Friday, January 27, 2012


The hysteria on the left regarding Newt Gingrich's calling President Obama the "Food Stamps President" and asserting that more people are no on food stamps than at any other time in history, is fascinating.

Tom Blumer says that Gingrich was factually correct, both narrowly and broadly, then goes on to document why. Blumer cites Gingrich's response to the Food Stamp question and the resulting charge of "racism" leveled at him:
When conservatives care about the poor and conservatives offer ideas to help the poor, and conservatives suggest that the poor would rather have a paycheck than a food stamp, the very liberals who have failed them at places like the New York Times promptly scream “racism,” because they have no defense for the failure of liberal institutions which have trapped poor children in bad schools, trapped them in bad neighborhoods, trapped them in crime-ridden situations. Liberal solutions have failed, and their only answer is to cry “racism” and hide.

It used to be that "welfare" was thought of in this country as a compassionate and temporary means of supporting those in poverty, with the overall goal of helping them in various ways to get out of poverty and providing for themselves as quickly as possible. Gingrich's stark contrast between the "Paycheck vs Food Stamp" attitude reflects this attitude; and it also reflects the deeply held belief that welfare, particularly in the long run, has detrimental psychological effects on the recipients and can make them permanantly disabled.

Indeed, the primary psychological consequences of such long-term charity, especially for those who are aware on some level that they are not disabled, is the slow, steady erosion of genuine self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.

In typically pervere manner, the "progressive" political left has developed a strategy to cover that problem as they forge full steam ahead in creating a permanent class of people dependent on the State. In the same way that they have distorted "self esteem" in childhood development and hyped it to the point that it fosters and enables an unhealthy narcissism, they have managed to foster a narcissistic sense of entitlement in welfare recipients, by eliminating any sense that handouts are a negative thing; and neglecting to mention that they foster dependence, passivity and continued poverty.

No, everyone is ENTITLED to handouts. Poverty is just something bad that happens to them and not ever the result of bad choices on the recipient's part; but rather the result of greedy rich people taking away their share of the American pie--nothing more. And the solution is always--not private charity (how demeaning!), but state-sponsored redistribution of wealth.

Strange as it seems today, people used to object to being the objects of handouts and charity , and the concomitant pity and condescension that it implied; except perhaps in dire circumstances. They looked to their own extended families and friends; or their church for help.

You might put aside your sense of pride and accept it for a while but, again, the goal was to "get back on your feet" as soon as possible.

Not any longer!

In an article in the NY Times from exactly 1 year ago, we are informed that, "Once Stigmatized, Food Stamps Find Acceptance":
A decade ago, New York City officials were so reluctant to give out food stamps, they made people register one day and return the next just to get an application. The welfare commissioner said the program caused dependency and the poor were “better off” without it.

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

Now the city urges the needy to seek aid (in languages from Albanian to Yiddish). Neighborhood groups recruit clients at churches and grocery stores, with materials that all but proclaim a civic duty to apply — to “help New York farmers, grocers, and businesses.” There is even a program on Rikers Island to enroll inmates leaving the jail.

“Applying for food stamps is easier than ever,” city posters say.

The same is true nationwide. After a U-turn in the politics of poverty, food stamps, a program once scorned as “welfare,” enjoys broad new support. Following deep cuts in the 1990s, Congress reversed course to expand eligibility, cut red tape and burnish the program’s image, with a special effort to enroll the working poor. These changes, combined with soaring unemployment, have pushed enrollment to record highs, with one in eight Americans now getting aid.

Commenting on the article, The Weekly Standard noted at the time:
As with any social program, there are many people on it who are indeed needy, but the article makes clear that the revival of food stamp popularity has more to do with state and local officials who are glad to curry favor with local constituents using federal dollars.

Since they're not paying for it, local officials and a network of aid organizations happily aid the federal government in recruiting more food-stamp recipients, regardless of how much they actually need the assistance. Meet Juan Diego Castro, who demonstrates how the system works:
Juan Diego Castro, 24, is a college graduate and Americorps volunteer whose immigrant parents warned him “not to be a burden on this country.” He has a monthly stipend of about $2,500 and initially thought food stamps should go to needier people, like the tenants he organizes. “My concern was if I’m taking food stamps and I have a job, is it morally correct?” he said.

But federal law eases eligibility for Americorps members, and a food bank worker urged him and fellow volunteers to apply, arguing that there was enough aid to go around and that use would demonstrate continuing need. “That meeting definitely turned us around,” Mr. Castro said.

Of course it is morally correct, Juan! Especially in this day and age. Dependence is GOOD! Accepting a handout shouldn't make you even in the slightest bit anxious or impact your fragile self-esteem at all! You are entitled to other people's money, even if you are able to support yourself now!

The Food Stamp program (or SNAP, or whatever it is called now) is not the only program that started out with a good premise intended to help people or make life a little easier. But somehow with programs like this it always ends up fostering dependence and making eventual independence a mere pipe dream.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that it is wrong in any way to help people in need. I am not saying that people who need help are bad. I am suggesting that the specific approach that has been favored by the political progressive left and the Democrats has serious, psychologically damaging consequences that lead to never-ending dependence, passivity, and continued poverty.

And that approach is to let the government do it, i.e., to use other people's money to redistribute wealth in the manner the progressives want. Donating to private charities is clearly UNprogressive. Witness their personal stinginess in this area: Romney gives 15% of his large income to charity, while Obama gives 1%. But Obama and those of his political persuasion believe they are better people because they want to give YOUR money away to help people. Romney to them (and to some deluded people on the right) is just another evil, money-grubbing capitalist.

Paychecks or Food Stamps? The Free Market or Crony Socialized Capitalism? Private charity or Government Redistribution of Wealth? Independence or Dependence? Obama-style hopeychangey or Real Hope and Real Change?

Two visions of where America should be heading couldn't be more sharply defined than these choices.


[Cartoons by Chip Bok here]

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