by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
There is news that the food stamp program might be cut. One could make a thousand comments on both sides of the issue. In general, I am supportive. I see it as kicking the baby birds out of the nest. I only say that because I ended up killing a baby bird that was kicked out too early today. I think I filled his lungs when I was trying to feed him. I bring that up to illustrate that even the best of plans have tragedies.
It has been stated a million times that economic recovery is a function of production. Government subsidy is a rent game that produces nothing. In that basic sense alone, helping people feel responsible for their own sustenance should do more to promote widespread quality of life than, say, giving GE another $10 million.
The article in the local daily states as fact that food stamps are only temporary assistance, but how many people do we all know who use them as a way of life? A fifth of Americans are on food stamps, half the kids in public schools get free or reduced lunches on top of that. Then numerous food kitchens strive to fill in the blanks.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, a billion people live on less than $1 a day. It is estimated that less than half of that goes toward food. These people still chose to spend money on entertainment, and if they get a little more money, many would rather have yummier food than meet their government-recommended caloric intake.
Earlier today I was reading a book by Deepak Lal. He told how when he first took his wife to India, his mom made some cheese sandwiches for her and a government guy to take on a train trip. At the depot, they saw a woman begging, so they gave her the uneaten sandwiches. The woman looked in the bag, said, “No butter!” and tossed the sandwiches away in disgust. Then, when they went to Calcutta, the wife was surprised to see how happy all the poorest of the poor always seemed to be.
After reading Lal, I decided it was time to quit whining and accept the reality that princes and princesses among us will never have enough. Just last weekend, I tried to keep my face from exploding as a struggling mom on public assistance told me she was buying her teenage son drag attire. But why? We all know the feeling of trying to help somebody, giving them our best only to have them trash it and scoff at our nerve for not giving them better. Everybody wants to help the poorest of the poor, most of us don’t mind helping the rich. The problem is asking those who are already foregoing medical assistance, healthy diets, house repairs, etc. to give to people who have so much more than they.
Maybe the answer lies in subsidizing recreation. The Buncombe County Parks and Recreation Authority could be the start of something big. Of course, universal recreation won’t work because one will want to go to get hair weaves and acrylics to go to the club, and another will want a six-pack to go to the racetrack. Two dozen front-row seats to Moody Blues concerts each year would be a nice start for me, Mr. President.
But that takes us back to the now widely-accepted premise that, again speaking only in general terms, high-income people value research and development, hard work, investment, and other forms of human output whereas low-income people value human input like recreation and addictive substances. It is important to acknowledge that not all poor people are victims of the instant-gratification pleasure wheel. The world is full of honorable conditionally poor folks, victims indeed of oppressive regimes and natural disasters.