Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Or perhaps just a new strategy, a new endeavor besides beating the repetitive drums, reoccurring, resurrected dead horses of welfare, food stamp and other government assistance fraud, abuse, misuse and supposed unnecessary waste. Fox News anchors declaring they don’t pay taxes, support SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance programs), the new era acronym for food stamps, to see people using it to buy candy, gum and potato chips or to see a beach bum obviously channeling Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, stereotyped pothead use his benefits to A- avoid working for the food he consumes rambling about the simple application process and B- buying expensive lobster and shrimp tails most ordinary people don’t get to eat, certainly not on a regular basis. Equally apoplectic they see women in grocery lines in front of them buying items using cards with a man’s name implying fraud where there may be none at all; he is simply head of household, they are married, married with children, she is his domestic partner and does the bulk of the grocery shopping. Nevertheless countdown to 2016 in full swing, the culture wars are on again, as if they ever stopped, entities like Huckabee and Cruz firmly in the race playing to their evangelical bases, highlighting their pro-life, anti- women’s reproductive rights, anti- trend stances on the usual hot buttons from birth control to Beyoncé; said GOP as a whole hardly afraid to distort faith, faith centered values to make their point, win votes. While news outlets dug up an old 1980’s speech featuring then president Regan announcing America’s first welfare to work program simultaneously describing one big city area woman collecting benefits under countless names, addresses, phone numbers, collecting benefits for several fictitious dead husbands purporting they were veterans, as a lead in to the latest assault on the poor in the form of a Missouri lawmaker proposing restrictions on meats and seafood. Kansas following shortly after signing into law new restrictions surpassing alcohol and tobacco mirroring national parameters, redundant really since those were already state law, but adding nail salons, public pools and, most laughable of all, cruise ships to the list of things not to be accessed with welfare dollars. Moving away from the stock standards that served them well during the 2014 midterms to revive an old favorite virtually criminalizing poverty, further criminalizing poverty, turning any use of assistance into misuse, the actions of degenerates railing on what Johnson’s (President Johnson’s) Great Society programs have cost America as a nation; again virtually creating the Gen X, millennials entitlement mindset gimme, gimme, gimme, ingrained with the idea the world owns them something, if they can’t make it on their own, do basic things like hold a job, the government will take care of them through food stamps and welfare. Return candidate Huckabee even chastising older Americans regarding social security, retirement, healthcare; forget Obamacare he was talking Medicare/Medicaid too saying, he didn’t expect the government to take care of him. Taking into account his considerable wealth, the advantages his been privy to, investments he’s made the average American wouldn’t know the first thing about, of course the government won’t be “taking care of him;” it won’t need to. Yet programs like social security and Medicare were set up, by the by, in such a manner you pay into it while you’re working, take out of it when you are past working age, working ability as a way for seniors to survive not dependent on the charity of family, abjectly destitute without relatives. And we have seen firsthand the devastation of the “alternatives,” people’s 401k retirement plans wiped out in the recession, forced to dip into that, any savings through lengthy stretches of unemployment, downsized from their former job, and when they can get a new job, it’s half what the old one paid, sometimes minimum wage. All thanks to GOP supported deregulation of Wall Street, the kangaroo capitalism shifting trillions of dollars from the middle class, over the last 25 years, to the top one 10th of 1%, they want to call free market capitalism.

Assuming the Regan speech footage directly above was an accurate representation of facts, not the exaggerated brain child of speech writers, a perfect illustration of a point that couldn’t possibly exist, there has to be an appropriate, correct distinction between true fraud and “undesired” usage; the woman depicted is clearly committing fraud, purposefully gaming the system to get more benefits than she should, get things she was never entitled to under the parameters of any program. Undeniably she should have been, probably was, prosecuted and jailed for her actions then barred from using programs in the future; forever added to that, fueling the popularity of forced sterilization, women willfully getting pregnant repeatedly to obtain more welfare dollars, deliberately using, staying on illicit drugs to have irresponsible sex with men, popping out children for the pay out, something becoming more and more of a myth as time goes on. Time is also a facet for consideration here as it isn’t nearly as easy to fake names, phone numbers, veterans’ records exc. as it was in the 80’s, even with the internet. There then too must be an accurate distinguishing between active fraud and people who inappropriately filled out the forms owing to a multitude of factors including English as a second language, learning disability, complexity of situation, family dynamic or, like the IRS, Social Security and other government programs for the public good, an inability to get knowledgeable personnel on the phone to ask questions, never mind in person. Should you be able to get a warm body with a pulse, who speaks coherent enough English on the phone, there is still no guarantee the person on the other end can, will answer your question rather than pass you to another person’s voicemail, who doesn’t have time to take your call right now, answering directly and correctly is almost too much to hope for. Overlooked, under examined, the possibility that this woman’s story existed for lack of oversight, adherence to procedures on record keeping, poor management, lackluster communication between states regarding food stamp stipends, national coordination to prevent fraud, what you do in one state pertaining to these programs effecting your eligibility in to all states that has since improved. Seemingly beyond the comprehension of staunch conservatives determined to shame people for being poor, decry their need for help in providing food for themselves, their children, garner aid to meet their basic needs despite sincerely trying to do it themselves is, how much government money, citizen  tax dollars are wasted vis-à-vis clerical error; when social security is sending stimulus checks, monthly benefits and other monies to persons already long since deceased, not because the government is now being fleeced by their degenerate son, daughter, grandchild, nephew, unscrupulous neighbor, friend, but because they failed to properly process a given death certificate, failed to enter a horrendous backlog into their records. Similarly the social security administration paying out billions to people who worked too much to continue receiving their disability allotment, not because individuals tried to game the system, but because of complexities of trial work periods and program guidelines confusing recipients as to what they need to report, human error on the administration side in entering pertinent information provided effecting monies given. Perhaps when that stops, so much as slows down, the IRS, banks, make less frequent mistakes depositing one woman’s $5,000 tax refund into the wrong account thanks to a bank teller who gave her the wrong information, congress itself can stop getting caught racking up a 1 million dollar tap on coffee and pastries, the government will have room to tell the average citizen about waste, scrutinize how they consume food dollars, aid or not. Or when right wing congress critters, governors running red states recognize maybe 2% of those receiving food subsidies, welfare stipends actually don’t qualify for what they are obtaining, refer to the clerical errors, compounded by personnel policy ignorance alluded to before. The same percentage in the Newsy citied state of Florida testing positive for drugs while on benefits up against an overall drug usage among the population of roughly 8% during a short lived program it cost more to implement than it would have saved, designed to keep drug addicts off government assistance, we can go after the poor for needing to eat.

“Undesired” usage is the newfound resentment for the poor, the food insecure who don’t always know where the next meal is coming from, the newfangled, and not so newfangled concept characterized as irresponsible use of food stamps predicated on the growing health craze in America coupled with long held, unfounded, equally long ago debunked stereotypes poor people can’t make positive choices financially, job, lifestyle or nutrition wise, so those choices must be made for them via laws and restrictions; “undesired” usage is the purchase of non-nutritional items, i.e. junk food, candy with dollars meant to buy healthy food, although no one is quite sure when said differentiation was singed into the laws governing food stamps if it ever was. Hints senator Rick Brattin’s push to ban candy, chips and cookies from listed items eligible to be bought with food stamp dollars; also the idea allotments are excessive less scrutinizing Fox News’ beach bum and more referencing his own hypothetical experience with SNAP, hints his suddenly wanting to limit stake and seafood purchases, noting his current family composition of 7 would receive roughly $1,000 on record saying he couldn’t imagine spending that much on food per month without throwing just anything in the cart. A scenario that assumes he routinely does the family grocery shopping, has any idea what his wife spends on groceries per week, let along per month for a family his size; particularly considering he is a typical conservative male and why isn’t he being chastised for his exorbitant family size like minorities, poor people condemned for having more than one, two children?  Critics countering, that number amounts to a little over $4.50 per person, per day, nearly impossible and, calling him out on his failure to account for persons who are not receiving full amounts only partial ones, the majority incidentally, because there is an income in the household, there is someone earning a paycheck; a single mother of 2 making 18,000 a year qualifies for a reasonable $300 per month. Indicative of what data and advocates have been trying to impress upon lawmakers, just how many receiving benefits, living starkly below the poverty line are the working poor, earning a paycheck and still not able to survive independently; CNN just did a piece on a man who works in the U.S. capital cafeteria serving meals to senators, congressmen, democrats, republicans, cleaning floors, cleaning toilets and is homeless. Yes his situation complicated by money given to family but sparking attention are his coworkers known to have second jobs and that’s how they get by; Oprah, in her time on air, profiled at least one person working 40 hours a week without a place to stay, many will remember the scene of Will Smith and his on screen son sleeping in a bathroom in The Pursuit of Happiness, based on a true story.  Proving as much as we would like to point our fingers, jumping up and down at the “beach bum” and his lavish lifestyle at our collective expense, as if we can judge the whole of a person’s food habits, buying habits on a single purchase, we can say because they need food assistance, need help they are somehow different from average Americans who sometimes get a craving for potato chips, something sweet. Quickly forgotten is, even if he chooses to spend his SNAP money unwisely, eat lavishly, it will run out and he will be left for the rest of the month to scrounge food items thus learning how to better spend his SNAP provisions, eventually forgoing the lobster and shrimp tails, never mentioned as an every day, week, month item combo bought by him in the first place. But we’ll continue the caricature because it fits what we’ve always thought; it fits our agenda to put food aid recipients in neat little boxes. They can never be us, never be like us so we don’t have to sympathize, empathize or understand them, comprehend how perilous our own stable positions in society might be.

However unpopular the latter view is, it is a truth likewise too often unheard in the cacophony of stop wasting tax dollars on… fill in the bank with “societal undesirables,” those we decided we could care less about for X reason being targeted this week, month, year, election cycle; the Huffington Post, in 2012 responding to similar beach bum stories of welfare waste, Fox News and to salacious comments by then presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, calling president Obama the food stamp president and vowing to be the paycheck president, even standing before the NAACP saying blacks should not be satisfied with food stamps, laid out compelling numbers literally shredding his argument then and Mr. Barattin’s now. Their numbers showing what has been repeatedly put front and center to news viewers, policy makers for decades, nearly half of people receiving food stamps specifically are children, in no way responsible for their parents’ choices, representing the most vulnerable we should be willing to assist in providing the best start to, if for no other reason than to prevent bigger problems down the line, another third consist of the elderly and disabled, persons well past working age, incapable of working, stats rounded out by those suffering mental illness developmental delay; numbers that haven’t move significantly, and definitely not for the positive in 3 years. ABC news did a far better job representing the actual face of food stamps today comprising first time users, former members of the middle class suddenly struggling to feed themselves, their family, poignant images, video via a kid showing the reporter his empty fridge, wanting to become a senator to make sure people got enough in food stamps to actually last a month; that child the product of a single mother of 2 children not 4, 6, 8, doing what conservatives tell everyone to do, improve their sills, going back to school for a better job who can’t adequately feed her children in the meantime. CBS followed a middle aged man who should be retiring in the next few years who now can’t, finds himself downsized from his former job surviving on unemployment benefits and eating on $149 a month in food stamps, so strapped he has to use a calculator in shopping and skips breakfast to make ends meet. My best friend and her husband are a total family composition of 6 receiving $900 and they have enough, no more, no less than they need; still they achieve this by limiting fresh fruits and vegetables depending on canned, sometimes canned meats to put in skillet dinners, hamburger, tuna helpers and at the end of the month it’s a challenge to keep everyone fed, forget nutritionally fed. Yet it isn’t enough to attack people needing help to eat, we have to manufacture cases of fraud, socially criminalize people represented by her because her and her husband, she is married not continually having several kids by multiple men as is the classic perception, routinely tradeoff who goes to the store and who stays with the children. Because of a name someone saw, or thought they saw on a card, criminalize parents buying cake and ice-cream for a child’s birthday party, the valentines cards my friend bought with candy inside so her now 3 school age children can participate in school party card exchange, the toy with candy inside an inexpensive way for her infant to have something for his first Easter he could play with once the candy was removed. Is she to be vilified because she routinely buys smarties and peppermint candies carried in her pockets because she is hypoglycemic and those cost less, taste better than standard glucose tabs?  Moreover it isn’t enough to vilify food assistance, their neighboring state Kansas has to put an iron grip on TANF (temporary aid to needy families) and general relief before ever asking who was buying college or pro sports tickets with said monies, who was attempting to go on a cruise, purchase adult entertainment apart from fraudsters who need to be caught and prosecuted, because the money allotments aren’t nearly enough to do so without it; to say nothing of who in any of the venues now restricted would take a TANF debit card to begin with. Limiting ATM withdraw to $25 a day is a virtual impossibility because the machines don’t work that way not to mention makes it that much more difficult to pay doctor bills, transportation expenses or basic utilities if you don’t have a checking account, which, considering the requirements, potential fees isn’t unheard of.  Now they are telling me citizen X who has worked hard all my life until the economy swallowed my job, citizen X who would have been happy to work more had my minority status, ethnic featured physical appearance and street address not biased employers against me, I can’t take my kids to the pool give them a safe, cool environment over the summer because, we don’t have, can’t afford to repair or run air conditioning, due to I’m on TANF? After sacrificing something else for myself, putting off buying myself socks, trading mouthwash and toothpaste for a chance to give my kid a birthday present I can’t take them to a cheap matinée, because I’m on TANF?  I can’t use the coupon I found in a doctor’s office magazine to take my daughter to a mommy and me day, away from her house full of brothers, because I’m on TANF and it’s a nail salon?  Forget if I’m having a manicure, shun that word, to get my working with them all the time hands, nails looking better for a job interview I’ve finally worked my way up to; tell me does that now apply to dry cleaners, am I now to be barred from getting the suite, pant suite I purchased, found at goodwill from being cleaned so I can go to my interview sans smelling like mothballs, because I’m on TANF? Governor Brownback, this sounds like a solution in search of a non-existent problem to make politicians look busy taking action against what they’ve told us, the poor or the middle class, is our problem instead of truly pinpointing what that is, devising a plan to tackle the real issue.\

All this happening simultaneously as Gwyneth Paltrow was being raked over the coals by Hollywood for taking the aptly named food stamp challenge, live on food stamp amounts for a week, a month showcasing just how hard it is to eat, eat healthy, choose singularly nutritious items, do what so many take for granted buy fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meats. Difficulties compounded for poor people by the merger stipends with which they are expected to buy “only healthy food,” social admonishments based on the armature observation people utilizing food stamps are “fat not starving;” misunderstood for decades was why, that stretching their food stamp dollars to last an entire month means buying pound packing staples like beans, rice, potatoes. When they can buy other fruits, vegetables, pantry goods, it’s canned vs. frozen or fresh housing excess salt, sugar, simple, processed carbohydrates again known to pack on the pounds; hints initiatives to slightly increase food stamp allotments so people have the opportunity to buy fresh produce. I myself have spoken before about the skewed food system echoing PBS and other documentary findings where chips, soda, cookies, candy can be bought by the bag-full for a dollar, slightly over; that same amount will allow you to buy 1, 2, maybe 3 pears in the supermarket, banana bunches sold that much per pound, a bunch being at least 2 pounds, oranges or apples sold in bags priced the same way, so much per pound; where it should be the other way around healthy food costing less, junk food more expensive, less desirable. Utterly dismissed, the ever increasing costs of food staples like milk and bread, basic cereal, ground beef, weather, pest, insect infestation or animal sickness, transportation/distribution problems routinely lead to shortages globally, yes affecting the great United States’ food supply. Demonstrating once and for all healthy food is expensive food long before you start talking organic fruits, vegetables, free range meats and Greek, probiotic yogurt, exotic feta or goat cheese; enter Mr. Brattin’s revived crusade against expensive food despite critics calling his measure ill-defined saying fish is something that should be in our diet, he himself admitting the language needed tweaking, his intent was not to go after canned tuna and fish sticks. Yet his target of stakes and high end fish, doubtlessly based on the beach bum example, similar ones to it leaves tale-tell signs outraged listeners, readers, watchers of said stories weren’t paying close attention, fully understanding what was being shown, communicated; our infamous beach bum commented the “exorbitant” items he bought were on sale, easily implying that’s why he picked them up. Further the term beach bum in itself along with footage of him on a, you guessed it, beach indicate he lives in a coastal town usually possessing a variety and abundance of, ready access to seafood resulting in lower prices on otherwise pricey items; to quote Homer Simpson- D’oh. Unique dietary needs, circumstances are unaccounted for too; take my best friend and her then 12 month old son (now 10) diagnosed with anemia (iron deficiency), it was a challenged to get him to eat meat at all, ground beef grease made him sick just like his mother, liver is too tough textually for that age of child and a tough sell taste wise as well. Red meant being the highest source of iron available, children better able to metabolize the iron in meat than in vegetables; leaving stake virtually the only option garnering the iron content to counteract his anemia return to healthy levels, maintain those levels, her able to cook it tender enough for him not to choke, actually liking the taste.  Thus preventing developmental delay, lower IQ, neurological and motor issues lasting into adulthood, negatively effecting him and society, exactly what food assistance programs are designed to prevent. Her youngest child currently displays lactose intolerance and will soon require lactose free, soy or other milk, dairy products increasing the family food budget.  Additional effects on food stamp recipient buying habits come when assessing neighborhood dynamics and realizing many food assistance individuals, families are living in food desserts where there isn’t a grocery store, no Hy-Vee, super Wal-Mart not even a mom and pop small store, especially within easy walking distance; instead there are fast food joints on every corner and a convenience store. Besides carrying large quantities of junk food items, unhealthy, empty calories at your fingertips, does Mr. Brattin honestly think a gallon of milk, carton of orange juice bought there isn’t going to cost substantially more than at a standard grocery store; particularly important regarding people who don’t own, have access to a vehicle, utilize public transportation further limiting what they buy and how they buy it, people who buy such rudimentary items at said stores, costing more or not, because it is in walking distance of their neighborhood. Mr. Brattin can be reasonably assumed to own a car, at least currently be leasing one versus the poor consigned to what they can carry in bags while walking, bag limits imposed on the city bus. You can’t consistently buy food stuffs with an extremely short shelf life, i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables, when you shop by the month not only to conserve food stamp monies but to curb transportation costs. Those on food assistance as a rule usually don’t own an upright large freezer to fully take advantage of sales on staples like frozen vegetables, beef rump roast, chicken breasts, breads, cheese, vital ingredients to hardy cooked meals; meaning on both counts they will pay more for it buying it strictly as a standard refrigerator freezer can fit it, as they can transport it to their dwelling, another D’oh moment for Mr. Brattin.

Republicans, conservatives, endless decriers of welfare, food assistance, aid to people of any kind, aid to any type person no matter how destitute or deserving, unwilling to correlate their policies, their immovable stances on key social problems directly contributes to the “bloated numbers” of people requesting assistance from the government, qualifying for programs more and more politicians, achieving salaries ordinary Americans could only dream about, want to disband entirely. Welfare queens, persons depicted in the Regan speech, are fast being replaced, have been replaced, will soon completely be replaced by women across the nation who can’t get access to birth control thanks to their states personhood bill yanking from the market IUD’s (inter-uterine devices), select oral contraceptives that have been around nearly a half century; if they are working, and statistics overwhelmingly say they are, they can’t get birth control options from their employer either because the business is too small to meet Obamacare mandates for employer provided health insurance or religious exemptions mean they don’t have to, shafting women again. Neither can they get an abortion thanks to numerous states’ ultra-restrictions closing the doors to almost every abortion clinic, women’s clinic that also happened to perform abortions within an entire state duplicated nationwide; leaving women, a good chunk of whom are married or in long term committed relationships stuck raising children they never wanted to have in the first place. But we want to cut welfare from women popping out 2, 3, 4 kids or more without giving them the means to control their own body apart from abstinence only, keeping your legs closed, which is unrealistic in studying human behavior, virtually impossible if you’re married; in fact there are those in the religious set who would call withholding sex witchcraft.   Decades before the surge in personhood bills, the swell of pushback against abortion, the all-out attack on women’s reproductive rights many states have, continue to have in place restrictions on surgical contraceptive methods for women i. e. tube tying; in my own state you have to be under 25 and already have 5 kids before they will do it until a certain age. Another woman suffering from mental illness, unable to take traditional birth control due to her condition, wanted her tubes tied before marrying her fiancé getting lectures at 32. My best friend would not be the mother of 4 kids, spent 5 years on TANF, entire family getting $900 in food stamps, had doctors heeded any of her requests to tie her tubes; requests that began after her first child was born, only to be told she was too young, an identical scene after her second 2 years later. Post her third 4 years later they said they would set up an appointment only to never do so, subject forgotten in the chaos of now being a mother to 3; her fourth child was an utter shock not  simply a surprise, she went into the emergency room with abdominal pain came home with a baby. Roughly a week later she marched into her primary care physician’s office and announced irately “did you miss something,” doctors jaw in the floor; still she refused to refer my friend to the appropriate doctor even after seeing her several times over the past months diagnosing her with high blood pressure, giving her a diet an exercise lecture, trying to tell a lifelong hypoglycemic she was now diabetic, never once running a pregnancy test. Though these are common gestational issues, sometimes serious complications and having any more children could drastically impact her health; the doctor’s solution, Mirena a specific name brand birth control known to cause severe potential side effects along the same lines as lawsuits and news exposés on Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella. Likewise at 34, fast approaching 35, the traditional pill is no longer a viable option; she has 4 kids, clearly expresses a desire not to have any more, so why not do what she’s been begging for, for 10 solid years?  Ironic the group most in favor of forced sterilization for minorities, drug addicts, specifically female drug addicts, ghetto dwellers simultaneously have laws such as this governing medical community guidelines; ironic medically too since tubal ligation, the medical term for tube tying, also has a reversal procedure, fertility science carries a plethora of options including in-vitro fertilization. If conservative minded citizens, voters, republican politicians want less people on government subsidies, “country sponsored handouts” from social security disability to housing, utility assistance, less need for public housing, low income housing developments, right down to who’s getting food stamps, welfare TANF, general relief, want to halt generational welfare we have to stop situations discriminatory rejection for hiring by employers too busy looking at your street address and your obvious ethnicity as opposed to your qualifications, stop nationwide the corporate, management across the board whining they can’t find employees without adequately comprehending what they need forget properly looking for it, gasp training for it. If republicans want something to do, they can overhaul job training programs, the few that still exist, to teach skills employers’ desire, want, require, going beyond basic skills to things that will result in garnering a job. If we want to spend less on so called welfare then we have to cease and desist scenarios depicted in the video above, a woman fired for refusing to pay back $400 stolen during a robbery supposedly because she repeatedly violated the fast food chains policy on how often to empty the cash drawer.  However Popeye’s argument doesn’t hold up because she repeatedly violated policy but was kept in an obviously at risk working environment known to be the target of robberies, waited until they had been robbed, lost money to fire her? Next they were perfectly willing to keep her provided she paid back the money, and if you fired her on a legitimate breach of policy, why offer her, her job back once press got wind of it?  And we wonder how, why so many end up on welfare.