Government Works to Beat Any Remaining Pride Out of Poor People

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

In Jefferson, NC – just on the other side of the Appalachians from my East TN hometown – social workers are being bribed/rewarded for confronting so-called “mountain pride.” According to the Ashe County Department of Social Services, mountain pride is when people don’t ask for handouts, despite being eligible to receive them, because they prefer to be self-reliant and not become charity cases. Those bastards!

In an attempt to squelch this refreshing sense of pride and self-worth,  bureaucrats are doing all they can to force as many of these people to enroll for food stamps and other handouts as possible. Why? Apparently when people who are eligible for receiving taxpayer-funded handouts don’t take them, it prevents even more taxpayer-funded handouts from being sent to their communities. Too bad mountain pride isn’t a more common problem.

Read all about it in this great/infuriating piece by Caroline May at The Daily Caller

(H/T Ben Cunningham, one of America’s greatest taxpayer advocates.)

-Drew Johnson

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49 Responses to “Government Works to Beat Any Remaining Pride Out of Poor People”

  1. #1 |  supercat | 

    A fundamental difference between private charities and government “entitlement programs” is that for the former, giving money to a less-worthy individuals will reduce the amount that can be given to more-worthy individuals; this creates a strong incentive for such programs to avoid giving money to unworthy recipients. By contrast, with many government “entitlement programs”, the more money is given away, the more money the programs can demand from taxpayers; this creates an incentive for those running such programs to give out as much money as they can to anyone they can.

  2. #2 |  Danny | 

    I didn’t see where anybody was being “forced” to join SNAP. Giving information on eligibility and encouraging enrollment is not the same thing as “forcing.”

    These people pay the government revenues in one way or another, and they certainly should take advantage of a program that makes the difference between them and their children being healthy and nourished or not.

    That putative “mountain pride” hasn’t done a lot to cure chronic poverty in Appalachia for the past several decades, it seems.

  3. #3 |  trizzlor | 

    Agreed! Ideally anyone eligible for SNAP would have no idea it exists, and those that somehow find out would be shamed into dropping out. Perhaps we could force enrollees to tell their neighbors and family that they’re becoming government moochers, make them carry bright orange plackards at all times, subject them to dehumanizing tests to prove they’re really hungry. If we can’t get rid of the program we can at least make it so cruel that no one uses it.

  4. #4 |  mme6546 | 

    hmmmm. hyperbolic a bit, perhaps.
    Nobody’s being “forced” to sign up, merely given info to make a choice. perhaps for less then altruistic reasons, depending on your perspective, but far from “an attempt to squelch this refreshing sense of pride and self-worth” or “doing all they can to force as many of these people to enroll” it seems that congress allots a certain amount of cash to the USDA for education on eligibility. Which means it can not be spent except on, um…education on eligibility.
    While I’m sure many decline due to “mountain pride”, and all props to them, many also didn’t know they were able to get food stamps. Sorry, but I’ve been on them back in the day, when I was a single mom working 2 jobs, and the only reason I even knew I was eligible was a little plastic kiosk in my pediatricians office holding pamphlets on eligibility….paid for by the same thing your Caroline May finds so very nefarious. This reads as a bit of screaming FIRE!!!!!!111 at a match to me.
    Radly, I miss you.

  5. #5 |  mme6546 | 

    #3 | trizzlor | July 3rd, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Agreed! Ideally anyone eligible for SNAP would have no idea it exists, and those that somehow find out would be shamed into dropping out. Perhaps we could force enrollees to tell their neighbors and family that they’re becoming government moochers, make them carry bright orange plackards at all times, subject them to dehumanizing tests to prove they’re really hungry. If we can’t get rid of the program we can at least make it so cruel that no one uses it.

    I changed my mind, THIS ^ times a hundred. so well put… :)

  6. #6 |  Dane | 

    I’m sorry, but sentiment like that expressed by this post is often why libertarians are roundly criticized for not caring about the poor. Once a government program exists, there’s nothing wrong with ensuring people are aware of it through promotion and advertising. Libertarians have much, much bigger concerns to worry about than attacking government assistance programs for low-income families. No one is being forced to take food stamps in the article you cited.

  7. #7 |  mme6546 | 

    also, calling someone who glorifies “Sheriff Joe Arpaio – “America’s Sheriff” “one of America’s greatest taxpayer advocates.”
    in the first post you linked to…you sure you’re on the right site?

  8. #8 |  merl | 

    when i was in the navy each work space was given a certain amount of money to spend each quarter, if we didn’t spend it we’d lose it. we bought marine kbar knives and machetes and tools we didn’t need just so we’d get the same amount next quarter

  9. #9 |  Andrew Roth | 

    The worst thing I’d say about any of the USDA’s activities as described in the Daily Caller article is that they’re perhaps a bit wasteful, foolish or misguided.

    Let me reiterate: a bit. This alleged “scandal” is a tempest in a teapot. SNAP is a small but extremely effective line item in the federal budget. It’s one of the better designed and run federal programs and one of the most worthy and equitable. It isn’t perfect, and some reforms might be appropriate, but targeting it as an example of government overreach and waste is either stupid or, more likely, malicious.

    It’s telling that the only elected official quoted by the Daily Caller article is Jeff Sessions. Once again, Sessions is demonstrating that he’s an authoritarian asshat who wants to degrade poor people. This article is one of the most biased, intellectually dishonest, unethical pieces of journalism I can recall seeing as an Agitator link. The Daily Caller is promoting a manufactured controversy whose main legislative proponent is apparently one of the most vicious and bigoted members of Congress. That article provides a perfect data point demonstrating that Sessions is a plantation-era throwback who is morally unfit to serve in elected office.

    I have another bone to pick with the Daily Caller on this article, namely, that it includes a link to a prior article about a lottery winner who justified remaining on food stamps because she wasn’t working. The latter article is even worse than the one about “mountain pride.” It’s incredibly specious, malicious in tone, and consequently devoid of credibility to anyone who isn’t addled by partisan hatred. Yes, there is fraud in the system, but one-off cases like that don’t prove a thing about the prevalence of food stamp fraud or the USDA’s capacity to root out fraud.

    These articles confirm every bad word that I’ve heard about the Daily Caller. What a rag.

  10. #10 |  Other Sean | 

    So here we are on day two of the guest blogging experience. How many comment thread fallacies and tropes have already been unleashed against this new friend? Let’s see. We’ve got:

    1) The trump card of personal experience: “Hey, I once benefitted personally from program _______ that you almost criticized (by implication only), so don’t do that. It’s not nice.”

    2) The argument from moral triage: “Why are we wasting our time talking about _______ in a world where innocent newborns are tasered in the eyeballs every day.”

    3) “Why can’t this post be like all the others?” This complaint is made whenever someone reads a post of slightly different flavor from his daily gruel, and then immediately snaps that it doesn’t taste right.

    4) The argument from ideological purity. “I followed your link and found out the blogger there once shared an airport shuttle with a neo-conservative who supports _______. Consider yourself exposed, mister!”

    5) Plain rudeness: “Radley, I miss you.”

    Welcome, Drew. Welcome indeed.

  11. #11 |  celticdragonchick | 

    It is usually a mistake to use anything from The Daily Caller. It tends to be contaminated from association with Tucker Carlson, who has turned it into a 3rd rate HuffPo.

  12. #12 |  Dane | 

    @Other Sean

    As someone who is really tired of hearing his progressive friends criticizing libertarianism (unfairly) for being an ideology of selfishness without care for the less fortunate, I think it’s pretty important to voice objection toward posts that fuel that fire. What are you suggesting, that we shouldn’t comment on posts we have relevant personal experience of (#1) or moral objections to (#2/3/4)? Or would rather us just not say anything at all, if we can’t say something nice.

    What should we do? Go ahead and rewrite my comment so that it fits your standards of decency without diminishing its points. I’m curious as to what it is you want exactly.

  13. #13 |  mme6546 | 

    O.K., Other, I’ll take numbers one and 5 and own them completely, shall I?

    1) The trump card of personal experience: “Hey, I once benefitted personally from program _______ that you almost criticized (by implication only), so don’t do that. It’s not nice.”

    Since the main focus of the article linked to (and by extension, the post itself) was, in fact, the program I benefited from…i.e. the monies directed towards educating people about benefit eligibility…its criticism was hardly implied, nor was it “almost”. I’m not quite sure where you get the “don’t do that, its not nice” bit, but as I WAS trying to NOT say “dude, that article was a badly written biased bit of doggerel that would serve better duty in a camp outhouse,” I’ll take no issue with that. Cool beans that I managed to tone it down to that level.

    5) Plain rudeness: “Radley, I miss you.”

    How is it rude to tell Radley he is missed? This is the first site I go to every morning. The last site I check before signing off. A good barometer in this crazy world of extremes, and a damn fine place for facts.
    When I see a post that links to something so poorly written, so clearly biased, so (to quote the post previous to yours) “incredibly specious, malicious in tone, and consequently devoid of credibility to anyone who isn’t addled by partisan hatred” as the article in question,

    YES. I GET A BIT FUCKING WISTFUL FOR RADLEY BALKO.

    Telling him so, on his own blog, isnt rude. not to him, not to his guest blogger, and not to anyone else, for that matter. But by all means, Mr. Kettle….call the preceding line (written in caps, for your convenience) whatever shade of pot-black you wish.

  14. #14 |  Darryl | 

    Let me see if I have this right.

    An unstated belief (axiom if you like): Caring for the poor implies government programs.

    Therefore, if people criticize government programs for the poor, then they do not care about the poor–obviously true by the axiom.

    Time to redo Logic 101. Time to honestly check your unstated assumptions/beliefs (nearly impossible for a person to do). Time to use empirical evidence–how has the current strategy in fighting the war on poverty been working out? It has been about 50 years, right?

    Additionally–Welcome Drew.

  15. #15 |  mme6546 | 

    yea, but….its not so much the criticism of the food stamps program that bothers me…I’ve agreed to disagree on that front too many times to count…its the way educating people about their options is being characterized as something dark and nefariously sneaky….

    I mean, it seriously reads like they evil “they” from bad ole gubmint are either tricking those poor souls into food stamps, bullying them into taking food stamps, beating them about the head and shoulders with their own poverty ’til they break down and sign up in dismal defeat…

    seriously?

  16. #16 |  Other Sean | 

    Dane #11,

    I don’t care who says what or how they say it, as long I have the opportunity to respond. If they’re wrong, I’ll make them look petty, foolish, humorless, and thick. If they’re right, I’ll look like…a guy who was wrong.

    The point of Drew’s original post was fairly straightforward: “Look folks! At a time when everyone wants more and more from government, here is one tiny place where for cultural reasons the people actually want less. Naturally the government has created a training and outreach program to confront this as if it were a mental disease.”

    That’s it. That’s all that Drew was saying. That’s all he was asking you to see or understand. You don’t have to subscribe to the Daily Caller. You don’t have to get your haircut like Tucker Carlson. You don’t have to withhold any porridge from the cracked lips of Oliver Twist.

    And most of all, you don’t have to worry about how this one little blog post will impact the libertarian movement as a whole, or whether it will help you in some forlorn quest to stop your progressive friends from finding out that smaller government actually means cutting some benefits for somebody.

    All you really should do is laugh as, in this case, the government parodies itself.

  17. #17 |  mme6546 | 

    I love logic, but….
    its not so much the criticism of the food stamps program that makes this so grrrr. Its the way educating people about their options is being characterized as something dark and nefariously sneaky, the hyperbolic inflamatory tone of the original article, and not to mention the direct statement that the people being told about the programs in question are being “forced”.

    “In an attempt to squelch this refreshing sense of pride and self-worth, bureaucrats are doing all they can to force as many of these people to enroll for food stamps and other handouts as possible.”

    I mean, it reads like the evil “they” from bad ole gubmint are either tricking those poor souls into food stamps, bullying them into taking food stamps, beating them about the head and shoulders with their own poverty ’til they break down and sign up in dismal defeat…

  18. #18 |  Dane | 

    @Darryl

    I assume this is directed at me, since I was the only one who mentioned caring for the poor. Please read what I said carefully next time. I quite clearly never stated that government programs are the only way to care for the poor. What I did say (and mostly just implied, because I assumed this connection was obvious) is progressives hate libertarianism because progressives feel government programs are the only viable way to help poor people, and libertarians often criticize the existence of these programs without proposing (in their mind) viable alternatives.

    Unfortunately, posts like this one play right into their hands. It criticizes a food-stamp program because its promotion challenges the “pride” of individuals who might benefit from it but chose not to. This isn’t a very compelling reason to not have food stamp programs. Moreover, it suggests no alternatives at all, much less viable ones. So maybe it’s time to redo Reading 101.

    It’s also fairly laughable of you to suggest I look for empirical evidence that would demonstrate the effectiveness of the “war on poverty,” whatever that means. If you had any understanding of sociology and quantitative methods you would know that a study like that would be nearly impossible to produce, for a large, large number of reasons (lack of accurate available data, lack of access to that data, the impossibility of proving causality using observational data, the immeasurably large number of other variables that affect poverty rates besides government programs, the non-uniformity in which such programs are implemented– rendering a large-n study even more impractical, etc. etc. etc).

  19. #19 |  mme6546 | 

    damnit. thought I lost a post, rewrote it, liked it better, an now have both. gonna go hide in red-faced-nooooob shame now…

  20. #20 |  Pete | 

    “Why [the focus on convincing people to sign up for benefits]? Apparently when people who are eligible for receiving taxpayer-funded handouts don’t take them, it prevents even more taxpayer-funded handouts from being sent to their communities”

    This is a misinterpretation of what the USDA was explaining. The USDA was making the valid point that when people fail to sign up for benefits, they not only harm themselves economically, but they also fail to aid their low income communities by not spending the food stamps in local markets.

    #2 “These people pay the government revenues in one way or another, and they certainly should take advantage of a program that makes the difference between them and their children being healthy and nourished or not”

    It’s unlikely these folks are paying any taxes other than sales taxes (which I admit are high in Tennessee).

    That said, I must admit my admiration for the folks exhibiting “mountain pride” (my wife’s family is from East Tennessee), and my observations are that long term benefits in terms of dignity and self-confidence can outweigh the short term benefits of taking assistance.

  21. #21 |  Jay | 

    Y’all are going to spoil us with all this posting. We’re used to Bradley posting 1-2 times a day, three at the most and y’all are doing a minimum of three it seems!

    Keep it up!

  22. #22 |  Dave Trowbridge | 

    I rather like the idea of letting these people know that they can use their benefits to purchase seeds and plants for their gardens. That’s a very intelligent use of government funds.

    I agree that quoting that poltroon Sessions seems an ideological giveaway. If libertarians don’t want to be perceived as heartless goons, they shouldn’t associate with heartless goons. Simple political reality, there.

  23. #23 |  freedomfan | 

    I certainly agree that the article focused on something (the advertizing, separate from the overall questionable long-term benefit of food stamps) that, in itself is a fairly small problem. I not really miffed that the feds spend money publicizing their programs. One might even argue that the rest of government should be at least as obligated to expose how it is spending the taxpayers’ money, it might spell the end of the military giving away armored personnel carriers so that micropenile thugs in towns across the country can more effectively bully citizens and kill pets when searching for someone’s pot stash.

    But, informing is maybe about as far as the “outreach” should go. I can’t endorse the idea that the government should be advocates for participation in its various welfare programs (or other programs, for the most part). If people know the programs exist, know very basically what they are, and know how to find out more, then the government’s advertizing job is complete, without any additional persuasion. It’s not the government’s place to overcome citizens’ reticence to participate in this or that program. I don’t want “outreach” programs overcoming citizens’ reluctance to participate in the food stamp program any more than I want outreach programs overcoming citizens’ reluctance to participate in stop-and-frisk programs, any more than I want outreach programs overcoming kids’ reluctance to participate in DARE programs to turn in their parents if they see a joint at home, any more than I want outreach programs overcoming librarians’ reluctance to report people who look up books on fertilizer or Yemen.

  24. #24 |  freedomfan | 

    Dane,

    It’s also fairly laughable of you to suggest I look for empirical evidence that would demonstrate the effectiveness of the “war on poverty,” whatever that means. If you had any understanding of sociology and quantitative methods you would know that a study like that would be nearly impossible to produce, for a large, large number of reasons (lack of accurate available data, lack of access to that data, the impossibility of proving causality using observational data, the immeasurably large number of other variables that affect poverty rates besides government programs, the non-uniformity in which such programs are implemented– rendering a large-n study even more impractical, etc. etc. etc).

    I don’t intend this to be snarky, but you just outlined a pretty good reason that such programs shouldn’t exist. I mean, basically, if there is no credible way to know that the resources spent on these programs are achieving their stated purposes, why keep them around? Why favor them in the first place?

    More broadly, I often suspect that such programs get what public support they do based on the perceived good intentions of the programs’ advocates. (And because people enjoy the belief that they are being charitable by supporting such programs, not understanding that government doesn’t do charity.) But, good intentions can be (and have been) used to justify pretty much anything, including the vast majority of programs and policies that we regularly decry at this site.

  25. #25 |  BamBam | 

    @22 for the win. Programs that make people feel good but offer no proof of their effectiveness should be disbanded. Programs that forcefully take money from one and give to another should never exist to allow people to determine “does it make me feel good” or prove their effectiveness.

    Anything that exists by force, and then purports to help people, is the invisible leash known as government. The leash may not be tight around your neck now, but at some point that leash will be tightened to remind you who is to be master; it is .gov justifying its existence.

  26. #26 |  Other Sean | 

    mme6546,

    Your reply @12 was so disingenuous I probably shouldn’t respond, but I can’t help myself.

    When you spent 200 words criticizing Drew’s post and then signed off your comment with “Radley I miss you”, that was hardly an authentic gesture of warmth. You were simply invoking his name as an oblique “fuck you” to the guest blogger, by implying that his post was so far below YOUR exacting standards that you’ve already begun counting the days until Radley returns.

    But since that guest blogger is here at Balko’s own invitation, you were in fact insulting him far more than his guest.

    (When you played dumb and pretended not to have done this on purpose, you were just being rude to me. That of course is no big deal.)

  27. #27 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: Other Sean, #15:

    A couple of responses:

    “The point of Drew’s original post was fairly straightforward: ‘Look folks! At a time when everyone wants more and more from government, here is one tiny place where for cultural reasons the people actually want less. Naturally the government has created a training and outreach program to confront this as if it were a mental disease.’

    “That’s it. That’s all that Drew was saying. That’s all he was asking you to see or understand. You don’t have to subscribe to the Daily Caller. You don’t have to get your haircut like Tucker Carlson. You don’t have to withhold any porridge from the cracked lips of Oliver Twist.”

    Any arguments to that effect would have been much stronger without referring to the Daily Caller article. Drew based his post almost entirely on a single inflammatory, misleading article from a notorious partisan rag. This is a very relevant fact that diminishes the credibility of his arguments on the matters at hand. This would not have been a problem had he instead referred to a piece that was thoughtful, intellectually honest, civil in tone, and otherwise reputable and acceptable in polite society. Drew effectively shot himself in the foot by basing his own piece on that garbage, so anyone debating him is completely reasonable to take that into account and use it as a counterpoint.

    I’d also add that “withholding porridge from the cracked lips of Oliver Twist” is an apt description of what Jeff Sessions is trying to do. If I see evidence that he actually gives a damn about small government or fiscal restraint like, say, Tom Coburn or Rand Paul, I’ll reconsider, but based on everything I’ve heard about him to date, I’d say that he’s a bog-standard Republican lunatic shithead. He isn’t attacking food stamp fraud and praising poor people who decline food stamps because he cares about the fiscal health of the country; he’s doing that because he wants to impose the social control mechanisms of the Old South on the country.

    “And most of all, you don’t have to worry about how this one little blog post will impact the libertarian movement as a whole, or whether it will help you in some forlorn quest to stop your progressive friends from finding out that smaller government actually means cutting some benefits for somebody.”

    Two points: first, the incremental effect of this sort of argumentation on the libertarian is substantial. If libertarians want to be taken seriously by reasonable people of goodwill, this is not the way to accomplish it. Second, any serious attempt to cut the size of government will target big programs that are bloated with waste and fraud rather than small ones with relatively little fraud. Defense is probably the best candidate, but rarely does one hear a small-government screecher in the GOP speak an ill word about defense bloat. Instead, the focus is almost always on small programs that are of limited utility but innocuous (e.g., the NEA), that annoy Republicans by expressing dissenting views (e.g., NPR and PBS), or that actually help the poor and powerless, such as SNAP.

  28. #28 |  Andrew Roth | 

    As a general housekeeping note, I notice an odd dynamic here. Drew based one of his first posts as a guest blogger on a provably bad article and got lambasted for it, and now his defenders are claiming that his critics are wrong to criticize him and beyond the pale to argue that this particular post fell short of the usual standards at the Agitator.

    For the record, I agree with the last point. I also note that on a number of occasions in the past Radley has been savaged by the peanut gallery for making arguments that were taken as specious or disingenuous, and that as far as I know he has not censored these critiques merely for being critical of him. That is to say that I’ve seen nothing upthread (from either side, I should add) that appears to be out of line vis-a-vis historical comment standards and practices on the Agitator.

    In short, I see nothing particularly out of line in how Drew’s critics have responded on this thread, but I get the sense that some of his defenders are trying to muzzle legitimate criticism of him based on an overwrought sense of politeness, even though this post was provocative for the reasons that I and others have detailed above.

  29. #29 |  Other Sean | 

    Andrew,

    I don’t like the Daily Caller either. I’d never heard of Jeff Sessions before today, but I’m sure he’s a complete tool like you say. And I, too, would be perfectly happy if food stamps are the very last government program to be abolished when Libertopia arrives.

    But none of those things were the point of Drew’s post. The point was simply to note that government has, in this one narrow case, officially acknowledged that the values of self-reliance are obstacles to the expansion of its programs. We all know that, of course, but it’s quite something to hear it said flat out in a government published “myth-fact” pamphlet.

    (Imagine how you would feel if a Calvinist minister suddenly shouted “That’s right, you filthy sinners! We do hate fun! We do hate the thought of people having fun! Fun is the true enemy of faith” You’d be surprised not by what the minister said, but only by the clumsy manner of his self-disclosure. I think Drew’s post was supposed to have a similar effect, vis-a-vis how the state really sees and thinks about its subjects.)

    But Drew made one terrible mistake. He made a false assumption about the community here at agitator.com. He assumed we were sophisticated enough to deal with the cultural implications of his post without getting caught up in 1) ad hominems about where it came from, 2) a comparative parade of horribles that sent everybody searching for some government budget item worse than food stamps, 3) a contest to see who could care the loudest about poverty, and most absurdly 4) a movement strategy debate over whether this is really the sort of conversation we should be seen having in front of the liberals.

    Turns out he gave us too much credit, because this discussion immediately became about everything but the cultural implications of a government that identifies self-reliance as a “problem” in its internal documents.

  30. #30 |  Other Sean | 

    Andrew, on those housekeeping points:

    You’re right. There is a heavy potential for abuse in arguments that involve saying this or that is against board decorum, or this or that is contrary to the true spirit of Radleyism. Obviously that kind of thing could go back and forth to the point of absurdity.

    The truth for me is this: mme6546 is the sort of passive aggressor I hate in real life, and I just couldn’t help myself today. If Drew had already been here guest blogging for a couple of weeks, I’d have felt less impulse to respond.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that you are right in the general case.

  31. #31 |  Christopher Swing | 

    Wow, Radley’s not even gone a week and already garbage like this is showing up.

    The Agitator is too good to associate with a partisan, misleading rag like the Daily Caller.

  32. #32 |  Pete | 

    #29 (Other Sean) -“this discussion immediately became about everything but the cultural implications of a government that identifies self-reliance as a “problem” in its internal documents.

    I concur that the Daily Caller and Jeff Sessions are, errr, less than academic sources, but the main point of the article (nicely summarized by Other Sean) is nonetheless worthy of attention. And in our guest blogger’s defense, it’s unlikely that he would have come across an article commenting on this issue in media sources that are generally considered more reputable and/or less partisan.

  33. #33 |  Isaios | 

    It’s strange how the original article (i.e. the Daily Caller one) and the subsequent post here was of … very limited interest, while the discussion it SPARKED has been highly informative and interesting. I’m Norwegian, and therefore I have very little experience with Libertarianism beyond some few attempts by (European) Liberals to explain how they (Classical Liberals) are not like (American) Libertarians.

    We are a highly socialised society, and programs like this is, while not common AS programs, then integrated in the greater apparatus of the state. Anyway, I’ll not spout Social Liberalism/Democracy at you (you must be very tired of such things after the recent Supreme Court ruling one imagines), but I’d like to point out one (to me) significant detail that has so far gone unmentioned.

    The original article quotes a USDA page:

    “Our purpose is to ensure that those going through difficult times can feed their families healthy, nutritious food. By working as a team, we can accomplish these goals.”

    What is significant here is “their families”. It is one thing to refuse goverment aid due to personal pride or a sense of autarchy, that is a fine thing (yes, even from a socialist perspective), but it is quite another to refuse help for your children, yes?

    Now, before you mock me (rightfully) for using a “think of the children” argument (the which I tend to shy away from, and ridicule with some vigour), please let me elucidate my point.

    Undernourished children have slower growth, generally does poorer in cognitive tests, and develop long-lasting deficiency-based illnesses with greater frequency. It is therefore in the interest of the state and society to ensure that children are properly nourished. Prevention rather than repair(?) as it were.

    Secondly there is the point that as children do not generally have the agency to enroll in such programs on their own, their parent have an obligation to at least allow them the opportunity. While a 16 year old might have the capacity to then refuse is possible, but less so with a 2, 7 or even 12 year old.

    Lastly, using such subsidies could allow parents to cut down on work hours, and in so doing, be able to engage their children more. This in turn leading to several positive benefits, like lowering the percentage of time a child spends with peers (which is a form of intellectual insulation) or helping to shape the child morally and politically (which tends to be seen as positive or negative depending on how much the observer agrees with the parent).

    In addition to this, there is the socio-economic argument that money circulates. If the poorest have more money to spend, then those they spend the money with will in turn have more money, which they can spend on expanding, jobs or luxury goods. Essentially, more money in circulation allows for a faster cycle.

    PS: This is a rather culturally coloured reply, though I’ve tried to tone it down some. My basis is, as I said, a Social Democratic country with a significant Liberal flavour.

    PPS: Apologies in advance for any misspellings, grammatical stumbles or poor word-choices. I blame it all on socialised public schools.

  34. #34 |  Isaios | 

    And Congratulations!

    I forgot the date… *scuttles away in shame*

  35. #35 |  Juice | 

    #9 Andrew Roth

    SNAP is a small but extremely effective line item in the federal budget.

    I don’t know if I’d call $78 billion a small line item.

  36. #36 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: #33:

    In absolute terms, you’re right that it’s a large sum. It is, however, about an order of magnitude smaller than the Department of Defense budget (I don’t have time to find current budget figures right now, but I did find a figure of $683.7 billion for the 2010 authorization on Wikipedia), so I think it’s prudent to fight waste primarily in bigger appropriations. Medicare is another program much more badly in need of reform and trimming than SNAP. I’d say that moral triage is a good idea in dealing with anything as byzantine as the federal budget.

    Another point to keep in mind is that sums in the range of $78 billion are a lot less problematic for the federal government, with its tax base of over 300 million citizens, than for any of our state governments, the largest of which, California, has fewer than 40 million residents. Expenditures that would be disastrous in California can be manageable for the country as a whole.

  37. #37 |  Christopher Swing | 

    Actually, the main point of the article is based on lying about what the document in question actually said;

    “Hearing from the outreach worker that benefits could be used to purchase seeds and plants for their gardens turned out to be a very important strategy in counteracting what they described as ‘mountain pride’ and appealed to those who wished not to rely on others.”

    Letting people know that the program wasn’t simply the “handout” that Republican/Libertarian propaganda has been drilling into their heads isn’t “beating the pride” out of anyone.

    The Daily Caller is the Daily Mail (Wail) for Tucker Carlson fans. It has a track record of sensationalistic headlines used as linkbait for inaccurate, intentionally misleading stories. No one with half a brain should ever use it as a source if they want anyone else to take them seriously.

  38. #38 |  MingoV | 

    Eligibility rules for government handouts have been loosened greatly under Obama. My belief is that everyone eligible should sign up for every possible government handout program. That will force the federal and state governments to either tax more or borrow more. Soon, our governments will be so in debt that not even China will buy T-notes, T-bills, or US bonds. The super-entitlement system will collapse, the few remaining taxpayers will demand widespread reform, and we may possibly return to a saner, smaller government.

  39. #39 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    MingoV – Yes, because only a few will be alive after your apocalypse. So you won’t need much government.

    @Other Sean – In other words, anyone who disagrees with you, as usual.

  40. #40 |  Other Sean | 

    No fair, Leon.

    You know from experience that I don’t dismiss people who disagree with me. As a rule, I try never to walk away from a discussion here, even when it costs me a good deal of time and effort.

  41. #41 |  Sam | 

    MingoV: To say that food stamp eligibility has been loosened “under” Obama might be true but only because the individual states have loosened those rules — mainly by no longer using asset tests — while he happened to be in office. If you’ll remember, it was under Bush that there was a concerted push to get the eligible to sign up…

    And I hate to pile on but I’m not a devoted reader of Radley’s for this tripe. If I wanted to visit the Daily Caller, I’d do so. I really don’t think the tone of the article or what’s it’s purporting to be true fits here. While I do certainly appreciate that Mr Balko has made an effort to keep the site moving in his absence and while I have enjoyed a lot of the guest bloggers contributions, this piece feels sour to me.

  42. #42 |  mme6546 | 

    woah, dude….I have posted on here maybe 3 times total before this. so just where do you get off attributing passive aggressive tendencies?? who the hell are you to decide what I *really* mean, even tho its not what I said?!?
    you can decide it LOOKS a certain way, and chastise me for THAT, but unless you’re a card carrying member of the psychic friends network, married to Miss Cleo, or in deep with some radio active isotopes, you don’t get to tell me or anyone else that I MEANT it that way when I say otherwise!
    that’s how YOU perceived it.
    If that’s how Drew perceived it, then to him I owe an apology, but you owe me one for jumping to conclusions about my character and making accusations based on such.

  43. #43 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Other Sean,

    First, I’d like to thank you for being so civil and courteous in responding to my earlier points. All too often, online debates turn into shouting matches and smear fests.

    The thing I found most distasteful about the behavior of the social workers as described in the Daily Caller article was the appearance of condescension and immaturity, e.g., the “SNAP parties.” I consider this sort of behavior on the part of bureaucrats tangential and relatively inconsequential but still off-putting. I’m not comfortable with the administration of government programs being in the hands of juvenile, foolish officials who condescend to those they are supposed to help.

    At the same time, it’s probably a fool’s errand for people not employed or directly engaged with social services agencies to try to purge those agencies of bad attitudes. Focusing on such minor, incidental flaws in the administration of government programs distracts from much more serious problems.

    In fact, I think promoting red herrings like these is an important element of Republican propaganda strategy; if it isn’t deliberate, it’s uncannily serendipitous. Time and time again, GOP politicians and operatives have manufactured scandals by blowing minor mistakes completely out of proportion, deliberately framing things out of context, or simply making shit up. One result is that public attention is largely distracted from much more shameful and more destructive examples of fraud and corruption. One hears very little from most Republican politicians about waste and fraud in military contracting, for example. This is no accident.

    (Democrats are guilty of throwing out red herrings, too, but from what I’ve observed they aren’t nearly as adept at doing so as Republicans are.)

    Did the social workers and the USDA accidentally show the government’s true colors in their efforts to tackle “mountain pride?” Maybe. Based on what I’ve read, I’m on the fence about that. I wouldn’t want to blame their attitude on government malice when it’s entirely plausible that they were reacting to perverse structural incentives involving SNAP participation rates. I’m not convinced that they were trying to pacify a restive people in order to impose government on them. I think it’s more likely that they said and did some foolish and inappropriate things in the course of trying to administer a program that was being inadvertently thwarted by ill-conceived regulations.

    It’s worth keeping in mind that food stamps are not just handouts for no-account layabouts. If I remember correctly, a majority of Wal-Mart’s employees are either on food stamps or eligible. There is a concerted right-wing effort to bury real statistics like this under a deluge of tall tales about government sapping its citizens’ self-reliance. Jeff Sessions’ comments to the Daily Caller fell squarely into this campaign.

    I don’t think that the participants in this thread strayed off topic by focusing on the flaws in the Daily Caller article and Jeff Sessions’ controversial reputation rather than directly confronting questions of dependency versus self-reliance. This is evidence not of distractability or immaturity but of critical thinking. The people Drew highlighted as activists on food stamp reform were of provably awful character. It’s completely relevant to point this out and argue that it diminishes the credibility of the underlying arguments. To judge solely from what Drew presented, food stamp reform is the province of dishonest people of ill will. There’s every reason to be skeptical and critical of a “reform” movement that appears to be driven primarily by people of that ilk. This isn’t to say that Drew himself is motivated by any sort of malice, but that based on what he has presented his allies on this fight are a nasty and disreputable bunch.

    Reading your comment about trusting me that Sessions is “a complete tool,” it occurs to me that the Daily Caller article was even more pernicious than I had originally thought. My negative reaction to the article was driven by a familiarity with Sessions’ prior conduct in the Senate and his place in the nastier traditions of Alabama politics. Someone who had never heard of him, however, might read his comments to the Daily Caller and reasonably conclude that his motives are pure.

    This is the sort of misconception that can arise from bad journalism. What I find so pernicious is that the article in question was tailored narrowly enough to jump from the Republican fever swamp into the libertarian blogosphere. Based solely on this article, one might think that Sessions is a libertarian of sorts, which I’m pretty sure that he is not. From everything I’ve heard, he’s a bigot and an unquestioning promoter of the national security state.

  44. #44 |  Other Sean | 

    Let me also begin with some well-deserved thanks for you. You know how to put an argument together, with time and effort that shows in the finished product. If only more people…

    I agree with much of what you’ve said above. Once a program like SNAP exists, of course the people who staff that program are going to believe in it, advocate for it, even take steps to make it seem cool and fun. Part of that is public choice theory in action, but part of it is human decency at work – I mean, even those who oppose food stamps wouldn’t want to see the program administered by a cadre of brazen cynics (unless they happened to be amusing brazen cynics like Ron Swanson).

    But you’re right: one shouldn’t be shocked to find gambling in a casino, and so one shouldn’t be shocked to find welfare statism in a welfare office.

    Of course, it is the livelihood of many right-wing hacks to do precisely that. Rush Limbaugh has traded in the cheapest gotcha nonsense for years. Maybe the worst recent example is that James O’Keefe guy who tried to drum up a scandal by proving that Planned Parenthood workers are not, in fact, undercover Catholic priests deputized to enforce sexual morality in a clinical environment. A case of totally manufactured outrage that presenting banal facts as if they were important secrets.

    So I think we agree in principle, and it comes down to an application debate. This story didn’t strike as an example of a phenomena which we both abhor. I just thought it was offered in the spirit of “Hey look, they actually said IT!”

    For clarity by example: imagine if Radley posted a video of a cop saying “You know, from a police perspective, the rights of the accused are just an obstacle that slows us down.”

    That would hardly be new information for readers of this blog, and technically, it’s not even a false or outrageous statement. The rights of the accused are DESIGNED to be an obstacle to the police. But we both know that, while you and I think those rights are a necessary and desirable, the cop is implying that he disagrees. And what’s more, he’s just blurted it out. He’s said something we’ve long known most other cops to be thinking.

    Now, would it be unsporting to pile on with outrage directed specifically at this cop and that statement? Yeah, probably. Would that stop the comment gallery on this site from going into an absolute frenzy, with tons of comments on the level of “fuck the police”, “goddamn pigs”, and “just wait until we start shooting back, SWAT fags.” I think you know the answer to that question.

    But for people who believe economic freedom is the real solution to poverty, this was the equivalent of that. This was a case where flesh and blood agents of the state actually said something the state clearly believes, but habitually denies – namely, that it wishes people would just humble themselves and stop trying to get along with it’s help. The fact that the people in Appalachia actually need that help (and deserve it way more than most recipients of government grease) is not directly relevant to the intent of the original post.

    On the whole, I think you’ve brought me into agreement with you, but there are still two minor points where I take issue:

    1) I think what you call the red herring tactic is equally popular among Left and Right. For every Limbaugh or O’Keefe there seems to be a Michael Moore or a Keith Olbermann. Think of the whole “new civility” debate back in 2010; that was almost exclusively a leftist trope.

    2) The fact that you write with such clarity and class does not make me forget how nasty and hastily judgmental so many other commenters were toward a guest blogger who was posting on only his second day here. They get scorn from me in exactly the same proportion as you get my admiration and respect.

  45. #45 |  Other Sean | 

    Here’s what I meant in the paragraph fourth to last:

    “This was a case where flesh and blood agents of the state actually said something the state clearly believes, but habitually denies – namely, that it wishes people would just humble themselves and stop trying to get along WITHOUT it’s help.”

  46. #46 |  Other Sean | 

    Can’t sleep, so I have to mention two more things:

    First, even though this discussion wasn’t actually about food stamps themselves, I should note the strict free market theory is that food stamps are a crisp example of an intervention that became necessary to correct for the effects of previous bad policy…in this case, 80 years of agricultural price supports. As one economist put it: “In a world without farm subsidies, even the poorest families wouldn’t need food stamps because grocery stores would be giving away milk and bread just to get people in the store.”

    Second, I never got a chance to give my personal take of the “mountain pride” concept. For the record: As long as we live in an unfree society characterized by collusion between the middle class and the tax/regulatory state, I think poor people should grab every benefit they can get. There is no way to calculate the opportunities stolen from them by the clumsy hand of statism, so there is no clear limit to what the state owes them in moral or economic debt.

    Think of it as a bizzaro libertarian version of the Cloward-Piven strategy.

  47. #47 |  James | 

    There is empirical evidence. . . all it takes is a desire to educate oneself and 2 minutes using Google to find it.

    Poverty hovered around 15% when the War on Poverty was declared. . .

    Today, poverty hovers around. . . 15%.

    All of that money (some of it mine) wasted on a zero-sum equation. . . much like the War on (Non-Corporate) Drugs.
    When that war was declared, just under 2% of the population used “illicit” drugs – 40 years and $1,000,000,000,000 later. . . just under 2% of the population use “illicit” drugs. . .

    TANSTAAFL

    Granted, that One Trillion Dollars is a drop in the bucket when compared to the money that Big Pharma has made off the backs of people who’ve been conned into taking dangerous, toxic, and addictive manufactured chemicals over relatively harmless natural medicines. . .

    Same with the War on Poverty – it isn’t about helping anyone. . . it’s about making money for some bureaucrat or Corporate Terrorist. Conning people into becoming Perpetual Children dependent on the Nanny/Babysitter for everything is a high dollar industry.

  48. #48 |  Vanmind | 

    Of course. If you take even the slightest handout, you are pretending that a thing called government exists, when in acutality the very concept of government represents history’s most tragic case of mass psychosis — of believing in the imaginary.

    “Santa Claus always doles out the goodies, you just gotta keep believing.”

  49. #49 |  Return of the Agitator « The Honest Courtesan | 

    […] and a Food Song Edition of “Five Star Fridays”.  Drew wrote about a Tennessee government program to force poor people to take handouts they don’t want, a social experiment conducted on Facebook, Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccination campaign and a […]

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