It happens in every diary about SNAP or any other type of welfare: casual observations about a so-an-so someone saw in the store the other day, using their EBT card to buy [insert item that someone believes is inappropriate], so clearly, there are a lot of people out there sucking from the government teat!
While you pay taxes, they are buying beer with government benefits!
Or they left the store and hopped into an expensive car.
Or they're way too young to be needing government assistance.
Oh! The horror! The absolute horror that someone might be getting government assistance when they're not suffering sufficiently enough to earn your compassion.
Granted, I'm mostly preaching to the choir here, but COME ON!
How does a seemingly rational adult take a specific instance (I saw some twenty-six year old stoner-looking guy buying Twinkies at the convenience store with an EBT card) to the very general (SNAP benefits are mostly abused)?
How does this happen?
My hunch is that the endless war on the middle class has hardened even those who consider themselves leftists. Wealth or economic stability is something that is earned, and if someone hasn't earned it then how can they be worthy of our help? Why don't they just go get a damn job, already? Go work at McDonald's and flip burgers, right?
Except it is not that easy.
Economic destruction happens very quickly, but incrementally
I am broke right now. Broke, broke, broke, brokety fucking broke. Like, considering turning my apartment into a brothel broke. I applied for SNAP benefits today because otherwise I don't know how I'm going to eat, and I really can't stomach one more bowl of the beans and rice concoction I have been living off of.
Three months ago, I was fine! I had a job that paid a higher than average wage, low rent, manageable debt, etc. But even with a comfy wage, I still lived more or less paycheck to paycheck (see above "manageable" debt).
I haven't lost everything yet, so if I am fortunate enough to get an EBT card, you'll see me in line at the grocery store dressed professionally, looking privileged and shit, and watch in horror as I use "government" money to pay the bill. Then you'll watch me get into my pretty new car and drive away.
That pretty new car is going to be either repo'd or have a lien on it soon, I don't know which is going to happen first. And if you're one of those people who can't believe that I'm driving such a nice car after using SNAP to pay for my groceries, consider this: I love that car. I am proud of my car. Not because it's a car, but because the day that I needed a car, I went out and bought one and I was proud that I was able to do that.
It's not the car, it's what it represents. I was raised in poverty and lived in poverty for many years before I finally worked my way up. And even after I did that, I didn't own a car because I didn't need one. Then I moved to a town that is hostile to bike riders and pedestrians and I needed a way to get back and forth to see my family in Boise so I bought a car.
And now I'm about to lose that car, which is okay because I can't afford it now. What I'm not okay with is losing that ability to take care of my own needs as they arise, and the car represented my ability to do that.
So judge all you want, but I'm really heartbroken over the upcoming loss of that car. And before you finger wag about how I should just sell it? That doesn't help, because I owe more on it than what it's worth at this point BECAUSE IT'S A NEW CAR.
Yeah... I'm slowly losing all of my material belongings. That I haven't lost my car yet doesn't mean I am not worthy of help right now, does it?
That I am one of the "lucky" ones should scare each and every one of you
Yes, I've been lucky. As I said, I've lived through a lot of fucking poverty in my life and the only reason I got out of it was LUCK.
Not hard work, tenacity, stubbornness and a sentimental wish for something better, although all of those apply. I was and am all of the above, but it truly was nothing more than luck that got me where I am today.
I had spent years 16-23 working menial, minimum wage jobs and just barely getting by when I landed a job making $8.50/hour in a small start up company. It was just another job, but it paid a little bit more than my previous job and was less physically demanding. I was trying to put myself through college at the time, so I needed something that didn't exhaust me and this one fit the bill.
A few months into that job, a new semester started at school and I couldn't afford the books for it so I withdrew from school until I could afford it again.
In the meantime, the company that I worked at started growing and I got a promotion and raise. And then another one. And then another one. And yes, I was promoted and given raises because I was a hard worker, but had I not landed that particular job, it wouldn't have mattered. It was luck.
I got my foot in the door at a small, family owned company at the right time. That's all. Pretty soon I was running the department that I had started in and working my way into the middle class.
That led to more experience in my field, and when the company I worked for started folding, I quickly found another job and worked my way up in that, and the cycle repeated.
But again, I was lucky. At the same time that I was crawling and clawing my way into the middle class, my brother was struggling to put himself through college, then he graduated and found himself with practically zero opportunity. So he kept bartending and waiting tables even after receiving a degree. Making what he made while he was in high school, but with considerably more debt.
And this is the economic reality for most people in our age group.
The fact that I was lucky to land in the middle class should alarm ALL Democrats. Luck shouldn't have anything to do with it.
Economic stability should NOT be a never-ending game of Russian Roulette.
That it is, and that far too many people don't understand that, makes me feel hopeless. If your first inclination when you see someone using an EBT card is to immediately look them up and down and see what they should be going without, you're not someone that I want to share a tent with. You're kind of an asshole, and I don't think that our 1%er asshole politicians need any more encouragement when it comes to this sort of thing.
Why the fuck are you looking in someone's cart, anyway?
Isn't it funny how those who scream the most about "entitlements" are the most entitled of us all?
I mean, here's this person standing here judging every thing I bought because I bought them with "entitlements" that I clearly don't deserve because I bought a bag of chips. Oh, the humanity! How dare I show such disrespect to the hard-working taxpayers of this nation by purchasing something that is not necessary!
The poor, the disabled, the elderly, they're all living off of entitlements, see, and that's an outrage. Because this person who thinks we're abusing our entitlements doesn't think we're suffering enough, and although we're not entitled to draw from what we've paid for, they are more than entitled enough to take a peak at each and every purchase we've made and list the things that we should and could have gone without.
Did it ever occur to you entitled assholes that maybe "going without" is a state of being for us, and maybe we occasionally want something beyond meager subsistence?
Which brings me to....
Being poor isn't fun, and it's not easy
Being poor takes a lot of work, believe it or not. Stressing about bills and shit isn't fun. And the poorest among us are the hardest workers, yet they're constantly demonized because they're supposedly only poor because they're lazy.
This is just not true.
I'm not lazy. I don't want to have to turn to the government for help. I'm one of those people who thinks that taxes are patriotic and that the bulk of them should go to the poor, disabled, and elderly. I can't even fathom a situation in which I would want someone to suffer in poverty. It's a huge blow to my pride to be in that situation right now. This is not what I wanted
So I can't imagine being so callous a person that I would think someone else isn't worthy of that help.
I am not richer if my neighbor is poorer. Indeed, I'm poorer if my neighbor is poorer.
And the brutal reality is: we're not going to get richer by demonizing the poor.
You're just a few months away from being poor, and you probably don't even know it.
Why don't we just go get a job?
I want to live in the country where it is just that easy, so if you could point me in the right direction, that would be great!
See, I'm not above taking another minimum wage job. I would take literally ANY job that I was offered right now. I'd start today and break my back changing sheets at a hotel if that's what was offered.
But no one will give me a job like that because of my salary history- they know that I'll quit as soon as I find something better and no manager in the world wants to spend the time and money it takes to hire and train someone just to have them leave a couple months in. Turnovers are expensive and easily avoidable.
And then, the longer one is unemployed, the more reluctant managers are to hire them because a gap on a resume is a very bad thing.
The people like my brother, who have graduated with tons of debt are in a similar position. Unless they don't disclose their degree, no one wants to hire them because they view them as a short-termer.
And, again, we're some of the lucky ones!
We have an entire class of working poor people- people who do have jobs but can't make ends meet with the meager wages that they're paid.
They are also honest, hard working people, but their ROI is a net negative. They're not lazy. They are anything but. And again, why the fuck are you looking in their carts, anyway? Why is it any of your business?
You don't know their story or their circumstances, the only thing you know about them is that they had to ask for help. They cried "Uncle." Not out of a sense of entitlement or laziness or disrespect to you, you hard-working, tax paying 53%er.
They're doing it because despite what anyone tells you, our economy still sucks. Wages are decreasing, prices are increasing, and nearly every single one of us is just a paycheck or two away from the same fate.
So next time you start judging someone based on the content of their carts, remember this: we're not stupid. We know you're judging us.
Maybe we're judging you back based on the content of your character.
And I'd rather be the person in line using SNAP to pay for my food than the person in line being an judgmental asshole to a fellow human being.