As if hunger decreases recidivism.
September 5, 2015 8:08 AM   Subscribe

In ten states, people who have ever been convicted of a drug-related felony are barred for life from getting food stamp benefits.

This ban was introduced as part of 1996's welfare reform legislation, but 40 states have opted out. The remaining ten states permanently deny food stamp benefits to drug felons, even if the underlying crime occurred years before and regardless of an individual’s successful job history, participation in drug and alcohol treatment, leading a law-abiding life, abstinence from drug use, or other evidence of rehabilitation. Researchers have found that formerly-incarcerated people in states that enforce the ban are more likely to report having gone an entire day without eating [.pdf] than people who live in other states.

The ten states are Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
posted by southern_sky (103 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well Wyoming is a surprise.
posted by rdr at 8:12 AM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's nine states.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:22 AM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


We can't get enough of the ol' biblical levels of retribution, can we?
posted by tommasz at 8:33 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Everyone always forgets Delaware.
posted by rtha at 8:35 AM on September 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


Disgusting heartless neoliberalism.

Politics is one thing, but I'd like to be having a serious discussion about the role of compassion and forgiveness and empathy in a polity - values which we seem to have chucked under the tires of an eighteen-wheeler loaded with plastic crap from the third world barreling toward your nearest minimum-wage big box outlet.
posted by Miko at 8:37 AM on September 5, 2015 [40 favorites]


Thank you, rtha. I was frantically Googling to see which one I forgot. It is indeed Delaware.
posted by southern_sky at 8:39 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fucking disgusting. This kind of thing makes me so angry.
posted by agregoli at 8:42 AM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everyone always forgets Delaware.

Less a state, more of a tax haven.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:43 AM on September 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


flames

flames on the side of my face
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:44 AM on September 5, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's the split between church and state. Christianity, with its core theme of forgiveness and redemption, must not be allowed to taint the principles of justice.
posted by Devonian at 8:44 AM on September 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


It's the split between church and state.

I really don't think it's that, because that split is thinner than ever and because it's a couple centuries old but the rise in callousness is so recent, and also because so many self-described Christians are totally on board with this sort of thing - in fact, right-wing Christians are some of the strongest advocates of harsh public policies and the dismantling of the safety net. Judgment is a lot bigger with them than compassion. Though I agree with you in general that those values are important and that in promoting them, religion, in the past, offered some degree of bulwark against galloping hardheartedness and me-ism.
posted by Miko at 8:48 AM on September 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's the split between church and state.

I really don't think it's that


Might want to recalibrate your sarcasmometer.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's not at all clear to me that that was sarcastic and I'm not sure how you can tell.
posted by Miko at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


Even with the most capitalist interpretation, you're talking about people who suddenly have a very real purely-economic incentive to be in prison. If you're unemployable and starving, South Carolina, for example, will spend about $15k a year on keeping you incarcerated, but won't give you a couple hundred dollars a month in food stamps. Even if you're completely heartless, even if you think we're all well-informed rational robots, then the most well-informed rational post-incarceration felon in a state where you're ineligible for any public aid and also not protected from employment-related discrimination would be heavily incentivized to commit another crime that would result in long-term imprisonment. That makes this not just "heartless neoliberalism" but outright insanity.
posted by Sequence at 8:53 AM on September 5, 2015 [31 favorites]


@Miko: Poe's law demonstrated yet again.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


...especially since six of the states maintaining this policy are in the top 50% of states with the most religious activity.

That makes this not just "heartless neoliberalism" but outright insanity.

Well, they're linked: ideology is emotional and overruns evidence-based and rational thinking.
posted by Miko at 8:57 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not at all clear to me that that was sarcastic and I'm not sure how you can tell.

SETUP: It's the split between church and state.

PUNCHLINE: Christianity, with its core theme of forgiveness and redemption, must not be allowed to taint the principles of justice.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


Furthermore, food stamps are an agricultural subsidy, its in everyone's best interests if the most amount of produce is sold.

Although these kinds of things are rarely based in "best interest" and more " desire to punish and abuse people in a way that borders on culturally pathological "
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on September 5, 2015 [28 favorites]


As if hunger decreases recidivism.

I think in the worldview of those that would deny foodstamps, there is no such thing as recidivism, as that implies back-sliding from an enlightened state.

More likely, it's the opposite. There's no back-sliding, because there's no advancing. Once a bad guy, always a bad guy, and we should not help the bad guy, ever. Helping the bad guy is foolish and naive. You may as well invite the weasel into the henhouse.

To me, it's a very rural way of looking at things. Where does the bad guy go? Away. Out of sight, off my land, out of mind.

From a city view, where does the bad guy go? Nowhere. He's still here. Now what, smart guy?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:12 AM on September 5, 2015 [77 favorites]


[Flag and also move on, folks. Demanding someone answer you in the way you want is not appropriate either.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:19 AM on September 5, 2015


The coordinated attack on food stamps strike me as very similar to the attack on voting rights. Both presume a level of fraud that is out of line with reality, and both isolate and disempower the already marginalized.
posted by Miko at 9:19 AM on September 5, 2015 [48 favorites]


The second link lays out the states that have implemented a partial ban, like excepting those with possession charges, and only 16 states (+ DC) have completely opted out of the legislation. Also, Delaware seems to be one of the opt-out states.

But this is a bad element of a compromise bill that was passed so a President could check off the campaign promise of "ending welfare as we know it".
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, anyway. Convicted felons can't vote, can't get visas, can't get certain professional licenses, can't buy guns (I happen to agree with that one in cases where it's relevant, but still), can't serve on a jury, can't get welfare, can't get government housing, can't lie about being a felon on a job application in a jurisdiction where refusing employment based on felon status is legal.

It's almost as if recidivism is the goal. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2015 [62 favorites]


Well, maybe you're referencing this, Sys Rq, but I think you have to look at recidivism in the context of the massively expanded private prison-industrial complex and the profit potential in intensifying enforcement, too. We are a society that has become dependent upon its prison income.
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on September 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Until recently, I hadn't realized just how overwhelmingly universal and powerful the stigmas around addictive disorders and drug use in the culture really are. In my own case, the worst of my problems when I was seriously struggling with addiction (as opposed to playing around with weed and booze for stretches of time as an escape/miscalibrated coping mechanism, which in hindsight was nothing like a serious addictive disorder) were on a legal substance, and I struggled mightily to keep the harmful impacts to others around me from being too severe, but I still get the impression there are lots of people in my social orbit who will forever see me as some kind of subhuman, broken machine now. Which is frustrating, because with all the momentum legalization's been getting, it seemed like some of those more rigidly puritanical and unscientific attitudes might be shifting. Nope. Even a lot of self-identifying liberals in my world can't seem to think coherently about drugs and addictive disorders in practice, as much as they preach understanding and compassion on the internet.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:34 AM on September 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


but there is a real conversation to be had about the intersection of values, religious and otherwise, with this sort of public policy.

I agree. The prevailing theme of our most recent welfare reform was whether or not people "deserved" to be on welfare, with blatant examples of widows and orphans. The argument that someone could conceivably get benefits by being a sinner and a slacker was playing against the ancient scarcity themes common to Christianity, which translates to taking bread from deserving people, including the givers (but which is outdated). This can occur in modern times because the main ideas underlying Christian values is the idea that we all deserve punishment anyway, and that all sustenance comes from God regardless.
posted by Brian B. at 9:37 AM on September 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I do always find it weird that people are so concerned with other people being "deserving". Like, whenever the fact that the best way to solve poverty is to just, you know, give people money, and then people start fretting about "what if they just play video games and subsist on Doritos?" So what? The vast amount of weird imaginative shit on the internet gives me a lot of hope in people's inclination to make neat stuff regardless, but even if that wasn't the case, so what?

It makes me think of people who respond to terrible workplaces with the idea that "work isn't meant to be fun otherwise it wouldn't be work". Something about the idea that we should all be suffering rather than the notion that none of us should. I wonder where it comes from.
posted by dame at 9:43 AM on September 5, 2015 [31 favorites]


I think that there's a stubbornly persistent mean streak in the American character--not in everybody, and not to the same degree in the people that display it, but it's there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2015 [24 favorites]


I am on the verge, for the purposes of mental self-preservation, to read these things and simply flag them as yet another manifestation of #wearesofucked but the vein throbbing in my forehead is likely going to kill me before I get through half the quotidian outrages the US's culture of religious-extremism-underpinned-by-neoliberal-economic-abuse perpetrates.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is a proportion of people (mostly on the political right) who see harshness and meanness of spirit as virtues in themselves.
posted by acb at 10:02 AM on September 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pew has a chart with the breakdowns of full and partial welfare and food stamp bans here.
posted by brina at 10:03 AM on September 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why, tho? What do you think underpins the meanness? I mean, it isn't Christianity as mostly understood, right? Not to like berate people but I just don't get it. What is the psychological recompense for meanness? Is it part of distancing yourself from suffering under the idea that if others desevered it, and you are great, it can never happen to you?
posted by dame at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Something about the idea that we should all be suffering rather than the notion that none of us should. I wonder where it comes from.

Ostensibly it goes back to the fall of Adam, the original sin, and being cast out of paradise (which curiously looks like a true history relating to humans switching from hunting and gathering to ranching and farming). However, religion was basically a political structure employed for the service class, for the serfdom which came with the latter. So a few lucky ones can fully enjoy the fruits of others' labor, as coming from God, while the laborers and slaves can fully appreciate its value from their want or lack, as sins.
posted by Brian B. at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


...especially since six of the states maintaining this policy are in the top 50% of states with the most religious activity.

I'm totally with Miko on this general point, but it strikes me that 6/10 falling into a pattern where one would expect 5/10 by random chance is not the most particularly convincing part of it. Chi-square, etc etc.
posted by Rumple at 10:06 AM on September 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


PS. Pew lists different states as having a full ban on food stamps for drug felons: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. They've got 25 states listed as having partial bans.
posted by brina at 10:07 AM on September 5, 2015


It would be okay if everyone who created, passed, voted for, and supported this legislation nationwide just dropped dead right now.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:08 AM on September 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


Well, I guess I'm just going to have to all this silver plate from this priest then.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:10 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have always been angrily flummoxed at the disproportionate penalties for drug possession, but now that my state has legalized marijuana, I have a harder time understanding why a transaction that only requires me to show my driver's license in my state can result in someone losing food stamps, being permanently disenfranchised, or serving a life sentence without parole in so many others.
posted by bibliowench at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


So murderers, rapists, and robbers can eat, but not drug users?

The whole "continue punishing the ex-felon" thing is bad, but this pretty sick.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:16 AM on September 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


Like, whenever the fact that the best way to solve poverty is to just, you know, give people money, and then people start fretting about "what if they just play video games and subsist on Doritos?" So what?

Devil's advocate here, so please don't come at me with indignation.

The answer to your question, "So what?" is, because the money comes from taxes, collected under legal coercion, and could (arguably) be put to better use. You are literally taking money from my paycheck and handing it to someone for Doritos, when you could've built a bridge. Or fed a child. Or sent a mission into space. Or done anything else.

You pay taxes not because you want to. You pay taxes because the law says you must, or else you literally go to jail. The law is created because we know if it didn't exist, you would be selfish and not pay, and then government could not function.

That's the sword hanging over everyone's head -- pay up, or else.

Pay up, so we can build a bridge. OK, fine.
Pay up, so we can explore space. I like rocketships, here's my money.
Pay up, so a twice-convicted felon can have a bag of Doritos. All right, here's my payc ... Wait, what?

That's the argument you face when you try to take someone's money for a benefits program with loose goals and hazy outcomes. That the money is frittered away because ... why? Because we want to be nice to people? Life sucks, wear a helmet. How do Doritos create a better world for my kids today? Specifically. To three decimal points.

Changing a culture is hard. Changing a focus from Protestant thoughtlessness means you need better answers than, "So what? Let him have his Doritos."

Again, devil's advocate. Spare me the obvious rejoinders.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


Seriously, CheeseDigestsAll--the contempt for addicts runs deeper and is more uncritically meanspirited in how it's expressed than so many other more egregious things. Maybe it's because addictive disorders represent so many confounding challenges to people's conventional ideas about agency and personal responsibility? Maybe unconsciously it threatens people's security in their own feelings of self-control?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:23 AM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


If we sent everyone who supported this legislation to Mars, we'd need a new Vice President and a new Secretary of State.

OTOH, Hillary might be a lot less distracted with Bill kicking around far away in his space suit.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:38 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


a benefits program with loose goals and hazy outcomes

I'm not sure the food stamp program has "loose goals and hazy outcomes." It's really quantifiable. But I think your larger point is a good one - that there's a fundamental resistance to collectivist effort that gets exacerbated by personal value systems about what is and isn't worth it. For instance, a few years ago my community was caught up in a fight about replacing a particular failing bridge. The bridge is somewhat redundant with two other nearby bridges, but there was a wealthy community and a largish handful of small businesses on either side, and they made enough noise to have the bridge rebuilt at great public expense. Now, people in the more remote parts of both states thought this was a total boondoggle, because what benefit was it to them? Nearly none. And they made their feelings known, even though they couldn't influence the outcome. Food stamps work the same way. Everyone pretty much buys food, so everyone feels entitled to determine the worth of food, even for other people who are different from them. They are missing the big picture, and the big picture isn't terribly well articulated to them. They also associate certain foods with luxury and others with necessity, which is where you get the garbage about lobster and snow crab legs being bought with SNAP. And they feel an entitlement to dictate to others that they can only use public funds for things they consider a necessity. But I think this is a really problematic slippery slope: we don't get to vote line item by line item on how our taxes are spent, or I bet many of us would invest quite differently in the nation's future. We do this indirectly. That remove from personal influence really galls some people.

On Doritos - this is also one of those things where our interest in individual consumption overlooks the larger powers at play. There's a reason SNAP covers branded products, and it's not because we believe those are the healthiest purchases in the store - it's because major food companies use lobbying to make darn sure their products are not excluded from the significant chunk of revenue public dollars channeled through SNAP represents. Of course there's also a humanistic argument that people should have the freedom to make choices, and the public-health argument that choice-based programs work far better than, say, distributing government food packs with preselected produce.

6/10 falling into a pattern where one would expect 5/10 by random chance

I see your point but I would think that in matters of policy, we aren't comparing to random chance. For instance, if we are measuring states with the highest per capita income or highest test scores, random chance isn't in effect. We're looking at a variable in which chance doesn't determine the ranking. Still, it's probably not a strong point at all - a few of the named states are very high on this list, but when you throw in all the others that have a partial ban or other similar restrictions, it all gets a lot more complex anyway. I'm probably best confined to the theoretical/mass phenomenon level.
posted by Miko at 10:41 AM on September 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


I know a woman who has written on Facebook in favor of this sort of denial of food stamps. Her husband sells drugs, the kind that get you prison time, and she benefits financially from it. That might have been the final straw that moved her from "friend" to "someone I know."
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:44 AM on September 5, 2015


The United States of Cruelty
posted by TedW at 10:48 AM on September 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


I tend to think a lot of the meanness comes from the monomaniacal USian focus on "rugged individualism". As a culture, we idolize the self-made man, who started with nothing and worked hard and sacrificed to build himself and his family a secure future. It ties in with the American Dream, this idea that if you only work hard enough, and are virtuous enough, you can achieve anything.

The truth, of course, is that you can work hard all your life and live a saintly code, and still end up with nothing. But the idea that you can do everything right and still suffer is frightening to those who just want a clear set of Rules to Succeed By. To accept that one can fail through no fault of one's own and with no control over it at all is terrifying, so as a culture, when failure happens, we look for fault.

Addiction is an easy target. Addicts by the very definition repeat the transgressive behavior, over and over, and so can be neatly placed into the box labeled "Not Worthy." Never mind that addiction is not intentional, never mind that it is involuntary. The addict took the first step toward that substance and then was unable to back away, both deadly sins in a culture that pretends to itself that it values abstention.
posted by Vigilant at 10:48 AM on September 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


If you're down on your luck you're not supposed to rely on the government, you're supposed to rely on THE CHURCH. That way you can be judged and controlled. Government welfare just lets people get away with SIN.

Or so I've been told.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:58 AM on September 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


i'm just going to refer to them as New Calvinists from now on.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:10 AM on September 5, 2015


It is rugged individualism, but it's really ascendant. We've had rugged individualism a long time (I loved my high school history teacher, who taught us to use abbreviations for everything, so I'll always think of it as "RI") but its prevalence in discourse has waxed and waned. These days, it's waxing in a big way.

It's a convenient kind of rhetoric for the powers who want to manipulate the political process to keep federal dollars and incentives and tax giveaways rolling their way. It's a rhetoric that enriches. And it also plays on the sense of scarcity people have, which is why it works - I've got mine, screw you if you want yours. I think a grain of rugged individualism is endemic to American culture, but it has been rapidly fanned by people who seek to exploit it.
posted by Miko at 11:18 AM on September 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


You pay taxes not because you want to. You pay taxes because the law says you must, or else you literally go to jail.

Really? I want to pay taxes. I don't enjoy filling out the forms, but I realize that almost all critical services are best paid for and organized collectively. I pay taxes because that's part of being a citizen -- I contribute to the public good according to my means.

And really, considering the amount of skimming and greed at the upper end of public funding, where corporations make billions while avoiding nearly any civic responsibility, the idea that some ex-junkie might buy some Doritos with her public stipend while getting back on her feet... well, let's say it doesn't bother me much.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:36 AM on September 5, 2015 [47 favorites]


Rich junkies get stadiums built on the public dime to help enhance their sports gambling addictions. By comparison, a junkie with an unhealthy snacking habit is not even on the list of socially destructive power player we need to be most worried about.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:57 AM on September 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


I think part of this dynamic is that if we're kind to someone How Will They Learn? It's really just "spare the rod, spoil the child" writ large. Kindness, food, housing, clothing, respect - those are all seen as ways to spoil people, and the mindset is that if someone is spoiled they won't improve.

As near as I can tell - the reality is the opposite (a punished person may do things to avoid punishment, but they won't learn) but the myth that if we aren't harsh and direct and "honest" with people they will think they are getting away with something persists far beyond just people receiving the benefit of being part of society.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:02 PM on September 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


As much as I dislike the self-righteous moralizing spewed by proponents of these bans, there is a good point brought up: drugs aren't free. If you've got money to buy drugs, then you've got money to buy food. An eightball can't be cheaper than a tin of tuna.
posted by dr_dank at 12:38 PM on September 5, 2015


drugs aren't free. If you've got money to buy drugs, then you've got money to buy food. An eightball can't be cheaper than a tin of tuna.
The reason that isn't a good point is that these bans are for life. If you have ever been convicted of a drug-related offense, you can never get food stamps ever again, even if you stop using drugs. It is nothing but cruel and pointless and evil.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:53 PM on September 5, 2015 [37 favorites]


Abitrary and Capricious is absolutely right, of course. This prohibition hurts people who've become clean as well as active addicts. Even so, I definitely want addicts who need food support to get it. First, because addiction means that you have disordered thinking and probably are not that good at making a rational calculus like "if I can pay for drugs, I can pay for food; food is more important to my survival than drugs, therefore I will forego drugs for food." Part of being addicted to drugs (or whatever) is that the addictive substance is always most important. Second, because addicts often have dependents, and I see no reason why their children or homebound or disabled partners or parents or whomever is in their household should starve because we don't like whatever behavior the addict is doing.

We have two separate problems here, addiction and food security, and shouldn't be trying to solve both with the same tool. Food support is for food support - to prevent malnutrition and hunger - not for impacting rates of drug use.
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on September 5, 2015 [16 favorites]


We can't get enough of the ol' biblical levels of retribution, can we?

If you are under the impression that the Bible, overall, is against giving generous help to people in need, let me lodge my emphatic disagreement.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:32 PM on September 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


Pay up, so a twice-convicted felon can have a bag of Doritos. All right, here's my payc ... Wait, what?

Surely this “twice-convicted felon” who is out of prison has paid their debt to society and is at least on the path to rehabilitation. Otherwise, why are they even out of prison? If one's model of criminal justice is that evildoers are always evil and rehabilitation is what dumb libruls believe in like evolution and global warming, why not just drop them into a deep dark hole and forget about them, or even better, put them to death in some spectacular ritual (may I suggest a giant wicker man?) as a warning to others?
posted by acb at 1:34 PM on September 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been thinking about this more and more as I get older and move into the circles where this neoliberal 1950s obsession with pain is considered the norm and I think it's not so much meanness but fear.

They are literally afraid of outcomes where everyone is happy.

To give an example. Someone close to me was tasked with shaving 15% off their budget in the public services they offer. She worked tremendously hard and presented her successful plan to the board. They immediately wanted to know why there were so many staff who could've been made redundant but weren't. All she could think was "I've achieved the savings, what does it matter"? All they would accept was somebody losing their job. She couldn't understand why they seemingly wanted to inflict unnecessary pain on human beings. Coupled with the fact these inept board members who had guided the organisation to this place were paid eye-wateringly large sums of money she felt compelled to resign.

The best medicine tastes horrible.

They believe this in their hearts and an outcome where nobody loses frightens them because they refuse to believe it works. This inability to envisage a win-win scenario with a sense of entitlement you can see from space gives you the modern right-wing mindset.

They don't want paradise because they think it's a lie.

And then they berate you for having no faith.
posted by fullerine at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2015 [23 favorites]


I really wish we would retire the whole "just playing devil's advocate here, so be nice" gambit. If they're your opinions, defend them. If they're not your opinions, don't drop some proxy-argument incidiery device into a discussion and then tell people to spare you the vitriol. You can't have a discussion about devil's advocated beliefs - the person doing the advocating presumably doesn't even hold the position they're defending, so we don't get any real insight anyway.

Having said that, yeah, I think this law underscores the idea that prison is about "paying your debt to society" is horseshit. Your debt will simply accrue with interest. Only high profile white collar criminals are allowed to pay their debt to society in prison. And then have Martin Scorcese make a movie about them.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:41 PM on September 5, 2015 [33 favorites]


Well, and I mean, poor people go to prison for drug crimes that rich people get away with. Poor people use drugs to self-medicate conditions for which rich people can get actual treatment. Rich people who do get arrested can make plea deals where they go to treatment and get the whole thing wiped from their record. Rich people can afford treatment. Rich people have friends and family members who can help them so they don't need food stamps when they hit a rough financial patch. This is about criminalizing poverty as much as, maybe more than about criminalizing drugs.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:56 PM on September 5, 2015 [33 favorites]


For more years than I can remember I've wondered why the Republican party is the party of people who lack empathy. I don't understand that divide in our nation but it does seem to be incontrovertible.The ability to put yourself into someone else's shoes and imagine what what their life is like is something that needs to be learned in childhood and I think reading a lot or being exposed to a lot of different cultures helps.

So now that that the internet-- with its vast culture-- is here do you think that more people will grow up to be empathetic? I live in hope.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:17 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I may be cynical, but I think the internet is merely a communication tool. It can aid in the feeling of empathy, and can also give shits a tiny fiefdom to hang out in where normally they would never meet in real life. It can only more easily give the already empathic things to be empathic about; it cannot make people empathic.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:32 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The idea that Christianity is the cause of this policy is a bit facile: Christian groups have historically been the largest non-governmental charity and relief organisations in the USA. I don't know why there isn't a negative correlation between religion and this sort of policy; I can believe that it does have something to do with a country/city divide.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 PM on September 5, 2015


I think that for many Americans, America is a religion. It is a religion that emphasizes punishment, individual rights and responsibilities, authoritarianism, etc. And like all hard-core religions, religious morality trumps facts and math. So heavy punishment it is, in the face of studies and logic!
posted by five fresh fish at 4:18 PM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you are under the impression that the Bible, overall, is against giving generous help to people in need, let me lodge my emphatic disagreement.

Well, while the version of Matthew I read didn't say
For I was hungry and you told me to get a job, I was thirsty and you reminded me that that beverage was unhealthy, I was a stranger and you challenged my immigration status, I was naked and you shamed me, I was sick and you cut funding to public health clinics, I was in prison and you realized that this was a great investment opportunity.
an awful lot of people who claim to speak for American Christians seem to....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:05 PM on September 5, 2015 [52 favorites]


Food support is for food support - to prevent malnutrition and hunger - not for impacting rates of drug use.

I couldn't agree with you more, but for a lot of people food support (and every other kind of public assistance) is for rewarding good people and can be withheld from bad people.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:40 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Again, devil's advocate. Spare me the obvious rejoinders.

You know that this isn't a magical phrase where you say something and then we have to nod thoughtfully as if you didn't just say something both dull and abhorrent? Everyone who has any kind of contact with American culture is very familiar with the rhetoric around both felons and welfare. You said those things because you wanted to, not out of some noble aspiration to education or rhetoric.
posted by kagredon at 5:55 PM on September 5, 2015 [29 favorites]


I pay taxes and I still have to fund a bloated military when I'd prefer that my money go to public education and universal healthcare, but nobody seems to care about my opinion in this case.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:40 PM on September 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


That the money is frittered away because ... why? Because we want to be nice to people? Life sucks, wear a helmet.

It is telling that feeding people because the alternative is crime or die is considered "frittered". Yes, part of it is being nice to people. Part of it is because we're a wealthy country with the biggest gdp in the world and children are starving on the streets. Part of it is because I believe people deserve food, shelter, clothing, and dignity simply for being people and not as a result of having a certain net worth. Part of it is to protect the people I care about, who are poor and don't have the resources I do. Part of it is because every now and then for me the choice is between food and gas while I wait for the next paycheck, and I know I'm lucky because that next paycheck is coming.

I think that we, as people, are obligated to take care of each other and that this is more important that putting some more money in bank accounts or sending bombs to kill people. I am dismayed at how many people whose national ethics seem to come down to "life is hard, I don't care if you suffer."

Yes, because we want to be NICE (I would say kind) to people. Why is being kind to people something worthy of mockery?
posted by Deoridhe at 7:19 PM on September 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'm well aware of the bag-of-Doritos argument, I hear it all the time, including from people for whom I have some affection, but less respect for their making it. And the rejoinder is simple: hard cases make for bad law. You take any right, any privilege, anything that they personally care about, and you talk about taking it away from everyone (at least in a certain class) because someone will inevitably abuse that privilege. Talk about Prohibition. Talk about people who were convicted of crimes that they didn't commit and only got exonerated because someone put a lot of effort into their appeal, and then ask them how many more there are who didn't get that help. Talk about John 8:7 if they're a Christian.

It's really not hard to counter. There will, of course, be people who will cling to it, bitterly, as it were. To quote more gospel: whoever has ears, let them hear.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:27 PM on September 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


You are literally taking money from my paycheck and handing it to someone for Doritos, when you could've built a bridge. Or fed a child.

Why draw the line here? Starving children are bad, even to an advocate of the devil, but starving adults are A-OK. Gotcha. Nevermind the irony that starving adults who are banned from food assistance programs will have children! What of them? Is this really just about the Doritos? Because if so, that seems petty in the grand scheme of things.

What if "Food not Bombs" became a reality? Like full employment, probably a fantasy better left in the imagination of the powers that be. Nobody would work, and then magical sky friend wouldn't give Heavenites their virgins, because, unlike Kim Davis in her sphere of influence, you didn't do enough to stop the scourge of food security in yours.
posted by rhizome at 8:42 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


"If we sent everyone who supported this legislation to Mars, we'd need a new Vice President and a new Secretary of State." -- posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:38 PM on September 5

In the other TANF thread I said Bill Clinton can go fuck himself.

Now, I have to append, not the expected ones mentioned by your comment, but one who I actually respected and who I thought faulty at times, certainly a "good guy" generally.

Russ Feingold can go fuck himself, too. Goddamnit.
posted by symbioid at 9:21 PM on September 5, 2015


I spend a percentage of my income on junk food and slacking. I pay taxes for the purpose of helping my community - city, state, country. If the people who benefit from my taxes choose to spend that money on junk food and slacking, who am I to judge them? As long as we all have enough money to buy food, differing priorities of how we spend that money are none of my business.
posted by bendy at 9:29 PM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just playing devil's advocate here -- don't argue with me! -- but what if, like, these people are bad guys and I'm a good guy?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:40 PM on September 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


What if imperfections in these programs have worse moral implications than those in other programs? After all, "corporate welfare" is A Thing that never seems to make headlines.
posted by rhizome at 10:02 PM on September 5, 2015


I'm old enough to think this: not having children is the way out. Earth is at or above capacity. Most people should not be having multiple children. Many should not have any children. A lot of the problem goes away quickly when people stop pumping out kids.

I recognize this is not a popular opinion. I think it's the only one that faces the stark reality of a resource limited ecosystem.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:38 PM on September 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


The above being predicated on "hunger, insecurity, poverty are highly correlated with suffering" and "social mobility is largely a myth."
posted by five fresh fish at 10:40 PM on September 5, 2015


I'm old enough to think this: not having children is the way out.

Shame funding for contraceptives and abortion is rapidly vanishing, and neither are well covered by the forms of insurance most available to the poor.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:52 PM on September 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


What the fuck does that have to do with denying food stamps to felons? That is not a problem of resources. We have enough Doritos for everyone, I promise you. Bringing it up is at best a derail and given how closely reproductive choice is scrutinized and policed (including under the guise of "sustainability") for the poor, the disenfranchised, and people of color, I am side-eying the hell out of dropping it in here.
posted by kagredon at 11:12 PM on September 5, 2015 [20 favorites]


A politically viable solution may be to have two classes of food stamps; regular ones, which felons lose privilege to because they're bad people and always will be, and a second-class (let's call it F-class) redeemable only for Nutriloaf and a handful of other items designed as to give no joy or reward. The F-class whitelisted items don't even have to be cheaper; if it costs more to make items that fulfil the basic biological need for sustenance without giving any joy to the unworthy, a lot of people would be willing to pay that, because moral hazard.
posted by acb at 4:59 AM on September 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


See also: re $2/day.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:00 AM on September 6, 2015


Devil's advocate here, so please don't come at me with indignation

the devil had enough advocates and that's a shit argument. doritos don't even rank in what the government wastes our tax money on and you're well smart enough to know that, which is probably why you qualified and deflected your shitty argument multiple times in your comment.
posted by nadawi at 6:14 AM on September 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


For I was hungry and you told me to get a job, I was thirsty and you reminded me that that beverage was unhealthy, I was a stranger and you challenged my immigration status, I was naked and you shamed me, I was sick and you cut funding to public health clinics, I was in prison and you realized that this was a great investment opportunity.

GenjiandProust, can I quote you? That's basically amazing and I need to say it to people.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:50 AM on September 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


That leapt out at me too, GenjiandProust. It has legs, like one of those macros on Facebook that gets traded around. I could see my UU minister quoting it from the pulpit.
posted by Miko at 6:52 AM on September 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Let's not pursue the population control derail, please. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:00 AM on September 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sure, quote away. Attribution and linking to the site, as always, is nice, when practical.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:35 AM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


We don't live in a resource-limited ecosystem.
We live in a distribution-limited ecosystem.

We have the means, we do not have the will.
posted by fullerine at 7:44 AM on September 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


The greatest trick the devil['s advocate] ever pulled was convincing the world an alternative argument didn't exist.

I feel like this would be an entirely different debate if the SNAP and TANF programs were framed less around the poor "urban" ex-convicts and more around the poor "rural" farmers. Because it's all one system at the end of the day. The more demand there is for fruits and vegetables to be sold in communities of need, the more incentive there is for grocers to purchase this produce from farmers, and it's all subsidized by the government.

There's no more room on the planet to keep distancing yourself from other people like this.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 7:45 AM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meme

Did the best I could to credit GenjiandProust and the site given limited tools.
posted by Miko at 8:09 AM on September 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I feel like this would be an entirely different debate if the SNAP and TANF programs were framed less around the poor "urban" ex-convicts and more around the poor "rural" farmers. Because it's all one system at the end of the day. The more demand there is for fruits and vegetables to be sold in communities of need, the more incentive there is for grocers to purchase this produce from farmers, and it's all subsidized by the government.

When it was overhauled, agriculture and the dwindling labor lobbies were always on board, but the religious right combined with big business to form a power alliance against welfare. What resulted was a compromise package to save food stamps and medicaid, which previously were routinely mentioned in articles as stop gaps against poverty, combined with a functional minimum wage. I still recall Time magazine adding up the numbers of a minimum wage family, with their foodstamps and medicaid thrown in, to prove that they were still above the poverty line. That kind of analysis is unheard in public today, and living minimum wage advocates would do well to bring them back as three legs of a stool.

Also, card carrying immigrants without citizenship were originally left out too, at the insistence of Newt Gingrich, whose district in Georgia was later discovered to be funded by defense contracts to the tune of 80% of its income. They were clawing for extra dough so they didn't have to break the budget pledges. Clinton signed the deal with a lot of open misgivings, but one thing almost everyone agreed on was that the teenage birthrate was too high, with welfare seen as an incentive. It was a progressive embarrassment at that time, a political liability, because liberals made the social stigmas against welfare go away, and as mentioned, there was just the math when it came to benefits. The religious right swept to power on Rush Limbaugh's overt hatred of poor people, framed as lacking all the righteous shame yet fully funded.
posted by Brian B. at 10:11 AM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also loved that bit from GenjiandProust and memed it up for anyone who wants it.
posted by orchidfox at 10:45 AM on September 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


Ooh, yours is way nicer. I humbly retract mine.
posted by Miko at 10:47 AM on September 6, 2015


Posted the meme-ified version of G&J's quote less than an hour ago and it's already getting a lot of love. Oh yeah!
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


G&P of course ...
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:10 PM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


possibly the stupidest law ever. Because they're not exactly going to be innocent of how to steal or commit crime if necessary and food is necessary, so they'll be forced..
Bit confused about the moral discussion: food banks are provided on the grounds that it's inhuman to let people starve to death in rich countries, not as a reward for previous behaviour. Or we'd use them as rewards...
posted by maiamaia at 3:18 PM on September 6, 2015


Miko: "Meme

Did the best I could to credit GenjiandProust and the site given limited tools.
"

Outstanding work, IMHO!

Now, who's making up the t-shirts, posters, etc. and where do I send my money? You may laugh, but I'm serious.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:42 PM on September 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


orchidfox: "I also loved that bit from GenjiandProust and memed it up for anyone who wants it."

Once again, who's making the t-shirts, and where do I send my money?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:44 PM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know a woman who has written on Facebook in favor of this sort of denial of food stamps. Her husband sells drugs, the kind that get you prison time, and she benefits financially from it.

And on the flip side, all the people I know who support these kinds of restrictions are ex-addicts who maintain that being shown "tough love" was what allowed them to enter recovery. (I have not gotten very far with my contention that the same approach does not work for all addicts.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:15 PM on September 6, 2015


being shown "tough love" was what allowed them to enter recovery

I can believe that's how they felt, but I think there are a lot of ways to be shown "Tough love" that don't have to do with denying food. I mean, losing jobs, losing positive relationships, losing shelter - these are all still available to people who believe that hitting total and absolute bottom was an important part of their recovery. I actually don't want it on my conscience that I denied such abject people food, too.
posted by Miko at 7:31 PM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, exactly, and I have tried to express that to some of them. But the answer I get back is that I haven't been through it so I couldn't possibly understand, etc. Sigh.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:21 AM on September 7, 2015


Feedback from my Facebooking of the meme suggests that possibly the water one would be better as a reference to the CEO of Nestlé saying that water is not a human right. What do I personally know? Nothing. But that's what the focus group says.

(Phrase "focus group" used ironically, of course.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:02 AM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


You mean "thirsty/you told me that beverage was unhealthy?" I took that as related to the diet policing that happens to people when they shop with SNAP benefits. Critiquing the poor for drinking soda, one of the few affordable pleasures there is - and efforts to ban or limit sugary soda drinks in urban areas to help curtail diet-related disease (an effort which I'm sympathetic to but see the paternalism problem with it).

I mean, saying water is not a human right is a lot more concerning on the grand scheme, probably. But I also am not sure how many people know about it enough to make the connection in a meme. At least the soda debate is front and center (and I like that it makes liberals like me that condemn soda a little uncomfortable). But it is/will be a great meme either way.
posted by Miko at 6:42 AM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


That sounded negative and I didn't mean it like that. It might add power. Water access rights are also a big issue for Native communities who are losing their below-surface resources as fuel companies and distant cities drain aquifers.
posted by Miko at 6:59 AM on September 8, 2015


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