"Food stamps" always seemed like an awkward phrase, even as a child. When you heard "food stamps," you thought "poor people." As much as you didn't want to be poor, when it came to food, you really didn't want to be poor.
So the idea that people would take advantage of food stamps or EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) or whatever it's called where you live is unconscionable. Some abuse may be going on, not because the benefits are so amazing, but more because you're struggling. Rules are in place to deal with those scenarios.
In these horrible economic times, when food pantries are being inundated with requests for food assistance, when people who previously had steady jobs are now seeking food assistance, we find ourselves having to defend the idea of helping those who are starving to get food.
The odd racist videos that have floated on YouTube remind us back to a time when those on public assistance were under attack by right-wing politicians, as do the quality of the videos.
You almost feel like pointing out that most people on public assistance and food stamps are a pale, peach-like color, probably more so than 2008. However, the attackers aren't interested in the obvious.
Michigan is a state that knows a lot about poor people and people who suddenly become poor. yet, Michigan's new GOP regime has decided to squeeze more from the poor: witness its new crackdown on food stamps recipients.
Those who receive food stamps in Michigan now have to list assets, and may be forced to sell those assets to receive food stamps. These seems highly cruel given that many of these people had jobs before the depressive recession hit. Since cars are a target, people may be forced to sell the one asset that can get them to work, or be forced to buy a less reliable form of transportation, further endangering any economic recovery. Outside Detroit's bus system, public transportation in Michigan is a joke.
We should note that homes and the first $15,000 in auto value are exempt. Anything more than $5,000 in assets could threaten the benefits. If you only have one car in a family, and you didn't have much before the recession, you are probably in good shape. If you have two cars and need two cars and/or you had a decent amount before the recession, you could get cut off.
"If you're driving an (Cadillac) Escalade, maybe it's time to find a car that better fits your current economic situation," said Brian Rooney, director of policy and compliance at the Michigan Department of Human Services.
And you thought the image of "welfare queens driving Cadillacs" died after Ronald Reagan left the White House.
The food stamps program could be improved, taking off food that isn't really food would be a great start. Also, making it easier for those to buy fruits and vegetables on EBT would be wonderful. And to the conservatives, liberals also want to get rid of the obvious cheats so the people who really need the help can get it. For every "fraud" person out there, you have to factor multiple people who are qualified for help but aren't getting the assistance.
In Michigan, this isn't about enforcing rules that were already on the books. If you find a cheat, go after that person. This is about intimidating people who do qualify and who need help to not get the help they need.
If this were really about cheats, they would beef up the personnel to go after those who are cheating, if they are out there. They aren't doing that.
Though this could inspire this society to force those who get corporate welfare to disclose their assets. That still wouldn't be fair, but it would be a lot more fun.
Photo credit via Candorville.com