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Hipsters on food stamps
March 16, 2010 8:49 AM   Subscribe

"At first, I thought, 'Why should I be on food stamps?'" said Magida, digging into her dinner. "Here I am, this educated person who went to art school, and there are a lot of people who need them more. But then I realized, I need them, too." Salon takes a look at the growing wave of young people utilizing food stamps.
posted by porn in the woods (885 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she's used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.

$150 a month. If you can live on that, I don't care how you spend it.
posted by three blind mice at 8:55 AM on March 16, 2010 [40 favorites]


They lost me when they described the types of food I'm purchasing for these folks... I DON'T have food stamps and spend my money on inexpensive pasta, shopping the sales in the supermarket, eating well planned leftovers..... I don't shop at whole foods, I don't go to boutique grocery stores...

"They're young, they're broke, and they pay for organic salmon with government subsidies. Got a problem with that? " well, fuck yes!

wtf...
posted by HuronBob at 8:56 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kudos for eating healthy and all that, but for some reason, this article seems like it'd be more at home in The Onion:

Savory aromas wafted through the kitchen as a table was set with a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice, all of it courtesy of government assistance.


I'm guessing that a family of four on food stamp assistance is probably not shopping at Whole Foods. I could be wrong, though.
posted by jquinby at 8:57 AM on March 16, 2010


Isn't this a big problem in countries with better social services than the US?
posted by smackfu at 8:58 AM on March 16, 2010


Pleasebefake Pleasebefake Pleasebefake
posted by cavalier at 8:59 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Why should I be on food stamps? ... who went to art school

I think you answered your own question.
posted by wcfields at 9:00 AM on March 16, 2010 [51 favorites]


One thing the article failed to mention was how often food stamps are underutilized by those who are eligible for them. Here in New York state, "[i]t is estimated that one-third to one-half of all eligible New Yorkers are not receiving food stamp benefits." That worries me a lot more than "hipsters" and their organic, free-range chickens.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:00 AM on March 16, 2010 [33 favorites]


"I'm sort of a foodie, and I'm not going to do the 'living off ramen' thing,"

...

"Faced with lingering unemployment, 20- and 30-somethings with college degrees and foodie standards are shaking off old taboos about who should get government assistance and discovering that government benefits can indeed be used for just about anything edible"

...

"Is it wrong to believe there should be a local, free-range chicken in every Le Creuset pot?"

!!!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:01 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


this article is problematic. I think it's manufacturing the outrage kind of a lot. Basically, any article that has the headline "Got a problem with that?" is pushing your buttons on purpose, especially since no one interviewed said that or seems to have that attitude. If people are eating on $150-200 a month, they're not going and buying expensive anything. And the article doesn't seem to be explaining very well that this was a desperation move, and that people who may have been fortunate enough to learn to cook for themselves with healthy ingredients are doing the best they can now to keep eating healthy on a miniscule budget. For every quote this guy put in of someone saying "I'm kind of a foodie," there were probably a dozen quotes he didn't use of that same person saying "I'm just trying to eat something that I can afford with these stamps that isn't full of unhealthy shit."
posted by shmegegge at 9:02 AM on March 16, 2010 [191 favorites]


I'm guessing that a family of four on food stamp assistance is probably not shopping at Whole Foods. I could be wrong, though.

In Oregon (read:Portland) it seems like virtually everyone in their 20s is on food stamps, along with many people in their 30s with kids. I have been surprised many times to be at New Seasons (whole foods-lite) to see what I would consider to be a Yuppie mom pull out the EBT. The card is called 'Oregon Trail Card' so being on food stamps is known as 'riding the trail'.
posted by wcfields at 9:03 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah because food stamps should only be used to buy the cheapest, most caloric food possible and fuck it if it's drenched in pesticides and packed with preservatives. You know what else is courtesy of government assistance? Hormone- and antibiotic-filled meat. Corn and sugar products.

We (collectively, as a society, and also some people on mefi) bitch about how poor people should eat better and then when they do we whine and bitch about how they spend "our money." We are fucking stupid.
posted by rtha at 9:05 AM on March 16, 2010 [362 favorites]


Yeah, I started out thinking "stupid hipsters" and finished thinking "smart hipsters." They're doing what they can with what they have.
posted by sallybrown at 9:05 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


I remember when the kids were little and we would save our food stamps and splurge on some fancy items like organic dried fruit and nuts for the christmas cakes and puddings. In the years since, we've developed into full-fledged federal taxpayers and paid back many times over what the USDA spotted us for grub (as will most of the recipients in the Salon piece). And as a US taxpayer, I would certainly rather feed artists and hipsters than equip drones with incendiary bombs.
posted by squalor at 9:06 AM on March 16, 2010 [77 favorites]


I honestly am not sure what the point of this article is except to get people riled up. Food stamp recipients come in all shapes and sizes?

There may be some inequaities going on here. But there are greater inequalities out there in the real world (who gets good schools, who gets into good colleges, the investment banker network etc.) that this seems like a minor distraction and worse yet, getting all the disadvantaged folks to fight each other for what is basically ... scraps.
posted by vacapinta at 9:06 AM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Somewhere out there, an investment banker who earned a seven-figure bonus funded in large part with bailout funds is laughing his ass off that people are being scrutinized for how they spend their $1,800 per year in food-stamp money.
posted by brain_drain at 9:07 AM on March 16, 2010 [166 favorites]


This sounds like one of those Ronald Reagan anecdotes about welfare queens driving Cadillacs. Sad that Salon indulges in such BS.
posted by octothorpe at 9:07 AM on March 16, 2010 [40 favorites]


Even the government thinks it's HIP (Healthy Incentives Pilot) for those who need assistance to eat right and eschew processed, HFCS-laden junk.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:07 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, yeah, artisinal honey with food stamps feels a bit precious -- but on the other hand, hell, if I qualified for food stamps, I'd for damn sure be all over that.

and yes, I may have followed thepinksuperhero's link to check whether I was eligible. I am not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am really sincerely torn about this. I know several friends who abuse food stamps, i.e. are making fraudulent claims to receive benefits and as someone else said above, are buying organic and/or 'gourmet' groceries that are out of my means. Now I earn a pretty high salary, and I wholeheartedly believe I have a social, moral and ethical obligation to help others in need. But, on the other hand, I have nearly a hundred thousand dollars in educational debt and I worked hard to earn that salary. I have serious moral qualms about sharing that salary with those who commit fraud (and are, in essence, taking away from those who have less than they do), who choose not to work, who choose not to report the support they receive from their children's fathers, who own small businesses but don't report all of their cash income, and so forth. I have serious qualms about continuing to remain friends with people who are, in some tortured logic, stealing from me. I am working to pay for my food, and theirs. My healthcare, and theirs. My rent, and theirs. My car, and theirs. The least they could do is help me out with those student loans. To be clear, these are not apocryphal welfare queens. These are friends, whose situation I intimately know. Who save so much money on food because of their food stamps, that they have unopened, never used, designer cosmetics to give away (and I know, because that Chanel perfume I wear was a gift). And so forth. On the other hand, I don't want to make food stamps and assistance harder to get for those who desperately need it, who aren't committing fraud, and so forth.
posted by bunnycup at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


If people are eating on $150-200 a month, they're not going and buying expensive anything.

What makes you think they are eating on $150-200 a month? Nothing in the article indicates to me that the folks described use EBT as their only source of food. I think it a lot more likely that they are just supplementing their own costs with it. As in, they had enough money to eat for a month anyway but the EBT lets them buy fresh organic juices, free range chicken, and wild salmon instead of cheaper meats, pasta, and store-brand juice.
posted by Justinian at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Savory aromas wafted through the kitchen as a table was set with a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice, all of it courtesy of government assistance.

Not to leap to the defense of Kids These Days or anything, but just because ingredients seem exotic doesn't mean they're expensive. You could buy everything you need to make those dishes for ~$8 if you aren't buying them at Whole Foods.

But really, why should they not be buying organic salmon on food stamps? Money that's earmarked to help people live shouldn't force them to live off of angel hair pasta and Frito pie. Whether someone's buying 12 cans of black beans or 2 pounds of grass-fed organic flank steak it's still only $150 a month.
posted by soma lkzx at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


As has been pointed out elsewhere in the blogosphere this morning, it's a no-win situation. If they buy junk food, they're contributing to the obesity epidemic. If they buy healthy food, they're "elitists".
posted by Joe Beese at 9:10 AM on March 16, 2010 [45 favorites]


Is this who will end up as the next Republican President's Cadillac-rocking welfare mom from the streets of Cleveland? "Meet Sarah M, the curry-and-turmeric buying, Whole-Foods-patronizing hipster from the mean streets of Baltimore! Stay tuned for frothing from the mouth from Glenn Beck at 5pm!"

And the article doesn't seem to be explaining very well that this was a desperation move, and that people who may have been fortunate enough to learn to cook for themselves with healthy ingredients are doing the best they can now to keep eating healthy on a miniscule budget.

Yeah, Salon doesn't seem to do a good job of explaining things much at all anymore (if ever it did). Salon and Slate seem to be in an eternal death-cage match for the most boringly bland yet outragey B-grade webnewsy content out there, along with their gloppy stuck-in-2001 web design. Hipsters are "discovering that government benefits can indeed be used for just about anything edible, including wild-caught fish, organic asparagus and triple-crème cheese." Oh, the horror!
posted by blucevalo at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Isn't this a big problem in countries with better social services than the US?

I don't know about other countries, but in Sweden everyone uses - or can use - "food stamps."

"Lunch coupons" (lunchkuponger) are issued to people receiving public benefits and also to employees by employers as part of your compensation package. Point is that everyone uses them - they are only legally used for food (or in restaurants) and you have no idea if the person who is using them is on benefits or not.

Idea of course is to not stigmatize poor people - which is the subtext of the FPP - why is "she" spending money on that? No one asks that question here.

So yeah, it's probably a "big problem," but no one knows it's a problem so it's not a problem.
posted by three blind mice at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2010 [24 favorites]



Food is a moral choice, and whatever it is you are eating for whatever reason makes you a bad, bad, person.

You are very bad. Also, LOLHIPSTERS
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


three blind mice : $150 a month. If you can live on that, I don't care how you spend it.

The problem (and outrage) here doesn't come from having to "live on that" - These people clearly don't live on that, they merely abuse it to maintain a lifestyle they currently can't afford.

If you really need to eat on $150/month, you buy boxed Macaroni and Cheese by the case and mix it with grade-C ground beef. You don't buy bottled water and organic produce.

The end of the article mentioning that these people at least feel some shame, rather than making me more sympathetic, pretty much cinches it - They know their actions count as "wrong" in some way, but don't actually care enough to not do it.


sallybrown : "smart hipsters." They're doing what they can with what they have.

Correction - Doing what they can with what they don't have - With what we as a civilized society give them under the pretense of keeping them alive during a rough time, not so they can garnish their farfalle with organic shitakes rather than bulk white mushrooms.


Sorry folks, but this story should piss off the truly compassionate among you far more than it does me - I care only because they abuse my tax dollars; You should care because these asshats effectively take money away from people who really do need it.
posted by pla at 9:12 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


I wish I had thought of this.
posted by brundlefly at 9:12 AM on March 16, 2010


My mother would talk about the recession in the 70s, because most of our neighbors were on food stamps while our family made $5 above the cutoff to qualify. She heartily resented the people using food stamps to buy steak while she raised her kids on mac and cheese and ramen noodles.

I for one am not so bothered. Food stamps come in a limited allowance; it costs the same whether it's a hipster eating caviar or a mom of five eating ramen. (OK, the mom probably gets a slightly higher allowance.) If someone can creatively stretch their food stamp dollars and eat well, more power to 'em - there is the possibility that eating the fresher food keeps that person from calling on my tax dollars for aid in other ways, or affecting me economically by putting pressure on the private healthcare system.
posted by medea42 at 9:13 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fuck it, I'm calling this a Depression.
posted by mattbucher at 9:13 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


three blind mice: "$150 a month. If you can live on that, I don't care how you spend it."

Uh, they're not just living on that. Believe me. If they were the gourmet ice cream wouldn't be an option.

Anyway this is the best part of the article:
Mak, 31, grew up in Westchester, graduated from the University of Chicago and toiled in publishing in New York during his 20s before moving to Baltimore last year with a meager part-time blogging job and prospects for little else.
Toiled. Heh. Truly a hero of the working class.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:13 AM on March 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


The article seems to willfully imply that food stams are some sort of unlimited credit card that these people are using to rack up a huge bill with their fresh food. It's a fixed amount. No more tax dollars are used if you buy tofu at Trader Joe's than if you buy Vienna Sausages at the A&P.

I wish the author had just come out and explicitly presented her much more messy point, which appears to be: "People who are from a social class that would appreciate this type of food should not be using food stamps. Food stamps are for the social class of people who eat wonder bread and american cheese."
posted by the jam at 9:14 AM on March 16, 2010 [86 favorites]


soma lkzx : Money that's earmarked to help people live shouldn't force them to live off of angel hair pasta and Frito pie.

Yes. Yes, it should. If you can afford to live while still eating organic salmon, get the fuck off public assistance ASAP.
posted by pla at 9:14 AM on March 16, 2010


What makes you think they are eating on $150-200 a month?

I don't know anything for certain, I admit. But the article seems to be saying that the people being discussed are unemployed, so I can't help but think it's a moderately safe assumption that they're not just supplementing an already adequate income for shits and giggles. Maybe I'm wrong. But of the two options, I think the former is the more likely.

As in, they had enough money to eat for a month anyway but the EBT lets them buy fresh organic juices, free range chicken, and wild salmon instead of cheaper meats, pasta, and store-brand juice.

Well, again, the article says it's talking about people who went on food stamps because they're unemployed and - in this economy - may be so for some time. While I'll admit that they may be receiving assistance from parents, or some other source, and should not therefore be receiving food stamps, the article isn't making that assertion and instead seems to be trying to manufacture outrage that young, educated people are using food stamps at all, regardless of reasons why.
posted by shmegegge at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dammit hipsters, must you ruin everything? Foodstamps are for cheap beer and cigarettes at the bodega with bare shelves.
posted by geoff. at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry folks, but this story should piss off the truly compassionate among you far more than it does me

Your presuming what should piss me off pisses me off more than an unemployed hipster buying arugula.
posted by blucevalo at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


medea42: "I for one am not so bothered. Food stamps come in a limited allowance; it costs the same whether it's a hipster eating caviar or a mom of five eating ramen. (OK, the mom probably gets a slightly higher allowance.) "

If disposable income + food stamps = caviar, it implies that food stamps aren't really necessary. Of course, we don't know these people, don't know what money they have, don't know if they eat nicely because they spend no money on rent and live in a shitty row house in Baltimore with 12 other people. Etc.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2010


Can it be argued that these gourmet foods perhaps offer more economic stimulus than buying the cheap, crappy mass-produced foods? And maybe the health benefits mean they'll be less of a burden, health care-wise?

Just trying to be the devil's advocate and look on the bright side. That said, if anyone who needs food stamps get denied because of these people, that's major depressing and they deserve at least a stern talking-to.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree with shmegge, this article is just trolling. They get a set amount per month, who am I to tell them how to spend it? I mean, likely they're not covering a whole month's worth of food with their EBT so really the luxuries are just an example of young poor people being irresponsible with their resources, which is hardly new.
posted by ghharr at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a 20-something on food stamps, and I have to agree with rtha- being outraged that someone would dare to eat healthy and organically on government stipend is really stupid. With EBT going electronic and card readers being in most groceries, access to healthy foods with EBT is going up - and I have no idea why that would be a bad thing. I guess because I'm young, white, and college-educated I should stick to buying my couscous with my own money and let the poor other people spend their EBT on ensure and mountain dew.
posted by Think_Long at 9:19 AM on March 16, 2010 [22 favorites]


Food stamps get hate because Americans hate poor people. Extend food stamp benefits to everyone (like social security and medicare are extended to everyone) and Americans will think that food stamps are a natural, divinely granted good and scream bloody murder if they even suspect the government of thinking about cutting them.

I don't know why Americans hate people who can figure out how to eat tasty food on a tight budget, but if I had to guess I'd say it's something to do with how Americans hate pleasure even when the pleasurable thing is good for them, and doubly hate it when poor people experience pleasure or have or make good things for themselves.

note: These results may hold for people from other countries, but as an American I don't know much about what people in other countries think.

Also, sometimes Salon.com invents a fictional trend and pretends to seriously analyze the implications of it. They have (a few) writers and an office in San Francisco to pay for, and that strategy draws hits (or whatever metric people are using these days to assess website popularity).
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:20 AM on March 16, 2010 [62 favorites]


Seems they should bite the bullet and seek some supplemental employment. Being unable to find a gig 'in your field' doesn't qualify one as a welfare recipient. Two days after receiving my BA in English (in the shitful, recession-plagued job market of 1983), I was on the back of a garbage truck. That gig segued into a stint paving parking lots and driveways, supplemented with video store clerking and night time retail POS work to stave off the dreaded heating bills and pay the student loans.

Not whining or making a "back when I was a kid" kind of rant. It was just necessary, so I did it. And they were good times.

Oh yeah -- and the eventual foot-in-the-door publishing gig resulted in a net pay cut, so be careful what you wish for.
posted by VicNebulous at 9:20 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Is it wrong to believe there should be a local, free-range chicken in every Le Creuset pot?

I'm sorry, but food stamps and Le Creuset cookware do not belong in the same article.
posted by alynnk at 9:20 AM on March 16, 2010


I'm not worried about it. These people, when gainfully employed again, will pay it all back in a couple months of salary taxes. If you're eating out of Whole Foods or the vegetable market rather than the scratch-n-dent aisle at Albertsons, you've got a future. And they'll carry that "I used food stamps" vibe with them for decades and it will help them be more compassionate. And some of them may even go on to help educate people with less of a future how to eat better.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:21 AM on March 16, 2010 [36 favorites]


If you really need to eat on $150/month, you buy boxed Macaroni and Cheese by the case and mix it with grade-C ground beef. You don't buy bottled water and organic produce.

Bullshit. My spouse and I live on about $150 a month for food, not counting beer, wine, liquor, and household goods which I believe aren't covered by food stamps.

The difference between the lifestyle (and the gastronomic lifestyle described in this article) we maintain on $150 a month and, say, the average family that uses food stamps is that we don't have any kids, and one of us is unemployed (so we can forgo processed foods and cook mostly from scratch).

Seconding Joe Beese that this is a total Catch-22. I was previously yelled at for advocating that we should first ensure that poor folks have enough to eat before we worry about what they're eating. Now that some non-traditional-seeming poor folks are worrying about what they eat, they get a lecture too?
posted by muddgirl at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2010 [29 favorites]


If you really need to eat on $150/month, you buy boxed Macaroni and Cheese by the case and mix it with grade-C ground beef. You don't buy bottled water and organic produce.

Well, that's not really true. An individual can live off of $150 a month quite easily. If you have a family, hopefully you are getting more than that. Being on food stamps does not require somebody to be at the absolute bottom rung of the nutrition chain.
posted by Think_Long at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


shmegegge: I guess I have to appeal to common sense. If they are actually living on $150 a month, does it seem plausible to you that Magida would spend 5% of the total month's budget for food on one pint of ice cream?
posted by Justinian at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2010


This got me thinking about what I spend on groceries. I don't buy organic-free-range food, but I also don't buy packaged garbage. I can't track what mrs ozzy spends now, but in the year before we lived together, I spent $130 a month on groceries for myself (I always, always paid for groceries with a particular credit card). I didn't eat out or order in much.

As a single person, $200 a month would buy me an awful lot of grass-fed beef. Feeding a family... not so much.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Due to Metafilter-led cutbacks, from now on, food stamp recipients may only purchase Mefi-approved Cheetos and Hawaiian Punch.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH NO NOT A %.0000000000000001 TAX INCREASE HOW WILL THE DOD CONTINUE TO SPEND MONEY LIKE WATER IF WE LET HUNGRY PEOPLE MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES???
posted by DU at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2010 [43 favorites]


A quick note on use vs. utilize.

I suppose I could say something snarky about art school here, but my real feeling is that enlightened societies don't starve their citizens to death.

If you are talking to someone on the right you can say Christian societies don't starve their citizens to death.

Anyone who argues that everyone would be on food stamps if they were more available hasn't used them. They aren't enough and they are no fun.

IIRC there were stamps for different kinds of food in West Virginia for a while. This resulted in Meat Stamps. Meat Stamps were same as cash in the holler, and you could use 'em to buy ammo.
posted by poe at 9:24 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Now that some non-traditional-seeming poor folks are worrying about what they eat, they get a lecture too?

Of course. Poor people in the United States exist for no other reason to be lectured, scapegoated, and stigmatized by the holier-than-thou.
posted by blucevalo at 9:24 AM on March 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


The problem (and outrage) here doesn't come from having to "live on that" - These people clearly don't live on that, they merely abuse it to maintain a lifestyle they currently can't afford.

I don't defend fraud. Whatever the amount - and even if you only spend it on potatoes and rice - fraud is wrong.

But if it's not fraud, why the concern over 150 bucks a month? I haven't lived in America in 15 years, but even in the mid-90's 150 bucks a month doesn't allow you to maintain much of a "lifestyle".

I know some people who have been so poor for so long that they feel "entitled" to treat themselves to a little luxury now and then. Frankly, I can't really be hard-ass about that sort of "excess."
posted by three blind mice at 9:24 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


no other reason than to be lectured
posted by blucevalo at 9:25 AM on March 16, 2010


I wish the author had just come out and explicitly presented her much more messy point, which appears to be: "People who are from a social class that would appreciate this type of food should not be using food stamps. Food stamps are for the social class of people who eat wonder bread and american cheese."

I don't have any hard data to back it up, but isn't it generally acknowledged that hipsters tend to support their expensive lifestyles using money from their wealthy parents? With that in mind, the point might be that unemployed hipsters should be using their parent's money for food the same way they do for rent and other expenses, rather applying for food stamps from the government, because many low-income people do not have rich parents to bail them out. Especially considering that many wealthy people do not politically support the kinds of government assistance programs that provide things like food stamps.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:25 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, I feed a family of 7 on around $450/month. Granted, 5 of those 7 are children, but among them they easily eat as much as two adults, if not more. So that's ~$100/month per "adult".
posted by DU at 9:25 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have serious moral qualms about sharing that salary with those who commit fraud...

if you haven't been listening to talk radio, you'll want to check that out.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:26 AM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


If they are actually living on $150 a month, does it seem plausible to you that Magida would spend 5% of the total month's budget for food on one pint of ice cream?

So you feel it's irresponsible to splurge for a luxury item every once in a while if you are received state assistance? Do you think it's irresponsible for my parents to splurge on a pint of ice cream because their food budget comes from Social Security Disability payments?
posted by muddgirl at 9:27 AM on March 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


shmegegge: I guess I have to appeal to common sense. If they are actually living on $150 a month, does it seem plausible to you that Magida would spend 5% of the total month's budget for food on one pint of ice cream?
posted by Justinian at 5:22 PM


Does it make any sense to have 'Le Creuset' pot thrown in there randomly? How did fancy cookware get in ther? Does it then make sense that the writer of this article has omitted crucial facts? This article is pure polemic. I wouldn't trust it to deduce monthly budget expenditures.
posted by vacapinta at 9:27 AM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm sorry, but food stamps and Le Creuset cookware do not belong in the same article.

Yes, if you are going to get eat on my dime, you will eat your gruel and it will be of the poorest possible nutritional quality minimally capable of sustaining your miserable, useless little existence. You'd better just be grateful you didn't get the back of my hand instead, so shut up and take what you get like the good little non-person you are.

That's my standard speech to dinner guests, as well.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:29 AM on March 16, 2010 [67 favorites]


Frankly, I'd love to eat like they do on $150 a month. If they're able to do that, without dipping into savings, I think one of them should write a book or blog on how they pull that off.

Still, even if they are dipping into savings, I still think it'll work out in the long run. They're buying healthy foods, meaning they'll live longer and healthier, which means they'll cost less to the insurance companies and MediCare. Plus, it's stimulus for high quality, sustainable food companies. It's really hard for me to get really mad at these people, because I'd probably do the same thing in their shoes. And if we're going to get mad at misuse of government money, let's look at that half of the budget going to defense and war.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:29 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I don't know about y'all, but groceries are damn expensive where I live, period, whether you're buying them at Walmart, Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Publix, or Ye Local Upscale Hipster Snooty Snob Emporium of Your Choice -- and whether you're buying Spam and Fritos or edamame and Riesling.
posted by blucevalo at 9:30 AM on March 16, 2010


This is really just outrage-filter. You get food stamps if you make little enough money to qualify and they give you a set amount of money to spend on certain types of food every month. And there are only certain type of food that you can spend the credits on, for instance ice cream is not allowed. But if you want to be stupid and spend it all on expensive foods, that doesn't really reflect on the system.
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 AM on March 16, 2010


I've been on foodstamps twice. I didn't want to be either time, but I was because I couldn't afford to eat otherwise. I bought as fresh and organic as possible.

Shame on you for chastising someone for buying that way. Everyone should have the opportunity to eat that way, regardless of income.

Or is being healthy only reserved for the rich?
posted by Malice at 9:30 AM on March 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


They qualify for this program, yes? This program is to buy food, yes? They're buying food, yes? No, I don't have a problem with that. Why do you have a problem with that?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:30 AM on March 16, 2010 [41 favorites]


rtha: "We (collectively, as a society, and also some people on mefi) bitch about how poor people should eat better and then when they do we whine and bitch about how they spend "our money." We are fucking stupid."

I have a different definition of poor than you do! I tend to make a distinction between poor and broke.

By my definition, I have never been poor. Raised by wealthy, highly-educated parents, prepped for college, good degree, never worried about food or clothes, traveled the world as a child, I have skills, diction, credentials, connections, safety nets.

I have been broke, meaning sleeping in a car, eating nothing but rice and beans (and running out occasionally), etc.

These people are not poor, they're broke. It's different.

vacapinta: "But there are greater inequalities out there in the real world (who gets good schools, who gets into good colleges, the investment banker network etc.) that this seems like a minor distraction and worse yet, getting all the disadvantaged folks to fight each other for what is basically ... scraps."

Again, disadvantaged people fighting for scraps?! Yes, it certainly happens, but not in this situation. One of the people in the article went to the University of Chicago! Not exactly a victim of poor schooling.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:32 AM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


So you feel it's irresponsible to splurge for a luxury item every once in a while if you are received state assistance? Do you think it's irresponsible for my parents to splurge on a pint of ice cream because their food budget comes from Social Security Disability payments?

You're shifting the goalposts big time. The article makes it clear that Magida does not splurge for a luxury item every once in a while; luxury items make up the bulk of her purchases. There is absolutely no reason to buy gourmet ice cream from Whole Paycheck Foods. It's a waste of money, whether it's your own money or everyone else's.
posted by Justinian at 9:33 AM on March 16, 2010


I don't have any hard data to back it up, but isn't it generally acknowledged that hipsters tend to support their expensive lifestyles using money from their wealthy parents?

Well, that is indeed the stereotype. Yes. However, I have had a hard time finding it in real ife.
posted by brundlefly at 9:33 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does anyone remember when Salon used to be one of the best things to read on the 'net? I used to read it daily, even subscribed to a premium account. Now they're barely better than Huffington.
posted by octothorpe at 9:34 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


But if you want to be stupid and spend it all on expensive foods, that doesn't really reflect on the system.

Yeah, exactly. If the food they are buying is "too expensive" then they'll just be hungry for a few days at the end of the month. Or pay for it themselves. Either way, what's the outrage-ous part?
posted by DU at 9:34 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Poor people can buy organic salmon with their food stamps (SNAP benefits) if they want to as well. Who cares? Here is another story for you: "Rich guy cheats on taxes, takes system for hundreds of thousands of dollars." Shocking.

The fact is that any type of "welfare" recipient is an easy target, while corporate welfare recipients get nada. Corporations have PR firms to craft their sterling image.

Look into how much is not collected by the IRS from corporations who are contractors of the US government and OWE taxes. After that discussion, we can talk about how the NY scene hipsters are violating a government program.
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:34 AM on March 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


If you really need to eat on $150/month, you buy boxed Macaroni and Cheese by the case and mix it with grade-C ground beef. You don't buy bottled water and organic produce.

My monthly budget for groceries is $120-160 and I can afford to eat good quality food - Annie's mac and cheese instead of Craft-by-the-box, produce, nice bread. If you're a family living off that amount it's obviously not the case, but I don't buy the idea that these food stamps are a supplemental income for a fabulously expensive diet. As long as you have access to decent stores, you can buy good food; just because something sounds fancy doesn't make it super costly and unaffordable.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:35 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you're eating out of Whole Foods or the vegetable market rather than the scratch-n-dent aisle at Albertsons, you've got a future.

Metafilter in one line.
posted by enn at 9:35 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hmmm.

"Exotic" produce can be super cheap at ethnic markets, and it's sometimes cheaper to buy from the bulk bins at places like Whole Foods than to buy stuff in packages at downscale supermarkets. Despite the mentions of organic salmon and whatnot, I wouldn't be surprised if these people were actually eating pretty frugally. If you ate organic salmon once a week and a lot of lentil curries for the other six days, you could get by on a pretty meager food budget.
posted by craichead at 9:35 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


shmegegge: I guess I have to appeal to common sense. If they are actually living on $150 a month, does it seem plausible to you that Magida would spend 5% of the total month's budget for food on one pint of ice cream?

I don't know. What's the larger context? Did she buy this one thing because, thanks to frugality, she was able to make this one extravagant purchase at the end of the month? Maybe not. Maybe she's abusing the system. But maybe she's just unemployed and broke and doing what she can and "what she can" this one time included a pint of ice cream.

the point I'm making is that this article is short on facts, except for out-of-context details that seem pretty clearly designed to raise hackles. The author happily tells us when she buys ice cream, but not what her income situation is, how much she finds herself needing to live on, how she pays rent, etc... This isn't a piece about how these people live, it's a piece about what they're buying and where because for some reason it's apparently our business how people spend their food money. or maybe these details are chosen to elicit rage, because rage earns pageviews.
posted by shmegegge at 9:35 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I feel stupid for getting sucked into the troll article; but I did.

I really did seethe with Salonangst for a few minutes- how dare those kids enjoy creme freche on my dime- while I'm limited to smoked salmon crudettes just on weekends?

The comments on military spending put me back at calm though, so thanks, metafilter. The entire EFT purchases in a year probably amount to roughly what Halliburton expenses on hotel minibars.
posted by mrdaneri at 9:36 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


seanmpuckett: "I'm not worried about it. These people, when gainfully employed again, will pay it all back in a couple months of salary taxes. If you're eating out of Whole Foods or the vegetable market rather than the scratch-n-dent aisle at Albertsons, you've got a future. "

Poor people who stay poor and eat cheap food don't HAVE A FUTURE?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:36 AM on March 16, 2010


This sounds like one of those Ronald Reagan anecdotes about welfare queens driving Cadillacs.
Spot on. This is absolutely par for the course so far as attacks on welfare benefits are framed, when as TPS rightly points out above, the real story is almost not waste or fraud but lots of people not taking what they're entitled to.
posted by Abiezer at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course, we don't know these people, don't know what money they have, don't know if they eat nicely because they spend no money on rent and live in a shitty row house in Baltimore with 12 other people. Etc.

Precisely.

Let me say it a bit louder: I actually followed thepinksuperhero's link out of curiosity, to see if I qualified for food stamps.

It's not quite so easy. The fact that I have an IRA with 2 grand in it, and work part-time, and have a roommate, pretty much made me ineligible. That money is not disposable -- but it counts as a resource, so I'm out.

So if someone honestly does qualify, more power to them. "Honestly" being the key word, there, though -- someone who's claiming that they live alone so they don't have to report their 3 roommates' share of the rent, or someone who's not mentioning any kind of a monthly payment from an inheritance or something, just to qualify for food stamps, is something else again. But there's nothing to indicate that these people in the article necessarily are doing that. They're just being meticulous about how they're using their resources -- and people with their own money do that, so hey.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010


Scrutinizing peoples' shopping lists is not part of the deal.
posted by amethysts at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh noes, not "organic salmon!" Maybe they've decided they'd rather eat 5 oz of good meat than a pound of the bad stuff that gives them the shits? Maybe they're buying that jasmine or basmati rice by the 5 pound sack, and it actually costs less (per unit) than Uncle Ben's boil-a-bag? That, and eating healthy food will reduce their medical expenses, and give them more energy to get back on their feet.

The negative comments in here are like people who'd berate someone for drawing on unemployment. Simply put, if you don't make enough money, you get food stamps. That's the rules.
posted by explosion at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


'almost always'. Gah.
posted by Abiezer at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010


random Williamsburg guy: I sometimes use food stamps to buy healthy food.

Salon: OMG, hipsters use taxpayer assistance to buy healthy food.

Hannity/Beck/O'Reilly: Public assistance for healthy food should be eliminated. And what the fuck is arugula anyway?

Slate: Contrary to what you may think, healthy food is bad. If you think healthy food is good, you are an idiot.

The New Yorker: Here are some playful, erudite observations about people who talk about hipsters buying healthy food with food stamps.

New York Post: ORGANIC WELFARE QUEENS CUT IN LINE
posted by brain_drain at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [83 favorites]


And as a US taxpayer, I would certainly rather feed artists and hipsters than equip drones with incendiary bombs.

godless anarchist.




... and for what it's worth, garlic + onions are still dead cheap, and nothing smells better than these two frying up together.
posted by philip-random at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


a) this article exists solely to get the phrase "government cheese" back into regular use
b) welfare abuse+hipsters+food porn = JOURNALISTIC TRIFECTA
posted by GuyZero at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


Boy, wouldn't there be egg on our faces if they ate like we told them to, and then they all got heart attacks and had to get their medical care paid for by MedicAid?

Let's just drop the charades and say it: Poor people suck, and shouldn't be allowed to make choices that make them happy.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Frankly, I'd love to eat like they do on $150 a month. If they're able to do that, without dipping into savings,

If they have savings to dip in to, they are not actually eligible for food stamps. Well, any significant savings. I believe the amount is $2000. If you have bank accounts of any kind with at least $2000 combined, you are not supposed to be eligible. (I think there are exceptions for disabled people, etc).

To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with people who need food stamps buying organic, healthy, whatever. I just don't think the people in this article need food stamps. I know people like this; see bunnycup's comment. Now, the article is likely picking out people who represent a very small subset of the program. That's undoubtedly true. But it's the article we're stuck with and what's under discussion.
posted by Justinian at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


(even if it were costly, who cares? Are we going to make a list of food products acceptable for poor people to eat? "No apples for you! Pasta instead - and don't get any idea about that fancy whole grain stuff, store-brand HFC-enriched only!")
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, if you are going to get eat on my dime, you will eat your gruel and it will be of the poorest possible nutritional quality minimally capable of sustaining your miserable, useless little existence. You'd better just be grateful you didn't get the back of my hand instead, so shut up and take what you get like the good little non-person you are.

Not my point. But food stamps are for those with a low income, yes? I would disagree with the notion that one should be purchasing outlandishly-priced cookware if they are currently unable to provide food for themselves or their family without assistance.
posted by alynnk at 9:39 AM on March 16, 2010


You're shifting the goalposts big time. The article makes it clear that Magida does not splurge for a luxury item every once in a while; luxury items make up the bulk of her purchases. There is absolutely no reason to buy gourmet ice cream from Whole Paycheck Foods. It's a waste of money, whether it's your own money or everyone else's.

Gourmet ice cream makes up the bulk of her purchases? Or do you consider all food bought at Whole Foods to be "luxury items"? Have you ever actually shopped at a Whole Foods and compared the prices to, say, Walmart? Have you compared the prices at your local ethnic market to Walmart?

You are taking this opportunity not just to moralize about the "choices" of people who are broke (I place "choices" in quotes because this article was clearly written to make us biased against these broke people), but against the choices that all people make. Why should anyone buy gourmet ice cream?? Because they fucking want to eat some. It's that easy.
posted by muddgirl at 9:39 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


But food stamps are for those with a low income, yes? I would disagree with the notion that one should be purchasing outlandishly-priced cookware if they are currently unable to provide food for themselves or their family without assistance.
Sometimes people lose their jobs, and I think the resale value of even fancy cookware is pretty low. And I suspect a lot of people who own that stuff got it as wedding gifts and never paid for it themselves.
posted by craichead at 9:41 AM on March 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


I would disagree with the notion that one should be purchasing outlandishly-priced cookware if they are currently unable to provide food for themselves or their family without assistance.

You're right. And the same goes for outlandish purchases of exotic and expensive cooking appliances like these so-called microwave ovens.

Shouldn't they be forced to heat their canned gruel over a hotplate like real poor people do?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:42 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Exotic" produce can be super cheap at ethnic markets, and it's sometimes cheaper to buy from the bulk bins at places like Whole Foods than to buy stuff in packages at downscale supermarkets.

Or, say, the weekly farmer's markets.

The ugly truth behind all of our wailing about food budgets and costs is that the few groceries in low socio-economic status neighborhoods actually tend to charge more for fresh produce and basic nutritional goods than markets a few miles away, while stocking less of them.

But yes, this is definitely outrage filter and yellow journalism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:43 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought part of being an American was letting other people spend their money however they liked. Food stamps are essentially a sum of money that the government gives people to buy groceries. We don't ban people from buying the unhealthy foods, nor should we ban them from buying the healthy "rich people" foods. And shaming them one way or the other is just as stupid.

This article has some weird classism going on. The message I'm getting is that poor people should have a terrible diet, because poor people need to be miserable so that they'll try to be rich people. When has that line of reasoning ever worked that well in practice?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this article is written pretty much just to whip people into a froth.

A tasty, organic, no HFCS, WIC-qualified froth, sure, but still.
posted by darkstar at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2010


We should have government run food stores. These stores would carry only food that meets some sort of nutritional standard. The government could negotiate to get whatever prices and products they want. Food stamps or their equivalent (charge card, etc) would only be allowed to be used at these government stores. There would be independent stores located rurally who would be given authority to accept food stamps in places where it was not feasible to have a government food store nearby. There would be no money going in and out of these stores. You couldn't buy products from these stores.

This way, everyone gets fed. They get decent food. If they want some other crappy food, they are welcome to go buy some whenever they want or can.

I don't like giving people money. I like giving people food, clothing, shelter, and health care.
posted by flarbuse at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember how ashamed I was to have gone on food stamps a couple of times in my early twenties, fresh out of college and out of work and unable to afford even my usual diet of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. I wish that I could go back in time and tell myself to get them right away, get them every month that I was eligible for them, and to tell anyone that might notice that I was using them and give me the stinkeye for doing so to pound sand up their ass. I don't begrudge them to anyone who needs them and this sort of "organic salmon hrumph hrumph" thing that Salon is doing is yet another reason why I won't give them a plugged nickel.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


Malice: "Shame on you for chastising someone for buying that way. Everyone should have the opportunity to eat that way, regardless of income."

Oh, come on, we're not going to their house and inspecting their cabinets. Although, if they are willing to feed me something nice I might end up at their house more often. They agreed to be interviewed for an article, I think they will be okay with some internet strangers hating on their food choices.

Anyway, AmeriCorps members should get a MUCH larger stipend than they do. There is no reason they should be on food stamps. They should just get more money.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was on foodstamps when I was a graduate student and made only $9,000/year. Yes, going to graduate school was a choice I was making. I also had an additional job (which still didn't pull me over the poverty line), and the food stamp office in my state was fully aware of where my income was coming from/my student status/the fact that I had a roommate. I also shopped at the cheapest grocery store in town; that extra $48 a month really made the difference between having to live completely on prepackaged foods and being able to get, say, bread from the Albertson's bakery (oh, what a luxury!).

I'm not guilty. Sorry, guys, if you want me to be.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Missed on preview:

"Exotic" produce can be super cheap at ethnic markets, and it's sometimes cheaper to buy from the bulk bins at places like Whole Foods than to buy stuff in packages at downscale supermarkets. Despite the mentions of organic salmon and whatnot, I wouldn't be surprised if these people were actually eating pretty frugally.

Exactly. I've started going to Chinatown once in a while to stock up on things -- it's way cheaper to go there for produce than it is elsewhere.

And heck, what we think of as "exotic" also often isn't as exotic as you think. For instance -- Right now, in my fridge, I have two kinds of homemade pate. Sounds fancy, no?

However -- the chicken-liver pate cost me a total of about three bucks: about $1.50 for the pound of chicken livers, and another $1.50 for two sticks of butter. I only used one for the pate, so that's not even three bucks. And I have a good pounds' worth of pate. I used part of the other stick of butter for the other pate -- that one I made with salt cod, which I picked up for about two bucks. There was a special on bread, so that was $2.50.

And presto, I have elegance at my disposal, for only about $7.50.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


I would disagree with the notion that one should be purchasing outlandishly-priced cookware if they are currently unable to provide food for themselves or their family without assistance.
Maybe it was a gift. Maybe she purchased it when she had a job and could afford it. Maybe she got it at a garage sale or thrift shop for a pittance. Maybe she found it in the woods, stuffed with porn. You don't know, do you. You have no idea how the Le Creuset was aquired.
And yet you judge.
posted by Floydd at 9:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [28 favorites]


Making average Americans scrutinize poor schlubs was the biggest fucking coup the Republicans ever scored.
posted by applemeat at 9:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [43 favorites]


How can you blame anyone for trying to eat on the government's dime nowadays? If they qualify, let them spend it, regardless of a) education level, b) what kind of cookware they might possess, c) what they do in their spare time or d) the color of their skin.
posted by ofthestrait at 9:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let me say it a bit louder: I actually followed thepinksuperhero's link out of curiosity, to see if I qualified for food stamps.

Me too. Despite the fact that I'll be living on a taxable $23K grad student stipend in Manhattan, have hardly any savings, and own no real estate, I don't qualify. Because I'll be a student. A hungry, hungry student.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:46 AM on March 16, 2010


I have a different definition of poor than you do! I tend to make a distinction between poor and broke.

By my definition, I have never been poor. Raised by wealthy, highly-educated parents, prepped for college, good degree, never worried about food or clothes, traveled the world as a child, I have skills, diction, credentials, connections, safety nets.

I have been broke, meaning sleeping in a car, eating nothing but rice and beans (and running out occasionally), etc.

These people are not poor, they're broke. It's different.


I'm missing your point. What is it?

We were on food stamps for a while when I was a kid. My mom had (well, was in the process of getting) a PhD. I never worried about where my next meal was coming from and my cothes always fit me, even if they weren't the latest hippest brands.

Were we poor, or were we broke? Can you tell from my description? If we were only broke, should we not have gotten food stamps?
posted by rtha at 9:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you really need to eat on $150/month, you buy boxed Macaroni and Cheese by the case and mix it with grade-C ground beef. You don't buy bottled water and organic produce.

You know, I couldn't agree more that the lives of the poor should wherever possible be total in their agony and deprivation - in this case nutritional - but the part that amazes me, pla, is that you ignored the obvious final solution to this problem.

To wit: if you are poor you should be obligated to use your own body as food. What better incentive to get out there and get a job already than looking down and realizing you'll have nothing but a truncated stump for a left foot if you can't find gainful employment that week?
posted by gompa at 9:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


alynnk: "I would disagree with the notion that one should be purchasing outlandishly-priced cookware if they are currently unable to provide food for themselves or their family without assistance."

My first hand-hammered wok - a thing of beauty - was given to me by a friend. I later discovered that it was recovered from a dumpster.

No food stamps involved!
posted by charred husk at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


for anyone who's interested, this discussion is a nice demonstration of why right-wing politics has become dominant in the U.S.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


If you really need to eat on $150/month, you buy boxed Macaroni and Cheese by the case and mix it with grade-C ground beef. You don't buy bottled water and organic produce.

I would prefer that they do this, because then I'd be able to stand in judgment of those on food stamps for being fat and eating such unhealthy food, as would be expected of such a culturally inferior group of people who so clearly cannot take care of themselves, which is why they need foodstamps.

I mean, criticizing people on food stamps for eating good, healthy food is fun, too, but I feel that I cannot exploit my feelings of moral and personal superiority to as great a degree, and that's the whole point of criticizing aid to the poor, isn't it?

God forbid I should ever find myself on foodstamps, and even worse to have to resort to foodstamps if I have children, but you can bet that if I do, I'm going to use them to feed both my children and myself with the healthiest food possible. And if I can use them to buy $1.99 bags of cumin and curry powder that will last for several months, well you can better bet that I'm going to do that if it makes the food tastier and easier to eat.
posted by deanc at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you can pay for it, eat food, not a lot, mostly plants.

If you're on food stamps, eat products, until you're obese, mostly Easy Mac.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2010 [20 favorites]


Who said they purchased it? I'm currently unemployed (fingers crossed, part-time gig looks like it's in the pipeline), and I got two Le Creuset pots for Christmas. Should I have refused them? Is it not possible that they purchased this cookware before they fell on hard times? It's one thing if they're committing fraud in applying for and receiving these benefits, but as I see it, they're just not buying what you want them to be buying.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I know people like this; see bunnycup's comment.

ok, I think you've largely been reasonable in this thread, though we've disagreed. but statements like this are like a huge red signal flare fired directly into the sky that erupt into a firey arrow pointing at you with flaming text saying "hot fuck look at my biases now!" I don't know if you really meant to come off this way, and I'd like to assume you didn't. but "I know people like this," needs to not be a part of the food stamps discussion, for anyone. Food stamp abuse exists, and I'm as for making sure it isn't as the next guy, but there are no "people like this" who universally abuse food stamps because they fit a certain type so you can always spot them. anyone who wants to is free to suggest a method for eliminating abuse from the food stamp system, and I'd like to think we could get an interesting discussion out of that, but let's be clear about something:

this article is not about food stamp abuse.

it sure as hell comes across like it is, doesn't it? But then, how do we recognize food stamp abuse? well, the people bunnycup mentioned seem to fit the bill. so let's look at the article. if we look for the telltale signs (supplemental money from parents, undeclared income from partners or babyparents, etc...) we can't actually find them in there. we just see nice eye-catching terms like Whole Foods and Organic and Foodie and c. This really should be the thing that makes you rethink the article. It's doing everything it can to make you think "FOOD STAMP ABUSE" without actually describing actual abuse. And it's playing to our biases by describing the hated hipster, but not by actually demonstrating abuse. that is important.
posted by shmegegge at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2010 [45 favorites]


It may well be money well spent -- maybe we're subsidizing a lifestyle, but at least it's a reasonably healthy one. Healthier diets, healthier people, far less likelihood of them eating themselves into becoming a burden on the health system... which for anyone on food stamps, we're also on the hook paying for.

I'd bet it actually saves us money in the long run, but we won't realize/admit it because nobody bothers to think beyond the next fiscal year/quarter anymore.
posted by Pufferish at 9:48 AM on March 16, 2010


I thought part of being an American was letting other people spend their money however they liked.

But it's not their money. If it's public assistance money, you only get to spend it in the ways that the people who know better prescribe.
posted by blucevalo at 9:50 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Re: cookware -- points taken. Fair enough.
posted by alynnk at 9:50 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The card is called 'Oregon Trail Card' so being on food stamps is known as 'riding the trail'.

YOU HAVE DIED

http://www.80stees.com/products/Dysentery-Oregon-Trail-T-shirt.asp

OF DYSENTERY
posted by mwhybark at 9:50 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, I feed a family of 7 on around $450/month. Granted, 5 of those 7 are children, but among them they easily eat as much as two adults, if not more. So that's ~$100/month per "adult".

About $400-$500 for a family of four plus our nanny here, but I live in an area (one of the boros of NY) where food is far more expensive than in other areas of the country.

We buy our food at Target, BJ's (it's like Costco or Sam's) and our local supermarket -- because we've learned that certain foods are less expensive at one store than the others, and some items are only available at one of them. For example, my kids go through a gallon of whole milk every 1.5 days. It's more than $1.50 less per gallon at BJ's compared to our local supermarket. But our supermarket is closer and more convenient for certain items. They have a wider, fresher variety of fruits and vegetables.

We eat pretty simply. Fresh meat, fruits and vegetables. Breads, pastas, juice, milk etc. We keep away from pre-made meals or processed junk food as much as possible. We love to cook and that helps.

I don't give a damn what these people buy with their food stamps. It's not for me to judge, I'm glad the program is available to them and good on 'em for making healthy choices.

I wonder how long it will take for any of the prominent right-wing pundits to blame the victim and point to this article as reason why the poor don't deserve assistance.
posted by zarq at 9:51 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Justinian: To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with people who need food stamps buying organic, healthy, whatever. I just don't think the people in this article need food stamps. I know people like this; see bunnycup's comment. Now, the article is likely picking out people who represent a very small subset of the program. That's undoubtedly true. But it's the article we're stuck with and what's under discussion.

Now you see, I don't feel I can make a judgement about what the people in this article need, because this article is so obviously a biased piece of garbage. Salon and Ms. Bleyer squandered their credibility on that point shortly after the lurid head and subhead.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2010


I don't know why Americans hate people who can figure out how to eat tasty food on a tight budget, but if I had to guess I'd say it's something to do with how Americans hate pleasure even when the pleasurable thing is good for them, and doubly hate it when poor people experience pleasure or have or make good things for themselves.

I think you hit the nail on the head. I don't know if it's a distinctly American thing, but we are so fucked up in our relationship with pleasure, and our relationship with food. We treat the former as if only morally worthy people should enjoy it, and the latter as some sort of - well, I don't know. Food is the enemy, and it's also necessary, and it's medicine, and it can kill you. God. It doesn't bear much scrutiny because there doesn't seem to be any way out of our destructive and unhealthy ways of thinking about food and pleasure.
posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


I would disagree with the notion that one should be purchasing outlandishly-priced cookware if they are currently unable to provide food for themselves or their family without assistance.

I would disagree with the notion that one should be able to outlandishly presume to dictate what people purchase or don't purchase.
posted by blucevalo at 9:53 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is hilarious. I'm from Baltimore.. I have not even read the article, but a number of my friends are mentioned in it. I had a feeling this would get posted to MetaFilter.. it's a shame I arrived so late to the debate.
posted by cloeburner at 9:54 AM on March 16, 2010


You know what? Fuck this shit- when I was in grad school, I lived for several years on incomes in the neighborhood of $15,000. I had very little funding, and I didn't have these mysterious "rich parents" everyone always talks about to bail me out. If I had known that I was eligible for food stamps (and maybe I wasn't, I just don't know), I would have taken them and spent the money to add more variety and healthy choices into my diet.

And if asked, I would probably say that I am a Hipster. Got a problem with that?

Now I have a decent job and pay taxes in two different countries. I would rather my tax money went to support people who want to make healthier choices in their diets. I would rather that poor people got more to eat, and that the food they were getting was of better quality. Got a problem with that?

Also, it is possible to find le Creuset cookware in thrift stores. I considered it quite a coup when I did.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:54 AM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


shmegegge: "It's doing everything it can to make you think "FOOD STAMP ABUSE" without actually describing actual abuse. And it's playing to our biases by describing the hated hipster, but not by actually demonstrating abuse."

This.

I enjoy Salon, actually. I'd visit it daily for Greenwald, if nothing else. But this article is a stalking horse for "entitlement reform" and I hate it like poison.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:55 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought part of being an American was letting other people spend their money however they liked.

I thought the American credo was "if you don't work, you don't eat".
posted by acb at 9:55 AM on March 16, 2010


brain_drain seems to have missed...

Metafilter: How dare you suggest some hipsters may abuse food stamps. You right wing jerks!
Hipster: Hey, can you spare some change for the bus?
posted by ecurtz at 9:55 AM on March 16, 2010


All this talk of living on gourmet ice cream has me thinking about Grey Gardens. Fucking hipsters are even ruining cult classic documentaries.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:56 AM on March 16, 2010


cloeburner: "This is hilarious. I'm from Baltimore.. I have not even read the article, but a number of my friends are mentioned in it. I had a feeling this would get posted to MetaFilter.. it's a shame I arrived so late to the debate."

Its never too late! If you can fill in any details that would be welcome.
posted by charred husk at 9:56 AM on March 16, 2010


I've been half expecting this. Living in Portland, Or with its large hipster population this is just inevitable. There are more kids here with art school degrees than jobs (any jobs, really.) For the most part they spent the boom years living off their parents. Now, that the economy has soured, the parents don't have the same money they used to have. Suddenly those six figure college debts mean something.

So now we have a population of people who consider themselves "over-educated" because of their degrees in pottery (or what have you) that have never bothered to develop any kind of job skill, much less a work ethic.

Getting stuff is all they know.

What is interesting here, and very different from Reagan's "welfare Queens" is these kids don't come from backgrounds of generational poverty. They come from a background of generational entitlement. They are failing within a system that was built for them.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:57 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whether someone's buying 12 cans of black beans or 2 pounds of grass-fed organic flank steak it's still only $150 a month.

Jesus Christ, steak has gotten expensive.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:57 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought the American credo was "if you don't work, you don't eat".

you're thinking american christianity. easy mistake.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:57 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


These people, when gainfully employed again, will pay it all back in a couple months of salary taxes. If you're eating out of Whole Foods or the vegetable market rather than the scratch-n-dent aisle at Albertsons, you've got a future.

What is this even supposed to mean?
posted by kmz at 9:58 AM on March 16, 2010


In college, I unabashedly used my grandmother's food stamp card to fill my cupboards. After rent, my monthly income was $35. Eventually, I applied to get my own food stamps out of a slowly nagging guilt over using my grandmother's card, the state gave me $18 a month. The moral of the story? Be old.
posted by kerning at 9:59 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does it make any sense to have 'Le Creuset' pot thrown in there randomly?

It makes total sense if they bought it when they were employed.
posted by desjardins at 9:59 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


This really should be the thing that makes you rethink the article.

shmegegge: To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you discuss the article you have, not the article you wish you had. I have no doubt the article is deliberately setting out to make people look bad. But that's what got posted. If someone wants to make a post about the history, effects, and successes of the food stamp program in the United States, well, then that's what we'll talk about.

Until then, this is the one we've got.
posted by Justinian at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2010


Also this?

a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass

The ingredients are exotic to most of us, but this is street food, folks. It is not fancy, and in a city with a lot of Asians it is not expensive. I make my own curry paste all the time - maybe $10 worth of ingredients (bag of chilis, a few stalks of lemongrass, a bulb of garlic and a bag of shallots, some frozen galangal) for a three-to-six-month supply of paste, which freezes effortlessly. So let's say for one meal it's $0.50 for the paste.

My big local Asian grocer invariably uses coconut milk for a loss leader, so the two cans of it for a family-sized curry would be about $2.00. (All prices western Canadian, by the way.)

Throw in a 1/4 bag of frozen beans or peas (or fresh if in season), maybe say $0.75 to 1.50. Live large - cut up two chicken breasts from a whole bird bought at the farmers' market and throw those in there. $6.00.

A tablespoon or two of vegetable oil and a couple cups of rice: $0.50.

Total cost: $9.75 to $10.50, usually yielding enough for my family of three to eat at least two meals. Yes, I could've done the same with Kraft Dinner and cut-rate last-day-of-sale ground beef for five bucks or so, but if I skip the chip and cookie aisles I figure I'm near to breaking even.
posted by gompa at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2010 [31 favorites]


This whole thread suffers from a large lack of data and a partial lack of perspective.

YOU'RE WELCOME. <> $1,000/mo (benefits start at <>Fiscal PARTICIPATION BENEFIT AVERAGE MONTHLY BENEFIT
Year Persons Households COSTS Per Person Per Household
FY 2009 33,722,293 15,232,105 50,360,147,162 124.45 275.52
FY 2008 28,409,880 12,728,981 34,608,397,238 101.52 226.57
FY 2007 26,468,563 11,789,594 30,373,271,078 95.63 214.69
posted by The White Hat at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Savory aromas wafted through the kitchen as a table was set with a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice, all of it courtesy of government assistance.


So, would this be an "acceptable" use of food stamps for an Asian family? This food may not be what you eat on a daily basis, but it's actually standard American fare. (It also only costs about $2 a serving, if that.
posted by OmieWise at 10:03 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I went to the University of Chicago. Got a problem with that?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:03 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


rtha: "I'm missing your point. What is it?

We were on food stamps for a while when I was a kid. My mom had (well, was in the process of getting) a PhD. I never worried about where my next meal was coming from and my cothes always fit me, even if they weren't the latest hippest brands.

Were we poor, or were we broke? Can you tell from my description? If we were only broke, should we not have gotten food stamps?
"

I would say broke but hey, I wasn't there. I have no problem with broke people getting help, including food stamps. Education is great, too; subsidized student loans are great.

I still think it's silly to use the same word for vastly different situations. So people who criticize the people in the article are "classist" and want poor people to eat gruel because they hate poor people, with the implication that being unemployed for a year is the same as being raised in poverty, by parents who were also poor. No. It's not the same and pretending like it leads to "I was poor for a while while I was in grad school, and you don't see me complaining!"

Bullshit. If you want to see actual classism, scroll up and find the comment about people who have a "future" and people who don't. Because they buy food from dented cans.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:04 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's doing everything it can to make you think "FOOD STAMP ABUSE" without actually describing actual abuse. And it's playing to our biases by describing the hated hipster, but not by actually demonstrating abuse. that is important.

Exactly. It plays off of at least two well-known biases (hipster-hate; kids-today) and throws in a hefty dose of class-baiting. It carefully arranges what carefully-selected facts it does disclose in a deliberately emotionally manipulative and provocative way to create a vague general impression that something's not right here, and we should be outraged.

But essentially the same factual content could have been presented in a different arrangement to put an extremely positive spin on what's essentially the same story.

For example, with one unrelated quote from some random public official on the value of school health programs, the story might have been reworked under a headline like: "Due to Success of Health Awareness Education Programs, Younger, Better Educated Food Stamp Recipients More Likely to Choose Healthy Diet Alternatives."

As it is, this is well-constructed, anti-welfare agitprop. And that's all it is. There simply isn't anything else here, content-wise. The form dominates the content.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:04 AM on March 16, 2010 [26 favorites]


Oh, and shmegegee, I'm not concerned that some hipsters might be buying "the wrong stuff". I don't care what people buy if they are given money that they need. My only concern is to try and help the maximum number of needy people that we can with limited resources.
posted by Justinian at 10:04 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You have the right to food money
Providing of course you
Don't mind a little
Investigation, humiliation
And if you cross your fingers
Rehabilitation

posted by octothorpe at 10:05 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


The paycheck I deposited on Friday has not cleared yet. Today, for lunch I had a double cheeseburger at McD's, a place I rarely if ever frequent or purchase food from, for $1.49 plus tax. Hopefully, my check will have cleared by tonight, but just to be sure, I'll take some snacks home from work to tide me over until the boss buys lunch tomorrow.

That's where I'm at, and I'm working full time, ineligible for food stamps.

Also, I spent $8.25 on a pack of Camel Lights, but that's neither here nor there. After all, first things first.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:06 AM on March 16, 2010


What is this even supposed to mean?

I am imagining someone putting "Whole Foods consumer" on their resume, or shouting, as the cops drag them away, "You've got it all wrong! Don't you know where I shop?"
posted by enn at 10:06 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let 'em eat tiramisu.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:07 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Until then, this is the one we've got.

Yeah, Justinian, you say that, but the article we've got includes no evidence or even direct insinuation that the subjects are cheating the system. As far as one can tell from the argument, they have a legitimate right to access food stamps.

So if we're sticking to the article we've got, the only issue at hand here is whether or not people on public assistance should be required to eat cheap, unhealthy food on principle, and if so, based on what the hell principle exactly?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


er... "As far as one can tell from the argument article
posted by saulgoodman at 10:09 AM on March 16, 2010


"This is hilarious. I'm from Baltimore.. I have not even read the article, but a number of my friends are mentioned in it. I had a feeling this would get posted to MetaFilter.. it's a shame I arrived so late to the debate."

Too late?! This one's just getting started. I sense at least 200 comments.
posted by josher71 at 10:10 AM on March 16, 2010


That's it. I've had it with all the hipster hate around here.
META!
posted by charred husk at 10:10 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sorry folks, but this story should piss off the truly compassionate among you far more than it does me - I care only because they abuse my tax dollars; You should care because these asshats effectively take money away from people who really do need it.
posted by pla at 9:12 AM on March 16


WARNING
DON'T FEED THE TROLL
CTRL-F "POSTED BY PLA"

YOUR FRIENDLY PARK RANGER
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:11 AM on March 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


When I've been on unemployment and/or in school, food stamps have been a lifesaver. I did complain that the government should be giving magazine stamps, too, to no avail.

The problem with focusing on fraud is that it means some people who really need help won't get it, just to make sure that some people who someone thinks shouldn't need it won't get it. That focus on fraud was what led to single-parent families in the underclass, since if there was a man in the house, it was assumed he should be working and providing (no matter what the local unemployment rate was). The social cost of stopping "fraud" ended up bing a lot higher than the actual fraud would have been.

We'd be better off overall if we had a guaranteed minimum income that everyone got, whether they applied for it or not, and then paid back in the form of taxes. If you're really worried about people wasting it on drink and drugs, put it in the form of food stamps.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:12 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


My only concern is to try and help the maximum number of needy people that we can with limited resources.

Red herring. We ARE maximizing the number of needy people being helped. These people are needy. They are being helped.
posted by muddgirl at 10:12 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Justinian, you say that, but the article we've got includes no evidence or even direct insinuation that the subjects are cheating the system. As far as one can tell from the argument, they have a legitimate right to access food stamps.

I don't get it; is someone arguing that we need to send the food stamp police over to investigate these people? Are we likely to encounter these people in daily life and treat them badly because of a mistaken impression given by a biased article?

Yes, the article is standard LOLhipsters with added dose of class warfare. Unless we're going to actually implement bad policy (and we're not) because of this article, rolling our eyes at the hipsters here is no different than for any other LOLhipster article. They don't stop being hipsters because they're unemployed. Hell, that's practically a requirement.
posted by Justinian at 10:12 AM on March 16, 2010


I, for one, would much rather have my tax dollars go to support an educated young person who buys healthy foods than to the chronically dependent who started families at too young an age and feed their children food-like shit.

Can it be argued that these gourmet foods perhaps offer more economic stimulus than buying the cheap, crappy mass-produced foods? And maybe the health benefits mean they'll be less of a burden, health care-wise?

I couldn't agree with you more. Major food corps (the 3 of them) prey on the poor. No one is going to buy a $1.25 organic bell pepper when they could buy a cheeseburger for $.99. They buy the cheap, shitty high-caloric foods which later give them adult onset diabetes (1 in 2 people in a minority get AOD) and puts them in the hospital. And of course they don't have insurance, which means the costs are absorbed by tax payers and the premiums of policy holders - and soon the real cost of that $150 monthly EBT is exponentially greater. We are a society of the short-sighted. Just like the food industry, we seem to think it's better to find some short-term fix for a problem, usually throwing some money at it, than looking at actual systemic solutions. I mean, talk about a god damned vicious cycle.

Effectively, encouraging the poor to use EBT or food stamps to purchase shit food is akin to calling for government support of Tyson or Monsanto. Those companies already get enough in subsidies and pork, imo.

It's in everyone's best interest if food stamps are used to buy healthy, organic foods. Not only does it decrease health care costs down the road and makes people generally happier, it also encourages the market to shift toward healthier, more sustainable food products and manufacturing methods. And it isn't just about the food. Organic food producers generally treat their workers with a modicum of respect and dignity - which cannot be said for the major food corps employing undocumented workers they underpay, treat like shit and then later sell out to the DHS.

Re: the always stupid and tired hipster hate thing here - hipster or not, this is a young person struggling. I mean, if you're a baby boomer hating on the youngins in this situation, take a good hard look at the causes. You told them they could do anything they wanted, you gave them insane loans to pursue those dreams, telling them they'd be fine and great, while you ran the economy into the ground, setting the stage for them to graduate with massive debt and no job prospects. And you're angry because they use food stamps to buy healthy foods? What? Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

In Oregon (read:Portland) it seems like virtually everyone in their 20s is on food stamps

I'm a 20-something in pdx and I don't know a single person on food stamps. Also I think I saw some kids on your lawn you might want to yell at.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:13 AM on March 16, 2010 [27 favorites]


Also, I spent $8.25 on a pack of Camel Lights, but that's neither here nor there. After all, first things first.

Holy shit. Is that what a pack of cigarettes costs these days? So a pack a day smoker spends about $250 per month? Wow.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on March 16, 2010


According to Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain, during the Great Depression in Britain, welfare was rigorously means-tested, and recipients were subjected to home inspections to make sure they weren't squirrelling away high-quality food or living above a basic subsistence level on the government's dime.

Perhaps this should be brought back, only updated to modern circumstances. For example, organic food and exotic foods would be out, as would anything exceeding the cheapest means to sustain oneself (i.e., high-fructose corn syrup). Also, owning a Mac (whassamatta, Windows is good enough for everyone else but not for you?), a fixed-gear bicycle or spending money on aesthetic products would immediately revoke one's eligibility.
posted by acb at 10:14 AM on March 16, 2010


Ok, I read the comments. I too am on food stamps, it has helped me gauge how much I spend per month on food. Oddly enough, I've discovered that I only spend about 100 bucks per month [but I also dumpster a lot of food], I'm also very skinny. I don't fault Gerry or Sarah for shopping at Whole Foods, and I know that at least Gerry is very wise in his shopping decisions and tries to buy animal parts that other people wouldn't consider eating.

I'd say about half of my friends are on food stamps, and all the better for it. I only made about 2000 dollars last year and I would have had a very difficult time surviving without the stamps. Many of my friends are in the same boat. We're all minimally employed, work is hard to come by, but rent is extremely cheap due to most of us living in wacky situations [12 roommates, no heat, middle of abandoned slums etc].

When we get food stamps, we are not depriving someone else of them, the social workers at the food stamp office are more than willing to give out food stamps, almost as if they have some quota to reach.

I suppose I just find it funny that so many people are in favor of socialism, but when it is put to practice they immediately throw a fit.
posted by cloeburner at 10:15 AM on March 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


Imagine two families on food stamps, identical except for this key difference: one family decides to buy and subsist on mass quantities of macaroni and cheese and grade C ground beef, and the other buys more nutritious and interesting fare: a huge bag of rice, some dried beans, and a little organic produce and salmon every week.

One family is going to be more healthy, less depressed, probably a lot more interesting at a job interview, and the kids (or college students) are going to learn better in school.

I happen to think that's a good use of my tax money.

Please let this be a way we as a culture learn to eat a variety of healthy foods for less money.
posted by amtho at 10:16 AM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


shmegegge: To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you discuss the article you have, not the article you wish you had.

I'm sorry, man, but I don't understand what you're saying. discussing the article in front of us, its merits and flaws, is precisely what I'm doing. As I recall, you asked me how I knew these people weren't abusing the system and my response was [heavily paraphrased] "I don't, but what I'm responding to is how badly and dishonestly this article has been written, so that we should make a point to critically analyze it because it's not presenting the facts to us, just playing on our biases." so, yeah, I'm pretty sure that discussing the article we have is precisely what I'm doing. and then you made the point that you knew this type of people and all that, at which point I tried again to bring it back to the article at hand and how it plays to our outrage and not the facts at hand. what's the problem?
posted by shmegegge at 10:17 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am glad they are able to get food stamps. About 15 years ago I lost my job and after a few months I was reduced to selling plasma for food money (now The Clash's 'Know Your Rights" is playing in my head). I honestly could not find a job and looked into government assistance. I was told it was mainly for single mothers but I could try. It would have been a paltry amount and lot of hassle and wait and uncertainty to get it. This was before Clinton's welfare reform so I imagine it's harder these days. I lived for a while on soda crackers, peanut butter, and apple juice. Those offered the most calories for the dollar. Bread was too expensive. This article is pretty much bullshit. It's manufactured controversy. Someone who has $37 a week to eat on is not going to spend it at Whole Foods unless they are buying store brand staples.
posted by Tashtego at 10:18 AM on March 16, 2010


Is that what a pack of cigarettes costs these days?

That's a little bit higher than average, but only because I bought them at the chi-chi wine/cheese/organic bodega instead of walking over to Chinatown, like I should have. Lazy impulses have their margins too.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:19 AM on March 16, 2010


what a load of wank
posted by edgeways at 10:19 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Potentially more data, from this previous post, the 2011 U.S. federal budget allows $80B for food stamps.

Potentially more perspective, my family was on food stamps when I was a kid. Now I'm a productive, tax-paying, member of society. I want to thank you all for helping us through a tough time, and hope you consider it a good investment.
posted by Edward L at 10:20 AM on March 16, 2010 [25 favorites]


Major food corps (the 3 of them) prey on the poor. . . . 1 in 2 people in a minority get AOD

Interesting simplification.
posted by tantivy at 10:20 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would say broke but hey, I wasn't there. I have no problem with broke people getting help, including food stamps. Education is great, too; subsidized student loans are great.

Okay. I'm still not sure I get your point (poor != broke - well, okay, but so what?), but I'm also not sure it matters. If people are broke (I guess by this you mean a temporary lack of money/job, but with the class background of education/family to fall back on), you still think they deserve help, and if people are poor (longer term no-money, less or no access to educational advancement, no financially stable family to fall back on), they also deserve help.

I guess what I'm not grokking is the fightiness of your tone, or maybe I'm just misreading that too. (It's the internet, it happens.)
posted by rtha at 10:20 AM on March 16, 2010


blucevalo : Your presuming what should piss me off pisses me off more than an unemployed hipster buying arugula.

I specifically directed that toward the "truly compassionate".

If you want to stand up and defend hipster abuses of money that could go to people who actually need it, well now that would make you falsely compassionate - A liberal poseur, if you will.

So... Either I didn't address you, or yes, yes TFA should bother you.
posted by pla at 10:20 AM on March 16, 2010


jesus christ, pla.
posted by shmegegge at 10:21 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Re: the always stupid and tired hipster hate thing here - hipster or not, this is a young person struggling. I mean, if you're a baby boomer hating on the youngins in this situation, take a good hard look at the causes. You told them they could do anything they wanted, you gave them insane loans to pursue those dreams, telling them they'd be fine and great, while you ran the economy into the ground, setting the stage for them to graduate with massive debt and no job prospects.

No I didn't. I told them to go to Real School and get a Real Job.
posted by bunnycup at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


but isn't it generally acknowledged that hipsters tend to support their expensive lifestyles using money from their wealthy parents?

Nope!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


cloeburner:
Thanks for painting that picture for us. Sometimes people need to be reminded that there are all sorts of different ways of getting by in the world when things are rough.
posted by charred husk at 10:24 AM on March 16, 2010


The issue seems to be that young, able, educated people are unemployed. Because they're young, they (nominally) have no assets to dip into. Because there's 17% underemployment, it's impossible to say that they just aren't trying. By objective metrics, they qualify for means-tested assistance.

What's so intuitively odd about them is that we feel that they should have assets. Brought up several times is that they probably have parents supplementing their income. Viewing their parents wealth as an asset makes sense in a way (they'll likely inherit it, we already do this for college loan subsidies), but not in others (some parents won't do that and it would be bad to make them). More to the point, that they will probably get good jobs in the future is an asset. Anyone getting a degree knows this game: when you get loans for food and rent you are borrowing against your future income. These people have a high expectation of future income, and should (to some minds) borrow against that rather than draining the public funds designed for people who don't. That's impossible right now due to the lack of consumer credit and the absurd rates charged. This is something we have to eat. I suppose that you could tack past welfare benefits onto future (high-income level) tax liability, but that would probably be more in administrative cost than revenue.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:26 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


My state senator gives speeches exhorting people to sign up for food stamps if they qualify, even if they don't feel they need the money, to bring federal money into the neighborhood. It's not a zero-sum game; or rather, it is, but there's no reason to think that someone who is signing up for food stamps but could manage without them is taking money from people who couldn't rather than taking money from, say, Rumsfeld's defense contractor friends. Buying people food — whoever they are and whatever kind of food it is — seems to me like one of the more defensible uses of tax money, all things considered.
posted by enn at 10:26 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I told them to go to Real School and get a Real Job.

Well, perhaps our ideas of real jobs differ, but being an art preparator is a pretty decent job. It pays well, requires technical knowledge and skill, and serves an important purpose in society (of course, I enjoy going to art museums, so ymmv). The industry got hit by the recession just like any other.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:26 AM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


If you want to stand up and defend hipster abuses of money that could go to people who actually need it, well now that would make you falsely compassionate - A liberal poseur, if you will.

C, WAA.
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I, for one, would much rather have my tax dollars go to support an educated young person who buys healthy foods than to the chronically dependent who started families at too young an age and feed their children food-like shit.

What is "chronically dependent," exactly? And who defines that? And how do you know that someone who "feeds their children food-like shit" doesn't live in a situation in which "food-like shit" is the only food-like shit that they are able to afford/buy in their neighborhoods?

I, for one, would rather not make as few value judgment about the people to whom my tax dollars go to support, whether they're hipsters or not.
posted by blucevalo at 10:27 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not that it matters, but Hampden is one of the nicer neighborhoods in Baltimore. Used to be mostly white and working class, now it's mostly bo-bos and trustifarian art school dropouts and the like.
posted by electroboy at 10:27 AM on March 16, 2010


Why are all these people on food stamps on Metafilter? Shouldn't they be saving their $5 and going on Yahoo Answers?

jk
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:27 AM on March 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


Major food corps (the 3 of them) prey on the poor. . . . 1 in 2 people in a minority get AOD

Interesting simplification.


The AOD stat is true, actually (it's 1 in 3 if you're talking about the general population).

The 3 major food corps is actually not that far off, either. The average supermarket has something like 47,000 products, but only about 3-4 manufacturers are represented.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:28 AM on March 16, 2010


"Bo-bos"?
posted by josher71 at 10:28 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


but isn't it generally acknowledged that hipsters tend to support their expensive lifestyles using money from their wealthy parents?

Nope!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:22 AM


Maybe!
posted by electroboy at 10:30 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why are all these people on food stamps on Metafilter? Shouldn't they be saving their $5 and going on Yahoo Answers?

jk


I bought my account several years ago with a friend... we paid 2.50 each. No joke. But he's since moved on to greener pastures.
posted by cloeburner at 10:31 AM on March 16, 2010


Lutoslawski, no, I don't disagree with you. I don't think there is really any sector that isn't getting hit with serious job shortages right now. I mean heck, how many kids have graduated law school and can't find jobs? I do agree we, as a society, should not have so readily encouraged so many kids to believe they would have long term, dependable employment earning a living wage in the arts, but I don't say that to suggest that fine arts are frivolous or unimportant.
posted by bunnycup at 10:31 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"feeds their children food-like shit" doesn't live in a situation in which "food-like shit" is the only food-like shit that they are able to afford/buy in their neighborhoods?"

I grant you that my value judgment was a bit hasty and undefined, but this argument is BS. No matter where you live, you have a choice to not buy your meals at McD's. Spreading this notion is simply exacerbating the problem and ensuring years of prosperity for the round-up ready soy bean and meat filler.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:32 AM on March 16, 2010


You know that bit where we feel so good about telling our young children that they can grow up and be anything they want to be? Yeah, well, apparently we get over it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:34 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


(1 in 2 people in a minority get AOD)

Do you have a cite for that number? (I'm not trying to be a stickler, I just think it's an interesting stat, but the numbers I can find suggest 23.6 million people in the US with diagnosed and undiagnosed DM, in 2007, and approximately, for instance, 41 million African Americans in the US in 2008. Is it a worldwide number?
posted by OmieWise at 10:35 AM on March 16, 2010


No matter where you live, you have a choice to not buy your meals at McD's.

....Point of order: there ARE neighborhoods where there isn't as much of a choice as you think. Sure, they have a choice not to buy their meals at McD's -- it's just that that alternate choice may be something like Popeye's, KFC, or the corner convenience store where all the "produce" is the color of carbon and may possibly be sentient.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:36 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Bo-bos"?

Bo-bos.
posted by electroboy at 10:36 AM on March 16, 2010


Bunnycup - I'm just jaded because I feel like I was duped into borrowing a lot of money for a degree that probably won't be worth it. I see my intelligent, capable and educated friends - 25, 26, 27 - struggling to find unpaid internships (or worse, internships they have to pay for). It's easy to blame the baby boomers - they are a convenient scape goat. And they aren't without blame, certainly, but I also agree that you accept some personal responsibility when you take the art school risk.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


rtha: "Okay. I'm still not sure I get your point (poor != broke - well, okay, but so what?), but I'm also not sure it matters. If people are broke (I guess by this you mean a temporary lack of money/job, but with the class background of education/family to fall back on), you still think they deserve help, and if people are poor (longer term no-money, less or no access to educational advancement, no financially stable family to fall back on), they also deserve help.

I guess what I'm not grokking is the fightiness of your tone, or maybe I'm just misreading that too. (It's the internet, it happens.)
"

Yes, I think everyone needs help when they need help. That is because I am relatively mellow about spending government money to keep everyone fed and happy.

I am not mellow about people calling themselves (or other people) poor with the implication that they had it hard, too! when the reality is they are advantaged and working within a system that was made for them. It irritates me; even though many people do not have a conscious desire to conflate temporary hardship with generational poverty, using the same word for both is one of many ways that we, as a society, refuse to acknowledge that there are different classes with vastly different opportunities and prospects for financial stability. Upward mobility--Horatio Alger aside--is rare. Few people go from "poor" to "middle class" with one job interview. Nor do they go from "middle class" to "poor" due to a few years in grad school.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe!
posted by electroboy at 10:30 AM on March 16


Every human interest story in "NY/Region" AKA UWS Wankfest is a lie

WACKY STREET VENDOR BELOVED BY ALL
Local Microcelebrity Not Widely Ignored

HANDMADE POGS HOT ITEM AT BROOKLYN FLEA
Some of Them Have Ironic Sayings

IN THIS ECONOMY, HIPSTERS SELL THEIR OWN ORGANS
Haha a Weiners Joke Goes Here
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:38 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Some young, hip, health-conscious people are rich! News at 11!

Some young, hip, health-conscious people are not rich, and are trying to get through life just like you are! Not on the news, because making fun of regular people is boring!
posted by oinopaponton at 10:40 AM on March 16, 2010


So you feel it's irresponsible to splurge for a luxury item every once in a while if you are received state assistance?
Yes.

Do you think it's irresponsible for my parents to splurge on a pint of ice cream because their food budget comes from Social Security Disability payments?
Yes.

Maybe my point of view comes from being raised on food stamps by parents who were way too irresponsible to have kids.

There was a time in my adult life that I qualified for food stamps, and had some friends on them. But instead of living on hand-outs like a child, I moved from a depressed area to a place with jobs, got one, and supported myself like a grown-up.

I understand that circumstances may force some people to take hand-outs, but I've never understood why people refuse to change those circumstances.

Here's a start.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:41 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


(1 in 2 people in a minority get AOD)

Do you have a cite for that number?


Admittedly, I took this stat from Food, Inc., (book & movie). Perhaps it is bullshit, but the film was well-vetted and I'm obliged to believe it. I'll look and see if I can't find where they got the stat.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:42 AM on March 16, 2010


making fun of regular people is boring

Your Mama is so regular, she doesn't even need yogurt. Good thing, too. She can't afford it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:42 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


To get assistance you need to qualify your income, etc. If you are jealous of those who can live on that amount, go try it - or try it again if it was so awesome the first time.

To be called a hipster you need to qualify your BMI at some ghastly low level. If you are jealous of those who can live on that amount, go try it - or try it again if it was so awesome the first time.

I like the distinction in this thread between poor and broke. College prepared me to be broke for long periods of time. If I have to share an apartment with 5 people again, and eat cheap whole foods in bulk (since I can't just eat one wee piece of anything) I can hack it. I couldn't have done that without help. The help I got at the time was the loan of a car once in a while rather than stamps, but it was help all the same.

Oh, and when does my MeFi "Honk if I'm paying your mortgage" bumper sticker come in the mail?
posted by drowsy at 10:43 AM on March 16, 2010


Nor do they go from "middle class" to "poor" due to a few years in grad school.

I think you're underestimating the amount of real downward mobility among, let's say, the hipster class. Not everyone gets a good job in the end, even if they did get the fancy degree, and treating them as though it's a foregone conclusion that they're going to do so and so their poverty doesn't count seems kind of misguided to me.
posted by enn at 10:43 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


No matter where you live, you have a choice to not buy your meals at McD's.

Where I live, in the middle of a city in a mixed neighborhood, there is a McDonalds, a Subway, a 7-11 and a Wendy's in walking distance. There's no supermarket within an easy walk.
posted by octothorpe at 10:43 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


shmegegge : jesus christ, pla.

What? He can stand here and mock anyone who dares to call abuse of public assistance "wrong"... But I can't return his serve?


blucevalo : What is "chronically dependent," exactly?

Free hint - If your parents received TANF and you have never lived without it. If you went on assistance 20 years ago and now approach retirement age still on it. If you actively avoid work because it would disqualify you (and before you reflexively cry "BS", follow the link below) .

In my state, we have such a problem with 2nd and even 3rd gen welfare recipients that last year the state senate took action to try to reduce those numbers... Though of course in the current economy, they may as well have tried to lower home heating bills by capturing unicorn farts.

posted by pla at 10:43 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Few people go from "poor" to "middle class" with one job interview. Nor do they go from "middle class" to "poor" due to a few years in grad school.

Apparently, Art School has boosted me from working class to middle class as of next fall, actually. I'm gonna be on a pretty sweet fellowship for 4 years. Who knows if I'll find a good job after that, but I can fall back on contract bookkeeping or something else, because I'm not a hipster, I guess. My poor mama raised me "right," with all the meritocratic mythos of the white working class conservatives.

So let's drop the "real school" thing, please. It's my gamble to make, and my country told me to try to do my best, and this is it.

The debate at hand? It's ridiculous. I have no interest in scrutinizing people's grocery bills. What, y'all wanna go be IRS auditors? I bet they're still hiring; do it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


No matter where you live, you have a choice to not buy your meals at McD's.

This isn't about buying at McD's or not. Portland may be an exception, but this is about urban neighborhoods in which some people live where it is often impossible to find a supermarket or non-shit foodstuff store, indeed in which it is often impossible to find anything but liquor stores and convenience stores, for miles. That has to do with urban zoning and planning priorities, not the meat filler industry.
posted by blucevalo at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


they abuse my tax dollars

They abuse your tax dollars by eating healthy food and carefully spending their public aid money on wise purchases? What, exactly, do you want them to do with their aid money if that's what you consider an "abuse"?

Maybe my point of view comes from being raised on food stamps by parents who were way too irresponsible to have kids.

Except that what we're reading about is people who are on food stamps who are obviously responsible enough to make good nutrition decisions and responsible enough to understand when they can get a pint of ice cream without messing up the rest of their food budget.

It just goes to show: when it comes to aid-to-the-poor journalism, the subjects just can't win. You're either an irresponsible ne'er-do-well, or a slumming-it poseur "abusing the system."
posted by deanc at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2010


I understand that circumstances may force some people to take hand-outs, but I've never understood why people refuse to change those circumstances.

In the case of an elderly couple receiving disability payments -- a couple you admitted should not splurge on ice cream now and then -- exactly what circumstances would you suggest they change?

It's disability. Moving to another state is not going to magically heal someone with a disability. Now what?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


but isn't it generally acknowledged that hipsters tend to support their expensive lifestyles using money from their wealthy parents?

Nope!


As I said I don't really have anything to back that claim up, but to me it didn't seem out of the ordinary that one of the subjects of the article was from one of the top ten wealthiest counties in the country.

If you are on food stamps and are also in public housing or have some other kind of public assistance to pay for the rest of your expenses, that makes sense. But if you unemployed with less than $2000 in assets, and in addition to the food stamps you qualify for and use for expensive food, you also have to pay for the other hipster lifestyle requirements like rent in an expensive city, iPhone service, high speed Internet, and whatnot, where does the rest of the money come from?
posted by burnmp3s at 10:47 AM on March 16, 2010


Just to clear things up, Baltimore is far from an expensive city. I know people here who pay 80 a month in rent. I pay about double that...

Baltimore is not Brooklyn.
posted by cloeburner at 10:51 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ambrosia Voyeur: "Apparently, Art School has boosted me from working class to middle class as of next fall, actually."

Awesome, although I think you might have misread. I was stating that being in grad school and short of money does not mean that you are no longer "middle class".
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:51 AM on March 16, 2010


(and that's the general "you", not you specifically)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:51 AM on March 16, 2010


In my state,

Oh, man, Mayor Curley was right after all.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2010


Where I live, in the middle of a city in a mixed neighborhood, there is a McDonalds, a Subway, a 7-11 and a Wendy's in walking distance. There's no supermarket within an easy walk.

This isn't about buying at McD's or not. Portland may be an exception, but this is about urban neighborhoods in which some people live where it is often impossible to find a supermarket or non-shit foodstuff store, indeed in which it is often impossible to find anything but liquor stores and convenience stores, for miles. That has to do with urban zoning and planning priorities, not the meat filler industry.

Ok, the zoning point is fair, and I would say that this sucks and this is exactly where the kind of systemic change necessary to actually fix this problem should start. Tell your city planners you want decent walkability in your neighborhood, including access to food markets.

I've lived in three very urban places, though perhaps they are all exceptions, and a couple very rural places - and I've always had easy-enough access to things like produce, bulk grains, etc. This is only my experience and is not representative.

Also, and I know it isn't possible for everyone (so before you all jump on me), if you lack access to produce, a lot of foods are really quite easy to grow in your yard (again, if you have one, etc...), take hardly no time, and yield a lot of food.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps this should be brought back, only updated to modern circumstances. For example, organic food and exotic foods would be out, as would anything exceeding the cheapest means to sustain oneself (i.e., high-fructose corn syrup). Also, owning a Mac (whassamatta, Windows is good enough for everyone else but not for you?), a fixed-gear bicycle or spending money on aesthetic products would immediately revoke one's eligibility.

Back in the dark days, before Facebook Purity, one of my Facebook friends did a quiz that asked if people on food stamps should be required to undergo drug testing. Naturally, my FB friend was all for it. We are a nation, as someone else pointed out, that viscerally, rabidly hates the poor. Being poor is a moral failing, and anything that happens to you as a result of your poverty is well-deserved. The corollary is that people would rather have their whole family literally starve to death than to know that even a single penny of tax money went to someone they think didn't deserve it.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


Why was my generation stuck with slacker when hipster sounds so much more soigne? And BTW, this article reeks of Stephen Glass to me. When I was a social worker you couldn't get adequate help even if you needed it, much less have the ability to support some conservative's fantasy of liberal all-you-can-eat hypocrisy. Getting the food stamp maximum allotment meant that you had zero extra dollars for food after all of the poverty cut-off lines that were atrociously low. They would deduct whatever extra you could budget for food from the amount of stamps you received. Which leaves one of several possibilities - things have changed a lot (doubt it), in some areas food stamps allotments are more than they were where I was (can happen), the recipients fudged their neediness (possible), or the article is creating something that doesn't exist. If the story is that these people are fudging their need, that's the story - food stamps won't pay for good food.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:53 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


you also have to pay for the other hipster lifestyle requirements like rent in an expensive city, iPhone service, high speed Internet, and whatnot, where does the rest of the money come from?

To be fair, I know a lot of hipsters who don't have high-speed internet, iPhones, and live in houses with 15 people to afford the rent.

Hipsters, like every other demographic, are not subject to the stereotypes put upon them, generally.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:54 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Loopholes are for the rich. That is is the American way.
posted by dirty lies at 10:54 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


But food stamps are for those with a low income, yes? I would disagree with the notion that one should be purchasing outlandishly-priced cookware if they are currently unable to provide food for themselves or their family without assistance.

I had a conservative friend in grad school who thought like this. He was incensed that some high percentage of people receiving food stamps had color tvs, because by his logic if you had a color tv you were by definition unpoor (or poor but so foolish with your money that we should punish you).

In both cases, the logic... well, there isn't one. If you go to a food stamp recipient's home and see that they have a Le Creuset pot, what does that tell you? It tells you only that at some point in the last 40 or 50 years, someone in the recipient's family (including the recipient) had enough money to purchase that pot, possibly used.

And presto, I have elegance at my disposal, for only about $7.50.

Well, you shouldn't. Decent godfearing people should stop by and steal that pate from you so that they can have it, and you can bloody well subsist on rice with weevils like horrible stinky poor people should. hamburger.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Two things.

1) I make several times the financial limit for qualifying for food stamps. I spend about $200 a month on food. Tonight's meal? A chicken/mushroom curry dish from scratch, which will cost about $10 to make but will feed me for about three days. I eat well and could continue to eat well if I dropped that to $150. $150-200 a month is only a small amount of money if you're trying to feed a family. For a single person, it's entirely adequate.

2) I think we're dealing with the mess that class concepts have become in America. It's no longer linked purely to money; education and other markers of prestige have as much to do with our class consciousness as anything else does. So Salon is--arguably irresponsibly--riffing off the cognitive dissodence of someone we normally associate with one social class acting like someone from a lower social class, forgetting for the moment that social and educational status are no longer directly linked to financial status in the way they have been in the past.
posted by valkyryn at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


It irritates me; even though many people do not have a conscious desire to conflate temporary hardship with generational poverty, using the same word for both is one of many ways that we, as a society, refuse to acknowledge that there are different classes with vastly different opportunities and prospects for financial stability.

Maybe something to this, but food stamps are not targeted at eliminating generational poverty. They're targeted at feeding people who don't have enough money to afford to eat right now, regardless of their family history. Why? So people of all social classes having a hard time right now don't starve and so they aren't as likely to end up falling into that population of people stuck in generational poverty.

Social programs aren't just about taking pity on some imaginary species of human beings branded for life as "the poor." My grandfather was born into generational poverty as a sharecropper's son, but worked his way up to become, for a time at least, a wealthy timber-man. Later in life, he fell onto hard times again (though we never went on food stamps). How would you classify him? Or me, for that matter? By income or family history?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I moved from a depressed area to a place with jobs, got one, and supported myself like a grown-up.

So you had the resources to do this, at a time when there was a place "with jobs" to move to. Bully for you.

And no one on public assistance is deserving of a $3 bit of pleasure in the form of, say, ice cream. Man, I don't want to live in your world.
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


The "Le Creuset" pot is really the key to this article: you go back and take a second look and realize that it is not an actual thing in the article, it is purely a concept: a symbol, in fact. It is there to push exactly the button that the discussion here demonstrates so admirably is getting pushed: the belief, in absence of any actual evidence, that these individuals must have too many resources to ethically qualify for food stamps. I'm comfortable with the theory that I have no clue, maybe, like I so often did when I was young, they are skipping 2 out of 3 meals.

The real issue is that anyone with half a brain knows that "young foodies" are of no god damned significance whatsoever to the big picture of poverty, hunger, and government support. You're an idiot if you think this journalistic slop is anything aside from cheap outrage bait made from the usual trick of padding out some legitimate but dull trend (more working poor need help to eat? Yawn!) with whatever anecdotes suggest themselves out of the flavor of the month buzzword bin. Being connected with a church that runs an increasingly active food shelf, I can tell you there is a real story out there about people finding themselves among the ranks of those who need food support for the first time, and it sure as hell doesn't have anything to do with this stupid, self indulgent little exercise in hipster hating.
posted by nanojath at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2010 [29 favorites]


Let's do the math. In order to qualify for food stamps Mek would have to have under $2,000 in countable resources, including a bank account and have an income of no greater than 130% of poverty threshold which for one person is $14,079 (1173.25/month) per Maryland's Department of Human Resources. So, basically, he can supplement his $200 per month with a little bit of his own cash and still afford rent, which affords him the ability to buy chi-chi groceries. I think there's an additional implication here that Mek's getting cash assistance on the sly from his well-to-do family in West Chester, which would totally not surprise me and I can't believe the writer did not put the question to him directly, though he couldn't answer it honestly because he could then be prosecuted for welfare fraud. But the possibility of welfare fraud here is pretty high, because, honestly, these guys are spending their stamps on shit they don't absolutely need, which is not how people who really desperately need food stamps spend them.

So, yeah, this dude in particular is probably at the high range of allowable income and countable resources which changes his picture as a welfare recipient. Your typically welfare recipient who receives SSI for a mental health disability, for example, lives on less than $7000 per year income and has no countable resources. This individual would have very little other income or resources to use to supplement their $200 per month, so, no, they would not be spending it on organic salmon, they would be spending it on shitty HFCS laden breafast cereals and other assorted cheap bullshit that will last a whole month. Or they would supplement their stamps with more shitty quality food from a food bank, though right now food banks are mostly bare because these non-typical new-poverty types generated by the current recession are slamming those resources also.

And, fucking journalists, man. Any journalist who wants to do a story on food stamps should be forced to at least visit a county assistance office so they don't wind up looking like total fucking morons in the eyes of people who actually work on poverty problems.
posted by The Straightener at 10:57 AM on March 16, 2010 [25 favorites]


Amongst others, Horatio Alger makes my top ten list to go back in time and convince to do something else if I ever perfect this damned time machine thing.
posted by edgeways at 10:58 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


But if you unemployed with less than $2000 in assets, and in addition to the food stamps you qualify for and use for expensive food, you also have to pay for the other hipster lifestyle requirements like rent in an expensive city, iPhone service, high speed Internet, and whatnot, where does the rest of the money come from?

The Hipster Defense League General Membership Fund pays dividends for approved lifestyle expenses for members in good standing. Unfortunately, they only pay in street cred and Irony Bux, which can only be traded for bowling shirts, diner coffee, and a free download from iTunes. But every little bit helps. I think some hipsters may also supplement their incomes by selling Protestant babies on Craigslist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:58 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


It irritates me; even though many people do not have a conscious desire to conflate temporary hardship with generational poverty, using the same word for both is one of many ways that we, as a society, refuse to acknowledge that there are different classes with vastly different opportunities and prospects for financial stability.

While I agree that we (as Americans) have an incredibly screwed up view of and relationship with class (financial, educational, social - pick one or all), I don't think that the solution to unscrewing it is to pit "the poor" against "the broke." How does that do any good? And where's the cut-off?
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2010


I bet everyone here would be shocked to learn that there's an ENTIRE COUNTRY of POOR PEOPLE that eat VIETNAMESE FOOD EVERY DAY.

It's called Vietnam.

Also, while "roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes" sounds fancy, for a one-person meal it's actually pretty cheap as rabbit is a very cheap meat. For whatever reason they used to sell it at the "No Frills" on Landsdowne in Toronto (Toronto hipsters, you know the one - the "No Frills" with the live fish counter and all the imported Portuguese food). And sweet potatoes are also, in their raw form, really cheap.

Anyway, anyone actually upset by this article has been trolled and hard. Salon needs to end articles with "YHBT. HTH. HAND."
posted by GuyZero at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I like my poor people to be a certain way.

This makes me... uncomfortable.
posted by mazola at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you actively avoid work because it would disqualify you (and before you reflexively cry "BS", follow the link below) .

Yes -- I'll be sure to "follow the link below" and not cry BS to your reflexive Republican Party talking points link.
posted by blucevalo at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2010


And no one on public assistance is deserving of a $3 bit of pleasure in the form of, say, ice cream. Man, I don't want to live in your world.

Welcome to America where there is no difference between economics and morality.
posted by GuyZero at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


I've lived in three very urban places, though perhaps they are all exceptions, and a couple very rural places - and I've always had easy-enough access to things like produce, bulk grains, etc. This is only my experience and is not representative.

I find it a good policy to remind myself that "this is only my experience and is not representative" whenever I hear of how others are living their lives in a way different from me. Others may wish to reflect on this.

Case in point:

...a lot of foods are really quite easy to grow in your yard (again, if you have one, etc...), take hardly no time, and yield a lot of food.

Oh, believe me, I'd love to have a yard to grow things in. But I am restricted to two large pots on my windowsill. I have herbs. I tried tomatoes last year, but that didn't work so good.

At least I have a supermarket, though. A lot of the "no supermarket" zones also are spaces where no open land to farm ON is available. So people are doubly screwed.

...Again -- "only my experience and is not representative."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


remember when you'd be fighting with some other kid over a rocket pop or whatever and he'd lick it just so you couldn't enjoy it if you got it

AMERICA
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2010 [30 favorites]


I don't care what they buy with the money allotted to them through food stamps. I have enough to worry about concerning my own life and cooking to care what they bother buying. What's it my business? It's not like they're getting $1000 a month food allowances. That being said, this is what bothers me:

Josh Ankerberg, a 26-year-old who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., started getting food stamps a year ago as an AmeriCorps volunteer, a group that has long had special dispensation to qualify for them....

He chose to go into AmeriCorps and is using food stamps on top of stipends given to them for programs that may or may not help the communities in meaningful ways? Stipend + food stamps for doing volunteer work while some guy without a college degree works twice the amount of hours for min wage without any kind of health insurance to make as much as the stipend volunteers (who generally have college degrees, some kind of health insurance for when they really have an emergency, prescription coverage, transit stipends, and get an educational scholarship and federal competitive eligibility for govt jobs) get?
posted by anniecat at 11:04 AM on March 16, 2010


Just to clear things up, Baltimore is far from an expensive city.

Yes, but it's quite clear from the article that the subjects have friends, listen to music, and hang out in the city and are not unhappy or culturally deprived. How dare they!??!??!!??? Damn trust fund hipsters!

I can't think of anything more responsible than living in a area with a very low cost of living and eating healthy food while you look for a job in the greater DC-Baltimore metro area which, thankfully, has a pretty decent job outlook.

Look, I feel sorry for the people whose lives are so boring an empty that they get resentful when they read about underemployed young adults living with multiple roommates simply because they have the audacity not to self-flaggelate, but come on, guys-- get a more productive hobby.
posted by deanc at 11:04 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I should also mention - de-regulation of dairy production means that the US has pretty much the lowest prices in the Western world for butter. I mean, $2.50 a pound? I should bathe in butter living in the US compared to what it cost in Canada, not to mention France, the UK, Germany, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 11:05 AM on March 16, 2010


Never mind, I take back what I said. I'm too apathetic to really care what happens or get riled up about this.
posted by anniecat at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2010


"Here I am, this educated person who went to art school,

I went to art school with the full expectation that I had a lifetime of scurvy to look forward to. Just sayin'.

(No disrespect meant, and I will now read the whole thread.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2010


I know Sarah - have known her since she was a kid, actually, and AFAIK she doesn't have wealthy parents. Haven't seen her for many years but I'm glad to hear she's doing okay and, yes, buying decent food with food stamps. I mean, why the hell not? If she's buying at local stores and the farmer's market (yes, many markets, including the one in Baltimore, take food stamps, oh the horror) then that's money that is actually staying in the community. Last I checked, Baltimore could use all the investment it could get.

Every time this subject comes up I feel great admiration for the Republicans, who have since the 80s successfully used a crazy and illogical sense of entitlement "I work hard at a job I hate and eat poorly! They don't have jobs and are eating good food! Therefore they are the enemy and not the corporatocracy thinly masquerading as a government under which we live! I will vote for people who actively want me to remain poor just so nobody gets a helping hand!" to turn a naturally Democratic or even further left constituency into a frothing horde of psychotic libertarian assholes. This kind of shit is divide and conquer class warfare and nothing else. What does it matter what a person buys with their food stamps? Why are we so determined to eliminate all possibilities of choice from the poor?

I remember the era of welfare queens; that would be when I was struggling with getting WIC so I could feed my kids. Now WIC makes you choose relatively good food - don't you naysayers want to remove that? Why should those parents be getting real milk instead of processed pasteurized milkfood? - and it has educated many a young mother. Yes, I got government help. I might have to get it again in the future, given the way this economy is going and I hope it's still there, because if the day comes when I'm back on food stamps, I'm totally using them to buy decent, local food.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2010 [25 favorites]


> you might have misread.

No, not really. Just offering a counterexample. I would never argue that living on student loans means you're poor or demoted classwise; I agree with you, I think.

My point was the "art school" judgement is worthless and as undemocratic as the judgments on dietary choice. The practicality police always show up in these debates in some form. The thing I am best at is "impractical." I'm not really defensive about it, but I think my perspective can demonstrate the fallacy of that argument's socially invested impuse. I'm an art worker of a sort; I may have to do other things to survive in the end; that would be sad, and worse for the country's culture, if my judgment about my own utility is not mistaken. Well, soul janitors, genius middle-managers and artisanal car mechanics are out of work right now, too. Seeking work "in your field" isn't always possible, but it can be the best thing for the culture at large. We should all be encouraged to reach our full potential. Yeah, in my case, I don't have a safety net of wealthy family to allow me to dally in the choicemaking process, and I don't think that makes me unusual, even among "art-workers."

I don't really believe the wide world has a great number of "trustafarian hipsters" or whatever this strawman we're dancing around is to be called. On the contrary, I figure a disproportionate number of the people speaking here have been exposed to the mythology of that type or its real-life traces. I don't think I have met one, personally, in my public school experiences leading up to grad school. But maybe that's not me being common sensical, just lucky. I've mostly seen rich kids and poor kids, not the former masquerading as the latter.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:11 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is, after all, a generation steeped in Michael Pollan books, bountiful famer's markets and a fetish for all things sustainable and handcrafted. Is it wrong to believe there should be a local, free-range chicken in every Le Creuset pot?

I went back and read the article a second time, and I really don't think that the young woman in question actually has the Le Creuset pot. I'm reading that as a hypothetical pot presented by the author as a means of getting us even further riled up.
posted by librarianamy at 11:12 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Every time this subject comes up I feel great admiration for the Republicans, who have since the 80s successfully used a crazy and illogical sense of entitlement "I work hard at a job I hate and eat poorly! They don't have jobs and are eating good food!

It's straight-up neo-Calvinism.

a) pleasure is sinful <> suffering is good
b) hard work is the only path to salvation <> sloth is sinful

It's not hard to read between the lines and the wink-wink attitude in this piece.
posted by GuyZero at 11:12 AM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


anniecat, I have a good deal of friends who did/are doing Americorps programs, and they deserve every dollar of public money they get (whether it be free subway fare, subsidized healthcare, or, yes, food stamps). If it were easy to bring about the kind of changes these young people are devoting years of their lives to while living, quite literally, well below the poverty line without any federal support, we wouldn't need Americorps volunteers at all.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:14 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm just sad that Justinian isn't going to come over to my parent's house and judgy judgy judge them for all the "luxuries" that they are buying with SS assistance. We would have taken him out for a pancake breakfast... with his tax dollars!
posted by muddgirl at 11:14 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, these people should get a food service job and eat the same "free" crap everyday just like every body else. [hamburger]
posted by schyler523 at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2010


Bowling shirts? Are the 90s back already?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2010


> owning a Mac (whassamatta, Windows is good enough for everyone else but not for you?), a fixed-gear bicycle or spending money on aesthetic products would immediately revoke one's eligibility.

Just because I haven't found a place to share this completely off-topic anecdote, which at least pertains, to an extent, to my confusion about wtf these types are all about...

The other night, my honey and me were riding our bikes to his folks' house for supper. He on a BMX, me on a Gary Fisher Opie. A young woman leaned our of her Ford F350 and hollered "GET A FIXED GEAR" at us.

*blink. blink blink.*

Exurbs have identity problems.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


It's straight-up neo-Calvinism.

Calvin and Hobbes isn't just a comic strip, but the philosophical foundation of the Republican Party.

(Perhaps if it were created today, it'd be named Calvin, Hobbes and Rand?)
posted by acb at 11:16 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Listen to nanojath. The Le Creuset pot is just a rhetorical flourish.
posted by chinston at 11:16 AM on March 16, 2010


I grant you that my value judgment was a bit hasty and undefined, but this argument is BS. No matter where you live, you have a choice to not buy your meals at McD's. Spreading this notion is simply exacerbating the problem and ensuring years of prosperity for the round-up ready soy bean and meat filler.

The problem is time and money. Sure, most people have access to a grocery that stocks produce. That grocery might be an hour away via public transit (which imposes limits on how much you can effectively carry), but its available. But the facts here have been well-supported by some pretty solid peer-reviewed research that's been posted here on metafilter. Poor neighborhoods pay more money for less selection and lower produce quality. Travel time to groceries is also much higher for residents of poorer neighborhoods.

Our system for serving the nutritional needs of Americans is dysfunctional at almost all levels of the supply-chain from subsidies for production down to the structure of neighborhoods. A small number of people abusing a tiny part of the system strikes me as misplaced outrage.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:16 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bowling shirts? Are the 90s back already?

Class warfare never goes out of style.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:16 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't really tell if you're snarking at me, EC, but I meant it honestly when I said it was only my experience and wasn't representative.

But I am restricted to two large pots on my windowsill. I have herbs. I tried tomatoes last year, but that didn't work so good.

fwiw, when I lived in a tiny shithole in Manhattan, my SO and I grew tomatoes in a hydro-box indoors.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2010


I understand that circumstances may force some people to take hand-outs, but I've never understood why people refuse to change those circumstances.

Ayn Rand got a MetaFilter account!

One of my primary jobs is connecting people who lost their homes in Hurricane Ike to food stamp benefits that they don't know they qualify for. The vast majority of them lived in public housing before the hurricane and will continue to do so afterward. But I can't share my experiences right now because my blood pressure is so high that I have to talk a walk around the community center, breathing deeply.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:18 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't really believe the wide world has a great number of "trustafarian hipsters" or whatever this strawman we're dancing around is to be called.

Possibly not, but Hampden is lousy with them. I live in the next neighborhood over.
posted by electroboy at 11:18 AM on March 16, 2010


I've mostly seen rich kids and poor kids, not the former masquerading as the latter.

Unless of course they fooled you.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:19 AM on March 16, 2010


I should probably stay out of this, but as someone who once qualified for food stamps, and used them to buy local and organic foods and taught other people who used food stamps where to shop for local and organic foods and cheap, good meals to make from said local and organic foods: I don't have a problem with this at all.

The $150 a month is not a handout, it's a very useful and specific tax cut, only this one goes to actual Americans and not huge faceless corporations. As such, it should be invested as wisely as possible to promote healthy living and local commerce.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:19 AM on March 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


Savory aromas wafted through the kitchen as a table was set with a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice, all of it courtesy of government assistance.


I'm guessing that a family of four on food stamp assistance is probably not shopping at Whole Foods. I could be wrong, though.


If you're buying lemongrass at Whole Foods, of course you're spending a lot, but here in Cleveland the Asian groceries are well-stocked and very cheap. The Middle Eastern groceries are even cheaper. That tiny glass container of McCormack's coriander that costs $6 at the big box grocery? You can get a good sized tub full for $2 just around the corner.
posted by Hubajube at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bowling shirts? Are the 90s back already?

I thought that the current look was the Vampire Weekend preppie look and/or 80s retro kitsch (much in the way that yacht rock has taken the place that lounge music occupied in 1990s hipster culture).
posted by acb at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2010


I understand that circumstances may force some people to take hand-outs, but I've never understood why people refuse to change those circumstances.

How can you be on MetaFilter and not have seen AskMe questions where people describe how horrible they feel, how immobilized they feel, and how crippled they feel by their circumstances, and how they would do anything to get out of their funk, anything, and then they ask for guidance on how?

Most people don't like feeling depressed. The ones who are okay with being poor aren't profitting off of our taxes that much.
posted by anniecat at 11:23 AM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Maybe my point of view comes from being raised on food stamps by parents who were way too irresponsible to have kids.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:41 AM on March 16


So if you could go back in time you would ensure that your parents didn't receive benefits . . . so . . . you'd . . . starve to death? That is something, all right.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:23 AM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Yeah. I gross about 1300 a month as a manager of a small business, and I use food stamps to go to the local organic grocery. Everything I buy there is some form of healthy organic food, and the vast majority comes from growers and suppliers within 100 miles of where I live. I do not see a problem with this. After monthly expenses, my takehome net is about 350 bucks. My food budget is about 175. Seems like a reasonable choice to take advantage of something my taxes help pay for. God knows I won't see Social Security.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:24 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I resent the use of social services by those who don't need them. It feels unfair to me that people who could avoid burdening the system aren't avoiding burdening the system. That's the tragedy of the commons, I suppose.

Personally, I feel uncomfortable when I use social services like, for example, doctors' visits. (I live in Canada.) Here I am, talking to a doctor about a cut on my hand when she could be spending that 10 minutes dealing with someone who needs more care. I know that, in some abstract way, I pay for my own visit and that I am entitled to it - but I still feel reluctant to milk it for all it's worth just because nobody's going to stop me. Doesn't it feel the same with food stamps, or unemployment insurance? I understand that being poor and needy is punishment in itself, and the additional burden of guilt over using social services sucks, but I think it's an acceptable price for us all to pay to increase the efficiency and reach of social services by reducing freeloading.
posted by Fraxas at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ayn Rand got a MetaFilter account!

Seriously. I kept thinking of Keating's line to Roark in The Fountainhead: "I'm a parasite. I've been a parasite all my life."
posted by zarq at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2010


The job market is freaking wretched from top to bottom, including for those "not-in-your-field" service jobs that folks are encouraging the hated hipsters to go out and get. pla is arguing that more people should be added to that job market, making work even harder to find and bringing wages even lower. I am for increased public assistance to everyone.

People who are on public assistance are helping to reduce the number of people looking for jobs and thus make it easier for people who want to work to find a job and by reducing the supply of workers makes the cost of labor go up. The cost of labor is extremely low right now, and has been low since the 70s, which is why the few folks with the money to buy labor in quantity have been making off like bandits (which makes sense, because they are).

If pla is concerned about her precious tax dollars, it is a remarkably focused and specific concern. For every outrageous penny that goes to a not-quite-poor-enough-for-her-standards person, there are hundreds of dollars going to agribusiness that she does not mind one bit. It is baffling, and makes me suspect that instead of being concerned about her tax dollars she just hates people who are poor, even and especially those who are poor enough to qualify for America's meager public assistance but not poor enough to meet her standards for picturesque deprivation.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9>
If they can find a way to make that fit into a limited food allowance every month, I have no reason to care what they eat. They're the ones who may have to dumpster dive if they make bad decisions with their purchases, and it's costing me the same from my taxes either way. I don't agree with how some people drive or what they drive, but I still pay my taxes because I like the convenience of using roads, too.

If I ever end up so screwed as to need food stamps, the freedom to make some choices will likely be a relief. As will the fact that at least there's something place to keep me from starving.
posted by medea42 at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2010


electroboy, you might live by them, but you certainly don't know them or the rent they pay. I know Sarah and I know others who live in Hampden and they are certainly not trustafarians. Stop harping on people just because they look different from you/have different interests from you.

Although I will admit I don't like the look of Hampden these days, it's a bit too manufactured and family friendly, the particular people in this article are not those Hampdenites. They don't go to Cafe Hon or the Pet Emporium or whatever. They just live there and help out in the neighborhood as much as possible.
posted by cloeburner at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2010


Bowling shirts? Are the 90s back already?

I thought that the current look was the Vampire Weekend preppie look and/or 80s retro kitsch (much in the way that yacht rock has taken the place that lounge music occupied in 1990s hipster culture).


*sigh* It was a rhetorical flourish. I'm an old, old man. I have no idea what the kids these days are actually doing out there on my lawn. I only know that some of them are apparently hungry, and I don't give a fuck what kind of food they're eating, I'm happy to feed them. I'd personally prefer not to limit my tax dollar assistance to people like me. (There are no people like me.)
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


smackfu: Isn't this a big problem in countries with better social services than the US?

................

three blind mice: Idea of course is to not stigmatize poor people - which is the subtext of the FPP - why is "she" spending money on that? No one asks that question here.

So yeah, it's probably a "big problem," but no one knows it's a problem so it's not a problem.
I think we in the U.S. have our puritan founders to thank for much of this country's ass-backwardsness. In reasonable societies, people seem to be comfortable with the idea of their tax dollars going to things like food assistance or ***gasp*** universal healthcare, because in the long run it benefits everyone when people can afford to eat or go to the doctor.

In this country, you can't get past a self-righteous debate about who "deserves" the benefit of these programs... and because there's a possibility that someone, somewhere might get away with doing something like using food stamps to buy vegetables at Whole Foods instead of American cheese and Wonder Bread, we'd apparently be better off denying them to everyone.

As annoying as the hipsters interviewed in the article are, it's pretty much a troll crafted to evoke MAXIMUM! MORAL! OUTRAGE!
posted by usonian at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is just a terribly written article. burnmp3s makes some observations based on assumptions, but assumptions that might be worth exploring, and perhaps even doing some research on.

Why, the writer of this article might have had a perfect chance to do research on those very things: how large of a percentage of food stamps recipients is this particular group, do they receive other forms of monetary assistance, are their families the type to vote in support of food stamps, how to they balance expensive food on that budget?

If the author were actually a journalist, they might do such research.

I felt my own GRAR OUTRAGE towards the subjects of the article, too, because the economy is so bad right now, and that article is written in such a terrible, sensationalistic, and wholly fact-free way. This is exactly the wrong type of journalism we need right now, with government benefits such a contentious topic of discussion in this country.

Come on, media, help us out here.
posted by lillygog at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Tell your city planners you want decent walkability in your neighborhood, including access to food markets.

Hah! It was city planners who tore down the business district in the neighborhood to run a highway through so that suburbanites can get to football games faster.
posted by octothorpe at 11:32 AM on March 16, 2010


blucevalo : Yes -- I'll be sure to "follow the link below" and not cry BS to your reflexive Republican Party talking points link.

Yep, you caught me, giving a link to a conservative shill website... Ending in ".gov", from a state with two RINO senators and some of the most progressive welfare policies in the country.


Optimus Chyme : CTRL-F "POSTED BY PLA"

For the 43nd time - "I disagree" does not translate to "troll". Try to keep up.
posted by pla at 11:32 AM on March 16, 2010


I understand that being poor and needy is punishment in itself, and the additional burden of guilt over using social services sucks

Being poor is an economic state of being. Punishment is a moral state. Again, economics and morality are not the same thing.

Also, guilt is an emotion. A food bank is where you get food. I think the only people who associate the two are people who want to confuse economics and morality for their own ends.
posted by GuyZero at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're right, I don't know as many people in Hampden as I used to. The people I knew had to move out when the rents went up.
posted by electroboy at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, upon reading the whole thread, I've got no beef with the actual concept being discussed. The article itself was very manufactured "ZOMG! OUTRAGE!" but people using food stamps to buy food? Yeah, go ahead. I haven't been there myself, but I know people who have - and I also know that if you're buying staples (pasta, canned tomatoes, that kind of boring stuff), Whole Foods is only marginally more expensive than much lesser quality foods at Stop & Shop.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

The "hipster" thing is total manufactured bullshit. Would anyone care if the people buying organic food were elderly? That would be all "Elderly people game the system FOR AWESOME! Granny's figured out the sekrit to GOOD EATIN'!" The article just falls flat unless it has a crotchety "You kids, get off my lawn!" component.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I am a supply chain consultant. Here's the thing: the high-calorie, pre-packaged food you dont buy at Whole Foods, is made possible by extensive, super-efficient supply chains that achieve their efficiency because of massive scale (and massive scale needs predictable, hard-to-spoil, less-tasty, less-good-for-you food). But the fact is that in the US, these supply chains are indirectly subsidized by extensive, federally-subsidized highway systems and cheap, almost un-taxed gas.

In the rest of the world, where transportation costs are higher (because of less extensive roads or toll-roads, or gas taxed based on its impact to society/infrastructure), local, organic food is much closer in price to bulk, industrialized food and it's thus much less of a 'luxury'.

So, food-stamps for organic food maybe an inefficient way to subsidize calories, but subsidizing organic food is basically leveling the playing field.
posted by costas at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


Also: I took the "Le Creuset" pot reference to be a riff on the "chicken in every pot" kind of utopian dream, only for hipsters. I did not think that it referenced a literal pot. It was only a metaphorical pot. Owned by a metaphorical hipster. Who was also a metaphorical Viking.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:40 AM on March 16, 2010


saulgoodman: "Maybe something to this, but food stamps are not targeted at eliminating generational poverty. They're targeted at feeding people who don't have enough money to afford to eat right now, regardless of their family history. Why? So people of all social classes having a hard time right now don't starve and so they aren't as likely to end up falling into that population of people stuck in generational poverty."

I am perfectly cool with the food stamp program, and I think that food stamps should go to whomever. You really didn't read the rest of my comment.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:41 AM on March 16, 2010


Tell your city planners you want decent walkability in your neighborhood, including access to food markets.

Hah! It was city planners who tore down the business district in the neighborhood to run a highway through so that suburbanites can get to football games faster.


That fucking sucks. In Portland, there's something happening called the Portland Plan, where the planners are going around holding meetings all over the city asking people what they want for Portland's future. Turn out, actually, has been insanely high. One of the most pressing needs Portlander's voice is the need for improved walkability in neighborhoods. So the Portland Plan has made it a priority that every neighborhood should have access to groceries within a 15 minute walk.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:43 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know a lot of what many here would call "hipsters." I am old enough to be many of these folk's mother, and definitely old enough to tell the lot of them to get off of my lawn. Let me tell you about them: they work hard, and when they're not working, they're making art/volunteering/learning. They share, so they can afford more. They're willing to sacrifice today for something they want tomorrow. They live well (at least, compared to how I lived at their age) because they are more sophisticated than I was. They know how to get free stuff, cheap stuff and bargain for the expensive stuff. They know a sucker deal when they see one (i.e. car vs. bike) and don't bite. In other words, they are cool - you would PRAY that your kids would become hipsters.

Do we want these young adults to be forced to move to wherever this "mythical place with the jobs for everyone if they'd only look for it" exists? Do we want them out of our neighborhoods leaving behind the old and trapped while they take that great energy and vision somewhere else? Ask a thousand towns in the Midwest why their kids are gone - then look at SF and Seattle and Baltimore - check out their art scene, check out their environmental policies, look at the vibrancy of their cultures and remember that those kids came from somewhere and someone told them to "go where the jobs are." Imagine your city without those horrible "hipsters." They could go away - who will be left?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2010 [22 favorites]


...do they receive other forms of monetary assistance...

Again, if they receive other forms of monetary assistance, which I suspect they probably do either in the form of either family support or freelance income not reported as income or under the table wages, and they did not report these other income streams at the time of their application for benefits they are committing welfare fraud. These other income streams, if they have them and reported them, would at least have altered the amount of benefits they were eligible for, if not disqualified them entirely. I would not be surprised to see dude get a call from his caseworker at the welfare department in the next couple days asking to take another look at his assets.
posted by The Straightener at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would anyone care if the people buying organic food were elderly? That would be all "Elderly people game the system FOR AWESOME! Granny's figured out the sekrit to GOOD EATIN'!"

Without endorsing any view, because I haven't as yet considered it sufficiently, I agree that Granny, a hipster, and a minority mother of 3 would be viewed very differently. I wonder if the differences in a perception of each's entitlement to receive benefits, and use them as she sees fit, is down to the economic value we assign people. Said differently, I wonder if we automatically assume that Granny has paid her dues into society and is entitled to withdraw, whereas we assume the hipster and the single mother have not. If any of those observations are true, I wonder whether they are useful. I certainly think we make distinctions between the 'deserving' poor and 'freeloaders' that conceivably are more often wrong than correct. I am thinking this through, only because of my own personal need to watch my thoughts on these subjects carefully. I know people who abuse benefits by engaging in fraud to qualify, as I said above, but I always endeavor to remember that the vast majority do not.
posted by bunnycup at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yep, you caught me, giving a link to a conservative shill website... Ending in ".gov", from a state with two RINO senators and some of the most progressive welfare policies in the country.

It's a conservative shill press release. Trust me, I know press releases: I write 'em for a living.

How about this: if you're going to quote statistics and an opinion, let them not be sourced from political propaganda, or someone who has a stake in persuading the reader to their point of view. Are there objective studies you can cite on the topic?
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The icing on this particular article-cake would be one of these kids buying something with hempseed oil in it. Hipsters buying wacky tobacky on your dime? Find out, coming up at eleven.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would anyone care if the people buying organic food were elderly?

Likewise, would anyone care if a Thai family was using their food stamps to buy "Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass" ?

I only know a couple hipsters who fits the trustafarian stereotype-- guys from the northeast from upper middle class families (one who went to an Ivy League college) who live downwardly mobile lifestyles trying to pursue careers in the arts while being bailed out by their parents from time to time. The rest -- the wide majority -- are typically people from the midwest from middle class or just-over-working-class families who used their education to come out to the cities to do something else with their lives other than work in the same dying rust-belt economies their families were in. A lot of the hipster hate comes from the people from those same towns spouting some lick-spittle resentment of, "they think they're too good to stay in their hometown like I did and settle down a buy a house here and instead had to get all hoity-toity and move to portland and eat bok-choy! well screw them!"

Would this article be generating the same sort of resentment if it was about now-unemployed ADM sales representatives in suburban Ohio who went on food stamps to keep their family fed with steak, meatloaf, and potatoes while collecting unemployment benefits and trying to find a new job? Is this about the food they're eating or about the fact that young whites are not living in the approved places, having the approved careers and eating the approved foods that are befitting of their station in life?
posted by deanc at 11:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yep, you caught me, giving a link to a conservative shill website... Ending in ".gov", from a state with two RINO senators and some of the most progressive welfare policies in the country.

Ending in .gov =! stamp of authenticity, despite your boldface theatrics. Your link is a link to a set of talking points from a GOP Maine state senator with GOP base dog-whistle code about "ending the culture of dependency we have in Maine," whether it ends in .gov or .omgzzz.
posted by blucevalo at 11:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can't really tell if you're snarking at me, EC, but I meant it honestly when I said it was only my experience and wasn't representative.

I was indeed talking to you -- but I hadn't intended it to be snark, and my apologies if it came across thus. It just sounded like you made a curious 180 from "I realize that not everyone has the same advantages/situations I have, so they may not be able to do what I do" to saying in the very next sentence, "but, wait, I can do blah blah blah, though, so why can't they?"

At least, that's what it sounded like YOU were saying, and I was pointing out the incongruity there. Case in point:

when I lived in a tiny shithole in Manhattan, my SO and I grew tomatoes in a hydro-box indoors.

I didn't have good luck with tomatoes on my windowsill. Or with the bok choy I tried the same year. A combination of bad light and a feline pest problem, though, in my case (my cat likes to chew the leaves off a lot of the plants I've tried growing in the past, and I'm not home enough to curb him of that habit). The rosemary and sage are very hale and hearty, though (and the cat doesn't like them).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:47 AM on March 16, 2010


If "benefits" are too cushy it leads to a moral hazard, in that people will choose to loll in the sun instead of being productive. The right wing commentariat will go ballistic with this tale of "food stamp foodies", declaring it important news, and signifying the weakness of the educated elite and the downfall of American gumption.

Feel free to ignore $50 Billion in accounting fraud that helped build the teetering tower of crap that were our financial institutions, and eventually required $1T+ of government money.

And reread your Holbo.
posted by dglynn at 11:47 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Duh, posted too soon -- my point in pointing out my bad luck with growing tomatoes was just to re-emphasize that you may have had good luck with a hydro-box -- but you also may have had better light, and not had my cat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2010


So the Portland Plan has made it a priority that every neighborhood should have access to groceries within a 15 minute walk.

Good point -- which is why I suspected that Portland was an exception, as it is in a lot of things.
posted by blucevalo at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2010


I want Metafilter to rewrite the article and submit to Salon. Maybe as a correction:

Correction: This Salon article was horrible: badly written, fundamentally flawed, and shallow. We apologize for the mistake. In partial recompense for wasting your time, we include the following article, written by a Ms. Meta Filter, from Dayton, Ohio. It includes data, facts, multiple viewpoints, further information about many of the people portrayed in the original article that rescue them from being one-dimensional caricatures. Thank you.
posted by feckless at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is astonishing the extent to which this article generates outrage based on the barest sketch of actual details, largely because of the author's cynically-deployed use of the term "hipster" and our own overactive imaginations.

How is she identifying them as "hipsters" (do they self-identify, i.e., "Yes, I am a Hipster-American, please refer to me as such")? What is a hipster in this article, other than a convenient way to generate contempt that would not exist if this were framed as "underemployed 20-30 year olds with decent long-term prospects eat well by supplementing with government assistance" or "broke young people use food stamps but buy foods that are not the foods we commonly associate with the American poor?"

The response of the grocer at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco is incredibly telling: "I wouldn't say it's limited to hipster people, but I'm certainly surprised to see them with cards." This is the response of someone who has just been asked "So, you see a lot of !!!HIPSTERS!!! with food stamps these days?"

So the apparent scenario is:
1. Salon writer sees a young white person buying "rich-people food" with food stamps and thinks "Wha???"
2. Salon writer leaves HQ and travels 2 miles down Mission St to Rainbow Grocery and trolls for more examples.
3. Salon writer finds a few people in her extended network of contacts who fit a few stereotypes and asks them about food stamps.
4. employ $hated_stereotype
5. CULTURAL ZEITGEIST! GRAR!
posted by EL-O-ESS at 11:49 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


sorry guys that wasn't published in the Washington Post; it's from randblog.rightnet.omgzzz but it's totally trustworthy i swear
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:52 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do we want these young adults to be forced to move to wherever this "mythical place with the jobs for everyone if they'd only look for it" exists? Do we want them out of our neighborhoods leaving behind the old and trapped while they take that great energy and vision somewhere else?

I don't care what they do, but honestly, I don't care if they leave. What energy? What vision? Their art? This generation has way too many self-styled visionaries with energy. While we need a source of energy in this country, the people we deem energetic visionaries because they call themselves artists, or they went to college and are fresh grads who know how to play a guitar or paint something resembling a hand, are not necessary in a real sense.

Maybe we can stick them all in a row of stationary bicycles and they can help power the grid.
posted by anniecat at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2010


rtha: "While I agree that we (as Americans) have an incredibly screwed up view of and relationship with class (financial, educational, social - pick one or all), I don't think that the solution to unscrewing it is to pit "the poor" against "the broke." How does that do any good? And where's the cut-off?"

I'm not pitting anyone against anyone. I have been broke and likely will be again. I just think it's jacked when people imply that social class is solely determined by the amount of money you have in your pocket and bank account at any given time.

The distinction is good because it keeps people from making weird and harmful judgments about poor people. Bootstraps; I did it, why can't they; etc. Of course it's complex, maybe I should just make an arbitrary distinction: if your parents went to college and expected you to go to college, you're not poor. That's simplistic and surely excludes some it should include, and vice versa, but why not. Any time I bring up this subject people tend to get defensive and try to prove that they are/were poor (!) as some sort of badge of honor or ego boost, like, "I made it by hard work! I clawed my way out of poverty!" Okay, fine, if you feel that way I give you an exemption.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think deanc makes a great point. In addition, I think bunnycup is voicing some good thoughts, too: "I certainly think we make distinctions between the 'deserving' poor and 'freeloaders' that conceivably are more often wrong than correct."

When I think about these things, I tell myself that the Puritan/Calvinist background of this country has made us strangely mean in some situations, where if a program gives assistance to 100 people, and 5 do not deserve it, we will end that program rather than provide assistance to the 95 that need it.

(Not to say that I would share bunnycup's irritation at friends who are committing fraud if I knew they really didn't deserve said benefits, and put in jeopardy the benefits of people that do deserve. But then we're back to the interesting discussion of who "deserves".)
posted by lillygog at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, blerg, "wouldn't share bunnycup's irritation", as in, I would.
posted by lillygog at 11:59 AM on March 16, 2010


To be fair, I know a lot of hipsters who don't have high-speed internet, iPhones, and live in houses with 15 people to afford the rent.

Hipsters, like every other demographic, are not subject to the stereotypes put upon them, generally.


I guess my point is this: the guidelines for who qualifies for food stamps are mainly based on assets and taxable income, and it's possible to meet those qualifications while still depending on others (most likely parents) to provide a lifestyle well above the poverty level. The Salon article seems to be insinuating this without coming out and saying it or providing any facts to back it up other than the backgrounds of the subjects.

Personally I think it's wrong to use government food stamps to subsidize an already subsidized lifestyle in that way, but it's not the end of the world if people do it and I'm not filled with hipster-hate or anything like that. I also honestly don't know how many people would be using food stamps that way, or how many people who would be considered hipsters have a support network that can provide them with more financial assistance than other food stamp recipients.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:59 AM on March 16, 2010


Effectively, encouraging the poor to use EBT or food stamps to purchase shit food is akin to calling for government support of Tyson or Monsanto. Those companies already get enough in subsidies and pork, imo.

Holy fuck. This. This a million times over.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


if they receive other forms of monetary assistance, which I suspect they probably do either in the form of either family support or freelance income not reported as income or under the table wages, and they did not report these other income streams at the time of their application for benefits they are committing welfare fraud.

Then every person who has ever been on government assistance is a criminal. That's how it works - you get a modicum of assistance from the government and you make it work. It's the "don't ask, don't tell" of unemployment and welfare. There are egregious cases, for sure, but in general, that's the only way to make it work. Maybe mom or grandma pays a cell phone bill, or the recipient does a little side work to afford Christmas presents. If everyone just lived on what the Government squeezes out, we'd have a HUGE problem.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


While we need a source of energy in this country, the people we deem energetic visionaries because they call themselves artists, or they went to college and are fresh grads who know how to play a guitar or paint something resembling a hand, are not necessary in a real sense.

*raises eyebrow* I'm not clear at what you're getting at. Are you saying all art is unnecessary? or just bad art? And how can we tell the difference?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


While we need a source of energy in this country, the people we deem energetic visionaries because they call themselves artists, or they went to college and are fresh grads who know how to play a guitar or paint something resembling a hand, are not necessary in a real sense.

Yeah, because who the fuck needs art, am I right?
posted by brundlefly at 12:04 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Are you saying all art is unnecessary? or just bad art? And how can we tell the difference?

You make a list.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


While we need a source of energy in this country, the people we deem energetic visionaries because they call themselves artists, or they went to college and are fresh grads who know how to play a guitar or paint something resembling a hand, are not necessary in a real sense.

In what sense, then, are they necessary? In an unreal sense?
posted by blucevalo at 12:05 PM on March 16, 2010


I am perfectly cool with the food stamp program, and I think that food stamps should go to whomever. You really didn't read the rest of my comment.

No, I did and I understand all that, I just don't agree that the differences between those living in generational poverty and those who are going through a rough spot are relevant in this context.

And I'm also not sure the differences are always as clear as you suggest. In fact, I'm not really sure how we make sense of class anymore at all, apart from simply looking at an individual's present economic circumstances. I mean, I get what you are saying: There are definitely individuals in the category you describe--individuals whose entire immediate families are poor and have been, more or less, for several generations. But you can't necessarily use family history as a criterion, nor can you arbitrarily assign people to socio-economic classes as a policy matter (without creating a much more horrible potential for institutional abuse), so I don't see any alternative but to let an individual's present needs dictate when it comes to basic social safety net stuff.

Sure, you might come from a recently wealthy family, but what if you're the black sheep and don't receive any material benefits from that birth-affiliation? Should that mean you "deserve" to starve, or that, in an ideal world, you should only be allowed to eat generic, flavorless government food-product so you don't get too comfortable in your poverty? What if you come from a poor extended family with a history of poverty, but your immediate family is nouveau riche? How could we possibly formulate a coherent system that takes all of these various factors into account without at the same time over-engineering things beyond all practicality?

So in other words, I just don't think there's any functional difference to be drawn between the merely short-term poor and the chronically poor in this case. It's an important distinction in other contexts, and you're right to point it out, but it doesn't seem to matter a whole lot in practice.

Of course it's complex, maybe I should just make an arbitrary distinction: if your parents went to college and expected you to go to college, you're not poor.

On the American side, I was the first member of my immediate and most of my extended family to graduate high school, but I was expected to go to college and my family were economically in the upper-middle to upper class for most of my pre-adult life. Now, I earn a solidly middle class income. So should someone like me be classified as poor?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2010


i read the article and immediately applied for foodstamps. and i will be upgrading my diet from mac and cheese to fresh and organic. god bless the usa.
posted by Glibpaxman at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't care what they do, but honestly, I don't care if they leave. What energy? What vision? Their art? This generation has way too many self-styled visionaries with energy. While we need a source of energy in this country, the people we deem energetic visionaries because they call themselves artists, or they went to college and are fresh grads who know how to play a guitar or paint something resembling a hand, are not necessary in a real sense.

Maybe we can stick them all in a row of stationary bicycles and they can help power the grid.


anniecat, I'm sorry that this is my second comment in this post arguing with something you've said, and I'm not trying to be fighty, but REALLY?! Do you know any recent college grads? I am one, and I can assure you that my peers and I aren't sitting around strumming guitars and feeling entitled. Guess what, the job market is terrible for young people. My generation was reared by parents who told us that we could do what we loved, what we were passionate about, with a college education. So, most of us decided to follow our dreams, and now we have niches and passions and all that stuff that would be wonderful in a good economy.

The fact that the economy blows isn't our fault. The fact that we have to take uninspiring jobs in order to pay off the mountains of student loans we're laboring under isn't our fault. The fact that universities are slashing budgets for grad student tuition and stipend isn't our fault.

Maybe we should just start selling our bodies as alternative energy sources. At least then older people wouldn't complain about our existence.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2010 [23 favorites]


The distinction is good because it keeps people from making weird and harmful judgments about poor people. Bootstraps; I did it, why can't they; etc.

This is a great point and it's very annoying when people do this, but:

Of course it's complex, maybe I should just make an arbitrary distinction: if your parents went to college and expected you to go to college, you're not poor. That's simplistic....

It's not just simplistic, it's weighted specifically against 20- and 30-somethings entering the workforce during a period of rising education costs and falling wages in all but the highest-paying jobs, many of whom will end up spending their careers in the same low-wage service jobs as those born into less-affluent families but will spend the first decade or two of those low-wage careers paying off college debt (which, yes, many of them had no business taking on, but I don't really think you can fault them for not figuring this out at 17).

It's also the case that there are plenty of lemongrass-loving hipsters out there who don't come from families where their parents went to college and expected them to do so as well, but I guess that's another argument.
posted by enn at 12:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't care what they do, but honestly, I don't care if they leave. What energy? What vision? Their art? This generation has way too many self-styled visionaries with energy. While we need a source of energy in this country, the people we deem energetic visionaries because they call themselves artists, or they went to college and are fresh grads who know how to play a guitar or paint something resembling a hand, are not necessary in a real sense.

If you'd ever lived in a place where EVERY young person with energy and vision had run the minute they got the chance, you'd know the answer. Sure, there's some pretentious little prigs in the mix, but without a sufficient pool of these people, you get stagnation and regression. I remember the first time I saw one of those silly little meme stickers that seemed to pop up overnight in San Francisco, and I was tickled. I've enjoyed tons of cool music and funky art shows, I've seen young people who care about issues (some of which I didn't particularly care about) and where thrilled that they cared enough about something to actually speak out. If you think that this energy is useless, and that no good can come of it, then I know a couple little cities in Michigan that you might enjoy.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


If you aren't pulling yourself up by your bootstraps you should be eating your boots.
posted by graventy at 12:16 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


i read the article and immediately applied for foodstamps. and i will be upgrading my diet from mac and cheese to fresh and organic. god bless the usa.

Let me put the point in terms even a conservative might be able to understand: Whether you're on food stamps or not, you need to stop being a lazy fat ass drain on society and start taking some responsibility for your food choices. Instead of clogging your arteries with cheap processed crap like mac and cheese that ends up costing us all when we have to subsidize your unpaid trips to the emergency room later in life, why don't you eat some goddamn fresh vegetables?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon : The "hipster" thing is total manufactured bullshit. Would anyone care if the people buying organic food were elderly?

I think the whole "hipster" thing, while quite probably a gross generalization, exists in this case to describe a certain mindset that wouldn't have a problem with such abuses.

Yes, I would feel just as outraged over grannies doing the same thing - But in general, we wouldn't hear about that because they don't do it. Many of our grandparents grew up in the great depression and have a way of thinking colored by that fact - My own grandmother, for example, actually has a pretty comfortable retirement savings, yet she always has and always will buy just about any food she can get cheap or free, whether she likes it or not, so that she never has to worry about going hungry again.

So sure, if you want to call hipsters a red herring here, I'll agree with you - Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.


blucevalo : Ending in .gov =! stamp of authenticity, despite your boldface theatrics.

Hmm, scrolling back up, I don't see you giving any cites so far, just assertions and mockery. Curious... I must have missed them, certainly?

whether it ends in .gov or .omgzzz.

Theatrics?

Optimus Chyme : sorry guys that wasn't published in the Washington Post; it's from randblog.rightnet.omgzzz but it's totally trustworthy i swear

Ahhh, Theatrics. Right.

But wait! You, now... You did give a few cites - Both links back to MeFi "supporting" your ad hominem attacks. Still 100% better than... none ... but sadly, I don't think we can consider MeFi the definitive reference of all things true, nor has argumentum ad homimem suddenly switched sides to a validating form.


C'mon guys, can we at least try to stay on topic here? You drop the personal attacks, I'll dial down the snark a notch, and we can discuss the actual FP (which already has more than enough inflammatory content to go around).
posted by pla at 12:19 PM on March 16, 2010


C'mon guys, can we at least try to stay on topic here?

We were right there on topic before your latest comment containing personal, OT arguments back about theatrics, pla. We could have stayed on topic, if you'd just hit the post button after typing 'flogging'.
posted by bunnycup at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2010


I choose not to engage in any arguements here. I would like to comment on a tv show I saw recently, in which a liberal economist noted that when they changed the welfare laws for our nation, many constraints were p[ut in place in order for folks to qualify. Why, then, the economist asked, are no serious constraints being put in place for those huge firms we bailed out that caused our melt down, were deemed To Big To Fail, got carried by us (taxes), and now reward
huge bonuses to employees?
posted by Postroad at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2010


Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.

Sir, I do not buy your premise that healthy food should be considered a luxury. If healthy food is a luxury, then there is something broken with the system, and it has nothing to do with food stamps.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [27 favorites]


I realize that not everyone has the same advantages/situations I have, so they may not be able to do what I do" to saying in the very next sentence, "but, wait, I can do blah blah blah, though, so why can't they?

Well, I didn't mean it quite like that. I was trying to say something to the effect of, "I realize everyone's situation is different. Here's what I've done to address these problems. I encourage others to look for alternative solutions as well." Sorry if I didn't phrase it clearly. Obviously, not everyone can grow tomatoes in their apts in hydro boxes (it'a pain in the ass, for starters). I was just throwing it out there as something to consider. The world is full of options - and sometimes excuses are reasons, but sometimes they're just excuses.

I do what I can. I'm not perfect, but I try. That's all I expect from anyone. Do what you can. First, try not to make the problem worse. Next, try to contribute to a solution. There are certain things that cannot be changed about your solution, and there are certain things that can. I think this is pretty true across the board.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2010


Flog me then. I bought food with money I got from unemployment. And sometimes it was luxury food.
posted by josher71 at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm, scrolling back up, I don't see you giving any cites so far, just assertions and mockery.

I didn't ask you to give a cite -- someone else did that. You, however, have not provided any evidence beyond a GOP talking point that refers to "liberals dying in the streets." As far as I can see, you've not engaged in any "discussing" this entire thread, so you're free to continue to "discuss" with yourself in your own echo chamber as long as you wish. As for mockery, you've done nothing but attack, patronize, and mock me the entire thread, so I'm just "returning the serve," as you put it.
posted by blucevalo at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2010


Can we snap the "hipster parents trust fund WAA WAA" portion of this thread off and throw it into a volcano? Everybody I hear this from appears to be part of some unpleasant new silent majority that thinks everybody but them is getting secret money.

One data point, but hey, I've lived in three major hipster cities with something like thirty hipster roommates and I've yet to meet one person getting a dime from their parents. I know a lot of people who participate in medical studies, though! And get gigs from temp agencies that last two weeks and happen three months apart. And work for less than minimum wage. The unemployment rate in Portland is what, a billion percent? My friends in NYC can't get full-time jobs, even the ones that wait tables.

A former roommate's mother covered one month of her (extremely low for NYC) rent for her once. It came in two checks because it had to be scraped together.

I used to be poor enough to qualify for this program. I spent several months living in a 5'x9' room in the middle of nowhere because it was all I could afford without credit or savings. Wish I'd known I could've received food stamps. I could have bought a beater instead of taking a two-hour bus ride to work at a call center. Not poor anymore, but damned if I'm going to spite anybody for taking what's given to them. Or for, god forbid, not eating Cheez Whiz for every meal.
posted by zvs at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh, and, not to belabor the point, but:

The distinction is good because it keeps people from making weird and harmful judgments about poor people. Bootstraps; I did it, why can't they; etc.

There are plenty of people who come from serious, no-kidding grinding generational poverty who are now in more fortunate positions and who make these same weird and harmful judgments about poor people. Ex-hipsters reminiscing about their grad school days have no monopoly on bullshit Horatio Alger extrapolation from their own limited experiences.
posted by enn at 12:28 PM on March 16, 2010


Many of our grandparents grew up in the great depression and have a way of thinking colored by that fact - My own grandmother, for example, actually has a pretty comfortable retirement savings, yet she always has and always will buy just about any food she can get cheap or free, whether she likes it or not, so that she never has to worry about going hungry again.

It's a good thing she isn't relying on social security income or any other product of the great depression, a situation where government assistance wasn't at all useful to anybody.
posted by Think_Long at 12:28 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


C'mon guys, can we at least try to stay on topic here?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!

*wipes eyes*

Oh my shit, but you are precious!

I was going to respond to this: buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging but I think I'll take the advice you're dolling out and not feed the undeserving.
posted by rtha at 12:30 PM on March 16, 2010


This is a really stupid and irresponsible article. Smarten up, Salon.
posted by orange swan at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So sure, if you want to call hipsters a red herring here, I'll agree with you - Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.

...Okay, let's assume for the minute that what is going on is actually a case of people using luxury foods with public assistance money.

Okay. Let's look at the actual economics of this person. Let's call him "Sid."

In order to qualify for food stamps, Sid must be getting a diminished income. Let's say Sid makes $1000 a month.

Let's also say that Sid lives in an apartment that's....oh, $700 a month. That's not huge, but it's not shoebox either. That's actually pretty conservative by New York standards, in fact. Let's also say that it's another $150 for utilities. Plus another $80 for public transportation (Sid probably wouldn't qualify for food stamps if he had a car). Tack on another $50 for a phone.

So Sid is left with...oh, $100 left over for the whole month for EVERYTHING that isn't rent, utilities, or transporation. That's $25 a week. So that's how Sid qualified for food stamps.

Now -- assume he gets $150 a month in food stamps. And Sid goes to Petrossian the first week and splurges on luxury food:

$88 for caviar
$50 for a half pound of smoked salmon
$20 for a pound of coffee

....And in one shopping trip, he's used up his benefits. In fact, he had to dip into his cash to make up the difference.

And that caviar is only one serving, and a half pound of smoked salmon is only gonna last him a week. So Sid's benefits are used up within one week, and he is forced to get through the rest of the month by using $25 of his remaining $80 to buy bread and tuna fish, and living off that for three weeks.

In short: people who actually are buying "luxury goods" with public assistance are being flogged enough for making poor economic choices.

However -- by the same token, organic salmon from the supermarket is NOT "luxury goods." And if someone is using public assistance to buy organic foods from their supermarket, that just means that they are doing just what the rest of us do with our food dollars -- making economic choices. Just like Sid did (except Sid was kind of boneheaded at it; I mean, hell, you can get caviar at the supermarket for about five bucks).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Food stamps (ebt) are an entitlement program by law, which means that anyone who meets the qualifications ("entitled") gets them. Nobody loses ebt when a foodie hipster or whatever derogatory term you want to use signs up. The law also states that the purpose of food stamps is to supplement diets to help people eat healthier. Sounds good to me.

Want to know why more poor people don't use this program? Shame. Shaming people into eating what you want them to eat is bullshit. Snide comments like some of the ones here are exactly why some families eat less well instead of taking on the stigma of food stamps. When I've worked with at risk communities, (including young, poor people) I saw some who were screwed out of ebt randomly by bureaucracy and some that were too proud to do it and some that had no problems at all. A year later, my observation was that the ones who used ebt were significantly more able to be independent and moving forward.

I was young and on food stamps and it absolutely helped me be healthier and come out of the other side of that period in my life better off. Now I pay 3x more taxes at least and I work in a job where I can help others.
posted by Skwirl at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2010 [29 favorites]


The conflation you see in the US between class issues (as in, actual money) and high school issues (as in, why couldn't I have been as cool as Zoe in junior-year English?) has been clever enough and successful enough that I almost think there's an actual conspiracy behind it.
posted by furiousthought at 12:36 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do what I can. I'm not perfect, but I try. That's all I expect from anyone. Do what you can.

Nah, I hear ya. I think I was just offering a gentle observation that I've found it's actually wiser -- and kinder -- to assume everyone is doing precisely that, even if it may not look that way to you from looking in your neighbor's shopping cart.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:39 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


anniecat, you went to school and received a degree and now have a well paying job. Did you value your education for any sake other than what it would prepare you to do in the job market? Liberal arts and fine arts studies persist for a reason.

Not everybody's brain is wired the same. I happen to have a fine arts degree, support myself mostly in another industry, and am proud of my education for the way it taught me to think and experience the world.

I like my young hipster peeps. Except when there are too many of them and they run into traffic and stuff, but whatever. I like their energy. I'm glad many of them know how to freaking feed themselves as best they can, because I don't want them to quit or crawl into a hole or whatever you want "them" to do - what do you suggest, everyone with a fine arts degree lay out more debt for trade school? They'll figure something out.
posted by rainbaby at 12:39 PM on March 16, 2010


God damn it can we please stop talking about organic salmon like it's actually a thing that food-conscious people should want to buy. Certified Organic salmon is farmed salmon.

Farmed salmon not only tastes bland and insipid, but, organic or no, also has the potential to be bad for both you and the world.

You (Salon writers, metafilter commenters) mean "wild salmon."

And if you don't, you should.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 12:40 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


God damn it can we please stop talking about organic salmon like it's actually a thing that food-conscious people should want to buy.

*shrug* Sorry, I was just confining myself to the topic of the article. As pla requested. (innocent look)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:42 PM on March 16, 2010


Since this article is pure shock journalism too dumb to even be worth discussing, anyone want to tell me what's the deal with these "Le Creuset" pots? Should I be asking for them for Christmas or something?
posted by graventy at 12:43 PM on March 16, 2010


Hmm. These people qualify for food stamps, they're not making much money. Legally they can't buy alcohol or cigarettes with the food stamps. So what's the problem here? Food stamps are for food, it's up to the person to spend them wisely or unwisely. This reeks of moronic ballyhoo against food stamps, which is completely nuts.
posted by peppito at 12:44 PM on March 16, 2010


Unfortunately wild salmon fishing practices are the reason there's so much farmed salmon. Eating pretty much any kind of salmon is bad for the world unfortunately. I don't think the Alaska fishery is any more sustainable than any other collapsed costal salmon fishery.

Apparently there are tank-farmed salmon which are considered OK by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. But good luck finding it.

Also: STOP BEING SO COOL HIPSTERS. YOU AND YOUR "JAZZ".
posted by GuyZero at 12:45 PM on March 16, 2010


what's the deal with these "Le Creuset" pots? Should I be asking for them for Christmas or something?

You really want Emily Henry.
posted by GuyZero at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2010


graventy: yes, but only if you are not on food stamps.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2010


anyone want to tell me what's the deal with these "Le Creuset" pots

They're overpriced, but they look awesome and are wonderful to cook in. But I'm on food stamps, so I probably shouldn't know that.
posted by Think_Long at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2010


Sorry, Emile Henry. typo.
posted by GuyZero at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2010


So sure, if you want to call hipsters a red herring here, I'll agree with you - Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.

Make a list for us, pla. What do you consider "luxury food"?

Come on, this will be fun.
posted by muddgirl at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2010


One thing that strikes me as so misguided about the amount of outrage this general kind of crap generates is that anyone who's been employed for any significant length of time at any point in their lives has already paid into the system and has at least partly subsidized their own benefits. Most of us have already paid for whatever benefits we might receive or will have paid for them before we die (especially true for unemployment, social security and disability benefits, but pretty much all our social programs are payroll/income tax funded, if not indexed directly to our tax contributions).

So basically, for some reason, we feel a deep need to excoriate people for actually daring to use a system that, by design, requires them to put some of their own money aside for an emergency.

Why? Well it's probably at least partly because there are political interests who prefer to be free to siphon away as much of that money as possible to pursue their own economic interests. But stupidity is also likely a factor.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


STOP BEING SO COOL HIPSTERS. YOU AND YOUR "JAZZ"

It's called noise rock and you wouldn't understand it unless you've studied Japan!
posted by Think_Long at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


No, see, if you accept any government money at all you should be required by law to not enjoy anything. Probably should be required to not be a hipster either.

I mean, Christ, even if they use their food stamps to buy only acceptable items (say, 50lb bags of MSG flavored prole chow) what's stopping them from then spending their OWN $150 on PBR and tattoos?! What do we do then?

In seriousness, I am ashamed of a culture that thinks decent food is too much of a luxury to be afforded to someone who is having a hard time. If people don't qualify to be on this (or any!) assistance, and are fraudulently receiving it, well, guess what, THAT'S ALREADY ILLEGAL. If someone is receiving assistance legally, but does not happen to maintain a level of misery that you think should be the station such a low person then, well, your problem is you.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


But then we're back to the interesting discussion of who "deserves".

"Deserves" is a value judgment. The only necessary metric that determines whether one receives foodstamps is if one "qualifies" for them, regardless of whether you or I think that they "deserve" them. That's the nice thing about getting help from the government: we don't have to run through a gauntlet of private benefactors looking over our shoulders evaluating our moral worthiness for their "gifts."

Hipster hate seems to come down to a resentment that someone is living in a cooler neighborhood than you are while not working nearly as hard, getting by in life flouting the fashion conventions that helped cultivate your social and professional life by adhering to, and having sex with a greater variety of different partners.

Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.

No one would blink twice at me for buying fresh or canned tomatoes, canned chick peas, an apple, an onion, some garlic, and some lemon juice, or shame me for buying $1.99 bags of cumin and curry powder from the Indian food store in the maryland suburbs. Put them all together, however, and you have "OMG! LUXURY FOODS like hipster chickpea curry!!!!" And if I add chicken and yogurt, well, then anyone feeding their family with that on their food stamps better be ready for a public flogging. Seriously, dude, what's your problem?
posted by deanc at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, also along with your list of luxury foods, provide evidence that buying those foods OMG WITH FOOD STAMPS in any way hurts you, ethically morally OR physically. Thanks.
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So sure, if you want to call hipsters a red herring here, I'll agree with you

So far so good...

- Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.

... aaaaannnnnnddddddddd you lost me.

(PS: How do you "assist" a flogging? Publicly? Do taxpayers help you whip yourself? Or is it an impersonal flogging paid for by the government? And wouldn't that be a waste of government funds that could be better spent on like, schools or some shit? What's a luxury food? What death panels decide who gets flogged?)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2010


So basically, for some reason, we feel a deep need to excoriate people for actually daring to use a system that, by design, requires them to put some of their own money aside for an emergency. Why? Well it's probably at least partly because there are political interests who prefer to be free to siphon away as much of that money as possible to pursue their own economic interests

I think we criticize most those who we feel have not put in their dues - the mother of three we presume to have begun childbearing in her teens, the recent grad we presume never to have been gainfully employed, etc. I think those, moreso than assumptions of infirmity, are the root of distinctions we might make between the hypothetical Granny, single Mom and hipster I mentioned above. These are my own assumptions, however, and I'm open to other interpretations.
posted by bunnycup at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh, also along with your list of luxury foods, provide evidence that buying those foods OMG WITH FOOD STAMPS in any way hurts you, ethically morally OR physically.

You'll find that sitting next to the evidence that gay marriage destroys heterosexual marriage.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


bunnycup, you keep using "we" when you enumerate your assumptions. Please leave the rest of us out of it.
posted by enn at 12:54 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What do you consider "luxury food"?

Diamond encrusted Ahi. But only if the tuna is raised by Ed Begley Junior in a certified green wave pool off Golden Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. And the diamonds have to be mined by orphans that have been granted shares in a company financed by Kiva.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:55 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh no, I misfiled it under deathpanels and government-mandated abortions.
posted by bunnycup at 12:55 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Unfortunately wild salmon fishing practices are the reason there's so much farmed salmon. Eating pretty much any kind of salmon is bad for the world unfortunately. I don't think the Alaska fishery is any more sustainable than any other collapsed costal salmon fishery.

huh? I mean, you're entitled to your opinion, but as far as I know, as an adherent to the Seafood watch, my wild AK salmon is still one of the most sustainable protein sources.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Arugula? That's definitely a paddlin'.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


GuyZero sez: You really want Emile Henry.

Nah. I like cast iron.
posted by Floydd at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2010


enn, I missed the thread where we voted to outlaw plural pronouns.
posted by bunnycup at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2010


Yah, I know Seafood Watch still gives Alaskan Salmon the a-ok. I disagree with them on the generic basis that I've seen too many other fisheries collapse to really assume the best. Bluefin tuna used to be OK and now it's endangered so it's not like these things don't change.
posted by GuyZero at 1:00 PM on March 16, 2010


A good article using the same sources would have been to consider whether more highly educated young people forced to use food stamps for the first time in a down economy are making better, healthier decisions about what they eat that would be cost effective for food stamp users across the board. Perhaps these kids could model better ways for other less educated food stamp users to spend their stamps. Or, perhaps that's not the case, because other food stamp users for other reasons wouldn't be able to spend their stamps on the same items, because these items are actually too expensive. And if other food stamp users can't use the same healthier food plan these kids use, why not? Why can these kids feed themselves off their stamps but other families couldn't buying the same items? Do these kids have other income sources welfare doesn't know about? Are these more educated food stamp consumers just using their wits to scam the welfare system into giving them extra income they may not deserve to buy high end items they don't necessarily need?

Those are the questions an informed writer who knows anything about what a typical food stamp user would have asked.
posted by The Straightener at 1:00 PM on March 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


Rice with cheese, and some greens on the side: It's okay to eat this if you're on food stamps.

Risotto with sauteed chard on the side: You are undeserving of luxury foods and should die of hunger!
posted by rtha at 1:04 PM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


These are my own assumptions, however, and I'm open to other interpretations.

Well, if the problem is that these hipsters come from privileged backgrounds and aren't truly deserving of food assistance, then the criticism runs into a different problem. Odds are, those over-entitled hipsters of lore have held high-paying jobs at some point (or at least, their parents have) before they found themselves forced by economic need to seek out public assistance. In which case, they're probably only deriving benefits they (or their parents) have already paid for, so who cares how they spend it? What is the point of all this fuss if not to say "broke people should be forced to eat cheap, unhealthy food because that's all they deserve?"
posted by saulgoodman at 1:04 PM on March 16, 2010


Risotto with sauteed chard on the side: You are undeserving of luxury foods and should die of hunger!

As long as we still get to judge people's food choices. That's what's really important here.
posted by electroboy at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2010


This reminds me of that time Jesus divided the loaves and fishes between everyone and then the Metafites moaned that this was going to hurt the bread and fishery industries.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.

You would see them beaten in public?
posted by chrillsicka at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2010


I just checked out the rules for food stamps in NC and SC. It seems that a single person with no dependents could make $13,000 and qualify but $14,000 would be too much. You can't have over $2,000 in countable assets which includes some types of retirement accounts. Using the SNAP calculator a person making $13,000/ year could get up to $39/ month in SC. That's right, per MONTH. How much organic arugula does that buy? If you are single with no dependents and you want that windfall you will have to participate in a job training or workfare program too unless you work 20 hours a week or live in certain economically depressed counties.
posted by Tashtego at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2010


Threeblindmice,

It's a sad state of affairs, when I read about the way other countries treat their poor, and start to tear up because its so compassionate. I can't say I've done that with any US policy.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2010


This reminds me of that time Jesus divided the loaves and fishes between everyone and then the Metafites moaned that this was going to hurt the bread and fishery industries.

He should have given them Wonder bread and fish sticks instead of that hoity-toity artisanal bread and wild salmon.
posted by Floydd at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2010


It's a good thing she isn't relying on social security income or any other product of the great depression, a situation where government assistance wasn't at all useful to anybody.

Yeah, because if she was relying on SSI it would be worse than what she would have had before the depression, which would have been nothing. Wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense at all. Did you forget the hamburger tag?
posted by doctor_negative at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2010


This reminds me of that time Jesus divided the loaves and fishes between everyone and then the Metafites moaned that this was going to hurt the bread and fishery industries.

Remember that if you hear the words "social justice" at your church, you should run screaming down the aisles and then shoot everyone.
posted by GuyZero at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Is there a Federal Program where I could donate things I've half-eaten but do not want to finish to those in need?
posted by mazola at 1:18 PM on March 16, 2010


A good article using the same sources would have been to consider whether more highly educated young people forced to use food stamps for the first time in a down economy are making better, healthier decisions about what they eat that would be cost effective for food stamp users across the board.

Personally, I'd still have problems with this article. In the same way it's problematic to label "more expensive food" as a universally bad choice, it's problematic to label caloric dense food as a universally bad choice.
posted by muddgirl at 1:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, because if she was relying on SSI it would be worse than what she would have had before the depression, which would have been nothing. Wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense at all. Did you forget the hamburger tag?

I didn't think it was necessary, I make it a point to never use the 'hamburger tag'
posted by Think_Long at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2010


it's problematic to label caloric dense food as a universally bad choice.

I spent all my foodstamps on Humboldt Fog.

Is there a Federal Program where I could donate things I've half-eaten but do not want to finish to those in need?

No, but all AskMe "should I eat it?" questions must now specify whether the poster is on food stamps, in which case the answer is always "yes, you worthless sack of shit".
posted by GuyZero at 1:21 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic strata, or preference of PC-vs-Mac, buying luxury foods with public assistance money deserves a publicly assisted flogging.

What food items would not count as 'luxury foods'? Please enumerate.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:22 PM on March 16, 2010


Threads like this are like watching a freight train pass by.
The article is fucking obnoxious.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:22 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Using the SNAP calculator a person making $13,000/ year could get up to $39/ month in SC.

Right, the fact is that Mak is getting a lot of food stamps, basically in line with what someone with a very low income and no assets would be eligible for. Which means he is somehow supplementing his food intake with soup kitchens and food banks and living in a homeless shelter or squatting or he's engaging in welfare fraud, reporting very little in terms of income in order to get the maximum amount of stamps that he in turns spends on items that are simply not going to get him through an entire month of eating three daily meals which he doesn't have to worry about because he has support from his family or unreported income.

Does anyone know this writer? Can we get Slate to answer these questions about why dude is getting the max amount of food stamps and spending it on roasted rabbit, because "I'm sort of a foodie, and I'm not going to do the 'living off ramen' thing"?
posted by The Straightener at 1:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Somewhat related is that the State of Maryland has fallen further behind after a judge ordered it to speed up delivery of food stamps.
posted by electroboy at 1:28 PM on March 16, 2010


Uh, Mak is in Baltimore which is not in SC, right? Presumably there are state-to-state differences in income requirement levels. Unless you don't mean to be completely literal in that reply, The Straightener, as I will certainly defer to you on the issue and anything to do with Baltimore.
posted by GuyZero at 1:29 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I live in Baltimore. The Trader Joe's - with it's free range chickens and organic produce, is generally cheaper than the supposedly more downscale Shoppers Food Warehouse. Whole Foods - not so much. And local farmers' markets are the best deal around. I don't see a conflict between eating well and eating frugally.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of that time Jesus divided the loaves and fishes between everyone and then the Metafites moaned that this was going to hurt the bread and fishery industries.

but not before conducting moral and means testing on each recipient.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If anyone has the time or the inclination, here's the guidelines for food assistance in Maryland.
posted by electroboy at 1:33 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


States are different but there are general similarities, like my average client in PA who has ZERO income and ZERO assets is eligible for considerably less than $200 in stamps per month so unless Maryland is running the greatest food stamp program in US history there's something waaaaay off about the Mak situation.
posted by The Straightener at 1:34 PM on March 16, 2010


I live in Baltimore. The Trader Joe's - with it's free range chickens and organic produce, is generally cheaper than the supposedly more downscale Shoppers Food Warehouse.

Except that there is no Trader Joe's in Baltimore.
posted by electroboy at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2010


josher71 : Flog me then. I bought food with money I got from unemployment. And sometimes it was luxury food.

Unnecessary. You paid for your unemployment insurance out of your own salary. If you had never worked, you wouldn't get UI. Put simply, you earned it honestly, spend it as you see fit.

That said, I consider all forms of insurance a total rip-off, and you could almost certainly have invested those (involuntary) premiums for a much better return than the pittance you'll now get back for your input... But having actually paid into it - Take advantage of every drop of your own blood you can squeeze back out of that stone.


dirtdirt : In seriousness, I am ashamed of a culture that thinks decent food is too much of a luxury to be afforded to someone who is having a hard time.

Again - Eating healthy does not mean spending more, unless talking about instant/pre-prepared food. Nor does eating "organic free range omega-3 Doritos" necessarily count as healthy.


muddgirl : Make a list for us, pla. What do you consider "luxury food"? Come on, this will be fun.

Forgive me if I have to suspect you of insincerity here, but I'll play along anyway. :)

Just about anything with the words "organic", or free-range, or grass-fed, or BGH-free, or any of a whole spectrum of similar terms on the label. Those amount to paying more for political buzzwords, with negligible effects on the actual contents.

Ice cream. All ice cream. And chips, and candy, and HoHos and pretty much any form of bagged snack-food or dessert. Personally I think we'd all improve our health drastically by doing away with such crap altogether, but no one needs a quart of fudge ripple, much less the Cadbury or Häagen-Dazs versions with 50% more foofyness.

Basically, anything you can buy that has identical nutritional value to the same product one shelf down at half the price. Simple as that.

Oh, also along with your list of luxury foods, provide evidence that buying those foods OMG WITH FOOD STAMPS in any way hurts you, ethically morally OR physically.

Why? I don't give the least damn about the first two categories. The third you know has little to no impact on me - I could argue that I could spend the same money stolen from me in the form of taxes to send antimalarials to a charity of my choice in Africa, thereby lessening my chances of someday getting Malaria, but won't bother for one simple reason: You deliberately left out the only relevant category - This affects me financially. The state has done nothing less than taken away my choice of how to spend my money, so others can choose to eat better than I do (I sure as hell can't afford to shop regularly at Whole Foods).

I certainly don't grudge those who legitimately need it. But, to repeat my very first post in this thread - Buying luxury foods pretty much cinches the deal that someone doesn't need the money.


Oh, one more for the list (to repeat mccarty.tim) - MetaFilter (food for the mind?). We all payed $5 for a link aggregator / blog just like countless other sites we could join for free. Right to whine about our hardships, zero.
posted by pla at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


1 in 6 Oregonians are on food stamps
posted by wcfields at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2010


The Trader Joe's is fairly close in Towson, I suppose. But, yeah, that's not Baltimore.
posted by josher71 at 1:41 PM on March 16, 2010


Does anyone know this writer? Can we get Slate to answer these questions about why dude is getting the max amount of food stamps and spending it on roasted rabbit, because "I'm sort of a foodie, and I'm not going to do the 'living off ramen' thing"?

I doubt the writer's editor is necessarily interested in a more serious or thoughtful piece. What is Slate's target demographic? It's like the New York Times covering people cutting back in tough times by not buying a second home.

Except that there is no Trader Joe's in Baltimore.

Towson and Pikesville aren't too far away.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:42 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If HoHos are a luxury good I don't want to be pampered.
posted by aspo at 1:42 PM on March 16, 2010


OMFG it's the libertarian argument.

The state has done nothing less than taken away my choice of how to spend my money, so others can choose to eat better than I do

Dude, if they liquidated the state you'd have a lot less choice on how to spend your money. Also, it's cheaper to give poor people food stamps than to hire extra police officers to stop crime and food riots. If they stopped food stamps do you really think there would be a net benefit to society?

Healthy food isn't luxury food. It's just food. Also, ice cream is a pretty good deal in calories per dollar. I mean, how is it any different from flavoured yogurt? It's 95% milk and sugar.

Your arguments amount to nothing less than decrying state interference in preference for personal interference. hardly the moral high ground.
posted by GuyZero at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just about anything with the words "organic", or free-range, or grass-fed, or BGH-free, or any of a whole spectrum of similar terms on the label. Those amount to paying more for political buzzwords, with negligible effects on the actual contents.

Please cite your sources for this claim, firstly.

Secondly, I'm still not understanding why, if someone has received a set amount of money, and is spending more in one area but making up for it by spending less in another area (they get the BGH-free milk, but they get the store-brand bread, say), this makes one whit of difference to any taxpayer. The recipient is going to be getting the same amount of money no matter what. The taxpayer will have paid the same amount of money no matter what. It's not like we all get a refund if Sid spends less on his food stamps; he's still going to get the same amount of money every month whether he gets cheap beef or good beef. So -- to what end would it serve shaming Sid into getting the cheap beef?

We all payed $5 for a link aggregator / blog just like countless other sites we could join for free.

But using your logic, if any of us got that five dollars as part of a loan from a friend, we shouldn't have used it to pay for Metafilter because there was something with "less foofyness" elsewhere on the web. The fact that we CHOSE to allot some of that loan to pay for Metafilter, and maybe went five dollars poorer somewhere else, shouldn't be a factor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nor does eating "organic free range omega-3 Doritos" necessarily count as healthy.

Sir, no one said that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2010


pla: "Nor does eating organic free range omega-3 Doritos" necessarily count as healthy."


"Forgive me if I have to suspect you of insincerity here..."
posted by applemeat at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just about anything with the words "organic", or free-range, or grass-fed, or BGH-free, or any of a whole spectrum of similar terms on the label. Those amount to paying more for political buzzwords, with negligible effects on the actual contents.

I've worked in an organic grocery store and can guarantee you that this is by and large totally untrue. rBGH is a factor in human health to the point where American milk treated with rBGH can not be sold in Europe, which bans the practice for health concerns. It's not awesome for the cow, either.

I'm not going to refute this point by point because I don't have the time or the energy to argue with the proverbial dining room table - I'm just going to point out that if you took some time to do research on the benefits of organic food rather than just assuming that because it "costs more" it's a "waste of money," you would find some rather gaping holes in your own argument.

Sure, there are a number of things where "organic" is a luxury. Organic produce, while it sometimes tastes better, mostly just means it's (literally) dirtier. If it's packaged and made from "organic" ingredients, then it's probably no better than a conventional equivalent since they can put "contains organic ingredients" on it if it's so much as looked at an organic ingredient. (Certified USDA organic is another matter, there are actual standards for that one.) But for meat and dairy? HELL YEAH there's a difference.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yup, per the Department of Agriculture, $200 per month is the maximum benefit rate for an individual. So dude is reporting to the welfare department that he is basically living on the streets in order to get the max rate on food stamps, spends them on roasted rabbit and brags about it on Slate. Nice.
posted by The Straightener at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


People spending their food stamps on healthy food is fine, desirable even.

An able-bodied 31-year-old with a degree from the University of Chicago and no kids to support living in job-market-desert Baltimore on food stamps is infuriating. He is either committing welfare fraud or intolerable self-indulgence at tax-payer expense. Probably both. Let him move to Dallas and show a few months of worn shoe-leather hustling to get one of the jobs guys with 12 words of English and a primary school education from Fujian or Michoacan are happy to have, and maybe there's a conversation to have about getting him on welfare.
posted by MattD at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


States are different but there are general similarities, like my average client in PA who has ZERO income and ZERO assets is eligible for considerably less than $200 in stamps per month so unless Maryland is running the greatest food stamp program in US history there's something waaaaay off about the Mak situation.

Maybe, but it might be relevant that a lot of the urban "hipsters" I've known over the years saved tons of money on housing by living in big warehouses (literally) with anywhere from a dozen to two dozen other roommates splitting the tab. Or in low-cost communities like artist coops.

These are often surprisingly resourceful kids, believe it or not, who generally know how to scrimp on costs--whether it's by dumpster-diving to supplement their income, mooching off better situated friends, or pooling relatively small sums of money with lots of other kids to keep something roughly like a roof over their heads.

Seriously. A lot of the kids who get labeled "hipsters" know how to live really low to the ground.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:45 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Deserves" is a value judgment. The only necessary metric that determines whether one receives foodstamps is if one "qualifies" for them, regardless of whether you or I think that they "deserve" them. That's the nice thing about getting help from the government: we don't have to run through a gauntlet of private benefactors looking over our shoulders evaluating our moral worthiness for their "gifts."

Right, of course, but at the same time I think many people, if they're being honest with themselves, do make those kinds of value judgments. Of course I don't want my government making that judgment -- I hope that's clear -- but how I feel my affect how I vote, and the U.S. has a very punitive framework vis a vis government assistance. So if I myself feel as though I've internalized some of that punitive framework, how might I want to re-frame?

Living in the Northeast, I find it quite easy to get into the mindset of "oh, these rich kids get all the benefits". Particularly if you are involved in creative work, and see the immense benefits Art Gradaute A gets from being wealthy, versus Art School Graduate B who's not. (Cf, for example, angst towards indie bands that are started and supported by members with wealthy families.)

Now, this travesty of an article doesn't give even remotely enough factual information to have a rational discussion about the issues. But I think we need to confront the idea of "deserving", and even admit "yes, sometimes I feel that people get things they don't deserve", to allow ourselves to comfortably vote for government programs that may, every once in a while, give something to someone we personally don't feel "deserves" it. We have to say that it's okay if that happens, because you're never going to have a program stringent and punitive enough to satisfy our Puritan/Calvinist id.
posted by lillygog at 1:47 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


fact that we have to take uninspiring jobs in order to pay off the mountains of student loans we're laboring under isn't our fault.

Oh yeah, you're the very first class ever to graduate in a deep recession, right? Oh geem it turns out that I'm one of them, still paying my student loans off in a less than awesome job that isn't my dream job, but I'm glad I have the discipline to actually pay back my loans. So I'm not against anybody taking an uninspiring job to pay off debt. I think it's actually evidence of a mature person -- someone who has a job that they aren't crazy about, but are paying off debt, and still happy and proud of themselves to boot. I'm thinking it's really silly to not readjust what emotional expectations you have about what work is supposed to feel like when you owe a mountain of debt. So good for you for taking a boring job and meeting your loan obligation.

My generation was reared by parents who told us that we could do what we loved, what we were passionate about, with a college education. So, most of us decided to follow our dreams, and now we have niches and passions and all that stuff that would be wonderful in a good economy.

Are you really blaming your parents? Wake up, son. Your parents didn't mean it, they were all into building your self-esteem. You are not special. The fact that you thought you were proves you aren't. Your parents sold you a false bill of goods about what would happen after college so you wouldn't blame them for a bruised sense of possibility and you're upset with them but you liked what they said and want to believe it because unless you have a job you're passionate and in love with you think you've failed because your ego and self-esteem is all frustrated because it is all tied up in your work. So here we are where you're blaming me for calling you out on dreaming of sitting around party headquarters with a clipboard and whining when you should actually do something? Last time I checked, Whole Foods had openings and a lot of people who didn't have the benefit of a college degree (and some that do and aren't too proud to work as cashiers etc) busted their asses to get to this country are working there.
posted by anniecat at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2010


(Just in case it's not clear, I'm saying "we" and "our" in the larger sense of "these strains in U.S. politics to which I sometimes fall prey", rather than referring to any particular person in this thread.)
posted by lillygog at 1:52 PM on March 16, 2010


shakespeherian : What food items would not count as 'luxury foods'? Please enumerate.

Bread (preferable stale).
Water.

That about what you wanted to hear?

Look, take whatever stance you want on TFA, on food stamps, on the morality and ethics of telling people worse off than yourself what they should and shouldn't do. But do we really need to argue about whether or not "luxury" foods even exist?

Here, I'll make a deal with you... I'll buy you lunch at McDonalds (or Subway, for something a bit less nasty) tomorrow (Wednesday); then you can buy me lunch at a place of my choosing on Thursday. Then on Friday, I promise that I will take your opinion as good as gospel, as to whether or not you believe in "luxury" foods. ;)
posted by pla at 1:52 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why? I don't give the least damn about the first two categories. The third you know has little to no impact on me - I could argue that I could spend the same money stolen from me in the form of taxes to send antimalarials to a charity of my choice in Africa, thereby lessening my chances of someday getting Malaria, but won't bother for one simple reason: You deliberately left out the only relevant category - This affects me financially. The state has done nothing less than taken away my choice of how to spend my money, so others can choose to eat better than I do (I sure as hell can't afford to shop regularly at Whole Foods).

Wow, Ayn Rand did actually get a MetaFilter account. Welcome, Ghost of Ayn Rand!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let him move to Dallas and show a few months of worn shoe-leather hustling to get one of the jobs guys with 12 words of English and a primary school education from Fujian or Michoacan are happy to have

Hoaratio Alger Jr. meets Tom of Finland, ties him up with his bootstraps, and rawwr! Goddamn that's hot!
posted by applemeat at 1:54 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


If these guys were real hipsters, they'd use the food stamps to mail a watermelon to Cleveland. The irony that followed would nourish them for weeks.
posted by dr_dank at 1:56 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


If it were easy to bring about the kind of changes these young people are devoting years of their lives to while living, quite literally, well below the poverty line without any federal support, we wouldn't need Americorps volunteers at all.

I didn't see your earlier comment. You're pretty impressionable. So if Americorps PR machine tells you that you're creating all kinds of change, then you definitely must be (look at the GAO reports in the footnotes). And if it still exists, then there must be some measurable (verified by an objective, independent third party) change that we are seeing everyday, right? So for all the needy people they took off of food stamps, they replaced with Americorps volunteers? At any rate, it's probably a neglible amount and I don't think it matters, other than it's really ridiculous that they're called volunteers.
posted by anniecat at 1:57 PM on March 16, 2010


But do we really need to argue about whether or not "luxury" foods even exist?

I think you're maybe too sarcastic and witty for your own good. I wasn't being snarky; I was asking a goddam question. I'm not asking, as someone did above, what counts as 'luxury foods,' because that's far too easy to tick off your favorite political buzzword organic-just-means-more-expensive talking points. I am honestly, sincerely asking you: If you were on food stamps, what foods would you buy? What purchases should these people be making that will dispel your fears that they are bilking the system?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:57 PM on March 16, 2010


An able-bodied 31-year-old with a degree from the University of Chicago and no kids to support living in job-market-desert Baltimore on food stamps is infuriating. He is either committing welfare fraud or intolerable self-indulgence at tax-payer expense. Probably both. Let him move to Dallas and show a few months of worn shoe-leather hustling to get one of the jobs guys with 12 words of English and a primary school education from Fujian or Michoacan are happy to have, and maybe there's a conversation to have about getting him on welfare.

I guess I agree, except I pity him, rather than find it infuriating. Everyone has to make their own way with regard to maximizing economic opportunity, I suppose, and I've certainly chosen paths that consciously led to lower income at nearly every turn in my (still young) adult life. Whatever hoops you have to jump through to hide income or live off relatives just to get 200 extra bucks a month to spend on nice groceries seems like it's probably a bad deal compared to the nice situation an able bodied childless man with a top college degree could potentially put himself in. The rich cheat the system as well and maybe they're immoral and maybe that makes a bigger dent in the national pocketbook and I can find that infuriating. So though I'm sympathetic to the arguments of the Straightener, we can make a bigger pot for welfare by closing down the tax loopholes for the rich, so my moral outrage seems better directed there. This guy just seems irrational, and a little pathetic.
posted by Kwine at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


But do we really need to argue about whether or not "luxury" foods even exist?

Sir, this is not what you originally said.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2010


Towson and Pikesville aren't too far away.

Hey, that's only an hour away by bus! That's practically next door!
posted by electroboy at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2010


The state has done nothing less than taken away my choice of how to spend my money, so others can choose to fly jet fighters (I sure as hell can't afford to shop regularly at Northrop Grumman).
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


Wow, anniecat, thanks for your remarkably uninformed and bitter ad hominems against me. You've really opened my eyes about what a worthless, unaccomplished hamburger I am.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2010


Let him move to Dallas and show a few months of worn shoe-leather hustling to get one of the jobs guys with 12 words of English and a primary school education from Fujian or Michoacan are happy to have, and maybe there's a conversation to have about getting him on welfare.
You do realize, right, that it costs money to move? You can't just magically teleport yourself and your belongings to a magical apartment that you are able to rent without a job or security deposit.
posted by craichead at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here, I'll make a deal with you... I'll buy you lunch at McDonalds (...) then you can buy me lunch at a place of my choosing on Thursday.

That's a deal, so long as we are spending the same amount. If you choose to spend your , say, $5 on a breath mint at Le Cirque while I choose to spend my $5 on a footlong sub, who loses?
posted by dirtdirt at 2:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you were on food stamps, what foods would you buy?

But Pla, himself, would be exempt - he may buy whatever he pleases, because he would just be wringing out every bloody drop of the tax money stolen from him by the government. Or something.
posted by bunnycup at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW, not only is ice cream not a "luxury", there's a lower duties under NAFTA for a mixture of milk and sugar vs the two ingredients separately. Between dairy, HFCS and favourable tariff treatments I actually think that ice cream may be the most heavily subsidized food available.
posted by GuyZero at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


quoting pla: I could argue that I could spend the same money stolen from me in the form of taxes...

Pla is doing something that crops up a lot on the smarty-pants corners of the Internet: she's taken a maxim from the American founding fathers, "Taxation without representation is tyranny," and shortened it to instead read "Taxation is tyranny." One way to tell the two apart is to note that the former maxim is one of the fundamental and necessary ideas underlying representative democracy, whereas the latter is just dumb.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


there's something waaaaay off about the Mak situation.

[I haven't read the article yet]

Is it possible the $150 number comes from two people who are sharing food, and the other just isn't as high-profile in the article.
posted by anastasiav at 2:05 PM on March 16, 2010


OH LOOK WHAT A LOVELY SUNNY DAY IT IS
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, that's only an hour away by bus! That's practically next door!

I lived in Baltimore for a few years. Towson is about a twenty-five minute ride from north of the train station. Not saying that it's next door, but it's in the general vicinity of Baltimore and certainly accessible from downtown.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:06 PM on March 16, 2010


The fact that universities are slashing budgets for grad student tuition and stipend isn't our fault.

Who said that was your fault? The expectation to get funding is more entitlement. The government and private foundations are saying, "We don't need another PhD in English Literature." So why are you going into that field? Is it that pesky passion again? There's funding in some places. But who says you need to go to grad school for anything anyway? Why aren't you getting an HVAC certification at the community college? Why is it grad school? I can't say I'm surprised that there's lack of funding for a Master's in Liberal Arts or a PhD in Classics. If you think higher education is supposed to be fair by virtue of it being "education" then you're in for a lot of surprises. If anything is your fault, it's that you aren't thinking about what is versus what you wish wish wish things were like.
posted by anniecat at 2:07 PM on March 16, 2010


Pla is doing something that crops up a lot on the smarty-pants corners of the Internet: she's taken

FYI, pla is a male. Just wanted to clarify.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2010


Wow. It's like Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove and Ronald Reagan all chipped in a buck and change for a Metafilter account.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


And if other food stamp users can't use the same healthier food plan these kids use, why not?

My sister is a hippie who wants to change the world for the better. This is only one of the many striking differences between us, but it stands for the whole. After college, I took my English degree and tried to find a way into the videogame industry with it; she moved from Boulder to San Francisco and finished a master's in health. Typical, really.

One of her five or six current employments is teaching nutrition classes at a minimum-security women's prison and an accompanying release-reentry program. Every week she has classes of women ranging from 18 to 50, to whom she teaches recipes, helps figure out budgets, and sets them up to create and maintain a monthly diet of low-cost, high-nutrition ingredients so that they can nourish themselves and their families with minimal expenditure. She does this because she believes that people who eat better have brains and bodies that work more effectively; that well-nourished people are smarter, better planners, better workers, less likely to recidivate out of desperation or need, less likely to turn back to drugs and alcohol, more self-empowered.

Virtually all of her students had no idea they could buy these ingredients cheaply; most of them never learned these kinds of recipes. Why don't other food stamp users create a similar healthy-food plan? A lot of them don't know how. It sounds ridiculous and stupid, but there it is.

So when I read this article, I mentally remove all the talk of hipsters and fancy pots and insert all the at-risk women my sister is teaching to eat well within limited means, who are learning how to live their lives better, and I just can't summon any outrage over that. Most of them will be on food stamps when they get out; hopefully, most of them will be buying the same kinds of ingredients these so-called hipsters are being castigated for buying; hopefully, most of them will find a way not to go back inside. So, yeah, not only do I not mind when people use their food stamps for good food, I actually prefer it. I don't know if my sister can change the world, but she's doing a bang-up job on my cynicism.
posted by Errant at 2:10 PM on March 16, 2010 [29 favorites]


You do realize, right, that it costs money to move?

Yea and you see Mexicans risking life and limb to cross the desert for those jobs. I think the larger point is maybe Americans in general do feal a lttle entitled, you see it in different demographics with all the job losses and the general anger thats going around.

But around most the rest of the world people dont have these opportunities and know they arent entitled to shit. Which I think is why so many tech markets are filling up with highly motivated, well educated foriegners while we just get more stupid all the time
posted by freshundz at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2010


Why don't other food stamp users create a similar healthy-food plan? A lot of them don't know how. It sounds ridiculous and stupid, but there it is.

Yeah, I kinda have like 45 clients currently on food stamps so I'm up on all that.
posted by The Straightener at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the larger point is maybe Americans in general do feal a lttle entitled, you see it in different demographics with all the job losses and the general anger thats going around.

....I'm not sure how this relates to the issue at hand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:15 PM on March 16, 2010


Wow, anniecat, thanks for your remarkably uninformed and bitter ad hominems against me.

Bitter? You think I'm attacking you? I am trying to help open your eyes to the incredible world full of amazing opportunities and challenges. There is no shame to be had because no one cares what you for a living right out of college except for you. Wake up, it's a beautiful world out there and you should be proud that you're making ends meet because, unlike going to school for a silly degree, you are making ends meet! Anybody can get a college degree, but getting your stuff together financially, paying those bills off, being a happy, cheerful, giving and forgiving person to your friends and family while doing it? Doing what you have to do? That's success! That deserves loads of respect. You're the one who's having a tantrum over silly stuff like not landing a cushy job being passionate all day out of college and treating it like God singled your class out or something. If you find something you love, awesome. If you don't, don't get bitter and angry about it. Just go attend to your responsibilities and be proud that you can be.
posted by anniecat at 2:16 PM on March 16, 2010


perhaps not- scanning through in a hurry- very busy
posted by freshundz at 2:17 PM on March 16, 2010


Not saying that it's next door, but it's in the general vicinity of Baltimore and certainly accessible from downtown.

I suppose then you've missed the larger point that Trader Joe's generally locates in the frou-frou areas of cities and wealthy suburbs, so pointing to Trader Joe's as a source of cheap, healthy food comes across as sort of a tone deaf option. Further, Shopper's Food Warehouse generally has better produce than most of the standard grocery stores because they often serve a partly immigrant community.
posted by electroboy at 2:18 PM on March 16, 2010


it's really ridiculous that they're called volunteers.

And yet we pay salaries to our "all volunteer" army. Seriously, what's up with the Americorps-hate?

The expectation to get funding is more entitlement. The government and private foundations are saying, "We don't need another PhD in English Literature."

The nice thing about government programs, as I said, is that one must merely "qualify," not be forced to run the the gauntlet of moral worthiness. Living on a low-level stipend when you're already mid-way through something before funding got cut in an economy where there are few supplemental jobs available is punishment enough. If someone chooses to avail themselves of temporary food stamp assistance because they qualify for it, I'm not going to get all agitated about it. And if they manage to choose healthy foods rather than ramen and low-grade beef, I'm certainly not going to let that bother me.

(however I've never met or heard of a grad student on food stamps. I've heard of members of the military who've had to use the program, though)

Look, anniecat, I mock the ne'er-do-well lazy middle class kids without a career-oriented mindset as much as the next guy, but picking on members of Americorps? Do you kick puppies in your spare time, as well?
posted by deanc at 2:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


we just get more stupid all the time

I've been doing data entry of the results of an aptitude test for a while...there's a direct inverse correlation between average score and age.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:20 PM on March 16, 2010


Not saying that it's next door, but it's in the general vicinity of Baltimore and certainly accessible from downtown.

However; for someone who relies on public transporation, even though it's only 20 minutes, it's 20 minutes on a bus, which means that you are limited to only buying what you can carry back in however many bags you can carry in your two hands. Not QUITE as good a tradeoff, unfortunately...there's a Trader Joe's that's equally as close to me, but the ten-minute walk to the supermarket with my luggage cart means I can get things in bulk.

That's just a for instance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2010


Not too long ago, I was a single-working mother of three, I believe some people called my occupation "high school educator." There was a beautiful write up in our local paper about a young lady (coulda been a hipster) that bought Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with her food stamp card. That lady was me. I was buying ice cream for my son's second birthday my first week as a teacher. I had a lot to celebrate. I wish I could have read the write up had he caught my regular purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables (sometimes organic), whole grain breads, non processed cheese, local dairy whole milk, tofu, and rice. I would have loved to have been in the middle of that community debate.

Salon.com, I would rather dumpster dive than ever read this type of garbage again.
posted by psylosyren at 2:23 PM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


GuyZero : OMFG it's the libertarian argument.

What, you mean Mefi doesn't automatically highlight my posts at this point to out me for believing in personal financial responsibility?

Your arguments amount to nothing less than decrying state interference in preference for personal interference. hardly the moral high ground.

Not quite - I argued that the state shouldn't deny me my preference in favor of yours.


EmpressCallipygos : Please cite your sources for this claim, firstly.

href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8174482.stm">Organic 'has no health benefits'.

Secondly, I'm still not understanding why, if someone has received a set amount of money, and is spending more in one area but making up for it by spending less in another area

Because if someone can spend enough less in one area to splurge in another, they could have spent less in both areas and not needed to do the second on the public's dime. Or to put another way - If I blow all my money on computer hardware, can I receive aid for my rent?

We all payed $5 for a link aggregator / blog just like countless other sites we could join for free.

Sorry (sincerely) - I meant that as a joke, more-or-less. Someone could collect cans to come up with five bucks. :)


dirtdirt : That's a deal, so long as we are spending the same amount.

How could we possibly spend different amounts? Luxury foods don't exist, so a basically-nutritious and filling meal anywhere must necessarily cost close to the same amount.


shakespeherian : I wasn't being snarky; I was asking a goddam question.

Then I apologize, I took your question as sort of driving that particular nail in further, since an honest answer would require a much longer list.

To seriously answer you (if you'll forgive the generalizing) - just about any basic cooking ingredients. And when I say "basic", I mean just that - white mushrooms, not wildcrafted shitakes; all-purpose-flour, not low-gluten pastry-grade flour milled by hand in the South of France; Olive oil (or even generic "vegetable" oil, depending on the use), not grapeseed oil.

I would also consider time a valuable resource for most people, and have no problem with most non-premium frozen prepared meals - Microwave burritos for $10/dozen, a frozen pizza will feed 3-4 people for $3-4, pre-cooked veggies at three for two bucks.

Things that feed you. Not things you crave or things in the more attractive packaging. As I mentioned, given a choice between two versions of the same product - The one on the lower shelf.
posted by pla at 2:24 PM on March 16, 2010


You know, it's not easy to get food stamps. You don't just go online and fill out an application and hey presto here is lots of free government money in your mailbox. No, unless it's changed dramatically since my seriously scary heavy duty broke days in the eighties and early nineties, you have to go to the social services office and plan on being there all day, filling out forms and talking to burnt out unhappy overworked people who do not want to talk to you and come off (quite successfully) as if they really do not want you to get these benefits if they can possibly deny them. However, the benefits are out there and if you qualify and dance through the hoops and fill out all your forms correctly, which, again, is not easy, you can get them. I've sat in offices in New York where social workers shouted at Asian women because their English was not good enough, so, no benefits for them, and I've sat in the office on North Avenue in Baltimore trying desperately to get my eight year old on medical assistance while a social worker snarled at me that eight was too old for family assistance and why the hell didn't she have her own account and what was wrong with me anyway that I needed this help? Lots of people give up at this point. I gave up in New York and I gave up on food stamps - for which I was entirely qualified - because of the relentless shaming. Many people do; perhaps they are not educated enough or savvy enough or mentally together enough for the shaming or the endless persistence that it takes to get benefits.

However. To the best of my knowledge, these benefits - food stamps - are guaranteed by law and they do not diminish for anyone even if extra people take advantage of them. These two people in Baltimore are not taking food out of other people's mouths. They're barely even taking a rivet off the wing of a federally funded bomber. So all this howling about how your precious tax dollars are being stolen by freeloaders is a bunch of total bullshit. Your taxes aren't being affected by hipster kids eating rabbit with a SNAP card. Really, no, they're not.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


Obviously pla is an entirely self-made man who hasn't benefited at all from the money stolen from him by the state. He hasn't used any of the federal or state infrastructure, hasn't benefited from public education (either directly, or through the benefit of living in an educated society), hasn't had his safety, health, or property protected by inspectors, emergency workers, or police. The state just takes, takes, takes what is rightfully his through his own sweat and toil and innate intelligence (and not at all affected by his privilege) and gives it to shiftless undeserving and ungrateful slobs who can't even be bothered to work or even have the decency to at least eat like poor people.
posted by rocket88 at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2010 [18 favorites]


Who said that was your fault? The expectation to get funding is more entitlement.

Providing equal access to economic opportunity has always been understood to be a part of the role of the Federal government under the auspices of the government's charge to "promote the general welfare" as described in the preamble to the constitution.

When whole employment categories disappear and none appear to take their place, that hardly makes a recipe for equality of opportunity or increased general prosperity.

When policy makers and business leaders deliberately pursue strategies that remove chairs from play in the all-important game of musical chairs that constitutes the employment system in America without at the same time taking adequate steps to ensure there will still be enough chairs left for everyone, someone, somewhere will inevitably find themselves left without a chair when the music stops. Whether those individuals hail from rich or poor families, whether they are college educated or not, whether they like to eat swiss chard or Cheetos, it's not really their fault. There simply aren't enough chairs for everyone.

As humans, we personalize and impose idiosyncratic value judgments on such scenarios because we are human beings and that's what we're wired to do. Our minds are so oriented toward personalizing the impersonal that we can't help but see a drawing of a circle, two dots and a curved line arranged in a particular way as anything but a happy face even when we try. This is just more of that: a manipulative appeal to personal prejudice to manufacture a controversy and foster greater skepticism around public support programs. Nothing else to see here, I'm afraid.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:30 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suppose then you've missed the larger point that Trader Joe's generally locates in the frou-frou areas of cities and wealthy suburbs

Sir, I don't recall anyone making that point, and even if that were uniformly true, its relevance would be questionable, at best. You can certainly find Costco and WAL*MART groceries in or near wealthy suburbs.

pointing to Trader Joe's as a source of cheap, healthy food comes across as sort of a tone deaf option

Sir, from my personal experiences with shopping at Trader Joe's, I recall that, in fact, most of their wares are cheap. Exceedingly so. Their reputation for inexpensive groceries is hallmarked by selling what was once called, before inflation, a bottle of "two-buck chuck" wine. I recall that their produce and bread are particularly inexpensive, likely due to being sold close to date of spoilage. Their frozen fish is amazingly cheap for being wild-caught. If I had a very tight food budget, I would certainly shop there more frequently. It appears at least one other person in this thread can corroborate my experience with his or her own.

In any case, sir, there are at least two Trader Joe's within the vicinity of the greater Baltimore area, as Google Maps confirms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:30 PM on March 16, 2010


Luxury foods don't exist

Sir, no one said this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:31 PM on March 16, 2010


Because if someone can spend enough less in one area to splurge in another, they could have spent less in both areas and not needed to do the second on the public's dime. Or to put another way - If I blow all my money on computer hardware, can I receive aid for my rent?

But that's not how this works. Look back again at the links and information presented above - people with NO income and NO assets (much less enough for computer hardware) are receiving less than $200/month. Your examples show the flaw in the application to those who honestly qualify. Those who do not honestly qualify are committing fraud, whether they buy luxury, no-luxury, organic, ice cream, chips, whatever.

In my neck of the woods, a store brand/generic $6 frozen pizza feeds 2 but does not provide enough nutrients for basic subsistence. It provides primarily dough, fake cheese and fat.
posted by bunnycup at 2:33 PM on March 16, 2010


(And pla, if you want to foot the Medicaid or Medicare bill for all those people who live on frozen pizza and <$1 frozen burritos with your taxes, power to you. I am strongly of the opinion that healthy food for them is a more frugal use of my tax dollars than hypertension drugs and heart surgery.)
posted by bunnycup at 2:35 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because if someone can spend enough less in one area to splurge in another, they could have spent less in both areas and not needed to do the second on the public's dime.

But....the difference between organic meat and non-organic meat is a matter of at most five dollars. That five dollars would not be sufficient for them to NOT still qualify for food stamps.

Or to put another way - If I blow all my money on computer hardware, can I receive aid for my rent?

This analogy doesn't work. It's more like, "I've already received the public aid. But I figured out a way to get a roommate, so I can take the extra money I would have had to spend on rent and use it for something else."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:36 PM on March 16, 2010


Governments need people more than people need governments. As much as I like JFK I honestly think the line "don't ask what your government can do for you, but what you can do for your government" is a bit bassackwards.

Yes, people should be productive and .. dare I say, have some measure of fulfillment. With all the fucking money we have poured into needless weapon systems and military endeavors since WWI we could be living in fucking utopia, and I mean that almost literally. world hunger, global clean water advanced energy sources.. hell we could be living on Mars*. The 20th century is one huge missed opportunity. But, nah, we end up squabbling about the temerity of people getting art degrees doing Americorp and being hipsters and all this low-grade absolute bullshit.




*because, lets face it, until we can be self sufficient living somewhere else other than this gorgeous rock we are doomed in the medium term.

"What're we here for? We're all here to go" WSB
posted by edgeways at 2:36 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


To seriously answer you (if you'll forgive the generalizing) - just about any basic cooking ingredients.

I appreciate your thoughtful response. Looking over your answer(s), it looks like the distinction you're making is one of price-- why pay more for a product that is, in general terms, the same? That makes a lot of sense.

However, what I don't think makes a lot of sense (and which, I think, you've sort of been ignoring in this thread, as I've seen it mentioned a few times) is that food stamps and EBT are given out sort of like a paycheck-- you only get a certain amount every month, and once you've spent it, you're out until the next time a deposit is made into your account. So, while obviously I understand any concern you'd have for these kids blowing all their stamps in the first week of the month on luxury foods, I don't really get why you think they take more money out of the system by buying more expensive things. I mean, they're getting the same amount out of the system whether they are buying the white mushrooms or the wildcrafted shitakes; it just won't go as far if they're getting the latter, and then woe be unto them when they get hungry later on. But why does that affect you? And why are you upset about it, unless it's for their own foolishness or wellbeing?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:37 PM on March 16, 2010


Because if someone can spend enough less in one area to splurge in another, they could have spent less in both areas and not needed to do the second on the public's dime. Or to put another way - If I blow all my money on computer hardware, can I receive aid for my rent?

But where does this end, then? Should we only allow people the amount of money that it would cost to feed themselves on ramen noodles three meals a day, every day?
posted by EmilyClimbs at 2:37 PM on March 16, 2010


Yea and you see Mexicans risking life and limb to cross the desert for those jobs.
Yeah, and they have probably been working and saving up money or borrowing from family members for the journey, because nobody, whether Mexican or hipster or anyone else, can move to a new place if they don't have resources. People with few resources also almost always move somewhere where they already know people, so they have a place to stay while they get on their feet. If a given hipster doesn't know anyone in Dallas, the hipster is not going to be able to move to Dallas unless he has money to live there for a while before he gets his first paycheck, even if he's guaranteed to find a job immediately, which he isn't.
I think the larger point is maybe Americans in general do feal a lttle entitled, you see it in different demographics with all the job losses and the general anger thats going around.
That's not "the larger point." It's changing the subject. The point is that it's idiotic to demand that broke people move places where the job prospects are better. It's an idea that is divorced from reality.
posted by craichead at 2:38 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The problem is not what the people in question choose to eat, it's that they chose to spend their youth in a way that has now resulted in other people having to feed them, instead of learning something that might actually have sustained or created jobs.

You don't have to be a Randroid to agree with this. "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs", anyone? Replace "abilities" with "whim" and you end up with Hipsters on Food Stamps.

There'll be much puzzlement followed by hunger if the Chinese credit ever runs out.
posted by Anything at 2:40 PM on March 16, 2010


Should we only allow people the amount of money that it would cost to feed themselves on ramen noodles three meals a day, every day?

Well, not even that, if the theory is that the best government assistance is government assistance that has been shrunk to the size that will fit in a bathtub to be drowned.
posted by blucevalo at 2:41 PM on March 16, 2010


"From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs"

Hm, Rand or Marx. Great choices there. False dichotomy: a lot or all the time?
posted by GuyZero at 2:42 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


its idiotic for people to move where job prospects are better? Is that what your saying? Perhaps time for a little review of American history.
posted by freshundz at 2:42 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would also consider time a valuable resource for most people, and have no problem with most non-premium frozen prepared meals - Microwave burritos for $10/dozen, a frozen pizza will feed 3-4 people for $3-4, pre-cooked veggies at three for two bucks.

Microwave burritos have essentially the same nutrition as cardboard, and a frozen pizza *might* feed 3-4 kids, but adults? Two max. And again, nutritionally bankrupt.
posted by graventy at 2:42 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yet we pay salaries to our "all volunteer" army. Seriously, what's up with the Americorps-hate?

It's my fault. I brought AmeriCorps into it because of the guy in the article and I want to stop talking about it, if you don't mind because you're not going to change my opinion on it by bullying me and accusing me of kicking puppies for fun. Just accept that I don't care for it. But I do want to say this:

I know AmeriCorps likes to pretend that they are just like the military in terms of service to create some kind of espirit de corps among the unskilled people who join up, but I'm sure the military would disagree that what they do is "just the same" as what AmericCorps volunteers do from 10-6, seeing as the service men and women actually make huge sacrifices. They aren't volunteers. You do understand that, right? AmeriCorps doesn't require a sixteenth of the incredible amount of dedication, committment, hardship and training people in the military give and have to go through. Do you understand that? I sincerely hope you do, because it boggles my mind that you would argue that the military and AmeriCorps are the same just because the AmeriCorps PR people and branding want you to believe it is the same. It's not.
posted by anniecat at 2:44 PM on March 16, 2010


You don't have to be a Randroid to agree with this. "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs", anyone? Replace "abilities" with "whim" and you end up with Hipsters on Food Stamps.

You are aware, I take it, that in Finland, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, "The aim of the social protection system and its social welfare component is to guarantee everyone the constitutional right to indispensable subsistence and care consistent with the dignity of human life"?
posted by blucevalo at 2:45 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


GuyZero, what then is the great philosophy that governs the sentiment that you can fuck around for years and then expect to live in comfort even when the factories start closing around you?
posted by Anything at 2:46 PM on March 16, 2010


seriously, what on earth are you talking about?
posted by shmegegge at 2:48 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


its idiotic for people to move where job prospects are better?
It is idiotic to assume that people with no resources are able to move to places where job prospects are better.
Perhaps time for a little review of American history.
I've taught college classes on American immigration history. The idea that people need resources to migrate is pretty elementary stuff.
posted by craichead at 2:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


GuyZero, what then is the great philosophy that governs the sentiment that you can fuck around for years and then expect to live in comfort even when the factories start closing around you?

The factories didn't close because of acts of god and we as the purported directors of our democratic society are not powerless to stop their closing, though no expense or effort has been spared in trying to convince us otherwise. The phrase is "industrial policy," I'm told it's nice to live somewhere that they've got one.
posted by enn at 2:50 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


GuyZero, what then is the great philosophy that governs the sentiment that you can fuck around for years and then expect to live in comfort even when the factories start closing around you?

I doubt that anything I can say will assuage your free-floating anger.

Honestly, I'm happy to pay lazy people a few thousand dollars a year to keep them from fomenting the next Revolution against the rest of us who live well by exploiting the poor and uneducated. You realize that 50 years ago these people would have been union organizers and people like that right? Food stamps are cheap at twice the price.
posted by GuyZero at 2:54 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


pla wrote: "
Yes. Yes, it should. If you can afford to live while still eating organic salmon, get the fuck off public assistance ASAP.
"

I don't know where your outrage comes from exactly, but the organic salmon at my local grocery store is not very expensive at all. (both not-canned, obviously)

Personally, I've known some people who refused for a long time to get on food stamps, even when they were making only a couple grand a year. In one particular instance, what did it was pointing out that if he'd get on fucking food stamps, we wouldn't all have to pay for his food ourselves, we'd get help from the rest of society also.

So he got food stamps, and bought mainly crap.

If people qualify for food stamps, I have no problem with them using it for whatever food they desire. At least in my state, you have to make next to nothing to qualify anyway, so if you're living frugally enough with the other $9,000 a year you make to supplement the food stamps and get some better, more healthy food, more power to you. Better than them buying shit to eat and wasting what they would be spending on healthier food on cable.
posted by wierdo at 2:54 PM on March 16, 2010


GuyZero, what then is the great philosophy that governs the sentiment that you can fuck around for years and then expect to live in comfort even when the factories start closing around you?

I find the assumption that people benefitting from our meagre economic safety net are living in comfort to be generally false.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:57 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've taught college classes on American immigration history

Well woopdeedoo for you. I guess Im an idiot then. Im just saying these hipsters could try repairing the old rig with some axle dope, loading up on some salt pork and hitting the dusty road.

But whatever
posted by freshundz at 2:59 PM on March 16, 2010


GuyZero, what then is the great philosophy that governs the sentiment that you can fuck around for years and then expect to live in comfort even when the factories start closing around you?

I love it -- a Finnish student (who undoubtedly at the very least knows someone who benefits from the largesse of the generous Finnish welfare system, including its generous unemployment compensation) arguing that American society should be more draconian and less compassionate than it already is.
posted by blucevalo at 3:00 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Finnish are compassionate a) because they're all genetically identical and b) because living in Finland is sufficient punishment by itself.
posted by GuyZero at 3:03 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


anniecat, I wasn't saying that serving in Americorps was equivalent to serving in the military. The specific offense you took was the use of the term "volunteer" because, horror of horrors, people who sign up for Americorps receive a pittance to feed themselves. And yet, there are other venues in which we pay people for their "volunteer" services, as well. Not that signing up for Americorps is the equivalent of military service, though I'm not one to esteem one over the other.
posted by deanc at 3:04 PM on March 16, 2010


I still wonder why Pia is getting herself into a tizzy over specifically this use of her tax dollars. It doesn't seem to be a monetary argument at all (since she's not concerned about the actual drains on her tax dollars). I'm wondering: would she be alright if there were an extensive apparatus in place to ensure food stamp recipients only bought cheap food, even i that apparatus cost more than the sum cost of the hypothetical hipster frauds?

Basically, is this an argument for saving money at all, or is it specifically an argument that government should spend money to punish perceived layabouts?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:11 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used to be just like pla and Anything. Back when I was in my 20's I was a die-hard fiscal conservative. Hell, I worked hard to get good marks in school, get an engineering degree, a good job, and resented the people I knew didn't work as hard who just chose to party their life away and smoke dope all day and spend their (hell..."my") welfare money on booze and smokes and lottery tickets and their dirty offspring and half of them are cheats and probably richer than me and why the hell couldn't they be more like me?! If I had known about Rand back then (too busy studying to read novels) I would have been all over that shit.
I like to think I'm a little wiser now. I was thankfully exposed to, and understand, the principles of privilege, how much of my station in life is through circumstances of birth, good fortune, and a support system others just don't have. I know that I can never understand someone else's situation, their family dynamics, their psychologies, their experiences, so judging them by what I would do in their situation (so why can't they?) is pure folly and narcissism.
I hope pla and Anything, and anyone else who thinks poor people are their enemy get a chance to learn this too, and I think we at metafilter should ease up a little on the pile-ons and insults when conservative types voice their opinions around here and try a little gentle encouraging teaching instead. It worked for me.
posted by rocket88 at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


And reread your Holbo.

Wow, that was great.
posted by enn at 3:13 PM on March 16, 2010


GuyZero, what then is the great philosophy that governs the sentiment that you can fuck around for years and then expect to live in comfort even when the factories start closing around you?

Just out of curiosity, which of the people in the article would you characterize as having "fucked around for years"?
posted by threetoed at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find freshundz's 'Well woopdeedoo for you... But whatever' argument both compelling and persuasive.
posted by mazola at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: It's probably a "big problem," but no one knows it's a problem so it's not a problem.
posted by Brak at 3:16 PM on March 16, 2010


Hand-outs should limited to surplus MREs and agricultural surpluses, no more paying people to *not* produce.

The military/Wall Street gravy train? Yeah, that needs to end, too.

Just out of curiosity, which of the people in the article would you characterize as having "fucked around for years"?

Not aimed at me but I'll bite. The art school grad? The former "toiler" in publishing who moved to a new city to be a...part-time blogger?
posted by codswallop at 3:18 PM on March 16, 2010


Wow, 400+ comments already. I should have jumped in earlier, but I have stuff to do to survive, and I can't believe I'm about to defend "hipsters" or what the fuck ever this Salon article is nattering on about. I really don't have time to read it, and I probably won't because it sounds like bullshit that's just going to piss me off.

Hi. I'm on food stamps. I have been for a while. I've even bought a small amount of smoked salmon, shopped with stamps at farmer's markets. Food stamps have probably saved my life.

I suffer from severe chronic depression and PTSD, related to childhood physical and emotional abuse. Beyond food stamps I've also recently qualified for "unemployable" general assistance in the state of Washington. This is good because I fucking need it, and I'm actively engaging the health care system here, which doesn't suck as much as it does elsewhere.

I've been unable - not unwilling, because I've tried - but unable to stay focused and coherent long enough to seek, land, and keep a job due to the depression and PTSD. And I've tried. I have mad skills, but they aren't enough in this economy and I can't seem to keep my shit together long enough to be functional and coherent.

Depression is terrible, terrible thing. Severe depression means I can't think straight. Severe depression means I'm fatigued almost always. I get winded climbing a flight of stairs. My entire body sometimes hurts like I was beaten to a pulp with a ball peen hammer. We're talking actual physical body pain like a strong flu.

If left untreated severe depression can lead to psychosis and dangerous mental breakdowns where shit just gets worse and worse and you want to kill yourself. And I've spent way, way too much time thinking about killing myself. It's not healthy. Your body actually reacts to this mental state and starts to break down and get sick more often, and the cycle perpetuates itself. I've had serious ideations of self harm and suicide within the last week and month. It's something I've struggled with for most of my life.

And trust me, I've tried all kinds of things to cure my own depression. I exercise, I walk everywhere, I try to take care of my mind and body, I try to eat well, etc. Some of it works. Some of it is just a sinecure and coping with it.

And I'm so far from a "trustafarian" that it's a polar opposite. My parents and family want to help but they cannot. They're broke. Both my mom and dad are about 60 and they're still working full time. They can't afford to buy me health insurance. My dad can barely afford to buy me a cheeseburger for lunch when I last saw him. They're both terrified I'm going to hurt myself and they probably feel hopeless and terrible they can't do more to help. (The abuse was from a step parent, FYI, not my divorced birth parents.)

I'm doing things to "better myself" and "situation". I'm trying to get into therapy and treatment. I've been trying for about a year now. In California they don't really have a program for mental health unless you're truly batshit crazy - the bar is really high, and it sucks. I tried for almost 6 months in California and I kept getting the run around.

I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of friends who love me and want to help, and they have. Some of them are here on MetaFilter. Others I've known since grade school. I'm so lucky and thankful to have anyone in my life at all who gives a shit. Many people don't have this at all.

Before I started using food stamps I've been chronically homeless and wandering. I've eaten food out of dumpsters. I learned how to dumpster dive particular businesses for higher quality food, but I've also eaten McDonald's, or discarded pizza and donuts and worse.

When I was about 18 I started out my "adult" life living in a field next to a freeway. I took showers from a bottle of sun-warmed water. I shaved with the cheapest of soap and razors in gas station bathrooms. I nearly died from scurvy and pneumonia in that field after 6 months of eating McDonald's out of a dumpster and drinking cheap malt liquor, or worse, home-made "hooch" brewed from dumpstered fruit mixed with sugar and yeast and left to ferment. I spent nearly two weeks with a fever over 104-105 or so, basically dying of scurvy.

Yes, I was an idiot. But this is all related to the depression, and the drinking is directly related to trying to self-medicate. Self-medication is a huge issue with depression. To discard the issue of self-medication is to dismiss the root problem out of hand, and it's bullshit.


So. Food stamps have saved my life and have given me a leg up on life and helped give me a little bit of slack so I can work on directly addressing the issues that are preventing me from being functional. Almost twenty years after "running away from home" and moving out before I was 18 I'm finally trying to get help thanks to food stamps and the very meager "socialist" health and human services that many states in our country provide. I now have limited health care, I have a support network and I'm actively engaging in the system.

Thanks to programs like food stamps I'm still here to tell my stories. I'm still here to write the things I write that people seem to like to read.

Yeah, I've bought "luxury" food. Sometimes I treat myself to ice cream. Sometimes I treat myself to something like a couple of ounces of lox or smoked salmon to crumble on my staples. Sometimes I buy avocados and fresh veggies. And being able to spend food stamps at a farmer's market is pretty much the best, most humanizing thing ever. It's healthy, it supports local businesses, it's environmentally friendly and good for you and it's good for me.

But what I mainly buy is good, cheap bread, cereals, rice, pasta and all those calorie-dense but affordable staples. But sometimes I buy affordable cookies, or junk food like store brand fruit pies.

The ends of the month are usually pretty lean and I end up with just rice and beans or a box of cereal. More than once just this year I've found myself having to choose between a loaf of bread or a bag of generic cereal. Way more than once this year I've had cereal with plain tap water on it.

If this pisses you off, you have no idea what it means to be so broke you can't even afford to eat, or what it means to not have health care at all, or what it means to have mental health issues that lead to severe dysfunction.

I don't want to be on food stamps. But I've paid for it, I need it and I should use it. In better years when I've had good jobs I've paid way more into just the Social Security system in a couple of years than I could get in 10 years of food stamps benefits.

If you want to get pissed off about government spending - you should be getting pissed off at the Halliburtons, Bechtels and Blackwaters that make social aid spending look like the chump change that it is. You should be pissed off at our government dropping hundreds of laser guided bombs that cost more per unit than the salary of a half a dozen teachers for a year.

You should be pissed off about so many more things than food stamps and public assistance. It's chump change.

Not only can we easily afford it - we can't afford to not do it. To deny this basic compassion for even the laziest welfare-abuser is to deny all the progress we've made as a human race and set the clocks back to the stone age where people died just for the lack of clean water and food.

Fuck. That.
posted by loquacious at 3:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [578 favorites]


As much as I like JFK I honestly think the line "don't ask what your government can do for you, but what you can do for your government" is a bit bassackwards.

Good news for your love of JFK: he never said that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [33 favorites]


Which again, is why I'm not fond of this sort of yellow journalism. To start with, I'm having a hard time thinking kindly of anyone who is drawn into outrage at gourmet hipsters on food stamps based on such obvious axe-grinding. It's beyond gullibility at this point.

And secondly, even if we grant the possibility that someone, somewhere, is gaming the system to live large, that's not the experiences of most people who need and get benefits.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


This thread has got everything.
posted by mazola at 3:26 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


This thread has got everything.

Not yet, but check this out:

The real solution to all our problems is Voluntary Human Extinction
posted by wcfields at 3:34 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


lots of less-than signs and 3s arranged in the appropriate order to loquacious... thank you for bringing some perspective to this thread.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


bluecevalo, our economy is going down way faster than in the early 90s which was the last time we slashed the welfare system in panic mode.

Rocket88, I'm not talking about people who grew up poor but people from middle class families who had every opportunity to take initially boring but useful vocational or science education instead of being fashionistas.

And, yeah, I mostly shouldn't be blaming the individual people but the culture in general. To the extent that hipsterism has left people unprepared for this, it is/was a broken culture.
posted by Anything at 3:39 PM on March 16, 2010


Food stamps are good for the economy.

Duh.
posted by lunit at 3:39 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


dances_with_sneetches wrote: "They would deduct whatever extra you could budget for food from the amount of stamps you received."

Where I used to live, you'd get significantly more than the usual allotment because there was far more money budgeted for food stamps than people who were willing to take them, despite it being one of the poorest states in the nation.

Basically, as long as they are under budget, they don't cut people off due to the time limits, and if that's not enough to eat up the whole budget, everybody whose income qualifies them for food stamps at all gets more than they're supposed to, again to eat up the budget (the vast majority of which comes from the federal government)

Now that the economy is in the toilet, I'm sure everybody is getting the regular allotment again.
posted by wierdo at 3:43 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh - yeah.

Not quite - I argued that the state shouldn't deny me my preference in favor of yours.

Do you have any idea what "marginal utility" means? Why do people throwing around libertarian ideology so often seem like they never even took econ 101?
posted by GuyZero at 3:47 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not aimed at me but I'll bite. The art school grad? The former "toiler" in publishing who moved to a new city to be a...part-time blogger?

Having done both a factory job and now working as a grad student helping to write papers, grants, etc. I can safely say that writing, especially well enough to get paid for it, is definitely the harder of the two. In blue collar work you can at least tune your mind out a bit, have your thoughts wander while you do the task at hand. Trying to do mental tasks when you really want to be doing or thinking about something else is excruciating.

It's probably slightly different for different people, but still, if I were in it for the money I sure as hell would take a physically demanding job over a even a fairly simple mental one.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:53 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Straightener: Yup, per the Department of Agriculture, $200 per month is the maximum benefit rate for an individual. So dude is reporting to the welfare department that he is basically living on the streets in order to get the max rate on food stamps, spends them on roasted rabbit and brags about it on Slate.

This doesn't seem right, unless the calculation of food stamp benefits has changed dramatically in the last 3-4 years. I'm kind of surprised that you have clients with no income who are qualifying for relatively low benefits, but my hunch is that would occur if you have someone whose income is unearned (e.g., SSI or SSDI rather than wages) and who has very low housing costs or is homeless. The SNAP benefit calculation lets you disregard 20% of your earned income [so that a hypothetical Horatio Algers would only lose $0.24 in food stamps for each additional dollar he earns as he tugs those bootstraps] and also lets you disregard a big chunk of housing costs when those rise above 50% of your net income after all other deductions.

Examples:

A hipster living alone, who makes $1,000 per month at a low-wage job and pays $450 per month in rent, will qualify for a benefit of $140 per month.

A hipster living alone, who makes $750 per month at a low-wage job and pays $200 per month in rent, would qualify for the maximum benefit of $200 per month.

A homeless person with severe mental illness, who receives an $674 SSI payment monthly but no other income, would qualify for a benefit of $40 per month.


I think it's not absurd on its face to believe that a relatively young person working low-wage or odd jobs in Baltimore could both be making enough money to pay rent (which isn't that high) and yet low enough to qualify for the full SNAP benefit. Particularly if they're healthy, uninsured, and have no medical costs, which is what sucks up a huge portion of most low-income family's paychecks.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:57 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


bluecevalo, our economy is going down way faster than in the early 90s which was the last time we slashed the welfare system in panic mode.

I think your memory is a little skewed here.

The recession of the early 90s ran from about 1990-1991 (with negative GDP growth in '91). The "welfare reform" cuts under Clinton were implemented in 1996, a year in which GDP growth was about 3.75%.

Anyway, cutting spending "in panic mode" is not how the US government operates or has typically operated. Modern US fiscal policy since FDR is fundamentally Keynesian: when GDP growth drops, the government increases spending, typically by taking on debt.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some would debate whether it's really Keynsian, since when GDP growth begins agin the government does little or nothing to put on the brakes and doesn't actually pay any of the debt off.
posted by GuyZero at 4:00 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm sorry, mr_roboto, I was referring of the Finnish system.
posted by Anything at 4:01 PM on March 16, 2010


Yeah, good point. But I think we can agree that cutting spending "in panic mode" during times of economic crisis is something the US government doesn't do. Hell, it has a damn hard time cutting spending ever.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:02 PM on March 16, 2010


Just out of curiosity, which of the people in the article would you characterize as having "fucked around for years"?

Not aimed at me but I'll bite. The art school grad?


Can I just say fuck you? I went to art school, graduated, and now am a self-employed small business owner. So are most of the other people I went to school with. To make a living as an artist and small business owner in this economy is no easy task. I get up every day and hustle for gigs, work long hours, invest every cent back into my business, and can't afford things like health insurance because I am too focused on paying the rent and feeding myself when inevitably half my clients decide that "invoice due within 30 days" is a suggestion and not a deadline.

Last year it was really slow I most definitely qualified for food stamps - and you know what? I should have done it, because PB&J and buttered noodles got old after a couple of months.

Maybe some trust fund "artists" sit around all day doing nothing, drinking PBRs in their Williamsburg lofts, but the people I know work harder than any weekly-paycheck-with-benefits person I've ever met. Sorry if me and the people in this article are younger, hipper, better cooks, and having more fun than you despite the meager paychecks we work hard for.
posted by bradbane at 4:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


Oh, sorry. Thread has gotten too long to follow easily...
posted by mr_roboto at 4:02 PM on March 16, 2010


To the extent that hipsterism has left people unprepared for this, it is/was a broken culture.

Hipsterism is a made-up idea that's a handy hook for journalists to hang an article on that has been around for about twelve minutes. It hasn't had time to leave people unprepared for anything. How old are you? How much history have you studied? Do you actually know anything about so-called hipster enclaves like parts of San Francisco, Brooklyn, or Portland, OR?

Honestly, it sounds like you're talking out of your ass. You should stop.
posted by rtha at 4:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


Dude, if they liquidated the state you'd have a lot less choice on how to spend your money. Also, it's cheaper to give poor people food stamps than to hire extra police officers to stop crime and food riots. If they stopped food stamps do you really think there would be a net benefit to society?

It's the Calvinist/Puritan mindset deeply ingrained in American culture that overestimates the risk of "moral hazard" and freeloaders/the undeserving taking what they're not entitled to, which leads to some irrational policy choices. Such as spending more on guard labor to combat freeloading than would be lost to freeloading.

One example that was in the news recently: the IRS sending two agents to collect $0.04 in back taxes.
posted by acb at 4:06 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


You do realize, right, that it costs money to move? You can't just magically teleport yourself and your belongings to a magical apartment that you are able to rent without a job or security deposit.

How many possessions would a food stamp recipient have? The Federal Government should give them a cardboard box and an hour to pack and bundle them onto a coach for wherever labor is required. Any leftover possessions could be sold off to recover costs (they're not going to need a ukulele or fixed-gear bike when they're sewing mailbags in Alabama or whatever), or seized as evidence of welfare fraud (why the hell do they own a MacBook Pro or a Le Creuset pot?).
posted by acb at 4:13 PM on March 16, 2010


I was going to come up with something about this topic once I got home from work, but I just found out my application for Food Stamp benefits came to a total of $0.

They were kind enough to enclose an card in a separate envelope on the off chance my income goes down. Yes, they mailed me a Food Stamp card with a balance of zero dollars.

*bites card*
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:15 PM on March 16, 2010


"How many possessions would a food stamp recipient have? The Federal Government should give them a cardboard box and an hour to pack and bundle them onto a coach for wherever labor is required. Any leftover possessions could be sold off to recover costs (they're not going to need a ukulele or fixed-gear bike when they're sewing mailbags in Alabama or whatever), or seized as evidence of welfare fraud (why the hell do they own a MacBook Pro or a Le Creuset pot?)."
For the Nth time, nobody in the article had a Le Creuset pot. It's just a silly turn of phrase.

But yeah, how dare they buy $40 bicycles (a useful economic tool if ever there was one). Let's just pile them onto buses against their will if they won't conduct themselves in an appropriately humble manner. It's all I can do not to trigger Godwin's law.

(Also, if you said "fixed-gear bike" at any time in this thread, the way you argue is stupid and reliant on lazy stereotypes, and you are probably not a great person.)
posted by zvs at 4:21 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ack! My kingdom for an edit button! Typos in the rent amounts in my examples. Sigh.
A hipster living alone, who makes $1,000 per month at a low-wage job and pays $450 $800 per month in rent, will qualify for a benefit of $140 per month.
A hipster living alone, who makes $750 per month at a low-wage job and pays $200 $675 per month in rent, would qualify for the maximum benefit of $200 per month.

My point, which I was making incoherently with the bad maths: earned income + high rent = big SNAP benefit. The federal government helpfully assumes that homeless people have EVEN MORE money to spend on food, because after all, they're not stuck with big mortgage payments, right?

posted by iminurmefi at 4:24 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm pretty sure that acb was not being entirely sincere, zvs.

(acb, zvs: wtf is up with these usernames?)
posted by craichead at 4:26 PM on March 16, 2010


The offer I extended to Justinian to visit my parents and judgy judgy judge their lifestyle is open to pla, as well.

pla accused me of insincerity, but I'm being completely sincere. I believe my email is in my profile. I'll even buy him the ticket.

I bet he would get along with them, actually. They're not filthy liberal hippies like I am, or like the people "profiled" in this article that he is so riled up about.
posted by muddgirl at 4:27 PM on March 16, 2010


Damn hamburgers. Yeah, mods, feel free to kill that.
I have a good excuse, it's my name.
posted by zvs at 4:28 PM on March 16, 2010


I really don't understand the hate. Whatever they buy, the amount they get a month is fixed. They don't get more money for spending at Whole Foods. I also know someone in this article and they simply don't eat all that much and they eat well instead of engaging in other "luxuries" like going to the movies, getting haircuts, buying new clothes, etc.

Many of these exotic ingredients are also very cheap in NYC. Coconut milk is pricey in some areas, but can be had for pennies in Chinatown here.

Spending at Whole Foods, you probably run out of food stamps two weeks into the month and you have to use your own money to buy food for the rest of the month.

Food stamps are also agricultural subsidies. What kind of agriculture do you want to subsidize? Giant grain monocultures and factory farms? Or organic and local small farms?

Hint: The former already get plenty of money. I'm pretty happy to see my tax dollars go to something else.

I'm glad Food Stamps give people the freedom to chose. We don't know the situations of individuals. They could have any manner of diseases requiring a special diet. Or god forbid, they simply want to spend their money on food that tastes good.
posted by melissam at 4:30 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, The Straightener seems to be really worked up about the "$150/month in food stamps for one person who makes $2,000 a year with no other assistance" number.

I'm putting a $5 mefi account bounty for the first person who can provide evidence that any particular "fact" in that article is true, as presented. Surely there are records of these sorts of things.
posted by muddgirl at 4:31 PM on March 16, 2010


Can somebody please reassure me that not all old people are bitter against the young? "Look at those stupid kids, following their passion! Doing what you love makes you a loser and a bad American who steals my tax dollars and wastes them on wild salmon!"
posted by pecknpah at 4:32 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


the people I know work harder than any weekly-paycheck-with-benefits person I've ever met. Sorry if me and the people in this article are younger, hipper, better cooks, and having more fun than you despite the meager paychecks we work hard for.

Whatever helps you get up in the morning, but you do know that having benefits and less anxiety and a weekly paycheck doesn't equate to having a less awesome life, specially in the US where there's no universal healthcare. I'd take healthcare and a stable income
over the stress of being an artist or a small business owner any day of the week.
posted by anniecat at 4:33 PM on March 16, 2010


I'd take healthcare and a stable income over the stress of being an artist or a small business owner any day of the week.

Perfectly reasonable There's nothing wrong with that. It's simply a matter of your personal preference.

So why, in this thread, are you displaying irrational anger toward those who have chosen differently? What is it, exactly, that you fear?
posted by Nothing... and like it at 4:41 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


For the sake of my sanity, I going to choose to believe that acb forgot their hamburger tag.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:44 PM on March 16, 2010


Can somebody please reassure me that not all old people are bitter against the young?

I'm in my early thirties, so I'm not old. Are college students required to take reading comprehension anymore, or do they just start crying when someone suggests that being poor is not fun or good for you and that they should take precautions against falling into poverty by getting a job, paying their loan obligations, and developing in-demand skills rather than having zero work experience and defining what their passion is based on an unwillingness to do work they deem is beneath them.
posted by anniecat at 4:44 PM on March 16, 2010


rocket88 : Obviously pla is an entirely self-made man who hasn't benefited at all from the money stolen from him by the state.

One can object to blatant parasitism without needing to live on manna themselves.


wierdo : Better than them buying shit to eat and wasting what they would be spending on healthier food on cable.

Argh, no, no, no!

This seems like the key point that virtually everyone in this discussion doesn't get - Society doesn't owe you cable! It doesn't owe you high-quality food. It doesn't owe you internet access, or a sidewalk and white picket fence. It barely has an obligation to keep you alive - And even then, only because we optimistically (or in the case of TFA, naively) hope you will eventually become productive again.


GuyZero : Do you have any idea what "marginal utility" means? Why do people throwing around libertarian ideology so often seem like they never even took econ 101?

Why yes, yes I do. So tell me, Mr. Jevons (or does your knowledge of this topic stop with the Marxist fairy-tale?), how you would apply Gossen's law to the fact that people, particularly unskilled ones, essentially count as fungible resources of which we have a vast surplus?

Keep in mind, such ideas as applied to humans arose in an era where we very much needed human labor, including unskilled labor. The marginal utility of keeping someone alive for its own sake approaches zero in any post-industrial society, GuyZero. Therefore, in considering the problem of poverty while maximizing the marginal utility of all available resources (and conveniently avoiding the boogey-man of poverty-inspired crime), the most rational solution consists of society footing the bill for 255 grains of lead.

Which you will kindly note I did not, heartless as you may consider me, suggest as an option.


muddgirl : I bet he would get along with them, actually. They're not filthy liberal hippies like I am, or like the people "profiled" in this article that he is so riled up about.

I quite likely would. I tend to get along well with most people in person - Text does not seem to adequately convey how I mean things. I could have this same discussion with most of you in person, and we'd go away respecting each other's viewpoint rather than calling each other trolls.

I know no one will believe this, but I count as a fairly liberal person myself. Only in matters of finance do I lean to the right. I support public healthcare, I support assistance for those who need it, I support most of the social programs under discussion in this thread.

Then along come a bunch of hipsters flaunting their abuse of these very social safety nets. What do you want me to say, other than "WTF? You people defend this crap?"

If TFA has mischaracterized the situation for sensationalism - Then we should blame TFA, not each other.
posted by pla at 4:45 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whatever helps you get up in the morning

Something tells me this isn't about what helps the young arty types get up in the morning.
posted by nanojath at 4:50 PM on March 16, 2010


I went to art school, graduated, and now am a self-employed small business owner...

I think the implicit argument from the anti-entitlement crowd, which is more insidious than the assumption that you are lazy, is that your mistake was going to art school in the first place. You should have, for example, gotten an MBA or an engineering degree and gotten a Real Job. Like ice cream, art is a "luxury" that can be done without.

Apart from the obvious insanity of insinuating an assessment of art as something without social value, this position in turn implies that a whole hierarchy of professions, some of which are righteous and necessary, and others which are indulgences for parasitic freeloaders living off the surplus of those righteous. Those building this hierarchy in their minds and in their speech imagine society as a machine. You are either a big important cog, a hearty worker greasing the gears of commerce with your blood, or you are just some free-floating obstruction, a wrench in the works, simply getting in the way.

Culture is not like this imaginary machine. In the real world, we need everybody.
posted by avianism at 4:51 PM on March 16, 2010 [37 favorites]


(acb, zvs: wtf is up with these usernames?)

It's my initials, and the fact that I was one of about half a dozen Andrews in a UNIX lab at university.

For the sake of my sanity, I going to choose to believe that acb forgot their hamburger tag.

I might have; or perhaps I should have just phrased it as modestly proposing a solution.
posted by acb at 4:52 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


melissam: "I also know someone in this article and they simply don't eat all that much and they eat well instead of engaging in other "luxuries" like going to the movies, getting haircuts, buying new clothes, etc. "

This is pretty much what I suspected. We've never been on food stamps or other gov't assistance, but when my husband was unemployed, food was really our only luxury. We didn't have cable, we rarely went out to eat, we didn't buy clothes, and we went to the $3 budget matinees if we went to the theater at all (for those of you following my twitter feed, the play tickets were a gift). But we did occasionally get salmon, and we had tiramisu for Valentine's Day. I'd get a case of frappucinos at Sam's Club for about $1/bottle and take them to work instead of stopping at Starbucks. (Yeah, boo hoo.) My point is that you cannot judge someone's situation based on what's in their grocery basket. You can't even judge them on what kind of car they drive; I have a nice car that we bought when we were both employed, before a hospitalization, and before a pay cut. Now I'm underwater on the thing so we can't sell it and buy anything cheaper, but if you saw it you might erroneously assume the contents of my bank account.
posted by desjardins at 4:53 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


So why, in this thread, are you displaying irrational anger toward those who have chosen differently? What is it, exactly, that you fear?

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound angry or irrationally angry. If some folks here want to bitch about how unfair it is that the university isn't funding their MFA in Interpretative Dance and take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans, fine. But then to later bitch about why there aren't any high paying jobs in their area of passion? If I sound angry, it's because this is really silly stuff and I don't get why someone would think that makes any sense.
posted by anniecat at 4:55 PM on March 16, 2010


If they qualify for food stamps and can figure out how to pay the rent and still be able to buy nice stuff, more power to them. I don't really see the problem here. We have an income qualification, which they meet, we give them food stamps and they buy whatever they want. There are limitations on what you can buy with food stamps, like no cigarettes or booze. No one's breaking the law, general happiness is increased, where's the harm? I'm kind of mad that I didn't think of it when I was a starving student.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:56 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are college students required to take reading comprehension anymore, or do they just start crying when someone suggests that being poor is not fun or good for you and that they should take precautions against falling into poverty by getting a job, paying their loan obligations, and developing in-demand skills rather than having zero work experience and defining what their passion is based on an unwillingness to do work they deem is beneath them.

None of us are doing that.

Seriously. I have a well-paying job now, and I just got into a top-10 PhD program for my field, fully funded and with a generous stipend. I'm not in any debt. I'm not really comfortable revealing this stuff about me, because I know I am incredibly lucky-- everyone deserves the opportunities I've had. I've also worked my ass off to get this far, and plan to continue working my ass off, because I'm actually not an idiot, despite whatever weird image you've cooked up of me. So yeah, I do have a cushy job now, and I will be following my passion in the very near future, I don't think I'm entitled to anything without working for it, and I'm fully aware that it will be hard. Stop projecting whatever issues you have with young people on me and the other young MeFites; we're not as dumb as you think.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:59 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The cognitive dissonance in this thread is amusing.

If you want social safety nets, then no, art school is not your gamble to make. While you might bear the brunt of your decision, it's a gamble that you made for all of us. Maybe the benefits of art culture are enough that we should take that gamble. But if we're all bearing the risk for your soul to fill enriched, we should all get a say in it.

That's part of the cost of social programs. That voters have a vested interest to sit down and decide whether or not you deserve that extra pint of ice cream, or organic greens as opposed to frozen burritos. To decide whether or not we should allow loans to be extended for people who want PhD's in underwater basket weaving or an MFA.

Luckily, there's an unlikely ally in Milton Friedman. He tells us that while it might be wasteful to spend 'lavishly' on one welfare recipient, when you could spend frugally on two welfare recipients (because let's face it, if Baltimore is running out of poor folks, I'm sure we can find some in Africa/Haiti who can beat out all our sob stories combined), it's typically even more wasteful to design a program that appropriately polices their behavior.
posted by politikitty at 5:03 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does Godwin's law still apply if a person's comments are fascist?
posted by Tashtego at 5:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


One can object to blatant parasitism

Indeed one can. But it seems foolish to object to a thing that is not in evidence.
posted by rtha at 5:13 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]



Apart from the obvious insanity of insinuating an assessment of art as something without social value, this position in turn implies that a whole hierarchy of professions, some of which are righteous and necessary, and others which are indulgences for parasitic freeloaders living off the surplus of those righteous. Those building this hierarchy in their minds and in their speech imagine society as a machine. You are either a big important cog, a hearty worker greasing the gears of commerce with your blood, or you are just some free-floating obstruction, a wrench in the works, simply getting in the way.

Culture is not like this imaginary machine. In the real world, we need everybody.


Care to cast this attitude back in history and see how it would have fared, say, in the 1200s?

The vast bulk of human existence has not been in an insane time of plenty like we enjoy today. In all of those time, yes, there is and has always been a hierarchy of professions.
posted by rr at 5:14 PM on March 16, 2010


Ugh, I'm flagging my last post for the mods because this is the basically just the worst derail and it's ridiculous to even fight about this.

This shit is like Lord of the Flies. Is it SXSW's fault?
posted by oinopaponton at 5:16 PM on March 16, 2010


To decide whether or not we should allow loans to be extended for people who want PhD's in underwater basket weaving or an MFA.

There is something deliciously ironic in the fact that the all of the guys on Wall Street who played with our money (and lost it! thanks guys!) almost certainly had very...practical degrees in business and accounting and programming.

I'm thinking that a loan to someone going for a PhD in underwater basket weaving is a much better risk. I mean, even if they end up on food stamps or something for a while, it's not like they're going to cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, you know?
posted by rtha at 5:17 PM on March 16, 2010 [22 favorites]


I'm in my early thirties, so I'm not old. Are college students required to take reading comprehension anymore, or do they just start crying when someone suggests that being poor is not fun or good for you and that they should take precautions against falling into poverty by getting a job, paying their loan obligations, and developing in-demand skills rather than having zero work experience and defining what their passion is based on an unwillingness to do work they deem is beneath them.

Your retort might be a bit more convincing if you used correct punctuation. Moreover, I find it strange that you are absolutely unwilling to give hipsters or whatever you want to call them the benefit of the doubt. I highly doubt most of these people want to be on food stamps and without health insurance forever, and once they find a job they'll pay back more in taxes than they took out of the system.

Honestly, I expect to live without health insurance and probably on food stamps when I graduate. That doesn't make me a lazy person, a person without goals and the desire to live a normal, productive life. That makes me a person who will graduate at the wrong time and have to enter one of the worst job markets in years. I work hard, both at my paying job and at my studies, so that I will be one of the best candidates out there. Your assumption that all twenty-year-olds are too lazy or privileged to develop skills is incorrect, and, frankly, pretty insulting.

This Salon.com article is meant to offend. It is poorly written and researched. If you want to launch into a diatribe about kids these days, then find some actual data and lay off the stereotypes.
posted by pecknpah at 5:17 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Seriously, pla, what do you make in a year? How much of your money is the government stealing? If you don't qualify for food stamps, and you're not getting the EIC back when you do your taxes, you could probably afford to shop at Whole Foods some of the time. The trick is to avoid a lot of the fancy branded CPG, and stick to the produce and bulk sections. Even the meat section can be good if you understand that grass fed, dry aged New York strip is not an everyday food. If you know how to cook, and you know about food, Whole Foods has some pretty good options. I won't shop there because their current chairman is a dick, but you'd probably get along with him.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Care to cast this attitude back in history and see how it would have fared, say, in the 1200s?
The vast bulk of human existence has not been in an insane time of plenty like we enjoy today. In all of those time, yes, there is and has always been a hierarchy of professions.


And when we were cavemen everyone had to spend all their time looking for food and making babies. Man, art students would have sucked at that! What's your point?

That's now how it is now because, as you say, today we can afford a society where some people get to make art and some people get to do unprofitable things like make art. As someone who likes reading books and looking at art and listening to indie music I'm pretty happy about the situation.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:28 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


hah, sorry for the weird repetition about making art.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:28 PM on March 16, 2010


Suppose the hipsters in the article are shopping at thrift stores (another hipster adoption) or selling their clothes and CDs (now they use iPods) at resale shops.

Everyone should be forced to live on massive credit-card debt attained by buying all new consumer goods at full price, which they routinely throw out to clog landfills! That's the American way!

If they were pooling their stamps and buying vegetables and beans to make cheap and nutritionally healthy vegan stews for communal dining, they'd be dirty hippie socialists. You can't win.*

*note: I am a liberal, and I would like to live in Finland, but this is post-Bushian America, where, I grant you, the recipient of government benefits must always be a conveniently hatable Other.
posted by bad grammar at 5:29 PM on March 16, 2010


Care to cast this attitude back in history and see how it would have fared, say, in the 1200s?

Why would I want to develop an attitude or espouse a political position which would be appropriate to the 1200s?
posted by avianism at 5:29 PM on March 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


Oh, and politikitty, what does Milton Friedman say about spending billions of dollars to spread depleted uranium at high velocity around a desert somewhere?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:29 PM on March 16, 2010


If you want social safety nets, then no, art school is not your gamble to make. While you might bear the brunt of your decision, it's a gamble that you made for all of us. Maybe the benefits of art culture are enough that we should take that gamble. But if we're all bearing the risk for your soul to fill enriched, we should all get a say in it.

You can frame being an artist in whatever touchy-feely bullshit way you want, but I don't do this to enrich my soul or to contribute to culture. I provide a service to my clients that they value and pay for. I get up every day and sell sell sell. I am an entrepreneur. I create economic value out of thin air. I am more of a capitalist than the people in this thread advocating poor people eat porridge until they discover where their bootstraps are.

Yes, I love what I do, but I don't do it for the paycheck. I do it for the freedom of answering only to myself. The minor monetary stresses are a small price to pay for that, but to each their own. You are the one making value judgments about what kind of businesses and entrepeneurship deserve to have a safety net.
posted by bradbane at 5:30 PM on March 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Stop projecting whatever issues you have with young people on me and the other young MeFites; we're not as dumb as you think.

The most important point I am making in anything I'm saying that I think you all really need to fully absorb and meditate on, is this:

I am NOT OLD goddammit.

(Good luck to all of you. I forgot to disengage earlier and should have because it doesn't really matter to me who uses their food stamps for what or whatever they decide they want their career to be. I hope you all do really well and are happy doing whatever you like and I really mean that. Just remember one important thing: anniecat is NOT OLD goddammit.)
posted by anniecat at 5:31 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's it, I'm stopping eating. It's the only way to make everyone happy.
posted by The Whelk at 5:32 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


the u.s. is just retarded. food is like healthcare in the u.s.! parts of it privatized, parts of it "socialized." obviously, when the system itself is fucked up and unfair to begin with, there will be extravagant spenders in the poor community, and frugal or even miserly hoarders in the rich community. either way, you learn to cheat the system to your own benefit...that's the beauty of america, right?
posted by crystalsparks at 5:32 PM on March 16, 2010


Why would I want to develop an attitude or espouse a political position which would be appropriate to the 1200s?

Your lack of support for the divine right of kings merely betrays your insufferable privilege!
posted by furiousthought at 5:33 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Regarding John Waters: in his autobiography he mentions that he bought a tin of crab-meat for a cocktail party with food stamps, an action which met with collective outrage from the cashiers at his grocery store. This was probably around 40 years ago.

Since then, cultural research (artist) still remains a borderline poverty-level profession.
posted by ovvl at 5:39 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anything, I apologize for my earlier ad hominem statement. It was uncalled for.
posted by blucevalo at 5:42 PM on March 16, 2010


The Whelk, you can't stop until after you've eaten sausages and drunk beer at the meetup tomorrow night.

I have to warn you, though, that there might be hipsters at the place we're going to. Hipsters spending money. Supporting local businesses. It's awful, I know - but what can you do? It's San Francisco!
posted by rtha at 5:45 PM on March 16, 2010


Finally someone will cram a sausage in my mouth.
posted by The Whelk at 5:46 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cute, but that doesn't really get at the point.

If we collectively decide that people deserve our help when they're down on our luck, we also have a vested interest in making sure they don't end up down on their luck. So if that means we should also discourage people from being Wall Street investors, that's the same point framed differently.

If we have universal healthcare, we also have a vested interest that people don't become fat, or smokers, or whatever. I mean, isn't that the argument that people are making up here? That we're saving money by letting them eat a healthy meal?

When we create a safety net, we create a stake in every single individuals lives. We do it in part because we don't want to see them starve, but to save our pocket book (i.e. guarantee we can still afford to pay this benefit to future generations indefinitely), we also want to discourage as many people as possible to be in a position where they would need to sign up for food stamps. When you decide to take up smoking, there's a chance that I'm paying into that. When I decide I want to quit the gym, there's a chance you'll pick up the tab for that decision.

That means discerning the various reasons people end up using our various safety nets. If it's because some people are making collectively bad decisions in college, then we should look into discouraging that.

But as I said because the cost of complicated bureaucratic hoops is so high, the cost of the various unemployable art/social science/business majors has to be fairly high before it's worth creating an institutional barrier.
posted by politikitty at 5:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


...and if I had a time machine, I would love to go back to one of John Waters' cocktail parties back in the good old days, when nobody had any money, and a tin of crab-meat would be greeted with enthusiasm...
posted by ovvl at 5:54 PM on March 16, 2010


> Are college students required to take reading comprehension anymore, or do they just start crying when someone suggests that being poor is not fun or good for you and that they should take precautions against falling into poverty by getting a job, paying their loan obligations, and developing in-demand skills rather than having zero work experience and defining what their passion is based on an unwillingness to do work they deem is beneath them.

Poverty isn't that easy to "fall in." Healthy people don't fall a class level very often. Sometimes, it is poor choices, but it's impossible to determine where the snowball began that rolled them under the poverty line. Personal or cultural illness is probably involved.

Myself, I had to work in order to go to college, and I did all manner of "low" work to get through. I'm sure I'm not unusual. These days I try to stick to a "NO MORE MOPPING!" rule, but it's just tongue in cheek. Anyway, point is: poor or working class folks probably do NOT get through college without marketable skills. I could drywall, run quickbooks, herd cattle, wait tables, all kinds of random blue collar/white collar things by the time I got my Film and Digital Media (With Honors!) BA.

Rich kids, whose folks bought them cars, paid their rent, gave them pocket money AND paid tuition, maybe they DO lack marketable skills upon graduation. But they also probably STILL have the family safety net they went into university with.

So the "falling into poverty right after graduation" fantasy is weirdly patronizing and ill-suited to both the privileged and the unprivileged.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:55 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, I should add: I guess the "falling into poverty after graduation" thing is based on the idea that you can get massive student loans and be unable to pay them back. I don't really know if that's widespread or not. I didn't have the option to borrow big money till grad school, acceptance to which I guess the gov't/Sallie Mae took in some way as proof of employability, perhaps unwisely.

But borrowing and lending money unwisely is another problem, aside from artsiness or youthful idealistic foolishness, endemic to this culture.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:00 PM on March 16, 2010


bradbane makes great points, and I just wanted to add that in my area some of the business schools that focus on entrepreneurship have noted that a wider social safety net would assist small businesses immensely. Which is a point I know I've seen made elsewhere on MeFi.

The U.S. is particularly inhospitable to artists, in that there is no public option for health care, and we lack a great deal of the arts granting agencies that Canada, the UK, and other countries have. This is a bug, not a feature.

In other words, we do not support the arts as a society, and then are surprised when entering the arts becomes only possible if you are rich, or requires applying for food stamps at a few stages in the process.

anniecat is responding, I think, to the annoying, privileged, entitled hipster stereotype this article strongly insinuates. We conflate that image with the image of "artist", I wonder if it's because we've made it almost very difficult to make a middle-class living as a full-time artist. In other words, you have to "get a day job", which makes it much harder to be creative, or be independently wealthy, or choose to live in poverty and, quite possibly, receive government benefits.
posted by lillygog at 6:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The U.S. is particularly inhospitable to artists people who aren't already rich.
posted by The Whelk at 6:03 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Let him move to Dallas and show a few months of worn shoe-leather hustling to get one of the jobs guys with 12 words of English and a primary school education from Fujian or Michoacan are happy to have

That's what people do when there are absolutely zero prospects for upward mobility where they are. They're not escaping a downturn, or a recession, They're leaving "nothing" and coming towards "something". And it costs more for a migrant worker to get from there to here than it cost me to get on a plane and fly to Mexico and sit on the beach and drink cheap beers.

For a young college educated person in, their best bet is to stay put and scrape by until things get better. And it's to the benefit of their community that they stay put, develop whatever skills they have, and put their resources back into wherever they are.

When I was fresh out of college in the early 90's, I had a lot of dumb low paying jobs, spent a lot of time unemployed, did a year of Americorps, and yes, received food stamps. And I spent more money than I should have on things I didn't need, like beer and sneakers and Nachos. But mostly I didn't have much money to begin with, so the impact of my poor choices was negligible. But I also spent a lot of time making stuff, drawing and painting, screen-printing t-shirts and making flyers for bands. Dicking around on my second-hand computer, learning how to make webpages. With my educational stipend from Americorps, and took some design classes, and right about that time, say '94 or '95 the city I lived in, Seattle, all of a sudden had jobs with a capital J. And not just any jobs, but jobs for "people like me".

Young creative people, who were really interested in doing new things, because when we came out of school, shit seemed real bleak, and the common wisdom was that we would never be able to live as well as our parents. Things like home ownership and a real productive place in society had seemed like a pipe dream a few years earlier, and then all of a sudden I had headhunters taking me out to fancy dinners. And while that era became known more for the bust than the boom, myself and most of my peers never became paper millionaires, or any of that stuff. We were mostly happy just to have a foot in the door to a real career. And for the most part we still have those careers, make decent livings, own homes, and pay plenty of taxes.

But we probably should have ignored our potential, and just gone to pick fruit in Eastern Washington.

All you hungry Baltimore kids Stay put. Baltimore needs you.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


pla wrote: "This seems like the key point that virtually everyone in this discussion doesn't get - Society doesn't owe you cable! It doesn't owe you high-quality food. It doesn't owe you internet access, or a sidewalk and white picket fence. It barely has an obligation to keep you alive - And even then, only because we optimistically (or in the case of TFA, naively) hope you will eventually become productive again."

Society doesn't intrinsically owe anyone anything because it's an artificial edifice. Personally, I prefer to feed the broke rather than have them coming by and helping themselves to my things. My conscience dictates that we not let our fellow citizens starve in slums, no matter their quantity of virtue or lack thereof.

How unfortunate for you that you'd rather leave people to die in the streets just to stop the taxes. And doubly unfortunate that your preferences are apparently not shared with the majority of our society. Perhaps you could take a lesson from these hipsters and learn to live a bit more frugally so that the damn taxes don't leave you broke every April.
posted by wierdo at 6:06 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Gee, I'm sorry I didn't realize I wandered into a thread about spending billions of dollars to spread depleted uranium at high velocity.

Milton Friedman advocates that we give safety nets in cash with few restrictions. He advocates this because while there might be what some consider a misappropriation of funds, the amount is less than the costs of combing through your receipts and defending them. I'm not sure why're you're opposed to that after spending an entire thread defending that very notion.

The point I'm trying to make is that when you submit to the existence of social safety nets, you give up full autonomy. You make a social contract with the government. And the more help you accept from the government, the more say they get over what you choose to do with your life.

I have nothing against the arts, or people who make money in the arts. I do have a problem with the attitude that in a society with social nets, you are the only person taking that gamble. We're all taking that gamble, because we all pay if you fail. Every entrepreneur takes a gamble. And enough succeed that it is in our best interest to allow that to continue. But if we get to a point where most don't succeed, it is in our best interest to try and find out why and stop it.
posted by politikitty at 6:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess the funny thing is that there are those of us who have enough cultural capital such that if we do find ourselves in poverty and qualifying for foodstamps, some members of the public, who'd otherwise consider us "worthy" of help to get ourselves back on our feet, would immediately get angry at us for using foodstamps to live a frugal but healthy and happy lifestyle when it came to meals, simply because we didn't revert to eating ramen and potatoes and instead subsisted on fresh produce and tasty, home-cooked meals. Scrambled eggs, I'm sure, would be fine with them, but if I should instead use those eggs and vegetables to make a spinach-and-tomato omelet, watch out!

The marginal utility of keeping someone alive for its own sake approaches zero in any post-industrial society, GuyZero.

The marginal cost is also about zero. We're the wealthiest country in the world, you know.

Are anniecat and pla ignorant of the fact that the couple of people profiled in this article who've found themselves on foodstamps are those among food stamp recipients who are most likely to get back on their feet with decent jobs in the near future?

I know how to cook, how to stay healthy, and how to dress and groom myself. If, God forbid, I find myself in need of government assistance, I'm certainly not going to conform to someone's image of what being "improverished" is simply so that they can feel better about the fact that aid is only going to the most destitute and unable to take care of themselves. I'm still going to shave, exercise, and eat balanced, healthy, tasty meals.

Anyway: 530 comments and counting. This is epic. All it needs is a guest appearance by a certain someone to tell us about how her children were so smart and responsibly raised that they never had to get food stamps and how she knows one person who left her wonderful conservative community to go to someplace as God-forsaken as Oberlin and, last she heard, was working in a coffee shop and needed foodstamps and how it just shows that these Obama-voting kids these days just don't understand good values.
posted by deanc at 6:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jesus, 530-something comments and no one has brought up Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier?
posted by PMdixon at 6:19 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Something tells me this isn't about what helps the young arty types get up in the morning.

A cup of tea and a kitty, for me. Perhaps also a donut. To go with my PhD in underwater basket weaving.

... Which I used to concoct the straw man that people are arguing about with people following their passion and MFA funding and HONESTLY WHERE THE FUCK DID THAT COME FROM?! I have read both the article and the whole thread and this derail about "Oh, don't go to art school if you want to live indoors! People expect taxpayer money, get off my lawn!"

You're arguing with yourself! No one in the thread has said "I have an MFA in Toenail Art and I need to get foodstamps because I won't take a job that's beneath me." NO ONE. I've read carefully. No one has said this. No one has even implied this. There have been some anecdotes along the lines of "Yeah, food stamps really helped when I got out of grad school and couldn't find work in my field or any other field for that matter." There have been anecdotes about taking sub-optimal jobs. I have never seen so many bootstraps personally displayed in one thread!

Really, there are a few of you perpetuating an argument that is not only tangential to the subject, but entirely tangential to reality itself. Your points may be valid... that is, they might be if you were actually making them in response to an external stimulus.

(I went to art school and I'd advise my own children not to make this mistake - not because you're equally unqualified for everything, but because it's four years of soaking in other people's bullshit which really has no bearing on your own artistic process. But the relative merits of "art school" are another topic entirely and I think that we can all agree that some of us are misguided and are going to continue going to art school whether we're following our "passions" or just because we're mental and it seems like a good idea at the time. So the whole "Get a degree in HVAC!" thing is a red herring. No one's gonna do it because no one at 19 is going to think "Y'know, I love art and really want to do work in some kind of cultural milieu - but I'd never be able to pay back my loans. Yes, it would be more pragmatic for me to get a degree in air conditioning repair! I shall do THAT!" - THAT is the person who more than anything NEEDS art school.

What we need is for more people to think about what they're going to do after art school [which will continue to exist whether we like it or not, and no, it will not be relegated to an upper class privilege] while they're still in it so that they can [and those who are wise enough to do this, actually do] develop auxiliary skills. AUXILLIARY. IN ADDITION TO. Art. Not INSTEAD of. It.

I. have. lost. my. sense. of. coherence. and punctuation. grapefruitmoon out.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:23 PM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


Can somebody please reassure me that not all old people are bitter against the young?

At 45, I'm also not old, but I say follow your passion. If it's art, then be an artist. If it doesn't make you much money then I have no problem if a tiny sliver of my taxes helps you eat...whatever you choose to eat.
posted by rocket88 at 6:29 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Bitter against the young? Hell no, I'm hoping my kid manages to bail me out in my old(er) age!

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to set up a lemonade stand on my damn lawn.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:33 PM on March 16, 2010


pla: Then along come a bunch of hipsters flaunting their abuse of these very social safety nets. What do you want me to say, other than "WTF? You people defend this crap?"

Well, from my point of view, what I think you should say is, "that was a shitty and biased article, raising doubts as to whether hipsters really are abusing social safety nets and to what extent." Otherwise, you might as well just clutch your pearls at rainbow parties, teen cuddle huddles, and ACORN reps talking about prostitution.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:34 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.
posted by philip-random at 6:41 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we collectively decide that people deserve our help when they're down on our luck, we also have a vested interest in making sure they don't end up down on their luck.

Totally. And surely there's a way to do that without all the shaming and blaming that's been present in much of this thread. Way too much of what I've read here can be boiled down to "You are only worth how much money you can contribute to the economy," and that's just gross.

If we have universal healthcare, we also have a vested interest that people don't become fat, or smokers, or whatever.

We already have that, and yet without the universal health care. It costs us more, economically, to have as many un- and under-insured people in this country as we do than it would to provide them with health care.

The last point I want to make is this: I hope you're coming to the meetup tomorrow night! We can continue this discussion as god intended (over beers and sausages), or we can say "Fuck it. I don't want to talk about it anymore. What kind of sausage are you going to get?"
posted by rtha at 6:50 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm not old (still in my 20s) but certainly might be bitter. I was told time and time again that if I ignored my childish little passions like riding as a jockey in the Kentucky Derby and went to lots of expensive school and got a real job, I would be able to have my own pony. Now, here I am at 29 and I've been working long and hard at that job. A hundred thousand dollars in student loans and a high tax bracket later, and still no pony.

(No, I am not suggesting people should be denied food stamps so I can have a pony. Nor am I suggesting that not having a pony is as serious as lacking food or other necessities. Really, I'm just complaining, because I was PROMISED a pony. A literal pony.)
posted by bunnycup at 6:52 PM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


Screw you, deanc, for lumping me in with pla. I said from the beginning, I don't give a fuck who gets fucking food stamps or who uses them to do what or buy what. Hipsters can use food stamps to buy organic carrots to fuck themselves with for all I care.
posted by anniecat at 6:55 PM on March 16, 2010


Let's hope they peel them first.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:56 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


At 35, I consider myself sufficiently old and bitter to comment on the "follow your dream" issue. My advice is to follow your dream and then at the age of 30, re-evaluate. If you've "made it" or are well on your way to making it at that point, stick with it. Otherwise, re-think what you were doing and consider becoming an accountant or finally sending in that application to med school so your mother will finally stop worrying about you.

I'm just complaining, because I was PROMISED a pony. A literal pony.

This may be one of my most favorite comments posted anywhere within the last month, at least.
posted by deanc at 7:03 PM on March 16, 2010


The point I'm trying to make is that when you submit to the existence of social safety nets, you give up full autonomy.

Any creature that's born too weak to hold its own head up and that requires others of its species to feed, shelter and clothe it through essentially the first two decades of life pretty much never had any credible claim to autonomy.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:06 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


ahaha like anyone is hiring accountants. Or anyone. anymore. ever.
posted by The Whelk at 7:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Optimus Chyme : FYI, pla is a male. Just wanted to clarify.

Say, could you post that link again? A few people might have missed it the first few times. Oh, and you forgot to randomly dump it into the thread about fashion earlier this week - Perhaps you should head over there and "clarify" something ASAP?


KirkJobSluder : Well, from my point of view, what I think you should say is, "that was a shitty and biased article, raising doubts as to whether hipsters really are abusing social safety nets and to what extent."

That might very well have made a better opening statement.

It still doesn't change the fact that, as the topic did evolve, people did defend the subjects of TFA as somehow justifiable.

To which I still say, "WTF?", phrased a variety of different ways and in response to the variety of angles from which people tried to defend those who make a mockery of the very safety nets they hold dear.


anniecat : Screw you, deanc, for lumping me in with pla.

Thanks. Love ya too, babe.
posted by pla at 7:09 PM on March 16, 2010


Hipsters can use food stamps to buy organic carrots to fuck themselves with for all I care.

we don't need food stamps for that; we just use them in the store and throw 'em back.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:20 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks. Love ya too, babe.

Don't stand so close. I'm getting my locker and homeroom changed.
posted by anniecat at 7:22 PM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm still wondering what pia's central motivation is: to save tax money (working under the spurious idea that taxation in and of itself is tyranny), or to punish freeloaders (specifically poor and poor-but-not-quite-poor-enough freeloaders, since the folks who are actually using up significant amounts of her tax dollars seem to get a pass) regardless of whether policing and punishing freeloaders costs more or less than allowing "parasitism" from the poor-but-not-quite-poor-enough. So, which is it? If it costs more money to find and punish freeloaders than it would to just let them freeload, would you support it anyway? Is enforcing this particular moral hygiene / stoicism among the lower classes worth the extra cost to you, pia?

I'm seriously asking.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:48 PM on March 16, 2010


i fear being poor. i've gotten around to accepting that i'll spend my life with part of me always worried that one day i won't be able to pay rent, or buy food, or that i'll be that guy asking for change on the corner somewhere. i have little use for wealth beyond the relief it must provide that you can reasonably well secure yourself against the possibility. i grew up on the verge of low--scraping for pennies in the sofa to get lunch money, lights and/or water getting turned off a couple times a year, going to school having to alternate between the two pairs of pants you own that year. it doesn't exist in your head as some cold economic statistic; it isn't just walking around telling yourself 'hmm, my books are out of balance'; it's damn dreadful, and soul crushing, and it's bad enough how you make yourself feel with the shame of it, not having met your responsibility as a fellow human, making a burden of yourself, but then there are people who for any number of reasons are happy to remind you to be ashamed.

the thing is: i've never met anyone who would choose to live that way if it were simply a matter of not having to work. i guess those people are out there; it's certainly a popular stereotype. i undertand hopelessness and feeling like you have no options and that no matter how hard you work you'll get nowhere and truly not seeing that a path out of it exists; i would think that quality far more common than plain laziness. so i don't get how a lot of people seem to think moralizing to poor people, putting them through hoops that make their existence all the more humiliating, is some kind of motivator. it's almost as if they are certain it can't happen to them, as if it is entirely within their own power. personally, i'm not sure that faced with the prospects of going back i wouldn't opt for a walk up the bridge.

i'm not buying the fraud angle here; there is fraud in every system, but we don't choose to define those other systems only in terms of their fraud in the way we do with public assistance. the bankers we've lately reviled have gone no poorer for our condemnation of theirs. but i would rather risk fraud than make things ever more difficult for people already in desperate need. it's silly that we haven't gone beyond this.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:19 PM on March 16, 2010 [20 favorites]


So I'm going to stop arguing now because I'm becoming the enabler in this rad bromance.

I will say that defending your position as reasonable because it's not genocide is not the world's greatest argument.
posted by GuyZero at 8:22 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Finally someone will cram a sausage in my mouth.

"The Whelk", I'm sure you know that in certain sections of San Francisco this is nigh-on unavoidable.
posted by GuyZero at 8:25 PM on March 16, 2010


They just follow you around with Bratwurst and incessant ompah music.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


pla: Still not sure whether you noticed my comment about how the five dollars-difference between organic and non-organic meat would somehow make the difference between someone needing food stamps and not needing it.

....You are aware that food stamps are judged based on INCOME, and not EXPENSES, yes? There has been someone in here who's said that they were off qualifying for food stamps by five dollars, but that's a matter of their income, not their spending habits.

anniecat -- you are correct that you've never said anything about what people spend their food stamps on. But -- if that's the case, it is honestly baffling why you introduced the whole "spoiled artiste" motif into this argument in that case, then.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:09 PM on March 16, 2010


PMDixon: The bit in The Road to Wigan Pier that comes to mind is where Orwell writes about why the poor often choose unhealthy foods. If I recall correctly, the reason was that a little sugar in their tea, jam and butter relieved an otherwise monotonous existence. Is that what you had in mind? Earlier, the gruel in Victorian workhouses was served, in part, as a deterrent to prevent the undeserving poor from taking advantage of the luxurious life they offered.
posted by Tashtego at 9:15 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm all over the place on this. On the one hand, I grew up in a home (well, with a father) who grew up dirt poor. But out of this came pride in the fact that his parents never took government assistance, even during the latter stages of the Great Depression. A few years back I was out of work and might have qualified for unemployment benefits, and I mentioned this to him and he had a fit. "No way a child of mine will ever take a hand-out" yadda-yadda. (A hand-out I've been paying for my entire working life, but that's just how different a perspective he has.)

But the people in this article? Sorry, but I'm betting most of them have trust funds or parental support, even in their 30's. (Love ya Baltimore, but let's be honest about the supposedly "blue collar" hipsters you have and their expensive prep-school educations and their desperate desire to achieve "authenticity" through various pantomimes of poverty.) No, they shouldn't be taking government assistance in the form of food-stamps. And the ones that really don't have other resources? They should suck it up and take jobs they think are "beneath" them. Because I've been there myself, and it was invaluable in a lot of ways. Because there are always jobs available, you just need to adjust your sense of self-worth (i.e., get over your fucking self and do what you need to do to get by).

That said, I don't understand how an article about food stamps can't mention Federal subsisidies for agri-businesses. They basically pay farmers billions of dollars not to grow veggies and fruits and to raise livestock instead due to the influence of the dairy lobby. So as much as I think hipsters-on-foodstamps is ridiculous and wrong, it's also insane that we maintain 1930's-era subsidies for agri-businesses not to grow food and in particular, healthy foods that would be much cheaper sans-subsidies.

FWIW, I'm much happier living in a country (like most) that doesn't put up as many barriers between your food and where it comes from. There are actually truck-vendors who drive around selling fresh produce, and you can hail them like a cab and get what you need on your way home from work. (There's also the fish trucks though, and some of them stink like hell.)
posted by bardic at 10:49 PM on March 16, 2010


He chose to go into AmeriCorps and is using food stamps on top of stipends given to them for programs that may or may not help the communities in meaningful ways? Stipend + food stamps for doing volunteer work while some guy without a college degree works twice the amount of hours for min wage without any kind of health insurance to make as much as the stipend volunteers (who generally have college degrees, some kind of health insurance for when they really have an emergency, prescription coverage, transit stipends, and get an educational scholarship and federal competitive eligibility for govt jobs) get?

Oh, FFS. Have you actually ever known any Americorps volunteers? Last I checked, their stipend was about $1000/month. If you think that's enough to live on in any sort of comfort in Brooklyn, then I want thrifty livin' tips from you.

And yes, I suppose that in theory that many of the volunteers could get better-paying jobs, or at least they could in a better economy. But Americorps has essentially become the apprenticeship program for people who want to work in the nonprofit field. If you want to make a career out of public service, Americorps is a decent way to start. The alternative, of course, is that the government could stop funding it, and then only rich kids whose parents could support them could go into public service. Which would you prefer?

Never mind, I take back what I said. I'm too apathetic to really care what happens or get riled up about this.

Oh, I see, you actually just don't care. Well, that's not a surprise.

On preview, I see that you are tired of having people disagree with you. I'm sorry if this seems like piling on, but honestly, taking issue with giving food stamps to people making $1000/month for the privilege of a start in a career that will never make them wealthy? What did you expect?
posted by lunasol at 11:24 PM on March 16, 2010


Really, I'm just complaining, because I was PROMISED a pony. A literal pony.)

Well, I was promised the world, and now I'm fifty and who wants it? On the other hand, no one even mentioned the internet when I was a kid and it's pretty cool.
posted by philip-random at 11:33 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like my poor people to be a certain way. This makes me... uncomfortable.

What a coincidence, that's how I like my poor people!

Man, I had never even heard of a Le Creuset pot until today. You all suck. Also: Hipsters on Food Stamps! Hipsters on Food Stamps!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:57 PM on March 16, 2010


Hipsters on food stamps. Fuh-fuh-fuh-Food Stamps.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:24 AM on March 17, 2010


America: Someone, somewhere is taking advantage of me and I CAN'T STAND IT!
posted by dave99 at 5:20 AM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's interesting that this thread sort of keeps circling back to this idea that "My grandparents lived through the Great Depression on dirt and contaminated water, and they didn't take any government handouts!" I wonder if this is a function of the fact that these stories are passed down by our parents (who may have been children at the time) who didn't realize (a) "government handouts" weren't really available at the time (that's part of the problem with the Great Depression), and (b) the lengths that some people went through to obtain food either for themselves or their families. Funny enough, I just reached this section in A People's History of the United States:
England, Arkansas, January 3, 1931. The long drought that ruined hundreds of Arkansas farms last summer had a dramatic sequel late today when some 500 farmers, most of them white men and many of them armed, marched on the business section of this town. . . . Shouting that they must have food for themselves and their families, the invaders announced their intention to take it from the stores unless it were provided from some other source without cost.
...
Chicago, April 1, 1932. Five hundred school children, most with haggard faces and in tattered clothes, paraded through Chicago's downtown section to the Board of Education offices to demand that the school system provide them with food.
...
Boston, June 3, 1932. Twenty-five hungry children raided a buffet lunch set up for Spanish War veterans during a Boston parade. Two automobile-loads of police were called to drive them away.

New York, January 21, 1933. Several hundred jobless surrounded a restaurant just off Union Square today demanding they be fed without charge. . . .
Social reform programs like food stamps were created, not out of a beneficent feeling towards the poor, but to prevent them from rioting.
posted by muddgirl at 5:50 AM on March 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


Also, The Straightener seems to be really worked up about the "$150/month in food stamps for one person who makes $2,000 a year with no other assistance" number.

No, you got the numbers all mixed up. $2000 is not an income figure, it's the maximum amount of countable assets including their bank account a person could have and still be eligible for food stamps. 130% of poverty threshold is the maximum income a person could have and still be eligible. If you had $2000 in assets and made 130% of poverty threshold you wouldn't get $150 in stamps per month, your amount would be adjusted down to something like $35. We don't know what the young woman's income is because I haven't been able to find a Maryland state food stamp calculator that would let me backwards calculate that number from her stamp allotment. However, her income is more than $2000 per year, because $2000 per year is less than one person would get receiving cash assistance from welfare as their only income, which extraordinarily low in terms of income, not even enough to maintain minimal housing. If she made $2000 per year, she would be eligible for the full $200 per month in stamps, which her friend gets, which is suspicious because to be eligible for that amount of stamps you have to have so little resources that you would practically be living in the streets and per the writer's portrayal he honestly doesn't seem terribly desperate. Maybe he does have it harder than it seems and the writer just made him look like an asshole, who knows?

And the fraud angle I've brought up isn't to axe grind or to say welfare fraud is somehow comparable to white collar crime. The point is that this article may as well have been funded by the Heritage Foundation. I'm sure it's circulating among the Teaparty crowd and other conservative circles. I'm sure there are Republicans bookmarking this story in their browsers so they can cite it the next time an increase in welfare funding comes on the table. I'm bringing up the fraud aspect to show that the writer behind the story didn't investigate her source very well, then went and created a piece of toxic media that looks at a .000001% slice of the food stamp population and makes it seem like there is a trend in effect in the way food stamps are being utilized. The writer portrays food stamps as a grab bag for extra sweet shit for over-educated, poor-by-choice hipsters who don't really need it. Thanks for the shitty article, Salon, keep at it and maybe welfare funding will get slashed even more in the years to come.
posted by The Straightener at 5:59 AM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


This thread gives me the same feeling of complete gridlock and hopelessness I usually associate with congress.
posted by usonian at 6:19 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


anniecat -- you are correct that you've never said anything about what people spend their food stamps on. But -- if that's the case, it is honestly baffling why you introduced the whole "spoiled artiste" motif into this argument in that case, then.

I can't remember anymore either. I think I just needed a good night's sleep and food.
posted by anniecat at 6:24 AM on March 17, 2010


Social reform programs like food stamps were created, not out of a beneficent feeling towards the poor, but to prevent them from rioting.

A better source for this argument that is massively researched from the origins of relief programs in the middle ages on forward is Cloward and Piven's Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare. It's basically the be-all end-all book on welfare and is absolutely necessary reading for anyone who hopes to have an informed discussion on welfare issues. It also very convincingly tackles the questions posed above regarding why so few people who are eligible for benefits are actually receiving them. This has been the case from the beginning, the government never does welfare outreach to make sure people who need relief get it, the systems in which welfare is distributed are horrible bureaucracies that are impossibly frustrating to navigate, getting one's benefits shut off happens incredibly easily for myriad reasons that are often totally baffling, staff at welfare offices are typically crushed by their caseloads, surly and totally unhelpful and the regulations determining who is eligible for what benefits, for how long, and why are shrouded in total mystery in the pages of telephone book length code books. Welfare is actually incredibly complicated and even social workers who have dealt with the system for years are continually confounded by it. You can imagine what's it like for someone with limited literacy, mental health disorders or other challenges to entering the system. This is why neighborhood welfare rights organizations exist, also welfare departments at legal aid associations; they help people who are qualified but despite all their best efforts aren't getting benefits get benefits.
posted by The Straightener at 6:46 AM on March 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


I also don't think I said artists were spoiled either. If you want to spend $100K going to art school, fine. But don't ask Congress to forgive your student loans afterwards because it's always been a crappy job market for artists. It's like giving a loan to someone who wants to professionally produce a record and then wants that loan forgiven when it doesn't sell.

All I said was that I don't care if artistic young people leave with their energy and vision because I don't think they are the only ones with energy and vision, and how much vision could they have if they don't have any work experience or specialized knowledge necessary to solve our bigger problems? And they can't be artists as a hobby? Not that I much care. If these kids want to take out $100K in debt, I'm fine with it because it just makes me richer than them, and if I'm relatively richer then I'm freer to pursue my passion, namely, lying on a beach with nothing to do all day but drink margaritas. So hooray for art school.
posted by anniecat at 6:50 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If these kids want to take out $100K in debt, I'm fine with it because it just makes me richer than them, and if I'm relatively richer then I'm freer to pursue my passion, namely, lying on a beach with nothing to do all day but drink margaritas. So hooray for art school.

I like you, anniecat, but this is an incredibly uncharitable and bizarrely selfish thing to say. Maybe I'm missing the sarcasm?

The thing about art is that it is a huge contribution to society, but not in ways that are easily quantifiable. But just because it doesn't fit into some neat metric of [$ for schooling] * [$ generated] = [benefit to our culture], doesn't mean it's without value or should be relegated to "a hobby."

A culture that doesn't value art -- and I'm speaking of art in all its forms, whether it's a Vermeer worth untold millions or a little pocket-sized painting that I bought for $5 out of the Art-O-Mat or a mural that makes an otherwise dreary urban neighborhood more beautiful or whatever -- is one that is on its last legs, and one that I don't want to part of.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:07 AM on March 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you want to spend $100K going to art school, fine. But don't ask Congress to forgive your student loans afterwards because it's always been a crappy job market for artists.

I've popped in and out of this thread, and I haven't really read every comment, but yours have seemed filled more with indignation than thought. This one is a good example. It seems kind of reasonable on its face, if "I only want people of whom I approve getting help" is a reasonable approach to social governance. But it's really not thought out.

Is your contention that only people who get marketable degrees, but then have trouble getting jobs, should be eligible for aide? What counts as marketable? Does it have to be a skill, like knowing how to hammer or file, or can it be something that expands thought such that someone can probably be taught the directly job-related skills, like calculus? Is there any room in your world for liberal arts students, or is your contention that one would have to be rich first in order to study history, or literature, or philosophy? Is a person's worth, in the direct sense, in the sense that we might choose to give them social aide, tied to their undergraduate degree? Are people who got technical degrees in mechanics more worthy of aide than those who got degrees in "pre-med?" What about people who don't go to college, either because they can't afford it or because they had other things to do? How do we assess their worth? What if the world changes? What if you went to school for a degree in oil geology, but the market shifts, and you're unable to get a job? Were you worth more when your skills were more directly marketable? Are you eligible for aide only when you don't need it?
posted by OmieWise at 7:09 AM on March 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Actually, not to beat a dead horse, but this has all the themes of what I meant, though what I'm saying is much broader:

they've been praised their whole lives, and no one has ever told them that they may not become what they want to be, that higher education is a business that does not necessarily have their best interests at heart. Sometimes they accuse me of being threatened by their obvious talent. I assume they go on to find someone who will tell them what they want to hear: "Yes, my child, you are the one we've been waiting for all our lives."
posted by anniecat at 7:11 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Earlier, the gruel in Victorian workhouses was served, in part, as a deterrent to prevent the undeserving poor from taking advantage of the luxurious life they offered.

The entire time I was reading this epic thread I kept thinking about the Victorian Britons and their attitudes to the poor. The wealthiest, most powerful people (most of whom made their money on the backs of the poor and working class) were afraid that that public assistance would be overly popular with the masses so the workhouses were made as unattractive as possible. Husbands were separated from wives no matter how long they had been married, children-- even infants-- were separated from their mothers. The poor were forced to wear a uniform and work in order to receive their gruel-- it was really no different from going to prison except that you could leave any time you chose.

I sighed a lot reading this thread. I don't really understand why the poor are so universally loathed. I suppose that it is a natural outcome of worshipping the almighty dollar: those who have money are great citizens, those who don't are the dregs of society.

Finally, I have to laugh at this idea that survivors of The Great Depression were somehow noble beings that would have never taken a dime from the government. As someone linked above, government assistance wasn't available-- that's the long and short of it. Once it did become available, those who needed it (and a few who didn't) were happy to have the assistance. My sainted grandmother was a young mother during the depression, married to a Methodist minister who died young. She was happy to receive a little help when it was offered: scholarships for the 6 kids, widow's pension from the church, relatives' hound outs. After she retired from her job at the bicycle factory, she had social security, meals on wheels, and government-funded housing. Having most of her necessities paid for meant she could use the checks from her kids for the luxuries such as getting her hair done once a week and traveling to see the grandchildren.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:12 AM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


(And, obviously, that's just the visual arts that I referenced above. The arts as a concept are so much more expansive than that, and make our world a richer place to live. Dance. Music. Sculpture. Poetry. I mean, you know this. The great artistic contributions are, in general the ones that are born out of an all-consuming passion and drive that demands nothing less than a full commitment from the artist. Saying artists should be a-ok relegating their talent to a hobby is about as dismissive as you can get.)
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:12 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I'd agree with some of what anniecat says. If you want to be an artist, be an artist, but for god sake don't go to art school...especially at a university level. It won't help you with your art and it'll just cost you more money than you'll ever recover. Higher education should be an investment and art school is a pretty piss-poor investment.
But that's all a derail of sorts. If you've made some poorly-informed choices at an early age, I don't think you should be punished with a lifetime of poverty and ramen noodles. These hipster kids will have a few good years with the help of food stamps and then they'll no doubt grow up, get tedious soul-crushing jobs and start paying back into the system so the next generation can take advantage of them. That's punishment enough.
posted by rocket88 at 7:14 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


and how much vision could they have if they don't have any work experience or specialized knowledge necessary to solve our bigger problems?

But this is true for anyone right out of school, isn't it? I don't think someone with a shiny new degree in economics is any more competent than someone with a shiny new degree in studio art.

Bigger problems are all made up of smaller problems, and everyone has to start somewhere. For instance, I have no idea if the hipsters in my neighborhood are artists or on food stamps or what. I don't really know any of them personally, but I overhear conversations while we're standing around waiting for a table at the local brunch place, or waiting for a coffee at one of the local coffeeshops....Which are all present (the line, the coffee) because of the influx of hipsters over the last five or so years. There are at least three new coffeeshops. The local diner/brunch place is bursting at the seams on the weekends. A new, fancy donut place opened and when I went for a donut the other day there were 20 people in line! For donuts! And the fancy, tiny ice cream place up the street also has a line on most days.

So, the bigger problem is: Economy sucks. The solution, as I've seen it playing out on 24th St., is hipsters. None of these places is very expensive (well, the donuts are three bucks! but as an occasional treat...), and there is more foot traffic and money flowing. From the conversations I overhear, I know that a lot of these folks work as freelancers (web/tech, writing, etc.). They all seem to have side gigs in bands or whatever. The neighborhood empties out during Burning Man.

So do I want them to go back to their homes in Cleveland or Detroit or Gary or wherever? Hell no. And neither do the people who own the tacquerias, bars, and coffeeshops on 24th st.
posted by rtha at 7:22 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, you got the numbers all mixed up. $2000 is not an income figure, it's the maximum amount of countable assets including their bank account a person could have and still be eligible for food stamps.

No, I didn't mix up the numbers - I thought $2000 a year was a figure cited in the actual Salon.com article as the yearly income of one of the recipients of food stamps. Now that I search this thread, I realize that I was citing cloeburner's statement here. Cloeburner seems to be familiar with these folks and cites that he receives an unstated amount of food stamps with a reported income of $2000 a year.

However, her income is more than $2000 per year, because $2000 per year is less than one person would get receiving cash assistance from welfare as their only income, which extraordinarily low in terms of income, not even enough to maintain minimal housing.

Again, you are making a lot of assumptions here. I defer to your expertise in this area, but I also defer to cloeburner's first-hand account of living in this community
I'd say about half of my friends are on food stamps, and all the better for it. I only made about 2000 dollars last year and I would have had a very difficult time surviving without the stamps. Many of my friends are in the same boat. We're all minimally employed, work is hard to come by, but rent is extremely cheap due to most of us living in wacky situations [12 roommates, no heat, middle of abandoned slums etc].
So yes, these people are essentially squatters or splitting apartments between a dozen people - if you re-read the Salon.com article, you will notice that the writer almost intentionally does not mention the living conditions of the people he's profiling (the only reference I could find is "brick row house in Baltimore") - just the food they buy.

The writer portrays food stamps as a grab bag for extra sweet shit for over-educated, poor-by-choice hipsters who don't really need it. Thanks for the shitty article, Salon, keep at it and maybe welfare funding will get slashed even more in the years to come.

On this point, we absolutely agree. But I will not go so far to criticize the people profiled in the article without outside verification.
posted by muddgirl at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2010


Excuse me, the author is a woman.
posted by muddgirl at 7:25 AM on March 17, 2010


What if you went to school for a degree in oil geology, but the market shifts, and you're unable to get a job?

Christ, this was about food stamps. What do you care what I said about artists and why are you going on about it? Do you want me to say that everyone, no matter what they study, should get the same amount of aid, or that going to college and grad school is so morally good for society that we should give PhD's in English the same amount of funding that PhD's in Biochem get? Fine. Everybody all deserves the same amount of money for studying folkdancing as they do for cancer research.

Happy yet?
posted by anniecat at 7:32 AM on March 17, 2010


You know, there are a surprising number of arts related jobs. I have one. I have an arts degree - in fact, I have two - and my career began in Baltimore at the Walters Art Museum. I've been working in museums for the last twenty years because of that. No, I don't make much money. Yes, I'm on the border of poverty and my kids always qualified for reduced or free lunch at school, which I never signed them up for because a) I wanted them to eat real food and b) another fun way we in America often shame the poor is making the free lunch kids line up separately from the rest of the class just so everyone is quite certain of who is getting a handout. But we have made it work and so have a lot of other people I know and, honestly, I'm kind of proud of the museums where I've worked and the people who have been affected by the programs I've helped develop. I think it's a worthy thing.

{hamburger}However, I hadn't realized arts management work and arts related and nonprofit and museum and gallery jobs were so pointless and a drain on the economy. Now I see clearly and I mean, god forbid there be art education programs in museums and artists working on design within museums and trained art handlers moving art from place to place so more people can see it and conservators (who are all artists and scientists, a bit of a quandary there) carefully cleaning medieval altarpieces with q-tips so that they remain part of humanity's cultural heritage. And then those galleries and museums and their staff, all of whom claim to attract cultural tourism dollars, are clearly lying through their teeth and nobody is actually making a living on that. Obviously, museums should be dismantled and the collections sold to the highest worthy bidder and the staff whipped through the square as the socialistic parasites on pure godly capitalism that they are.{/hamburger}

There's a good art school in Baltimore and, when times are good, a lot of jobs to be had. Did anyone actually read the article? The "kids" in it are in their early 30s. They had jobs, which they, like so many, have lost. I doubt they will stay on food stamps for the rest of their lives. I think it's a good thing that food stamps are out there, but then I think that food stamps and other social welfare programs are what government is for. On the other hand, perhaps it would be better if we eliminated them all, because maybe a few good old fashioned bread riots would shake the place up enough that these kinds of conversations would stop taking place.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:33 AM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hampden is by no means an abandoned slum. It's a gentrified, formerly working class neighborhood bordering on the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. Typical rents, roommate ads. It is certainly possible to live in Baltimore for the rent prices that cloeburner is talking about, but you have to look at much more marginal neighborhoods than Hampden. No one in Hampden is paying $80/month in rent.
posted by electroboy at 7:36 AM on March 17, 2010


So do I want them to go back to their homes in Cleveland or Detroit or Gary or wherever? Hell no.

Why are you keeping the hipsters away from the good people of Cleveland? Maybe they could use all the art, poetry, guitars etc.
posted by anniecat at 7:37 AM on March 17, 2010


Again, you are making a lot of assumptions here.

No, I'm really not, I'm drawing on my experience as a case manager in family homeless services trying to find housing for families with that level of income, without housing subsidies that typically take years to obtain and it's essentially impossible. So, sure, a lot of single mother headed poor families live in "wacky situations" too, I guess, it's just that when it's poor families and not artists they are called "homeless shelters" and not "collectives."
posted by The Straightener at 7:38 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I also don't think I said artists were spoiled either. If you want to spend $100K going to art school, fine. But don't ask Congress to forgive your student loans afterwards because it's always been a crappy job market for artists.

...But this is a thread about food stamps. Exactly what does loan forgiveness have to do with food stamps? And who in this thread advocated for loan forgiveness in this thread?

If anything, we're dealing with people who are trying TO pay back their student loans, and are trying to DO the responsible thing by doing so, but in trying to do the responsible thing by paying back their student loans, they are left WITHOUT ENOUGH MONEY FOR FOOD, and hence that explains their need FOR food stamps.

So no one IS asking for loan forgiveness. So why are you railing against people who aren't even in this thread or germane to this topic?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on March 17, 2010


So no one IS asking for loan forgiveness. So why are you railing against people who aren't even in this thread or germane to this topic?

So why are you responding? There is a movement for loan forgiveness going on for students who've taken out an excessive amount of loans and can't pay them back, if you've opened your paper lately. Due to new legislation, loan payments are now tied to income. If you're being responsible in your own life, why are you so upset with me for having an opinion, especially if you think it's uninformed?
posted by anniecat at 7:45 AM on March 17, 2010


So why are you responding?

Because you're effectively derailing the thread with a tangent, and I want to know why.

There is a movement for loan forgiveness going on for students who've taken out an excessive amount of loans and can't pay them back, if you've opened your paper lately. Due to new legislation, loan payments are now tied to income. If you're being responsible in your own life, why are you so upset with me for having an opinion, especially if you think it's uninformed?

I'm not "upset with you", I just would like you to explain what this issue has to do with food stamps. Because this thread is about FOOD STAMPS.

But, clearly, YOU have a lot to say about this issue, so let me ask you - why not make your own FPP about LOAN forgiveness, so this thread about food stamps can go back to being ABOUT food stamps?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on March 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


What do you care what I said about artists and why are you going on about it?

You keep bringing it up, and offering it up as if it's a reasonable position. Yet it's clear that you haven't really thought about it all that hard, as your snippy non-response to my questions indicates. Why are you so huffy about something you appear to have given very little consideration to?
posted by OmieWise at 7:55 AM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Again, I'm not disagreeing with you, The Straightener, save for the fact that you seem to be assuming that fraud is occurring based on an article that you admit is intentionally written to be incendiary.

And electroboy keeps insisting that Hampden is "gentrified", as if that prevents any broke people from living there at all.
posted by muddgirl at 7:56 AM on March 17, 2010


But, clearly, YOU have a lot to say about this issue, so let me ask you - why not make your own FPP about LOAN forgiveness, so this thread about food stamps can go back to being ABOUT food stamps?

To say that loans and debt and lack of job prospects has nothing to do with the original article or food stamps is ridiculous. Didn't YOU just write a whole angry piece about how recent graduates are trying to pay off their loans and pursue their passion and thus have no money for food. I think you used ALLCAPS for that little detail too, so it's weird that suddenly you're saying they're apples and boxcars and have nothing at all to do with each other.

Why don't you quit focusing and extrapolating from whatever I say so I don't have to constantly explain myself and then it won't result in your further indignation over how some people don't agree with you? It's getting exhausting and I'd rather just stop, if you don't mind. But if you're going to attack me because you're so indignant that someone has an opinion that's different than yours, then don't expect me to not try and defend myself, even if it resulted in a massive derail. Sounds like YOU really want to continue this, and I suggest YOU do that elsewhere.

Maybe this will provide YOU with a better explanation of why a fellow arts degree holder might not think it's such a hot idea to get an arts degree, and maybe then you can accept yourself for the choices you made and not expect affirmation from everyone else in the world.
posted by anniecat at 8:03 AM on March 17, 2010


You can believe whatever you want, muddgirl. But cloeburner doesn't live in Hampden and the only people paying $90/month are renting a parking space.
posted by electroboy at 8:05 AM on March 17, 2010


There is a movement for loan forgiveness going on for students who've taken out an excessive amount of loans and can't pay them back, if you've opened your paper lately.

You missed that thread, where everyone made a lot of coherent arguments about the issue that you apparently didn't hear about and instead came here to get your hippie-hate on because some already underemployed people in their 30s hit a patch of hard times during a recession and applied for footstamps.
posted by deanc at 8:05 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Social reform programs like food stamps were created, not out of a beneficent feeling towards the poor, but to prevent them from rioting.

It would be more accurate to say that every one of the social reform programs which made up the New Deal were created for many reasons. It is possible that preventing poverty riots was one of the reasons why the food stamp program was launched, but clearly it wasn't the only one. I realize that the first Food Stamp program isn't always thought of as part of the New Deal because it wasn't launched until 1939, but it really should be. It was a natural extension and evolution of those initial reforms, after all.

The primary motivators behind the New Deal seem to have had a passionate desire to even out class, gender and economic differences. Eleanor Roosevelt in particular fought hard to change the fabric of our entire society, and made special effort to reach out to women during her husband's presidency in a way that no one ever had before. Her work helped further the reforms set in place by the suffragettes decades earlier and open the door to the Feminism movement.
posted by zarq at 8:13 AM on March 17, 2010


jesus christ, people, graduates with arts degrees work in every field imaginable. A college diploma is not an assignment to a set of jobs. Arts degree carrying people worked on every web site you've ever seen, print your newspapers, anchor your tv news programs, edit your movies, transcribe your courtroom proceedings, answer your telephones, found Fortune 500 companies, Fly your airplanes, serve your drinks, take your order, do their little turn on the catwalk, defibrillate your ailing ticker, Repair your homes, have designed every building, pave your roads, take out your garbage, and invest your money.

If you have a whole thing about the general ill-advisedness of arts degrees, be aware that you have no idea what you're fucking talking about.
posted by shmegegge at 8:14 AM on March 17, 2010 [19 favorites]


Fly your airplanes

There's a BA in Philosophy flying my airplane? So you need no additional training beyond a BA in Philosophy to get in a cockpit? I don't think I'm going to fly anymore.

You missed that thread, where everyone made a lot of coherent arguments about the issue that you apparently didn't hear about and instead came here to get your hippie-hate on because some already underemployed people in their 30s hit a patch of hard times during a recession and applied for footstamps.

That's exactly right. You're so right. I'm so sorry. Mea culpa.
posted by anniecat at 8:20 AM on March 17, 2010


Look, I can't find demographic data for Hampden specifically, but even in my in-law's snooty rich white commuter town of Andover, MA, where the average income per household is like $150,000, nearly 2% of the residents live below the poverty line.
posted by muddgirl at 8:25 AM on March 17, 2010


If anyone cares (and I know you do!), we hashed out the pros and cons of student loan debt here back in June of '09. I'm not going to repeat the arguments I made back then on a thread about food stamps, but if anyone wants to do a "Student Loan forgiveness programs -- where are they now?" thread as an FPP, go to it.
posted by deanc at 8:27 AM on March 17, 2010


anniecat, I've read this whole thread and I still don't understand your axe-grindy attitude about this. It's sounding more and more like you're pissed off because somewhere there are people who might have it "easier" than you.
posted by palomar at 8:28 AM on March 17, 2010


anniecat, I've read this whole thread and I still don't understand your axe-grindy attitude about this. It's sounding more and more like you're pissed off because somewhere there are people who might have it "easier" than you.

No, not at all. I don't care. I have no axe to grind. If hipsters want food stamps for whatever, let them have it. That was my very first comment.

And this whole thread has totally changed me. You guys really made me think and realize what life is all about. It's about choices and being hungry and taking huge leaps of faith. I've wanted to do that my whole life, and I was masking my strong desire to become an artist. Well, no more of that.

In fact, you awesome people on this thread gave me one of those Come to Vishnu moments and I think everyone who desires to go to art school should go and everybody should go pursue your passions. After all, you can't take your money with you when you're dead and passionless.

Go pursue what you love, people. Do it now! Let's all do it now. A whole class of Mefites. I'm applying right now. I want to do bookbinding or printmaking. Where can I find a program in that?
posted by anniecat at 8:48 AM on March 17, 2010


do their little turn on the catwalk

Thanks. Thanks a lot. Now I'm going to have that going through my head all day.

(And on the subject of college-major-as-vocational-training: One friend of mine from college was a philosophy (!!!) major and is now a nurse practitioner who treats low-income people with HIV/AIDS; another was - get this! - a drama and classics double-major who flies airplanes for NOAA!)
posted by rtha at 8:50 AM on March 17, 2010


(And on the subject of college-major-as-vocational-training: One friend of mine from college was a philosophy (!!!) major and is now a nurse practitioner who treats low-income people with HIV/AIDS; another was - get this! - a drama and classics double-major who flies airplanes for NOAA!)

Wouldn't it have been less expensive for her just to get a BSN then get her work to pay for an MSN or to go to flight school or whatever directly? It's not that you can't do something else after you get a Classics degree, it's just that it adds more money on as loans, if you're not independently wealthy, and the loans will squeeze you when you graduate.

I have to get back to my art school application now.
posted by anniecat at 8:57 AM on March 17, 2010


I look forward to talking to anniecat after she completes art school -- good luck anniecat, I'm rooting for you!
posted by mazola at 9:15 AM on March 17, 2010


Thanks mazola!
posted by anniecat at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2010


hey you! you're a stay at home mom! but you have a college degree! wouldn't it have been easier just to skip college and get right with the baby making? duh!

hey! you've suffered a terrible car accident and can no longer work or take care of yourself! and yet... college degree! wouldn't it have been simpler to just get in the car accident first and skip college?

man you guys are gonna have egg on your face when I tell people on the internet how worthless your educations were.
posted by shmegegge at 9:18 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Guys, I think it's clear that a hipster PhD candidate stole anniecat's baby and then made it pay off his student loans. That is, literally, the only explanation I can conjure for this bizarre derail on an FPP about how people use their food stamps.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:27 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


hey you! you're a stay at home mom! but you have a college degree! wouldn't it have been easier just to skip college and get right with the baby making? duh!

hey! you've suffered a terrible car accident and can no longer work or take care of yourself! and yet... college degree! wouldn't it have been simpler to just get in the car accident first and skip college?


You know what you are shmegegge? ADORABLE!
posted by anniecat at 9:28 AM on March 17, 2010


I know! I really am!
posted by shmegegge at 9:30 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Guys, I think it's clear that a hipster PhD candidate stole anniecat's baby and then made it pay off his student loans.

He said his name was Alann, with two "n's" and he's wearing cordoroy, and he has black glasses taped up with white tape, and he stole my cinnamon colored shidoodle, Banksy. He plays the triangle in a band and he said they might get signed by Sony. Please find him! Please! Hurry!
posted by anniecat at 9:31 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, I wasn't able to read that article past the first few bullshit paragraphs.

But I'm depressed by how the US left is so happy to go along with the right-wing Protestant, boot-strap, capitalist world-view that values income earners over any one else in our society. Who says we have to believe the scarcity model? The right does, and we buy into it when we advocate some arbitrary hierarchy of who deserves to have help buying food.

What is the point of government? If we don't want taxes to be spent on war and prisons, what do we hope to spend our money and effort on? What if the point of government was to provide social services for everyone? What if everyone got a pension, no matter what? What if everyone, no matter their income, had the right to medical care and yes, food? Would society fall apart? Would people refuse to drive our buses or clean the streets? Or would we simply have a kinder world, with less suffering?
posted by serazin at 9:33 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't it have been less expensive for her just to get a BSN then get her work to pay for an MSN or to go to flight school or whatever directly?

Well, when she was 18, Ing didn't know she'd want to be a nurse practitioner treating low-income people who have HIV/AIDS. She didn't know she'd want to be in any kind of medical field at all. That all came about after graduation, when she volunteered as a patient escort at Planned Parenthood clinics and did direct-action protest stuff with ACT UP. And Nickie had always kind of wanted to fly, and thought her path to that would be via the Navy or Air Force, which requires a college degree. Unsurprisingly, what she thought she wanted and the path she would take when she was 18 had changed when she was 22 or 23.

When I was 18, I thought I wanted to be an academic, so college of course was the appropriate path for that. I'd changed my mind by the time I hit 20.

Did you know what you wanted to do when you were 18? Did that change over the years?
posted by rtha at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


To say that loans and debt and lack of job prospects has nothing to do with the original article or food stamps is ridiculous.

How is it ridiculous?

Didn't YOU just write a whole angry piece about how recent graduates are trying to pay off their loans and pursue their passion and thus have no money for food. I think you used ALLCAPS for that little detail too, so it's weird that suddenly you're saying they're apples and boxcars and have nothing at all to do with each other.

I wrote a single comment about it.

And I was only trying to understand how you got from: "these people are using food stamps to buy food" to "how dare they try to get their student loans absolved!" I only mentioned that they weren't trying to get their student loans absolved, becuase it seems like that's what you're pissed off about.

And I only used all caps because it looks like you missed that detail. Your upset seems to be about their trying to weasel out of student loans. But since they aren't doing that, I have no earthly idea why you're upset about this.

Why don't you quit focusing and extrapolating from whatever I say so I don't have to constantly explain myself and then it won't result in your further indignation over how some people don't agree with you? It's getting exhausting and I'd rather just stop, if you don't mind.

....If you'd rather just stop, why on earth DON'T you? The only reason people keep on talking to you about this is because you keep hanging around here and continuing this issue rather than just leaving and arguing about (and then claiming you're "not being fighty".

I at least am trying to ask your own thought process behind how you connect these two disparate issues; I don't know where you get the idea that I'm angry at you "for having a different opinion," when all along I am trying to UNDERSTAND your opinion. I am asking QUESTIONS about your opinion so I can understand what on earth you're talking about.

But if you'd rather make sarcastic comments like:

In fact, you awesome people on this thread gave me one of those Come to Vishnu moments and I think everyone who desires to go to art school should go and everybody should go pursue your passions. After all, you can't take your money with you when you're dead and passionless.

I would invite you to consider that this is perhaps why everyone seems so angry at you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


This thread is one big crazy mass of projection. And I know why, actually: it's because the article manages a really effective blend of signifier-loaded choices (Going on Food Stamps, Organic Ice Cream..) that are pushing our buttons about Class. And what a bunch of knee jerk generality ensues. To me it mostly sounds like people having arguments over topics that hadn't come up with opponents who aren't actually present.
posted by nanojath at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have to get back to my art school application now.

Madam, your performance art skills on display here already show few boundaries.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:40 AM on March 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm still surprised that this is from Salon.
posted by electroboy at 9:41 AM on March 17, 2010


Anniecat: Diplomacy, flexibility, and good judgement (e.g. lack of unnecessary escalation, hyperbole) are very valuable skills you might do well to look into.
posted by applemeat at 9:43 AM on March 17, 2010


I hate to continue with the derail, but you know, the concept of higher education as investment really bothers me. It's not how colleges and universities were designed. I think the attitude, particularly in the states, that they are really just rarefied and expensive vo-tech factories who should be grinding out people qualified for extremely narrow career paths has lessened our culture in tremendous ways over the last century. A liberal arts background, a really broad liberal arts background, has as its aim the production of a thoroughly educated populace and by thoroughly educated, I mean people who have learned to think critically and well. I think that's a valuable thing in and of itself and I also think that it prepares people for many - possibly most - professions that they may enter. Specialized fields, like flying airplanes or cutting people open and stitching them back together again clearly need specialized schools but I think the people going into those schools would not be harmed by a more thorough grounding in the humanities first. This is where one can argue that colleges and universities have become ridiculously expensive and that if they were much, much more thoroughly subsidized by the state (as they are in many countries) then all this question of loans would not be so pressing.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:59 AM on March 17, 2010 [28 favorites]


that are pushing our buttons about Class

"Class" doesn't exist in America. Perhaps you mean to say it's about Race?
posted by GuyZero at 9:59 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you really need to eat on $150/month, you buy boxed Macaroni and Cheese by the case and mix it with grade-C ground beef. You don't buy bottled water and organic produce.

That's a shit diet. You can eat very cheaply on bulk organic grains and produce with occasional fish or chicken, and it's far better for you than a steady diet of starch and the lowest quality beef.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:00 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess metafilter can add "does not do artists and particularly art school well" to its list.

Obviously I am biased because I have an undergrad degree from an expensive art school that I graduated from 20 years ago (via student loans that I finally finished paying off two years ago so that I could turn around and head right back to borrowing for an MFA in interdisciplinary fine arts) but I really do not understand all of the outright hatred and rage directed at people who decide that an arts degree is what is best for them.

A lot of us were not going to be all that great at any other pursuit. It may be difficult for anyone who pursued a degree in order to work in a so-called "acceptable" field or who is lucky enough to have the aptitude and personality to excel in their chosen white collar profession to understand that not everyone is wired the way they are. It's a tough market out there, and do you really think that dumping more more untalented, mediocre professionals and tradesmen rather than art school grads into the labor pool is the solution to all our woes?

I've made a lot of money (billed out at 135/hr as an interface consultant during the dotcom boom) and very little money (14/hr-20/hr sporadically as a prop-maker and window display designer) but I would not have been able to secure any of that work if not for a very strong art education. I stay in touch with a lot of my fellow undergrads and most of them are not only still working in art-related fields, but are also able to support themselves and their families while doing so. Art school (at least at reputable non-profit institutions) is a lot more intense, broad, and rigorous than whatever fantasy school the naysayers have cooked up as their straw man institution.

Also, for anyone who has been pushing trade schools as a more sensible choice than art school might want to take a look at this recent NYT article.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:01 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


GuyZero:"Class" doesn't exist in America. Perhaps you mean to say it's about Race?"

I beg to differ, but I'm not even sure if you're being serious or not.

I haven't been able to read the 300-or so comments since my last posted comment, so forgive me if I am treading over something that has already been trod.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:10 AM on March 17, 2010


"Class" doesn't exist in America. Perhaps you mean to say it's about Race?

I can't even tell who's being sarcastic any more but no, I would say the reaction to this article is a solid repudiation of the notion that class "doesn't exist in America."
posted by nanojath at 10:10 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think GuyZero was riffing. (I wonder if shetterly is reading this thread!)

mygothlaundry, I would favorite your comment one hundred million times if I could.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


To relax furrowed brows, yes, I was joking about all the times someone has said racism doesn't exist in America (on MeFi) and that it's really just class war.
posted by GuyZero at 10:28 AM on March 17, 2010


It seems like the naysayers in this thread are just making up their objections out of whole cloth:

they've been praised their whole lives, and no one has ever told them that they may not become what they want to be, that higher education is a business that does not necessarily have their best interests at heart. Sometimes they accuse me of being threatened by their obvious talent. I assume they go on to find someone who will tell them what they want to hear: "Yes, my child, you are the one we've been waiting for all our lives."

This is such utter bullshit that I simply don't know where to start.

I live in New York City. My friends are these hipsters, and let me tell you, these people aren't too proud to work the most amazingly low-level jobs.

Not all of them took art history, you know - my friend has three degrees, in math, law, and public policy and has been called to the bar in two states. She came here for a degree, stayed for a job, but now the decent jobs have vanished, and she doesn't have the New York bar yet (and is having a tough time working part time jobs and studying for it).

Where should she go? Back to North Carolina, where she worked as a lawyer ten years ago? Where there are no jobs, where she was miserable and has no support mechanism?

Or take another friend, who doesn't have any degree at all because she simply couldn't ever afford it and called up a couple of months ago suggesting she prostitute herself to me because she was simply out of money for food (no, we didn't - and she didn't at all, she got past the patch and is holding on with odd jobs and selling crafts... but she was desperate.)

I know she's worked the most amazingly trivial jobs that I wonder that she can tolerate. She calls herself an artist because she is, but also because if she didn't she might as well call herself an economically useless piece of shit as far as America goes.

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, "official home of the hipster since 2004". There are many people around here on food stamps. A lot of them live in communal arrangements where the rent is tiny, food is communal and people live crowded two or three to a room (or more!); there are fleas, bedbugs, a small but steady number of criminals and the mentally ill who the community has to take control of and remove (because of course the police won't do fuck all for you if you're living in a communal situation like that).

New York City is still fairly prosperous; some of these individuals do have real jobs like programmers, accounts and lawyers (and in many cases are partly supporting multiple other individuals). I don't even want to think about what it must be like in the rest of the country, nor what it will be like this winter.

I'm personally doing fine. I have savings from my last job, which I left voluntarily. I've been helping out; I'm responsible for a couple of people's teeth here, someone's septic tank there, lots of meals for people (I've gotten pretty alert to people who start acting spacey around 4PM because they simply haven't had any food that day and suggesting we go for a snack) because I have something extra, and good prospects, and because these people are my family.

As for the argument about "art school" it seems to me that most of the people I know who went to art school didn't do so because they expected to make a living out of it, but because they thought it would make them better human beings. I think of these people going to school to learn law or accounting and I just laugh - it's not that these people are lazy or stupid but they aren't lawyers or accountants and no amount of training will ever make them so.

All of them are ecstatically happy to get a mediocre job that is at least in some degree civilized - working in a bookstore or a "hippy" food store. They'll even take jobs like construction or, shudder, bike messenger and suck it up and even pretend they like it (my friend who was a bike messenger acted like he was Mr Tough, loving every minute of it, and then when he finally quit after his second injury, he confided in me he was worried about dying every single morning he went out - there's a good reason you never see an old bike messenger...)

So you will understand that it's very hard to come to this thread and see people simply making up stereotypes and condemning them, when in fact the truth is completely different.

In particular, I think that anniecat is simply making everything up from start to finish. I think she's never met a one of the fictitious people she's railing against, nor has she ever seen any hard evidence that one of them exists. Since these people are my community, it makes me angry in the same way that any slur directed at one's own would.

I believe this actually shows something good about her; that she's guilty about what she secretly sees as her undeserved good fortune, and tries to justify it by believing other people are also getting undeserved free things (yes, I know I'm going on a limb but it seems obvious to me from the comments).

But generally, for those of you on the "hipsters stealing from teh State O NOES" side - I don't see one single piece of hard evidence presented here - not one - not even good anecdotes!

So put up or shut up. Show us your evidence! Tell me where these thieving hipsters are! Show us a study, or a statistic, or even your own extensive personal experiences with these people.

Or if you can't do this, if you're just making it all up out of your head, then might I request you simply say nothing at all?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2010 [43 favorites]


Hey there was an update
posted by Strshan at 10:39 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hit post to quickly. The update is from salon from one of the article's subjects.
posted by Strshan at 10:42 AM on March 17, 2010


I would invite you to consider that this is perhaps why everyone seems so angry at you.

But you guys all changed my mind. I believe it's okay to take out loans for art school now. I think you're right and I'm wrong. I mean that's the point of you explaining so eloquently and patiently what's so wrong about what I said, right? Because otherwise, you aren't discussing, you're fighting with me. You won. You're right. Your argument was way better reasoned than mine and you all are right and I'm extremely wrong because I live in a bubble where I aggressively pay off my student loans for my undergrad and master's program I did, because my job, which doesn't pay that much considering I live in Northern Virginia, and obviously it doesn't stress me out at all or otherwise I wouldn't caution people against art school and choosing poverty.

Bottom line: I was wrong and it was a derail, and I think art school is incredibly worthy and people should do whatever they want. You're still upset after I changed my mind and am agreeing with you because you suspect that I don't agree with you really so you all are going to continue to make fun of me? Well, I hope it makes you all feel better, and go ahead and do it if the venting helps you feel less outraged that someone you don't know doesn't agree. If it saves your relationship with mom, dad, and Uncle Harry by making rude comments because I'm exactly like the people who told you that art school was a waste of money, that's okay with me. I'm over it. Because it's your life and you really should do whatever you want to do. You're not going to be a great engineer or cancer researcher if you really want to try to make it as a painter.
posted by anniecat at 11:04 AM on March 17, 2010


Good news everyone - the guy isn't white - so obviously he deserves food stamps.

Turns out it was about race after all!
posted by GuyZero at 11:04 AM on March 17, 2010


Since I'm one of the ones who brought up the value of art school and the idea of education as investment, i feel I should respond to some of the resulting discussion.
If you go back and read my last post I was specifically talking about people who want to be artists (which means mainly painters and sculptors in my pre post-modern brain) and BFA-type art school educations. Most of the responses to that were about the value of BA humanities education so I won't even address those.
My wife is an artist. She has a university BFA and later added a college diploma in Applied Art. Guess which one she considers vastly more valuable to her as a practicing artist? Guess which one she now considers a bad decision with a huge student loan she (we) still haven't payed off? That's just one opinion and possibly not a universal one, but I can't imagine a BFA actually making one a significantly better artist. I'm sure it has less practical, more indirect advantages, however, as does all education.
posted by rocket88 at 11:05 AM on March 17, 2010


By the way, a whole rabbit at Lexington Market is $10, feeds at least four people, and is healthier than factory-farmed chicken (around $6 for a whole one at the same market).
My personal tastes skew differently and I usually enjoy $1.80 luxury tofu instead.

I thought the subject's follow-up was much better written than the original article. I wonder if the author went into debt for journalism school?
posted by tantivy at 11:08 AM on March 17, 2010


Really, I'm just complaining, because I was PROMISED a pony. A literal pony.

When I was a kid, my parents probably qualified for food stamps, but never would have taken them. We got our supplemental proteins at church functions where the cost to us subsidized by our fellow congregants.

When my littlest sister turned 10, my parents' situation had improved to the point that they bought her a horse, an actual literal pony. It illustrates how far one family can come in a generation.

In my warehouse living days, some of my friends would bring over pizzas that they had 'bought' by stealing the credit card numbers off diner's cards at the high-end restaurant where they worked. In retrospect, I think it would have been better for our bodies, and their souls, if they had been able to qualify for food stamps, and didn't feel so ashamed of public assistance, that theft seemed preferable.

I remember how joyful I felt, watching the movie Sex, Drugs, & Democracy, when they got to the part in the film where they show all the basic requirements of life that are part of the Dutch constitution. Things like food, housing, and employment guaranteed as part of the fundamental rights of a nation. I wish we were as idealistic a country for such correct reasons.
posted by nomisxid at 11:08 AM on March 17, 2010


nomisxid, for all the rhetoric I hear during campaigns about creating more jobs, I can't imagine my fellow Americans electing someone who wanted to guarantee employment. The moral fear of giving away something that's unearned, and all that.
posted by tantivy at 11:12 AM on March 17, 2010


Pah. IF these people exist and aren't a made-up "lifestyle piece" subject, they are positively penny-ante grifters. $200 a month in food stamps? Chump change. They need to get real jobs on Wall Street and defraud their fellow citizens of MILLIONS of dollars! Now that's some mooching off the system I can really respect!

Of course, I'm being sarcastic here. But really, a few hundred bucks in food stamps here and there is a piss in the ocean compared to corporate welfare. I'd rather enable a few hipsters (if they exist) than have people who honest-to-Bob need their food stamps and aid do without and starve.

Most people don't want to live off of charity, they find it humiliating and degrading. A Time magazine survey found that 98% of Americans valued "not having to depend on others" very highly. So if people want food stamps, let 'em have 'em. Hell, give EVERY American with an income under say $50K a year a couple hundred bucks to spend exclusively on organic produce. That might cut down on a few million dollars a year in healthcare costs due to heart attacks, strokes, or diabetes. Get the picture? Maybe a little compassion is called for and a focusing of righteous wrath on those who do deserve it - i.e. those who would flush our country's middle class down the toilet.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:12 AM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


My big deal is not that artists are bad. But that not everyone can be an artist or work in the arts field. And that goes for just about any job that a five year old says they want to be, and all the feel good humanitarian jobs that people decide are exciting in high school and college.

Part of why they pay shit wages is that everyone likes the idea of being involved in a career you can be proud of during cocktail hour. The government pays above the private market when it comes to teachers wages, so it's not simply a matter of "the government/voters don't value education". You have to be bribed to be willing to be a punching bag and collect taxes for a living. Or any of the other big bad practical jobs. I know I was.

It's great that you want to be a social worker or a teacher or a political activist or an artist.

But the fact is that these markets are over saturated with candidates. We don't need to deny people the possibility for these jobs. Certainly *some* people can be artists. Or teachers. But we definitely need to create a system that does push people out of overly saturated markets and into budding markets. Whether that's encouraging people to leave San Francisco/New York/Portland and help other cities develop a stronger cultural market, or encouraging a marginally promising artist to instead take a corporate gig so that someone is buying season tickets and paintings and all the things that allow a market in the arts to thrive.

After all, someone needs to pay enough in taxes that we can afford these social safety nets. If everyone accepts a lower salary to have a job they feel is morally superior (and I've read many articles suggesting that the current generation is eschewing higher salaries for this very reason), we will need to drastically reduce our government spending. Forget expanding health care, we'll be lucky if we can provide medicare to the people who've spent their lives paying into it.

And this does feed into our safety nets. Safety nets are shown to extend the average stint of unemployment. While it helps people not starve, it also helps people stay in the mindset that they can just buckle down and wait out the recession. The truth is that most people can't. Jobs will bounce back. But overwhelmingly they'll be in different markets, either geographically or career wise. And we don't have the resources available to help people do this well. Career services for universities are fairly obscure (especially to social sciences and liberal arts students, where grad school is pushed heavier than it should be), and usually only provide help in the immediate geographic area. While we provide tax breaks to relocate for a job, we don't provide good mechanisms to front that money.

Much of poverty is temporary. Much of it is transitional. Getting yourself from school to career. Or career to career. Understanding where it comes from and addressing ways to minimize this is a good way to make sure that we're able to financially provide safety nets to the people who need it.
posted by politikitty at 11:13 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


shiu mai baby: "The great artistic contributions are, in general the ones that are born out of an all-consuming passion and drive that demands nothing less than a full commitment from the artist. Saying artists should be a-ok relegating their talent to a hobby is about as dismissive as you can get.)"

This really isn't true of poetry, by the way.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:15 AM on March 17, 2010


Seems like this could be solved, as most things can be solved, by the simple artifice of a no-holds-barred cage deathmatch. Bare-knuckle only.

Every year a vote is held to determine whether the welfare system should be adjusted for inflation, or not. Anyone who votes no or abstains is placed on a list. Anyone on that list has a 1% chance of being selected to fight in the Cage; welfare-recipients then bid for the right to fight the selected citizens.

If the welfare recipient wins, they get to seize the entire assets of their now-slain opponent, including any & all familial rights (ie., they are now legally the spouse/parent/child of the slain persons family).

If the welfare recipient loses, there's one less welfare recipient, and the money which would be spent on that recipient is given instead to the right-wing religious charity of the victors choice.

Win-win, and highly profitable PPV income to boot.
posted by aramaic at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Basically, anything you can buy that has identical nutritional value to the same product one shelf down at half the price. Simple as that.

The only purpose of that that I can see is to punish people for being poor and spend a lot of money enforcing it. I don't know how that materially or qualitatively improves anyone's lives in the short or long term.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:44 AM on March 17, 2010


Just to corroborate electroboy's point, the people in Hampden I know pay about 200-250/month in rent. The numbers I was citing earlier [80-160] were for different areas. While Hampden is on the verge of total gentrification, it does not have anywhere near the outrageous rents of Brooklyn.

Gerry's response was good. I heard he was pretty incensed by the article and its rather inaccurate portrayal of the situation here in Baltimore.

Oh and perhaps I am revealing too much, but it seems to me that the food stamp office just gives everyone the maximum by default. I had no idea a person could receive less that 200 dollars a month in food stamps. No one's defrauding anyone, I was completely honest at the food stamp office and I would assume everyone else I know who has been there was honest as well. The city of Baltimore just really likes to provide stamps I suppose.
posted by cloeburner at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This really isn't true of poetry, by the way.

IFDS, could you clarify? Either that or memail me, if you think it's too much of a derail.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:52 AM on March 17, 2010


rocket88 I understand about the stress of paying off student loans, and kudos to your wife for making a go of it. However, I'd dare say the subsequent applied arts diploma (why go on for schooling if it's useless? ) was built upon her strong BFA foundation.

Yes, I will come out and say it after seeing lots and lots of incoming freshman as a foundations teacher that it's well near impossible to become a very good (successful is a different thing, since that definition is usually tied directly to market value in the eyes of general society) artist without many years of intensive schooling. Whether that schooling happens in a university or in a different kind of well- structured environment over a period of years on nights and weekends, producing good work and learning how to focus and really push oneself past one's comfort zone in order to continue to develop as an artist isn't just some magic, innate talent. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but those outliers are small in number and more often they are not really self-taught at all, but claiming to be so helps their careers in the event they need "street cred".

Would that it weren't so, but 99% of the work that I respond to comes from highly trained artists (most with MFA degrees) regardless of whether that work is representational, performative, or conceptual. You'll get no argument from me about the cost of entry and the onerous loans needed to get this level of training, but that is an issue separate from the actual worth of the programs. I would have liked to have had the option to gain the tools needed to raise my work to the level I'd like it to be at without the structured MFA program that I gambled on financially to enter. (Only a small number of assistantships with tuition remission and stipends are awarded at my school, and only after the first year. Thankfully I was awarded one this year, so it could have been worse, but I will still leave with a 20k loan to pay off .)

In my experience it's pretty easy to tell the self-taught artists from the ones who have been through art school. A degree is still a prerequisite for the majority of arts related jobs and an MFA is required now in order to even adjunct at the university level. I'm not arguing in favor of the system in place in terms of its cost, but I do think that the system, in general, does a good job of teaching students solid foundation skills, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving skills.

Most importantly four to 8 years in art school helps to impart the intellectual skills needed to critically assess one's own work's strengths and weaknesses. Without being able to do that (and unfortunately in my experience the bulk of self-taught artists run up against this limitation) the work stagnates or remains at a level a lot more, well, amateurish than it need be.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:54 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This really isn't true of poetry, by the way.
IFDS, could you clarify?


This Is Just To Say

A full-time pediatrician has written
the poems
that were in
the Norton Anthology

and which
you probably
read
in school

Forgive him
they were his real passion
so rewarding
but so unprofitable


(Also off the top of my head, Frank O'Hara wrote most of his poetry while employed full-time at the Museum of Modern Art, first as a receptionist, then as a curator)
posted by Nothing... and like it at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


But you guys all changed my mind. I believe it's okay to take out loans for art school now. I think you're right and I'm wrong. I mean that's the point of you explaining so eloquently and patiently what's so wrong about what I said, right? Because otherwise, you aren't discussing, you're fighting with me.

No, because you've made the discussion about you and your personal issues, when it really should be about the reality of the situation.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:15 PM on March 17, 2010


My experience (yes, on Food Stamps and off) of shopping at both low-end grocers and Whole Foods-like stores is that, now that the price of food has been rising, the difference in cost between the two is pretty negligible, except for meat prices. Buying decent food is part of my health care and I can get a doctors note to prove it.

I am pretty jealous these "hipsters" live near where they can get quality food. I, in my disabled poverty, tend to spend more than I can afford just to get to the grocery store and back - I seem to be in a no-grocery store zone.
posted by _paegan_ at 12:27 PM on March 17, 2010


Wallace Stevens was a lawyer for an insurance company, and turned down a faculty position at Harvard because he didn't want to leave his (lucrative) job. His choice. Allen Ginsberg devoted his life to poetry, and cobbled together a living through art. Again, his choice. The beauty of America is that we're allowed to pursue our own happiness within the laws of this country, and the last I checked, receiving food stamps without fraud is legal. As are student loans, and "impractical" career choices.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:29 PM on March 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well sure, there have been plenty of poets who have held other jobs; same's true of lots and lots of artists. That hardly qualifies their art as a hobby, though, nor does it mean that there are no full-time poets out there.

My point is that, for many people (and often, for the most succesful; define that qualifier however you will), art is something that consumes their time to the point of needing to sacrifice many other things, whether we're talking about relationships, a steady job, the promise of wealth, their religion, and any other number of things. I personally believe that kind of passion should be encouraged, and I am perfectly happy that whatever few cents of my tax dollars will help underwrite that, even if that underwriting is in the form of public assistance.

Sniffing that artists should get "real jobs" and that can be artists in their own damned free time is sort of like telling a Native American they can still be an Indian down at the Y on Saturday nights.*



* NOT A DERAIL. It's from the Buffy Sainte-Marie song. No, not a perfect metaphor, but not entirely off-base, either. Work with me, here.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:29 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


GodDAMN it, it was a simile, not a metaphor. Does this render my BA in Lit null and void?
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:35 PM on March 17, 2010


No, because you've made the discussion about you and your personal issues, when it really should be about the reality of the situation.

Way to get that punch in there, krinkly fig, after the body's unresponsive. You wouldn't want to miss out on a fight, would you?
posted by anniecat at 12:36 PM on March 17, 2010


I am in art school right now. I am surrounded by art school people. I came to art school after a year at a non-art school because I couldn't stand the environment. There're a lot of people here that have the same reactions.

We all know the standard traits that make up an artist. They're stubborn, independent, curious, and most of them can't stop talking about what they're interested in to the point where everybody else wants them to shut up. I am all these things (which is why I enjoy that MetaFilter lets me write sheaths and sheaths whenever I feel I have something to say).

I further feel safe enough to say that most of these people have talent of the sort that could command money, either now or in the future. The musicians are superb, as are the photographers and the painters. The film people not so much, but that's because there's so much technical learning that goes into just getting the camera rolling that unless you like to "cheat" (and shoot things that don't require lighting/acting/postproduction) you need to spend at least four years to know the ropes.

The problem is that most artists, especially young ones, don't spend any time thinking about things like jobs or markets or the economy of their fields. That I think is the biggest problem facing art students, and one that my school does a lot to rectify, so that we have an astonishingly good rate of employment. Most people go into their fields and realize they're supposed to be thinking about jobs. Art students frequently are so worried about technique that they never stop and think about who they can sell their technique to. I'd argue that's not such a terrible thing when you're young.

But there are art markets, huge ones, and now that the Internet lets anybody say anything it's easier than ever to establish yourself. I'm here studying Communications, rather than any one art field, partly because of what grapefruitmoon said (I don't see the benefit in having to shout my ideas at every single person in every single class) but partly because I'm interested in learning how to connect working artists with people who are willing to pay them. I think it's a problem that the arts are so hazy and that it's hard to understand what money's going where, but it's a solvable one.

What I'm trying to say is that going to art school does not inherently mean you're throwing away hopes of making money. Quite the opposite in fact.

But even if that was the case, I suspect most people here would be here anyway. It's a mix of that stubbornness and that independence. There are very few areas of study that put your individual voice first and foremost on the agenda. When I studied computer multimedia last year, my thoughts on the subject, my interpretations, meant shit to the people teaching me and to my peers. Here it's the exact opposite: The people who feel out of place are the people who realize they don't have distinct thoughts and opinions about just about anything. And the people that do fit in here probably wouldn't many other places.

(I think that's a problem in and of itself, by the way. I think it's very very bad that businesspeople aren't expected to be creative, and that entire fields of knowledge have been standardized and turned grey and blah. That's how I feel about the maths and sciences. When I was younger and free to think and experiment with the subjects, it was the most exciting stuff in the world; then, I hit that point where it becomes less about ideas and more about formulas and mass problem solving and suddenly I veered sharply toward the arts, where I was allowed to think and experiment again.)

I furthermore find despicable the sorts of people who'd hate on art students. How do you dislike young people who are less scared of themselves and more willing to try wild and crazy things? How fucking dare you suggest it's wrong for people to look at their future as an exciting opportunity where let's face it nearly anything's possible as long as you're dumb enough to try them all and risk failing? It's sickening.

Which is also how I feel about hipster hate in general. Hipsters are usually not vicious people. They are silly, yes, and young and faddish and prone to doing things which I don't entirely understand, but those aren't bad things. Better than to never do stupid things for fear of looking stupid. The whole idea of nonconformity is to stop judging people who decide they want to be different than you; people who diss others for their personal choices are encouraging conformity and drabness.

So, fuck Salon for deciding how other people should be spending their money, and fuck you people here who think that being grown up and mature necessarily means also being boring and predictable and unfun. I just don't see the point.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:46 PM on March 17, 2010 [14 favorites]


So, fuck Salon for deciding how other people should be spending their money, and fuck you people here who think that being grown up and mature necessarily means also being boring and predictable and unfun. I just don't see the point.

So much for respecting people's personal choices.
posted by bunnycup at 12:54 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the key word in that coda, bunnycup, is "necessarily." I don't want to speak for Rory, but I read the fuck you as being directed at those who think one must be "boring and predictable and unfun" in order to be "grown up and mature."

Rory, if I'm misreading, feel free to correct me.
posted by shiu mai baby at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2010


How fucking dare you suggest it's wrong for people to look at their future as an exciting opportunity where let's face it nearly anything's possible as long as you're dumb enough to try them all and risk failing?

Sigh. How fucking dare anybody indeed.

fuck you people here who think that being grown up and mature necessarily means also being boring and predictable and unfun.

You forgot to put in how they're old. So so so old. Raggedy ass old. Decrepit and old. Not young. Old.
posted by anniecat at 1:01 PM on March 17, 2010


You forgot to put in how they're old. So so so old. Raggedy ass old. Decrepit and old. Not young. Old.

I don't know what old people you know, but they're nowhere near as fun as the old people I know. There's nothing better than somebody who's spent decades and decades learning things and growing wise and knowing shit.

The old people who've realized they spent 50 years doing nothing with their lives and turned bitter, fine, those I'll do without, but I fail to see where I suggested anything bad about being old.

Rory, if I'm misreading, feel free to correct me.

Nope! That's it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:04 PM on March 17, 2010


The old people who've realized they spent 50 years doing nothing with their lives and turned bitter, fine, those I'll do without, but I fail to see where I suggested anything bad about being old.

So you're for the death panels?
posted by anniecat at 1:08 PM on March 17, 2010


I'm not getting what your hangup on age is, anniecat. I don't really see the relevance.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:09 PM on March 17, 2010


You didn't suggest anything, Rory. There's just been a chorus upthread of "We're young, we're awesome" and "you're bitter and old" so I was kidding with you.
posted by anniecat at 1:10 PM on March 17, 2010


That's how I feel about the maths and sciences. When I was younger and free to think and experiment with the subjects, it was the most exciting stuff in the world; then, I hit that point where it becomes less about ideas and more about formulas and mass problem solving and suddenly I veered sharply toward the arts, where I was allowed to think and experiment again.

Being a successful scientist requires gobs of creativity. Learning the "formulas and mass problems" is the functional equivalent of a musician learning how to play their instrument, or the writer learning English grammar.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:11 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I read the fuck you as being directed at those who think one must be "boring and predictable and unfun" in order to be "grown up and mature."

Who are those people? He said 'you people here who think....'.
posted by bunnycup at 1:14 PM on March 17, 2010


Yeah, I just did a CRTL+F through the thread for "old" and "young," and I'd already read the whole thing, and I'm still not seeing the "fuck you young people" or the "fuck old people."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:17 PM on March 17, 2010


Being a successful scientist requires gobs of creativity. Learning the "formulas and mass problems" is the functional equivalent of a musician learning how to play their instrument, or the writer learning English grammar.

I know. And I feel like one day I'll find an opportunity to jump back into that field and I'll love it. But I like that with writing you can start when you only know ten words and no punctuation, and you're encouraged to write even with that limited knowledge. I wish there was a similar learn/experiment dynamic in science.

Who are those people? He said 'you people here who think....'.

'you people here who think' 'one must be "boring and predictable and unfun" in order to be "grown up and mature."' Exactly.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:19 PM on March 17, 2010


My point is that, for many people (and often, for the most succesful; define that qualifier however you will), art is something that consumes their time to the point of needing to sacrifice many other things, whether we're talking about relationships, a steady job, the promise of wealth, their religion, and any other number of things. I personally believe that kind of passion should be encouraged, and I am perfectly happy that whatever few cents of my tax dollars will help underwrite that, even if that underwriting is in the form of public assistance.

This is completely and totally unethical. I feel uncomfortable the extent our society perpetuates alcoholism and mental illness and excessive sacrifice as some sort of badge one needs to be a successful artist. That we should promote the inability to form relationships as a qualifier for any career is to me far worse than suggesting they possibly shouldn't have food stamps.

"It's okay you're struggling, you're supposed to! It's okay you're in pain, it's supposed to hurt. It's okay you're ignoring your well being. In a hundred years maybe someone will acknowledge your self worth"

No. Sorry. I have no problem subsidizing art with tax dollars and philanthropy and personal consumption. But past that point, people need to start acting in their self interest. Welfare and food stamps are temporary aids for people in need, they are not designed to be sneaky funding for the arts. The idea that it should be is what gets art students such a bad rap.

That means succeeding in the world of art, or succeeding somewhere else. If your passion virtually guarantees that you will be stuck at the bottom of the barrel financially where you need tax dollars to survive beyond a transitory period, you need to realize that your comparative advantage might be in something else.
posted by politikitty at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


But we definitely need to create a system that does push people out of overly saturated markets and into budding markets.

First, let's start with the lawyers. I mean, what's worse - someone who graduates from college and wants to be a teacher, or someone who graduates from college and then immediately launches into law school, with its $150K debt, and no job prospects? At least the teacher wanna-be has a smaller debt load.

The thing is, there are artists and creative people in every city, and most of them, with their degrees in impractical things like studio art or English are employed doing something. I remember reading a few years ago about a group of artists who moved to a small town in Iowa because they could live so inexpensively there, so it's happening. The creative types here in SF don't seem to be a drain - in fact, I just got back from going to the hipster donut place, which opened within the last year, and on the way passed the brand-new sandwich shop on the corner (opened within the last month), and both of those exist in part because of the hipster demographic of the neighborhood. I mean, maybe the hipster-looking people here are all Google drones or something and have plenty have cash to spare, but all the ones I used to work with at Whole Foods were working retail, in school, in two bands, and volunteering at the after-school program at the neighborhood elementary school. They didn't have a ton of money but they had time and energy and imagination. What little disposable income they had went to local businesses for things to eat and drink.

It's not like there are a million high-salary jobs out there that folks like this are turning down in favor of working three part-time jobs. That's just not reality. The people who thought they were doing the right thing five years ago by going to law school or business school (marketable skills!) are now completely screwed - screwed worse, in fact, than the kid fresh out of school with an English degree. But five years ago they didn't know that. They figured that they'd go to law school and get the Big Law job to pay down some of their debt and then go work for The Good Guys. But that hasn't worked out so well.
posted by rtha at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2010


Right Rory, who are they exactly? Because I've read and participated in this whole thread and I haven't seen one person who suggested that. Therefore, I assume you are using something else as a stand in. For example, I feel you are assuming that those who think young kids would be better advised to seek out more "responsible" education and career, must equate responsibility with being boring. I'm not sure, I can't tell what you mean, because you are suggesting there's a big chorus of people saying something I don't recall anyone saying.

Now by all means, if you want to show me who you are talking about I'd love to see it. But right now, it feels like you are casting the same kinds of aspersions on "responsible" job workers that you don't want cast on hipsters - i.e. judging their lifestyle choices and personality based on the job they hold or don't. Having grown up in counterculture, if there's one thing I am sensitive to it's the subtle message sometimes put out that everyone should respect individuality by being just like each other. Put differently, the sense that we should respect the hispters' individuality and those who don't choose to be hipsters are all automatons.

(I want to be clear, I'm not trying to continue the fight about what kinds of careers are allowed or not. That's not my point - I know many people with arts degrees who are doing just great, and so on and so forth. I'm expressing the above very poorly, but I just can't find a better way to put it, because I am attempting to sound un-accusatory, since I don't yet know what Rory meant.)
posted by bunnycup at 1:28 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


So you're for the death panels?

I'm beginning to see their charm...
posted by mazola at 1:36 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I just did a CRTL+F through the thread for "old" and "young," and I'd already read the whole thing, and I'm still not seeing the "fuck you young people" or the "fuck old people."

Since you're so intent on perpetuating this, I'll bite:

Sorry if me and the people in this article are younger, hipper, better cooks, and having more fun than you despite the meager paychecks we work hard for.
posted by bradbane at 4:02 PM on March 16 [14 favorites +] [!]


I guess that could technically be read as an apology to a non-native English speaker.

I mean, if you're a baby boomer hating on the youngins in this situation, take a good hard look at the causes.
(Lutoslawski)

Can somebody please reassure me that not all old people are bitter against the young? "Look at those stupid kids, following their passion! Doing what you love makes you a loser and a bad American who steals my tax dollars and wastes them on wild salmon!"
posted by pecknpah at 4:32 PM on March 16 [4 favorites +] [!]

posted by anniecat at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2010


I have an undergraduate degree in creative writing (and would have gone into an MFA, if I hadn't needed money to support my family) with a minor in philosophy.

Yet I've been working for an IT company for nearly 10 years, with the last 6 or so of those years spent working as a developer.

So college degrees in the arts don't really limit your career possibilities that much, in my experience, and it seems really unfair to prejudge the wisdom of anyone's education or career choices when they're just getting started in adult life.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2010


I further feel safe enough to say that most of these people have talent of the sort that could command money, either now or in the future. The musicians are superb, as are the photographers and the painters.

I think you and your like-minded classmates are going to get hit hard with a brick wall about this: there are far more superb musicians, photographers, and painters than the market can support in those jobs with anything more than subsistence wages. Like rtha points out, they're working various jobs to support themselves while they pursue their art.

I was always very career-oriented and prepared myself for a specific set of jobs. I can imagine that a lot of artists come out of school without any similar plan or set of career skills that would allow them to make some headway in the workplace, leaving them much more vulnerable to, perhaps, ending up on foodstamps (which if they are eligible for, they should avail themselves of, yes, even if they're capable of cooking themselves health, tasty meals with those food stamps!).

I feel uncomfortable the extent our society perpetuates alcoholism and mental illness and excessive sacrifice as some sort of badge one needs to be a successful artist. That we should promote the inability to form relationships as a qualifier for any career is to me far worse than suggesting they possibly shouldn't have food stamps.

It seems that in the art world, the cultural pressure to sacrifice everything, including a stable life, personal relationships, and a steady means of financial support (ie, a day job) is similar to what graduate students in the humanities and the sciences feel when it comes to staying in academia and heading down the tenure track.

Where I depart from my more right-wing friends is that I believe that anyone willing to work a basic, steady full-time job or a couple of part time jobs, even if you're just a store clerk, should still have health coverage, a decent wage, and dignity in the workplace, because that allows them to pursue their art or do whatever else they have going on in their life.
posted by deanc at 1:42 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


This entire conversation is making my blood boil.

You know, if we'd spent this much fucking time as a country analyzing whether or not the fucking millionaires we BAILED OUT WITH OUR FUCKING TAXES deserved the fucking money we threw at them, maybe we'd get somewhere.

There is something contemptible and obscene in how people in this thread are actually, seriously attempting to justify their outright "I got mine, fuck you" economic bigotry while directing it against the people who, seriously, least deserve it in this country.

You know who deserves your contempt? Your fucking representatives, who are shoveling your tax money into the gaping, reeking maws of the most brutal, selfish industrial capitalists the world has ever seen just as fast as they can. The largest companies in the world, run by the richest people the world has ever known, are getting most of our money, either voluntarily or by effective government subsidy, and shoveling us dog shit in return.

And here we are, all righteously pissed about whether someone with an arts degree is being "productive" in taking advantage of a few hundred bucks a month. It's not even laughable. It's obscene, how bread-and-circuses, bait-and-switch it is. It's like we've all exercised some sort of collective delusion that only the targets we can get to are the ones worth focusing on.

I have a straight-faced suggestion: maybe it really is fucking time for the pitchforks. Because it's starting to seem like nothing but an armed revolution on the part of the "middle class" against the oligarchs in this society will get anyone's attention. I don't know about you, but I would derive a singular satisfaction from killing with my bare hands any one of those "captains of industry" who have singlehandedly fucked us all over and gotten paid for it, and walk away whistling.

If that makes me a sociopath, so fucking be it. I'm beyond rationality at this point. There is something so fundamentally broken about this conversation, this entire premise that Americans are valuable only as they are evaluated by the soulless capitalist fuckjob that passes for our culture, that I can't even encompass how to change it except by force majeure.

And now my blood pressure is up 20 points. Great. I've succeeded in making myself unhealthy because of something someone wrote on the Internet. It's the definition of futile, and it perfectly encapsulates probably this entire conversation, everyone in it, and this site's privileged spot in the world.

While we're arguing about this, people are having to make decisions between eating and living on the street. Probably in our own towns. And, apparently, we begrudge them even those choices.

BRAVO FOR US, HUZZAH
posted by scrump at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2010 [38 favorites]


So I guess now we've proven that artists know as much about scientists as scientists know about artists.
posted by electroboy at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


anniecat, this comment:

The most important point I am making in anything I'm saying that I think you all really need to fully absorb and meditate on, is this:

I am NOT OLD goddammit.


...made me laugh very hard. And as someone who is actually older than you, thanks for that. :D
posted by zarq at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2010


I think the real issue here is that some strawman somewhere is maybe equating young art-school hipsters with bad artists. This is a problem, because everybody hates bad artists. They're like parasitic mimes (I know, I know: repetitious). I think everybody here can agree that bad artists should be encouraged to pursue degrees in something more befitting their actual potential to fuel the economic machine, such as Bachelors of British Thermal Units. It's not quite a fair comparison, though, because clearly not every young art-school hipster is without talent. Some miniscule percentage of graduates must move on to utilize the skills learned in art school to influence human events. After all - how would capitalism survive without the advertising industry, which is practically built from the shattered dreams of former art school graduates. Also - you know who else was an art school graduate?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2010


And now my blood pressure is up 20 points. Great. I've succeeded in making myself unhealthy because of something someone wrote on the Internet.

I, too, hate it when people are wrong on the Internet. It's hard to do anything else =)

I don't know about you, but I would derive a singular satisfaction from killing with my bare hands any one of those "captains of industry" who have singlehandedly fucked us all over and gotten paid for it, and walk away whistling.

Why kill them when you can steal what they stole from taxpayers and leave them with a barrel to wear? You could be like a modern day Robin Hood, but cooler and wear armour and ride a motorcycle. Or a ten speed at first, but then we upgrade you to a motorcycle after we've stolen all their money.
posted by anniecat at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2010


maybe it really is fucking time for the pitchforks. Because it's starting to seem like nothing but an armed revolution on the part of the "middle class" against the oligarchs in this society will get anyone's attention.

This is why you give out food stamps people.
posted by GuyZero at 1:55 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is a problem, because everybody hates bad artists.

I have to disagree. I much prefer bad artists to bad doctors, bad engineers, and bad pilots.
posted by rocket88 at 1:58 PM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Post about possible hipsters possibly defrauding taxpayers via the food stamp program: 671 comments and climbing

Post about Lehman Bros defrauding investors and taxpayers: 31 comments

Feelings of discouragement and hopelessness: priceless.
posted by rtha at 2:06 PM on March 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


I much prefer bad artists to bad doctors, bad engineers, and bad pilots.

I dunno.

Bad doctors make me wish I had a good doctor.

Bad artists make me wish I was dead.
posted by GuyZero at 2:10 PM on March 17, 2010


I much prefer bad artists to bad doctors, bad engineers, and bad pilots.

A bad pilot can only crash the plane once, Gigli will be with us forever.
posted by nomisxid at 2:16 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, I have no qualms starting with lawyers. Those poor saps are SCREWED, and whenever I hear someone talk about riding out this recession in law school, I have to bit my tongue to stop myself from giving them a stern talking to about how irresponsible they are.

I only barely avoided that trap when graduating in 2002 when the market was still pretty piss-poor from the dot-com bust. I'm still upset at the fact that my university pushes law school and graduate school as a more likely career step than just about anything else, when anything else makes up a bulk of the market. That we push for liberal arts majors to go get their teaching certificate online and join the myriad of people who went to school specifically to become a teacher, when so few jobs are there, is equally loathsome.

Sure, you can do just about anything with a liberal arts degree. I eventually found out that you can go into accounting fairly easily. But we do very little in teaching people how to find the myriad of jobs that do not say "Entry Level Economics".

Also, I'd like to raise my hand and say that I also like to frequent small businesses, despite making a decent living. I know quite a few people who make decent money and definitely shut up around those they know don't. It's socially acceptable to talk about how you scrape by with three jobs. It's empowering, it's cathartic, it's whatever.

The only time I've ever felt comfortable discussing my financial situation at length with my peers is while I was unemployed and struggling. "I can't go out, I've got literally fifteen bucks to my name till x date" While I'm so incredibly stoked that I am getting a decent paycheck now, it's also socially very uncomfortable to talk about. Especially in this recession. Instead I just quietly throw in an extra twenty to cover the bill, or pick up a round or two, and sock away some in savings in case the recession doubles back and hits me again.
posted by politikitty at 2:19 PM on March 17, 2010


I eventually found out that you can go into accounting fairly easily.

I always understood that there was age bias in the accounting field, that the bigger firms that pay well like to hire people who are in their early 20s. Of course, I only mean this is only for the top four and that there are lots of other opportunities in accounting.
posted by anniecat at 2:24 PM on March 17, 2010


Nope, still not seeing the "fuck you for being old" or "fuck you for being young." Everybody's just defensively saying "fuck you IF you think x, y, z" which nobody demonstrably does. It's very stupid. And give me a break "I'm intent on perpetuating this," anniecat. I'm trying to convince you you're barking up an invisble tree here. In fact, you even mention how the offensive part was left out, so you had to imagine it for us.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:25 PM on March 17, 2010


I much prefer bad artists to bad doctors, bad engineers, and bad pilots.

Then you, sir, are a communist. Deregulate everything and let God sort them out, I say. Have you no patriotism? One should always be willing to die for their Corporation. Sing along: My Comp'ny tis of thee, sweet Land O' Lakes Creamery, to thee I spend... Land that my fathers bought, land for our slaves, they fought, from every moldy cot, let freedom lend. Wait - what were we talking about, again? Oh, yeah - bad artists. Hate 'em. No meat on 'em. Too stringy. Give me a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry bad doctor with coconut milk and lemongrass, bad engineer sautéed in hot chili sauce and sweet clementine juice, and bad pilot Le Creuset any day, comrade. Because America is Ouroboros. We eat our young, forgetting that they are us, and then we complain of indigestion when choking on our own tails. *cack! cack!* Or at least I do. You eat one baby and suddenly you're a cannibal. Please read this in Morgan Freeman's voice, so that it appears to mean something. Now, where was I? Oh, yes - I'll have whatever drugs he's having. *points to self*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:28 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to convince you you're barking up an invisble tree here. In fact, you even mention how the offensive part was left out, so you had to imagine it for us.

I'm happy if you're happy, Ambrosia Voyeur.
posted by anniecat at 2:29 PM on March 17, 2010


"HIPSTERS ON FOOD STAMPS"
METAFILTER GALLERY, PORTLAND, OREGON
TWO STARS

As a gallery well used to offering a space for artists who take their inspiration from elsewhere – indeed, one might say that it's a core tenet of the the gallery's ethos – Metafilter prides itself in a free-flowing programming style which allows its artists to cover everything from that which takes as its cue the headlines of the day, which many gallery-goers refer to (sometimes derisively) as "Newsfilter", to the learned (it is not unknown for there to be exhibits which delve into biblical scholarship), and the plain obscure (one recent exhibit focused on the 60-year-old case of an unidentified possible-murder victim in Adelaide, Australia).

They key to Metafilter's shows, though, is its interactive component; through an ingenious communication system, the gallery encourages participation from its visitors. For the first month of each exhibition's run, visitors are encouraged to engage, through the medium of text, with the show itself (all shows are archived, as are all contributions by visitors who have paid a $5 fee to become a "member", any one of whom may chose to stage an exhibition in the gallery, on a subject of their own choosing). This results in a kind of secondary exhibition – a para-show, if you will – which serves both as a critique of, and an addendum to, the original work under discussion; in such a way, the aforementioned "members" hope to blur the traditional boundaries between creator and observer, and in so doing, offer up a new praxis, one more in keeping with the current vogue towards participatory content, rather than the outmoded top-down artistic structure which has prevailed for much of western culture, both contemporary and ancient.

Occasionally, this mode of operation results in the genration of genuinely original works – witness both the Kaycee Nicole show (2001), as well as the Holden Karnofsky/GiveWell exhibition (2007-8), both of which went on to travel far beyond the usual boundaries of artist vs. commentariat, becoming themselves works in which the corpus of thought and debate became the work itself.

The current show, Hipsters On Food Stamps, by porn in the woods – a moniker which evokes a nostalgic glow for an era, pre-internet, in which pornography was not a free (and freely available) commodity, but something that was both slightly seedy and tied to the liminal spaces of the urban landscape – is focused on the privations of well-educated urban 20- and 30-something scratching out an existence in Baltimore, with the aid of what Americans call "food stamps". (For readers in Britain, these are what are provided to asylum seekers who are forbidden from working and do not qualify for traditional state benefits such as unemployment benefit, the recipients of which are as free to spend it on smack as they are on sun-dried tomatoes, Maldon sea salt and foie gras.)

Almost uniquely in the archive of Metafilter exhibitions which mention Baltimore – not to mention those which concern both Baltimore and educated urban 20- and 30-somethings – there is no mention of popular HBO show The Wire; perhaps, going by the contributions of some members, there was simply too much of what the gallery's owners refer to as GRAR! for there to be space to discuss it.

As one of the biggest and most popular Metafilter exhibitions of late – currently it clocks in with some 670 additional contributions from members; it's worth noting that this show will take a good few hours to navigate properly – it's understandable that it lacks something of the tightly-framed and focused aesthetic which characterises the gallery's best exhibitions. However, even by the standards of this particular gallery, it's a particularly diffuse and chaotic. Despite heartfelt exhibits from some members (including deeply personal works which tug at the heartstrings without becoming sentimental or overbearing; no mean feat), there is a general tendency to misunderstand and wilfully mischaracterise the original work in the creation of the para-work – often due to a sense of misplaced injustice about the nature of the food stamp programme itself; often thanks to a particularly virulent strain of what some members call the "fuck you, I got mine!" tendency (which can, incidentally, often be viewed upon perusal of the many Metafilter exhibitions concerned with current attempts at health care reform in the US). Curiously absent from this exhibition – with the exception of a few committed contributors – is a discussion of the relatively insignificant financial cost, to the average taxpayer, of food stamps when placed against the phenomenal tax breaks, tax avoidance and outright donations given to the American financial services industry (a phenomenon which, let it be noted, is not unknown in the UK either).

Much of the rancour on display concerns the practice of art itself, and whether it is a valid contribution to society at large, and if so, how much penance – not to mention actual financial debt – one ought to pay for desiring to contribute such art. Indeed, at points, the exhibition becomes so bogged down in such mud that one wonders if there isn't an alternative agenda at work: the incessant desire to judge all education as an investment, rather than an end in itself, seems to miss the point of education itself. And although there is much to be said for education which pays off in monetary terms, to deride education qua education seems to be a far more dangerous thing than to allow students who seek it for exactly those reasons to incur personal debt and, occasionally, require state assistance in the form of food stamps.

For the past decade, Metafilter has been a gallery which has, consistently and frequently, scaled artistic heights, and has excelled in bringing to light everything from compilations of particularly entertaining YouTube videos to ancient Chinese art, whilst somehow managing to cover everything in between (no surprise, perhaps, given that there are now some 90,000 exhibitions archived). With Hipsters On Food Stamps, however, the gallery has sadly failed to live up to its stellar reputation; bar a few excellent contributions to this bloated, unwieldy, and rancorous group show, this one is best avoided.

Hipsters On Food Stamps is at the Metafilter Gallery, Portland, OR from Mar 16-Apr 15. Opening hours are Mon-Sun, 24hrs; see http://www.metafilter.com/90142/Hipsters-on-food-stamps
posted by Len at 2:34 PM on March 17, 2010 [92 favorites]


I think you and your like-minded classmates are going to get hit hard with a brick wall about this: there are far more superb musicians, photographers, and painters than the market can support in those jobs with anything more than subsistence wages. Like rtha points out, they're working various jobs to support themselves while they pursue their art.

That's what I spend a lot of time thinking of, and planning for. I'd really like to believe that the market is flexible enough to let a larger pool of artists make money than do right now, so long as the right artists are introduced to the right crowds. I think that the more the market's allowed to fragment, the more opportunity there will be for people with unique voices and unique selling plans. I mean, there're a lot of superb artists, but not many of them take any time at all to really craft out an interesting niche for themselves, and the ones that do tend to perform astonishingly well.

But perhaps it's not the case, and such a system couldn't perpetuate itself to the point where all the artists out there right now will be able to continue doing all the things they're doing. In that case, I'll just continue working with the small circle of people I happen to enjoy and promote them at the expense of others with worse representation. Which isn't the conclusion I'd like to come to, but I realize I don't have an enormous say in that myself.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:38 PM on March 17, 2010


Len: favorited and flagged as fantastic. I have to question the value of the comment, however, as I couldn't discern any product placement within the text. You didn't happen to type it on a gem-encrusted keyboard, did you?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:42 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


pla wrote: "[Society] barely has an obligation to keep you alive - And even then, only because we optimistically (or in the case of TFA, naively) hope you will eventually become productive again."

Jesus Christ. This right here, this obsession with "productivity," is what is wrong with libertarianism. Human beings are only worth keeping around if they're "productive." It's a worldview completely devoid of compassion or even basic human decency.

My grandmother is more than eighty years old. Most days she spends reading books in the nursing home. She's almost deaf and she can barely walk. She will never significantly contribute to the economy again. I assume under pla's ideal society she'd be shot so she'd stop draining resources.
posted by JDHarper at 2:43 PM on March 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


You know, I'm all ears as to what people's careers should be. Accountants? Bankers? Sales reps? Truck drivers? Middle managers? Health care workers would probably be good, but the bottlenecks there seem to be more institutional. Scientists? Institutional bottlenecks again, no? If anybody still cares at this point in the thread, I'll probably get that classic call to "make shit in this country" which stirs the part of the soul that's all about inchoate disconnection from the means of production, but then, what? A giant piece of fuckin' iron machinery in the backyard of every American? Love to see a marginally coherent answer here because I haven't anywhere else. Mostly it's just useless handwaving.
posted by furiousthought at 2:53 PM on March 17, 2010


it is not unknown for there to be exhibits which delve into biblical scholarship

heh
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 PM on March 17, 2010


A giant piece of fuckin' iron machinery in the backyard of every American?

Giant fucking iron flag machines, obviously. To shred and process expired credit cards and weave them into American flags. Amen.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:57 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Len, not only have I favorited your comment and flagged it as fantastic, I have espousenated you (the spouse thread could arguably be added to a Best Of Metafilter Performance Art retrospective, I believe).
posted by rtha at 2:59 PM on March 17, 2010


Thank god for my food stamps, I nearly starved to death slogging through all these comments.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:02 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Way to get that punch in there, krinkly fig, after the body's unresponsive.

For an "unresponsive" body, you're sure responding a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:04 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"[Society] barely has an obligation to keep you alive - And even then, only because we optimistically (or in the case of TFA, naively) hope you will eventually become productive again."

Then what the hell is the point of society? If it doesn't exist to keep each other alive, or only deigns to keep members alive for some hope of a quantifiable benefit - then why bother? We are a part of society because we are the better for it - it supports us when we can't support ourselves, it allows the whole to be better than the sum of its parts. When we become coins to be sorted and given value, then where is the society?

There's a dangerous slide towards all sorts of incomprehensible evil when we begin to try to tally the value of a person's existence. Is the dreamer less valuable than the rationalist? Is the artist less valuable than the engineer? Are the old worth less than the young? Do we sort people by ability and usefulness? Where does it stop? When is one human life worth less than another? The last 100 years of human history should at the very least give one pause about making comments like the one I quoted above. We all know what happens when we sort and evaluate our neighbors and due to some arbitrary measure find them wanting. I'm sad to see that some people haven't learned this lesson.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


The thing about art is that it is a huge contribution to society, but not in ways that are easily quantifiable.

Actually, yes, it is. Quantifiable. Do you like wearing clothes, rather than a paper bag? Thank a fashion designer. Do you have aesthetic preferences for your furniture, or do you just sit on hunks of wood? Thank a designer. Do you have any "art" of any kind on your walls, prints, posters, ANYTHING? Thank an artist. Do you watch movies? Read books? Thank film school grads and writers. Do you enjoy living in a building with some uniqueness and not just a concrete block? Thank architects.

Do you participate in culture of any kind? Yes? THANK ARTISTS.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


Bring out yer dead!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:06 PM on March 17, 2010


I'm not dead yet! I don't want to go on the cart! I FEEL HAPPYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:08 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


*whack!*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:08 PM on March 17, 2010


*dies*
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:09 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


IRFH: You didn't happen to type it on a gem-encrusted keyboard, did you?

Indeed I did. And it's sat next to it is this.
posted by Len at 3:10 PM on March 17, 2010


Do you enjoy living in a building with some uniqueness and not just a concrete block? Thank architects.

To be fair, if you are living in a building that is just a concrete block you can thank architects for that, too.
posted by deanc at 3:13 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hear, hear.
posted by brundlefly at 3:13 PM on March 17, 2010


On non-preview:

rtha – SPOUSED!
posted by Len at 3:13 PM on March 17, 2010


Actually, yes, it is. Quantifiable. Do you like wearing clothes, rather than a paper bag? Thank a fashion designer. Do you have aesthetic preferences for your furniture, or do you just sit on hunks of wood? Thank a designer. Do you have any "art" of any kind on your walls, prints, posters, ANYTHING? Thank an artist. Do you watch movies? Read books? Thank film school grads and writers. Do you enjoy living in a building with some uniqueness and not just a concrete block? Thank architects.

I'm adding these categories to my "PEOPLE WHO HAVE MUCH TO ANSWER FOR!* list. :)
posted by zarq at 3:16 PM on March 17, 2010


Jesus people you're getting off track.

Hipsters.


HIPSTERS !! ! !



!
posted by mazola at 3:20 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm adding these categories to my "PEOPLE WHO HAVE MUCH TO ANSWER FOR!* list. :)

Mistakes have been made, it's true. Great power, great responsibility, etc.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:32 PM on March 17, 2010


More sighing. I sigh so I won't become bitter.

My great epiphany in the last 10 years is that our country is very good at hating our own countrymen. God Bless America...and all that...but when I see politicians proudly wearing their flag lapel pins or ordinary citizens waving their flags it causes me to ask: What exactly about America do you love so much? Is it the landscape? The history? The government? It sure as shit isn't the people. We are the richest nation on Earth. We rule ourselves. It is within our means to make sure everybody has access to health care and a roof over their heads and good food and education. But we are so worried about someone, somewhere cheating, that we won't provide universal health care. Or college educations for all our young people. Or affordable child care. Or special programs for the elderly. Or music programs for elementary school kids. Or or or....

How about we halve the current defense budget and put a part of that money towards public art? Not only would we be putting some of those art students to work, but this would spruce up our cities and give old farts like me something to puzzle over. What the heck is that shiny blob supposed to be anyway?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:37 PM on March 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Let me risk looking foolish and try to tie this "artists are worth something" thread in with the "hipsters buy healthy food" thing.

At the heart of art is this ability we humans have to synthesize data and tie things together. The most exciting moment in any art is that feeling of discovering a connection you didn't know existed.

Now, that isn't just something art does. Science does it too. (I wish science let on that it did when I was younger, because honestly public school science makes it sound tragically boring.) Engineering does it. I was introduced to this idea not through art but through sites like Lifehacker, which, at the start, were less about geeking out your computer and more about finding clever, elegant solutions to difficult life problems.

That's how I define art. Whether you're writing about an existing entity to tie something emotional into a sentence (like in a simile), or you're taking the philosophies of surrealist painters and using them to create similar moods in film, or you're [tech]ing the [tech]y [tech] of the [tech] in order to [tech] a new [tech], that's art to me. It's figuring out rules and learning to manipulate them to achieve what you want. And inherent in every concept of art that's ever been created are a series of these beliefs and thoughts that define its practitioners' work. (Realizing that made me like art philosophy and stop denouncing it as bullshit; hopefully that thought helps somebody else too.)

This food stamp thing is a particularly good demonstration of this synthesis in action. A lot of people thought food stamps only gave you enough money to purchase gruel. You couldn't afford this "luxury" health food. Well, turns out a hundred fifty dollars gives you enough to live off Whole Foods. If you didn't know that before and you've learned it now, then this discovery of theirs (or of whoever originally found this out) has taught you something. If that discovery affects people who were buying gruel, then it might make them healthier and happier without costing them any extra money.

There's a certain resistance to these sorts of discoveries, a friction of having done things differently before and being comfortable doing them, regardless of if that's good practice. You see this again in computers, in art, in politics, in lifestyles. And I dislike that resistance, particularly when it goes from rational objection to ugly slandering of people.

That's why I get so frustrated at this "broke art student" meme. I hate that whenever I mention my school's name it leads certain people to bias and bitterness. Particularly because that sort of discovery that art school embodies is the most valuable thing in the world to me; I don't like to think about the sorts of people that oppose it for no reason other than blunt opposition.

But when I read this story my reaction was to think it was damned clever of those people to be spending their money the way they are. It's not a gyp just because they're working better within a system, just as it wasn't a gyp when Duchamp submitted his Fountain to the art commission. That manipulation of a system and changing borders is what makes art.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:40 PM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


"[Society] barely has an obligation to keep you alive - And even then, only because we optimistically (or in the case of TFA, naively) hope you will eventually become productive again."

Y'know. I'm going to defend this.

We have limited resources. We have state governments that are crashing into debt and a federal government that is held up by Chinese bond holders. California cannot afford to properly educate their children anymore.

This seems to me a pretty basic obligation of our government, especially considering our economic strength is in the knowledge based sector. And I would much rather the cuts to art programs than education. Sure, I have plenty of other cuts I would place above both. But the point is scarcity is real, and you do have to make value decisions. We do so every single day as consumers and voters and opinion holders. You're doing it right now by convincing me that art has an intangible value that The Man just doesn't get.

When times are tight, are you going to be cutting your grocery budget or your entertainment budget? Are you going to make sure you keep your season tickets to the opera, while going to a cut-rate attorney to defend your custody arrangement? Get rid of your science teachers to guarantee your art teacher?

We need a healthy functioning economy in order to fund luxuries in life. And yes, without those luxuries, life would be dull and I'd hate it. But the fact that people are willing to take high paying jobs that afford them the ability to pay high taxes and donate to the arts and buy that expensive painting that might be a painter's only income for the year is INTEGRAL for this plan to work. We need willing consumers with disposable income. Luckily, these people exist.

We are able to have a government that provides more than just basic military protection because we have a tax base that can afford an income tax higher than 6%. If we convince all these people they should be artists and take indie cred and spiritual fulfillment as part of their paycheck, we lose the ability to support the art scene we already have.

The typical life cycle is one of consumption-savings-consumption. If we have a large amount of people who never make it to the savings component, we can't help people while they are in the consumption component. And we hope that people save enough to get through that second consumption component, but before social security poverty among the elderly was so rampant we decided to institutionalize that process.
posted by politikitty at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Len, I love you.
posted by shmegegge at 3:46 PM on March 17, 2010


Mistakes have been made, it's true. Great power, great responsibility, etc.

Thanks for the reminder...

*Adds "Hack Spiderman Script Writer" to THE LIST*
posted by zarq at 3:46 PM on March 17, 2010


For an "unresponsive" body, you're sure responding a lot.

I'm just protecting the corpse as a ghost.

But, oh hey, look at you. Good for you for getting the thread back to discussing food stamps by, um, getting that zinger in there? Nice. That little comment you just made there really helps the discussion, doesn't it?
posted by anniecat at 4:11 PM on March 17, 2010


For an "unresponsive" body, you're sure responding a lot.

I'm just protecting the corpse as a ghost.

But, oh hey, look at you. Good for you for getting the thread back to discussing food stamps by, um, getting that zinger in there? Nice. That little comment you just made there really helps the discussion, doesn't it?


JESUS H. NO ONE IS HELPING HERE. You think this helps? Continuing this back and forth sniping? What response do you anticipate from this? What is the end game?

WOULD SOMEONE PLZ DRAW UP AN EXIT STRATEGY.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:16 PM on March 17, 2010


With all due respect, would you both please stop derailing the thread any further or take it to MeTa? Jokes aside, some of us are still reading here.
posted by zarq at 4:16 PM on March 17, 2010


WOULD SOMEONE PLZ DRAW UP AN EXIT STRATEGY.

I can't make a MeTa until my 7 days are up. :P
posted by zarq at 4:18 PM on March 17, 2010


I wonder what the record is for the longest thread without a MeTa callout? I should probably make a MeTa thread about that...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


JESUS H. NO ONE IS HELPING HERE. You think this helps? Continuing this back and forth sniping? What response do you anticipate from this? What is the end game?

Well, if you'd stop poking me there wouldn't be a problem.
posted by anniecat at 4:38 PM on March 17, 2010


With all due respect, would you both please stop derailing the thread any further or take it to MeTa?

Yes, please this? Especially anniecat?
posted by rollbiz at 4:41 PM on March 17, 2010


Especially anniecat?

Fine, the body is yours. Get your yayas out. Complain up the wazoo about how anniecat is slamming you and how boring and old and stupid she is for not realizing how great it is to get a degree from Special Snowflake Art School. Pretend she kicks puppies for a living and vomited in your soup so you have an excuse to publish your lengthy diatribes asserting whow anniecat wronged you and how anniecat hates hipsters and starves babies and is a manifestation of everything that is wrong for all society, even though she never said half of what you say she said because it's too hard to actually read any comments.

I'm out of this thread.
posted by anniecat at 4:49 PM on March 17, 2010


Complain up the wazoo about how anniecat is slamming you and how boring and old and stupid she is for not realizing how great it is to get a degree from Special Snowflake Art School. Pretend she kicks puppies for a living and vomited in your soup so you have an excuse to publish your lengthy diatribes asserting whow anniecat wronged you and how anniecat hates hipsters and starves babies and is a manifestation of everything that is wrong for all society, even though she never said half of what you say she said because it's too hard to actually read any comments.

Since you quoted me, I'll quote you back and just say that I didn't say a single thing you just mentioned, not to you or to anyone else in this thread. I just wish you'd rejoin the topic or leave the thread alone for a while.

Since you've indicated that you'll be doing the latter, thank you.
posted by rollbiz at 4:53 PM on March 17, 2010


Len, you are a god.
posted by serazin at 4:56 PM on March 17, 2010


We have limited resources. We have state governments that are crashing into debt and a federal government that is held up by Chinese bond holders. California cannot afford to properly educate their children anymore.

This seems to me a pretty basic obligation of our government, especially considering our economic strength is in the knowledge based sector. And I would much rather the cuts to art programs than education. Sure, I have plenty of other cuts I would place above both. But the point is scarcity is real, and you do have to make value decisions. We do so every single day as consumers and voters and opinion holders. You're doing it right now by convincing me that art has an intangible value that The Man just doesn't get.


This is totally off topic but, oh well....

Art inspires productivity and any education worth it's salt includes art. Art is more than just pretty paintings that add no value to our lives. Art often employs and inspires our imagination which helps us to find solutions to problems regarding "knowledge" and what we know.
Or to think of things differently and thus find a new way of doing things.


Life without art would truly be "nasty, brute and short".

It is not something we can live happily without.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
--Albert Einstein

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

--Albert Einstein
posted by yertledaturtle at 5:00 PM on March 17, 2010


One thing I've noticed over the years:

The only people, without exception, who I ever hear complaining about hipsters, are people who share every demographic quality of "hipsters", yet are slightly less cool than them. I'm not cool either, so I can relate to the hostility, but the anti-hipster rage sure looks to me like a transparent holdover from Jr. High resentments.
posted by serazin at 5:03 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


JDHarper : This right here, this obsession with "productivity," is what is wrong with libertarianism.

Someone needs to grow the food these stamps pay for.

This right here, this obsession with "compassion," is what is wrong with liberalism. Compassion, put bluntly, doesn't fucking exist. We made it up as a work of fiction useful in keeping us away from each other's throats.


The Light Fantastic : Then what the hell is the point of society?

Point? Society has no point other than as an unspoken contract between apex predators to refrain from killing each - When and only when resources allow it.


There's a dangerous slide towards all sorts of incomprehensible evil when we begin to try to tally the value of a person's existence.

Sorry, which universe did you just come from again?

In this one, entropy increases over time. You have to constantly add energy into the system just to keep your ground.

We, as humans, occupy a very fortunate place, the top of the food chain on this damned hostile ball of mud and disease and other predators watching our every weakness. We got here by doing what we do best - We kill, cheat, steal, and consume better than anything else we compete with.

By social convention, as I just pointed out, we limit our use of those skills against each other. But don't talk to me about sliding toward some fictional concept of ungood. Take it up with a hungry shark or tiger, see how well they respond to your assertions about your value as a person. Perhaps you can offer to paint their portrait, which they will immediately see makes you worth keeping around despite the drain on such resources as they would otherwise use for such frivolities as "survival".


Is the dreamer less valuable than the rationalist? Is the artist less valuable than the engineer? Are the old worth less than the young?

Yes, yes, and yes. The first two we keep around (in limited numbers) because we find their skills enjoyable enough to divert some of our personal resources to their continued survival. The elderly we keep around because they've contributed their fair share, and we currently have the luxury of allowing them to live out their twilight years in relative peace.

But make no mistake, we stand one prolonged global drought, or asteroid strike, or plague, away from both those categories meaning an instant death sentence at the hands of a bitch who doesn't care in the least about "justice" or "society" or "sonnets" - Mother Nature.
posted by pla at 5:04 PM on March 17, 2010


If entropy only ever increased over time, life would not exist. The big ball of fire in the sky allows us to locally reverse entropy.

Cripes, first the I-failed-econ comment and now the I-failed-physics comment. How many more failed subjects can you squeeze into this thread?

But make no mistake, we stand one prolonged global drought, or asteroid strike, or plague, away from both those categories meaning an instant death sentence at the hands of a bitch who doesn't care in the least about "justice" or "society" or "sonnets" - Mother Nature.

Wow. Deep.
posted by GuyZero at 5:09 PM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Perhaps you can offer to paint their portrait, which they will immediately see makes you worth keeping around despite the drain on such resources as they would otherwise use for such frivolities as "survival".

Sir, sharks and tigers have little to do with why we have food stamps.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:15 PM on March 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


The elderly we keep around because they've contributed their fair share, and we currently have the luxury of allowing them to live out their twilight years in relative peace.

The thing is, we don't have the luxury of doing so. Doing so is costing us an insane amount of money, much moreso than food stamps for hipsters and everyone else who gets them. It's bankrupting this fucking country. So what do you offer as a solution to this problem, if not the compassion required to realize that we must continue to take care of the weak and infirm?
posted by rollbiz at 5:17 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're slaying me here BP. I await your segment on MSNBC with bated breath. Baited perhaps even.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


i can't tell if the "sir" thing is hilarious or creepy or both. I think it's maybe both but leaning heavily toward hilarious.
posted by shmegegge at 5:19 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


The elderly we keep around because they've contributed their fair share, and we currently have the luxury of allowing them to live out their twilight years in relative peace.

Wow. That's just. Wow. I'll be sure to let my grandparents know. "Hey! Youse guys have contributed your fair share, so since we currently have the 'luxury' of allocating resources, you can still have some to spend your twilight years in relative peace. pla said it was alright!"

I've heard stark rationalism, but that... that's COLD.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:19 PM on March 17, 2010


So what do you offer as a solution to this problem

Carousel! Carousel! Carousel!
posted by GuyZero at 5:20 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only difference re: serazin's comment above between cool people and not-cool people is that cool people got into some things not-cool people didn't. But that's a distinction that tends only to be made by not-cool people. The trick is that everybody labels themselves as not-cool.

Whether they're boozing at a party or throwing a fancy dinner or playing D&D over a basement table, shopping for designer labels or at Macy's or on ThinkGeek, everybody thinks "other people" are doing something else. And they are. And we all do what we do for a reason, and we don't know all the logic of the other people, so we look down a bit on them and they feel like they're being excluded.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2010


It is not something we can live happily without.

Did I say it was something we can live happily without? No. Only that it does hold some amount of value that is (possibly imperfectly) quantifiable. It is something that we subsidize with tax dollars and charitable dollars, so even if the free market does not perfectly price art accurately, we are making an effort to fix the problem.

However scarcity exists, and so we cannot say "forget resources! Art for everyone! Art careers for everyone!" Instead we have to make rational decisions as to how much art we can personally consume, and how much art we should subsidize.

That means having a GDP that is large enough to support subsidies and luxury purchases.

I am currently support staff (accountant) in an industry that overwhelmingly employs creative types (retail) that exists solely because random people everywhere (creative and non-creative) like to buy luxury goods (premium cosmetics). The free market does not crush creative types like a virus, and this idea that the free market is wholly utilitarian rather than a web that connects consumers with providers both 'useful' and 'not-useful'. It supports artist types. And if we don't like the amount of support it provides, we as donors can help things along. And as voters we can further help things along.

But acting as though we don't have to make big decisions (like pitting education versus art) because the state can help us ignores the fact that we support the state as much the state supports us.
posted by politikitty at 5:26 PM on March 17, 2010


By social convention, as I just pointed out, we limit our use of those skills against each other. But don't talk to me about sliding toward some fictional concept of ungood.


Not so fictional. I'm really trying not to Godwin this thread, but geez - how thick are you?


Take it up with a hungry shark or tiger, see how well they respond to your assertions about your value as a person. Perhaps you can offer to paint their portrait, which they will immediately see makes you worth keeping around despite the drain on such resources as they would otherwise use for such frivolities as "survival".


Er....and the engineer would do better against the tiger? Or the banker? Do you even think about the things you excrete through your keyboard?

But make no mistake, we stand one prolonged global drought, or asteroid strike, or plague, away from both those categories meaning an instant death sentence at the hands of a bitch who doesn't care in the least about "justice" or "society" or "sonnets" - Mother Nature.

Do you mean the Mother Nature that took away our claws and teeth and gave us a mind and compassion? The one that decided that it really isn't "survival of the fittest," but "survival of the cooperative?" "We" were caring for the sick, old and lame before we ever had engineers and bankers - we had artists before we built a wall. I don't know what planet you live on (and I never want to visit it), but you might want to crack a book that was written in the last 100 years.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:36 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate it when people use their misconceptions about the natural world to justify their own greed. We "occupy a very fortunate place, the top of the food chain on this damned hostile ball of mud and disease and other predators watching our every weakness," because (among other things) we're smart enough to cooperate.

"Survival of the fittest" may be a description of biological evolution, but it is a broad one, and people often fall into the misconception that "fittest" equals "most ruthless to every living thing around it." Compassion is a feature in our case, not a bug.

Besides, it's a description of nature... not a moral imperative.
posted by brundlefly at 5:36 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Did I say it was something we can live happily without?

I wasn't saying you did. I was just stating an opinion.

Anyhow, I am not really interested in arguing about, art vs education vs survival of our species, vs our survival of our society.. etc... ad infinitum... Or the value of art.

The article is being discussed has to do with food stamps and an imaginary class of people called "hipsters". Not subsidies of the arts.

The fact is that either a person qualifies for food stamps or they do not. It could be a long unemployed accountant, plumber or banker. If the person qualifies they can get food stamps and buy whatever food they want with the stamps.

Let me ask you this. Are you opposed to the food stamp program?
posted by yertledaturtle at 6:04 PM on March 17, 2010


This thread is the hipster anthem.

I'm feeling rough, I'm feeling raw, I'm in the prime of my life
Let's make some music, make some money, find some models for wives
I'll move to Paris, shoot some heroin and fuck with the stars
You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars

This is our decision to live fast and die young
We've got the vision, now let's have some fun!
Yeah it's overwhelming, but what else can we do?
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?

posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:12 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did not realize that it was possible for me to be even more of a socialist than I already was. Reading this thread proved me wrong. Food stamps for everyone!
posted by stoneweaver at 7:03 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone needs to grow the food these stamps pay for.

This would ring more true if we were starving instead of suffering from an obesity epidemic, and if we were suffering from a labor shortage instead of a labor surplus.

This right here, this obsession with "compassion," is what is wrong with liberalism. Compassion, put bluntly, doesn't fucking exist. We made it up as a work of fiction useful in keeping us away from each other's throats.

Writing doesn't exist; we just made it up. Farming doesn't exist, the wheel doesn't exist, civilization doesn't exist.

Compassion (which, as The Light Fantastic has pointed out, does have evolutionary roots) is a useful tool that makes the world a better place.

Now, if we were to suffer some sort of global cataclysm, maybe we wouldn't value the elderly or the artists as much. But that isn't the world we live in. We can afford to be decent to each other even without the expectation of future returns.
posted by JDHarper at 7:04 PM on March 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Anti-poor people evo-psych is even more fun than anti-feminist evo-psych!

Human emotions and human societies are as real as human intestines, pla. You wouldn't attempt GI diagnosis with the same blithe ease as you diagnose society, would you?
posted by Countess Elena at 7:15 PM on March 17, 2010


GuyZero : Cripes, first the I-failed-econ comment

Back up a second, Watson - You mean, the comment in which I completely trounced you on a topic of your own choosing, and you didn't even have the understanding of your own damned point to make a coherent rebuttal? Yeah, one of us failed...

and now the I-failed-physics comment.

Riiiight. On economics, we can rationally disagree. On physics, take it up with the second law of thermodynamics. Oh, what? Closed system? Hey, Look at that, I gave, as a context, a closed system. Imagine that.

Don't worry, I expect you neither to understand your error nor to have the grace to admit it.


rollbiz : The thing is, we don't have the luxury of doing so.

Of course we do. As long as we have the historically unheard of outright luxury of framing this conversation in terms of dollars rather than the number of people starving to death (not eating "healthy", not eating at Whole foods, but dying for want of raw calories), we have the luxury of choosing what we do with the rest of our resources.


The Light Fantastic : Do you mean the Mother Nature that took away our claws and teeth and gave us a mind and compassion?

We lost our claws over time because they cost us more than they provided in terms of survivability. Humans, individually have a unique set of abilities among life on this planet. We have the intelligence and dexterity to make and use a variety of tools to deadly effect, and the will and cunning to do so. You could drop any (able-bodied) one of us (possibly with a week's training on topics that "society" has actively discouraged us from getting naturally) in the jungle, and we would beautifully demonstrate why we hold the top of the food chain. Give me a long branch and a rough stone, and I'll show you why tigers (arguably the pinnacle of naturally evolved weapon-animals) live at the edge of extinction while we hang their hides in museums.


JDHarper : This would ring more true if we were starving instead of suffering from an obesity epidemic

???

Someone has to grow the food. Period. End of discussion.
posted by pla at 7:50 PM on March 17, 2010


End of discussion.

It doesn't really work that way...
posted by sallybrown at 8:04 PM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


sallybrown : It doesn't really work that way...

No, sadly, it doesn't.

But hopefully at least one person will stop and think "what if everyone lived as a parasite?"

You can only have so many artists per - and yes I will keep stressing this "evil" Libertarian idea - "Productive" worker. You can only have so many "social safety net" occupants per producer. You can even only have so many "middle men" per producer, however small a cut each one takes.

You can only have so many drones per worker bee. Above that limit, the whole hive dies.

And please folks, don't take this as a rally against all welfare, as I think some (most?) of you have done - I fully accept that modern civilization has the resources, and the will, to help the needy. But lets help the goddamned needy, not slackers who've mastered the art of gaming the system.


I've said this already, and I'll probably end up repeating it before I get sick of this thread and wander off, disgusted - Why do all you compassionate souls defend hipster welfare fraud while real people live in abject squalor? More than one of you has said it - "If they can eat well on 150 a month, more power to them", or "Wow, wish I'd thought of that as a poor college student". No, no, FUCK no. YOU embody the problem, all while feigning compassion and writing me off as a troll.

I have little compassion, and admit it. You have no compassion and dare to wear a smile to church every Sunday.
posted by pla at 8:51 PM on March 17, 2010


You can only have so many artists per - and yes I will keep stressing this "evil" Libertarian idea - "Productive" worker.

I would bet dollars to donuts that you utilize the products of artists more often in any given day than the products of any single other profession.

The clothes on your back? Designed by artists. The computer you're typing this on? The case, at least, was designed by an artist. Your car, your magazine, the junk mail you throw away, your house, your shoes -- all designed by people who probably have art degrees. And if they needed food stamps for a little while between graduating with those art degrees and landing their design jobs, well then, I'm happy to supply them.

As for what they choose to spend them on -- you should be grateful that they choose to bear the majority of the cost of their food out of the food stamp money, instead of outsourcing most of it to your other tax dollars in the form of food subsidies. Which is worse, if they spend $150 a month of your money on organic co-op food, or if they spend $500 a month of your money on industrially-produced swill?
posted by KathrynT at 9:06 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can only have so many drones per worker bee. Above that limit, the whole hive dies.

As if one can only be an artist OR a worker bee. As if artists aren't also worker bees. As if worker bees aren't artists, too.

Everyone needs support sometimes. Sometimes the person who needs help is a plumber or a farmer (hello, subsidies - what do you have to say about "here's some money for you to grow less food, farmer!" subsidies, pla? Those are kind of like food stamps. Most major agribusinesses wouldn't be in existence if not for gigantic subsidies from the federal government!) or an artist, and they get that help and for most people, it's temporary.

Why do all you compassionate souls defend hipster welfare fraud while real people live in abject squalor?

Why are you attacking "hipster welfare" when hundreds of billions of dollars are given to giant agribusinesses? And to industries that produce nothing as concrete as food, even? What is your damage that you have so much hate and resentment against people who might access one or two hundred dollars a month for food - dollars that cost out to some tiny percentage of pennies of you tax dollar?

And? There's not a scintilla of evidence of welfare fraud in the article linked. As has been repeatedly pointed out to you, the fact that these people on food stamps on Baltimore may not be as desperate as someone else in Baltimore doesn't mean that the more desperate person is shut out of food stamps. There is no "only ten people can have food stamps" rule about food stamps. The rule is: if you have less than [X] income and [Y] assets, you qualify. That's it. Simple. You should be able to grasp that.
posted by rtha at 9:54 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


pla is a troll. He's only a troll. He doesn't even believe what he himself is saying. Do not feed or answer the troll - he isn't really answering us.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:09 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


*sigh*

I know, lupus. I do know better. But I was weakened by beer and joviality at the meetup I just came from. It was too loud at the bar for politikitty and I to really talk about this, unfortunately. I bet we would've solved all the problems!
posted by rtha at 10:13 PM on March 17, 2010


Compassion, put bluntly, doesn't fucking exist. We made it up as a work of fiction useful in keeping us away from each other's throats.

So you're saying compassion is just an idea.

But....don't ideas exist? Concepts?

...I mean, if you exclude things we "made up", then libertarianism doesn't exist either.

I've said this already, and I'll probably end up repeating it before I get sick of this thread and wander off, disgusted - Why do all you compassionate souls defend hipster welfare fraud while real people live in abject squalor? More than one of you has said it - "If they can eat well on 150 a month, more power to them", or "Wow, wish I'd thought of that as a poor college student". No, no, FUCK no. YOU embody the problem, all while feigning compassion and writing me off as a troll.

Where, precisely, in that article did they say anything about FRAUD? The only thing they discussed is what they were using their food stamps for.

And -- as has been repeatedly pointed out to you -- food stamps are awarded on an INCOME basis, NOT a PER-USE basis. You are awarded your food stamps based on the amount of INCOME you have. Once someone does an analysis of your income, they determine how much your food stamp allotment shall be. This allotment is only altered if your INCOME changes.

Which means, the objects you purchase WITh your food stamps don't make a single blasted damned bit of difference when it comes to your food stamp allotment. The people who award food stamps CAN NOT and DO NOT change your food stamp grant based on what you spend your food stamps ON. It does behoove you to spend it cheaply, but ONLY because it is a finite amount and YOU THE INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING IT will be screwed over if you spend it all within only two weeks.

So people who use their food stamps to buy a better class of fish than the cheap stuff and still are able to make it work are doing NO DIFFERENT than I do when I choose the better class of salmon over the cheap stuff. I, too, have a given allotment of money. I choose to spend it in a certain place.

The only difference between the food stamp recipient and me is: the government has determined that my income is above an arbitrary figure they decided was sufficient to let me buy a sufficient amount of food. And the government has determined that a food stamp recipient's income is NOT above this arbitrary figure sufficient to let them buy a sufficient amount of food, so they award that person the difference.

Period.

But hopefully at least one person will stop and think "what if everyone lived as a parasite?"

You DO know that all of the people they discussed in that article HAVE JOBS, yes? They actually ARE producing something. It is just that the rest of society has decided that whatever it is they do should only be paid a pittance.

And if you're scoffing that "well, then if they're being paid crap, then what they do must not be important," go ask a teacher whether HER salary is in the six figures.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 PM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


You know who else called people parasites....?

No, seriously, I know that's a Metafilter joke, but I'm actually serious. Nazis. Nazis called people parasites. Congrats on being a fascist!
posted by lunasol at 10:25 PM on March 17, 2010


Well, some of my best friends are trolls ...

The elderly we keep around because they've contributed their fair share, and we currently have the luxury of allowing them to live out their twilight years in relative peace.

Actually, we keep them around because, in some dare I say "magical" way, it seems to make us better, make everything better. That is, the more evolved a culture, the more it honors its elderly.
posted by philip-random at 10:48 PM on March 17, 2010


Ok, I read this entire thread, and I have two comments:

1. I'm for assuming grumpy people are all old. I kept having an image of this crotchety old man in a rocking chair on his porch, tapping with two fingers on his old laptop, complaining about how the young are destroying the world with their laziness and misplaced priorities. Since that's obviously not you, anniecat, I apologize.

2. This is a total derail, but please can we not have random words bolded in comments. I find it incredibly distracting. It's like reading one of those Bibles where Jesus' words are all in red, except that Jesus made at least a little bit of sense.
posted by pecknpah at 10:55 PM on March 17, 2010


I'm sorry for....
posted by pecknpah at 10:56 PM on March 17, 2010


what if everyone lived as a parasite?

Bank CEOs are too protective of their positions for that to ever happen.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:59 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Society has no point other than as an unspoken contract between apex predators to refrain from killing each - When and only when resources allow it.

You're lucky you don't live in a rational society, because a rational society would kill anyone who thought that way, since that's the sort of attitude that destroys functioning societies.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:04 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thread makes me feel like a koala on acid crapped a rainbow in my brain.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:17 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel like that all the time.
posted by philip-random at 11:41 PM on March 17, 2010


Let's assume that every government aid program will have a certain percentage of people who qualify for aid but don't actually need it. These are the freeloaders.

Yes, these people deserve a small amount of scorn. They are also an entirely insignificant fraction of the whole, but whatever. Let's now assume that in order to rid the system of these freeloaders, we need to change the application procedures in such a way as to make it impossible for these freeloaders to be granted aid. It is then safe to assume that some of those who legitimately deserve the aid will be denied it as they are caught in this anti-freeloader net.

There will always be people who quailfy for aid yet could live without it. Big deal. That costs you nothing. Maybe a cent or two every few years. If you would seriously support reducing government aid programs, or making them more difficult to qualify for, then you are sentencing impoverished people to starve. It's that simple.
posted by twirlypen at 1:32 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


On physics, take it up with the second law of thermodynamics. Oh, what? Closed system? Hey, Look at that, I gave, as a context, a closed system. Imagine that.

The Earth isn't a closed system. Congratulations: you are basing your inane economic arguments on one of the very same fallacies creationists base their inane arguments on!

Society has no point other than as an unspoken contract between apex predators to refrain from killing each - When and only when resources allow it.

Reality totally isn't Vampire the Masquerade and we don't have to structure our society around the assumption that our first instinct upon interacting is to murder one another. We are a social species, and your fucked-up rejection of that basic fact is destroying your ability to have a coherent thought about how human beings interact. Reality is not so harsh and terrible as you think- or rather, as the fantasy that you mistake for reality is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:10 AM on March 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


The rich can also afford to be better at being poor.

I spent years working with poor people who started out being poor. Those poor people don't get to be as good at being poor. Those poor people didn't coast on an internship that crapped out. They started families during a brief period when they thought they could see light at the end of the tunnel. They got Type 2 Diabetes. They got depression and schizophrenia. Their teeth are fucked up. They never went to college. Sometimes they can't read.

They don't have a buddy with a fixie or a beater to hit the nearest organic place, because it isn't very fucking near. They might have a beat up functional bike to get to work, but it can't carry groceries for a whole family. In the country, they need a gun more than organic foods, so they can fill the freezer during deer season. In the country, poor kids don't go to school during deer season.

They smoke and drink to self-medicate from diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illnesses. They split food into things that taste good and wretched survival mode staples because they know that some day a kid might get hurt or they might have a breakdown or they might get tossed back in the hole and lose the piecework they're doing, or they might get screwed by the boss, who will fire them or just steal their wages, so they have to balance the desire to get some pleasure out of life with preparation for unstable living conditions. Sometimes addictions get the best of them, though.

The poor are not good at being poor.
posted by mobunited at 2:24 AM on March 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


Reality is not so harsh and terrible as you think- or rather, as the fantasy that you mistake for reality is.

Indeed, at no other point in history have human beings lived among such plenty. As a species we produce so much of everything that a lot of shortages are artificial, maintained through arbitrary rules and procedures that promote wastage over redistribution. These days, reality is about as harsh as we want to make it for each other.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:29 AM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Whenever I read the word 'parasite', I imagine it being said by Andrew Ryan. He has such resonance in his voice.

Anyway, thanks to this thread, I made a tasty thai green curry last night for my flatmates, another vegetarian curry for my next few meals, and now I'm seriously considering a beard.

And I have a masters in museum studies, motherfucker.
posted by Dandeson Coates, Sec'y at 3:07 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have little compassion, and admit it. You have no compassion and dare to wear a smile to church every Sunday.

Friend, I'm just going to go ahead and say that you don't know your audience here. Have you seen what happens when MeFites discuss Christianity? It makes food stamps look like a PICNIC. There are committed Christians on MeFi who go to church on Sunday, but the majority of your adversaries are atheists, pagans, agnostics, nontheists, Buddhists, Jews, and Flying Spaghetti Monster worshippers.

This statement is illustrative that you have absolutely no idea who in the hell you're arguing with, other than writing to watching yourself type.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:46 AM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


smile to church every Sunday.

Ha ha ha ha! You dummy - don't you know that most mefites are in fact Seventh Day Adventists?

Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!
posted by rtha at 6:18 AM on March 18, 2010


MetaFilter: seriously, what on earth are you talking about?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:31 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


pla: "This right here, this obsession with "compassion," is what is wrong with liberalism. Compassion, put bluntly, doesn't fucking exist. We made it up as a work of fiction useful in keeping us away from each other's throats.

Actually there is some research on altruism that suggests that altruism is an inevitable consequence of evolution.

The Light Fantastic : Then what the hell is the point of society?

Point? Society has no point other than as an unspoken contract between apex predators to refrain from killing each - When and only when resources allow it.


In my view this is a baseline of behavior that allows for a society to exist. Society is something aspirational. Society is people working together to make each others lives better. In my opinion, society is comprised of everything that you seem to loathe about how people interacting can make everyone happier and better off. If it weren't for people grasping for the possibilities instead of stabbing each other in the back, you would be picking fleas off yourself in a mud hut.


We, as humans, occupy a very fortunate place, the top of the food chain on this damned hostile ball of mud and disease and other predators watching our every weakness. We got here by doing what we do best - We kill, cheat, steal, and consume better than anything else we compete with.

It may be just me, but this sounds a lot like you are justifying bad behavior on your own part. Society has developed methods of dealing with people who kill, cheat and steal. If caught, these people go to prison. A system that depends on reciprocal altruism has to have a way to punish those who take advantage of the system. It's debatable whether the people in this article are taking advantage of the system, but denying the existence of the system is trying to wish away reality.

We live in a society that has been created over time by men and women who wished for a better life and by people who were trying to muddle through hard times by doing their best to create something that gives everyone a fair shot. There has always been the risk that people will try to overthrow the system because they think that it would be in their own best interest. I would submit that people who agree with your worldview pose a threat to that system and that is one of the reasons that people view your ideas with hostility. The rest of us don't want to live in mud huts and have to worry about everyone trying to kill us for our beans.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:44 AM on March 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm passing on a reply from Gerry Mak himself:

Food Stamp Facts

1) One person or family receiving food stamps does not take food
stamps away from another person or family. This year, $58 billion
dollars was allotted for the program, and many people who qualify
don't apply because they either don't know they qualify or because of
the stigma.

2) Every citizen of this country is eligible for food stamps, and has
a right to them, if they fit certain criteria - they consider your
current assets, which must be under $2,000, they consider your current
income, which must be no more than 130% of the poverty level, they
look at your bank account, and they have your social security number,
so they know your employment history and your tax history. You have
to meet with a case worker, and your case is reviewed every 6 months.

3) Food stamps are meant to be used to buy food, any food, from the
grocery store. It is up to your discretion how you spend your monthly
allotment, whether it's on Twinkies or lobster, and you can only spend
them at stores that take them, usually grocery stores and convenience
stores. New York City farmers markets take food stamps, but not
Baltimore markets. You cannot buy non-food items, prepared food
items, restaurant food, or alcohol with food stamps.

4) Food stamps spent at any store are the same as money as far as the
businesses are concerned. Food stamps are part of the stimulus plan
because they translate into money that is spent in local economies.
Using food stamps at local, independent grocery stores supports small
business and keeps money in your community.

5) Abuse of food stamps usually comes in the form of people selling
them for cash. Buying organic ice cream is not abuse, which is why
it's allowed by the program.
posted by val5a at 6:46 AM on March 18, 2010 [17 favorites]


We can make everyone happy with a simple substitution: replace food stamps with guns.

Seriously. Give each & every destitute person a Glock and a few dozen rounds of ammo. We'd solve poverty in less than a month.

Guns are good for America, remember? All godfearing citizens love their guns, so why the fuck aren't we arming the poor?

Oh. Right.
posted by aramaic at 6:47 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


To all those who are saying we have limited resources or we as a society can't afford parasite hipsters...take a good look at the wealth distribution in your society. You have the majority of wealth concentrated in 10% of the citizenry, and the majority of that concentrated in the top 1%.
That's why our resources are limited. That's why we have poverty and homelessness. The best marketing job in all of history convinced you to blame those poorer than you for your problems. And guess who paid for that?
posted by rocket88 at 7:09 AM on March 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


For the past decade, Metafilter has been a gallery which has, consistently and frequently, scaled artistic heights, and has excelled in bringing to light everything from compilations of particularly entertaining YouTube videos to ancient Chinese art, whilst somehow managing to cover everything in between (no surprise, perhaps, given that there are now some 90,000 exhibitions archived). With Hipsters On Food Stamps, however, the gallery has sadly failed to live up to its stellar reputation; bar a few excellent contributions to this bloated, unwieldy, and rancorous group show, this one is best avoided.

If Metafilter allowed little rainbow and kittens graphics with stars and sparkles and smiley faces I would be putting those all over this quote-- and be extension this entire comment-- by the bucketful. Fucking. Awesome.
posted by jokeefe at 7:51 AM on March 18, 2010


We are able to have a government that provides more than just basic military protection because we have a tax base that can afford an income tax higher than 6%. If we convince all these people they should be artists and take indie cred and spiritual fulfillment as part of their paycheck, we lose the ability to support the art scene we already have.

Surely you mean "we lose the ability to support the military we already have"? Because supporting an art scene costs very, very little. Artists are good at that sort of thing.

And for god's sake, pla, put down the fucking Ayn Rand and go out into the world and do some exploring. Apex predators at each other's throats? Give me a fucking break.
posted by jokeefe at 8:07 AM on March 18, 2010


Pope Guilty : The Earth isn't a closed system. Congratulations: you are basing your inane economic arguments on one of the very same fallacies creationists base their inane arguments on!

Well, I feel better that you don't "get" my points, knowing that you can't remember the context between one short sentence and the next. Here, let me quote myself: "Sorry, which universe did you just come from again? In this one, entropy increases over time."
ΔSuniverse > 0.

Reality is not so harsh and terrible as you think- or rather, as the fantasy that you mistake for reality is.

Your opinion. And I'll respect it as such, even though I consider you totally wrong.


grapefruitmoon : Friend, I'm just going to go ahead and say that you don't know your audience here.

Unfortunately, I have to accept the truth of your words. Clearly I do not know my audience, in this context. Working on it, though...


pecknpah : please can we not have random words bolded in comments. I find it incredibly distracting.

A purely textual medium already strips the vast majority of our intent from our words... Tone, inflection, emphasis, nevermind subtle humor, sarcasm, or hamburgers. If you really want to strip what little expressiveness this medium allows us, I can recommend a few GreaseMonkey scripts.


lupus_yonderboy : He doesn't even believe what he himself is saying. Do not feed or answer the troll - he isn't really answering us.

Damn, you caught me. I just keep coming back because I like the abuse, despite all those other juicy on-track threads I see on the FP that I could go shit on.

That said, yes, I have deliberately ignored some questions - Specifically, those directed at my "motives" in discussing this issue. My motives have zero relevance to the issue at hand, except as food for you to commit further logical fallacies. That said, I do tend to get sidetracked all too easily, and probably should have ignored a good many more questions than I did.


rtha : Why are you attacking "hipster welfare" when hundreds of billions of dollars are given to giant agribusinesses?

Why do people keep bringing up agricultural subsidies and military spending in a thread on food stamp abuse?

I don't support agricultural subsidies. I don't support US imperialism in the Middle East. I don't support corporate bailouts. I don't suppose the prison-industrial complex. Some of you have even commented on the fact that I appear to support very few uses of our tax dollars; and what uses I do support, I almost without exception have a number of criticisms in their actual implementation.

If you want to start a thread in which I will argue just as strongly against your favorite government spending pet peeve, feel free to post it to the FP.


rocket88 : To all those who are saying we have limited resources or we as a society can't afford parasite hipsters...take a good look at the wealth distribution in your society.

I agree entirely with this. And, in the long run, aramaic already modestly proposed the one "solution" that we will eventually keep rediscovering: "We can make everyone happy with a simple substitution: replace food stamps with guns."


jokeefe : If Metafilter allowed little rainbow and kittens graphics with stars and sparkles and smiley faces I would be putting those all over this quote

It does. ✩ ✪ ✫ ✬ ✭ ✮ ✯ ✰ ✱ ✲ ✳ ✴ ✵ ✶ ✷ ✸ ✹ ✺ ✻ ✼ ✽ ✾ ✿ ❀ ❁ ❂ ❃ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❇ ❈ ❉ ❊ ❋
Well, I couldn't find a unicorn - But someone more skilled than myself could probably use multistroke to give the knight, ♘, a horn.

And for god's sake, pla, put down the fucking Ayn Rand

Y'know, I actually don't like Rand's writing? She paints probably the least sympathetic picture of rational self-interest imaginable, showing us a dystopian world full of flat, boring characters, and takes a good hundred times too many words to do so.
posted by pla at 8:30 AM on March 18, 2010


jefeweiss: "We live in a society that has been created over time by men and women who wished for a better life and by peole who were trying to muddle through hard times by doing their best to create something that gives everyone a fair shot. There has always been the risk that people will try to overthrow the system because they think that it would be in their own best interest. I would submit that people who agree with your worldview pose a threat to that system and that is one of the reasons that people view your ideas with hostility. The rest of us don't want to live in mud huts and have to worry about everyone trying to kill us for our beans."

1) Our society has largely been shaped by douchebags, slaveowners, douchebag slaveowners, racist douchebags, genocidal douchebags, sexist douchebags, homophobic racist douchebags, sexist slaveowners, exploitative sociopaths, genocidal sociopaths, etc. For the most part, the people involved have had no intention of giving everyone a fair shot. Cite: all of American history since Columbus got here.

2) You are mis-characterizing people who live in mud huts; as much as we like to think our society is superior, they have a pretty good thing going on and don't constantly worry that everyone is going to try to kill them. Unless our society (or another "civilized" society) gets involved. Then they worry that all of the awesome "civilized" people mentioned above will kill them, usually for no reason besides them being inconvenient or in the way.

3) pla is wrong, but you are also wrong to idealize the society that you think he wants to dismantle.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:38 AM on March 18, 2010


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9: "
1) Our society has largely been shaped by douchebags, slaveowners, douchebag slaveowners, racist douchebags, genocidal douchebags, sexist douchebags, homophobic racist douchebags, sexist slaveowners, exploitative sociopaths, genocidal sociopaths, etc. For the most part, the people involved have had no intention of giving everyone a fair shot. Cite: all of American history since Columbus got here.


I think you are mistaking ignorance for maliciousness and judging the people of the past on moral standards that did not exist in their own times. It's also just about the broadest generalization about the human that I have ever seen. Are you calling MLK and Ghandi douchebags, or where exactly do they fit in to your hierarchy? In my opinion, your attitude is just as wrong as his, but with completely different conclusions. You seem to have found another path to thinking that everyone is just out to get someone else.

2) You are mis-characterizing people who live in mud huts; as much as we like to think our society is superior, they have a pretty good thing going on and don't constantly worry that everyone is going to try to kill them. Unless our society (or another "civilized" society) gets involved. Then they worry that all of the awesome "civilized" people mentioned above will kill them, usually for no reason besides them being inconvenient or in the way.

I think this is kind of an idealistic view of what it is like to live in mud huts, but that's kind of besides the point. Feel free to substitute a post-industrial wasteland of your choice.

3) pla is wrong, but you are also wrong to idealize the society that you think he wants to dismantle."

I'm not idealizing our current society. I am defending the idea that society should exist. I am well aware that there are problems with our current society. The truth is that we are also faced with the same difficult task of seeking to improve the situation of everyone. Society isn't a product, it's a process. The existence of the idea that we should struggle against racism and sexism and homophobia and genocide are evidence that progress has been made.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:16 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Give me a long branch and a rough stone, and I'll show you why tigers (arguably the pinnacle of naturally evolved weapon-animals) live at the edge of extinction while we hang their hides in museums.

I'm guessing you've never seen a tiger. Single people with guns lose against tigers, and people with sticks have been losing against tigers for a long, long time. Tigers are living at the edge of extinction due to habitat loss and financial exploitation. But hey, go for the stick vs. tiger thing - nothing like putting one's well cherished theories to the test!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:23 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've said this already, and I'll probably end up repeating it before I get sick of this thread and wander off, disgusted - Why do all you compassionate souls defend hipster welfare fraud while real people live in abject squalor? More than one of you has said it - "If they can eat well on 150 a month, more power to them", or "Wow, wish I'd thought of that as a poor college student". No, no, FUCK no. YOU embody the problem, all while feigning compassion and writing me off as a troll.
As has been pretty thoroughly established, there is no fraud happening here. People are qualifying for food stamps and buying food with it. Unless you can point to some actual fraud happening, I'd get off your fucking high horse.
Well, I feel better that you don't "get" my points, knowing that you can't remember the context between one short sentence and the next. Here, let me quote myself: "Sorry, which universe did you just come from again? In this one, entropy increases over time."
You didn't quote yourself in context:
Sorry, which universe did you just come from again?

In this one, entropy increases over time. You have to constantly add energy into the system just to keep your ground.

We, as humans, occupy a very fortunate place, the top of the food chain on this damned hostile ball of mud and disease and other predators watching our every weakness. We got here by doing what we do best - We kill, cheat, steal, and consume better than anything else we compete with.
Your point is pretty muddled here, but you appear to be applying entropy to... our culture? Humanity's place in the foodchain? Either way, while the universe may be a closed system, what you are comparing it to is not. It's pretty confusing, actually. You seem to understand the concept of entropy, but you're applying it in a way that suggests you don't.

Your understanding of evolution, on the other hand, is non-existent.
posted by brundlefly at 9:35 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ. This right here, this obsession with "productivity," is what is wrong with libertarianism. Human beings are only worth keeping around if they're "productive." It's a worldview completely devoid of compassion or even basic human decency.

Coming soon to a MetaFilter near you: PLA 1138—let us be thankful we have an occupation to fill. Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents and be happy.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:01 AM on March 18, 2010


If you want to start a thread in which I will argue just as strongly against your favorite government spending pet peeve, feel free to post it to the FP.

Oh, I don't need to make an fpp. Lots of people have made them recently. Too bad you seem to keep missing them. Fortunately, most of them are still open.

But then, whatever, since you want to stick to the topic at hand, which is this dumb article about people on food stamps.

Since you keep insisting that we're all sympathetic to these supposed fraud-committing people, I'd like you to cite the evidence that they are, in fact, committing fraud.
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mighty big bridge you got here ....mighty big.
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 AM on March 18, 2010


Well, I feel better that you don't "get" my points, knowing that you can't remember the context between one short sentence and the next. Here, let me quote myself: "Sorry, which universe did you just come from again? In this one, entropy increases over time."
ΔSuniverse > 0.


Human beings do not exist within the entire universe, but rather within a tiny subset named Earth (and, in about fifty brief cases since the beginning of time, a couple of hundred thousand kilometers from Earth). The part of the universe in which we exist is not a closed system, and is not subject to increasing entropy precisely because it is not a closed system. You are, like the creationists, using science not as a tool of knowledge but as something to pick and choose bits of to misinterpret and use as talismans to support your inane bullshit. I don't think I speak only for myself when I say: knock that shit off.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:17 AM on March 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


Another common Creationist tactic: quote mining. I've just never seen it self-applied before!
posted by brundlefly at 10:22 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


yurtledaturtle, I was addressing the larger issue that by providing food stamps or any other social safety net, we create a social contract that allows society and the government a say in the decisions you make.

I was specifically irked by the "I'll go to art school if I want to. It's my gamble to make".

It's not. While I support people who want to go into the arts, and I support both public and private funding for the arts, because we fund social safety nets the gamble is collectively everyone's. Even the big bad banker who doesn't care about arts, but does vote, so his say is equally valid. Luckily there are other people out there who donate collectively 13 billion a year to the arts.

That gamble isn't just relegated to the arts. It's related to all areas of entrepreneurial risk. I picked it out because there were three or four egregious Pro-Safety-Net/Pro-Independence/Pro-Real Artists Are Broke Ass Bitches And That's Why They're Good comments. And I find that combination of opinion to be irrational and untenable. If we promise to help you when you're down, you have an obligation to do your very very best not to get down. Not to make self-destructive choices that guarantees we'll have to bail you out.

And this is a real risk of all safety net programs. Europe has a natural unemployment rate that would make America apoplectic. And I seriously doubt Europeans are just lazier than Americans. When we extend unemployment benefits, people stay unemployed longer. When we cut them, people take lower paying jobs within days of losing their benefits. It's not that people want to be broke. It's that they can afford to hold out for some economic opportunity that might never come.

So while I support food stamps and safety nets of all kinds, I also understand that it needs to come with strings. And that if we care at all about improving the welfare of people, we need to constantly evaluate these strings. Because as we understand human behavior better, we can create smarter programs that create the incentives and provide the tools necessary to both alleviate poverty and minimize it. But that means that everyone who goes to art school does it not just for their own personal satisfaction, and hopefully financial success, they are able to do it because the rest of society agrees that art is valuable and we feel like we can afford you this risk.

While we might try and distract that issue by saying "But evil banks! Wall Street!". Are they not regulated? Are there not hundreds of policy and academic analysts trying to figure out how to fix the system? Will we not be building more carrots and sticks? We apply the same logic to them. I have no qualms re-evaluating the relationships we have with agribusiness and other corporate welfare. But it's not like you can't find discussion and activism on the issue.
posted by politikitty at 10:36 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


My impassioned plea to the many Mefites who are more intelligent and more eloquent than I:

Do not blithely label pla and his ilk "trolls," and do not simply turn a blind eye to them. I can't speak specifically about pla, he may or may not be trolling, but I am convinced that the ideas and philosophy he espouses here are debilitating, malignant, metastasizing tumors on our society that must be excised post haste if we want to avert impending disaster.

Call it what you want - 'libertarianism,' 'objectivism,' 'Ayn Randism,' 'I got mine-ism,' 'John Birch-ism,' 'Glenn Beck-ism,' 'Tea Party-ism' - it's multiplying, running rampant and threatening to take over. We, the healthy cells, need to correct the mutation before it strangles us.

How can we do that? I don't have a silver bullet answer, but I can offer some suggestions and observations.

Troll or Ideologue: It doesn't matter. What matters is the poisonous ideology, the fact that it's spreading, and that, from where I'm sitting, at least, we're simply not fighting it effectively. You and I can argue until we're both blue in the face about whether Glenn Beck (or pla) is a troll or an ideologue. Is he spreading his vile filth for fun and profit, or out of a deep, personal, moral conviction? It simply doesn't matter - the filth is spreading and taking hold. Even if Beck is a troll who decides at some point in the future that things are getting out of hand, he may be powerless to do anything about it. He wouldn't be the first 'revolutionary' in history to find that his 'movement' had gotten out from under him, grown bigger than himself, and now found him überflüssig/dispensable.

So we have to fight the ideology, and this is where I start to grow depressed. You've got to kill the hydra at the root. It does no good to argue the shallow, cosmetic points at the surface of an ideology. These surface points may look batshitinsane to you and I, but there's a complex framework supporting them, and we need to address that framework. With few exceptions, I don't see that happening enough, neither here nor in the wider sphere. 100K bright minds on mefi and most are either stuck arguing the finer points or else labeling the ideologue a troll and moving on. You don't win against skin cancer by ignoring that crusty mole, nor do you defeat it by picking off the scabs. There's a cancer underneath those scabs that has to be addressed at its root if you want to send it into remission.

Where are our progressive thinkers and philosophers? Where are our eloquent leftist heroes? Why are we unable to get on the same page and come up with a refutation of this ideology's foundation? Are we too lazy? Do we think it will go away on its own? Do we fear there's simply nothing we can do? To the last point: I don't buy it, and I'll tell you why...

Ten years ago, I was one of those ideologues. Around that time, I joined MeFi, and I also moved to Europe. Ten years of listening to brilliant, reasoned thinking on this website, and living in a (still nominally) socialist country, in the city with the highest standard of living on the planet have helped me to see the error of my ways. This erstwhile born and bred Texas Republican has evolved into a proud progressive. It can be done, if you fight the ideology at its root and don't dismiss the ideologue as a troll.

I don't want to be trite, nor do I want to Godwin this thread, but you know who else was initially labeled a harmless troll and ignored by civilized members of society? Seriously - this cancerous ideology is gaining currency and must be stopped before it's too late.

Read about objectivism, study it, learn its flaws, learn how to pick it apart. Read about progressivisist philosophy, understand its underpinning and strengths. Argue reasonably with people who espouse the tenets of objectivism. Don't waste your time on the cosmetics asking yourself what planet your adversary comes from. He comes from the planet of objectivism. Understand his flawed ideology and do your damnedest to undermine it, at the root. I'm doing my best to try to convince my family and friends that Beck and Rand and crew are selling them a dystopia in a utopia's clothing. It's hard work and often unrewarding, but every chink of doubt I can put in Fox's "fair and balanced" armor is maybe one extra second of freedom and humanity for us all.

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one. Edmund Burke, 'Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents'
posted by syzygy at 10:44 AM on March 18, 2010 [23 favorites]


When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one.

Never wrestle with a pig: you both get filthy and the pig enjoys it. Me.
posted by GuyZero at 11:05 AM on March 18, 2010


There's a cancer underneath those scabs that has to be addressed at its root if you want to send it into remission.

And that cancer is sheer ignorance. Worse, it's willful ignorance, because the cure is everywhere outside of the sanctimonious little bubble that they live in. There's also a very significant amount of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the uncontrollable, fear that sometimes bad things happen no matter what we prepare for.

Not to keep bringing up tigers - but it's the whole "tiger repellent" fallacy. Because they've been lucky, they must be right. There's a certain horrifying fascination in watching what happens to people like this when their luck runs out. Some finally get a little humility and realize that will alone is not enough to survive, but the rest just crumble into little balls and never recover.

I don't know how to respond to that fear. How do you get through to someone who has a magical belief in their own superiority and judge the world based on the 100 square miles that they call their universe? Whoever figures that out deserves their Nobel prize.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


And, in the long run, aramaic already modestly proposed the one "solution" that we will eventually keep rediscovering: "We can make everyone happy with a simple substitution: replace food stamps with guns."

Well, pla, I believe it entirely depends on how many other people like you there are in the world and how many like the rest of us.

You are projecting your aggression and hatred on the rest of us. In fact, only a small percentage of the population are hostiles.

I have read a lot on this issue, and psychopaths, for example, are always a little surprised that the masses, the vast majority of us who just want to be left alone to live our lives, don't systematically slaughter them. Perhaps it is the case that the only way that humanity will survive is to purge violent individuals who feel hostility toward the group.

I certainly hope that your vision is of the end of your kind, and not the end of human civilization in general, because I actually like human civilization.

(And I'm an aggressive male. I am embarrassed to say how many times I've gotten into physical conflict with people. But I'm in the long run a socialized aggressive male.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:10 AM on March 18, 2010


jefeweiss: "I think you are mistaking ignorance for maliciousness and judging the people of the past on moral standards that did not exist in their own times. It's also just about the broadest generalization about the human that I have ever seen. Are you calling MLK and Ghandi douchebags, or where exactly do they fit in to your hierarchy? "

You missed the "largely" in my paragraph. MLK and Ghandi are notable because they are exceptions. If you want to claim that our society (and I'm going to go for the USA because, well, it's where I live) was created by "people who were trying to muddle through hard times by doing their best to create something that gives everyone a fair shot." you should expect to be countered by nearly all of our country's history. Slavery, widespread for MORE THAN HALF of our country's history. Segregation. Systematic bias in the criminal justice system. Immigration quotas. I could go on and on.

The idea that moral standards did not exist when these horrific crimes were (and are) being committed is ridiculous. As one example, there were people who were anti-slavery since slavery in the Americas began. The moral standards existed.

In my opinion, your attitude is just as wrong as his, but with completely different conclusions. You seem to have found another path to thinking that everyone is just out to get someone else.

I don't think everyone is just out to get someone else. I think that it's completely ridiculous and blind to think that this society was created by people who wanted to give "everyone a fair shot".
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:10 AM on March 18, 2010


Very well said, syzygy. I'd add that one way to make this kind of social poison anathema is to build its opposite, solidarity.
We've had going on thirty years of right wing assault on the post-war consensus on welfare in the UK; although that same period also saw defeat and decline for the organised working class, we're still basking in the afterglow of the heroic era and no party has yet been able to suggest replacing cash payments that people can spend how they like with something as intrinsically demeaning as food stamps, let alone start lecturing people in receipt of the latter as to how they spend them. That's a remnant of the spirit of decency, fellow-feeling and 'there but for the grace of God go I' of the generations who lived through depression and war and were the mainstay of the political movements that built our public health and welfare system - people in poverty, whether long-term or temporary, are citizens as good as yourself and can spend the money to which they are entitled as they see fit.
posted by Abiezer at 11:11 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


syzygy : and living in a (still nominally) socialist country, in the city with the highest standard of living on the planet have helped me to see the error of my ways.

You've just given the answer to your question - Point to something that works better.

Unfortunately, I have to admit to a bit of pessimism here, in that if you handed US politicians the blueprints to a literal Utopia on a silver platter, they would still manage to fuck it up so their constituents (their real constituents, the ones who pay for them, not the morons who keep voting for more of the same) can somehow get just a little bit more at the expense of everyone else. And then they'd sell the platter just to squeeze out a few more bucks for themselves.

As an example, my complaints about Obamacare - I absolutely believe the US desperately needs fully socialized, single-(government)-payer healthcare with no insurance company middle-men taking their cut. And I suppose, to echo Kucinich's pointless grandstanding yesterday, Obamacare at least takes a few baby steps in the right direction. But despite having numerous great examples from the entire rest of the western world to draw on, US pols have turned the issue into a farce with as little actual help for We The People as they could get away with.
posted by pla at 11:22 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am convinced that the ideas and philosophy he espouses here are debilitating, malignant, metastasizing tumors on our society that must be excised post haste if we want to avert impending disaster.

Tell us how you really feel.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2010


GuyZero: Never wrestle with a pig: you both get filthy and the pig enjoys it. Me.

Allow me to paraphrase Orwell:
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot pig stomping on a human face -- forever.

Wrestle it to the ground and put a stake in its heart or be prepared to welcome your new pig overlords.
posted by syzygy at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2010


How do you get through to someone who has a magical belief in their own superiority and judge the world based on the 100 square miles that they call their universe?

I'm pretty sure New York City is bigger than that.
posted by electroboy at 11:33 AM on March 18, 2010


I don't want to be trite, nor do I want to Godwin this thread, but you know who else was initially labeled a harmless troll and ignored by civilized members of society? Seriously - this cancerous ideology is gaining currency and must be stopped before it's too late.


I see your Godwin, and I raise you one quasi-relevant fact: Hitler's impetus for getting into politics was that he was hanging around the coffeehouses of Vienna utterly and totally depressed and lacking a direction in life because... he didn't get in to art school. Not making this up.

Which, y'know... says a lot about the value of art school and keeping it open. Think of what future disasters we can prevent! NO, SERIOUSLY!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:42 AM on March 18, 2010


pla: You've just given the answer to your question - Point to something that works better.

I do, every chance I get. This place isn't perfect, but I can assure you that my quality of life has multiplied since I moved here. There's hardly any violent crime. I walk, bike or take public transportation to work (instead of driving an hour each way, every day). I pay far less for guaranteed world class health care coverage than my peers in the US. And surprisingly enough, they're very friendly to entrepreneurs here, with plenty of programs and assistance to help a new business get off the ground.

All of these things contribute to a much lower level of stress and fear in my daily life. I know that the worst that is likely to happen to me here pales in comparison to what could happen to me in the US. Nobody's going to shoot me here. Nobody's going to rob me at gun or knife point. If I lose my job or my mind, I'm not going to end up destitute and on the street. If I develop a major illness, I will be treated in excellent medical facilities at no additional cost to me. It's not a utopia, but it's damned close, and you don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy it. The fact that everyone here enjoys these benefits (plus a long list of others I've not bothered to write here) contributes to a tangible sense of communal well-being. Since nobody here worries about any of these basic things, everybody's a little more relaxed.

I'd love to see more of my fellow Americans enjoy these same benefits in my lifetime.
posted by syzygy at 11:54 AM on March 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well said, syzygy. As I mentioned upthread, I too was once on the other side - a shameless libertarian, and although I now attribute it to ignorance (but not willful), I think it's a common and growing viewpoint because it makes perfectly logical sense to those who share the mindset. They're not trolls. They're not evil. And calling them such won't bring them around...just solidify their position and make them less likely to listen and learn. We should accept them here, avoid driving them away with insults, and gently point them to papers and articles that can make them question their assumptions.
For me, the biggest eye- and mind-opener was reading about Warren Buffett's Ovarian Lottery concept, which basically says if you have to draw one of 6 billion lottery balls to determine the circumstances of your birth...whether male of female, your skin color, the wealth of your parents, what country you will live in, your mental or physical disabilities, etc; and before you find out the results you have to choose the economic, social and political systems under which the world will be governed; what system would you put in place?
posted by rocket88 at 11:54 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


i can't tell if the "sir" thing is hilarious or creepy or both.

It's not meant to be creepy, not sure where you're getting that from. Being overtly polite is just a way of trying to highlight the sheer absurdity of some of pla's obvious trolling. If it gets you to laugh a little, too, that's gravy(*).

(*) Not paid for with food stamps.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:57 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, syzygy. I'll bite: [Insert Tiger joke here.]

The problem with objectivism, in my meager understanding of it (informed primarily by how it manifests itself in blog wars and political slogans), is that rational self-interest is a circular manifestation of emotional self-interest. Nature is not, as many claim, cruel. Nor is it nurturing. It merely... is. Indifferent, at best. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrible, but never with an actual purpose. Nature is a result, not a motive.

Nature does make a great mirror, though, with examples a-plenty to fill or thrill the largest or coldest heart. Like human history, or daily news items - or the Internet. A pessimist will have no trouble finding examples of nature - and man as an extension of nature - appearing mercilessly cruel. Likewise, an optimist will have no trouble finding heartwarming examples of love and hope. Given that these many stories have always lived side-by-side, I can find no excuse for the laziness of thought (or disingenuousness, in some cases) required to claim that either view represents the true nature of nature - or by extension, man.

We are more complex than that. We are capable of the deepest cruelty and the most amazing wonders all at the same time. And by "we" I mean both as a species and as individuals.

Civilization may have begun (and to some degree remains) as a survival strategy - but there is absolutely no evidence or reason to suggest that that is the limit of civilization. As with every other tool we have created, civilization is mutable. Repetition of past mistakes is not inevitable unless we give in to the inevitability. Hell is not a destination. It's a choice.

And that's what I mean when I say that objectivism is circular. Objectivism is only relevant to the extent that the rest of the world is also objectivist. If everyone lives only for themselves and assumes everyone else will do the same, they will be right. Or... we can choose to make civilization worth more than just living out another day. We can choose to assume loss due to the occasional freeloader as a fair price for the potential enrichment of all mankind.

Even Rand was a proponent for the arts.

I was raised in a time when we, as a nation, still made much of working hard and sacrificing so that our children could have a better world and easier lives than we had. I've never much understood the resentment, then, that so many seem to develop when following generations do, indeed, try to benefit from that sacrifice. Were we lying to our children and ourselves all those years? I know I wasn't.

If I have used any terminology incorrectly, I apologize up front. I am neither a social scientist nor a philosopher or politician. Just another voice in the chorus. So please consider my point, such as it is, on its merits, rather than on the clumsiness of the delivery. Let the market decide, I suppose, is my request.

Thanks.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:01 PM on March 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


So while I support food stamps and safety nets of all kinds, I also understand that it needs to come with strings.

I'm not sure what we're arguing about (and maybe we're not?), but the net is already full of strings. To get food stamps you must meet [criteria]; likewise for Section 8, welfare benefits, WIC, Social Security, Pell grants*, etc. And all of those have strings, too - nobody on food stamps can use them to buy a Big Mac or a bottle of wine.

And sometimes, making the strings more restrictive will cost more than the benefit itself does.

Most state mental hospitals were defunded/closed in the 1980s, and the private sector was supposed to pick up the slack. Which they did - for people who have insurance. Mentally ill people with no insurance have a very very hard time getting treatment, and allowing mental health issues to go untreated gets more expensive the longer they go untreated. I'm not saying that state hospitals were all that and a bag of chips, because many of them were terrible places, and many people were probably involuntarily committed when they really didn't need to be. Reform was certainly in order.

But the alternative has turned out to be just as bad, or maybe worse. If you want to see more mentally ill people in one place at one time, with most of them not having access to any sort of treatment, you know where they are? The LA County jail system. Any county jail, really, in an urban area.

That's the kind of thing that can happen when the requirements to access the safety net comes with strings that are so restrictive or so short that only the most desperate or best insured can access that net. The people who need the net but can't get into it are still out there, and still costing us in a variety of ways.

* On this Pell grant site, I found this gem: You must be in a degree seeking eligible program. This means that you can't go and take underwater basket weaving and gym class and expect to get the Pell Grant. I totally cracked up.
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Light Fantastic: I think it's possible to cut through in some cases, if you're willing to talk reasonably with your opponent and use the right tools. I'm still honing my approach, but I find that few people are able to argue against a well-researched set of facts along with my personal anecdotes from living here.

Abiezer: That's a level of human decency that's common in Europe but unfortunately in short supply in the US. I hope that changes (in the US).

grapefruitmoon: I've spent a good deal of time in the University that rejected his application, not as a student, but hanging out with friends who are/were. I say 'hooray' for art school and humanities education. A solid education in the humanities practically disqualifies one as a target for the ignorant populism and fear-mongering that's sweeping the US these days.

rocket88: Thanks for the reminder and the link - bookmarked to share with libertarian friends and family.

IRFH: Sounds damned good to me. Thank you.
posted by syzygy at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2010


And I am not arguing that there aren't strings.

I'm arguing that we should constantly be evaluating the strings. That we should not be satisfied with the programs we have either in the U.S. or Europe. That the strings themselves create incentives that can be undesirable and do little to help people in any meaningful way. Whether that means that it extends and entrenches poverty, or fails to help those who need it.

And understanding how markets work, so that we can create programs that maximize aid, rather than just throw money at a problem to make ourselves feel better, is imperative. There are fascinating developments going on in poverty research and behavioral economics. I am ninety percent certain that Esther Duflo is going to save the world by giving people the information we need to know that our aid doesn't just make us feel morally superior, but actually goes to the root of the problem.

What that means is that there is a reasonable discussion to be had, to determine whether we're encouraging people into low paying careers, which if widespread enough and endemic of our current generation, will hurt our ability to fund strong safety nets. How many of the youngest generation think they'll get Social Security Benefits? Only a third.

The answer should not be "fuck you for asking", but a careful look at the actual cost and benefits. I am not advocating change. I'm advocating investigation and understanding. Whether or not the rich can afford to pay for these safety nets, they have to consent to it. Corporations and the rich have options, whether it's relocation, heavy lobbying or tax evasion. And even worse, corporations have every ability to just pass on the cost to us, regardless of our income and ability to afford it.

The argument that I can afford to pay for someone's healthcare is a lot less convincing than the argument that I should pay for someone's healthcare. That frustration and entitlement goes a long way to turning off voters who might otherwise be sympathetic to the fact that the healthcare market is broken.
posted by politikitty at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2010


politikitty, please tell me where all of these high paying jobs are that the majority of people who are being encouraged (or who choose by dint of art school(?)) into low paying careers are? They must be plentiful for you to be making this argument. Bonus points for also showing us where all those low paying careers openings are. I know lots of hard-working unemployed people who'd jump at the chance for one right now. Right now you seem to be arguing from the "I've got mine" podium.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:52 PM on March 18, 2010


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9: "The idea that moral standards did not exist when these horrific crimes were (and are) being committed is ridiculous. As one example, there were people who were anti-slavery since slavery in the Americas began. The moral standards existed."

You make my argument for me. If there exists a moral standard, than that must mean that there is a large group of people who agree with that moral standard. These people and other people who are fighting against injustice can just as validly be considered to be building society as the people (I am not even entirely sure who they are) that you are calling douchebags, et al. I think it's kind of ridiculous that you are assuming that the people that I am referring to are racists and pro-slavery. Why would you make that assumption?
posted by jefeweiss at 12:55 PM on March 18, 2010


syzygy - my impression is that people in the US are every bit as generous and decent as Europeans, just as we certainly have no shortage of selfish begrudgers or the mean-minded. It's the historical legacy of political movements that have confined the many attacks on welfare entitlements to largely stealth tactics, as that legacy has meant a fear remains that any open debate on the subject revitalising the still remaining majority who will defend what we've won and so spell doom for the political party that introduced any such move (you got a small taste of this when the US debate on healthcare saw a few attacks on the NHS and a swift mobilisation to defend it).
In the UK perhaps more than anywhere else in the richer European economies we've had some careful social engineering to attack the old solidarities, such as the Thatcher government's sell-off of social housing, so I wouldn't want to give the impression I'm smugly asserting some inherent superiority of Europe that wasn't gained through contest and may well be lost by a thousand cuts and as generations grow up with few or no links to that past.
posted by Abiezer at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm not arguing from the I Got Mine podium. I'm arguing from the "I graduated with a bachelor of arts and spent nine months unemployed hitting my head against the wall trying to get into public service during a time when all recent graduates were unemployed and trying to get into public service. During this time, I became active in career services of my university and found an internship that paid just over minimum wage in tax. After that I became a legal secretary with an eye on going to law school if it felt like a good fit. A good 18 months after graduating with my shiny liberal arts degree, constantly combing every lead in anything I could find, I found a decent paying gig to travel and be a Big Bad Tax Man. While I was unsure I was qualified or well-suited for the position, or would even like the position, I applied and got it. Three years later, I was laid off. After four months of looking for jobs in my hometown, which I dearly love, I very reluctantly started looking for jobs out of state. While I landed on my feet in a fairly pleasant manner, it was not without sacrificing my idea of a 'dream job'" podium.

If I had remained inflexible and said "I want my public service job! It's my goddamned passion, and I refuse to be boring and ordinary and The Man" I would have been waiting a long time.

I'm not saying that the market is fantastic now. I'm saying that when the jobs return, we have no way of guaranteeing that they will be in the industry or geographic preference of people. So bully for having a preferred career path. But most people end up in career paths that they never considered.
posted by politikitty at 1:12 PM on March 18, 2010


So while I support food stamps and safety nets of all kinds, I also understand that it needs to come with strings.

pla's argument seems to be that those "strings" are "don't enjoy your food too much, don't use your money too wisely on the best food you can find, and don't use too many of your cooking skills when preparing it."

And politikitty, my experience is that the US has far more motivated, smart people than we know what to do with. In an economy like this, far more people are applying for jobs at the book store than there are slots available. And if your job is in high demand, well, it's just a matter of time before the whole rest of the world realizes that it's a good job, too, and floods the employee pool. I'm not saying it's hopeless (I have a great job!), but there just isn't a huge pool of high paying jobs just "out there" for the taking that art school grads would otherwise be getting. As I said, I mock middle-class downwardly mobile slackers as much as the next guy, but I also know that telling someone to, "focus on getting a better, higher paying job" only works on an individual level: it's not a collective solution.
posted by deanc at 1:16 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you for your response politikitty. I agree with you for the most part and what you are saying about this issue. Your viewpoint is much clearer to me now.
posted by yertledaturtle at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2010


my impression is that people in the US are every bit as generous and decent as Europeans

So, some interesting facts about charitable giving:

As a percentage of income, the poorest Americans give the most to charity.

People who identify as religious tend to give more to charity than those who identify as non-religious. Conservatives typically give more than liberals. (source article)

As a percentage of GDP, Americans give more to charity than any other country.
posted by electroboy at 1:26 PM on March 18, 2010


Saying that there isn't a huge pool of 'high paying jobs' is actually not useful.

First off, I never said that there was. I have frequently acknowledged that that it isn't a matter of jobs available now, but rather 'when the economy recovers'.

Second, that is implying that when the jobs come back, they'll be available in the arts. In teaching. In law firms. That's essentially the equivalent of "Go work in auto manufacturing, eventually a job will open up." There are jobs in those markets, but the number of applicants outweigh the jobs, and will likely still outweigh the jobs when the economy recovers.

Until we divert the excess applicants into anything else, (and yes, this probably requires government programs that provide training in new careers, better career centers that introduce lesser known industries with applicants and perhaps relocation assistance) there will be a disproportionate amount of poverty associated with trying to succeed in that industry.
posted by politikitty at 1:32 PM on March 18, 2010


politikitty : The argument that I can afford to pay for someone's healthcare is a lot less convincing than the argument that I should pay for someone's healthcare.

In the future, I should just shut up and wait for you to make my main points far more tactfully than I would. :)
posted by pla at 1:42 PM on March 18, 2010


What that means is that there is a reasonable discussion to be had, to determine whether we're encouraging people into low paying careers, which if widespread enough and endemic of our current generation, will hurt our ability to fund strong safety nets. How many of the youngest generation think they'll get Social Security Benefits? Only a third.

We are certainly encouraging them, but not by saying "Oh art school's an awesome idea! Go do that!"

We're encouraging them by cutting higher education budgets, which is putting even community colleges and state universities out of reach for a lot of people. If it's going to take you six years to graduate because you can't get the classes you need because they keep getting canceled, well, that's two more years of tuition you have to pay, and a higher likelihood that you will drop out.

We encourage them into low-paying careers by cutting after-school programs, guidance counseling services, and outreach to at-risk youth in elementary and high schools.

They don't have the option of going into a high-paying/no-college-degree-needing job like working an assembly line at an auto plant anymore, though.

Instead they'll get one or more low-paying jobs in the area of the economy that's been seeing a lot of growth (until recently, when it, like other areas, came to a halt/slow-down): the service sector. They can go work for a big box store that will not give them enough hours to qualify for health insurance; they can clean houses under the table; they can wait tables; they can clean hotel rooms and office buildings.

Really, the last people we need to worry about being a drain on the economy are kids in art school, or philosophy majors, because they are a teeny tiny extra-small minority of the people who access social services. They will not be responsible for pulling the economy down by working as baristas for a couple of years. They are not the ones who need to be incentivized (oh my god I hate that word SO MUCH) away from being poor by having their food stamps taken away (or whatever). And when they graduate with the oh-so-useless studio arts degree, they will still be 10 million miles ahead of the kid who dropped out of college because it canceled the last two classes he needed in order to graduate. Maybe they'll starve as artists for a few years. But pretty much everyone I know with a BFA/MFA has a job, and most of them have non-low-end jobs. Some of them teach. Some of them run their own businesses. Some of them aren't in arts-related fields at all, and yet they still got the job, even with the arts degree.
posted by rtha at 1:43 PM on March 18, 2010


, to determine whether we're encouraging people into low paying careers, which if widespread enough and endemic of our current generation, will hurt our ability to fund strong safety nets

I just want to mention that no one who said they wanted to become an artist was met with a response of, "that's GREAT! You should totally do that!" from their parents and other adults providing guidance.

Most of the time, they will receive a response of, "that's a terrible idea, you're wasting your potential and could be making a lot more money doing something else" or "well, try that for a little while, and then you'll get over it." The best possible response they might get is, "oh thank God you've found something that you might actually be good at, because lord knows we never thought you'd even graduate high school."

So I really don't see where the country isn't already discouraging as many people as possible from entering the arts.
posted by deanc at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


But it's not just about who is accessing social services.

Choosing a lower paying career means less consumption, less tax dollars, less money going into local or even foreign businesses. If people are taking lower paying jobs, we have less tax dollars to spend on higher education.

And while it's nice to say "But maybe some of them will do great!". Yes. Maybe some of them will. But there's an obvious correlation between degree choice and earnings. In America we have this weird obsession with tying self-worth to your career. And this drives down the wages of necessary but feel-good careers (like teaching, where there are so many candidates we never have to raise wages to get applicants) and increases the wages of fairly easy but boring jobs like accounting.
posted by politikitty at 2:09 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was aware of those figures, electroboy, and my understanding has always been they reflect in part the problem: that's the medium through which the generosity and fellow-feeling of people in the US has been expressed rather than politically. It's been argued that there was a strong current against charity (still is, it seems if you look behind the framing of that report) because of the associations with condescension and religiosity, with mutualism preferred in the friendly societies and so on that prefigured the trade unions and then the overtly political socialist movement.
posted by Abiezer at 2:16 PM on March 18, 2010


It took me a little digging, and I'm sure I could go through the raw data if I had the time. But this does show a trend from engineering and hard sciences to an increasing number of people pursuing liberal arts and visual arts. Furthermore, kids are moving away from the idea of a high salary as an important life goal.

Now if this is where America wants to go, that's fine. Though I was a bit terrified to see that America is just about dead last of the OECD countries when it comes to science degrees. The goal of markets is not to make people rich, but to provide a way for people to make themselves happy. But trends like this do have consequences, which is why it's good to watch them.
posted by politikitty at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2010


"Choosing a lower paying career means less consumption, less tax dollars, less money going into local or even foreign businesses. If people are taking lower paying jobs, we have less tax dollars to spend on higher education. "

Again, what world do you live in that there are lots and lots of unfilled high-paying jobs for anyone not stupid enough to go to art school and to choose a different educational path instead? Plentiful unfilled jobs that, by remaining vacant because ingrates are choosing the wrong educational careers, could instead be increasing our tax base and making our nation strong?

The idea that making as much money as one possibly can given one's innate intelligence and current situation is a moral imperative, and that failing to do so is what is causing widespread poverty and the destruction of our social fabric (money for higher education, etc.) makes me want to barf. There's nothing more shameful than being poor in this country, and nothing more respected than wealth, whether you were born to it or made it off the backs of others.

There's also a lot of weird classism to unpack in all this: someone is still going to going to be filling the low paying jobs, even after (if) the economy recovers. There's simply not enough work out there for everyone who wants it. Are you therefore suggesting that only people who can't afford higher education should be the ones filling those positions?

Also, as has been pointed out up-thread a bunch of times, people with BFAs and MFAs have been, as a whole, doing quite alright for themselves. I am sorry your dream job did not work out for you, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are responsible for the downfall of the country because we're choosing different paths, no matter how futile you assume those paths to be.
posted by stagewhisper at 2:59 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


The good news is that the US is probably the only country in the world that can import scientists and engineers at the rate it does. The US runs an import economy across the board.
posted by GuyZero at 3:09 PM on March 18, 2010


That's an interesting graph, politikitty. I wish I knew what it meant, though. Or if it means anything.

What are "visual arts," I wonder. Are they the design degrees that lots of people were jumping for when the internets started heating up, and everybody suddenly needed a website that didn't look like 1996?

As a history major, I feel a sense of delight that "social sciences and history" degrees are climbing, but again, I don't know what that means. Do degrees in economics, for instance, fall under that category? Lots of high-paying jobs are in economics.

The thing is, I'm not seeing a correlation between "more social science/history degree holders" and "more people only prepared for low-paying jobs." I mean, umpteen years ago, nearly all of the liberal-arts-degree-having people I went to college with went to work high-paying jobs with consulting firms or corporations. A classmate and fellow history major I knew in college is now the CEO of Burt's Bees.

If I, as someone with a degree in history who has become an editor, had decided five or six years ago that being an editor was too uncertain and too low-paying - well, I could have decided to learn something practical and pays well, like being an electrician or a plumber. And then I would have gotten through my training and apprenticeship just in time for the housing crash. Unlike some or most of my fellow trainees, though, at least I would have had a BA to fall back on, because even a BA in something as pointless as history would be enough to keep my resume from being round-filed for a huge number of jobs.

You make your best guess about where the economy is going and weigh it against doing what you love, doing what you can stand, doing what won't drive you to depression and despair. And lots of people guess wrong. Even engineers are feeling the pinch.
posted by rtha at 3:32 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not assuming these paths to be futile. I am demonstrating that these paths have lower salaries and that doesn't help the tax coffers that are supposed to be building these safety nets. I am demonstrating that the decisions we make collectively have consequences.

If education is not supposed to lift people out of a lower social class, what exactly is?

And if it's so noble to be in a lower social class, exactly why are we supposed to help them?

I can't exactly wrap my head around why the government should invest in your future so you can remain exactly the same.

I am arguing that job markets are fluid, and thus applicants need to be equally flexible. While grit and determination are commendable, it also harms economies. Nobody has a right to their career choice. Hell, even if you manage to get in your career choice, you don't have a guarantee that job will stick around. I am arguing that while safety nets and transitional tools are commendable, and I'd love to build them and provide them to our citizens, we need to make sure we have a tax base that can not just afford it, but also consents to it.

We don't need it because of objectivism or Tea Parties or hating on poor people. We need it because that's how democracy works.
posted by politikitty at 3:38 PM on March 18, 2010


If education is not supposed to lift people out of a lower social class, what exactly is?...I can't exactly wrap my head around why the government should invest in your future so you can remain exactly the same.

Do you see a person who makes $20,000 and then goes through four years of college (yes, even as an art major) and gets another job that pays $20,000 as remaining exactly the same?

I don't.

Neither her salary nor her social class defines whether a person is a good citizen, nor do these things determine whether she is a "good investment" for her government. Education is not merely the pathway to a salary. People make valuable contributions to their countries in non-monetary ways.
posted by sallybrown at 3:46 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Many economics degrees are conferred by business departments as well as social sciences. While economics as a whole is doing quite well, I imagine there's a big difference between marketing a BB in economics, versus a BS or a BA in economics.

And I'm not saying that they are only prepared for low-paying jobs. Only that their average earnings are going to be lower than other majors. That for every success story we hear in this thread, there are many others that are barely scraping by.

This is less true for engineers. You just demonstrated that they are 1/3 as likely to be unemployed than compared to the average population. Does that mean they are recession proof? No. But it does mean they are more likely to be paying into the system so that we can afford to provide food stamps and whatever else we decide our population needs.

That more and more people are scrounging up the debt to go to college is great. But when the average high school drop out makes 29,000 while the average psychology major makes 28,800, we should really consider how and why we're funding higher education.
posted by politikitty at 3:51 PM on March 18, 2010


It took me a little digging, and I'm sure I could go through the raw data if I had the time. But this does show a trend from engineering and hard sciences to an increasing number of people pursuing liberal arts and visual arts. Furthermore, kids are moving away from the idea of a high salary as an important life goal.

Let me tell you what the problems with both of those studies are: in the first one, it's looking at the absolute number of degrees. Well, the absolute number of degrees is always going to go up. Certainly there are more people in america in 2006-2007 than there were in 1996-1997, right? We're going to see an increase in all fields. We see stagnation in the fields that are economic suckers' bets (biology, education) and large increases in ones that are pre-professional (business). Sure, the arts and social sciences see an increase, but it's not clear to me that they'd be making better livings after graduation as lab-techs or would otherwise be pursuing careers as chemical engineers.

Next, you see people in 2004 placing a much higher priority on making a lot of money than people did in 1972. While there may be a slight fall off from 1994 to 2004, a reasonable assumption is to point out that lots of people looked at the fallout from the economy between 2001 and realized, "not everyone gets rich. I will be happy to 'do fine' and end up like 99% of the people who spend their time trying to get rich."

I was a bit terrified to see that America is just about dead last of the OECD countries when it comes to science degrees.

I wish people would stop selling the story about how much we need more Americans to go into science. And I am a scientist/engineer. Here's the facts: A Ph.D. in biology will entitle you to a postdoctoral fellowship which will pay about $35,000 to $40,000/yr. Maybe by your mid-30s you'll get a tenure track position. Maybe you'll end up teaching intro biology at a small college. Or maybe you'll get a position in industry with the chance to make 6 digits by the time you're middle aged. Or maybe you might never get off the postdoc treadmill. Meanwhile, spending college getting a bachelor's degree in psychology or communications combined with a position on the cheerleading squad will get you a higher paying job in pharmaceutical sales.

People choosing to go into the humanities or the arts aren't creating poor economic conditions in the US. People choosing to go into the humanities or the arts are simply responding to the market. Coming to the US from abroad to get a Ph.D. in the sciences will guarantee you a lifetime of earnings several fold more than you could ever make in China or India. The decision to get a Ph.D. in the sciences after growing up in the USA will give you a lifetime of earnings and savings of about the same as many other middle class jobs that could be had with a bachelor's degree and much less than one could get in finance.

If I have a child who's living a downwardly-mobile lifestyle trying to "follow his passion" in the non-profit sector, sure, it behooves me to suggest he or she probably get off his butt, realize that he's getting screwed over, and think about the fact that he/she would probably help a lot more people by getting a job as a nurse or going to med school. That doesn't work on a national level to say, "if everyone became doctors, nurses, and engineers instead of artists, we'd be a lot richer as a nation." Our economic plight is not caused by too many people following their passions. It's caused by the fact that there aren't a huge pool of high paying jobs just waiting to be had by anyone that wants one. The nice-paying engineering job you have today might be downsized tomorrow, and maybe a potential engineer might see this and decide that eeking out a lower-paying but more stable living as a math teacher is something you should have decided to do in the first place instead of thinking you were going to strike-it-rich when your startup went public. And could you really blame him for thinking that?

If we, as a country, made a national policy effort to encourage the creation of higher paying jobs in the sciences and engineering, then you would see a lot more people opting for these careers in the sciences and engineering and studying those fields, just as you saw a lot more people (even artists!) pursuing work in the online industry during the dot-com boom.

While grit and determination are commendable, it also harms economies.

Evidence of this harm, please. I see no evidence that we, in terms of national GDP, are poorer because we have lots of underemployed artists. Rather, it strikes me that we have a lot of underemployed artists because job and wage growth have been stagnant.

The solution here is that anyone willing to hold an honest full time job should know that the position is going to be relatively stable, his health care should be covered, and there should be a safe neighborhood with decent schools where rent is affordable. Encourage policies that provide better jobs and flexible jobs so that artists can support themselves while they do their art. Improve the number of job opportunities and the salary levels of scientists, and (even) more people will do science.
posted by deanc at 3:54 PM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


But when the average high school drop out makes 29,000 while the average psychology major makes 28,800, we should really consider how and why we're funding higher education.

But wouldn't that ignore what each group is accomplishing? What if the average psychology major is helping two patients each stay more stable--which in turn leads to higher salaries for those two patients?

Or, why not say the highest-paid college drop-out (Bill Gates, I would think) is making vastly more than the highest paid psychology major, and take from that that a college degree is unnecessary for success?

Again, I really disagree that a person's salary accurately measures his total worth to a society.
posted by sallybrown at 3:58 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is not about who is a good or bad citizen.

You are the one that is trying to apply value to citizens based on career.

It is about the fact that you need a high GDP and/or a tolerance for high taxation to sustain expensive social nets. Otherwise something has to go. Whether it's funding for Americorps, medicaid, food stamps, higher education, secondary education.

Right now it's all on the chopping block. Not because people who use these programs are bad people and need to go to time out. But because we can't actually afford it.
posted by politikitty at 4:02 PM on March 18, 2010


something has to go. Whether it's funding for Americorps, medicaid, food stamps, higher education, secondary education.

You know, politikitty, a more rational approach to cutting down the costs of medicaid and foodstamps might be to support economic policies that ensure that people on medicaid and foodstamps get off them by giving them access to better jobs. In any case, when "something has to go," I really don't think that the cheap parts of the safety net are the problem.

The problem is not that there are too many downwardly mobile people using SCHIP to keep their kids insured. The problem is that there are too many poor people who don't have access to good jobs. The economy would improve greatly and we'd have much more tax revenue if medicaid and food stamp recipients had access to higher-paying manufacturing or semi-skilled labor jobs than if we gave a stiff kick in the pants to a few not-particularly-salary-obsessed college kids. We have a huge surplus of the salary-obsessed: many more than have high salaries. Stop trying to point the finger at the people who aren't causing the problem. You disagree with their choices and feel they could make better ones: that's fine, but that's not a national solution.
posted by deanc at 4:16 PM on March 18, 2010


Again, the day of stable careers is over. It's not coming back. Why? Mostly because America loves the entrepreneurial spirit. Most business are small businesses, even if most employees are in a larger firm. These businesses fail. About 2/3. This is not good or bad. This is just what it is. Working in large firms, a lot of the people I know have side jobs trying to be landlords, or standup comedians or build web-comics or their small mom and pop CPA firm. My dad has successfully burned nine start-ups into the ground over the past 20 years.

The fact that stable careers are extinct is precisely why we have the health care problem we have. If you had a stable career, you would be much less likely to be uncovered to get a pre-existing condition. We need to change the health care market substantially to align with this new reality, though I suppose both of us have two different ways of approaching it.

I mean, you're arguing for an America that people don't want. It'd be nice in theory, but most people want to work for themselves.

Further, the definition of the natural rate of employment is a case where the number of jobs available are equal to number of applicants available. In such a situation, you would not have zero unemployment. It's estimated in the US, it's closer to four percent. Why? Because the skills and/or geographic availability don't perfectly align, so it takes time to shift the market to put a seat in each body. Whether it's pulling a good candidate from a current job, so that an unemployed candidate can take that job. Or being convinced to move cross country. Or taking night class to get the skills necessary.

So yes, right now many people out there who DON'T have jobs we can connect them with. But even when there are, a determination to stick out a stint of unemployment to find the perfect job is exactly what contributes to the natural rate of unemployment.
posted by politikitty at 4:20 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm failing to see how sending more kids in for high-paying-job-at-the-end degrees magically produces more jobs for them at them end of it. Encouraging artist wannabes to go to engineering school instead is not going to make more engineering jobs appear.

Otherwise something has to go. Whether it's funding for Americorps, medicaid, food stamps, higher education, secondary education.

Waste in military contracts. Prison budgets.

You know why California's in such bad shape? Not because the Art Institute is graduating too many people who only make $20K a year. This is from 2007, but it's certainly telling:
For the first time, and unique among large states, California will soon spend more on its prisons than on its public universities. It has been projected that over the next five years, the state's budget for locking up people will rise by 9 percent annually, compared with its spending on higher education, which will rise only by 5 percent. By the 2012-2013 fiscal year, $15.4 billion will be spent on incarcerating Californians, as compared with $15.3 billion spent on educating them. Yet, despite this historic increase in prison funding, leading legislators -- including supporters of the increase -- and even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office agree that this is simply throwing good money after bad, given the rank mismanagement plaguing California's corrections system.
Well, that's one industry that's experiencing growth: Don't go to art school - become a corrections officer instead! Or a parole officer. California puts virtually all released convicts on parole, even if they were convicted of non-violent crimes.

If we are really, truly concerned about making sure enough of our citizens have enough and the right kind of education to make the salaries that pay the taxes, the last place we should be worrying about is art schools and English majors.
posted by rtha at 4:29 PM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


You want to know why else California is in such bad financial shape? They are hemorrhaging taxpayers.
Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more Americans moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau.
When it comes to aid, efficiency matters. Voters have a low tolerance for poorly managed social programs. Whether this is right or wrong, they still show up to the polls or move to states with smaller and cheaper safety nets.

That means that should you want to succeed, you should have data proving that going to college helps people. Not just that it makes them happier human beings. If it's a leisure good that solely makes them happy, they should be fronting the cost themselves. That providing health care is cheaper in the long run than overcrowded E.R.s and unproductive dead people. Not because it makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

Like I said very early in this debate, because the cost of complicated bureaucratic hoops is so high, the cost of the various unemployable art/social science/business majors has to be fairly high before it's worth creating an institutional barrier. And further estimated that I did not think it warranted an institutional barrier. I am not advocating change. But understanding demographic shifts is important in designing sustainable public policy, and providing evidence that safety nets provide a quantifiable good is essential.

This evidence exists. Most poverty is transitional (as I've said), and most people move from the consumption cycle to the savings cycle and are able to help support the safety nets that virtually nobody has argued should be cut. That does not mean that it's necessarily a bad idea to look at these issues.
posted by politikitty at 4:53 PM on March 18, 2010


Also, if we're importing a fair number of our engineers and scientists, I'm pretty sure that actually those jobs could go to Americans. Especially since the cost of immigration is extremely high.
posted by politikitty at 4:55 PM on March 18, 2010


Especially since the cost of immigration is extremely high.

What? Immigrants move to the US having already completed their education at no cost to any US citizen anywhere, ever. Well, maybe a few got grad school scholarships at US universities. They're better educated than the average American - by a huge margin. They earn more money than the average American. They generate more wealth than the average American.

Do you know what the requirements are to get a H1B or something really tough, like an E1, E2 or EB1? Contrary to popular belief immigrants aren't here to be cheap labour. They're in the US because the US has 4.5% of the word's population, which means it has, by itself, 4.5% of the world's geniuses. You should be extremely thankful that many of the other 95.5% of the world's geniuses are so interested in moving to the united states. Perhaps Jerry Yang should have started Yahoo in Taiwan? Sergey Brin should have started Google in Russia? Vinod Khosla should have started Sun in New Delhi? William Shockley should have started Fairchild Semiconductor in London?

The cost of stopping immigration seems a hell of a lot higher.
posted by GuyZero at 5:40 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're better educated than the average American - by a huge margin. They earn more money than the average American. They generate more wealth than the average American.

So if Americans were better educated, they'd be able to compete for these jobs, no? And if Americans were better educated, they would be cheaper to companies than the cost of supporting a H1B candidate?

My argument is not that we should end immigration. Hell, I'm incredibly pro-immigration. Even low wage immigration fuels growth, because they consume, and by consuming create more jobs that are both low and high wage.

But these jobs exist if Americans would like to compete for them. And Americans would have a natural advantage compared to immigrants, if they had a comparable education. That they don't is fine, and I hope that we do as much as possible to make sure these industries don't go overseas.

But saying "It's okay to be an artist because I might be an unemployed engineer" is bad logic. Instead you are an artist because it is your comparative advantage. If you could make more doing anything else, you should at least look into it. If you can't, either because you're quite successful at art or particularly bad at everything else, great. These are the people who reap the most gains in art and they are exactly the people we want in art. No more, no less.

I'm not having a problem with the end goal in this thread (that we should have safety nets and government programs to support people to be as successful and happy and productive as possible), but I have a hard time with the bad logic in this thread.
posted by politikitty at 6:07 PM on March 18, 2010


So if Americans were better educated, they'd be able to compete for these jobs, no? And if Americans were better educated, they would be cheaper to companies than the cost of supporting a H1B candidate?

Again, you're pitting 4.5% of the world's geniuses against 95.5%. The simple fact is that you're putting less competent American engineers out of work by bringing in better foreign ones. Many of those "foreigners" actually have US educations.

And Americans would have a natural advantage compared to immigrants, if they had a comparable education.

Nope. You're stuck with all the dumb Americans and you get all the smartest, hardest-working foreigners. It's just not a fair fight.

At any rate it sounds like you're advocating central planning or something and other than for bobsledders and pole-vaulters so far central allocation of careers hasn't been shown to work very well.
posted by GuyZero at 6:13 PM on March 18, 2010


Right now it's all on the chopping block. Not because people who use these programs are bad people and need to go to time out. But because we can't actually afford it.

I guess I don't understand why you're fixating on ordinary folks needing to have higher incomes in order to build up our tax revenues to support social safety nets. The reason we can't afford these programs is because of a whole variety of choices we've made and priorities we've decided on.

Sure, I guess one way to increase tax revenues would be to have college grads making more. But that's not the only way, and I'm not sure why you think it's so important. The top 5% of households by income pay more than 60% of income taxes, whereas the middle 20% pay 4.4%, and those in the next highest 20% (60th-80th percentile) pay 12.9%. (Not to mention the folks in the bottom 40%, making under $32,000 a year and getting back more than they put in, about 3.6% combined.) So sure, we could worry about which of those lower quintiles folks fall into, at the expense of discouraging people from studying things like art and the social sciences and what have you. Or maybe we could look at that top 5% of folks making $130,000+ a year (or even just the top 1% making $300,000+ a year and paying 40% of the taxes) and think about why we've decided our top tax rate should be less than 40% when as recently as 1980 it was 70%? And while corporate income taxes only make up about 12% of government revenues right now, how about asking why corporate income tax revenue has fallen from 5+% of GDP to around 2% of GDP?

(And that doesn't even touch the "Where do we choose to spend the revenues once we have them?" question, which is also kind of a big deal, considering that we spend twice as much on defense as we do on social safety net programs...)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:13 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey woah now, I'm all for upping taxes, but going back to 70% marginal rates is crazy talk.
posted by GuyZero at 6:18 PM on March 18, 2010


Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more Americans moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau.

Weird. Because unless I'm reading things totally wrong, this Census thing says that California's population increased by 8.5% from 2000-2008.

Oh, I see. After a little googling around, I found this very cool thing from the folks at Pew, which helps explain things.

(As an aside, politikitty, it may well be that you and I will never agree on the whys and wherefores of this subject, even if we ultimately agree on the end goal - a just, caring and equitable society - but I sure am learning a lot in this thread.)

(And now I have to go to a house meeting. Back later, I imagine. Unless everyone else has died of boredom or frustration or both.)
posted by rtha at 6:58 PM on March 18, 2010


I think politikitty and I have pretty much fleshed out our respective beliefs on this issue, but I think that you really went off in a wrong direction. Quite simply this:
In America we have this weird obsession with tying self-worth to your career.
(which you are saying is a bad thing) is completely incompatible with this:
the day of stable careers is over. It's not coming back. Why? Mostly because America loves the entrepreneurial spirit.
First of all, the day of stable careers is over not because "America loves the entrepreneurial spirit." It's because corporations decided it was more efficient to treat people like interchangeable, easily replaceable human resources. Next, if you want people to stop investing their self-worth in their primary money-making jobs so that they choose jobs which are the most economically productive for their skills, then jobs should just be stable jobs that provide a living wage and health coverage in exchange for 40 hours of honest work so that they can invest their self-worth in other things they consider more worthwhile but you consider to be a drag on the national economy.

The side effect of people being "entrepreneurial" is that you have artists who are going to pursue their dreams and risk not making it, just like your father pursued his dream 9 times and didn't make it.
posted by deanc at 8:30 PM on March 18, 2010


Voters have a low tolerance for poorly managed social programs. Whether this is right or wrong, they still show up to the polls or move to states with smaller and cheaper safety nets.

Are you really trying to claim that people are leaving California because it has too much of a social safety net?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:49 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm all for upping taxes, but going back to 70% marginal rates is crazy talk.

Given that, adjusting for inflation, you would have to make $275,000 as an individual, or twice that as a married couple filing jointly, before you even hit that marginal rate, why is this crazy talk? In 1980, if the 70% marginal rate applied to you as an individual, you were making more money than 95% of all households in the U.S.

You may have a point, though. Given the spending trends we're seeing, you may actually need to pull down $275,000 a year in the near future in order to be able to afford basic health care.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:15 AM on March 19, 2010


Salon has posted a response from one of the subjects of the article.
posted by jquinby at 6:15 AM on March 19, 2010


So yeah, I'm looking through the comments here where it's turned into this giant flamewar about justifying art against the fact that finding jobs in this shitty economy is fucking hard.

And I want to rant about why I'm an artist, about how we may not provide much in the way of "financial instruments" that conjure money out of nowhere, how most of us will toil and die in obscurity, but how we still have to do what we do because we need to bring some tiny shred of beauty, wonder, and dreams to the bitter, friendless world that we live in. And how I feel like we shouldn't even have to be playing this "capitalism" game any more since we have so much awesome technology that can automate the necessities of living, and how depressingly far I feel like that dream is from the America of today. It'd be a long rant.

But I think that most of what I want to say was already said in 1968 by Leo Lionni, in a little book called Frederick.

And now I should get back to work on telling you about some of the amazing sunsets I've imagined.
posted by egypturnash at 9:10 AM on March 19, 2010


Get a job, hippy! Hopefully, a well-paying job with good benefits as an artist-in-residence somewhere inspiring with a healthy environment and great friends. Hippy!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2010


That response doesn't make me feel any better. You went to a great school and you just exhibited high-level verbal and reasoning skills. Go find a job that enables you to support yourself-the economy is not so bad for people in your peer group, but it is probably the case, like almost all of the world, that you will not be able to support yourself doing precisely what you want to do. Food stamps are not to subsidize your vanity lifestyle; they are for people like Straightener's clients who have no other choices. That the pie is smaller for that latter group because you take that benefit is wrong and you should be ashamed. The kind of food you buy with the stamps, the state of agricultural subsidies in the U.S., your race, and hipster hate are not relevant here.
posted by Kwine at 9:32 AM on March 19, 2010


That the pie is smaller for that latter group because you take that benefit is wrong and you should be ashamed.

The 'pie' is not a set number. There is not currently, nor has there ever been, an upper-limit to the number of people who can receive food stamps. If you meet the criteria, you get the benefit, regardless of how many other people do. See number two here.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:41 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is giving me flashbacks to The Giver.

If someone qualifies for an aid program, that means the government has decided it is willing to help those people. (Oh, and for the "those are my tax dollars the government is using to help hipsters and I don't want my money given to them" argument--tough luck, Thoreau and I and you have all had to deal with the government spending our money in ways we disagree with.) If you think only "people like Straightener's clients" deserve that aid, then you should have a problem with the program, not with the people who qualify for it and legally avail themselves of it.

Why are we so willing to look at people we don't know and tell them what their careers should be? Who get to decide what a "vanity lifestyle" is?
posted by sallybrown at 9:43 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not so sure that the economy isn't bad for people in his peer group. Not saying you are wrong but I just don't know if that is true.
posted by josher71 at 11:35 AM on March 19, 2010


I am happy that you're deciding what I'm advocating.

I'm advocating that social safety nets cost money and voters are highly sensitive to taxes. So a high GDP is necessary to support consumption for the arts, education funding and welfare, which politicians decide are the first thing that should go when budget cuts come.

Want prison reform? Great. Except I haven't seen candidates do well running on shorter sentences for felons, even if they're non-violent.

This is not to say that safety nets are good or bad. Or that low paying wages are good or bad. It is that there is a serious incompatibility with wanting a strong expensive central government along with the freedom to cognizantly move downwards. A balance has to exist, and that means constantly analyzing government and charitable programs to find better more efficient ways to help the poor. And that means understanding the demographics of our nation. If we have a generation of do-gooders who take lower salaries in exchange for either a sense of personal fulfillment or even just extra vacation, that is not good or bad. But it does change the budget outlook and either taxes or social programs will have to change.

You want to make nothing? Fine. But it's entirely likely that we won't be providing Social Security for you, because we failed to bring in enough revenue. That's not a punishment. That's a (potential) consequence. Again it is not about judging anyone their decisions. It is about understanding the consequences of these decisions.

Also, a very cheap way of looking at taxes. You're looking at federal income taxes. Include all other payments to the federal government and state governments, and it changes drastically. The average effective tax rate in America for the lowest quintile is 30% when you consider property taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes etc. And the effective tax rate for the top tier is close to 50%. (link) And that doesn't include indirect taxes via corporations. State and local corporate taxes make up 5% of the GDP (found in 2008 business tax burden study). Further, they contribute 50% of funding for Medicaid and Social Security, which make up 40% of our federal budget. And 60% of state and local budgets. So the assessment that corporations don't pay taxes is always hilariously laughable.

And again, that's just a fact. It is up to you to decide if it's good or bad. Personally, I think that's a bad thing. Corporations do not absorb taxes, they pass them on to us. Hell, they also spend tons to minimize their tax burden, and then pass THAT cost onto us. I would much rather a government organization deciding how much a teacher can afford in taxes over Exxon-Mobil.
posted by politikitty at 11:43 AM on March 19, 2010


If we have a generation of do-gooders who take lower salaries in exchange for either a sense of personal fulfillment or even just extra vacation, that is not good or bad. But it does change the budget outlook and either taxes or social programs will have to change.

We are *never* going to balance the budget on the backs of art students whom we tell to be dentists instead. I've not seen a scintilla of evidence here or anywhere else that we're going to dig our way even an inch out of this hole by making BFA-holding 23-year-olds who are volunteering/working in coffeeshops/answering phones for a nonprofit go get Real Jobs instead.

The fact that politicians are too scared to go against the prison guard's union is not going to be solved by making more engineering jobs and the engineers to go with them. Incarceration rates went up even as crime rates dropped. That is complete insanity. I mean, you know who else is going to be working low-paying jobs because they can't get student loans or a decent job? All the felons we've created.

It weirds me out that you're so focused on making sure that low-wage do-gooders - who are a tiny, tiny minority of wage-earners - Pay Their Way Into The System, and so concerned about making sure that safety nets are as efficient as possible but you brush off the billions of dollars spent locking up people as "oh well politicians are too scared to do anything about it." I mean, it's weird.

It doesn't help that California has this incredibly fucked up ballot initiative system, whereby we can go "Hey guarantee funding for schools and oh yeah make sure to lock up a lot of people and give prison guards raises and oh by the way we don't want to pay a vehicle tax anymore and we want to cap property taxes and also? Here's another long list of ponies we want but we don't want to pay for them so can Santa please automagically bring them to us for free?"

Like I said way upthread, we are fucking stupid.
posted by rtha at 12:54 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


You went to a great school and you just exhibited high-level verbal and reasoning skills. Go find a job that enables you to support yourself-the economy is not so bad for people in your peer group, but it is probably the case, like almost all of the world, that you will not be able to support yourself doing precisely what you want to do. Food stamps are not to subsidize your vanity lifestyle; they are for people like Straightener's clients who have no other choices.

Okay -- right here is where it got personal.

I also went to a great school. I also have high-level verbal and reasoning skills. And -- I am also trying to balance a career in the arts WITH a job that enables me to support myself.

Except -- oh, look, we have a crap economy right now and I haven't been able to get steady work for a year and three months now. Despite TEN YEARS' worth of secretarial experience AND copyediting and proofreading experience, AND three years' worth of experience in media AND ten years' worth of experience in the financial field.

Now -- nowhere in this thread, and nowhere in that article, did I see anyone mention that the people who are on food stamps are shunning grunt work or "day jobs." So I can only conclude that they -- like me -- are more run-of-the-mill unemployed. We KNOW that our chosen fields suck. That's why we turn TO day jobs. Except those day jobs are ALSO hard to come by now. So what should we do -- starve?

So for the love of Christ, can we lay off the "you should have gone to med school you dirty hippie" artist-talk, because I get QUITE enough of that from my parents, thank you VERY much.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's not a matter of making sure low-wage do-gooders Pay Their Way Into The System. You're the one deciding that I've decided what has to happen.

That decision has consequences. Good or bad, it does. We are not tiny insignificant cogs, though it is easy to feel that way because we are pitted against so many other cogs. But the simple cultural trait to save and avoid debt is thought to be a main reason Japan had a decade of stagnant growth compared to America. Again, it's not that it's a bad thing. It's an example that a trend that feels very personal does effect things like the unemployment rate and GDP and tax coffers.

Deciding to forgo the highest salary you can reasonable demand with your skillset results in less disposable income to spend on arts. Less tax money to fund programs. Less disposable income means less unnecessary consumption with in turn usually means less unnecessary jobs. There is a whole lot less of anything that requires money. If an art student wants to avoid a real job and instead takes a barista gig to make ends meet, their new budget affords less cups of coffee which provide the demand necessary to provide barista gigs to art students who want to afford to chase their dream. Higher salaries = higher disposable income = demand for more services = more jobs. It is incredibly difficult to change this market reality, which is why recessions persist.

And that's fine. Money is simply a means to make ourselves happy, and if we can be happy without money, I am not advocating against that. But having less money means we actually have less money.

Demographic shifts matter. It matters that Hispanic immigrants from 30 years ago now have American citizen kids who hold similar socio-political beliefs and VOTE. It matters that older voters are more conservative and younger voters are more liberal and the life cycle is going grimly pick off conservative voters. It matters that high school kids of all ethnic and religious backgrounds highly favor gay marriage compared to their parents generation.

To say it's a few people is missing the point. We don't know that it's a few people or an entire generation. And without that information we can't decide what we as a society can afford. I'm saying that we should follow them as a demographic and understand them, because they matter. They have an impact on society in ways that matter, and society is different because of them.

The value judgments are completely out of my argument.
posted by politikitty at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2010


Deciding to forgo the highest salary you can reasonable demand

Are people doing that normally? Sure, you hear about doctors quitting it all and working at Starbucks or something but are most people really not near what the market will bear? Certainly there are underearners but I think the majority are not underearners by choice.
posted by josher71 at 1:36 PM on March 19, 2010


Higher salaries = higher disposable income = demand for more services = more jobs. It is incredibly difficult to change this market reality, which is why recessions persist.

By this logic everyone should be an investment banker.

I'm pretty sure the interactions between microeconomics and macroeconomics are a bit more subtle and/or sophisticated than this. For example - we could simply give everyone a 20% raise. That will not really stimulate the economy so much as cause rampant inflation. Or we could simply cap everyone at a 30 hour workweek which would definitely increase employment although it questionable if the economy would grow as a result. Or we could print more money but oops, hey, there's that inflation thing again.

Simply insisting that everyone take a better paying job is... unrealistic.
posted by GuyZero at 1:49 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


We don't know that it's a few people or an entire generation.

Based on historical experience, I think we can safely assume that the entire generation of current 18- to 35-year-olds are not going to all decide to be downwardly mobile do-gooders.

The last time we had a noticeably big burst of downwardly mobile do-gooders was, say, 1965-1975. Ish. And you know where a whole lot of that generation is now? Working high-paying white-collar jobs in film and banking and real estate and probably engineering, too.

It matters that older voters are more conservative and younger voters are more liberal and the life cycle is going grimly pick off conservative voters.

Yes, and it has ever been so. You're taking as evidence that a few art students in Baltimore are the bleeding edge of a gigantic demographic shift, when in fact there have always been well-educated downwardly mobile do-gooders. They have been called suffragists and abolitionists and beatniks and hippies. You really need to get some historical perspective, because what you're seeing as unprecedented is completely and utterly precedented.
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on March 19, 2010


Absolutely.

Our economy has transformed from pure salary to salary supplemented with benefits in the form of shorter hours and longer vacations and more expensive health benefits (while these have been available less, they do cost more and arbitrage against potential earnings) have been increasing at a higher rate than salary. These decisions don't just take place at the extremes, though these also happen.

Americans work 50% more hours than their European counterparts, which is a complete reversal from the 1970s. One of the main causes seem to be high taxes. When you take home less, it makes more sense to avoid the tax man and consume something he can't take. Benefits or leisure.

People regularly make the decision that they don't need that extra buck. They take vacations. They give up part of their paycheck to the state. They might be great at statistics and choose to teach math instead of become an actuarial. These decisions might make them happier, and might not affect *their* ability to provide in a manner they're accustomed. And they shouldn't avoid it. But these marginal decisions matter.
posted by politikitty at 2:01 PM on March 19, 2010


Throwing in my bit here.

Currently, I work 11 hours per week at what sounds like a nice hourly wage (and then you realize that my boss only has 11 hours a week to give me). If I worked for half the wage and 20 hours per week, I'd qualify for food stamps. Same amount of money coming in, but I currently don't qualify, because I don't work enough.

Thankfully, I just got hired to work a second job, so my financial situation is still a little less tight.

But let me tell you, food stamps would be such an enormous help, since as it is, I'm not paying my student loans. If I had food stamps, my credit would be a little less trashed. Instead, I'm making the decision to keep myself alive rather than meet other obligations.

I own a le creuset pot. I've had it for more than 5 years. Bought it back when I had an office job. Owning a le creuset pot makes me no less cash poor. I don't think the cookware has a damn thing to do with what folks ought to be spending food money on. Not a damn thing. (Also, I have a friend with a Costco membership. Every now and then she picks up a bag of frozen salmon for me. My favorite splurge, and fuck anyone who tells me I don't deserve it. This shitty economy has kept me from having a real job for the past year. If I want a piece of fish every week, I'll enjoy my goddamn fish.)
posted by bilabial at 2:08 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. If everybody became an investment banker, the investment banker would have to pay some people a pretty penny to provide all the other things an investment banker needs. Like food, housing, education to teach people to become investment bankers.

People who are not very good at investment bankers and might not have the job security the better investment bankers have, would be tempted by the CRAZY wages a butcher now pays because nobody has been able to find the time to kill animals to provide meat. And they're tired of scrounging for edible weeds, so a four grand steak is a godsend.

People have a variety of taste and skills, which affords a variety of jobs. It is our relative wealth that affords us these jobs, and so snubbing it is incredibly short sighted.

One reason there are low wages in teaching is precisely because everyone wants to follow their dream and become a teacher. Part of the reason so few musicians make a great wage is that I can browse through millions of options and spread my music dollars thinly. Part of the reason artists make crap wages is because they are competing against so many of them.

Again, I am not trying to say what people SHOULD do. My examples are exactly that. Examples. Not a homework assignment of how you should live your life. The fact that so many people here are blatantly trying to read it as such is sad. If you want to make a profit, markets aren't all that important. You just act as selfishly and ruthlessly as possible, and hope for the best. If you actually care about the welfare of the people, then understanding markets and understand how even small decisions can affect them is integral.

rtha, if that's the case, it should be easy to find statistics for me. If we want to use loose historical explanations, it's pretty easy to counter that have never had a government that provides as many services for those who end up on the lower end of the spectrum. We had long and brutal recessions that hurt people. The recessions in the last twenty years have been short-lived thanks to the fact that we have studied economics and tinkered with strategies to mitigate these market failings. To say that we were able to have downwardly-mobile do-gooders while letting the poor starve in the past is not exactly a ringing endorsement.
posted by politikitty at 2:25 PM on March 19, 2010


Americans work 50% more hours than their European counterparts, which is a complete reversal from the 1970s. Since we apparently didn't change the number of hours worked that much, did the Europeans?

Am I misunderstanding this? According to this (.pdf) from the BLS, "Average hours at work changed little over the period from 1976 to 1993, increasing by just 1.1 hours, on net, to 39.2 hours."

It's not a matter of making sure low-wage do-gooders Pay Their Way Into The System. You're the one deciding that I've decided what has to happen.


When you're arguing that low-wage do-gooders are the ones who are primarily responsible for a significant drop in tax revenue, and that people who choose to forgo their art careers and go into higher-wage fields will be the saviors of Social Security et al., it's hard to not make a very small and obvious jump.

I mean, when you say this: Deciding to forgo the highest salary you can reasonable demand with your skillset results in less disposable income to spend on arts. Less tax money to fund programs. Less disposable income means less unnecessary consumption with in turn usually means less unnecessary jobs. There is a whole lot less of anything that requires money. If an art student wants to avoid a real job and instead takes a barista gig to make ends meet, their new budget affords less cups of coffee which provide the demand necessary to provide barista gigs to art students who want to afford to chase their dream. Higher salaries = higher disposable income = demand for more services = more jobs. It is incredibly difficult to change this market reality, which is why recessions persist., the conclusion you're reaching for seems pretty obvious. Since it isn't, apparently, to me, perhaps you could explain what the next step in your argument is.
posted by rtha at 2:34 PM on March 19, 2010


GAH! Preview fail!
posted by rtha at 2:34 PM on March 19, 2010


rtha, if that's the case, it should be easy to find statistics for me. If we want to use loose historical explanations, it's pretty easy to counter that have never had a government that provides as many services for those who end up on the lower end of the spectrum. We had long and brutal recessions that hurt people. The recessions in the last twenty years have been short-lived thanks to the fact that we have studied economics and tinkered with strategies to mitigate these market failings. To say that we were able to have downwardly-mobile do-gooders while letting the poor starve in the past is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Wait, so is your argument that we could be on the edge of a demographic shift in which college-educated young people will choose to be downwardly mobile (well, follow their art or make their music or whatever not-very-remunerative thing they like) because we have food stamps and Medicaid? And that there were fewer people who would be willing/able to do this in, say, 1955 (picking a totally random year that's post-Depression and pre-modern-day food stamps and Medicaid)?
posted by rtha at 2:44 PM on March 19, 2010


Except that I'm not making a conclusion.

If we're happier with less in the aggregate (and again, if we had better data, we could find out if this population is louder or larger), then we should have less.

But being happy with less also means that we provide less as a government. That we're constrained with the amount of generosity we can provide. While we can afford 58 billion in food stamps without turning down any in need today, that doesn't guarantee the same in five years. If higher education is shifting towards more of a consumption good rather than financial investment, that changes the ability and method we pay for it.

We don't get to have it all.
posted by politikitty at 2:48 PM on March 19, 2010


If higher education is shifting towards more of a consumption good rather than financial investment, that changes the ability and method we pay for it.

We don't get to have it all.


But so what? What's your thesis here? That people need to be more productive? This is like arguing that everyone should be more attractive. It would be great but you can't just wave your magic wand and make it so.

Whatever it is you're defending is really hard to understand. Other than that people who went to college should be denied food stamps. Or something.
posted by GuyZero at 2:52 PM on March 19, 2010


I would be willing to consider reconsidering my position on this subject if someone could provide me with reliable data showing:

1) that a statistically significant percentage of the population is deliberately turning down legitimate higher-paying employment opportunities for which they are even nominally qualified - by competence, if not by training - solely in order to chase dreams which are definitively less productive to a statistically relevant degree;

2) that those higher-paying jobs they are turning down are therefore going unfilled to an extent that is demonstrably slowing the economy enough to impact our ability to provide a sufficient safety net to help anyone in the country who needs it, for any reason at all;

3) and that this statistically significant number has varied significantly over enough periods of economic volatility so as to be measurable as a potential factor in the outcome.

Otherwise, this is like arguing that butterflies are culpable for hurricanes and ignoring prevailing winds as primarily causative. Butterfly effect aside, if all of the butterflies on Earth were to suddenly die off, hurricane season would still come. But the Earth would be much the poorer in the meantime.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:52 PM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


One reason there are low wages in teaching is precisely because everyone wants to follow their dream and become a teacher.

The far, far majority of people I know have no interest in being teachers. Even if teachers were paid better. I love teachers, but I have never dreamed of becoming one. Anecdata, certainly, but claiming that teacher salaries are low due to high demand for the position is a very simplistic (and likely incorrect) explanation for something almost certainly more complicated. The simple demand-supply curve I learned about in Econ 101 doesn't explain all the intricacies of life.
posted by sallybrown at 2:59 PM on March 19, 2010


Not that we might spur a demographic shift due to safety nets. But that financially we might not be able to sustain both that existing demographic (if your argument is true) and also maintain the financial safety nets that depend on an ever expanding tax base. (I'm looking at you, ponzi scheme social security that is being threatened by fewer children and increased health outcomes).

As I pointed out above, downwardly mobile is more pernicious than just art students. People are taking home less of their compensation in dollars these days, and that is a legitimate demographic shift. While the government might be able to tax vacation days and health care benefits, it's hard to figure out a tax rate for a shorter work-week. This is not good or bad, but as this trend continues, it's going to affect the social programs we can provide.

I think it's possible that social programs can become smarter. So I don't think that it's a matter of denying food stamps or telling people what they can and can't do. But it is imperative that we constantly have this discussion so that we never have to tell people "no, we can't pay for your food stamps this week" rather than wait for the time Salon tells us Baltimore is choosing between the single mother and the hipster who's hoping the blogging gig will pick up again.

Also, the paper on the change in work hours was done by the Fed and is here.
posted by politikitty at 3:04 PM on March 19, 2010


Americans work 50% more hours than their European counterparts, which is a complete reversal from the 1970s. One of the main causes seem to be high taxes.

Okay, I don't have time to go into the rest of this in any depth right now, but do you have any evidence for this? (The taxes being the cause, not the working more hours, I don't need to see evidence for that-- rtha, my understanding is that it's not just us working more hours weekly than them, but also them getting way more vacation time.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 3:08 PM on March 19, 2010


It could also be that France passed a law limiting working hours for most employees.
posted by GuyZero at 3:12 PM on March 19, 2010


It's not a matter that everyone wants to be a teacher. There are more than two careers in the world.

It's that the market bears x teaching jobs and x+y teaching applicants, wages fall until enough applicants are discouraged. If there were instead x-y teaching applicants, schools would increase the salary until they had someone in that role. The more insensitive people are to wages, the higher wages will go in undesirable fields and lower in less desirable fields. Are people insensitive to wages?

Yes. I've chosen one job over the other because it came with a great vacations package. I'm passed on interviews with companies I know expect a lot of unpaid overtime. Not in this current economic crisis, but you know, a career is not solely one day. And those who have said that artists have the right to fail and be poor and do What They Love are also admitting that people are insensitive to wages.

Nothing ever happens on the extremes. But in the margins? It happens every single day. And to deny that is being fallaciously obtuse is great. Deciding that understanding how to fix a market is too complex, so we'll sit here and whine our way out of a recession is absolutely the right way to go. I'm pretty sure there are lots of well paying careers in whining, so make sure you highlight it on your resume.
posted by politikitty at 3:16 PM on March 19, 2010


If an art student wants to avoid a real job and instead takes a barista gig to make ends meet...

So being a barista isn't a "real" job? I interact with a few baristas, none of whom are art school graduates or artists. I'm pretty sure they'd be insulted to know they don't have a real job and should go out and find proper work.

What else isn't a "real" job? Is it any job that doesn't require a suit and tie, or just any job held by people who have art degrees or make art?

There have been a few people in this thread talking about "real" jobs, and I really wonder what the list of real jobs contains. In my mind, if one leaves one's house, expends energy and skill for the benefit of someone else or a business and is then paid for their time, that is a real job, no matter what that person is doing. So I've obviously never know what a real job is. Enlighten me.
posted by Orb at 3:18 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Americans work 50% more hours than their European counterparts, which is a complete reversal from the 1970s. One of the main causes seem to be high taxes. When you take home less, it makes more sense to avoid the tax man and consume something he can't take. Benefits or leisure.

Americans work 50% more hours than Europeans because the hours of Europeans dropped, not that ours went up. The pdf from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that I linked to above seems to make that pretty clear.

I'm still having trouble parsing the high-taxes portion of your argument there. Are you saying that the taxes of Europeans went up and that's why they consume more benefits and have more leisure (which they certainly have more of, but I know very little about the historical tax rates of Western Europe, so I don't know what their status is from the mid-70s to now).

Also? Your "I'm not making a conclusion" feels incredibly disingenuous when you've spent nearly 30 comments promoting the idea that those downwardly mobile kids in Bal'mer might be the cause of economic rupture. It pissed me off a lot. A way lot. So I'm going to try to stay out this for a while, go out and smell some flowers or something.
posted by rtha at 3:18 PM on March 19, 2010


It could be that the recession has noting to do with labour and everything to do with money supply and that we're preventing the US economy from recovery by protecting our savings via keeping interest rates extremely low and stopping inflation. Increase the money supply, let inflation rise, savings lose purchasing power but create jobs.

It has nothing - zero - to do with career selection, bulk or marginal.
posted by GuyZero at 3:22 PM on March 19, 2010


It's that the market bears x teaching jobs and x+y teaching applicants, wages fall until enough applicants are discouraged. If there were instead x-y teaching applicants, schools would increase the salary until they had someone in that role.

You realize that the real, actual market for teaching jobs is not "free"--it is subject to many constraints, right? Such as tenure? These constraints mess with the simplistic demand-supply curve you set out above.

Again--you were wrong in saying everyone wants to be a teacher, and that teacher salaries are as low as they are because there is a high demand for teaching jobs. According to your theory about teachers, the lowest paid jobs generally would be the jobs highest in demand. This is blatantly incorrect.
posted by sallybrown at 3:32 PM on March 19, 2010


Not the cause of economic rupture.

Just that these things have consequences. That demographics inherently change governments and economic systems and that when you choose to become an artist rather than a doctor that actually matters. That depresses the wages of artists and increases the wages of doctors. In drives down the price of art and increases the cost of healthcare.

When you ask your employer for more sick days, they might not decrease *your* salary, but when they negotiate salary with the next person demanding high sick days downwards. And they can because you (rightfully) place a value on sick days.

Is this a bad thing?

Only if we're at a point that we can't provide the social services we want to or get the number of doctors we want to. There isn't a lot of evidence for possibility number two right now (though I'm pretty sure we were having a nursing shortage before our economy crumbled), but there is a significant possibility for point one if this is a trend.

Europe has a lot of features that are great. But that ignores that they have a higher natural rate of unemployment. They have a higher rate of taxation, which seems to drive people to work less. They seem to rely on a large immigrant population that cannot get citizenship for either themselves or their children, minimizing the public help available to the lowest quintile of their population as a cost cutting measure.

If their economy was structured more like America, it's likely that half of those accepting aid would be better off, while half would be worse. So what we're doing by instituting European like systems is making the bottom five percent better off at the expense of the second bottom five percent. While we'd like to find a way to instead make the rich pay, they seem to just take longer vacations.

That isn't to say that it's not a worthwhile noble goal. We aren't letting the second bottom percent starve while potentially saving lives on the bottom five percent.

So everytime we say "But Europe!" that isn't actually the answer. Because there a lot of pros and cons to Europe that should be discussed.
posted by politikitty at 3:57 PM on March 19, 2010


No, the lowest paid jobs would be those with the largest number of excess applicants.

Look at unemployment among teenagers in this economy.
posted by politikitty at 4:01 PM on March 19, 2010


But as I said because the cost of complicated bureaucratic hoops is so high, the cost of the various unemployable art/social science/business majors has to be fairly high before it's worth creating an institutional barrier.

I want you to stop. Take a deep breath. Read it again.

Everything. Everything past that comment is academic and not political. That these incentives are interesting and real and poorly understood is worth discussing. These shifts do not have to be large and apocalyptic to be interesting. While I do not advocate any policy change, that doesn't change the fact that the way the market reacts to what appears irrational decision making is endlessly fascinating. Knowing things is not a bad thing.

If you want to argue with me because you think my inquiry is classist and hurts your feelings about your current career choice, go ahead. But the fact that you're taking it personally is not on me.
posted by politikitty at 4:13 PM on March 19, 2010


One reason there are low wages in teaching is precisely because everyone wants to follow their dream and become a teacher.

And within 3-5 years, many of those teachers realize, "this sucks! I'm out of here!"

are taking home less of their compensation in dollars these days

That is because it all goes towards their spiraling health insurance premiums rather than the dollars they take home in the form of wages.

politikitty, you are convinced that we have a lot of purposely downwardly mobile people causing massive macroeconomic effects, and that's not in evidence. We are the richest nation in the world with the highest per-capita income of any major first world country. You obviously have an ax to grind about your peers who didn't make the decision to leave the non-profit sector and become a respectable accountant like you did, but that isn't the problem this country is facing right now. You can't back up your personal axes with actual facts, so let it go.
posted by deanc at 4:15 PM on March 19, 2010


So what we're doing by instituting European like systems is making the bottom five percent better off at the expense of the second bottom five percent.

The USA will literally burst into flame when it adopts a single system that is anything like any system in Europe. To actually think that any "socialist" US policy is even remotely socialist is laughable.
posted by GuyZero at 4:22 PM on March 19, 2010


We've had nursing shortages on and off for decades. Recently, the reasons for the nurse shortage include:

- This and other research suggests that the current shortage is the product of several trends including: steep population growth in several states, a diminishing pipeline of new students to nursing, a decline in RN earnings relative to other career options, an aging nursing workforce, low job satisfaction and poor working conditions that contribute to high workforce attrition rates, and an aging population that will require intense health care services. cite*

- The shortage is expected to worsen in coming years as the 78 million people in the post-World War Two baby boom generation begin to hit retirement age. An aging population requires more care for chronic illnesses and at nursing homes.

"The nursing shortage is not driven by a lack of interest in nursing careers. The bottleneck is at the schools of nursing because there's not a large enough pool of faculty," Robert Rosseter of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing said in a telephone interview.

Nursing colleges have been unable to expand enrollment levels to meet the rising demand, and some U.S. lawmakers blame years of weak federal financial help for the schools.

Almost 50,000 qualified applicants to professional nursing programs were turned away in 2008, including nearly 6,000 people seeking to earn master's and doctoral degrees, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing said. cite

There was an article sometime in the last six or so months in the SF Chronicle or the LA Times (or the SacBee?) that noted that many, many Californians were trying to enter a career in nursing but couldn't because there weren't enough slots in baccalaureate and community college pre-nursing programs, and the programs couldn't expand because they didn't have enough money and there aren't enough faculty to go around.

Your continued insistence that all of these various economic ills can or should be laid at the feet of people choosing to go into the arts rather than [better-paying career] is just...god. That's not how it works. That's not how it ever worked. There isn't a shortage of nursing faculty now because 20 years ago a huge chunk of the demographic decided to be [low-paid-somethings] instead of nurses. There's a shortage of nursing faculty now because 20 years ago people decided to get jobs that paid better and treated them less shittily, and probably because more and more women decided to go to med school instead of into nursing, and because nobody took a hard look at the coming demographic shift of aging baby boomers and said "Shit, we better start fixing this like RIGHT NOW or we're gonna be screwed."

* I work for the place that produced this, but I don't write or research for this or any other program area here.
posted by rtha at 4:29 PM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Isn't it fairly well-known and understood that the supply of doctors is solely based on medical schools restricting enrollment? Almost the same as the situation described by rtha for nursing but with a bit of conspiracy-theory/guild-mentality thrown in.

Also, the US imports both doctors and nurses like it imports engineers, cars, oil, etc. Just ask any Canadian trying to hire a doctor or nurse. Whether you think it's untenable or not, let me reiterate: the US runs an import economy.
posted by GuyZero at 4:45 PM on March 19, 2010


One reason there are low wages in teaching is precisely because everyone wants to follow their dream and become a teacher.

Hmm. That's weird. Here in Florida, we've had chronic teacher shortages for as long as I can remember. Even so, the Republican legislature's been slashing education funding and cutting as many teaching positions as possible. But even despite the budget cuts, they still had to raid a trust fund originally established by a prominent Democratic governor to support health care programs to make ends meet (while at the same time, voting to ban any attempts to raid a state trust fund established for gun permitting for the same purpose).

So either they skipped Econ 101. Or they're expecting a much bigger future demand for guns than for health care and educated people.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:54 PM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Isn't it fairly well-known and understood that the supply of doctors is solely based on medical schools restricting enrollment?

This is true. The AMA guides medical schools to restrict enrollment numbers, thus controlling the supply of doctors in our country and, thereby, the cost of medical procedures.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 PM on March 19, 2010


hey is this where i come for the food stamps?
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


That depends. What did you major in?
posted by electroboy at 9:36 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just happy that my original estimate of there being over 200 comments is correct.
posted by josher71 at 10:34 AM on March 20, 2010


What was the lowest bid? 200? I'd like to bid 201, Bob.
posted by electroboy at 11:50 AM on March 20, 2010


hey is this where i come for the food stamps?

Only if you posted this comment from your iPhone, whilst riding a shark, rodeo-style.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2010


"That depends. What did you major in?"

i got a journalism degree. i shoulda majored in dealing pot—at least that has a future.
posted by klangklangston at 6:19 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Go pursue what you love, people. Do it now! Let's all do it now. A whole class of Mefites. I'm applying right now. I want to do bookbinding or printmaking. Where can I find a program in that?

I haven't gone through all of the comments, but I just have to ask what is your beef about art, art students, artists and people who hold art degrees? Seriously. It's offensive. The way you are mocking people who work in that field. It's condescending. And ignorant. And what's so funny about printmaking? I am a print designer. I put together medical textbooks for a living. Textbooks that you may have read if you were in that field and which I take pride on. I have designed magazines that you may have enjoyed. I design things that help people being informed and also do the "pretty things". I do not think less of my profession. And art school is as valuable as any other "school". I should know, I went to med school for three years before moving to the US to pursue a degree in something I am truly passionate about.
You don't even realize how much art plays a role in every society and how important it is, as much as your next door bank investor. You don't realize how much art is part of your everyday life. Those signs out there, making it easier for you to make connections on your daily bus? What about the traffic signs? Ever wonder why billboards only have few words? Or why most of the letters in your giant financial tomes are the size they are so you can read for a long period of time and why they have little feet (called serifs)? Ever realized how many printed things you come across every day? Or why your milk jug looks the way it is?
I moved across the country a few months ago and haven't found a full time design job in this city and in the meantime I work at a coffee shop. Does that make my profession worthless then? Does it give you a right to imply that people in the arts are less valuable in society?
posted by ratita at 1:38 AM on March 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


One reason there are low wages in teaching is precisely because everyone wants to follow their dream and become a teacher.

Bullshit.

The biggest reason why there are low wages in teaching is because communities don't want to raise local taxes which would PAY the teachers.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:56 AM on March 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm not so sure the wages in teaching are all that low (they start here in the low $40s), but that's a different discussion that no one really agrees on.
posted by electroboy at 10:33 AM on March 21, 2010


How much you earn as a teacher depends very strongly on where you live.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 AM on March 22, 2010


How much you earn as a teacher depends very strongly on where you live.
posted by electroboy at 6:48 AM on March 22, 2010


Back to food stamps for a minute. As a mostly unemployed person, I tried applying for food stamps but was turned down because my expenses aren't a factor. The only thing they look at is number of people in the house and income, in my case, mostly state unemployment benefits. So once those run out, I'll probably be eligible. But not now.

I don't object to those kids eating decently. I strongly suspect they're sharing food or other resources but on paper, at least, they're completely eligible. The Salon article was simply trying to stir up some response, not actually tell us something of value.
posted by etaoin at 3:24 PM on March 28, 2010


Way to get that punch in there, krinkly fig, after the body's unresponsive. You wouldn't want to miss out on a fight, would you?

Considering the context, that's hilarious.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:14 PM on April 5, 2010


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