I’ve always said that my liberatarian instincts can be directly traced back to the two years I spent as grocery store cashier

Yesterday at the Bi-Lo, man in front of me in line.  He walked through with no apparent disability. 

He purchased trout, catfish, perch, and a bakery pie. 

I bought frozen vegetables (generic and bulk), a tiny can of mushrooms, cheapest variety, eggs (generic and in bulk), and,  as a treat to be put into a cobbler, four fall apples. 

He refused the cashiers attempt to provide him with a shopper’s discount card, despite her assertion that it was free. 

I keep mine right on my keychain and presented it eagerly. 

I paid with my Visa.  He presented a government benefits card. 

I completed four years of college, on my own financing, and three long years of law school, for which I will continue paying for years to come.  Maybe he did the same. 

But I doubt it. 

And now, Amy Alkon tells me that welfare is losing its stigma.

Update: The New York Times has more on lost stigma for food stamps.

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4 Responses

  1. Sounds a bit like you are bitter. I mean this guy may have been a jerk but he is not a jerk because he has a handicap or government benefits. I don’t follow your logic here?

  2. Thanks for commenting, ML.

    Bitter . . .Hmm, I don’t really know if that fits (at least, I’m sure I’m no more bitter than anyone else who graduated law school in 2009). But I was going for an air of detatched resignation.

    Just for the record, I did say that he wasn’t (apparently) handicapped, not that he was. And, as I admit, I really don’t know anything about his situation.

    It just brought to mind those years ringing up groceries, and facing dozens of people a day on food stamps. Before that, I’m quite sure that I had no preconceived notions about welfare or similar (I was 16, and I was pretty liberal and socially conscious back then). But the large, large majority of the people who came through my checkout line using food stamps or their cousin, WIC were just awful.

    They were, like this man, clearly able bodied (and this was in the post-welfare to work, pre-recession mid- to late ’90’s). They frequently drove nice cars (nicer than my family’s) and were decked out in expensive hair styles and (what we would now call) “bling.” And they were MEAN. I mean really, really, shockingly rude.

    On top of that, their purchasing habits really revealed the reasons they were poor. They bought almost no staples or basics, always unhealthy, processed foods, and with no regards to cost or value. (WIC only applies to basics, but they always loaded up their carts with extras to go along with them.) For a while, I kept count, and determined that 80% of folks on food stamps also bought either cigarettes, beer, or tabloid magazines (in other words, unnecessary, irresponsible if you don’t have any disposable income purchases).

    Obviously, those are generalizations; there were some nice folks and responsible on food stamps, but they were few and far between.

    Now, as I said, I don’t know that this man didn’t have a really good reason to be on welfare, and his purchases were not extremely extravagant (but it was quite a lot of fish, and we are landlocked, so fish is pretty expensive). And his refusal to use the discount card could only be explained by the fact that he didn’t care about how much he spent (which probably was because he didn’t need to be). But he certainly fit my experiences with others on gov’t benefits, and it makes me sad.

  3. Well the way I see it, if there are government benefits people will use them – and they should since they are tax payers in one way or another. From Unemployment to Food Stamps. All help people. It’s one cornerstone of civilization.

    What is interesting to me is that the states that most use food stamps are red states. I find that interesting. And I know that if we get a public option health care plan I can guarantee that a good percentage of conservative folks will use it. And that is a good thing – just sort of hypocritical as well.

    Anyway, I agree people should be sensible when using government funding. But think about it. Are the banks or Wall Street sensible when using tax payer money? Is the military? No way. None are. So the fact that some people may abuse the system seems [unfortunately] to be the norm.
    But if we took it away it would not be better. Especially now with unemployment as high as it is. I’d rather have people fed and hopefully striving toward achieving something in life than have them destitute and in some ways being a greater burden to society. Sure, there will be those who abuse the system – but there always is. And since children are the ones who most benefit from welfare – well then – it needs to stay around.

    Just my 2 cents.

  4. I’m afraid that now is my turn to question the flow of your logic. You seem to be responding to arguments that I haven’t made.

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