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Food Stamps and American Hunger
Food stamp recipient Lisa Zilligen, 28, serves lunch to her three children -- Miles, 20 months, Olivia, 6, and Danielle, 8 -- in her home in Chicago, Nov. 23, 2009. (AP)

Food stamp recipient Lisa Zilligen, 28, serves lunch to her three children -- Miles, 20 months, Olivia, 6, and Danielle, 8 -- in her home in Chicago, Nov. 23, 2009. (AP)

One in eight Americans now gets food stamps. One in eight. Among American children, one of every four.

Food stamp use surged under President George W. Bush. In the economic crisis of the past year, it has exploded. All over the country. In communities where people thought they would never be on food stamps — but now are.

The longterm poor and the newly jobless, city and suburb — 36 million people.

What does it mean for our country? What does it say about our economy?

This hour, On Point: America’s exploding dependence on food stamps, and what it tells us.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from Washington is Jason DeParle, reporter for The New York Times. He has written extensively about poverty and food insecurity in the U.S., most recently in last Sunday’s front-page story, “Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades.”

Also from Washington we’re joined by Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Governor of Iowa.

Joining us in our studio is Tiziana Dearing, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Mike Joseph joins us from Peoria, Illinois. He is the Produce Merchandising Rep. for Kroger Supermarkets in the Peoria area.

David Young joins us from Mason, Ohio. He is President of the Board of Commissioners of Warren County and a small business owner. He recently appealed to the state government to strengthen the eligibility requirements to make sure people don’t abuse the food stamp program.

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  • Gabrielle

    the New York Times interactive map showed that most of the states using the most food stamps were Red States. Why is it that Republicans always try to block progressive social action when they are the ones that benefit – presumably off the backs of the taxes of Blue State residents?

  • Ellen Dibble

    Gabrielle, maybe Red States have more faith in faith institutions, and those individuals think they will be building up credit in the hereafter by personally serving food to the needy at endless soup kitchens in church basements. Maybe it isn’t clear to many in a Red State that transcending individual interests and aspiring to heavenly communal goals might in some ways be better achieved outside of the church.

  • Cory

    Welcome to your future, America.

    I’m anxious to hear a conservative argue against the socialist food stamp entitlement.

  • Brenda

    Thank you for this discussion of Food Stamps. We are a Massachusetts family of four that has been receiving food stamp benefits for about 5 years. I hope you will expand your discussion to address the following points this morning:

    - In my food stamp office, there are NO materials to educate participants on how to stretch your food stamp dollar. Through trial and error, I have learned that purchasing and preparing minimally processed foods really stretches our benefits. It’s time to educate and/or remind food stamp participants that $1-2 per serving for a meal is totally possible (and yummy). Not to mention there are leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

    - It is possible to eat fresh and local foods with your food stamp budget with programs like Farm Fresh Rhode Island. Their organization has an info booth at RI farmers markets equipped with a wireless credit card device. With a simple swipe of a food stamp EBT card, a spending amount is entered, and $1 tokens are given to spend at the farmers market. Let’s see this model roll out across country.

    Thank you.

  • Matthew

    My fiancee is recovering from traumatic brain injury as a result of a motorcycle accident two years ago. I am grateful for all the public benefits she is able to receive that aid her in regaining her life as a twenty six year old. Food stamps allow her to eat, Medicaid gives her necessary medical care, and her family still contributes time, money, and energy to fulfill her needs. I would like to thank all those American citizens who contribute to my love’s needs through their taxes. This is why I pay taxes, so the government can provide the things I don’t have the means to provide by myself.

    –Happy festivities!


  • Travis Tarpy

    A family on food-stamps can literally purchase a basket full of bubble gum and soda pop, but can not use them at the local farmers market.

  • Steve T

    The problem: Half of the people who here about this, will forget within 1 hr. after the show. But Please look at who is responsible. Your Govt,reps. You know the people we voted for that will NEVER go hungry.

  • tracy

    The best way to help people out of poverty is JOBS, not food stamps. WHy aren’t we focusing on getting JOBS. Why aren’t we lowering the cost of doing business, (regulations), the cost of labor and taxes on businesses? That is how you get entrepeneurs to put their capital to work and invest in businesses that EMPLOYEE people. Food stamps are a symptom of a much more important underlying issue; America is losing its competitive edge and hence jobs.

  • Ray

    Every american has the cost of their food subsidized by by tax dollars. SNAP is just one aspect of that subsidy. One change I would make is to allow small farmers to trade farm products for SNAP credit. Think of the growth in farmers markets if that revenue source is available nation wide.
    Thanks for covering this topic.
    Ray Tucker

  • Todd

    Why do you fools always fall for this Blue/Red, Left/Right illusion? The issue could be about roasting marshmallows, and you sad idiots would manage to find a way to make it fodder for partisan bickering. You take sides as if political/social issues are some kind of sporting event.

    Open your eyes, and stop being played against one another like pieces on a chess board. As long as the political manipulators can keep you people in your corners arguing over colors, no solutions will ever be forthcoming. Meanwhile, you idiots just keep (re)electing the same two colors over and over and over again, as if doing so will somehow magically bring about a different result. You get the government you deserve.

  • Frances

    Speaking to your point, Ray Tucker, in Boston consumers can use SNAP at all our farmer’s markets, and they get 2 dollars of food there for every SNAP dollar. I think this is an awesome incentive program that helps the needy and our farmers.

  • Naomi Bindman

    I am a recent food stamp recipient due to an unexpected family tragedy that has left me unable to work. I definitely think the program is essential and necessary for so many. My only criticism is that one can purchase candy, cake and soda with food stamps, but not vitamins! We discuss the epidemic of diseases like diabetes and obesity among the poor, perhaps food stamps should be limited to real food instead of food products loaded with sugar and corn syrup.

  • Sebastian Stockman

    I’m curious, in light of this general assumption that “other people” are using their food stamps irresponsibly, is there a way for us to track what people are buying? With these new cards instead of actual stamps, can’t we get some sort of data on this, instead of just hearsay?

  • Soli

    In New Haven, CT, the local farmer’s markets also accept food stamps, and I regularly see people there using them.

    On the type of food, maybe people are buying cheap food that is loaded with sugar/HFCS and bad fats because they think they can’t afford decent food.

  • Al

    I think SNAP is a very necessary, extremely beneficial program, however great room for improvement remains. I work with low-income people in a medium sized New England city and every day I meet families that would literally be homeless and starving without these programs. Freeing up scarce resources to pay for rent, medical care and transportation is essential to survival on a fixed income. However it is worthy of note that SNAP is fundamentally an agricultural subsidy. The funding comes from USDA, not HHS and the expansion is part of the Farm Bill. It is also noteworthy that a great deal of literature focuses on the economic multiplier effect of SNAP dollars coming into the state (ie – person uses snap benefits at grocery store, that is $100 of federal money coming in from out of state, the grocery store pays their employees, those employees get a haircut, the hairdresser spends that money, etc amounting to about $3 of economic activity for every $1 of SNAP). So fundamentally this program is not about nutrition or hunger, it is about increasing overall demand for food and American agricultural goods. This begs the question what does it mean for our environment and social nutrition values when there is no educational component of how to shop and cook? Are people exacerbating a health and environmental crisis by purchasing products very high in fat and sugar? Corn is already heavily subsidized on the supply side, do we need to subsidize on the demand side as well? It becomes clear that while this program is extremely beneficial, there is great room for improvement, moving towards a more comprehensive, education focused approach. No one should go hungry in this land of plenty, but solving hunger should be the end in itself, not a pleasant by-product of supporting unsustainable agribusinesses.

  • Susan

    I am not against people who need temp help, but I do have a problem with people on food stamps who walk out of the grocery store driving away in luxury cars that are gas hogs and designer clothes. This is crazy! How about selling the luxury car, buy a gas efficient car and use the extra money they save on buying food for their family. I may walk out of a grocery store to my little beat up car, but with a clear conscience that I am not living of off someone else’s dime.

    There are too many people who use the system. This misuse needs to be addressed. I have always thought developing a system where persons who have received food stamp assistance have to pay back a percentage of what they received over a extended period of time once they are off the system. The money filtered in from the payback system could then be fueled right back into the food stamp program to assist others on a temp basis.

    Not only will this deter people from using the system, but it will also provide a very valuable life lesson “Things in life are not free. There is nothing wrong with asking for a bit of help from time to time but at the end of the day you have to be ready to give back.”

  • Greg Versen

    It would be helpful if you would tell how much per person per month that one receives on Food Stamps. This varies from state to state so a comparison between rich and poor states would also be helpful.

  • Rob Littler

    I lost my job, making 66k a year and now all I can find is a job that pays 25k a year. I work another part time job as well to make ends meet. So I am working 14 hrs a day MWF and weekends. There is not a day when I do not work, and I am still hurting. My wife works as well. We have two kids, a mortgage, one car payment. We are living the American Dream, but we also get reduced lunch programs at school. I qualified for unemployment for a few weeks, but wanted to get off. I would NEVER apply for food stamps before, but now I am thinking it is a way to help my family. The stigma I have against it makes me feel like I am not able to provide, it makes me feel bad. I do not know why. I think I feel like the lead character in “Cinderella Man” where he pays back the money he needed. I am prideful I guess.

  • Bonnie

    I think that the entire Food Stamps program would be used a lot less if the unemployment system worked better. I have three friends (that I can think of off the top of my head) who CHOOSE not get jobs, because they make more on Unemployment, and you’re almost guaranteed Food Stamps if you’re on Unemployment.

  • Karen Buck

    Good food is expensive; junk food is subsidized! Yes, I’m generalizing but corn and its by-products is a cheap additive that is adding empty calories to people’s diets who need to “fill up”. How about this?: More buying power from food stamps to purchase good foods. This may create an initiative to buy fresh veggies and fruits. This certainly could be implemented with good planning. For example, a portion of food stamps would be worth 25% more and can only be used for fresh or frozen veggies and fruits. This would be more costly in the short run. But, perhaps would lower health care costs (diet caused diabetes) and an investment for the future of our children.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    Food Stamps help the people who are badly needed of help. My daughter gets food stamps to buy milk,cheese and bread.

    I think in Massachusetts you can’t use food stamps to buy cigarettes or alcohol.

    I wish every American can receive food stamps it really help a lot. I wish Africa can receive food stamps TO STOP THE HUNGER OVER THERE.

  • Sarah

    This is a hard subject for me. I know that some people are really hurting right now, but I have watched some members of my family get free food (and health care) for years while buying expensive vehicles and clothes. There were even times when they criticized the amount of money we spent on Christmas gifts (too little), while we took nothing from the government, drove older vehicles and bought clothes at Goodwill and garage sales!

  • K

    I’m sick of hearing the upper middle class looking down their noses at the working poor and finding ways to cut back on public assistance. Childrens grades are failing, yet teachers are being let go in droves. Jobs are being lost left right and center and yet AIG still gets huge bonuses. People are going hungry and need food stamps and they are told to get a second job.

    Parents arent home because they are looking for work that doesn’t ever pay the bills, doesn’t have a living wage, and we wonder why we have one of the highest infant mortality rates, childhood hunger, and youth violence.

    Just remember all you red state republicans about those who throw stones in glass houses.

  • Nora

    It is so discouraging that so many of Tom Ashbrook’s comments imply that food stamp recipients are lazy people who don’t want to work. It is so far from the truth. Its the working poor and recently jobless folks who are needing this nutritional assistance. Perhaps focusing on why people can’t get paid enough to feed their families would be more productive rather than continuing to stigmatize those that need assistance.

  • Mike

    Grew up on the food stamp program as a kid and have never been on it as an adult. Plain and simple – thank God for the food stamp program! We live in the wealthiest country in the history of the world and if you haven’t been hungry before you really don’t know how beneficial this program is. I can’t and won’t begrudge anyone food. I also don’t think we are doing enough to help folks. What happened to the surplus food program? We need to get it up and running asap.

  • Samantha

    I work at a restaurant in which people can buy food at our establishment, then take it home to cook. Therefore, we can take food stamps. It’s really dissapointing how much people spend on a meal (anywhere from $20-$40) just to feed their family for one night! Not to mention, the food that we have is not necessarily the healthiest.

    I also have a friend who was on food stamps, who only claimed himself, and was given $500 per month for food! For the midwest, that’s WAY too much. I shop for two people, and I spend $200, max, per month on groceries.

    I’m not against these cards; honestly, I believe some people need them. I just think that there needs to be more investigation into fraudulent use, and to how much people actually need.

  • BHA

    I wouldn’t want people using “I paid in so I deserve to get some out” reasoning for using food assistance programs. If that were the case, I am owed a lot since I’ve been working for 30 years :)

    I do have to agree with those who ‘complain’ that people on Food Stamps buy things they should not. Just the other day at the grocery store, a lady used her card to buy food and pulled out cash to pay for a carton of cigarettes. That money could/should have been used to buy food. How many are using food stamps for food when they could afford to pay with THEIR money if they didn’t buy junk, booze and cigarettes?

  • Ray

    Our economic house of cards is based on service economy. This is the only time in world history that the majority of people don’t produce goods. Look at who feeds us. A few thousand farmers produce most of our nutrition.

  • http://wisdomwithinink.com joanna

    I think food stamps are a needed benefit for those who truly need it. However, I think it is very important to change the restrictions. I was in line behind a man who was using food stamps recently whose cart was filled with Little Debbies, pre-packaged, sodium and fat-packed “food” and soda. There was not one vegetable or piece of fruit. It made me feel as ill as he looked!

    I think there should be a way to restrict foods according to their ingredients (high fructose corn syrup, fat, etc.). Tricky! But collaborating with farms would be a way to get better food into the diets of the poorest people.

  • Cathy

    As Brenda noted above. Recipients of the SNAP program should be educated on how to stretch their food dollars and how to eat healthily. It is not “nutrition” assistance if processed/junk food is purchased on a regular basis.

  • Barbara Grau

    Why is moral hazard brought up in relation to food stamp use/need, when moral hazard is not an issue when corporations receive billions of dollars in aid?

  • Sam

    I am a 44 years old woman in Boston who is forced to use Food Stamps ( or any other human services)for the first time in my life. I am currently living in a car in Boston. I am unemployed, job hunting and do not receive any other “benefits “. As a woman with no children, no adictions and no mental health issues there is NO assistance and NO services that are available to me except food stamps. I have jumped every hoop and applied for every kind of social service and other benefits that I could have and should have been available to me, for the past 15 months. I receive about $200.00 a month and in order to make the food stamps last all months I only eat once a day , usually prepared meals from local supermarkets. If I have to and the food stamps are running low I will puposely eat every other day as a stategy to survive for the whole month. I have worked my whole life( from the age of 15) until this period of my life, I am college educated, was considered middle class- coming from a working class/poverty class family . With NO excess job availability in Massachusetts for the past 15 months (I have been agressivly looking for the past year and a half). Had it not been for a very kind DTA “old School” social worker I would not even have survived the initial food stamp Application process.My first application sat on someones desk for 2 months before someone botherd to go get my file and process it. During those 2 months I just went hungry. I intially (6 months ago) carried a stigma about using the food stamps until I realized that I was standing in supermarket lines with many other men and women, articulate and intelligent, working class or above and in “decent” neighborhoods that were also attempting to ( like me) hide the fact that they were also forced to untilize food stamps. I would rather eat( live) right now than give in to the shame of having to rely on food stamps for basic survival. When and if I ever get out of this current state of my life will I make sure, like I have before, in my life give back to society,? Give back for accepting this handout? Of course I will!

  • Terri

    I just was listening to part of the show and I must of heard wrong. They said that a family of 4 can recieve $500 a month on food stamps. We are a family of 3 and I spend $200 – $275 a month. I buy very little packaged food and cook everything from scratch. My family is well fed. We only eat out once every few months. We need to educate people on how to cloth and feed themselves. We do not have to purchase everything that is marketed at us.

  • martha yager

    The show is over but I want to respond to the anger about misuse of the program. Would those people kindly direct their anger at the companies that are laying off lots of people while paying bonuses and who are still insisting on double digit profit margins to keep shareholders happy? Can we talk about the recent reports about how the lower 3/5ths of workers have seen incomes flatline for 20 years now – while senior management gets fat? And can we call out the complaint about obesity – which happens when people don’t know how to cook (or have time to cook) cheap healthy food so kids on food stamps or in low income households end up eating lots of high fat foods? And why take away someone’s car (which they will need to get a job) in order to get food stamps?

    Of course there are a few people on there who shouldn’t be – but there are a whole lot of executives who are rich a their workers expense. THanks

  • lee

    If Food Stamps are not a more up to date version of bread lines, then what, exactly, is it?

  • Kara

    I wish Tom Vilsack had taken the opportunity to encourage people to buy fresh local produce with their assistance, and/or to plant a garden and grow their own. More people are realizing that local and homegrown foods reduce costs, control harmful inputs, and are fresher and therefore healthier. With a few hours a week on average you can grow food whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural environment, and whether you have land or not. See the book “Food not Lawns” or google “Permaculture” for more information.

  • http://ncpr stillin

    I am GLAD food stamps are helping human beings eat, period.I am GRATEFUL i can buy my own food, have a stove and a home to cook it in. I DON’T RESENT anybody needing help, because I can assure you, the majority of them are struggling day to day just to stay in the game. The people who are judged so harshly are the poor, what a crime! You don’t make enough money, let’s punish you. This country’s rich and abundant, could easily do more to help all those who need it, and every step of the way they should be saying I am so grateful I can help. Period. lastly, to the comment on Can’t we track what “they” buy? Man, straight up, if you haven’t caught onto this yet, big brother is TOO BIG. Your every email, your comments, and who knows what else, is all tracked by government. I really don’t believe they need to track what the “food stamp” people buy. Please, people, just feed the poor you see, and be glad you can.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Al at 10:35 said that Food Stamps is under USDA, not HHS: “So fundamentally this program is not about nutrition or hunger, it is about increasing overall demand for food and American agricultural goods.”

    Hey, hey, can’t people buy rhubarb from Hungary, garlic from China — the news is rife with complaints that we pay more for conveying the food than for food itself. American food apparently goes to other places, maybe Africa.
    Al goes on:

    “This begs the question what does it mean for our environment and social nutrition values when there is no educational component of how to shop and cook? Are people exacerbating a health and environmental crisis by purchasing products very high in fat and sugar? Corn is already heavily subsidized on the supply side, do we need to subsidize on the demand side as well?”

    Corn I believe is massively being channeled into new fuel sources, as well as corn syrup, which I believe is a sweetener at least as common as sugar, at least as bad.

    I love it that Massachusetts lets Food Stamps buy two dollars worth of food at farmers’ markets (Frances above), or one-to-one SNAP for farmers’ market food in Rhode Island (Brenda above).

    I have seen young families that get swatted down by circumstance turn to drugs and have no interest in food whatsoever, except maybe soda. A gift salad lasts a week and is then tossed, I suppose. The nutritional component we think of as “hunger” is not somehow in the equation for them; and I am amazed how healthy they seem, perhaps bucked up by early decades of good nutrition. One can be satisfied by a “high” or by a sugar punch; you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

  • charles

    I really do not understand why there are those upset about people driving nice cars and receiving SNAP benefits. I am a 30 year old single dad with 3 young children. I worked for an automotive company for 10 yaers and am now on unemployment. I drive a 2003 Toyota Seinna mini-van, to me a nice car. I just recently paid it off. Why in the freaking world would I want to sell a paid off vehicle and buy another car and have a monthly payment that I can not afford. Sure I could sell it and buy a “used” car, but what assurance do I have that it will be as reliable as my current car? This is not a Red/Blue issue. Everything that happens in this country is not a political issue. This is a basic human rights issue, a combination [PURPLE] issue. Eveytime we as Americans buy in to these issues as political we are empowering politcians by giving them yet another issue to beat like a dead dog to try to get elected/re-elected. If you disagree with SNAP simply dont use it. Looking down on those of us who truly need help is not only shameless it is also un-American. Give me a good job like I had 8 Months ago and I will gladly stop using the program. It is almost always the people whom have no needs which start the ball rolling on debating topics which should not be a debate. We are the richest country in the world, suppose that changes soon. I bet you idiots who assume you are safe from needing assistance will sing a new song of praise for these types of programs and start to realize how hard it is to make ends meet for people like me.

  • ThresherK

    Looking down on those of us who truly need help is not only shameless it is also un-American.

    Charles, no argument here.

    It shouldn’t go without reminding that the “Pain Caucus” has divided government outlays for the rich (tribute to people we are just glad exist), from that for the middle and lower classes (pittances to be consumed with a lecture and a double shot of moral hazard).

    That’s also how they want to dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s how they want you (the proverbial you) to feel about anything: Ashamed for using it, no matter that there just aren’t the jobs out there for you to get, and that (statistically speaking) your assets have taken a nosedive for the last eight years.

    Good for you for not being their fool.

  • In Buffalo

    An excellent topic, chiefly because it offers factual and moral clarity.
    Let’s get one thing out of the way, first, though: A rose by any other name, SNAP is welfare. Welfare is any transfer of wealth to a person by means other than a voluntary, mutually beneficial transaction. Accordingly, it includes soup kitchens operated with private dollars (my family contributes money to a soup kitchen), as well as any plan that in the ordinary course of operation, will pay some people more than they paid into it (thus, I include Social Security for low-wage workers). Medicare is, to the extent that it is not actuarily sound, welfare. (As soon as it becomes self-financing and utterly voluntary, it is not!)
    Welfare is NOT a dirty word. It is attached to every effort, private, public and in-between that seeks to give to those who can’t get on their own.
    Where the lines are drawn is, of course, where the devil is: In details, always.
    A libertarian-leaning friend of mine once said, “This country is rich enough–and willing–to care for the truly needy; it hasn’t a penny–or sympathy–for those who aren’t.” Draw the lines properly, and even this libertarian-leaner would support some measure of welfare, and probably not all of it privately-supplied either! That tells me that there is near-universal upport for some measure of welfare.
    Now, let’s figure out where the lines get drawn.
    To the show guest who asked if the student ¾ of the way finished with her education should abandon her investment in the future for a low-income job now, just to avoid welfare (as I have defined it): Ask the people paying for it. Go ahead, poll them, I’ll wait.
    Finished? As long as it is a democratic republic, it’s their decision (through their representatives); if it seems foolish to you, go ahead, try to convince them, but do not defend a system that does it on the grounds that it makes sense to you.
    My memory fails me, but some economist, Feldstein perhaps, once wrote that a properly-run public welfare program would spend $100 to find $1 of fraud (or thereabouts), not because it made accounting sense (it is accounting madness, obviously), but because it would bolster public support for the program, insuring that only the qualified benefited. We seem to have forgotten that wise insight: $100 million to detect $1 in fraud helps politically perpetuate the $1 billion spent on the needy. Someone who proposes to spend $1.1 billion on the needy by writing off the possibility of detecting the $1 million in fraud (using the “savings” for more aid to the needy) has to explain to me how such a program survives politically. (Our voters are not required to act rationally, and it is not to be expected that they will: Why human nature would stop at the ballot box would be an interesting explanation.) Deal with it. A small amount of abuse taints the whole program; that, and that alone, was Reagan’s point about “bucks and steaks.” (In the inner city, where I live–in one of the poorest cities in America, indeed–back in the days of food coupons, not plastic cards, it was not unknown to trade coupons for cash which could be spent on Food Stamp-ineligible items like paper towels, facial tissue, dish soap, etc., meaning that people who were never entitled to coupons possessed and used them. Since they were not truly needy–else they would’ve had their own coupons, why wouldn’t they buy premium elgibile products with them? That poisoned a lot of attitudes, I’ll tell you. Were people wrong to have their attitudes poisoned?)
    My sympathies do not lie with anyone crushed in the foreclosure crisis who did anything but what my family did: Buy less house than we would like, ratcheting down the amount paid until 20% could be put down, qualifying us for a 30 year-fixed rate. Crisis over. Or more precisely, never experienced. My bitterly poor city avoided the foreclosure crisis entirely and now has the fastest rising housing prices among U.S. metro areas (up 4% in the past year last I read). Slow and steady wins the race, does it not? Anyone who used an ARM or a balloon mortgage expecting to be bailed out by continuously rising housing prices was a fool or worse. I’d give your children SNAP in a heartbeat–they have suffered enough having you for parents–but I’d gladly have you go to bed hungry tonight.
    Lose yourt job? Step right up to the SNAP counter. I find you morally worthy.
    Get wiped out because of illness or disability? Get in line. You are blameless.
    Made a six-figure income (our family’s income is under $50,000 a year for three of us) and spent every penny of it (does anyone read about ants in summer, anymore?) on a nice house, private schools for your kids and consumer electronics (there’s no widescreen TV here, no digital, just used computers bought second-hand) but didn’t save for the rainy day by deliberately not consuming (spending) all you produced (earned)? Shame on you. You are what is wrong with America: Unlike the poor who were never taught to read and figure in miserable schools and who cannot succeed, you have succeeded. You are blessed and it is your duty to use those blessings first to protect your family against misfortune, not to lavish the goods and services of modern America on your brood. (When you have done the former, go ahead, and do the latter–I encourage you.)
    I do not accept the moral relativism that says it is not my place to criticize the choices of other adults. Of course it is. I will parry your thrust with “‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ as each individual finds it” with a simple observation: The guys who wrote the first part would’ve agreed with me on duty. They could not have imagined a happiness that did not originate in security purchased with your own money, a rainy day fund funded by underconsumption as we understand that term (and as they would not have conceived of, the idea of spending as fast as you earn having been insane to them).
    Let’s support those who have suffered genuine misfortune; let’s deal harshly with those who have had the money to gamble–and lost. Let us not fear to draw these lines. Not only will they insure high levels of support for the truly needy, but the sure knowledge that Uncle Sammy will not support you through misfortune you brought upon yourself will make you–and everyone else–more cautious in the future, meaning that fewer houses of cards will be built in the first place.

  • curiouscat

    Food Stamps are an excellent indicator of poverty levels. They do not include many who live on fixed incomes, however: those receiving Social Security retirement and disability insurance are disqualified, for instance. The calculation of the monthly budget includes food costs. The basic monthly disability benefit in California is currently $886 for everything – shelter, medication, utilities and food.

  • ThresherK

    Why, yes, if someone relocated to take a job, and wasn’t smart enough know everyone else’s house would get foreclosed on (affecting their property’s value), and their job would go away, and they can’t find another that pays more than unemployment, they’re just a leech and should be treated as such.

    You’re funny.

    While we’re talking about spending money to avoid ripping off the gummint, how does Milt Friedman suggest we solve the KBR/Halliburton problem?

  • curiouscat

    It is interesting that those who describe everyone else as wanting something for nothing also claim to be the exception to this rule.

    Many disability programs make it very difficult to contribute to one’s own support because attempts to work are highly proscribed and fraught with bureaucratic complications. Functionaries treat the motivated person with suspicion: if you can take one community college class, you can get a job; if you can work one day a week, you can work full time. Treating the person who wants to work but has serious limitations as a criminal acts to discourage that person from contributing to his own support.

    Additionally, working can actually decrease income: SSI provides only $60 per month to a disabled person’s check, yet they demand half of any earned income over $60 in the same period. Therefore, anyone earning more than $180 in a month finds his budget shrinking.

    Unlike the exceptions that are cited by some, these rules affect everyone on Social Security Disability.

  • In Buffalo

    ThresherK, did you not read my statement:

    “Lose yourt job? Step right up to the SNAP counter. I find you morally worthy.”

    Now right, off, I apologize for the typo; I really did try to catch them all.

    So, applying MY standard to your hypothetical (“if someone relocated to take a job, and wasn’t smart enough know everyone else’s house would get foreclosed on (affecting their property’s value), and their job would go away, and they can’t find another that pays more than unemployment, they’re just a leech and should be treated as such”) would meant I would find such a person “morally worthy” in my choice of phrase.

    Have you any more straw men for me to demolish?

    Incidentally, I am at a complete loss as to how rampant foreclosures, leading to falling property values is relevant; the only time such a circumstance is relevant is if such a person wants then to sell his house, for he is then under water or upside-down, depending on what euphemism you use. My dad taught me that no one ever lost a penny on the stock market until he sold something. It’s just as true in real estate. Foreclosures and falling values don’t affect fixed-rate mortgages. That’s why those instruments build a highly-stable component of the real estate market and the associated financial market. The default rate on those puppies is utterly miniscule, perhaps greater than it was before the recession but still miniscule by any measure. In fact, falling prices may have a benefit to homeowners insofar as property taxes may fall as a result, though this is only a matter of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic because those revenues, if not restored by increasing the rate of taxation (mill rate), will be restored by other taxes (income, sales, wealith), which may affect the homeowner (the incidence of taxation will be affected, in technical terms) even if the burden is not.

    Was it Friedman?

    And I’m sorry, I really want to talk about SNAP (like the rest of the folks here); if you have some conspiracy theories you need to air about corporatocracy, start a topic for them elsewhere, would you? I can’t imagine that such a discussion would be “on-topic” here, within the meaning of WBUR’s rules.

  • http://www.marketforays.com Laurence Hauben

    A couple of years ago my farmer boyfriend and I participated in a Farmers Market set up in a poor neighborhood of Sacramento, CA. I noticed the following:

    - The residents were not just poor. They were dispirited human beings in poor health, who had never been taught that they could advocate for themselves and improve their own lives. they didn’t just need food, they needed to have their morale lifted so that they could take charge of improving their lives. They were used to not being treated with any respect, and it broke my heart to see how used they were to being taken advantage of, how surprised they were that we were not dumping half-rotten fruit on them but bringing them the same high quality fresh fruit we sell to high end markets and star chefs, presented in an attractive fashion, regardless of whether they paid with cash or food stamps or WIC coupons.

    - The public agencies and non-profit organizations that were supposed to “help” these people were more invested in perpetuating their own power than in empowering their clients. There was no interest in teaching these folks to help themselves. There was a vested interest in keeping them needy in order to attract more grants and public funding.

    - Having grown up in a working class French family and spent time in Subsaharan Africa, where people were literally starving and there were no resources, no water, little arable land, no roads, no seaports, I don’t believe that America’s poverty problem is so much lack of material resources as a deep disenfranchisement of the lower classes: broken families, little or no education, little if any participation in the electoral process by the poor.

    The biggest difference between the rich and the poor is not money. It is that the rich are used to being treated with respect and think highly of themselves. If they give you a dollar, they demand full value for it. Somehow, poor people think their dollar is worth less and accept inferior quality. They need self-respect as much as they need money.

    We need Oprah Winfrey and others like her who have been able to lift themselves from poverty to lead the way for the rest of the country. We need true community.

  • bob letcher

    This meeting cannot succeed unless it engages in out of the box thinking, in at least these dimensions. First, the parties must acknowledge that current economic relations stress efficiency–especially as an ideological notion, even more than as a practically accomplished fact–at the expense of non-religious moral relations among people and peoples, within and between nations. It’s inaccurate and reductionist to characterize a person as “the average consumer” or even “consumer”, to the exclusion of any other aspect–say: “citizen”, or “fellow human”. Locke has outlived whatever usefulness he may have had for organizing a country or an economy–esp in the face of the SECOND aspect that should be considered: the status of consumption, individualism,private property, local non-satiation, and incommensurability of individual utility functions–if such notions ever made any sense at all, they also served as Death Stars against warnings of impending climate change induced by those very practices and concepts that those Death Stars our Darth’s protected us from hearing, pondering, discussing, or otherwise acknowledging.

    THIRD, the parties must go outside the ossified boxes they have hunkered down behind for decades. I hope they all read and reflect upon Mancur Olson’s logic of collective action,, which he summarized in his book, The Rise and Decline of Nations. Among other things, I hope they will consider Olson’s 7th point: “distributional coalitions” (of which probably everyone of sufficient stature to be invited to such a lofty meeting is likely to be a member) retard the rate of growth for the society of which they are partially constitutive. Indeed, Olson’s argument identifies what strikes me as the biggest obstacle to “getting the economy moving again”; that is, they are all likely to take that phrase to mean, in effect, “back to the good old days–days and ways that are gone forever.

  • http://www.snaptomarket.com Lindsay

    There is a program in New York State that allows hundreds of farmers markets to accept SNAP. The Web site, http://www.snaptomarket.com has more info…

  • June S Taylor

    Totally agree with you, Laurence, on poverty being as much of the spirit as of the wallet. I lived 10 years in Memphis, TN, near the Mississippi delta. That part of the USA has made fortunes for cotton brokers and looks like the third world in terms of the incredible poverty of the folks who scrabble out a living there. There was a curious (to me) phenomenon in Memphis – many people who had come from poverty were extremely critical of any help for the poor. Someone called it “the culture of poverty”, explaining that poverty could induce a state of mind in which EVERYTHING SOMEBODY ELSE GETS COMES OUT OF MY SHARE. I wonder if this dynamic is behind much of the criticism directed at food stamps and other social-help programs? I guess it’s easier to believe there’s enough to go around if there always has been – for you.

  • charles

    Can anyone answer this for me, please? Since the USDA spearheads SNAP, why are the available options, of what foods may be purchased, so variable from state to state? I also hate the notion that “these united states” are actually as different as apples and oranges. The only way it seems we are truly “united” is to profoundly strut our differences and all forget that dividing lines on a map do not really exist.we all need to realize we are actually all “united” as a pitiful biological race that would rather kill his neighbor who’s way he may not understand than sit down and honor each others differences and learn from each other. Think of the possibilities that could be accomplished.

  • SteveC


    Thats sad. I am not on food stamps, but I tend to prefer minimally processed foods, since thats how I learned to cook from my grandmother (depression era child). Someone really SHOULD be teaching the skills involved.

    Just by paying attention to price and spending an extra few seconds to do some simple math, you can often save 15% to 200% on many items. That is just going item for item. I can’t imagine what the price difference is when you then compare the items to
    processed food.

    I have a bread machine, and can make a loaf of bread for about $1 worth of ingredients! Sure, it may take 100 loaves to pay for the machine, but the marginal cost per loaf is the same if you do it by hand.


  • http://www.marketforays.com Laurence Hauben

    Hi June:

    I think the first step toward moving away from the notion that “Everything somebody else gets comes out of my share” is to develop a belief that everyone has something valuable to contribute, even if one has little or no money.

    Having grown up in a family that had no money for any luxuries (we had no car, no TV, and my dad rode a second-hand bicycle to work), I still grew up feeling valued, like my ideas mattered, and that the world was a richer place for my being part of it.

    I got a great education in public schools that did not use multiple choice tests and rote learning but instead cultivated critical thinking from the early grades.

    Life is not a zero sum game. The more you have, the more I have too. Shared prosperity should be our goal as a society. What we need to give the poor is no handouts, but hand-ups.

  • SteveC


    Why use restrictions when the CLEAR answer is education? Wouldn’t it be just as bad if he filled his cart with chocolate, eggs, flour and sugar and just made all his own cakes from scratch?

    Clearly a person filling a cart with little debbies is not exercising proper nutritional choices. If you solve the problem by limiting his choices, he may eat better, but he has learned nothing, and will simply continue to make flawed choices within the new rules. That is, at best, a minor improvement.

    However, if you educate him as to proper nutrition, the value of food, and HOW to prepare it, then you enable him to make better choices, even when he has the option to make bad ones.


  • In Buffalo

    Steve, you raise an excellent point about education.

    Part of the problem you describe is that hunger is not even an analog of poor nutrition. One can be hungry eating excellent quality food on a daily basis (ask anyone who has ever losing tried weight through rigorous portion control) and sated on cheap junk.

    Education appeals to our intellect, our better natures, whatever, but the biological imperative in the short-run (daily basis) is to avoid or evade hunger. A heaping serving of sugar (for calories) and fats (for satiety) will solve the latter problem.

    Implicit in your suggestion is that education will allow individuals to accomplish both simultaneously. But I despair of that every time I pass by a fast-food restaurant or a garbage can on the sidewalk stuffed to the brim with wrappers and cups and bags and boxes from same; all those people cannot be ignorant of what is good for them, can they? It may be in this case, nature (biology) trumps nurture (education).

  • charles

    Why does everyone feel that the mis-fortunate are under educated in proper nutrition. Some may be poor but they are not ignorant as to how to feed themselves and their children properly. They may choose the easy road when it comes to dinner or snacks because, just maybe, after a hectic day of trying to work for 7 measley dollars an hour and picking up kids and doing homework and finishing dishes not to mention laundry, that one quick LUXURY of an over-processed sodium fortified frozen pizza sounds a hell of a lot better than your ideas of proper nutrition!!

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Even though I’m unemployed, I’m lucky that I don’t (yet) need to use food stamps.

    But to all those people who are complaining about abuse of the system – well-off people using food stamps, or people buying inappropriate items, I have 2 questions:

    1. Can you cite any hard evidence that these problems are widespread? Because most of what I’ve seen in this thread has been anecdotal.

    2. How would you propose it be fixed that wouldn’t cost more than it would save? Adding more layers of control and bureaucracy would result in fewer places that could afford to accept food stamps. One of the reasons why food stamps are rare at Farmers’ markets is that the overhead cost when they went to an electronic system (> $1000) was prohibitive for small farmers.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Like SteveC I also make my own food out of basic ingredients, and I also make my own bread – and I don’t even use a machine 8-)

    But one problem with teaching these skills and expecting people to live healthier and cheaper is that many of the places where food stamps are in heaviest use, such as poor inner-city communities and some remote rural communities, don’t have the kinds of supermarkets that I have in the ‘burbs where we can buy fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and legumes, fresh meat, fish and poultry, etc.

    I’m less than a 10 minute drive from a Stop and Shop, a Marketbasket, and a Hannafords. And I’m about 20 minutes to a Whole Foods. But those kinds of full-service grocers have largely abandoned inner-city areas, and what’s left are often expensive little quickie marts that sell junk food, cigarettes and booze.

  • Niki KT

    I have a neighbor who lost his wife recently and used the last bit of his $300 savings account to pay funeral expenses. He makes $1100 a month from Social Security survivorship benefits, and therefore makes too much money for food stamps, despite the fact that his monthly mortgage is $850 due to an inflated interest rate. He is literally sitting in his home with the heat off and no food, and no help.

  • Jeanne Bedwell

    What about the children?? Spiteful “Get a job” remarks sadden me. Mothers and fathers need to spend lots of time with their children. The schools are full of children who have serious problems from lack of focused attention from their parents. Parents need to spend time with such things as: reading books to the children, teaching children skills such as cooking, sewing, gardening, simple household repairs, telling family stories, and all the other things that good parents, rich or poor, do. Children need nutrition from foods and from family. Mothers should not have to “get a job.” Taking care of a family is a job.

  • charles

    @Steve- I’ve seen many full service supermarkets in inner-cities. Steve if you are as intelligent as you try to portray you would realize you are trying to blame the way a person eats to the lack of education and the unavailability of fresh food. How about putting more emphasis on just feeding people and not embellishing your “poor under educated socially displaced” attitude of people who are free to make their own decisions. Would you try to teach a vegan to eat veal? Sounds the same to me.

  • charles

    SORRY STEVE …last comment meant for PETER NELSON

  • charles

    on second thought STEVE, This fits you too

  • charles

    you both think spending more money to teach people how to eat is more economical than freedom to choose what we eat. In a time when money is tight let’s spend millions stuffing information down throats rather than food. This is how moraly corrupt people like you are. A hungry person is not going to be very attentitive during some kind of lecture telling him how to live. Let’s follow your plan to limit the consumption of what you call “poor nutritional decisions” and watch as corporation after corporation fails. If people dont buy products, people lose jobs. If people lose jobs they lose money and the ability to care for themselves. Then HELLOOO.. they are on Government assistance. Does this not seem like the very problem we are going through now? Just like you somebody cooked up this scheme to loan money to people who had no business getting a loan in the first place. Hey, and how about letting people get home equity loans of 150% of value. WTF are people like you two thinking??!!

  • Cory


    You state that the answer to unemployment is less tax and regulation. Since 1980 Reagan, Bush, and the other Bush did just that. Reagan and Bush II gave fat tax cuts and all three destroyed regulation in this country. How has that worked out for us? Do you really think less regulation on banks is a good idea?

    To all victim blamers,

    How many food stamp recipients can be financed by one white collar criminal like Bernie Madoff (sp.). Over the last several years, Iraq has cost one billion dollars a month, how many people could be fed with that?


    I’d like to see a study or some investigative reporting on all these people who drive to the store in an Escalade or a Cayenne and use food stamps to by malt liquor and smokes. I thought the welfare mother in the Cadilac anecdote was left in the 70′s or 80′s. Oh well, I guess some bigotted stereotypes never die.

  • Brianne

    As someone who has come from a lower middle class background who has seen the families of friends and classmates live off of food stamps and have every junk food item at hand and given free breakfast and lunches at school and living comfortably while their parents worked part-time and spent the other hours of the day drinking, using drugs, and/or sleeping with various people it made me very angry. My parents worked 2-3 jobs each to keep our family in a nice home, with good food, and items we needed. My family never asked for help – we helped ourselves.

    Now at 30 working a full-time job and a part-time job and choosing not to start a family, I hate having to pay for some peoples bad choices or laziness. I know that there are families and working poor that the food stamp program does help and is needed, but I know that there are a lot that mis-use it and don’t need it. I wish oversight was possible for those who need it vs. the lazy who just live off of it.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    I hate having to pay for some peoples bad choices or laziness.

    So, in other words, the children of druggies and teenage mothers should have made better choices about the families they were born into? They shouldn’t have been so lazy before they were born; if they’d cracked a book while they were in the stork’s bill they could have asked to be dropped off in a better neighborhood?

    Maybe you could share some of your secrets about how you arranged to be born to two parents who “worked 2-3 jobs each to keep our family in a nice home, with good food, and items we needed”?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what you’re saying is that we should punish children who don’t have the foresight to be born into better families by starving them with junk food and poor nutrition. That’ll teach them!

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    How about putting more emphasis on just feeding people and not embellishing your “poor under educated socially displaced” attitude of people who are free to make their own decisions.

    Does anybody have a clue what policy Charles is actually proposing?

    BTW, anyone who hasn’t seen “Food Inc” should see it or rent the DVD. It will change they way you eat forever. It also has a good discussion of how are system of food production and distribution consigns poor people to poor nutrition.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    How many food stamp recipients can be financed by one white collar criminal like Bernie Madoff (sp.). Over the last several years, Iraq has cost one billion dollars a month, how many people could be fed with that?

    This is a trick question, isn’t it? Because “can”, above, is in the present tense, but the money is in the past tense, as in “the money has been spent dude!” So the answer is “none”.

    I don’t think liberals appreciate how much money it costs to wreck an entire country and bury thousands of US soldiers, not to mention US credibility. George Bush worked his forehead to the bone, night and day kow-towing to the Chinese and Russians and begging them to lend us the money to do it. And he selflessly did that for the people! (assuming “the people” are right-wing neocons)

    Poor people should be proud to patriotically sacrifice their, and their kid’s health and nutrition, so that the money can buy the loyalty of a deserving Sunni militia, or pay off some mayor in Kurdistan so he’ll let us build him an oil pipeline.

  • http://canucwhatic.blogspot.com/ roth

    Brianne, it’s not always that simple. There are no jobs now, whereas at the time you were growing up, the economy was good. Focus your attention and anger on the people who really deserve it … the corporate thugs, at the very top of the economic scale, who caused this situation, yet who continues to reap enormous rewards, escaping any of the consequences of their egregious behavior. What we’re seeing now are the results of an enormous transfer of wealth that gradually took place over the last 30 years.

    It’s time to support each other and take our country back. Now, that people who never thought they would be on food stamps, are, or who are a job loss away from food stamps…I’m really hoping this will inspire America to open up their eyes, and focus on the corrupt people who are laughing at we, the “peasants” …the very people saving their ass. These are the people who really abuse the system.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Liberals think I’m giving Bush too much credit for his plan to feed the poor on 3 square meals of patriotism a day. But in the interest of “fair and balanced”, let’s give Obama some credit.

    Where will the Army get 30,000 new troops for the Afghan surge now that we’ve wrecked and worn out the other ones on 6 tours of duty in Afghanistan? Hint: it won’t be from the white, middle-class suburbs! The army will fill the ranks, as it always has, mainly from the poor and black. Who needs food stamps when you have MRE’s? Problem solved!

    And Obama is thinking long term here. The plan is to review, in December 2010, 12 months from now, whether Afghanistan has a achieved a stable democracy, and if so we’ll leave. If not, well, “we’re not just gonna throw them in the pool” – which is Obama Administration-talk for “we’ll stay”. But don’t worry – of course we can take a place that has had no experience with democracy in 1000 years, and with a culture based on loyalty to tribes, ethnic groups and warlords, and turn it into a stable functioning democracy in 12 months. Of course. (then a miracle happens) and !!presto!! the poor people get a balanced diet and jobs. See? It’s easy.

  • Ed

    “I don’t believe that America’s poverty problem is so much lack of material resources as a deep disenfranchisement of the lower classes: broken families, little or no education, little if any participation in the electoral process by the poor.” Laurence, I agree.

    When I was growing up with a single mother we used to use food stamps. It’s a very rough economy out there. I agree with the others, the reason I pay taxes is to make sure people don’t starve to death in this country.

    It’s a shame that decent regular folks have a hard time putting food on the table and fat cat finance honcho’s get bailed out and spend the money on Maseratis.

  • david

    Illegals not on food stamps, quess what? They are! Our nation is filling up with needy people who will eventually bankrupt us. How you say? There is an approximate 12 to 15 million illegals in the U.S.A. They are low-skilled and mostly poorly educated. But!! they have learned how to milk the system. Every baby they have here in the states is an automatic citizen. Go to your local Wal-Mart store in the spring and see for yourself. The migrates’ women are constantly pregnant. They average 6 to a family, do the math. They have learned that they can not get welfare benefits but their American Drops can. Bingo! The kids get the welfare and the illegal parents reap the rewards also. Need proof?
    * In Los Angeles County, California alone, kids of illegals collected more than $21 million in welfare and more than $22 million in food stamps in just the month of March 2009.(Dept. of Public Services)
    * 24% of the county’s allotment of welfare and food stamps went to Drop kids of illegals.
    * total cost to Los Angeles County taxpayers,$1 billion a year, not including education expenses.
    This folks is just one county in one state.
    * $90 BILLION DOLLARS a year is spent on illegals for welfare services by WE the American taxpayer.
    America your hearts may bleed for these people but they will eventually bleed you of your money in taxes. Lets invite them out of our country and give the leftovers to our own poor!

  • Iowan

    I grew up in a foster home. Jioned the army on my 18th birthday so I would have a place to live, and worked full time while I went to college. I work in public health (we wish we made what teachers make), and my wife works full time also. My 17 year old daughter works in a gas station at night after school, my 15 year old daughter works nights in a resturant, my 13 year old son mows yards and shovels snow to buy his school lunches and clothes. We are working hard and you are asking us to bail out unwed mother’s kids? Why should we be asked to care more about these kids than their own fathers do?

  • Melissa

    Let me start off by saying, my sister and I were raised by a single mother, whom after our father left had to use food stamps for the first few years of my life- she is a very hard working individual and continues to work two jobs in order to support herself in these times. So I understand how important this service can be for many people in this country.
    My comment is about agriculture in the US. I find it baffling that so much of the food produced in this country goes toward the production of non-food items; soybeans and field corn for example find many more uses than feeding hungry people.
    Why is our government encouraging and supporting with various govt. programs- this type of agriculture, when we could be using these agricultural resources to provide real food, economically, within this country for people in this country, and instead are putting funds toward this food stamp program so people can go to the grocery store and buy all kinds of foods that are imported? Every dollar that goes into this program might generate almost 2 dollars worth of instant gratification for this economy- supporting truckers and grocery store workers, but what about the long term? Can this really be a sustainable way of solving “hunger” in this country? What’s stopping us from doing what makes sense- encouraging and supporting our nations farmers to use agricultural resources to produce real, healthy food (of which one tends to need less- I am a farmer and live on vegetables year round) that can still provide everyone who gets our food to us with a living, but provide our farmers with an immediate and lucrative market?

  • Mark Taylor

    Oh for heavens sake!

    Sheeple will focus in and launch into long lectures about responsibility and independence and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps because someone might get a couple hundred dollars of food stamp support while 1% of the population controls 90% of the nation’s wealth. Lectures for the poor at the same time those 90-percenter parasites lap up billions in unearned bailout money and sweetheart government subsidies all on the taxpayer’s back. Give me a break.

    Let’s get real – the blood suckers and scammers are at the TOP end of the economic ladder. Pay attention people, your 401-k wasn’t looted by that single mom buying frozen pizza. Your home didn’t lose 50% of it’s value because some kid got a candy bar. You have lost your security because it was stolen by the villian in the limo and his direct line to your congressman and senator.

    Tom, you need to get sharper on this class warfare issue. Whenever folks want to pin the blame of the victims you need to push back; remind them who is exploiting whom.

    Oh, and as for Reagan; he began this class warfare. While he made up stories about “welfare queens in Cadillacs” he was gutting the ability of working Americans to bargain collectively and wrenching the whole tax system in favor of his sociopathic friends in Palm Springs.

    Now some 30 years later Reagan’s banker buddies and the corporate hit men have just about completely scalped the middle-class. Thank God for food stamps and SNAP because without them the poverty forced upon us by the selfish wealthy would be killing even more kids. Pay attention people – the rich are eating your seed corn.

  • Cory


    Let me applaud you for your hard work. I’m glad no person or institution ever lent you a helping hand. You said you don’t want your hard earned money going to the kids of unwed mothers. What do you propose, everyone for themselves? If we eliminate food stamps should’t we eliminate social security, medicare, and corporate welfare?

    If we let all these people rot and starve, don’t be suprised when one shows up to rob the gas station your daughter works at.

    We all have a stake in each other, and if we let people be destitute, we all lose.

  • http://www.marketforays.com Laurence Hauben

    I am no more in favor of “handouts to parasites” than the average small business owner, but David, “Iowan”, and all other hard-working Americans who are angry at subsidies to the poor and illegal aliens, you need to look not only at welfare chiselers but also at corporate robbers and their allies in Congress.

    If you work hard and strike it rich, good for you, congratulations, enjoy, you earned it.

    But if you are a “Private Equity” corporate raider, and all you do is take advantage of tax loopholes to accumulate wealth while destroying jobs and companies (look at what happened to the Simmons Mattress Factory), you are a much bigger drain on our nation than any “Welfare Queen.”

    When the top 1% controls 85% of the wealth, most of us would be better served by insisting that the rules that have allowed this concentration of wealth into too few hands be changed, rather than to begrudge the crumbs given the poor.

    Leeches exist at both ends of the social ladder, but the ones at the top are a lot fatter.

  • Correy

    i’m from Michigan. i’m 27, have my BA but no job. with my SNAP card i bought peppers, apples, bananas, and soup. even with an education i still have to struggle to eat.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dwightstanfordsmith Dwight Smith

    When I graduated from College in the early 70′s nobody was hiring. I went to school straight through for the last 2 years. I was flat broke. I was told by everyone there was no help of any kind that I qualified for. thankfully my father took me in and even helped me find a job, or I would have been begging on the street.

  • Twitter this

    Such bitterness…such anger…such disillusionment…

    Now that the afterglow from the obamagasm is past, we find we have been given a dose of the clap.

  • http://www.marketforays.com Laurence Hauben

    Dear Correy:

    Don’t let these hard times discourage you. Use your SNAP card while you need it, and use the time to think about what you want, beyond a job. What’s your passion? What makes you happy? What do you what to change in the world? How can you help not just yourself but others too? Then go, and be the change you want to see.

  • http://yahoo.com Larry

    I am 55 years old. I have never received any unemployment or any kind of welfare, food stamps, etc. Nothing!
    I have been out of work since July 2008. I had always fond another job (when losing work) but not this time. At least I haven’t fond one yet.
    I have been advised to get these different items. Welfare, food stamps, WIC, etc. I did not!
    Over a year went by and no job. I went to the employment office and was told that did not qualify. The young man in front of me had gotten a second extension. Why? He qualifies! I had been working since I was 17 but do not qualified because I had waited to long to apply. That is fine. I will get a job.
    Time past and still I had no job. Go and get food stamps and other welfare. I thought about it and felt that I should sell my car, TV and other items that I didn’t really need. I had already got use to walking or biking (bicycle – not a motorcycle) everywhere.
    I would go to the library and use the Internet for a half hour, if I could fine one that wasn’t being use by kids and adults to play games, look for mates, chatting, etc.
    Internet thus far hasn’t helped me fine a job but did help me sell my car, TV and other items. Everything went below market price. I was told that I had to except the low prices due to the economy. Ok, I did except. Good, I have a little more in my savings and feel that I have acted appropriately and now I can go and apply for some of these welfares benefits.
    I had gone to a WIC office (or something like that) and started applying for food stamps. I was filling out the application form while listening and answering question of one the staff in the office. Suddenly, I had stopped writing. The lady said that I could not receive any food stamps because I had too much in my savings… I was somewhat stun by this. I took a deep breath and explained my situation and how I thought that I being a responsible citizen. Well, she said, I understand but these are the rules that she had to go by. Hmm. I hear what you are saying and I appreciate your time. She told me that I could go to some kind of food service and get some free food and/or a dollar a bag from a food shelter or pantry. On my way out, a couple had overheard my situation, and said that I ought to get a car, home, cell phone and build up my expenses. Therefore, I would not have any savings. I was somewhat bewilder by this but I thanked them for their help and watched them drive away in their new SUV, which they had gotten in the Cash for Clunker program.
    Now, I am trying to find the Dollar Bag Food Fair. I had heard of this before from a neighbor who every Wednesday, would bring back home several bags of food. I thought this I can do because I knew they made more money than me and our family needs were about the same. One of the couple had an older sister that they would bring some food to or at least that what I was told. However, that didn’t happen too much… The giving of food to her sister. She lived far away and she had would get her own food through about the same means.
    I had this paper that explained that the WIC Fair Food’s Dollar Bag Program was in the Quincy, MA area. In Manet Community Center, Houghes Neck (part of Quincy) and a telephone number with name. Another location was at the American Legion Post on Liberty Street, Quincy. Both said Wednesday and Manet said 2:00 and American Legion said 1:30 to 2:15.
    I had tried calling Cynthia (the name on the paper for Manet Com. Ctr.) but the first time got a recording and ask to leave a number. No phone so I forgot about that one and went to the American Legion because it was only about a mile and a quarter away. I went there on Wednesday before 1:15 and waited for 1 hour and finally asked someone walking into the American Legion about the Dollar Bag Program. He didn’t know but would ask inside. He buzzed his way in through some lock door. He came back out and said it would be here next week. Oh! Ok, thank you very much.
    Next week came back and still no $ Bag. I asked another person and he said that you never know when they will be here. I came again the next week and still no one and I yet ask another American Legion member if he knew anything. He said that $ Bag comes every other week and they don’t get hear until perhaps 2:30 or 3:00 or perhaps even 4:00. No certain time. However, I should come early, the lines are long.
    I gave up on this location and try calling the Manet Community Center. I had tried calling many times but always got and answering service that always full so I could not leave any message. I gave up this one, too.
    Finally I had success on finding a Food Pantry on Copeland Street in Quincy. It was only about a mile and half and I went there and they gave me a lot of food. 3 bags!
    Later, I fond another place, 1st Wednesday of every month and they gave me one bag. Free! I learned that this is where the neighbor would come and got their food. I asked very politely how it was that they could get 3 bags. They explained that they were getting for other members of the family and their family. I spoke up and explained that it was only for them and they would simply give away to friends and neighbors what they want and doing so only for personal favor. The lady of the food pantry explains that they could only go by what they tell us but maybe they would look into it.
    To this day, I have not fond the $ Bag program and I still don’t have a job. Probably because I had wasted so much time trying to get some of these welfare benefits.
    I live in Quincy and if there is anyone out there that can assist/advise me in anyway, please feel free. Don’t pull any punches! I know that I am quit the green hand at this and have a lot to learn.

  • Putney Swope

    I find it interesting how some people are so high minded and have the gall to look down on or accuse others of their misfortunes. It seems to be an American trait.

    In Buffalo I hope you never lose your job. If you do should I bitch about how your getting food-stamps?

    The point these people had jobs and it only took a few months to hit bottom. Do people really think people want handouts? They are desperate and if they have children, well end of story as far as I’m concerned.
    The middle class is getting wiped out in this country and it wont be long before there is a lot of violence in the streets.

    Be careful were you point your accusing finger, it might end up pointing at the mirror.

  • Putney Swope

    Peter sorry you lost your job. Good luck.

  • http://yahoo Frank

    Sorry for your problem.
    I have seen the same thing.
    People with a nice house and car getting Food Stamps and other benefits.
    While others don’t get.
    Unemployment benefits. I don’t understand but my friends says that you must apply a time period.
    Yes, I know its not fair but just to let you know.
    Good luck
    PS. I am familiar with Quincy, MA but know that there are some people who get food benefits and they just got another car. They dress in expensive clothes and rent out their house for $1400 a month. No utilities.
    Plus they get social security, free food and $ Bag
    Yes, I see it and I don’t like it but apparently nothing I can do.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    We are working hard and you are asking us to bail out unwed mother’s kids? Why should we be asked to care more about these kids than their own fathers do?

    Because their own fathers are in jail or can’t be found or are too mentally messed-up to function?

    With all due respect to your children, I think they’re being cruel and selfish by not sharing their technique for choosing good parents like you BEFORE they were born

    Obviously they must have had a choice of being born to some crackhead unwed mother, or to you, or to some Morgan-Stanley exec where they would have been spoiled rotten and never have to work, so they chose you!

    And obviously you believe that babies who do not choose their parents wisely should be punished for their bad judgment by nutritional deprivation or starvation.

    During the Soviet era prisoners in the gulags were often punished by scientifically designed methods of starvation and nutritional deprivation. That was for speaking out against the state. Apparently you would advocate the same punishment for children who choose their parents unwisely.

  • Iowan

    Well, Peter Nelson. What do you suggest? For me, there was no way out of poverty than hard work. I agree, being truly poor is horrible. I remember just staring at food in cookbooks at night before I went to bed because I really did not have anything to eat. If these children of deadbeat dads were placed in my shoes I bet at least 1/2 of them would rise up into the middle class, if there is still going to be one. I do agree that there is a terrible distribution of wealth in this country. But until most people are forced to make hard choices, they won’t make any choices at all. Right now we are at the same place in a decadent society as the Romans were. We have our public bread and circus’s.

  • Kathy Blackman

    When did public health departments stop teaching people on food stamps how to make meals cheap but nutritionally sound?

    After graduation from Madonna College with a degree in nutrition, in 1985, I participated in an internship with the Wayne County Health dept. in order to earn my RD (Registered Dietician) license. It was my job to teach people how to make proper food choices and prepare meals even if they had no oven, stove, or other challanges.

    I had many people tell me how much they learned from the classes.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Well, Peter Nelson. What do you suggest?

    I support providing food aid such as food stamps to poor families so at least their children have a shot at proper nourishment. If this results in crackhead unwed mothers also getting well-fed, that’s the way it goes. The science is clear on this: poor nutrition results in poor school performance and impaired cognitive skills, not to mention a high risk of Type II diabetes. so if those kids don’t get good nutrition we’re creating a permanent underclass and more expensive healthcare, and as Cory points out, a new generation of criminals who do things like rob gas stations.

    You are advocating starving little children because they didn’t have the foresight to pick better parents.

    I also agree with those who point out that the real welfare cheats are the big fat cats who get BILLIONS in handouts and use it to pay fat bonuses. If you don’t like paying for food stamps what are you doing to see to it those fat cats pay for it instead?

  • curiouscat

    The best trick in the book is to divide and conquer, and it is just as effective in class and economic warfare as it is in military battle.

    The US has sucked more and more wealth upward as we have convinced the middle and lower classes to work for less and go into debt for status toys. The result is that the real price paid for a $40,000 car is $75,000 while the auto industry tanks and manufacturing jobs are shipped overseas.

    As long as we attack each other because it is safer to resent those who seem less deserving, this trend will accelerate. It is a race to the bottom for 90% of Americans and free money for those who already cannot spend down their fortunes in their lifetimes. Why do people approve of paying for the $1,000 bottles of Kristall at exclusive Wall Street clubs rather than a $3 meal for a child?

    Learn to recognize and work with allies. Those who have struggled but never taken a dime from charity or government programs have far more in common with those collecting subsistence benefits than they do with those who crow about Ayn Rand from their luxury suites.

  • Frank the Underemployed Professional


    The reason why the government won’t focus on creating jobs for Americans is that it’s too busy helping to send them overseas or fill them with foreigners on work visas or fill them by importing impoverished immigrant labor.

    I agree that the ultimate solution to this problem is to have middle class jobs and a sound economy. Unfortunately our government has implemented policies to displace Americans from what should be their jobs and to destroy our economy.

  • Rob L

    Two of the callers were single moms going to school. Where are the fathers here? Food stamps makes it pay to break up families – or never start them in the first place.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    The reason why the government won’t focus on creating jobs for Americans is that it’s too busy helping to send them overseas or fill them with foreigners on work visas or fill them by importing impoverished immigrant labor.

    In my last company we all would have been laid off years earlier if it weren’t for Chinese and Indian engineers here on visa because we had positions open for 6 months that we could not fill with Americans, even though we were offering higher-than-average compensation packages. I was involved with reviewing resumes and interviewing so I know what was out there and it was pitiful. We had several projects that were in danger of not completing for lack of staff!

    US universities are simply not turning out enough American talent to fill higher-end scientific and engineering positions, especially at the graduate degree level.

    Big US high tech companies like Microsoft and H-P and Apple have been banging the drum for years to raise US educational standards and increase the number of US students majoring in science and engineering. But if US kids would rather hang out at the mall play video games or major in business administration there’s not much Bill Gates or Steve Jobs can do about that. So why punish them by denying them the talent they need to run their companies?

    So even though I’m an unemployed software engineer I think the H-1B program is a godsend to US workers because it allows US companies to make advanced technology products while keeping a lot of the work in the US. If it weren’t for H-1B US companies would have shipped a lot more jobs to Bangalore long ago.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you to On Point for covering this story and opening up a space for public discussion of this important topic of the times. One point that is seldom discussed but mentioned by many people in the forum is the need for an educational component to help people make them most of their food dollars. The good news is that the USDA has a program called SNAP-ed, formerly the FSNE, Food Stamp Nutrition Education program. This program is administered through land-grant institutions and their cooperative extension offices. These offices publish volumes of information in print and online for the public. If you’re looking for more information on stretching food dollars, check out the Cooperative Extension Service office nearest you for more information.

  • Michael A. Brown

    Well, I listened to the program and called a few times to no avail, unfortunately, there was too much animosity and victim blaming expressed by the callers and too much smug assurance of their own good fortune as being deserved. There too much talk about how the SNAP assistance was being abused by too many who didn’t deserve assistance. When the farm subsidy program called Food Stamps was originally devised, there was poverty and malnourisshment reflected in obvious and demonstrative weight loss. Now, malnourished is obesity and borderline famine, mainly of poor urban women and their children. Tom had a number of guest and callers which represented the food industry and or people who’d observed some individual who they believed purchased the wrong kind of food or took cash and purchased something other than food such as tobacco or sweets, And rightfully perhaps, they’re feeling that the system or they individually were wronged. Unfortunately, these same commentators didn’t believe that the corn syrup producers and tobacco subsidies and taxes were improper usues of public money. No representative of the food industry or farmers thought to exempt food stamp or SNAP purchases from the various hidden and overt taxes paid with SNAP funds…. It’s my opinion that there are abuses, but unfortunately all around from top to bottom. There are too many Manhattan farmers getting their subsidy for not growing or feeding anyone. It’s my opinion that there is too little emphasis placed on nutrition as opposed to food in all aspects of the food system. Growers which use pesticides for example should be exempt from being able to sell to the government through SNAP, essentially eliminating big Agra and taking the super out of Super Market

  • putney swope

    So even though I’m an unemployed software engineer I think the H-1B program is a godsend to US workers because it allows US companies to make advanced technology products while keeping a lot of the work in the US.

    Peter Nelson it will be interesting to see if you think like this in year if your still an “unemployed software engineer”.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Peter Nelson it will be interesting to see if you think like this in year if your still an “unemployed software engineer”.

    I’ve already been unemployed for a year and I don’t see things any differently. We can’t allow self-pitying emotion to cloud a dispassionate analysis of the facts.

    As I said, I’ve been in the interviewing and hiring loop – I’ve seen for myself what the native US talent pool likes like, and it’s weak. We paid the import talent the same as anyone else but with the extra overhead and they actually cost MORE than a US worker. But we needed the talent.

    Companies like HP, Microsoft, IBM and Apple compete worldwide so they need the best talent in the world. If they can’t get it in the US one of two things will happen:

    1. They’ll be out-competed by foreign companies and we’ll lose a lot MORE jobs as happened in the automobile and other US industries.

    2. They’ll move more R&D overseas where they can hire the talent they need.

  • Rangel2323

    I’m a mother of three working two jobs and going to school full time I receive food stamps and truly thankful I do. I’m far from obese my children are not either, I feel it’s a lack of education that some of the clients do not understand whats healthy and should be bought instead of tons of pop chips candy etc. I do by these but in moderation. The ones abusing this program is what people see there not seeing people like myself the ones who are the “picture perfect” candidate for food stamps its temporary for me.

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