Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rich people - You ain't better than me!

So yesterday I was reading about Food Stamp recipients causing almost riot-like conditions due to their EBT cards showing no limits. They "ransacked" the store for a few hours, getting as much food as they could from Walmarts in the Louisiana area; sometimes as much as 7 or 8 carts.  When the computer glitch was fixed and the cards were restored to normal, people just left their carts, filled with food in a heap on the store floors. The store was a complete mess!  Those greedy poor people, making it hard for those Walmart employees! That's what government assistance does to people, it makes them dependent and entitled.  They are going to have to pay for that.  See?! We should cut entitlements to "those people."

We find out later that when the EBT card glitch is found out by Walmart, they let people continue to buy food in an unlimited way. Other stores in the area did not accept the cards once the glitch was found.

Now before we judge anyone -- how many of us employed, middle/uppermiddle class people would pass by an ATM spewing money without picking up some frantically and stuffing it in our pockets -- profusely? Better yet, how many of you would frantically pick up as much money as you could and then -- walk into the bank and return it?  I would bet not many... and you're supposed to have jobs and money and take care of yourself! You would most likely look at it as a windfall and a blessing from God that this money just blew into your hands.  You work hard and deserve this lucky find as you ask for nothing in life and the bank is insured by the FDIC so they are not loosing money.

I, too, heaved a sigh when I first saw this story.  Why do they have to do this because everyone against welfare and food stamps is going to have a problem and moan about the evils of the welfare state.  But the problem really is: why do we think that people who are living on the edge financially should behave more virtuously than anyone else.  The above comparison is just as likely and no one would be calling those people greedy thieves.

We are demonizing the poor in this era, just as they did in Victorian England, rationalizing that if they just pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, if they just worked harder, if they were just better people, they wouldn't be where they are now. Of course there are people who bilk the system -- rich people know all about that. Why is there a different standard of ethics for people who have a certain measure of desperation built into their daily lives in a way that people who make over $75,000 per year have no idea about. And I said that right, $75k. The median income for a family is around $50,000.  If you're making more than that, you eat regularly and have a lot more choices that you can make than if you made $45,000 with 2-3 kids. It's stressful, but don't get it twisted, ramen noodles ain't a staple in your house.

Now I ask you: what would you do if you had been just granted a windfall, no matter how short or illegal, of a staple of life, how would you handle it?