Monday, October 14, 2013

You're not you when you're hungry

This is a story I think has been misunderstood.

It's fair to say that these people should know that a limit exists, and that it shouldn't be abused if a glitch causes that limit to temporarily disappear.

But there's a lesson here for those who make a life's work of condemning poor people's supposed "abuse" of the system.

People are always looking to meet their needs. That's easy when you're living comfortably. 

But when you're poor, you're always at a deficit. And when you come into a larger amount of money than usual, those needs burn a hole in your pocket. Put another way: when you're starving, and you suddenly have lots more money to buy lots more food, you're going to binge. It can be a destructive impulse over time, but it's an understandable one in that mindset.

That's what I'm guessing happened here. EBT purchases are limited to certain food items and other necessities (a fact often overlooked by the flatscreen-outrage crowd), so it's actually poignant to see those food shelves cleared like that. I'm not overjoyed over some beating-the-system notion, because I don't condone that; nor do I condone the ignorance that led people to think they suddenly had a bottomless balance with no consequences.

But the lesson to learned is this: When the poor and middle class get an income boost, they go out and spend that money. When individuals and families can meet their needs, that makes them healthier and happier, and thus more productive and self-sufficient. The money they earn and spend then boosts the economy, benefiting retailers and the rest of the business community. It also shores up the tax base, which helps improve public services and infrastructure. Everyone benefits on every level.

This is elementary economics, and yet it's been lost in the past few decades. Why? Trickle-down policies, and a 30-year campaign convincing Americans that all will be well if we give all the breaks to the richest (who stuff it in offshore and/or long-term accounts) rather than to the "parasites" (meaning most Americans). Which is why so many working-class people will see those empty shelves and get angry at the cardholders, rather than at the circumstances that make those people so desperate in the first place. Because that campaign has worked. For some people, at least. 

The ones who never need to clear shelves.

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