Pardon me, but I’m getting on my soapbox again. (Please come back tomorrow for some fun, cozy, and book-related reading.)
Yes, hunger exists in affluent countries where affluent people think poverty is a choice.
Food prices have risen dramatically in just the past year, while those on fixed incomes have few options for cutting costs. We see more people in poverty, while available resources diminish. I won’t post links here, but you can google “food stamp legislation” to see the array of proposed bills.
TL;DR version: Poor people don’t deserve money for food because they squander it on lobster, steak, cruise ships, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, swimming pools, and other dens of vice. Becoming poor strips people of intelligence, so the government must mandate how poor people spend their money.
(Something to consider: middle-class and upper-class Americans receive tax deductions, i.e. government handouts, for adoption children, improving home offices, taking business trips, and funding religious organizations with homophobic and racist agendas. No drug testing or per-transaction limit for receiving these funds, either.)
We are proposing to shame poor people for the crime of being poor. How? By limiting where they can spend the money they receive in food support.
When I was in college, a friend from a very low-income family became pregnant. Her parents helped her out with low-cost childcare, but she worked minimum wage jobs (she was limited due to injuries from a car accident). Thanks to help from a social worker and local support services, she received milk, formula, cheese, cereal, and enough food to herself and her baby. She was too young (emotionally) to become a mother and there were a lot of problems, but she and her child had enough to eat.
Another friend received low-income benefits because she had two preteen daughters, no stable employment, and back issues that made work difficult. Did she report absolutely all of the money she received from other sources? No. Did she live a luxurious life filled with filet mignon and fresh-caught shrimp? No.
Some other friends were international graduate students, young and newly married with infants. One family received benefits for a year before returning to their native country. The other received permanent residency and is working toward citizenship.
The affluent think, “I worked darn hard for what I have! No one handed me anything! Why should I work my tail off when lazy people get free food handed to them? Of course they shouldn’t get to buy lobster or go to the movies.”
For people who think they earned everything they have, let me ask a few questions. I’m genuinely curious.
- How did you earn the right to have parents raise you, likely in a stable relationship (that might include remarriage, etc.)?
- How did you earn the right to prenatal and obstetric care that ensured you arrived into this world with a chance at health?
- How did you earn your ability to attend school, rather than having to go to work early in order to support your family?
- How did you earn the security of a safe place to sleep, food to eat, and perhaps even a desk where you could do your homework and maybe even a parent to help you with it?
- How did you earn having parents who were able to provide for at least some of your basic needs growing up, so you were able to focus on education and career development?
- How did you earn being born into a culture that closely aligned with that of the dominant and work culture, so you understood the undefined rules of becoming a professional?
People are poor for many reasons. Sometimes it may be due to laziness, but often it’s due to things like untreated mental illness, the inability to afford treatment for mental illness, family history that involves economically challenging factors, growing up in poverty, experience with violence and abuse, and a whole host of other factors.
As some long-time readers know, a friend of mine claimed to be abused last year and in fear of her life. I took her in, but her story never added up. I subsidized her expenses (and am still struggling with the financial repercussions) until she finally left–while taking my money and possessions.
The kicker? She and her husband, together, make four times my annual salary.
Yes, fraud exists. Yes, bad people take advantage of good intentions. But do we punish an entire class of people–an entire class of people who have already jumped through millions of hoops to prove their financial need? Do we micromanage what food they can buy and how many times they must visit an ATM to receive their grocery money?
In this day and age, no one should be hungry.
Why is this so difficult to understand?