Saturday, November 2, 2013

EBT Need not apply

This whole food stamp cut thing is hitting me in a lot of my most vulnerable places. As a fan of smaller government and lower taxes, I feel like I "should" support the idea. The fewer people dependent on the government, the better. The problem is I'm just too informed both about the nature of our government and our citizens to be even mildly impressed.

For the government to boast saving $5B is a bit like a chihuahua showing a pit bull how proud it is of its pointy. Most people have no concept of what a billion dollars really is. To put it in perspective, $1B is enough money to spend $1000 a day every day for 1000 years and still have more than half left over.

365,000 days = 1000 years
365,000 days x $1000 = $365,000,000
$1,000,000,000 - $365,000,000 = $635,000,000

With a better appreciation of what a single billion really looks like, $5B seems like a huge load of cash worth saving at any cost. Proud tea partiers, not all of whom are tea baggers, should be dancing in the streets. Hell, we all should be. That's a ton of money!

Until you stop to consider that the US is now spending over $3T annually.

3,000,000,000,000 - 5,000,000,000 shit 

You can use Google all by your lonesome to see where the other $2,995,000,000 goes. Hint: most of it's not welfare, social security, or food stamps.

Call me cynical if you will, you would be right. However, in this case, cynicism prevails because even if you want to be positive, even if you want to say every drop in the bucket counts, even if you want to believe it's a step in the right direction, rest assured that we are never getting that $5B back. It won't go to the poor anymore, but you and I will not see a dime of it either. This has not decreased people's reliance on government nor has it increased anyone's take-home pay. Go ahead, be as happy as you want that you got your little victory over those lazy, fatass, po' folks who just need to work harder. You just wait until the budget for 2014 comes out. I can personally guarantee it won't be ≤ $2,995,000,000.

I take this all very personally because the one thing I do have in common with tea partiers is the desire to decrease people's reliance on government. Unlike the tea party, I know it will never happen and it burns me when I see the poor used as a scapegoat for our collective irresponsibility. The government has no interest in decreasing our reliance on them and the rest of us don't either. We might say we do, but we don't mean it. We're not really dedicated to helping each other. We're attracted to the idea, but somehow also revolted by it. We're dedicated to saying, "Oh, I feel so bad for those people. Here, Uncle Sam, you fix it. Just do what you need to do." Oddly, we're never satisfied with the results.

Our culture doesn't genuinely espouse hatred of the poor. Rather, the US has been ranked as the most generous, charitable nation several times and has been toward the top even when it hasn't been number one. Even I am not so cynical as to say that it's just rich assholes looking for a tax break or people giving to their own churches to help spread the poison. Yet, people who need help and actually get it offend us somehow. People can't even "look" like they need help; quite the opposite.

I have friend who works for as a large account fund raiser for a nonprofit organization. She has the most expensive wardrobe of anyone I've ever known. It's not that she has a personal affinity for over priced, ugly, brown handbags with letters vomited all over them, made in the same sweatshop as a Faded Glory plastic and fabric remnant sack that's passed off as a purse. Her wardrobe is one of the more disgusting byproducts of our culture. She has to look proud. She has to look expensive. She has to look like she nor anyone she associates with needs money even though she gets paid to ask people for money. If she doesn't have the most expensive wardrobe and she looks like her organization needs money, no one will give them a cent. 

Ironically, our strange obsession with pride is what drives these decisions, austerity, bootstraps, and all. We're very superficial. We figure whatever is on the label absolutely has to be in the can. If you look poor, then obviously it's because you are poor in character, mental ability, morality, and thrift store skiLLz. Why would anyone want to help you if you don't have enough pride to lift yourself up? How could you be so shameful as to ask for help? I struggle in my daily life too and I never need help. I do everything on my own. I've never been handed anything. I've worked hard for everything I have. Away with you! Your indignity might be contagious.

Isn't it interesting how no man is an island, but every man believes he was born on one? .
This attitude intimidates people from even asking for help in our culture, but there's not a single one of us that doesn't need help with something and who hasn't received help at some point. It's not just a matter of national financial issues. Even on a personal level, we're all afraid to ask for help. We're obsessed with looking like we're fine, choking back tears, and shrugging away tragedies. We sit around and try look just pathetic enough to catch the glance of some charitable soul, but not so pathetic that they'll be totally grossed out. Then, we're hurt when no one notices we need help because we were too proud to ask and too afraid to have our insensitivity towards others' needs thrown back at us.

Perhaps it's because the nation was born of rebellion (well, after all the genocide n stuff) and that attitude of independence has penetrated us as individuals. Who could say? In any case, the moral of the story is that because we ourselves are afraid to ask for help (or to admit that we've ever received it), we end up refusing help to others, even to the point of degrading them for needing it; not even for asking for help, but for simply needing it. 

To change any of this, we need a countrywide shift in consciousness. We need a culture of dedicated compassion and reflection. We need to ask for help when we need it, and give it to others when it's asked of us. We need to voluntarily put our time and money into building a working village. Only when we fully dedicate ourselves to helping each other will our reliance on government decrease along with our taxes and their budget.

There have been many times a tear has been brought to my eyes when witnessing the triumph of the human spirit only to swallow that pill of knowing that we can accomplish this, but we won't. We will all continue to be victims of each others' pride and greed until we've eaten the fields barren and drunk the rivers dry because we're just too damn selfish, lazy, and complacent. Ah, to be a fly on the wall when this species goes the way of the dinosaur....then again, if I were, I wouldn't be able to say, "I told ya so."

Image stolen from www.crainsnewyork.com.


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