Thursday, May 28, 2015

Errrr.....NO One Is Taking Joan Walsh Literally!

Joan Walsh used a reductio ad absurdum ploy to show how bad SNAP limits COULD  become if abominations like Brownback's KS limits on SNAP purchases were accepted. 

Evidently, the blogger who took issue with my take on poverty in Colorado and food stamps, seems to believe I took Joan Walsh's words literally as opposed to a metaphor of  (extreme) reference for what Repukes are trying to do in states like Brownback's Kansas. So let me clear the air here once and for all.

When I gave Joan's quote from a piece:

if you’re in Wisconsin, and relying on food stamps, remember that Republicans don’t want you to have ketchup on your hamburger.They’d probably rather you didn’t have a hamburger at all, but Wisconsin farmers and ranchers have clout, and so proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program made room for Wisconsin products. But they still don’t want you to have “crab, lobster, shrimp, or any other shellfish.” Or ketchup. Or spaghetti sauce. Really.

I (and she) intended it as a reductio ad absurdum illustration of how bad it MIGHTget if bully programs like those Brownback has tried to implement in KS aren't halted or demolished. To remind readers, this was in reference to Brownback's ill -conceived notion of  limiting what Kansas food stamp-welfare recipients can purchase using their benefits. That included, but was not limited to, some minor pleasures, such as KFC chicken, Snickers bars, giant bags of M&Ms, or even playing an arcade game or two, buying a lotto ticket or paying to go for a freakin' swim.

Joan's point and mine then, is that if a brain dead scalawag like Brownback can get away with this shit in Kansas, what's to stop another state  from preventing or limiting people from buying food perks with their SNAP or welfare money - things that make burgers taste better like ketchup (catsup) or sauce for spaghetti, or hot sauce for rice, or bbcue sauce for spare ribs - oh wait, I forgot they mustn't eat ribs either!  Poor folk gotta stick to rice, oats, and such with no flavor.

Oh, and god forbid they try lobster thermidor or go to Red Lobster for unlimited shrimp. You see what I mean?   Thus, if one accepts Brownback's stupid limits one could see the pukes going even further to deprive SNAP folks of the good things of life. And my point was - as well as Joan's -, they SHOULD be able to enjoy those damned things even if receiving gov't benefits! (Certainly up to the limits they can afford, so if they have $22 left on the last day of the benefits month they ought to be able to get a bucket of KFC chicken - OR a few Five Guys burgers! It's not the state gov't job to wag fingers and say "Oh no!" for fuck's sake.)

The reasons were made clear in and excellent WaPo piece ('What Kansas Gets Wrong with Welfare Decision')  by Emily Badger but perhaps my blogger critic did't get them or didn't want to. To re-reference the point of the piece, Badger flayed the "logic" behind the Brownback bunkum noting,  "the decision is problematic in at least three really big ways" . This was after already skewering  the underlying  canard that it provides  "protection for the taxpayer who shouldn't be asked to help people who squander gov't money on 'vices'".

Ms. Badger's three arguments again:

1) Economic: There's virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money in the rash ways advertised by Brownback.  The poor are actually much more savvy about how they spend their money because they have much less of it - as Gweneth Paltrow learned when she tried the "SNAP Challenge" and gave up after 4 days. (She'd already exceeded the $29/ week  limit.)

2) Moral principle of equivalence:  She observes: "We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove they are pursuing a degree that will get them a real job as opposed to say philosophy or English Lit. We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home interest deduction to prove they're not using their homes as brothels."   In other words, the strings we attach to gov't aid are uniquely for the poor - as if being poor itself is somehow immoral-  requiring criminal monitoring- like for a felon wearing an ankle bracelet.

3) Prejudicial perceptions:  In many ways the lack of application of a moral principle of equivalence (2) arises because Americans who receive other government benefits fail to see they are also in the recipient class. They don't recognize that, like the poor, they are also getting something from the government and hence - at taxpayer expense.  The issue, again, isn't the specific benefit form - whether Medicare, VA benefits, or Social Security - but that ALL come at taxpayer expense!

But this is covered up in two ways: (i) the belief that their benefits are different because they are "special" or "earned" so can't be classed with SNAP or welfare, and (ii) their benefits are always "submerged" (hidden or more concealed) than compared with a SNAP recipient who must actually produce a special card (see image) at the grocer's so is immediately recognized as "on welfare".  Thus, the SNAP card inadvertently becomes a "badge" of shame that enables other gov't beneficiaries to instantly make judgments.

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler, cited by Ms. Badger, calls the judgmental gov't  beneficiaries part of the "submerged benefits state". This means their own benefits are more "out of sight, out of mind". Thus a SNAP card and a welfare check are "incredibly visible ...while tuition tax breaks and Medicare are not".   This submerged state, then,  is evidence of a basic and pervasive double standard.

It is time we remove that damnable double standard which was the actual thrust of Walsh's reductio ad absurdum. In other words, irrespective of the gov't benefits received (VA,Social Security disability, Social Security proper, SNAP) we let recipients spend them any damned way they wish up to the practical limits they can afford  - without, for example, resorting to theft or shop lifting to satisfy them. (I.e. once your monthly benefit is exhausted,  that's it - THEN you pinch pennies and maybe settle for rice instead of KFC chicken or Five Guys burgers)

Is that point clear enough? I hope so!

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