to school as snacks.
So while cooking was out of the question, what I could do was follow the instructions on the back of the boxes or on the side of the cans of the insta-meal shit that we could get with SNAP, because my mom didn't particularly want to do anything to feed us except put a few dozen cans of Chef Boyardee on the shelf along with a case of Maruchan. My siblings and I still marvel at how much of our caloric intake consisted exclusively of Easy Mac and Dinty Moore. So it goes: Pull back lid, add water, microwave for two minutes, enjoy. I ate like that for a really long time because I didn't know how else to eat. It became an undeniably clear class marker in adulthood, and it made me so embarrassed. Other than white potatoes, I didn't eat a single vegetable that was not from of a can until I was 24 years old. Dude! Let people buy shitty food with SNAP. We don't have time to cook or there is no one to teach us or it's either another pack of ramen or nothing.

I don't care about bootstraps. I don't care if you were able to take care of yourself without asking for help. Good for you, really, but I don't care. Proliferating your luck and your choices as the ultimate ideal of self-sustainment does absolutely nothing but shame people who are already suffuse with shame, people who aren't lucky -- yes, LUCKY -- enough to possess the resources and wherewithal to get themselves out of the quicksand.
What I do care about is that there are thousands (millions!) of people who are in the same position I was in for the first half of my life, and if bills like this continue to be embraced by the public at large, tacitly or silently, we will continue to move toward a society in which those people will start to go hungry even more often than they already do.

I fully own the fact that I was only able to escape my familial cycle of poverty because I am white, well-versed in the art of communicating in a way that differs from the one I was assigned upon being born into an economically disadvantaged and uneducated family, and utterly inexhaustible in spirit, but I also know that I am one of the luckiest people in the entire world. Every day I wake up and think, "I made it, I made it!" But I would not have been able to make it if the government had been stepping in to prevent me from eating the only food that was easy enough for a child to prepare by herself. This is real. Please think about this before you get angry when you see a poor person buying a cake.

While the dependent class's ills are mostly self-imposed...
LOL. Got nothin'. Just... LOL.
posted by divined by radio at 12:59 PM on May 8, 2013 [200 favorites]


and a box of Popsicles...and leftovers for lunch.

How do you keep that cool enough in your husband's lunchbox? I really need to know.
posted by Gungho at 1:00 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Among the foods not allowed (source):
Organic milk
Nut or grain milks (rice, soy, almond)
Milk in glass bottles
Brown eggs and/or eggs that are vegetarian, natural, organic, from cage-free/free-range chickens
Gluten-free bread
Sharp Cheddar cheese (American is just fine...)
posted by Madamina at 1:00 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Is it wrong that I feel a little irritated when I have to budget and scrimp and save for even the smallest of luxuries and I see someone using funds to buy things like that? Around here, I suppose it is. "

It's because it's based on mistaken, judgmental assumptions that play into a right-wing narrative (no matter that you're not right wing, those are right wing talking points) of poor as gaming the system and being undeserving. As other people pointed out, there are legit reasons to want those things, and taking a moment to think about empathy and compassion instead of defensive indignation would help you realize that.

Nobody's calling you Hitler, but rather pointing out that you made knee-jerk judgment that ends up harming the people you ostensibly care about.
posted by klangklangston at 1:00 PM on May 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


How do you keep that cool enough in your husband's lunchbox? I really need to know.

Given that you really need to know, I will patiently explain to you that neither my husband nor myself ate the Popsicles.
posted by KathrynT at 1:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


One proposal that should get past federal restrictions and encourage healthy eating is to double food stamp dollars that are spent on local produce.

This is kind of a thing (funded privately) where many Farmers Markets will match EBT purchases.

But no brown eggs if you're in WI...

Because the free market should never decide anything, amirite?
posted by Skwirl at 1:03 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can only buy milk by the gallon. How does that make any sense at all?
posted by inertia at 1:08 PM on May 8, 2013


It's not often that people passing laws will admit their ignorance so gracefully: "Nobody knows anything except anecdotally."
posted by el io at 1:08 PM on May 8, 2013


You can only buy milk by the gallon. How does that make any sense at all?

Well if they sold it in 50 gallon drums, obviously I'd buy that.
posted by phunniemee at 1:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can only buy milk by the gallon. How does that make any sense at all?

Makes sense for milk companies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


What amazes me is that these are the same assholes who applauded Sarah Palin when she took a Big Gulp up on stage at CPAC and mocked Mayor Bloomberg.
posted by notsnot at 1:11 PM on May 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


I don't get the no brown eggs thing. Where I am, the brown eggs and the white eggs are the effectively the same price (literally a difference of about 7-15 cents), but the brown eggs don't splinter into ten thousand tiny pieces when I try to crack them.
posted by phunniemee at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I understand the urge to want to "encourage" (often by paternalistic coercion) people to eat more healthfully, but in my opinion this is a misguided and overly simplistic way to go about it (though it sounds from the post like this bill likely will not be actually implemented.)

As divined by radio so eloquently points out, there is so much more that goes into "healthy eating" than getting people to buy the "right" raw ingredients.

There are skills, time, facilities, and energy required in order to render those raw ingredients into actual, edible, safe and healthy food. And, since nutrition can be quite individual, it's also possible that what is "healthy" to one person looks quite a lot different to someone with different health circumstances/conditions.

I have had clients on food stamps, and they often go hungry. This bill seems to have been shaped by the concerns of people who are relatively well-off (and voted for by undoubtedly relatively well-off politicians) which mostly centre around overconsumption. The idea that these same concerns will map cleanly and ethically onto people with an entirely different economic reality and set of priorities (e.g. not being in pain from hunger) is not, to my mind, a very practical one.

When food is scarce, ease of preparation and caloric density per dollar spent are the priorities. Getting enough food, before focusing on making instrumental changes to what one eats for the purposes of long-term health, is every human's first priority. It's just that those of us who are chronically food secure are so used to that security, and so used to focusing on other priorities that we sometimes forget the foundational needs of our own survival - to the detriment of those around us who have less institutional power.
posted by Ouisch at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well if they sold [milk] in 50 gallon drums, obviously I'd buy that.

I have four kids, and we drink eight (or more!) gallons of milk each week. I would love to buy a pony keg of moo juice if I could get it.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have four kids, and we drink eight (or more!) gallons of milk each week. I would love to buy a pony keg of moo juice if I could get it.

I drink four gallons a week by my lonesome, and usually the driving force behind getting me to go to the grocery store is because I've just cracked the last gallon and I already feel myself getting twitchy.
posted by phunniemee at 1:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


"As divined by radio so eloquently points out, there is so much more that goes into "healthy eating" than getting people to buy the "right" raw ingredients."

It'd be sweet if there were community kitchens, like community radio stations, where they'd take you through an intro class then let you cook with their ranges and shit. Teach poor people to make tasty dishes with simple ingredients if they've got the time.
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


One reason I fucking hate charity - and SNAP isn't an entitlement like we'd have in a real welfare state, it's treated as charity by every toffee-nosed white collar worker in the country - is because it's used as an excuse to meddle, browbeat, put down and other the people who get it.

THIS SO MANY TIMES. So many of the people who think that "charity" is the answer to any question involving the less fortunate don't have an ounce of real charity in their bones.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


I have four kids, and we drink eight (or more!) gallons of milk each week. I would love to buy a pony keg of moo juice if I could get it.

One day I shall be part of a cow share. One day....

posted by RolandOfEld at 1:16 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I drink four gallons a week by my lonesome

what
posted by Aizkolari at 1:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


phunniemee is a synthetic, she does not understand proper milk consumption.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:18 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the biggest hurdles for families on SNAP is that there aren't real grocery stores near them.

If you drive through the dodgy neighborhoods where most folks get SNAP, you can drive for miles and not see a legit grocery store.

You'll see tons of "corner stores" where one can buy snacks, soda, beer and cigarettes.

Local governments are desperate to attract grocery stores back to the urban centers, so that folks there can benefit from the same choices that we have in suburbia.

Let's also look at the economics of fresh food. It's more expensive than processed food, it spoils faster and it takes up more fridge room. If you have a small fridge you can't take advantage of deals on a side of beef, or a sale on lettuce.

There are towns where the whole economy revolves around SNAP card reloads.

Now I firmly believe that all of us could benefit from classes in making our food stuffs go further and be healthier, do you know how hard and time consuming it is to be poor?

Let folks be. If watching adults buy food you don't approve of gets you down, think about the fact that it's for kids who didn't have any choice in this situation, and frankly, if anyone in this scenario knew better, they'd do better. It's not charity, it's the fucking bare minimum we can do for our fellow man.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:19 PM on May 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


And this is what happens when people make assumptions about other people. I'm about as far from right-wing as you can get. I'm a leftist, gay man in my 40s. I was bringing up a talking point, but something that I witnessed with my own eyes. I didn't manufacture some scenario to prove my righteous indignation, nor do I HAVE righteous indignation about this issue. In my original comment I referenced people that NEED assistance. I don't begrudge anyone the benefit of government assistance. Had I qualified for it when I was raising my younger siblings without any parental assistance on an income of slightly over $7 an hour fifteen years ago, I certainly would have taken advantage of it.


You tell a familiar story about Seeing The Poor Person Who Was Wasteful, Greedy And Ignorant and wishing that some outside force could discipline them.

From the other side, that's the same "and I was buying a birthday cake for my son, and people in line were shaming me and the cashier made remarks and I felt like shit when I was struggling so hard" story that I have heard a bunch of times.

It's not a new observation - you can't have failed to see both versions before.

And it's a cruel observation that has been used to hurt those near and dear to many people on metafilter, and probably many mefites.

You're a leftist gay man in your forties, so you remember when AIDS was a death sentence even for middle class USians. I remember that, and I remember how it contoured all my political understanding of the world when I was first doing activism, and I remember a little of what it was like when people died and died and died - and I'm a queer woman in my late thirties. I'm sure you remember the same old blaming that went around - people who wouldn't dream of blaming Reagan or homophobia were only too happy to blame gay men, right? After all, post maybe 1983, shouldn't everyone have Done It Right? Wasn't it All Their Own Fault? Didn't people use the "deserving" person with AIDS (white, straight, often female, got it via medical accident) as a stick to beat the "undeserving"? And didn't people want to punish the men who got AIDS anyway? Camps, medical control, publicity? I mean, I remember this, and I remember how bad it was, and it's not like I was in any danger of getting HIV. We have to hold tight to stuff like that! Those old bad patterns are what we learned, they're what reassert themselves!

I'm not saying you can't feel what you feel - but look, when we find ourselves feeling right wing talking points, we need to look carefully at what the hell is going on with ourselves.

Today I'm struggling with something totally unrelated to this discussion, in which I have to choose whether to do something difficult that will cause me a meaningful loss and which will not be fun but which will be the right, the decent thing to do...or let something slide in a way which will not impact me personally but which will mean that I participate in social harm to a group of vulnerable people. It's a miserable situation for me. I don't want the loss I know I have to face. I won't benefit in any way from doing the right thing. I am both afraid of doing the right thing and afraid that I'll lack the strength to do it.

What I'm saying is that the world is full of moral danger, and treading rightly is very, very difficult. If it were easy and familiar, we'd all be saints. I'm saying that it really can take all our moral strength just to look at what we're doing and try to control it, try to do the right thing. That our gut feelings and immediate responses to what we see may be cruel, mistaken, useless, contoured by the terrible narratives around us in society. I'm saying that I don't doubt that you saw what you saw and felt what you felt. I'm sorry that I wrote so sharply, but what you said functions as an attack on people in my life, people I care deeply for who are so incredibly vulnerable that it is terrifying. I'm saying that we - both of us of the left, both of us queer, both of us in the middle of our lives - have to struggle against our complicity in these terrible things around us.

I am sorry for pain or shame I caused you. I am sorry - truly - for your young self who was in need and who was not helped. But we have to act scrupulously, with generosity toward people who are vulnerable and with strictness toward ourselves. That's the only way forward.
posted by Frowner at 1:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [75 favorites]


I drink four gallons a week by my lonesome, and usually the driving force behind getting me to go to the grocery store is because I've just cracked the last gallon and I already feel myself getting twitchy.

That would be about 2/3rds of an inactive person's net caloric intake per week. Unless you leave a lot on your upper lip because who doesn't want a nice thick milk moustache?

Which is to say "Holy crap you drink a lot of milk!"
posted by srboisvert at 1:21 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


What amazes me is that these are the same assholes who applauded Sarah Palin when she took a Big Gulp up on stage at CPAC and mocked Mayor Bloomberg.

Not to mention that they're also the same assholes who called Michelle Obama a food-Nazi for working to reduce the fat/sugar/etc in school lunches. I agree with encouraging healthy food choices in general principle, but these people have no core beliefs other than opposing whatever a non-Republican says.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:21 PM on May 8, 2013 [25 favorites]


If they were actually interested in promoting healthful eating, they'd have to up the benefits considerably.
Lapham's Quarterly has The Dollar Menu, which shows a "calorie per dollar" breakdown. This is linked from Counting Calories By The Dollar from the New York Times, which also shows how healthful foods have become more relatively expensive over time. Why A Big Mac Costs Less Than A Salad (also NYT) has a chart showing the relative spending on subsidies for farmers of various foods. And here's an inflation-adjusted price chart for various food groups (also NYT).

I am sure these representatives will fully support legislation to triple the amount of money spent on SNAP benefits.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:21 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


There are towns where the whole economy revolves around SNAP card reloads.

And yet, so many small business owners in these poor neighborhoods really, really resent their welfare and foodstamp-using customer base, even though it's what keeps them in business.
posted by deanc at 1:24 PM on May 8, 2013


I stand by my comment in the Bloomberg thread, on principle. That was shortly before the major Republican victories in congress, though, and their extremist shift over the last 2½ years has soured my dedication to that principle.

Food assistance programs are intended to support nutrition, not to give lower-income people "normal" experiences or the occasional indulgence. I'd personally be happy to make those things a reality too, but they're a secondary priority compared to helping people stay healthy.

I think that's a reasonable argument, but the problem is that the Republicans are applying it selectively and strategically in order to further other agendas... in this case, reinforcing the narrative of the "lazy freeloaders" and the Democrats as their defenders.

Allowing people to buy junk food is not the significant flaw in our food assistance policy in this country. The real flaws are that there are too many people who need assistance (a consequence of other horrible economic factors greatly favored by Republicans), and a lack of access to healthy food (thanks in part to subsidies that enjoy annoyingly bipartisan support). Legislation like that in this post, while reasonable, harms those in need in order to score political points on secondary issues. (for another example, recall the cries for "tort reform" as a solution to skyrocketing health care costs)

So I guess the lesson I've learned in the last 2½ years is that it's not enough for an argument to be reasonable on its own; it must also be reasonably selected among the other reasonable options, to prevent it from being co-opted.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:25 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


but look, when we find ourselves feeling right wing talking points, we need to look carefully at what the hell is going on with ourselves.

Could it be that feelings aren't a good basis for making decisions of law and governance?

I'm gonna go with whatever my gut tells me on this
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:26 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I drink four gallons a week by my lonesome, and usually the driving force behind getting me to go to the grocery store is because I've just cracked the last gallon and I already feel myself getting twitchy.

Your mucus must be the consistency of maple syrup!
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:26 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


More foods that are not allowed:
Nuts, including peanuts
Herbs, spices or seasonings
Canned soup, chili
Canned albacore tuna (light only).
Refried beans (only acceptable if they are fat free).


These are things that can easily be cheap, nutritious parts of someone's diet. It's like they don't want people to be able to make cheap healthy meals for themselves. Oh, wait.
posted by inertia at 1:27 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Food assistance programs are intended to support nutrition, not to give lower-income people "normal" experiences or the occasional indulgence.

No, not really. Food assistance programs are intended to help people buy food.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:27 PM on May 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Orange Juice: any brand

Fail.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:28 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So often from my experiences of talking to more conservative people, I come to realize that those who likely would not support this restriction of SNAP believe that people with financial difficulties deserve to receive the benefits, that they generally will use them without abusing them, and that even if some of the recipients sometimes abuse the benefits, the greater amount of SNAP users still deserve to have this freedom.

Those who would support this restriction believe that people may deserve to receive SNAP or other benefits but believe that: because there are people who abuse it, restrictions on the use of SNAP funds or decrease of SNAP funding should be implemented, even at the general detriment of other SNAP users.
posted by fizzix at 1:41 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This kind of pointless legislation aimed at stirring up misdirected righteousness to distract away from the real work of actually governing just makes me feel tired.
posted by likeatoaster at 1:43 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


BrianJ wrote: Is it wrong that I feel a little irritated when I have to budget and scrimp and save for even the smallest of luxuries and I see someone using funds to buy things like that?

Perhaps it never occurred to you that they may also have scrimped and saved to be able to buy that cake without going hungry for the rest of the month? Seriously, what benefit is there to denying people any reward for planning ahead and budgeting effectively? Is that something poor people should not be allowed to learn?
posted by wierdo at 1:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


The "someone bought a cake with food stamps HOW DARE THEY??!?" complaint is at least twenty years old:
Dear Ann Landers: I'm the woman who bought that $17 cake and paid for it with food stamps. I thought the checkout woman in the store would burn a hole through me with her eyes. What she didn't know (and I would never tell her) is that the cake was for my little girl's birthday.

It will be her last. She has bone cancer and will probably be gone within six to eight months. Let this be a lesson to those who sit in judgment of others without knowing all the facts.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:49 PM on May 8, 2013 [44 favorites]


Cut out the middleman and just give them their rations directly.

Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:51 PM on May 8, 2013


Around here there's been a lot of effort set things up so people can use food stamps at farmers markets.

You can do this at the NYC greenmarkets, too!

By accepting EBT payments at Greenmarkets, GrowNYC aims to provide all shoppers with access to fresh, local, nutritious food from the farmers market. Thanks to continued funding from Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Council, 50 Greenmarkets now accept EBT. In 2011, EBT cards could be used at 43 Greenmarkets, up from only three markets in 2005. EBT sales in 2011 exceeded $630,000, and in some markets, daily EBT sales reached close to $6,000. EBT has become a critical supplement to farmers who depend on these markets for survival, as some farmers reported that EBT sales comprise 25% to 50% of their total income.
EBT, along with the Federal Farmers Market Nutrition Program, WIC Vegetable and Fruit Checks, and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygienes Health Buck Program, helps ensure that all New Yorkers have access to nutritious and fresh products grown on family farms in the New York region.

posted by Greg Nog at 1:51 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


no cake for the dirty poors!

ONLY SUFFERING

AND BEANS
posted by elizardbits at 1:52 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


BUT NOT ORGANIC BEANS
posted by Jeanne at 1:52 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


OR REFRIED BEANS
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:53 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wisconsin Falls From 11th To 44th In Job Creation In 2 Years: Governor Walker Blames Workers

Yeah, totally not retribution politics.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:53 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also everyone's been focusing on the sheet cake thing here

I was surprised to recently discover that SNAP funds can be used to buy pretty much anything in your local grocery store - including a large decorated sheet cake for a family reunion, multiple large boxes of fried chicken from the deli and copious amounts of prepared side items

but it's the "side items" that mystifies me; are side items considered an irresponsible luxury? Is it considered gauche to eat more than one type of food at each meal?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:53 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's kind of hilarious, to me, to watch someone make a whole lot of assumptions about what they see poor people spending SNAP benefits on in a grocery store, get super bent out of shape about the response they get, and accuse everyone of making assumptions about them.
posted by palomar at 1:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


Cut out the middleman and just give them their rations directly.

You joke, but that will never happen, because SNAP/WIC benefits don't just help hungry people. They support the grocery stores, too! If it weren't for that, they probably would have done away with it all years ago, don't you think? Because who gives a damn about poor people, right, but government support for business? Yes please!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it never occurred to you that they may also have scrimped and saved to be able to buy that cake without going hungry for the rest of the month?

For real. My good friend who's a single mom with two grade school children, her SNAP benefit -- which is the entirety of her grocery budget -- is $310 a month. She has to shop extremely carefully.
posted by KathrynT at 1:56 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've generally had outreach contact with a number of folks who are homeless/housing insecure, but I've had more than usual lately due to a project I'm working on. When you talk to people who are actually in that sort of situation, you realize how silly stuff like this is.

Take two of my new friends. We'll call them Bill and Sheila. Bill receives no assistance of any kind, Sheila gets a SNAP benefit of about $25 dollars a week. Bill and Sheila live in a tent under a bridge, and have neither access to a kitchen nor a refrigerator nor a grocery store more well-stocked than your typical urban bodega.

They've both told me that they'd love to eat more healthy, homemade food, but how can they do it on $100 a month with those shopping options and no kitchen or fridge?

It's madness, and it's policy that is driven by people who a) don't seem to like poor people much, and b) have no interaction with/understanding of the people who need these benefits to get by.
posted by rollbiz at 1:56 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


are side items considered an irresponsible luxury?

Coleslaw was actually the true motivator behind the French Revolution.
posted by elizardbits at 1:56 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder how many kinds of cake can be made out of beans, and how many mefites it takes to overthink them.
posted by rtha at 1:57 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey-O, my children and I survive on foodstamps right now. I sometimes buy kombucha, which is fucking expensive, because with food stamps I can afford it. Why do I have to feel guilty if that's the way it's structured. Often, I'd much rather buy a cup of hot coffee, but you can't buy hot things with food stamps. Sometimes we buy the fixings for lunch at the supermarket and make lunch while we are out of the house... which could end up being more expensive than if we just bought hot deli items; but those are the rules.

Food assistance programs are intended to support nutrition, not to give lower-income people "normal" experiences or the occasional indulgence.

Nope. SNAP is first and foremost a subsidy for the food industry, from grocery stores and upwards along the food value-added chain. There is a reason why the appropriation is a part of the *agriculture* bill in congress. The profit on every excess dollar of food stamp assistance goes straight to the bottom-line of business, and by extension subsidizes the price you pay for your food at the same supermarket.

Now, why is a food assistance program structured as a price support for food purchases? Politics! You could support nutrition in the US in a much more efficient ways, but by making it in the interest of big business to keep it going, it keeps on going.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


klangklangston wrote: It'd be sweet if there were community kitchens, like community radio stations, where they'd take you through an intro class then let you cook with their ranges and shit. Teach poor people to make tasty dishes with simple ingredients if they've got the time.

Thankfully, we have some pretty charitable folks even here in Jesus-Land: Cooking classes

If there's not something like it in your town, it's something that a small group can do surprisingly easily, so make it so. (or convince someone else to make it so)
posted by wierdo at 1:59 PM on May 8, 2013


A person who, for whatever reason, doesn't have enough money to eat is dealing with enough just getting through their day that whatever food they decide to buy with the pittance granted them by the state is none of my bloody business.

What I want is for these programs to not only feed people, but make it possible not to worry about it. Until that goal is reached, reduction or restriction of benefits is just stupid.
posted by Mooski at 2:00 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


They've both told me that they'd love to eat more healthy, homemade food, but how can they do it on $100 a month with those shopping options and no kitchen or fridge?

To many conservatives and libertarians, things like refrigerators and microwave ovens are luxury items. So these young bucks should be thankful they're not squandering their ill-gotten gains on the preservation and preparation of food like fucking layabouts.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


> on the other hand, the cynic in me wonders how many lobbyists from food corporations are going to pay congresspeople to get their food certified as "healthy"

There are a lot of those sorts of shenanigans detailed in Salt, Sugar, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss. One example; Congressmen testifying at a hearing in the 1980s examining the amount of sodium in processed food who lauded corporations for helping America avoid the health problems associated with not getting enough sodium in your diet.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:01 PM on May 8, 2013


Oh, and upthread, someone made the remark that anyone using government assistance like SNAP has obviously made poor decisions in their life and obviously needs to be told how to do things. That's a really interesting statement to make. I was on SNAP benefits several years ago. Why was I on them? Because I'd been laid off from my job, but when I applied for unemployment benefits I was honest on the forms asking about my work availability. See, I was enrolled in an evening class at community college, trying really hard to work my way through and get a degree by going to school at night, one class at a time. So I made the mistake of being honest about the fact that two nights a week I would be in class from 6-8:30pm. On that basis, I was deemed to be not available to even be looking for work, and my benefits were denied. I had to drop my class and submit proof of that to the state UI board, but while I waited for them to make their decision, I had to have some way to eat. Thank god for SNAP, otherwise I would have starved.

(Yes, I eventually got unemployment benefits. And no, I was never able to afford to go back to school again.)

It's really, really easy to make assumptions about how people end up needing help, and what kind of person they are if they need help. But assuming things like that really just makes you an asshole.
posted by palomar at 2:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [37 favorites]


Heck, palomar, we were on food assistance because my husband got laid off, and the maximum unemployment benefit in Washington State (one of the highest in the nation) is low enough to qualify a family of four for food assistance! Poor choices, my foot.
posted by KathrynT at 2:06 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've been so poor that I've had to eat a can of tuna fish and make it last for three days, with nothing else to supplement it. I remember the days when a package of ramen noodles was a luxury. I never received government assistance or asked for it. I simply made do with what I had

That the thing though; a (slim?) majority of society has decided that having people around who have to stretch a can of tuna for three days or who can’t afford the “luxury” of raman is bad for society. People who are desperately hungry are poor workers and are likely to turn to crime to feed themselves and their kids. So even if one could give a shit whether a poor person is hungry one should support minimum levels of caloric intake per day just to prevent rioting in the streets and the burger flipper preparing your meal from undercooking the meat or the guy cutting the grass running you over due to tiredness.

Buying soda, chips, and other food that is only marginally food (and has little to no nutritional value) doesn't seem appropriate for a program designed to help feed our poor.

Potato chips are often the most dollar efficient calories you can buy. I’ve seen thousands of calories for a $1 in some of the dollar style stores in the States. I mean it isn’t great nutrition but it’ll keep you from starving.
posted by Mitheral at 2:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Food assistance programs are intended to help people buy food.

Being pithy doesn't make that a good policy. If the goal was simply to provide raw calories, we'd be better off distributing HFCS allotments. If it was simply to allow purchasing freedom for the needy, then we wouldn't be justified in limiting it to foodstuffs.

Just keeping people alive is a losing policy; everyone dies, and spending your last years on dialysis is few people's idea of a happy outcome. The sustainable policy is to keep people alive and healthy, which has the benefit of allowing them to live productive lives and support that same safety net in turn.

But to reiterate my previous point, if the choice is between unhealthy food and no food, I'm not going to abstain just because healthy food wasn't an option... especially because I'd prefer that people have access to all types of food, and trust that people would make mostly healthy decisions if junk food wasn't more available, better marketed, and artificially discounted all at the same time.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Riki tiki, who are you to say what is healthy for every person on SNAP? Tons of people have dietary issues.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:12 PM on May 8, 2013


Also everyone's been focusing on the sheet cake thing here

let them eat cake
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 PM on May 8, 2013


I wonder how many kinds of cake can be made out of beans, and how many mefites it takes to overthink them.

At least one, and a filter of mefites.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:17 PM on May 8, 2013


If the goal was simply to provide raw calories, we'd be better off distributing HFCS allotments.

Yeah, let the poors buy nutrient slurry with oversized scarlet shame-vouchers! If they don't like it, maybe it'll nudge them to rethink their decision to be poor.

Ha ha I amuse myself but there's probably a think tank with something like this written up as an actual policy proposal.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


So, if I understand correctly, it's okay for the government to subsidize the production and distribution of food, just not the consumption. I'm glad these government bodies are there to straighten me out.

Also, it could be that 'we the people' struggle with healthy food purchases because asparagus is $4 per pound and freezer pops are $3 per hundred.

It's all very surprising really, because the government, rather than trending away from the idea, seems to be trending toward letting us eat cake.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 2:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


who are you to say what is healthy for every person on SNAP? Tons of people have dietary issues.

I am genuinely not sure what you're referencing, roomthreeseventeen. I didn't suggest any particular dietary plan, and certainly not one that would be blindly and universally applied regardless of individual needs.

We have scientists and research for this sort of thing, and we're capable of establishing programs to reflect those nuances.

I'm honestly not trying to be obtuse. I have no problem with you disagreeing with me, but please don't read bad faith into my arguments.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:21 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My only agreement with the prohibitions is for alcohol. I understand it can make people happy, but it also can cause problems far outside of the scale of useful or helpful and push into feeding dangerous addictions.

Surely HFCS is in the same category as alcohol.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just saying that for example, the best person in the family to decide what's good for their children to eat is someone actually in that family.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:23 PM on May 8, 2013


Yeah, let the poors buy nutrient slurry with oversized scarlet shame-vouchers! If they don't like it, maybe it'll nudge them to rethink their decision to be poor.

Ha ha I amuse myself but there's probably a think tank with something like this written up as an actual policy proposal.


Well, the National Review did just write up an article saying that no poor children should have a free breakfast at school For Reasons, so you're not far off.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


A lot of people on SNAP, WIC, and other food assistance know how to just cook just fine. They, however, may not have the time or the energy to.

They may work 1 or 2 or 3 part time jobs. Which they then get to via public transportation. Same with the shopping. Which means waiting for the bus/train/subway. By the time they get home, the time that they could have spent cooking was used waiting for transportation instead. Add kids in the mix, and I'm not going to fault anyone for buying a rotisserie chicken or two instead of baking one at home.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:25 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


In regards to comments saying that people should be allowed to eat junk food every once in a while:

The bill would allow 1/3 of a person's SNAP funds to be spent on junk food.
posted by martin10bones at 2:25 PM on May 8, 2013


I also want to say that the arguments about "nutrition vs. calories" are often wildly oversimplified as well. Except in the case of things like pop and pure HFCS, the presence of calories does, indeed, signal the presence of nutrients.

Not only does a bag of potato chips contain a lot of calories, it provides a goodly amount of vitamin C and potassium. I am not making this up. Not to mention that the macronutrients providing those calories, namely fat and starch, are, despite the current pop-nutrition anti-carb zeitgeist, very useful and necessary to the body.

No, "junk food" and pre-prepared foods are often not the most micronutrient dense, nor are they the foods most associated with improvements in long-term health. But people who are actively hungry and food insecure are not at the point where it makes sense to prioritize long-term health or micronutrients over getting enough to eat so they can function at work or in their day-to-day activities.

Health and nutrition priorities change depending on your level of food security.
posted by Ouisch at 2:27 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Add kids in the mix, and I'm not going to fault anyone for buying a rotisserie chicken or two instead of baking one at home.

But why are you allowed to buy raw chicken and not pre-cooked, but pre-made bread and not raw (or flour and yeast)? I think that it is understandable for someone on assistance to make either choice; what I don't get is why they're treated differently by the rules.
posted by jeather at 2:28 PM on May 8, 2013


It's quite possible that The Rules are the result of several disparate committees which weren't ever creating the whole list all at once, and thus insane discrepancies.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:30 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


About 48 million folks receive SNAP.

Folks on SSDI/Federal Disability (about 8.7 million people) are usually eligible for SNAP. Approved food lists have nothing to do with what folks who are expected to cook for themselves but who are on, say, chemotherapy, or who do not have use of all their limbs, or whose conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease - all much higher incidence among poorer populations) alter what is possible/safe for them, can healthfully eat.

How about folks with religious food restrictions, such as religious vegetarian (many Buddhists, Hindus, Seventh Day Adventists, some Rastafarians, many Christians during Lent), kosher, or halal? Collectively, these groups make up about 8% of the US population; so, assuming even distribution, about 3.9 million people. 3.9 million people having their religious expression violated by the government's opinion of correct American foods.

Even though there will be overlap of folks who are both disabled and have a religiously-based diets, I get around 12.6 million folks where the prescribed diet is directly damaging or violates their exercise of religion. 25% of SNAP recipients would be affected by such non-evidence-based acceptable food lists.

And I would be one of them.
posted by Dreidl at 2:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


inertia: More foods that are not allowed: . . . Herbs, spices or seasonings

God forbid that poor people should be able to get their hands on fresh basil or ginger.

This entire list is a control freak's wet dream of micromanagement.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:34 PM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


While the dependent class's ills are mostly self-imposed, ...

I have been trying to ignore this since you posted it but I just don't have the strength. This is such a fucking hateful, nasty and most of all insulting statement and it's just so obvious you have no idea of whom or what you speak. Ugh.
posted by invitapriore at 2:38 PM on May 8, 2013 [29 favorites]


"Around here there's been a lot of effort set things up so people can use food stamps at farmers markets."

In Santa Monica the farmers markets accept EBT, WIC and SFMNP (for low-income seniors). Almost everything is very expensive so I imagine a lot of people would just as soon do the bulk of their fruit/veg shopping at the supermarket a few blocks away, but I trust people to make that decision for themselves.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:39 PM on May 8, 2013


We have scientists and research for this sort of thing, and we're capable of establishing programs to reflect those nuances.

Sadly, no.

As linked in the OP, the United States Department of Agriculture -- a fairly good authority on the matter, I think -- wrote a position paper in 2011 that begins, in part, "No clear standards exist for defining foods as good or bad, or healthy or not healthy. Federal dietary guidance uniformly applies to the total diet – there are no widely accepted standards to judge the 'healthfulness' of individual foods."

I think that kinda shows that at present, we are not "capable of establishing programs to reflect those nuances." What MeFites, people clucking their tongues in line at the grocery store, or even those pesky Congresscritters choose to believe is "healthy" vs. "unhealthy" does not matter a whit. Truly. Whatever you want to think about the eating choices of benefit recipients does not matter. We have about as much right to demand that SNAP recipients purchase only foods found on an incredibly arbitrary, all but openly punitive list as I have to demand that the government must stop using part of my salary to fund endless war, drone strikes, and GTMO. Understanding this is all part of the magical realization that no matter how much you wish it were true, the funds you think of as "your" tax dollars are not yours.

I'm just in love with the "junk food" framing, too, especially when it's being spouted by news sources or individuals who are loudly proclaiming either their super-liberal bona fides or utter neutrality. I'm glad that so many of my fellow human beings, for whom I have nothing but the utmost love and respect regardless of how undeserving of assistance they think I am or was, truly believe that I should have just somehow figured out a way to teach myself how to shop and cook starting when I was 7 years old. Problem solved, right?
posted by divined by radio at 2:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


The bill would allow 1/3 of a person's SNAP funds to be spent on junk food.

So since the FPP links the list of WIC approved foods when it talks about "a list of state-defined healthy foods", let's pretend that this new program would use WIC's restrictions, and label all WIC-disallowed items as junk food. This would include things like potatoes, seasonings, spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, baked beans, organic juices, canned soups or chilis, organic cereals, anything marked as low-carb, hard taco shells, bagels, English muffins, sharp or extra-sharp cheddar, kosher cheese, any milk product that is organic or certified humane...

Are these items really junk food? Or is it just an arbitrary list of things that offers more benefit to the government subsidized food companies than it does to hungry people?
posted by palomar at 2:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


God forbid that poor people should be able to get their hands on fresh basil or ginger.

I often feel that half the point of nutraloaf is that people know it tastes like crap. There's a certain retributional mindset mindset that wants to make sure that people they don't like (prisoners, poor people, minorities) don't get anything pleasant.
posted by jaduncan at 2:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I imagine there are millions of americans who would be totally okay if food stamp poors were kept in battery cages and fed nutraloaf extruded from a government-installed tube, so long as it saved them 1/100 of a penny on their tax dollars.
posted by elizardbits at 2:42 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


it's like we're all stuck playing a game of "Republican-backed proposal or Diamond Age sideplot" except with real lives.
posted by elizardbits at 2:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yeah, I imagine there are millions of americans who would be totally okay if food stamp poors were kept in battery cages and fed nutraloaf extruded from a government-installed tube, so long as it saved them 1/100 of a penny on their tax dollars.

I somewhat disagree. I think there's a subset who are happy to do that even if it costs more.
posted by jaduncan at 2:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [28 favorites]


Example: Arpaio's budget buys a tank and lots of weaponry because he's tough on Mexicans. His prisons are tents in the desert and feature frequent heatstroke for inmates and pink garments to humiliate people. People vote for that. I don't think those voters then turn around and seek high quality diets for the people on welfare they imagine are sucking up all the money.
posted by jaduncan at 2:52 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


About 48 million folks receive SNAP.

Which is, what, a sixth of all Americans? You have a society in which a sixth of the population is so poor the government has to provide assistance to actually enable them to buy food and people get outraged that some of them sometimes buy cake with it?

The goddamn richest country in the world, supposedly, but it's alright to let a sixth of its population live in mindnumbing poverty, as long as they don't have rotisserrie chicken?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:53 PM on May 8, 2013 [63 favorites]


Being a simple sort I would opt for a simplistic approach. Assuming you wish to aid the hungry, I would give enough aid to meet the caloric requirements of whoever received it (infant, child, teen, working adult, pregnant or nursing mother, elder). No one can work, study, grow or thrive for long without sufficient calories. I would also distribute, gratis, a complete vitamin, mineral and amino acid supplement for the same targeted groups. Then let them buy and eat what they want, just pop the pill every day. They would certainly be no worse off than many here...
posted by jim in austin at 2:54 PM on May 8, 2013


Free market capitalism in action!

To play devils advocate somewhat, how would you pay for an increase to these programs? And it has to be something politically viable, anything that has no traction won't count.
posted by marienbad at 2:55 PM on May 8, 2013


Are these items really junk food? Or is it just an arbitrary list of things that offers more benefit to the government subsidized food companies than it does to hungry people?

So perhaps it's not the idea that's bad, but the specifics of the list? Maybe the bill would be better it was put in terms of clearly unhealthy foods, rather than trying to list all the possible healthy foods.
posted by martin10bones at 2:56 PM on May 8, 2013


Perhaps we could just feed them Irish babies.
posted by bleep at 3:00 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


I somewhat disagree. I think there's a subset who are happy to do that even if it costs more.

Just came to say the same...
posted by rollbiz at 3:00 PM on May 8, 2013


That said, limiting SNAP to "good" choices makes complete sense to me.

What, you think poor kids should never get a birthday cake?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


To play devils advocate somewhat, how would you pay for an increase to these programs? And it has to be something politically viable, anything that has no traction won't count.

It makes me ill that my legislature can pass sales tax increases to pay for sports stadiums for privately-owned teams, but we can't get money for schools or frickin FOOD.
posted by KathrynT at 3:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [25 favorites]


"If the goal was simply to provide raw calories, we'd be better off distributing HFCS allotments."

Nothing new under the sun. Except it was white flour and oil and that's why the fabulously diverse tribes of the United States all have fry bread (And diabetes.) in common.

It's not like the motivations in WI are for nutrition anyway. Just look at the convoluted list they've created. AND the fact that state legislatures don't have the authority to make this decision about a Federal program in the first place! Bad intentions all around, just like in the case of the rations for reservations.

Meanwhile, if you can't sympathize with poor people being given a sliver of freedom of choice in their lives or a smidgen of empowerment, then sympathize with your future self waiting in line for 45 minutes while a clerk separates out the allowable and unallowable items from someone's grocery cart.
posted by Skwirl at 3:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Nitpicking over what poor people buy with their pennies instead of actually helping them succeed in life is a ridiculous waste of time and resources that comes from a nasty place in the human soul.
posted by bleep at 3:02 PM on May 8, 2013 [21 favorites]


in the human soul
[citation needed]
posted by tonycpsu at 3:03 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Fine then, comes from nasty, small minded people who need to re-evaluate their priorities. If you think that people who need help affording food are better off being told that they can't have potatoes, chili, or birthday cake, then you need a serious priority re-alignment.
posted by bleep at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


In regards to comments saying that people should be allowed to eat junk food every once in a while:

The bill would allow 1/3 of a person's SNAP funds to be spent on junk food.


I think this has been a really overlooked point regarding the fried chicken/sheet cake controversy that took over the thread for a little while. It seems as if even the proponents of the bill think it's fine that people buy sheet cake and fried chicken. The proponents of the bill would be presumably be opposed to people spending their SNAP funds only on foods like fried chicken and sheet cake.

That's probably why there was so much pushback on that comment--even the bill's proponents don't feel like people shouldn't be allowed to buy any sheet cake with SNAP funds--so explaining that it makes one's blood boil sort of sets you off a bit further right than the bill itself.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:08 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is staggering how much time, money, and political capital that Republicans are willing to waste in order to annoy liberals.
posted by goethean at 3:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


sympathize with your future self waiting in line for 45 minutes while a clerk separates out the allowable and unallowable items from someone's grocery cart

That's what's most ridiculous about the law. How you gonna enforce that shit?

The bill would allow 1/3 of a person's SNAP funds to be spent on junk food.

Will they track what you buy? Or is it a minimum 2:1 ratio of healthy:"junk" for every purchase?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:12 PM on May 8, 2013


Tongue-in-cheek question time: why don't these busybodies similarly scrutinize the food (and drink!) bought with student loans? SNAP actually gives us a return on our investment, whereas increasing numbers of graduates will actually default on their loans. Why should my tax dollars go to pay for some kid's beer? It's not "their" money - they get a special rate from the government because we trust that that money is only being used for education and necessary incidentals.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


This would include things like potatoes, seasonings, spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, baked beans, organic juices, canned soups or chilis, organic cereals, anything marked as low-carb, hard taco shells, bagels, English muffins, sharp or extra-sharp cheddar, kosher cheese, any milk product that is organic or certified humane...

Yeah, I don't understand the "organic" proscriptions for juice, fish, cereal, bread, tortillas, rice, milk, and cheese.

Regardless of whether or not you think "organic" food is "healthier," I don't know anyone arguing that an "organic" label automatically makes something "junk."

That's perhaps what's most damning about this law. It is framed as "should food stamps be allowed to be used for junk food," while the intent is not to reduce junk-food consumption at all. The intent is to make sure those poor black folk don't spend their money in a way the rich, white men don't like. Shameful.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:21 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The people who wrote the National Review piece that zombieflanders linked to are living in a universe I can't even understand.

It is inconceivable that there are five, let alone 200,000 or the projected 450,000, homes in Los Angeles that cannot afford breakfast for their child.

Inconceivable? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Second, it both enables and encourages irresponsible, uninterested, and incompetent parenting. Given how inexpensive breakfast can be (not to mention the myriad public and private programs that provide food for poor households), any home that cannot provide its child with breakfast demands a visit from child protective services. Any parent who cannot give a child breakfast is not too poor; he or she is too incapable of being, or too irresponsible to be, a competent parent.

So we better make sure the kids pay for it - the hungry kids, their fellow students, their teachers, not to mention everyone who will end up dealing with the grown-up result of the kid who was too hungry to do well in school. Sounds like a good plan.

Third, even where decent parents are involved, free breakfasts at school weaken the parent-child bond.


Are you fucking serious. Shut up. Just shut up. And fuck you.
posted by rtha at 3:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [49 favorites]


I keep wondering how those poor people got all our money. Perhaps Scott Walker can explain it to me.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:24 PM on May 8, 2013


I'd kind of like to see a new law that no Wisconsin elected representative can expense unhealthy meals either. No alcohol, no fatty foods (marbled steaks, cream sauces, fried anything), no rich desserts, at least not on the taxpayer dime.
posted by aught at 3:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [40 favorites]


The cheese prohibitions are what really make my jaw drop. This is Wisconsin. They effectively want to take money out of dairy farmers' pockets.
posted by altopower at 3:26 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd kind of like to see a new law that no Wisconsin elected representative can expense unhealthy meals either. No alcohol, no fatty foods (marbled steaks, cream sauces, fried anything), no rich desserts, at least not on the taxpayer dime.

From your mouth to God's ear.
posted by KathrynT at 3:33 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a little surprised by the hostility expressed over my opinion.

Well, every thread on this topic requires someone to tell a version of the legend of the poor food stamp people in line at the grocery store in front of the person who habitually watches to see what kind of credit card people use. I'm just angry because you didn't do it right. These elements are essential to the narrative and can't be skipped:

1. They were talking on an iPhone or using some other expensive and fashionable technological gizmo.
2. If they are a woman they have expensive jewelry, if a man he is in expensive sneakers or an authentic NFL jersey.
3. When they leave the store, they pack everything into a new, expensive car.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:42 PM on May 8, 2013 [26 favorites]


> Yeah, I don't understand the "organic" proscriptions for juice, fish, cereal, bread, tortillas, rice, milk, and cheese

My guess is that they think organic items are luxuries.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks maybe don't do that "let's drag shitty comments over from the rest of the internet and argue them here" thing?]
posted by jessamyn at 3:45 PM on May 8, 2013


A list that allows tomato sauce but does not allow spaghetti sauce is a stupid-ass list.
posted by bq at 3:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is so for down the page I doubt if it will be read--regardless, I find it troubling to see the intensity, almost vehemence and vituperation, cast on those who would disagree with the general sentiment that anyone who supports this legislation( or sentiment) is an uncaring, right wing, mean spirited, cow towing money grubber who wants to suck any joy from the poor or those temporarily in need. I think of myself as a traditional liberal/social democratic/communitarian and I happen to think there is some merit to the ideas behind this legislation. There are to many examples to go through but I would point out the "government benefits are not the purpose of government" those without means have as much responsibility to shop wisely and healthily as the working (non entitled) poor, those who pay the piper do name the song, the is no sanctity in poverty nor evil in wealth notr shame in poverty and nobility in wealth ( both are mostly a matter of luck/fortune). A little patience and listening to those who disagree with you would go a long way in maintaining a diverse community on mefi. If the elevation of the victim/the discriminated/or disempowered is almost immediately elevated to the status of "hands off" it becomes a very closed system. For the record, I do not think food subsidies should buy alcohol, tobacco, junk food, or highly processed foods etc ( In fact I wish thy were taxed at a differential rate as is tobacco/alcohol. And for those who think I am an aging white male liberal you are right--but please do not also believe that means I have not paid my dues, been poor, escaped life's vicissitudes and rolled along merrily oblivious to misfortune, luck, hard work, discipline and the universe's whims.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. They were talking on an iPhone

Shouldn't they be using their Obama Phone?
posted by Room 641-A at 3:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


I do not think food subsidies should buy alcohol, tobacco,

They don't, and can't, so okay.

junk food, or highly processed foods etc

Please see a link above to a Dept. of Ag report about the difficulty of defining what "good" and "bad" are in terms of food.

those without means have as much responsibility to shop wisely and healthily as the working (non entitled) poor

Okay, so what is an effective way to do this? A financially effective way, if nothing else. One that doesn't cost more to enforce than allowing people on food stamps the ability to sometimes buy some cake.

I don't really care what people's "feelings" are about what strings should or should not be attached to TANF. If you (general you) can't come up with at least the outline of a workable policy - not just a string of words about personal responsibility bad parenting yadda yadda - then please just stop. If you can't come up with something that doesn't end up punishing children for the alleged sins of their parents, then please stop.
posted by rtha at 3:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


Perhaps we could just feed them Irish babies.

Spending tax dollars on fancy European food may be a dicey proposition with angry Republican voters, even if they are low in saturated fat.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:59 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Shouldn't they be using their Obama Phone?

Depends on the audience for that one. If it's a right wing e-mail chain go ahead and add it, if telling the legend to your liberal friends on Facebook you have to skip it because they will point out the history of the program.

Please see a link above to a Dept. of Ag report about the difficulty of defining what "good" and "bad" are in terms of food.


Yeah, look, liberals believe in regulating food safety and drugs in general. If something is unsafe, they want the public to know about it. If junk food and highly processed food are not safe to be worked into a healthy diet, that's a general problem to address. Not just for the poor. You are going to get a lot of pushback from leftists on singling out the poor for regulation. Why not instead try a national advertising and education program to get everyone to reduce their intake to safer levels?
posted by Drinky Die at 4:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


For people wondering about the brown eggs, milk sizes, and other silly provisions: I don't have any knowledge about this particular legislation, but if the politics are at all similar to my state(s), what likely happened is that once the bill became something that either couldn't pass or couldn't hold, then it was basically moot, at which point there was no reason not to collect goodwill by saying yes to every outlandish request from lobbyists and special interests. "You want us to prohibit those nasty, foul, out-of-state dairy farmers? Sure, why not."

If the bill is going to be struck down anyway, then you're just saying no for no good reason. Politicians don't get re-elected by saying no.
posted by cribcage at 4:05 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been so poor that I've had to eat a can of tuna fish and make it last for three days, with nothing else to supplement it. I remember the days when a package of ramen noodles was a luxury. I never received government assistance or asked for it. I simply made do with what I had. Had I the option of purchasing food for a family reunion or feeding myself and my loved ones, I'd have chosen to spend those precious funds on food that would do quite a bit more good than a sheet cake and fried chicken.

I'm a little surprised by the hostility expressed over my opinion.


Perhaps I can explain a little bit better.

When you're poor for your entire life, only eating x, y, and z can literally make you want to just die anyway. It's different when you've 'been poor' and when you know you're going to be poor for the rest of your life.

People think the 'poor' are only poor for a little while. We're trained in America to believe that poor is just a stop on the way to success. Well a lot of people don't get success. They rely on benefits until the day they die. Should they never have fried chicken or cake?

The other side is that these people also have to go long stretches often without any food at all. So when they actually get the food stamps/benefits, they want to go crazy and eat things that taste good.

There's a saying about judging a man before walking a mile in his shoes, etc.
posted by Malice at 4:06 PM on May 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


Please see a link above to a Dept. of Ag report about the difficulty of defining what "good" and "bad" are in terms of food.

oh please. if this were any other thread, you'd have a chorus of people detailing just how deep in bed with cargill/monsanto/carhartt etc. the dept. of ag is. the american food industry is very good at getting their commodities into your intestines. the problem is that everyone's diet is basically shit. "middle class" people eat billions of dollars of processed food with industrial scale inputs of sugar, flour, fat etc.... they just pay more for them than what some schlub pays for a sheet cake from walmart. the dept. of ag.s purpose is to keep as big a stream of agricultural commodities flowing through your gullet as you can stand.

that's the whole irony of this. the GRARR patrol is going to fight it's hardest to keep billions of dollars of government money flowing into cargill/monsanto/walmart's bottom-line, but there isn't any constituency for creating a basic level of socialism/welfare in this country.

do you think anyone would vote to spend tax money keeping three generations of drug addicts eating cheetos while they live together in squalor? that's what thousands of towns look like across this country. there's nothing noble about that sort of poverty, nothing sympathetic.

food stamps continue to exist to pad walmart's bottom line, not because anyone actually cares about poor people.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:07 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


If we're considering right-wing-ish proposals that might actually be good ideas, I'll propose that guns and ammunition seized by police should be redistributed to the poor. Those poor neighborhoods have crime problems that require so much police intervention because they cannot afford the weapons to protect themselves.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


do you think anyone would vote to spend tax money keeping three generations of drug addicts eating cheetos while they live together in squalor? that's what thousands of towns look like across this country. nope and nope.

Well, personally, I want them eating something. I'd rather spring for better housing and better food, but apparently my evil socialist streak is a bit much for American politics.
posted by hoyland at 4:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the record, I do not think food subsidies should buy alcohol, tobacco, junk food, or highly processed foods etc

Alcohol: Alcohol wholesaling is a lucrative, concentrated industry that reaps enormous benefits from policies whose costs are spread out across the general public. How The (Finally-Ended) Corn Ethanol Subsidy Made Us Fatter
Tobacco: Tobacco Transition Payment Program, which is designed to get farmers away from planting tobacco.
Junk Food: Billions In Tax Dollars Subsidize Junk Food Industry
Processed Food: Corn Subsidies Make Unhealthy Food Choices The Rational Ones

Report: Most Taxpayer Money Subsidizes Junk Food - "From 1995 to 2011, $18.2 billion went to subsidies for junk food additives compared to $637 million for apples, according to CALPIRG"

Please note, these subsidies were not to purchase these products, but rather to produce them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


do you think anyone would vote to spend tax money keeping three generations of drug addicts eating cheetos while they live together in squalor?

You're right. There are tons of people who do this.

And there are tons of people who don't. Who need it. Are you going to forsake the ones who do just because others take advantage of it?
posted by Malice at 4:11 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're right. There are tons of people who do this.

And there are tons of people who don't. Who need it. Are you going to forsake the ones who do just because others take advantage of it?


You are making the same argument as the Republicans: food stamps are for the noble, deserving poor. But, the poor aren't laboring away in satanic mills; they are surplus people. They are ignorant, fat, on drugs, mean, fighting with each other all day, and producing children they could care fuck-all about. They eat badly because they don't know better and don't give a fuck.

The same people who wax poetic about the deserving poor, would never let their children go to school with them much less actually fight to feed them. The people who are fighting for SNAP are big agriculture and walmart.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:23 PM on May 8, 2013


I seriously have no idea what point you are trying to make .bz.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:25 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


You are making the same argument as the Republicans: food stamps are for the noble, deserving poor. But, the poor aren't laboring away in satanic mills; they are surplus people. They are ignorant, fat, on drugs, mean, fighting with each other all day, and producing children they could care fuck-all about. They eat badly because they don't know better and don't give a fuck.

The same people who wax poetic about the deserving poor, would never let their children go to school with them much less actually fight to feed them. The people who are fighting for SNAP are big agriculture and walmart.


I don't know where you got that idea off of my quote. I'm not arguing about deserving poor. I basically said why would you remove food stamps because a few people take advantage?
posted by Malice at 4:27 PM on May 8, 2013


I really think making nasty overgeneralizations about poor people is a bad way to move forward with this thread and I suggest you try a different tack ennui.bz.
posted by jessamyn at 4:28 PM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


You are making the same argument as the Republicans: food stamps are for the noble, deserving poor. But, the poor aren't laboring away in satanic mills; they are surplus people. They are ignorant, fat, on drugs, mean, fighting with each other all day, and producing children they could care fuck-all about. They eat badly because they don't know better and don't give a fuck.

Maybe they are on the same bell curve that all humans are on, neither universally saints nor sinners.
posted by jaduncan at 4:32 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really think making nasty overgeneralizations about poor people is a bad way to move forward with this thread...

i'm trying to make a point. if you want the politics of food stamps to be about helping the poor, then you have to make a case for giving your money to people who are not in any way sympathetic. you can't just sit in your echo chamber with this fantasy of noble, hard-working people struggling to get by.

which is why the republicans *win* when they make food stamps about helping the poor rather than building a basic level of welfare (for everyone) in this country.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:34 PM on May 8, 2013


"i'm trying to make a point. if you want the politics of food stamps to be about helping the poor, then you have to make a case for giving your money to people who are not in any way sympathetic. you can't just sit in your echo chamber with this fantasy of noble, hard-working people struggling to get by. "

There's no good way to design a system that only rewards the deserving without punishing some unfairly. So you have to accept helping the underserving, unsympathetic poor as part of the broader policy goal.

That said, you're making a moderately consensus point in a way that makes you come across as a tremendous asshole and you're getting people's backs up who might otherwise agree with you, if not for the tremendous asshole part.
posted by klangklangston at 4:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


then you have to make a case for giving your money to people who are not in any way sympathetic

We could call this position "pro-life."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:40 PM on May 8, 2013


(my second point is that programs like "food stamps" and the earned income credit are designed, politically, precisely as as wedges against a basic level of socialism in this country.)
posted by ennui.bz at 4:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


>: "To play devils advocate somewhat, how would you pay for an increase to these programs? And it has to be something politically viable, anything that has no traction won't count."

This is loading the die; there are large portions of the the people who vote who don't want the government to pay for anything.

>: "There are to many examples to go through but I would point out the "government benefits are not the purpose of government""

What other possible purpose could (democratic) government have but benefits to the people they govern.

>: "If we're considering right-wing-ish proposals that might actually be good ideas, I'll propose that guns and ammunition seized by police should be redistributed to the poor. Those poor neighborhoods have crime problems that require so much police intervention because they cannot afford the weapons to protect themselves."

There's the solution to the places that are prohibited by law from destroying firearms obtained via buy back programs.
posted by Mitheral at 4:45 PM on May 8, 2013


That said, you're making a moderately consensus point in a way that makes you come across as a tremendous asshole and you're getting people's backs up who might otherwise agree with you, if not for the tremendous asshole part.

direct income support is a wedge against actually building small-s socialism in this country.

but, it's like liberals actually want to lose these political fights. BrianJ above actually voiced the moderate consensus opinion in this country when he said that seeing someone buying cake and fried chicken at walmart with EBT made him feel bad. saying, nuh-uh, i know some good people who are on food stamps is just acknowledging that no one actually wants to see people buying soda and chips on the public dime. which is to say that you will lose this fight.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:47 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


i'm trying to make a point. if you want the politics of food stamps to be about helping the poor, than it you have to make a case for giving your money to people are not in any way sympathetic. you can't just sit in your echo chamber with this fantasy of noble, hard-working people struggling to get by.

OK. The USA is too rich a country to allow even assholes to starve, and if people have no income denying them foodstamps is abandoning them to malnutrition at the least.

It seems an obvious choice. Do we want to pay the small cost to provide food, or the larger cost in eventual unpaid ER care/Medicare for health issues, higher rates of mental illess and abuse due to stress, lower educational achievement (and eventual taxes from) children and/or imprisonment when those same people go out to steal rather than have empty bellies?

As I said earlier, removing more from poor people isn't even even a matter of saving money.
posted by jaduncan at 4:48 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


they are ignorant, fat, on drugs, mean, fighting with each other all day, and producing children they could care fuck-all about.

in short, they're just like rich people, only without the money
posted by pyramid termite at 4:49 PM on May 8, 2013 [27 favorites]


OK. The USA is too rich a country to allow even assholes to starve, and if people have no income denying them foodstamps is abandoning them to malnutrition at the least.

Do you want to pay the small cost to provide food, or the larger cost in eventual unpaid ER care/Medicare for health issues, higher rates of mental illess and abuse due to stress, lower educational achievement (and eventual taxes from) children and/or imprisonment when those same people go out to steal rather than have empty bellies?


Have you not been losing this political fight since 1980?

in short, they're just like rich people, only without the money

exactly. we hate most what we recognize in ourselves.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:50 PM on May 8, 2013


But, the poor aren't laboring away in satanic mills; they are surplus people. They are ignorant, fat, on drugs, mean, fighting with each other all day, and producing children they could care fuck-all about. They eat badly because they don't know better and don't give a fuck.

As they said about the Irish during the Great Famine.

(Incidently, did y'all know that during the famine, Ireland got food aid from a group of Chocktaw people, only a decade and a half after the Trial of Tears?)
posted by MartinWisse at 4:51 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


"saying, nuh-uh, i know some good people who are on food stamps is just acknowledging that no one actually wants to see people buying soda and chips on the public dime. which is to say that you will lose this fight."

That's an unsupported inference. What it's saying is that people can buy soda and chips on the public dime and still be part of the population it's supposed to serve, i.e. it's the judgmentalism rather than the purchase that is the locus of the problem. It's a refutation of the underlying assumption that people can accurately judge what other people buy.

And all of that is something you haven't connected to socialism very well at all.
posted by klangklangston at 4:52 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, the poor aren't laboring away in satanic mills; they are surplus people.

Also, I'm afraid that as a body they very much are employed and labouring away. Most people recieving food stamps are employed, meaning that SNAP is often effectively a subsidy to terrible employers.
posted by jaduncan at 4:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Most people recieving food stamps are employed

The majority of SNAP recipients are children or the elderly.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


you can't just sit in your echo chamber with this fantasy of noble, hard-working people struggling to get by.

i take it you've never lived in a small midwestern city full of failing factories and people struggling to get by on jobs that pay just a couple of bucks an hour over minimum wage

i've not only known plenty of these "fantastical" people, i WAS one of them

it must have been all those echoes from abandoned factories that made me think it was real
posted by pyramid termite at 4:59 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


you can't just sit in your echo chamber with this fantasy of noble, hard-working people struggling to get by.

PRO-JEC-TION
posted by invitapriore at 5:02 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Spending tax dollars on fancy European food may be a dicey proposition with angry Republican voters, even if they are low in saturated fat.

Full-term babies are 10-12% fat. Hardly a pork loin, if you know what I mean.
posted by pullayup at 5:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


First of all, let me just say that I live in Wisconsin and have been looking around for a little more reading material on this, so thanks very much for the post.

Second, the bill itself: I understand why they'd want to use the WIC rules as a baseline. Classifying each item in the store as either "junk" or "healthy" is a task too impossible for even a pretend bill to propose. But it's still not a good way to do things.

The WIC guidelines are pretty complicated (speaking from my experience being on the program, new checkers tend to have quite a bit of difficulty figuring out what's an "allowed" WIC item) and very, very specific. These eight foods, this brand, this size. And that's perfectly fine, because what it is intended to do is provide a certain monthly package of supplemental nutrition to each woman and child on the program. What it is not in any way designed to do is define the boundaries of an acceptable diet.

They've added meats to the list, but even so -- I'm a healthy shopper and an exceptionally frugal one and I think I'd have a hard time constructing a month of menus using 2/3 WIC foods.
posted by gerstle at 5:10 PM on May 8, 2013


The goddamn richest country in the world, supposedly, but it's alright to let a sixth of its population live in mindnumbing poverty

Hey know what's funny? Like super hilarious? Lots of the people on welfare in the US are working very slightly less than full time hours. At Wal-Mart. And they still can't make enough money to eat. And none of them have health insurance. I'm not SAYING that those bloodsucking shitbags at Wal-Mart are destroying this country but it kind of seems like maybe those bloodsucking shitbags at Wal-Mart are totally fucking destroying this country.

and by funny i mean SET FIRES WITH YOUR MIND AKJSDHAFG
posted by elizardbits at 5:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [31 favorites]


Wait I thought it was us privileged lefties who are destroying the country or is it the gays getting married? I need a flowchart.
posted by rtha at 5:12 PM on May 8, 2013


it's me

it's just me

i did the thing
posted by elizardbits at 5:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am a mid 20's male with a foster son for whom my wife and I receive a couple of WIC checks a month. We could afford to feed him/ourselves without the WIC checks, but hey the state doesn't give us that much money for housing/feeding this little guy and I prefer not to hemorrhage too much money every month, so what the hell, every bit helps. The sheer contempt that has been displayed towards my wife, and to a lesser extent myself, for using the WIC checks is amazing. At this point my wife now refuses to use the checks because of how the cashiers at the store and the people in line behind her have made her feel. Glares and even comments towards us for simply buying the cheese, milk, eggs, whole grain cereal, and fresh produce that we receive vouchers for.

I am for the most part shameless and was initially buffered a bit by the fact that I could give fuck all about what most other people think. That said random people have still managed to make me feel like shit for using them. It's certainly not everyone, or even most, but every once in a while some incredulous prick will make sure to get their point across. It's been an truly eye opening experience.
posted by Quack at 5:15 PM on May 8, 2013 [26 favorites]


i take it you've never lived in a small midwestern city full of failing factories and people struggling to get by on jobs that pay just a couple of bucks an hour over minimum wage

I live in a dead new england mill town. the failing factories have been dead for 40 years. the town is made up of very liberal people who live in cool houses in the woods and people who don't have the wherewithal to leave. the local schools are dying because the very liberal people won't send their kids to school with the kids of the "other" people. i am living on food stamps in part because i have children and in part because I can't find a steady job.

That's an unsupported inference. What it's saying is that people can buy soda and chips on the public dime and still be part of the population it's supposed to serve, i.e. it's the judgmentalism rather than the purchase that is the locus of the problem. It's a refutation of the underlying assumption that people can accurately judge what other people buy.

of course, it has nothing to do with what's actually being purchased. the "soda and chips" or "cake and fried chicken" are a polite way of saying that you aren't sympathetic with the class of people. just like everyone is middle class, no one is poor, it's just those people over there who are.

so when you say foodstamps are for poor people you are... ad infinitum.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the streets of Wisconsin were paved with cheese.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used to be judgmental about SNAP recipients, but now I am anything but. Allow me to explain. For the past two years, I've shopped almost exclusively at Aldi. This is in large part due to personal decisions I made to adjust my work life/family life balance, which cut into my income quite dramatically (I used to be a high-paid big-firm lawyer; now I am just a lawyer getting by.) But this is not about me.

Anyway, as you could imagine, many of my fellow Aldi shoppers are SNAP and WIC recipients. There is no hiding it; when you check out, the LCD screen shows in 2-inch tall letters "FOOD STAMP" as means of payment, so even if I were not being a snooper (which, I have to admit, I am), it would be hard NOT to notice how folks ahead of me in line are paying.

OK, then. I've seen a LOT of junk food, processed food, and entire orders lacking ANY raw food or vegetables being purchased by SNAP recipients at my Aldi. By the same token, I have seen a LOT of vegetables, cooking ingredients, low-fat milk, whole-wheat bread, etc. being purchased by AT LEAST as many other shoppers utilizing SNAP or WIC benefits.

It took me a while, and some conscious observation and even counting of "good" vs. "bad" SNAP shoppers before I came to recognize a couple of important points (beyond the fact that my observations were highly unscientific): (1) at least half and maybe more than half the SNAP-purchased food was "good" nutritious non-junk food; (2) many SNAP/WIC users intentionally will separate out some "special" junk food, prepared food, etc. to purchase using cash; (3) Aldi sells a LOT of junk food; as a percentage of shelf space it's probably >33%; and (4) on average, I have been buying probably 25% MORE junk food than even the "worst" SNAP junk-food mavens, although I do so from the "moral high ground" of having paid with cash that I earned doing law stuff. And, I rarely see any of my Aldi friends buying just junk/processed foods (other than myself, of course). Also, all of them are working families, and this (west end of otherwise Hipster Logan Square) is by no means anywhere near the battle zone/food desert type neighborhoods in other parts of Chicago, but definitely everybody seems to need and appreciate the benefits they are utilizing, including the benefit of a cheap grocery store offering a wide range of really good-quality foods, like Aldi does.

Another realization I've had is that while, yes, SNAP and WIC recipients are utilizing direct monetary handouts to feed themselves, I really have it pretty easy, and they really do not. Yes, I put in my dues over the past 25 years getting my various degrees and working at the big law firms billing all those thousands of hours; but the payoff is that I now am considered enough of an expert that people willingly pay me amounts ranging from 5X to 25X the national minimum wage just to read a document and mark it up, or have a phone call with my brain working at 75% of capacity. After that, I submit my invoices, get paid, and I get to relax, shop at Aldi, read MeFi, or whatever. A whole, long series of events and circumstances and planning by my parents and myself over the past 46 years brought me to where I am, but that was coming from a position where I had those choices pretty well handed to me. I begrudge nobody anything they are receiving from SNAP or WIC; they really ought to get more, and the income requirements probably ought to be loosened, too.

Sorry for the rambling.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [28 favorites]


I just. The US Govt uses our tax dollars for far fucking worse things than a fucking bag of doritos. And those are the people we voted for. The people we chose to support.

Get a fucking grip, America.
posted by elizardbits at 5:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


I just. The US Govt uses our tax dollars for far fucking worse things than a fucking bag of doritos. And those are the people we voted for. The people we chose to support.

Get a fucking grip, America.


Maybe they should pretend they don't enjoy those Doritos. Act like it's punishment, and then they'll have to buy them.
posted by Malice at 5:30 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think ennui has a good point in that there is a minority of poor people (say, uneducated drug addicts having kids they cannot support and do not parent and who have no intention of ever entering the workforce) who appear extremely unsympathetic (they may actually be quite sympathetic, but the appearance is different). The liberal challenge is to frame an appeal to Americans regarding welfare programs that treats this class of people in a way that is as clear and emotionally compelling as the straightforward contempt the Republicans sell and yet which is more humane.
posted by shivohum at 5:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


But, the poor aren't laboring away in satanic mills; they are surplus people. They are ignorant, fat, on drugs, mean, fighting with each other all day, and producing children they could care fuck-all about.

What. The fuck. Is wrong with you? Surplus people? Listen to yourself. You sound like a monster.

People are not a resource, a means to economic growth. People are an end.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Classifying each item in the store as either "junk" or "healthy" is a task too impossible for even a pretend bill to propose. (emphasis mine)

While we are all earnestly trying to make sense of this and reacting in disbelief it bears repeating that this is a pretend bill. It makes no sense because it is not intended to make sense because this is not a rational bill that was introduced -- even by people you might disagree with -- to solve any actual problem or help any people.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:00 PM on May 8, 2013


I am a sociology professor in Wisconsin, and in a class discussion of this topic, the large majority of my students totally bought the argument that if "we" are providing people with "handouts," then "we" have every right to be sure they don't spend them on "bad things."

I asked students to raise their hand if they had not purchased candy, packaged snack foods, coffee or fast food in the past 24 hours. Three students in a class of 175 raised their hands. I then asked them to raise their hands if they were receiving student grants or loans. Almost all the hands went up. So I pointed out that almost all of them were receiving a federal subsidy that went into their bank accounts, and buying things they had categorized five minutes ago as "bad."

Mostly, students reacted by attempting to distinguish middle class "entitlements" as prosocial and entirely different from "welfare," so I don't know that too much empathy was gained, though some did at least become nervous about the idea that as recipients of a benefit, they might themselves become the objects of moralizing interventionism.

The myth that there are whole (brown) swaths of the population living easy on handouts while the middle class sweats and struggles to pay their own way is just very deeply ingrained here among white folks in America's Dairyland.
posted by DrMew at 6:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [49 favorites]


"The liberal challenge is to frame an appeal to Americans regarding welfare programs that treats this class of people in a way that is as clear and emotionally compelling as the straightforward contempt the Republicans sell and yet which is more humane."

Because odds are that you have either needed assistance or know someone who has needed assistance and if we fuck up assistance to punish the "bad poors," then we fuck it up for YOU and YOURS. It's enlightened self-interest. (Combined with the general economic argument that you lose more productivity by allowing people to bottom out than you do by providing a safety net, but that's not as much of a grabber.)

We are all Americans. Trying to fuck over some of us ends up fucking over all of us.
posted by klangklangston at 6:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Reminds me of an anecdote in John Waters' memoirs about way back when he bought cocktail shrimps with food stamps, and everyone in the checkout line snarled out at him. He said something like: we have to live a little sometimes, even if we're poor. A swell party...
posted by ovvl at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because odds are that you have either needed assistance or know someone who has needed assistance and if we fuck up assistance to punish the "bad poors," then we fuck it up for YOU and YOURS. It's enlightened self-interest.

Right, but as ennui.bz has been saying (if anyone would actually bother to read his comments), the (putative) American left has been making that exact argument for 30 years, and losing. The actual problem is that food is a commodity that requires money to purchase, and this squabbling about "how much money should we rich people give to poor people to buy food" does nothing to actually approach solving the problem.
posted by junco at 6:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


My wife received an amazing level of government assistance in college, all because her father, a Korean War vet who was really just a Chaplain's assistant typing letters, was against the odds injured by an incoming shell enough to technically qualify his children for veteran's rate tuition at Indiana University (he has about 25% limited movement in one of his thumbs; no kidding, that is his disability). Because of this benefit, my wife was charged something like $15/credit hour for her entire undergraduate education at IU (she graduated in the class of 1984, for those doing the math). So, her tuition was something like $2,400 for four years of college, although she (i.e., her parents) did have to pay full freight for her room and board. She then went on to get an MFA in theater, because she could, and she worked hard at that dream, as well as many other day jobs - jobs for which she was qualified because of the cheap college education she got based on government handouts that were arguably not justified. I bring this up just because it may be easy to get too upset about people spending SNAP dollars on consumables like cake if we don't consider the broader context of how - and to whom - the U.S. government and various State governments give all kinds of extremely valuable benefits, just not direct food benefits. My parents both grew up in the Depression (they had kids late in life), so I know what depridation was like when there were no SNAP benefits available; kids - including my own parents - were malnourished. I am a full 8 inches taller than either of my parents and have had perfect teeth all my life, even though I share all their genes, and they are (were, in the case of my deceased mother) little shrimps with horrible teeth, the result of malnutrition as they grew up in the Depression. Just to say, let's get some perspective on this. My grandparents would have been THRILLED to have some money to spend on Cheetos for their kids.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 6:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


For the past two years, I've shopped almost exclusively at Aldi.

i shop a lot at save-a-lot and your observations are similar to mine
posted by pyramid termite at 6:37 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unrelated note: each B2 Spirit costs $1.2 billion.
posted by jaduncan at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Government assistance isn't "the taxpayer's money." Our share of our society is our birthright; snap isn't charity or a hand up, it's an inadequately small attempt to restore to the poor the resources that have been stolen from us.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Unrelated note: each B2 Spirit costs $1.2 billion.

yeah, but they're not allowed sharp cheddar cheese, either
posted by pyramid termite at 6:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even the bill's lead sponsor, state Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) ...

Neenah. Neenah. Neenah-Neenah-Neenah.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


the list of excluded foods is bizarre enough to make anyone question the utility of this sort of intervention, and I say that being someone who favors the idea in theory.
Nope, no organic peanut butter poor people.
posted by dougiedd at 6:46 PM on May 8, 2013


Moreover, and I admit it's not like people are particularly worried about my opinion, but really I have trouble taking seriously anyone who refers to the working poor as "them" instead of "us." If you're using the third-person pronoun, you don't know what you're talking about.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:47 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just feel I need to add another data point here. My mother grew up malnourished on a family farm during the Depression. Thinks like milk and eggs were sold for money to pay electric bills and for diesel to run the tractor; they rarely ate those things. Also, my mother had to milk those fucking cows into a bucket, and gather those eggs, and 100 other chores. Sure, they did not starve on a farm, but it's worth noting that even a family "doing it right" by actually running a working farm could not properly feed or provide adequate health/dental care to its kids (i.e., my mother and her sister). So, there is no reason to judge the recipients of SNAP and WIC. Sure, there are some hopeless cases out there who laugh at us as they blow their subsidies on Cheetos, send their children into the street, then go hang at the club or whatever (*irony marker*), but I think most are trying to get out of the subsidy trap, or at least have no reason not to want out, and are also grateful for having the subsidy (which, again, my parents and grandparents had to suffer without, WHICH WAS BAD and WRONG). I really don't get the feeling that any of my fellow Aldi shoppers are pulling anything over on anybody.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:16 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think ennui has a good point in that there is a minority of poor people (say, uneducated drug addicts having kids they cannot support and do not parent and who have no intention of ever entering the workforce) who appear extremely unsympathetic (they may actually be quite sympathetic, but the appearance is different). The liberal challenge is to frame an appeal to Americans regarding welfare programs that treats this class of people in a way that is as clear and emotionally compelling as the straightforward contempt the Republicans sell and yet which is more humane.
I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.'

But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving.

What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I'm playing straight with you. I ain't pretending to be deserving. I'm undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that's the truth.
Alfred Doolittle says that in Pygmalion. Written by George Bernard Shaw, a dedicated socialist. They made a toothless musical version of which you may have heard but the play is really worth reading for the critique of class structure.

Also, I think paying close enough attention to the other people in the grocery store to be able to inventory what is in their cart and how they're paying, means one needs to find better things to do with one's time and mental energy. I can barely pay attention to what is in my own cart, let alone spy on other people's like a creepy curtain-twitching neighbor.

Although I was born poor, live poor, and will die poor so I never learned the middle class Babbitry of minding other people's business for them. I'm starting to think that the degree to which someone thinks they are entitled to judge how poor people spend their money and time is an easy way to determine the social class of any given first world person. Along with people conflating being poor in college with actually being poor, naturally.
posted by winna at 7:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


Gee, winna, sorry to have offended you with my observational post about how I interact with and observe my neighbors when we all go shopping at our neighborhood cheap grocery store. I've never before been called "a creepy curtain-twitching neighbor," but I guess there is a first time for everything, and you've nailed me. Yes, I am guilty; I took time to observe what other folks in the line at Aldi were buying (but have you ever waited in a line at Aldi? They are SLOW. Very slow and understaffed.) Regarding my observations of how they pay, well, as I thought I made pretty clear by TYPING IT OUT, the video cashier displays at Aldi show "FOOD STAMP" in 2-inch high letters when somebody pays with SNAP or WIC funds. It is not exactly spying to see that. I'll be sure to demurely avert my eyes from that going forward, lest I become more of a Babbit than I already am. Although I thought I did a good job of expressing my attitude - now, after making those observations - that it matters not a bit to me how SNAP recipients spend their money.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 8:27 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have waited at Aldi quite frequently. I have also never bothered to look at other people's checkout process pretty much ever. You admit you're a snooper, so perhaps averting your eyes might actually be something you would want to look into. I know if I happened to notice someone behind me in line actually paying attention while I was checking out I'd think they were being odd.

And your comment, while certainly not the most annoying 'let me talk about the poors I have seen in the wild' in the thread, might have been less so if you'd managed not humblebrag like crazy in that last paragraph about how much money you make and how you don't even bother to work all that hard to make it.
posted by winna at 8:38 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


[wrap it up folks.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:45 PM on May 8, 2013


In conclusion, poverty is a land of contrasts.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:47 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Man, humanity is a land of contrasts.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:56 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's me

it's just me

i did the thing


Folks, I think we have our next MeFi tshirt.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:57 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


deep down inside we are all lemongrab
posted by elizardbits at 9:03 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Riki tiki: "The real flaws are that there are too many people who need assistance"

I just think the truth is there is less work out there, period. There's no way you can have an ever increasing level of productivity, a growing population, and an increasing participation in the world economy by developing countries, and not eventually reach a point where there just isn't enough work to go around for everyone. Not to mention that it's pretty routine now that jobs requiring unskilled labor are absolutely dying out leaving people in extremely low-paying positions.

I don't think there is a solution -- from the Democrats or the Republicans -- that is looking at the very real possibility that in 10 or 20 years we will have a large percentage of people out of work not because they are lazy or because the economy is bad but simply because no work exists for them to do. And at that point, we need to decide what our attitude towards a structural non-working population. I'm not overly optimistic about it.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they're really using the WIC list as the determining factor for "healthy" here, some weird consequences flow from that.

I looked at that list and started thinking about things I could make with those foods. Perhaps start by cooking some of my fresh veggies. But then I realized that, in addition to the prohibition on spices and flavorings noted above, there is also no mention of oil or butter. So apparently, I am steaming all of these vegetables?

OK, so maybe I get a bit of oil from someplace and decide to stir fry the vegetables. Without soy sauce or any other flavorings? Maybe I can get a lemon?

You don't have tomato sauce, or any combination of ingredients that would allow you to make tomato sauce, but that's okay, because you also don't have pasta, even whole wheat pasta, that you could put it on.

This is a program that has decided that it's cool for us to eat Frosted Mini Wheats, because those are healthy, but that we can't have flour tortillas or english muffins of any kind. And has anyone ever seen string cheese packaged in such a way that it is "not individually wrapped"?

And that's assuming that most of the stuff on this list is available at the store I shop at. A shiny new grocery store just opened around the corner from my house this week, and this is the first time I've been able to get anything other than candy and frozen pizza from a "food store" I didn't have to take the bus to get to, because the only other food stores in my neighborhood are convenience stores.

I'm not so focused on the specific problems of this list. I understand that they still have 1/3 of their WIC money to buy pasta and tortillas and cooking oil if they need those things. But this is emblematic of a bigger problem: we suck at micromanaging other people's lives for them. Most of us are pretty good at planning our own lives most of the time. Some of us can even do pretty well sitting down one-on-one with another person and helping that person plan his or her life. And governments, when there's the political will to demand anti-poverty programs at all, are pretty good at making sure that people who are supposed to get a check in the mail to help make them less poor actually get that check every month. But when you have a committee of government officials attempting to plan out what millions of families they've never met, across the state, are going to have for dinner? They're terrible at it.

I am half hoping and half dreading the Wisconsin politician who, to prove that these restrictions are tenable, offers to live under them for a week. We just need to make sure to remind him that he can't use the spices or cooking oil or condiments of any kind that are already in his house, because basic ingredients are luxury goods for which the poor must scrimp and save so that we can protect them from abusing black pepper and canola oil.
posted by decathecting at 9:33 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Deathalicious: "And at that point, we need to decide what our attitude towards a structural non-working population. I'm not overly optimistic about it."

Raging (Again) Against the Robots
Such android anxiety has a long history. John Maynard Keynes wrote about “technological unemployment” during the Great Depression. In the Industrial Revolution, disgruntled laborers — including the original Luddites — smashed automated looms and threshing machines that “stole” their jobs. In the 15th century, scribes protested the printing press, with a futile zeal rivaled perhaps only by that of modern journalists.

Even Aristotle foretold that automation would expunge the need for labor, observing that if “the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.”

[...]

In hindsight, historical fears of technological change look foolish, given that automation has increased living standards and rendered our workweeks both safer and shorter. In 1900, when nearly half the American labor force was employed in backbreaking agriculture, the typical worker logged 2,300 hours a year, according to Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University. Today that number is 1,800. (If you believe “The Jetsons,” by 2062 we’ll be working only two hours a week; Keynes had similar forecasts.)

That said, creative destruction is undoubtedly painful. Historically, the children of displaced workers have benefited from mechanization, but the displaced workers themselves have often been permanently passé.
The Myth of Technological Unemployment
In 2012, a lot of firms employed a lot of new labor-saving technology in order to increase profits. That's true. But the same happened in 1992 and 1972 and 1952 and, for that matter, 1852. But whenever you have a prolonged labor market downturn, the salience of this fact increases and you start hearing more and more talk about how there isn't as much need for workers anymore because of mechanization. In the contemporary context, people often use the word robots in this context because mechanization is obviously a trend that's been going on for more than 200 years so robots makes it sound more plausible that something new has happened recently.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:37 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Part of the problem in the US right now isn't just that factories are changing, it's that they are moving to the other side of the world. A larger proportion of the brainy jobs may stay here for a while but that can't last forever and quite frankly they aren't for everyone no matter how good your education system. That's a whole other thread though I guess.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:50 PM on May 8, 2013


I grew up on AFDC from the day I was born til' I was 16 years old and left home. Back then (early-mid 70s), you could buy almost anything with food stamps. You didn't get change back either. You got a slip of paper with the amount left over, scrawled on it. Growing up, it didn't bother me that much. I used to steal the food stamps from my mom's purse, go buy 5 packs of 'Now and Laters' and I was The Shit at my school for the day. As I grew older, it became more and more embarrassing to me. Partly because I was a teenager but also because I saw how rich people or middle class people lived and wondered why my family couldn't be like that.

Back then, when the AFDC check and food stamps arrived on the first of the month, it was fucking party time at my house. We'd buy name brand bread, lean meat, frozen pizzas and anything else that made us feel "rich" for a week or so. The last week of every month was always a nightmare. The food-stamps would run out and we'd be reduced to eating buttered or margarine noodles. It just crushed our spirits. Even though we were kids, we always knew our place in the world. That place was on the lowest wrung of society, hungry, beaten and having to wait again for aid. We didn't deserve any better. Not being able to provide food made us feel like utter failures at life. Except for the first week of every month.

Being poor and hungry was such a soul crushing experience. I really internalized it and still do to this day. Now that I'm older, have a wife, house an OK paying career, I can afford whatever food I like. After I stock my shelves, I still ask permission to eat my own food. I find myself always asking "Can I eat this..." or "Do you mind if..." before I prepare something for myself. Why? I feel ashamed that I'm eating someone else's share of the food. When I was a kid, if you tried to sneak food, you were beaten. It's this weird mental thing I still have and I'm 49 years old.

When I hear about things like this, I can only imagine it being dreamed up by people who have never been hungry or who, if they have, have forgotten what it felt like to be near starvation. People who forgot how losing your basic sense of dignity can really fuck you up. I can't help but think that a bunch of micro-managing, mealy mouthed shit-tunnels who know fuck-all about what it's like to be poor, are now on the verge of passing some bullshit rules about what one can and cannot eat.

If this becomes law, it'll be a joke. How will it be monitored and/or enforced? What if they decide to penalize a family? How is that done? "No more food for you!?" Once Wisconsin becomes the canary in the coalmine, what other states will follow suit? This is just a heap of shit with a lot of bad waiting to happen.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:29 PM on May 8, 2013 [29 favorites]


How did Beech Nut and Gerber come to be the only allowable brands of infant fruit/veg/meats and cereals?

Law is where you buy it.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:50 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I have waited at Aldi quite frequently. I have also never bothered to look at other people's checkout process pretty much ever. You admit you're a snooper, so perhaps averting your eyes might actually be something you would want to look into. I know if I happened to notice someone behind me in line actually paying attention while I was checking out I'd think they were being odd.

And your comment, while certainly not the most annoying 'let me talk about the poors I have seen in the wild' in the thread, might have been less so if you'd managed not humblebrag like crazy in that last paragraph about how much money you make and how you don't even bother to work all that hard to make it.
"

Hey, I'm also a born-poor, likely a die-poor. I also watch what other people buy because, hey, I'm curious. I buy weird combos of shit all the time so play the "Whaddaya gonna make with that?" game. Or if I was thinking about something that I hadn't tried before, I might ask the person next to me in line if they've tried it before.

And you've got to give people the ability to acknowledge that they've got a luxury if you want them to think about whether it's a fair one, and JimInLoganSquare seemed pretty aware of that. This is a thread where a lot of people are bringing a lot of baggage to the discussion, so people may be causing offense without meaning to.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


and by funny i mean SET FIRES WITH YOUR MIND AKJSDHAFG
posted by elizardbits at 7:10 PM

ima be straight, set fires with your hands imo
posted by p3on at 12:49 AM on May 9, 2013


Also I am fucking appalled by the ignorant racism inherent in disallowing the purchase of lactose-free milk without special permission.

Racism (typically tied to skin color) is now instead tied to genetic expression and cultural habits/selection* of tens of past relatives?

I look forward to tales of oppression and advantage given to the drinkers of milk and eaters of cheese over the consumers of soy cheese and almond milk due to the suckling at the tit of the heffer.

*I was going to call lactose intolerance a medical condition but its not that either. Unless milk-drinking without issues is to be considered normal and "correct" behaviour and anyone who has been weened from Milk as abnormal.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:48 AM on May 9, 2013


Also, I think paying close enough attention to the other people in the grocery store to be able to inventory what is in their cart and how they're paying, means one needs to find better things to do with one's time and mental energy.

like solipsism? - or yakking away on a cell-phone?

are you seriously arguing that we should be mindless revenants who wander through our lives without seeing anything around us? - do you really think that there are better things to do with one's time and mental energy than being present and mindful?

you're missing a lot
posted by pyramid termite at 2:30 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are the richest country in the world. Why is helping the poor such a problem?
posted by freakazoid at 3:54 AM on May 9, 2013


And has anyone ever seen string cheese packaged in such a way that it is "not individually wrapped"?

This is Wisconsin. We don't want wrappers to come between us and our cheese.
posted by desjardins at 4:25 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


i am single. i have one job. i've had only one job for a long time (i'm 34).

i know that finding enough time to make a "from scratch" dinner every day is pretty damn hard - there's prep, cooking, eating, then dishes. then i have an apt to take care of and laundry, and maybe, i don't know, sitting down and reading or exercising or watching tv.

i can't imagine trying to cook every freaking night for some kids after working all day and then having to keep an eye on them while cleaning up dishes and trying to pack lunches etc for the next day.

i am not going to tell someone who is trying to do all that that they have to make macaroni and cheese from scratch or that they can't buy rice pasta with dairy-free "cheese" because they have kids with allergies (hey - poor people and their kids can have food allergies too! maybe it's not even officially diagnosed because they don't have health insurance but they notice they feel better when going gluten or dairy free). (i just looked thru the pdf and i don't see anything addressing rice pasta or almond milk, but lactose free cheese is not allowed.)

way to take agency away from people.

also, i see you cannot buy nuts. that is nuts. this whole thing is nuts. small government my ass. THIS is nanny-state behavior. i thought they wanted LESS regulation...oh i get it - for corporations who are people not people who are people.

please pardon my rant. i'm going to go look at something funny now. grar.
posted by sio42 at 5:58 AM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Racism (typically tied to skin color) is now instead tied to genetic expression and cultural habits/selection* of tens of past relatives?

Don't be specious. Lactose tolerance as an adult is a condition which, throughout the world, is limited to primarily white people of European descent. Requiring those who cannot tolerate lactose, people who are primarily minorities (you know, those people who are not white? have you heard of them?), to request special permission to drink milk that they can digest, is appalling ignorance at the very best and gross racism at the worst.

I look forward to tales of oppression and advantage given to the drinkers of milk and eaters of cheese over the consumers of soy cheese and almond milk due to the suckling at the tit of the heffer.

I look forward to a lack of stupid racebaiting comments from you but I doubt that day will ever come.
posted by elizardbits at 6:37 AM on May 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


I look forward to tales of oppression and advantage given to the drinkers of milk and eaters of cheese

The Opium wars, the post WWII exemption from domestic law during the occupation of Japan, white-only clubs in Singapore and the Indian Raj. Have I done this correctly?
posted by jaduncan at 6:41 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are people who aren't white?!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:43 AM on May 9, 2013


It's actually worth taking this one step further, to the guaranteed minimum income for every

So something like Nixon was thinking about.

In reality, we subsidize the unhealthy foods like corn, sugar, wheat, meat, etc.

So what Nixon's Earl Butz implemented. (why not go read about Earl and his loose shoes comment)

why don't these busybodies similarly scrutinize the food (and drink!) bought with student loans?

Free VS loan. And that loan is not a normal one. It is a loan were you can't bankrupt your way out of, kind of like a tax debt so the ex-student gets to live with their choices.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:53 AM on May 9, 2013


This is actually a great idea. So much of the food on the supermarket shelves is junk. The higher up it's placed, the more likely it's junk. So this is really fomenting a revolution in the evaluation of food.

Of course the 2/3 specification creates a problem: I can imagine some slowdown at the checkout as half of that second bag of potato chips puts the selection over-the-line; the discussion of what to remove to compensate for that half-bag could become animated.
posted by Twang at 7:16 AM on May 9, 2013


Alfred Doolittle says that in Pygmalion. Written by George Bernard Shaw, a dedicated socialist. They made a toothless musical version of which you may have heard but the play is really worth reading for the critique of class structure.

I had forgotten that I read that play - and a bunch of other Shaw - when I was in my early teens. I loved that play! (And strangely, it was something we read initially for school in junior high, that was what turned me on to Shaw - although I suppose this supports my argument that literature that is about something other than interiority is very suitable for teens.)

Anyway! Now that I think about it, that play - and that line - must have been super-duper influential on me. I remember that line.
posted by Frowner at 7:18 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


they can't buy rice pasta with dairy-free "cheese" because they have kids with allergies .... but lactose free cheese is not allowed.

Allergies are different than lactose intolerance, you do understand that?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:25 AM on May 9, 2013


*I was going to call lactose intolerance a medical condition but its not that either. Unless milk-drinking without issues is to be considered normal and "correct" behaviour and anyone who has been weened from Milk as abnormal.

Your comment seems like it's addressed to adults, who can easily accommodate a dairy free life. However, many - if not most - of the WIC/SNAP beneficiaries are children. I have a child with lactose intolerance and while it's no hardship for me to pick and choose what he eats, if I had a government agency telling me suddenly that I couldn't buy lactose free milk for him because it's too expensive and I was otherwise burdened with arbitrary lists of things I couldn't buy, it would be a significant impediment to making sure he got enough calories/calcium/Omega3s/fat in a day. Milk is (for better or worse) absolutely central to the diets of many young children in the US. It is isn't "correct behavior" so much as the cultural norm for childhood nutrition.

Lactose intolerance for adults is NBD. For kids, it's much much trickier - especially if you don't have time/money/resources to find creative alternatives to milk.

(Yes, lots of families raise vegan kids without milk, but it takes significant planning that a lot of people don't have time/money for.)
posted by sonika at 7:48 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


[on student loans]

Free VS loan. And that loan is not a normal one. It is a loan were you can't bankrupt your way out of, kind of like a tax debt so the ex-student gets to live with their choices.

Government assistance in the form of federal student loans comes with societal cost and risk, viz. the greater economic harm resulting from defaulted student loans. According to the logic of the food stamp busybodies, we should be more, not less, interested in the spending habits of college students who use government assistance in the form of federal student loans, as the food stamp program generates economic growth, whereas there is an ever-looming, ever-worsening student debt crisis that is already generating real economic harm.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:03 AM on May 9, 2013


The flip side: I am not, nor have I ever been on any assistance. But I support assistance. I believe there should be MORE of it, but that's my view of Christianity.
I do all my shopping at Aldi's. I LOVE Aldi's. The Germans did something right there.
Aldi's has everything you could want in a grocery store (minus produce) but the catch is that there aren't 17 different brand choices. If you want peanuts you can get the 1.5lb jar of peanuts, salted or not, but only one brand. blah..blah...blah....something something great Aldi's is.
Locally the Aldi's tends to have LOADS of families, most-from what I can speculate by observation are on some sort of assistance, as they are not out at the many fancy Bistro Markets we have around town. My SO and I, when we are lucky, show up at the grocery store, pick out everything in the store that we want, price be damned, and end up at the checkout with a overflowed cart. Not many people there are lucky enough to do that. Not many indead. The cashier is always the same-small town-and when I go to pay, using my DEBT card, she always ask EBT? to which I say no, and enter my pin #. It's always approved and my SO and I are ready to bag our grocery's ourselves-(as that's one of the ways Aldi's saves money-that and no cart-boys. If you want a cart/buggy you pay 25 cents and get it back when you return the cart.) My point is: I use Aldi's because it makes the most sense to me, but you honestly wouldn't believe the looks (imagined or not) from the other customers in the store when I freely paid $220.00 for $500.00 dollars worth of groceries and all the people around me have in their arms something like $10.00 or less for $25.00 worth of groceries and no means to pay for more. It breaks my heart.

I have also known since 1921 that it is always better to vote for the worst Democrat over the best Republican.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 8:33 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay righties, you can rail against the leftist nanny state or you can mandate what people buy with their food stamps, you can't do both!
posted by elsietheeel at 8:39 AM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


notsnot: "What amazes me is that these are the same assholes who applauded Sarah Palin when she took a Big Gulp up on stage at CPAC and mocked Mayor Bloomberg."

What's really amazing is that so few people can see through both the Bloomberg soda stupidity and this SNAP idiocy. Screwing around with poor people's groceries is a lot more damaging than cola sizing for the general population, but the impulses come from the same place.
posted by aerotive at 9:35 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can use SNAP and Quest at the Fondy market here in Milwaukee, which was actually started to address the food desert issue and there's people working to expand it to more farmer's markets as well. It's not all terrible in Wisconsin, just a bunch of the politicians and most of the jsonline commenters. I really hope that this legislation does not make it more difficult to buy things at the farmer's market.

Maybe not everyone makes the best decisions with their foodshare dollars, but so what? We're talking about people who cannot afford to buy food getting an average of $135/mo. Frankly, I'm willing to let them decide what they spend it on. There's more that's wrong with a situation in which we have this many people that cannot afford food and are not even getting enough to supply them with an entire month of food than whether everyone agrees on whether they're making the absolute best dietary choices.

There's a lot of wasteful government spending that goes to people who already have more than enough, but that doesn't seem to get discussed with nearly the same fervor for some reason. Maybe they can use the surplus manpower they have from not following their legal obligations to track millions of dollars in loans to post people at counters to shoot disapproving stares at everyone that needs help? Still waiting on those 250,000 jobs, too.
posted by nTeleKy at 9:36 AM on May 9, 2013


"Allergies are different than lactose intolerance, you do understand that?"

Not in a significant way, honestly. You just don't seem to know what you're talking about.
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 AM on May 9, 2013


I've been so poor that I've had to eat a can of tuna fish and make it last for three days, with nothing else to supplement it.

Me, too. It was called college and I wouldn't recommend that lifestyle to anyone.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:42 AM on May 9, 2013


Yeah, going to college and being actually poor are analogous. HUurrurhurhr
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2013


(Bad) Scott Walker has absolutely ruined Wisconsin. I visited last summer and thought about living there because it's lovely, but he doesn't want my socialist, unionist, bleeding heart liberal civil servant ass anywhere near his dumb faux mitten state.

Now I'm going to go listen to (Good) Scott Walker to make it all better.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2013


Yeah, going to college and being actually poor are analogous. HUurrurhurhr

Sometimes they can be, you know. Poor people go to college too.
posted by rtha at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Bad) Scott Walker has absolutely ruined Wisconsin. I visited last summer and thought about living there because it's lovely, but he doesn't want my socialist, unionist, bleeding heart liberal civil servant ass anywhere near his dumb faux mitten state.

:sniffle:
But... but... OK, fair enough. I've lived here all my life, and losing Feingold in 2010 (and watching him get replaced with the inutterably excrable, hand-picked Tea Party sop Ron Johnson) and watching Walker the Boy King ascend from doing a shitty job as Milwaukee County Executive -- hilariously, a position he won when his predecessor resigned upon being faced with the prospect of a recall election -- to doing an even shittier job as Governor made me want to drive off into the sunset a cliff. However, we are the only state that has Tammy Baldwin as a Senator, which I think gives us something like +1,000 points on the Rad-o-Meter.

I will say that the rest of us socialist, unionist, bleeding heart liberal civil servant Wisconsinites would love to have you here! And for the record, I had never before seen or heard of any state but Michigan calling themselves the Mitten State. Woolen replicas of our state would make for really uncomfortable mittens unless you were a platypus.

Also, this was my very first FPP, and I was so scared to make it. Thank you mods for giving my draft a once-over with super-helpful suggestions and then moderating so effectively; I hope it was not a pain. Thank you participants for being mostly smart and civil and helping me to learn stuff! If anyone ever wants to rock some more intense discussion about issues related to hunger, poverty, or all-out class warfare, drop me a line!
posted by divined by radio at 11:51 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Silly rabbit, Trix are for economically advantaged kids!

This instead of working on ways to help people get jobs so they can spend their own money or incentivising sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables or addressing food deserts and nutrition.

How is forcing people to buy what you think they should eat any different from hunting the King's deer?
Jail time or discontinuing benefits for the fraud of buying Cheetos, your kids starve the same as medieval peasants.

I'm also curious who has the time to call this stuff in? 'Yeah, police? I saw a guy in shabby clothes buying potato chips...'
I mean, how tight does your ass have to be to pick up the phone on that?

Pissed off over sheet cake. Jesus f'ing christ.
To be fair, a guy came at me with a sheet cake once. Roses. Fancy writing. Sometimes I wake up and sheets are soaked with sweat and vanilla buttercream frosting.

So the prick drinking soda pop - that's ok, to have a mini-mart or whatever selling nothing but pop and chips and variants, being the only place to get food in the neighborhood - because he's spending his own money.
I just...grar!...so...angry...at...the stupid...violence should not be classified as a fallacy...

Someone else should have to what, ride a bus for 45 mins to get out of the neighborhood to get to a grocery store?

Blows my mind. The naked effrontery of it that they should expect me to believe they're in earnest about any principle. Pfft.
Put YOUR pop down first, we'll talk about getting mine.
well, ok, I don't drink pop but the principle...
posted by Smedleyman at 11:59 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nanny state, amirite?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:32 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Former food stamp recipient chiming in here. I've taken food stamps twice in my life, each time for one month only, at times in my life when I've actually lost weight, involuntarily, through a combination of lack of funds for groceries and hoofing it around town to apply for any and every open job (I couldn't even afford bus fare). Both times, despite being at the level of poverty where I'd chronically walk around with my head down--not just out of depression but also to look for change on the sidewalk--I felt like shit at having to resort to what was to me a bare half-step above panhandling, and when I went to spend the stamps on groceries, I could feel people looking at me and judging me for being an apparently healthy young man who shouldn't have to depend on charity; possibly, they also scrutinized my cart for food that was either insufficiently nutritious or insufficiently humble in nature. That's why I wasn't on for longer than a month at a time, even though it would still be some time in each instance before I had a steady, decent source of income (let alone health care or other job benefits).

If I could pass a message along to that earlier me (well, aside from the winning lottery numbers for that week), I'd say, man, fucking go for it; get as many food stamps as you can for as long as you can, and if the haters say shit to you or even give you hard looks, you give it right back to them. It's not just that I've long since given back what I got out of it, several times over, but that I also now appreciate the sad, fucked-up reality of how the system works (and, more importantly, how it doesn't). Everything from how employers won't hire you unless you're already employed to how long it takes just to apply for this stuff and how much paperwork and bureaucracy you have to navigate and how no one who you see at the food stamp office will ever get fired for turning you down (but they might if they approve someone who's scamming and some politician gets ahold of that fact) all works against people getting off assistance if they can, or staying on it if they need it with a scrap of their dignity left intact, all in the service of politicians getting votes from bitter middle-class citizens who don't realize how badly they, too, are being screwed.

And I sure as hell don't begrudge someone getting a cheap birthday cake or some prepared food with their benefits. I was on food stamps during the era when you could get cash back if your change was under a dollar, and sometimes I'd work my grocery bills (or even go to more than one place) in order to scrape up enough change to get some day-old donuts, because for me, that was a party. Here's the longer version of the quote from The Road to Wigan Pier that klangklangston cites above, which bears repeating in any circumstance:
The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes--an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the _New Statesman_, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn't. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don't want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit 'tasty'. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let's have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we'll all have a nice cup of tea! _That_ is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don't nourish you to any extent, but they are _nicer_ (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man's opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm late to the conversation but I have insight!

I've been on food stamps when money has been scarce and I can say that my caseworker (aka the government did a very good job of calculating my food needs without giving me enough money to abuse the system. Sometimes I don't use up every cent that's been allocated and I can treat myself, but most of the time I ran out of money between one and two weeks before my card would re-up. The result of this is that my trips to the grocery store did not resemble one of those gameshows where you people compete to see who can bring in the most expensive shopping cart (you know what I'm talking about right? They're cute and lame and I love them!) but were a careful exercise in allocatement, estimation, and adjustment, just like it was when I was getting a steady income.

About me: I've never lived near a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods but I've never lived in a food desert either. I cook most of my own meals.

Next time you see someone spending their free money on a big cake and fried chicken, remember that they are making a choice that will affect the rest of their meal choices for the month. I kept lean so that I could get my girlfriend an ice cream cake for her birthday at a time when I couldn't afford a present. I made a choice to live off ground hamburger, sardines, and bulk nuts for a month because I decided to throw a dinner party (because its nice and humanizing to not feel like you're poor all the time). And I've found myself with no money for food early because I got to tempted by prepared (cold, you can't buy them hot) meals after too many long days.

I would personally rather see people given incentives to eat healthy than have their choices limited arbitrarily, with one exception....

I'm addicted to soda. The only value I see in it is in the caffeine, which is more of a drug than nutrition. I felt guilty every time I used food stamps to buy soda, sports drinks or bottled water. I wouldn't mind if people were prohibited from using their benefits for that trash.

If you're curious how many corporate interests are involved in restrictions, I can tell you that no energy drinks are allowed EXCEPT Red Bull (which surely has mucho re nutritional value than Monster and not just truckloads of money to throw around, right?)
posted by elr at 1:12 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not American, so I've never been on food stamps per se. But I have spent more time than I'd like over the course of my adult life on the dole, which seems to be a functional equivalent, at least when it comes to how it's perceived by others, and how it requires jumping through hoops set up by the state in order to qualify.

It strikes me that one of the most pernicious aspects of the SNAP/WIC/food stamps in general program is how the social policing, the general scorn heaped upon recipients as freeloaders, and nonsense like this particular Wisconsin law does nothing more than help internalise and reinforce peoples' own self-loathing if they're in need of such help. It's not a barrel of laughs trying to live on dole money, to put it mildly, but Jesus, I can't imagine how humiliating it would be to have "FOOD STAMPS" or the like pop up on the till display when I was buying groceries – whether at Lidl, Aldi, Asda or Tesco. Living on the dole was, as I said, pretty rotten. But at least it gave you some measure of autonomy and anonymity when you're doing whatever weekly shop you can afford. So if I wanted to buy a cheap (£3) four pack of beer, at least I was safe in the knowledge that the person behind me in the queue wasn't silently seething that I was spending tax revenue – which, in fact, I contributed to over the years every bit as much as them – on frivolous/unhealthy products.

When I was a kid there were a couple of short periods where – because my brother had just been born, and my mother was therefore taking a sabbatical from work, and my dad wasn't working either – I qualified for free school meals. This meant being given a brown paper ticket that looked a little like an old-school cinema ticket that said "FREE LUNCH" on it, and it absolutely mortified me that other kids in my class could see it. I can't imagine the amplified humiliation that would result in the same situation, in essence, being played out every time you went to the supermarket, no matter what you're buying.
posted by Len at 1:47 PM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't imagine any other result from this idea other than to increase the amount of aid recipients "selling" off their benefits at a loss for cash... just that now instead of folks doing it for cigarette money, they'll do it for soda money, too.

I guess it might make the vultures who buy benefits like that eat a little healthier, though.
posted by Pufferish at 2:01 PM on May 9, 2013


2 Corinthians 8:13-16?

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 16 Now head on over to the Book of Numbers to see exactly which food God is talking about sharing, because clearly you're not expected to give just anything to those slackers who gathered too little, through their own poor choices.

Religious Right, indeed.
posted by jermsplan at 2:05 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, this was my very first FPP, and I was so scared to make it.

It's a very good FPP and you should be proud, divined by radio.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:13 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe they should pretend they don't enjoy those Doritos. Act like it's punishment, and then they'll have to buy them.

"Please don't throw me in the briar patch!"
posted by aught at 7:21 PM on May 9, 2013


I wrote this up-thread:

If you saw my shopping cart, you might sometimes be just as judgmental, even though I'm paying for my groceries with my own money. For instance, I recently did a grocery run where I bought nothing but candy and frozen lunches, or some ridiculous assortment like that

and I've been feeling uncomfortable about it. I want to be clear that for someone who is receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps, as they used to be called) that is their own money. Perhaps I might have said, "buying groceries with money I earned at a job," though in my case, I buy groceries with money my partner earns at his job, so... Anyway, you get the point.
posted by not that girl at 6:24 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


due to the suckling at the tit of the heffer

Well, that made me take an udder look.

A heifer is a cow who hasn't had their first calf ... therefore doesn't yet produce milk. And while any government may have tits (figuratively speaking) within its midst, with cows they are normally referred to as teats ... unless we're talking bull.
posted by phoque at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This just in ... an editorial, but in includes some interesting thoughts as well as statistics, including the HUGE increase in the number of folks using SNAP over the past few years, as well as some stats on just how much "junk food" versus "good food" SNAP users are buying. Looks like it's not so bad as certain anecdotes would seem to suggest. (BTW, try to ignore the last sentence in that editorial, which is just ridiculous.)
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:39 PM on May 19, 2013


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