It never seems to completely go out of vogue, but once again, poor-people bashing is top of mind for seemingly half of America.
I'm reminded of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Rabbit Fire." You know the one. "Rabbit season. Duck season. Rabbit season. Duck season. Fire!" Except in America it's more along the lines of "Poor-people season. Immigrant season. Poor-people season. Immigrant season. Fire!"
Obviously, it's okay to hate poor people during immigrant season and vice versa, but right now it is most definitely poor-people season. And the tactic this time around? Starve them to death.
Really it's a brilliant strategy with pilot programs going on right now in Missouri and Maine, attempting to force the poor off of food stamps, thereby giving them nothing to eat but the 104 children they each have. Or at least to hear some tell it, everyone on food stamps has 104 children. And they just keep popping out more so they can get more gub-mint cheese. Or whatever.
If the poor eat their young, there eventually won't be any poor people and all of America's problems will go away ... well except for those nasty immigrants.
Actually, when I first read the proposed Missouri law, I wasn't entirely opposed to it. It suggests that certain items be unavailable by food stamp (actually called SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards. The lawmaker proposing the changes was offended that someone in front of him at the grocery story had bought steak and lobster with their SNAP card.
The bill, introduced by Republican Rick Brattin would prohibit SNAP recipients from using their benefits to buy "cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak."
His logic was that he couldn't afford those things. So why should they be allowed to buy them with "his" money — being a taxpayer and all. It makes sense until you think about the fact that SNAP recipients get a certain amount to spend each month. For a single adult it is $194. A two-person household id $357. It's $511 for a three-person family. Etc. Using the $194 number, it's a little more than $6 a day. The two-person household gets just under $12 a day. It's $17 a day for the three-person family. Etc.
It's not $6 a day plus lobster. It's not $12 a day plus potato chips. It's not $17 a day plus filet mignon. The "cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak" have to fit into their budgets. Just like they have to fit into ours.
Is Rick Brattin saying that he eats on $6 a day? Because unless he is, he can obviously afford Lobster, too. It's just a matter of budgeting. Eat beans and rice for a few days so you can afford the surf and turf when your friends or family come over for dinner Friday.
Unless, of course, the goal is to make sure that poor people know they're poor ... and everyone else knows they're poor ... and we use food stamps as another means to degrade them. Because by that basic frame of mind, what we're saying is that poor people don't deserve to have dinner guests ... or feel good about themselves. No. They need a constant reminder with every single meal that they're not good enough. Each forkfull of food they stuff into their degenerate mouths should remind them to get off their lazy butts and go get a job.
Because the other popular convention is that all poor people are able-bodied, lazy, good-for-nothings who just want to sit home and pop out more kids so they can get more gub-mint cheese.
This is the notion behind Maine's pilot program, which installs work requirements to allow SNAP recipients to continue to recieve their benefits. The new rules prevent single adults who are not disabled from receiving food stamps for more than three months unless they work at least 20 hours a week, participate in a work-training program or meet volunteering requirements.
These new requirements have pushed 9,000 people off food stamps in the first three months of this year. Yeah. It went from 12,000 to 2,680 once the new requirements were put in place. Which sounds awesome, right?
I mean, if people won't work for their food stamps, we as a society are duty-bound to cut them off of said food stamps and kick them out into the streets where they can starve — or eat their young. Except these ones don't have any young. Maybe they can eat each other. Another problem solved.
Look, I think everyone should do their best to pull their own weight. I hate the thought that I work 70+ hours a week and consider a trip to McDonald's a treat while other people don't work at all and get to eat steak. I've considered becoming a professional welfare recipient. I like steak.
In the end, though, when it comes down to it, I don't want people to starve to death, eat their kids, or be humiliated into dropping out of a government program designed to keep them fed. (Just wondering how many in Maine dropped out because they were too embarassed to join a work-training or volunteer program wearing a Scarlet P ... so they chose to eat less rather than to be humiliated)
But hey, if we didn't have the poor to hate, what would unite us a country? Oh, right. Immigrants.
+Scott Leffler likes steak and lobster. He also likes beans and rice. And heavy use of irony. And sentence fragments. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.
This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.