Let’s talk about poverty today. Let’s talk about want, hunger, need, and hatred.
Because in America, we hate our poor.
Recently, a suggestion was made by President Trump that instead of giving food stamps to families who are in need of aid, we should send government issued food packs. I wonder what those will look like.
I can’t set too much blame on his shoulders, though. He’s not the first person to suggest it. And he’s certainly not the first person to behave as though those who receive food stamp or cash assistance benefits are screwing the rest of us over. I’m sure you’ve heard comments about people on food stamps being lazy, drug addicts. The rumors of people using food stamps to buy steak and lobster abound. People buying expensive jewelry, having nice cars or nice bags, having smartphones or nice computers while still qualifying for food stamps.
It’s almost as though we expect poor people to adhere to a certain level of poverty and lack to make us feel better. It’s almost like we’re angry that someone we perceive as less deserving than we are has something that we want. And it’s almost like people forget that an American Eagle pair of jeans can be had at a second-hand store if one looks hard enough and gets lucky.
Really, it’s as though we need someone to be sufficiently pitiful so that we can think ourselves above them. Only then do they deserve our help.
Here’s some information you might not be aware of about food stamps. The majority of people (58%) who receive food stamps, or SNAP benefits, have a job when they sign up for them. The vast majority of people (87%) who receive SNAP have a job within the first year of qualifying for them. 70% of the people who benefit from SNAP are disabled, elderly, or families with small children. Here’s a link to my source. You can also read how little money you need to make before you qualify, how they enforce a work requirement, and who is not eligible no matter how poor a person is. So please, go on and tell me again how the people on SNAP are lazy and not working.
Okay, so the majority of people on food stamps are either working, disabled, elderly, or have small children which makes it freaking hard to have a job. But there has to be a reason they are that way, right? I mean, single moms didn’t make those kids themselves, right? (wink wink, nudge nudge. People who say this are calling single moms whores if you didn’t get it.) So they didn’t go to college, or they got themselves knocked up. Maybe they had a drinking problem, right?
No, not right. Anyone might end up in a situation where they have to rely on food stamps, cash assistance, public housing or even soup kitchens. Yes, even you.
You might get sick, or get into an accident and not be able to work anymore.
Your home might burn down.
Your company might go under.
You might have an elderly relative get sick and have to take on the cost of caring for them.
Your spouse might die.
You might be in an abusive relationship and have to leave to protect yourself and your children.
Or maybe things are just too expensive. Maybe you’re just working really hard, but your bills keep going up and up. Food is more and more expensive. Your heating bill is just killing you and sometimes you just can’t keep up with everything.
This is a fundamental truth. Everyone is just one bad day from the breadline. You’re not immune. And that scares the shit out of some people! We’re afraid, and our fear makes us cruel.
We don’t want to believe that it’s true. We want to believe that we’re immune. We work hard, we take care of ourselves. The people who are getting food stamps have to be at fault because if they aren’t we have to come to grips with the fact that we can be there next week.
Now, I have something to say to anyone who would complain about immigrants getting food stamps. Actually, I have a lot of things I want to say to them, but they’re mostly four letters. So how about I just leave this here.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
So, you know, go argue with the Statue of Liberty if you don’t want poor immigrants moving here.
Now I’m going to get really honest with you. I’ve been honest with all of you that my daughter was born when I was seventeen. I moved out of my mother’s house and into an apartment with my ex. He was working, and I was keeping home like a good Mormon girl is supposed to be.
Then, my ex lost his job. We ended up living in public housing, depending on food stamps and cash assistance to survive. I’d been taught by my family to have faith in God and my husband, or boyfriend in this case. So I kept home, I took care of the baby and had faith in God and my boyfriend.
Fortunately, it only took me three years to have faith in God and myself instead. I had a shitty job where I sorted garbage at a waste management plant. I worked hard, long hours. I received food stamps and paid my mother to watch my daughter.
I worked at a health food store, then in retail, then in retail management. Through all of this, my family and I have struggled to keep food in the house and the bills paid. We have benefited from food stamps, and without them, we would not have had money to both eat and pay our bills.
I could be called a lot of things. Bleeding heart hippy liberal feminist, if you like. But I doubt anyone would call me lazy or stupid. I was stuck in a bad situation and needed help to get out of it.
Just like anyone could be. Please keep that in mind when you hear people talk badly about people who receive food stamps or cash assistance.