Monday, May 11, 2015

Why Does Wisconsin Hate the Poor?

I came to America many moons ago and although I never got used to the utter lack of care for people who are in need, I tacitly came to see it as 'a fact of life'. But now, an attempt by conservative politicians to further humiliate poor people has gotten me so enraged, that I had to write something about it.

There is a hot new trend in several states to try to limit what type of food people on Food Stamps are allowed to buy and at the vanguard of this food-policing idiocy, is Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker.

Under the guise of benevolently steering ignorant food stamp recipients towards a healthier diet, the Wisconsin Legislature has introduced Assembly Bill 177, to override a Federal rule that prohibits such restrictions. If you are poor and you live in Wisconsin, expect to be spied on by fellow shoppers, store managers and government undercover agents to make sure that you don't carry offensive items in your shopping cart.

One of the many foods that would be verboten by the Wisconsin food police, are any type of shellfish. As if a person who is allocated $1.40 per meal would want to spend it on such an expensive food item. Another 'no no' is one of Wisconsin's most abundant products, cheddar cheese. The insanity of it all boggles the mind. Have a look at this glossy pamphlet of WIC approved foods. The amount of man hours put into its production could have fed quite a few needy families. According to a study, it would cost the state of Wisconsin $56 million, to put this new proposal into effect. Nobody knows where this money is supposed to come from, but $56 million could provide food stamps for an additional 37,000 low income residents.

What is all this hullabaloo about, exactly? Lets' look at some numbers: In 2014, the Federal Food Stamp Program (SNAP) served 42 million people at a cost of $74.1 billion. As the chart shows, the Program makes up 0.43% of GDP. Compare that to the blue wedge, which is the share of the economy that goes to the 400 richest people in America, the so-called 'Forbes 400'. Their net worth is $2.6 trillion, about an 8th of GDP.

How dare the 42 million SNAP recipients ask their government for assistance! Doling out $125 per month to needy families without any restrictions surely will ruin our economy!

Policing what food stamp recipients can eat, is just part of Gov. Scott Walker's crusade to shame and vilify low income residents. As a good Republican, he wants to mandate drug testing for unemployment insurance and food stamp applicants, even though a drug test conducted in Tennessee has shown that only 0.2% of food stamp recipients failed such a test. An additional dozen states have already started proposals to drug test welfare applicants in Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Adding insult to injury, Walker has managed to push through a law that requires 'each able-bodied adult without dependents to work 80 hours per month, or their benefits to be terminated after three months.' In essence, if you’re single without children, and you’re unemployed or underemployed for more than three months, that’s it. All this visionary is doing is to make sure that more people in Wisconsin will go hungry.

Why is it, that in the largest economy in the world, the poor are worse off than in any other advanced democracy? Is it because the USA spends less on social programs? It may seem that way, but together with our lower tax rate (a form of benefit), and a large portion of benefits handed out by the private sector (401ks, employer sponsored health care, etc.), it pretty much evens out.

The reason that the poor are so neglected in America, is that a lot of benefits, such as mortgage deductions and subsidies, go to the middle and upper classes. Social policies are not designed to help the disadvantaged in the United States. The more you make, the better your benefits are, the bigger your house, the more you can deduct. In contrast, European style social welfare is designed to go the people who need it the most.

In France, a $337 "child allowance" is given to all families with children. That money helps to buy food, clothes and other necessities. There is free medical care through a national health insurance plan. There are free government preschools and six months' maternity leave, paid by the government. In the United States a similar family would end up on Welfare and if the parent(s) find a job, they would lose their public assistance check and health care.

The myriad social programs in America don't prevent poverty; they help some people already living in it. For example, a single mother with two children in the United States receives 27 percent of the median family income, which amounts to $14,000. In England she would get the equivalent of $20,000, in Germany $19,000 and in France $21,000. That, in countries with a lower cost of living.

Spending our tax dollars on programs that restrict what people can buy with Food Stamps, administering useless and expensive drug tests and asking an 18 year old to either work at McDonald or go hungry, is so shameful that it leaves me speechless.

Mr. Walker, you are making a mountain out of a molehill. Surely your calling in life is more than hurting people who can’t take care of themselves and who can’t defend themselves?  leave comment here

America's Misguided Approach to Social Welfare
What 7 States Discovered After Spending More Than $1 Million Drug Testing Welfare
RecipientsEurowelfare, Part 1: Security blanket for families
FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET)