My daughter Hannah and I wanted to make smoothies for supper. So we went to the grocery store and got some bananas and strawberries and blueberries and a little bit of yogurt.
And went to take our place in line.
That’s when it happened.
The quintessential American experience. Standing in line behind a Food Stamp customer.
Except they don’t use Food Stamps anymore. They’ve got little swipe cards. They put it through, punch in some numbers, and are good to go.
Pepperoni rolls. Pizza rolls. Stuffed mushrooms. A box of ice cream sandwiches. Twenty dollars worth of crap. Twenty dollars worth of extravagance.
Hannah and I turned and looked at one another and had an unspoken understanding. Our stuff cost $7 and filled five people. And we paid for it with money I had earned by the sweat of my brow.
No welfare card. Just old-fashioned Yankee greenbacks.
And a father-daughter conversation as we drove home about the curse of welfare, and the shame, and the terrible waste. About the fact that people value what they earn but don’t value what they don’t earn. About how money that’s given to you is meaningless while money that’s paid you for honest work is precious.
We also spoke about how the current welfare system is built on theft – the theft of money through taxation that pays for welfare, and the theft of self-reliance that is perpetrated against the “beneficiaries” of welfare.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I told my 13-year-old that the ruin of America will be able-bodied welfare recipients buying pizza rolls and ice cream sandwiches with other people’s money.
And so does most of the nation.
Because most of the nation has stood in that same place in line. Right behind a welfare recipient frittering away unearned money on foolish and extravagant “food” purchases. Steak, lobster, subs, roasted chicken, prepared foods, chips, dip, soda pop, ice cream, sugar drinks, expensive breakfast cereal.
While activists go on TV to say that poor people can’t afford to eat healthily, and are consequently fatter, and need more government-funded health care.
Well, that’s a bunch of bunk.
They don’t need more, they need less.
If the government is going to feed those who won’t feed themselves, there should be significant and positive restrictions, to deter waste and to foster frugality. To teach people to make the most of what they have, not to blow their allotment on crap.
The fact is that, in America, people can eat very cheaply.
But not if they’re buying seven Lunchables for dinner. Not if they waste the money so generously given them on non-essentials and on expensive convenience or prepared foods. When you are on welfare, there should be no treats – just the basics.
Basics which can be tasty, wholesome, nutritious and inexpensive.
A 20-pound bag of potatoes doesn’t cost that much. Neither does a 10-pound bag of rice or a variety of store-label canned vegetables. Round steak and ground chuck can be had fairly reasonably, especially if you buy on sales days and in good quantity.
If you’re smart, a food dollar will stretch.
Yet as I every week go to discount grocers, I don’t see welfare recipients walking the aisles with me. And the grand irony is that the people who pay the taxes to fund welfare typically have smaller weekly food budgets than welfare recipients.
Which kind of makes you wonder exactly who it is that’s “underprivileged.”
This should be more than a sore point with working Americans. It should be a policy priority with politicians.
The types of food purchasable with welfare money should be dramatically reduced. Staples and nothing more. Inexpensive meat, potatoes and rice, vegetables, bread and dairy. No extravagance, no treats, no rip-off foods.
Just the kind of stuff you find on the table of the American worker.
Either do it by programming those cards to only pay for certain types of items, or by creating welfare sections in supermarkets, where appropriate generic products are available and can be purchased with welfare cards. Either suggestion would substantially increase the buying power of welfare recipients, or open the door to reducing the cost to taxpayers.
If a fraction of the money now wasted on welfare food could be recovered, the benefit to recipients and taxpayers would be huge.
We should abandon the ridiculous notion that the “dignity” or “rights” of welfare recipients would be hurt by restricting what they can buy with the taxpayer’s dollar. If they want ice cream and pepperoni rolls, let them get a job. It’s not that hard a concept.
It may also pay to look at going back to giving those on the dole commodities, instead of money. We know how to distribute rice and powdered milk to foreigners, maybe we should try the same thing with our own people. And we may also want to explore the idea of having them work for what they get. Pick up litter on the roads, sweep the floors at city hall, staple papers in the courthouse. Anything to return the dignity of work to the culture of welfare, anything to help them bear the burden of their own support.
Because the way we do it now is a shame.
It is an immoral disservice to both groups – those who have it taken from them and those who have it given to them. It promotes waste and fraud. It destroys dignity and builds mutual resentment. It squanders the wages of the producers to satisfy the rich and unrealistic tastes of the idlers.
My 13-year-old daughter knows that. She saw proof of it at the grocery store with her own eyes.
What mystifies me is why the people who run our government don’t know the same thing.