Thursday, November 21, 2013

Who Does Not Work Shall Not Eat

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat  (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

So...Food stamps.  Everybody is eager to share an opinion on them.  Those opinions can get pretty heated.  If you catch them on a bad day, they also can fill you with despair and loathing toward most of mankind. 

For my part, the war on food stamps is a little baffling.  Not because I don't understand why it can feel good and righteous to hold opinions about other people's lives and habits (nah, I get that), and not because I don't get outraged at the way my tax dollars are spent (I totally get that, too) but because the people who are most upset don't seem to care as much about other uses of their tax dollars.  They're bizarrely hyper-focused on food, on what other people are eating, and I think it stems from a few causes:

  • SNAP benefits are applied unevenly and don't seem to make much sense sometimes, so people who make just slightly too much money to qualify end up having less money for groceries than they would have if they were getting SNAP.  This can lead to a lot of bitterness that the people on SNAP are eating better than they are.  
  • People always have an example of "someone" who's cheating the system, although it's hard to get precise details on how that cheating is happening (or why it's not considered cheating when a corporation gets a government hand-out).  Quite often, I suspect that the "someone" doesn't really exist -- it's an urban legend that gets passed around between people as truth (as urban legends tend to). 
  • Food purchases are viewed in isolation.  If you're standing behind someone in line and they're paying with food stamps (and, incidentally, why the hell are you paying that much attention?  it's a card they swipe -- do you look to see if they use Visa or MasterCard, too?), you're getting only a small glimpse at their life.  You can't extrapolate a whole lot from that.  Maybe the lady buying potato chips and soda is attending a potluck for work, where not participating could have consequences for her relationship with her boss but she has no time to cook (I've had that job).  Maybe the dude buying crab legs is preparing a special dinner at home for his girlfriend so he can propose since he can't afford a nice restaurant.  You have no way of knowing.  And, also, it's none of your business.  
  • It's easy for people to get outraged about what other people are outraged about.  In other words, since it's in the news, people feel qualified to give an opinion.  If people were aware of many other things that go on in the world, they'd likely have opinions about those, too. 

Incidentally, the majority of people receiving SNAP actually have jobs, (or are too young or too old to work) so Paul's admonition in Thessalonians is irrelevant here (even if you find anything Paul says to be relevant in the first place, which is an utterly different conversation).

So here's my moral to you, if you've ever caught yourself being outraged at people receiving food stamps: 
If you want people to stop relying on the government for food, lobby for a living wage.

If you're not okay with the idea of people being paid enough to feed their families, then go ahead and openly admit that you don't believe that humans have the right to eat (and, by extension, survive).

And, seriously, why are you paying so much attention to what type of plastic a person uses to pay for their groceries?  (Paul would, surely, chastise you for being a busybody if he knew about this).


  1. Brilliant!!! Yes, thank you for being a voice of reason. I don't understand the vitriol about food stamps. Empathy can go a long way...

  2. Your "moral" made me see red. Those are not the only options. I do not like the implication that because I do not want to be forced to pay taxes to support government programs to provide food to people, I must want government to force businesses to pay more, even when the businesses would then have to lay off workers because they couldn't pay as many workers. I do not like the implication that if I don't want government to force businesses to pay more to each worker, I must therefore want the workers to starve. If we agree that people need food and should be able to get food, then can we agree that the government is not the only way to get food to them?

    1. Are you OK with paying taxes for other things, like public schools, maintaining roads, paying the salaries of government officials, etc? Or do you not wish to pay taxes to support any of these things either?

      Either way -- fair enough. The government is most assuredly not the only source of food money. What solutions would you suggest?