Friday, May 15, 2009

Macro Issues

We're still talking about the Food Stamp Email of 2008 down here in New Orleans.

Jeffery writes:

It tells us that Stacy Head is exactly what we've always suspected she is. She is a perfect representative of the mean "Let's concern ourselves with what someone else might not deserve in comparison to me" mentality that typifies the paranoid white political mindset of the post-Reagan era and continues to quite accurately describe the attitude held by the majority of white New Orleans voters…

It still means that Head is "pissed off 100 percent of the time" at food stamp purchases she might disapprove of. Stacy feel that her accomplishments in the field of "shopping carefully" entitle her to being "pissed off" that someone using a food stamp card can't even make the effort to follow her example.

Time to play devil’s advocate here. Now we are talking mindsets, macro issues and politics.

I simply know too many hard working people in this country, on both sides of the aisle, who pinch pennies, operate on a budget, and have legitimate policy, economic and cultural concerns about spending they consider wasteful at best. I disagree with them on many of these items, but I can understand where those thoughts come from.

If they have to be frugal with their own money, after all, why can’t the recipients of state aid be frugal with that money? This is not a racist, classist, small minded or mean spirited line of thought.

Head feels entitled to make her opinion about the food stamp shopper not just because she is a careful shopper, but because she pays taxes. Those taxes fund state aid programs. Like it or not, there is some very real resentment in this country that there are people who are able to live rent free and buy their food without paying for it. That resentment is felt by folks who pay their own rent, buy their own food, and feel like they pay taxes so others don’t have to do these things.

Why do you think the GOP, feeding off this resentment, was able to win 5 of the last 8 presidential elections? It does not matter that the “Welfare Queens” narrative is mostly a falsehood. That narrative is reinforced by smaller, more frequent and very real incidents from which resentment springs. From less frugal choices in the grocery check-out line to high-risk students in $200 shoes with a pocket full of junk food claiming they don’t have enough money to buy paper and pencils. Those little incidents personalize the narrative and speak to larger cultural issues at work behind it.

But we never get to those cultural issues, because one side starts in with the cries of racism, classism, elitism, etc. and the other side hollers back with cries of “Welfare Queens,” and “on the dole.”

The reality is that there are far, far more people on social aid programs and they pinch every penny and work very, very hard to get off state aid. Or, they are victims of ill circumstance (as Dangerblond’s walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes post explains).

But we don’t hear about that very often, we hear mostly about the failures and the largesse.

People tend to remember, and talk about things that piss them off.



GentillyGirl said...

Good post. I'm trying to stay away from the issue because I see it both ways- we grew up poor and a few times had some assistance (but since we harvested the sea it wasn't bad) and then I have this thing about proper nutrition for kids.

I prefer to spend less making groceries so I can spend more at the bar.

One time there was a mom and 4 kids ahead of me and she had an EIC card. Her basket was filled with tons of single-service items and no staples. Those kids had minimal real food to eat. I just shook my head.

Then I turned around and there was this elderly Black lady with a a handfull of kids that were obviously her grandchildren, Her basket was filled like mine with staples- the things you make food with. There were some treat like stuffs, but that was for making cookies and whatnot. Those kids seemed to have good diets.

SWhe started talking with me about how some people just didn'y know what kids need to grow "proper". I agreed and then noticed her EIC card.

She seemed a little shocked that I didn't have a card as my basket was much the same as her's. She asked if I had kids to raise and I answered "No, this is how I was raised to eat". She nodded.

Neither one of us was passing judgement, it was about the quality of the food in the first woman's basket. (and yes, I do agree with DB's viewpoint also).

The killer point was when I saw that the Gramma paid half what the younger woman did for about the same amount of food.

Maybe cooking classes should come with an EIC card or a Gramma.

GentillyGirl said...

WIC is what I meant instead of EIC. (too many States in my memory).

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that many of the poor in this city are the products of the Orleans Parish School system and perhaps should be forgiven some of their, lets call them "less-informed" decisions.

mominem said...

I read the email and immediately thought of the kids diet.

The whole racist this is simply a smokescreen by some fo Stacy's opponents.