Volatility

October 9, 2010

Negativity and Affirmation: Food Stamps, Soda, Farmers’ Markets

Filed under: Food and Farms, Freedom, Land Reform, Nietzsche, Relocalization — Russ @ 2:43 am

 

By doing we forego. – I abhor all those moralities which say: “Do not do this! Renounce! Overcome yourself!” But I like those moralities which urge me to do something and keep doing it, from morning till evening, and then to dream of it at night, and to think of nothing except doing this well. When one lives like that, one thing after another that does not belong to such a life drops away. Without hatred or aversion one sees this take its leave today and that tomorrow, like yellow leaves that at any slight stirring of the air depart from the tree. We may not even notice this leave-taking; for our eye is riveted to the goal – forward, not sideward, backward, downward. What we do should determine what we forego; by doing we forego – that’s my principle. But I do not wish to strive with open eyes for my own impoverishment. I don’t like negative virtues – virtues whose very essence it is to negate and deny oneself something.

 
.       -Nietzsche, The Joyful Science, section 304.
 
New York City wants to ban the use of food stamps for soda and other beverages which are nothing but sugared water. This is supposed to be a measure to fight obesity and encourage better nutrition among food stamp users.
 
The architects of this proposal may have some such thoughts. But the real nature of this also involves the paternalism of how allegedly stupid the poor are, that they don’t even know how to eat, and the bullying moralizing of, “my tax dollars are paying for that, so they shouldn’t be drinking soda with it!” This negative morality and the negative policy (bans, restrictions, limits) which follows from it is a value in itself. It’s one of the reasons liberals are who they are – elitists who want various forms of public assistance programs, but always in the form of nickels and dimes with the recipient liable to endless sermonizing and the petty harassment of restrictions like this.
 
Obesity is a significant problem, and the poor do tend to have poor eating habits. The reason for this, however, has nothing to do with any alleged turpitude. It’s because junk food loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, like soda, is artificially cheap because of the massive subsidies Big Corn receives. Domestic sugar is also a major corporate welfare recipient in the form of subsidies and tariffs, though not as much as corn. by contrast real produce is relatively expensive. So when you’re poor and hungry and your “society” denies you the ability to grow food or otherwise work for it, but does give you a niggardly stipend in the form of food stamps, unfortunately your most rational calorie-maximization option may be to use it for junk food.
 
Meanwhile the same people who are so sanctimonious about their tax dollars being used for food stamp soda are far less likely to yell about their tax dollars subsidizing industrial corn production, even though that massive welfare program is the reason soda is so much cheaper than fruit and vegetables. How much of the bullying mindset goes into that decision on what to focus on, who to bash?
 
More importantly, regardless of the merits of this particular restriction, this is yet another example of the way people see a problem, claim to want a solution, and their knee-jerk response is always negative policy, negative morality. We can only get there through fighting against something, not by starting with fighting for something. We can only ban something, not build something affirmative.
 
In this case the problem is said to be that food stamps are being used to buy junk food. The problem is bad nutrition among the poor. A more accurate way of expressing these is that when you’re on food stamps produce is relatively expensive, and it’s often hard to find anyway. And even where farmers’ markets are accessible, few of them are set up to accept food stamps.
 
Faced with this probelm, what does affirmative morality and affirmative policy say? The solution is to increase access to good food, and render it more affordable. While the big picture does demand a negative policy, it’s not to nitpick the poor, but instead to get rid of crop subsidies. (And the bigger, affirmative goal there is to transform the land dispensation so that farmers can make a living without subsidies and becoming mere functions of Big Ag.)
 
At the more micro level we’re discussing here, the affirmative solution is to expand food stamp usage at farmers’ markets. The first hurdle here is the transportation issue. Then there’s the fact that it requires expensive machinery to swipe the card. And finally there remains the relative cost discrepancy. In response to these challenges some markets have organized bus service. They’ve found ways to either procure the machines or find alternative ways the stamps can be redeemed for some other currency which can then be used at the market. Matching dollar programs help make good food as economically accessible as the bad.
 
Those are a few possibilities. Of course in the long run we need a complete transformation of the food production and delivery system, and this in turn means Land Reform, which means lots of other things….And it’s all toward the affirmative goal of living better, living as human beings. This includes eating better.
 
So we can see how picayune is Bloomberg’s typical elitist-liberal-technocrat proposal. It fixes nothing and is meant to fix nothing. At best it’s another wretched little tinkering amid total catastrophe. More likely it’s real purpose is to add insult to injury. First they steal and impoverish, and then when they deign to sprinkle down a few crumbs, they make the miserable recipient listen to a lecture and jump through a hoop.
 
“My style is affirmative and deals with contradiction and criticism only as a means, only involuntarily,” Nietzsche reminds himself in the midst of his terrific rant on education in Twilight of the Idols. (N’s discussion there seems topical in today’s America although he’s writing about 19th century German schools.) It’s easy to see how we too are tempted to forget ourselves amid such disgusting enemies, who are so relentless and at the same time so paltry, mean, and ugly in their crimes. It’s hard to be affirmative in the face of their scabrous negativity, and not reciprocate petty meanness for petty meanness.
 
But I try to keep my thoughts on the wing, and I try to be affirmative, thinking and fighting for what’s good and right, not hating on what’s rotten. That’s why relocalization activism is such a fruitful opportunity for us all. It’s what we need to do, it’s the road to the goal of our human redemption. But it’s not only the means to this end, it’s also this end in itself. Freedom isn’t just an end state you fight for and win, like a piece of ground. Most of all freedom is won in the very act of doing and fighting.
 
A place like a farmers’ market, or the farm, or a craftsman’s shop, is the place of living the freedom which is the means and end of all we do. So we should look to this act, and a way of life based on the act, as the basis of affirmative living and thinking. And this affirmative tense must suffuse all that we advocate and demand. There’s always the goal, and if some obstacle is in the way, that’s just an occasion, and overcoming it is merely a derivative of the goal.
 
Anyone who lives this way will find that the way of life itself becomes the goal embodied, every day, every hour. Freedom realizes itself through the struggle for it. In the end, we attain humanity in no other way than by living as human beings.
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24 Comments

  1. I agree with lots you have stuck here.
    In fact.. I like the Nietzsche quote because I came up with Nietzsche’s ideas without having read Nietzsche. You are contributing to educating me without my having to drag Nietzsche out. Lazy me, right ? 😉
    This occasionally gets me into trouble because “people” say.. but WHY haven’t you read Nietzsche, for example, or somebody else, and I think and sometimes say.. “but why read Nietzsche when we have come up with the same ideas ?? Why not read somebody RADICALLY DIFFERENT to really challenge me ??
    The Nietzsche quote, by the way is probably an indirect or direct attack on… the LAW, and you probably know this. The LAW (ten commandments, or any other law..) is phrased negatively.
    I had an almost impossible time trying to tell some of my American friends that THE BIGGEST DISADVANTAGE of the law is that it AFFIRMS what it is prohibiting, and then sticks a cute little negative in front of it.
    Look : do not KILL
    Pretty obvious what is going on, huh ?
    The LAW puts a horrible strain on that little NEGATIVE, that is JUST A LITTLE ABSTRACT WORD, basically, and just can’t hold a candle to what it’s supposed to prohibit. If you really don’t want people doing stuff, you NEVER (lol.) suggest in ANY WAY OR FORM WHAT you don’t want them to do.
    I still tend to think that you are idealizing the poor and the downtrodden. More than I, that’s for sure.
    As a maîtresse de maison on a dwindling budget, I can tell you THAT IF YOU START FROM SCRATCH, you can whip up a meal in 15-20 minutes without murdering your pocketbook.
    So, I would say that… there is a generalized slothfulness that cuts across the board and hits the entire population of the Western world (regardless of class…), which has unlearned how to work in a meaningful manner (PARTICULARLY unlearned how to work IN THE HOME/HOUSE. For evident reasons. I am NOT a rabid feminist from the 1970’s…)
    As for “credit” cards OF ANY TYPE on the farmer’s market I say… WHOAH, there. Nice idea, but those cards that you swipe are DEMATERIALIZED money, and THAT is probably the biggest part of what has brought us to the edge in the first place. So.. food stamps that work on a credit basis ARE NOT A GOOD IDEA. In my book.
    The farmer’s market is a place where people are not grubbing for pennies. They can… EXCUSE a few pennies, and even WAIT UNTIL NEXT TIME to get paid. In France at least. That’s why they are so important. Because the people who are WORKING on them are much less INDEBTED TO THE SYSTEM than elsewhere, and there is much less money idolatry on the market than elsewhere.
    And the voluntary servitude problem is one of the biggest facing “the poor and downtrodden”.
    Feeling like.. they don’t have the RIGHT to be educated or cultivated.
    Feeling like they don’t have the right is a major inhibiting factor. It leads to.. populism, and DUMBING ONESELF DOWN, and then conveniently pinning it on “the system”.
    So… let’s not demonize the descending (upper) middle class which points its fingers at the poor.
    One of the only ways that powerless people have to feel less powerless is to.. go dump shit on the person who is one notch below on the totem pole.
    Even.. the poor themselves are NOT ABOVE this kind of behavior. In fact I would say from experience that they tend to practice it with a vengeance.
    I sure wish they were above it… it would be convenient for me to believe…
    Back to Nietzsche, I STILL say that my favorite commandment is “Love thy neighbor”.
    And it’s so.. ECONOMICAL too. Gotta appreciate that, huh ??

    Comment by debra — October 9, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    • When I first started reading Nietzsche many years ago it was immediately like discovering a soul mate.

      By now I no longer agree with his spiritualized cult of aristocracy, but I find that if I transpose his ideas on spiritual and intellectual creators to expression about producers in general (producers with political self-respect and the will to fight, that is), then almost everything he says can be redeemed for anarchism. (Which is ironic, since one of the inferior elements of his writing is his intermittent attacks on political radicals, for whom he used “anarchist” as a catch-all term. He was basically ignorant about economics and politics and didn’t want to know about them.)

      I touched on that in this comment from a week ago:

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/the-tarp-is-dead-long-live-the-tarp/#comment-2907

      I didn’t say anything about credit cards in the post. I wrote about food stamps. They aren’t a pile of paper “stamps”. Today you get a card which functions just like a credit card, but it’s not something which runs up debt, but rather debits the recipient’s balance. I guess you didn’t know that.

      Comment by Russ — October 9, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

      • No, I didn’t know that.
        But I’ve been watching the way the health care crisis is playing out in France.
        About 5 years ago, the government got into a Faustian dilemma : GIVE the people those little plastic cards which they present at the pharmacy, and which insure that NOT ONE PENNY of REAL filthy lucre changes hands. Those cute little plastic cards have PERSONAL information on them that is hooked up into a computerized data base, of course.
        So… at the same time the government, which is fighting tooth and nail for TOTAL CONTROL over the health care system (you know how i feel about monopoly of THIS sort…), and TOTAL KNOWLEDGE about its citizens’ health and personal information HAS TO ACCEPT THE PIDDLING DISADVANTAGES OF TOTAL CONTROL.
        Piddling disadvantage number 1 : exploding costs linked to the FACT that when you dematerialize money in such a way that people are not DIRECTLY paying it out of their pocketbooks (even if it’s reimbursed later…) money loses REALITY for them.
        And consumption explodes. And the COSTS of health care explode too, in consequence.
        It’s breathtakingly logical, you know.
        Anybody who slept through psychology 101 could have figured THIS ONE out.
        But no… THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TOTAL CONTROL over its citizens…
        With a lame duck apology of doing what’s best for us FOR OUR OWN GOOD to justify it.
        Piddling disadvantage number 2 : a dismally infantilized citizenry that is waiting to be wiped at every corner, and is pathetically afraid of using its neurons.
        Those are MAJOR DISADVANTAGES THERE.
        And they are NOT good for democracy.
        Hey.. I think we are starting to find some common ground on your blog. About time, huh ?

        Comment by debra — October 9, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  2. The Toporowski piece needled me.
    First critique : “the past” is really rather vague. VERY VAGUE, even.
    I didn’t read all the way through it. Stuff like that bores me very quickly. Give me Nietzsche (or something as substantial..) or give me death.
    And I am certainly someone who suffers from thinking AND thinks from suffering.
    Sometimes life throws you a lead casket and when you open it up, the TREASURE is inside, huh ?
    From what you’re saying about Nietzsche in your link there, we MIGHT find some common ground on aristocracy, eh ? From MY perspective on aristocracy, that is.

    Comment by debra — October 9, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

    • Well, we at least share opposition to the existing system.

      But I don’t recognize any aristocracy, and I don’t want any.

      Comment by Russ — October 10, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  3. Very mixed feelings here.

    Bloomberg is a curious figure. He is absolutely a paternalist, but much of what he’s done on these health issues seems reasonable to me. Smoking banned in bars in 2002. Calorie information posted in chain restaurants in 2008. I’m glad for both of these.

    As far as this initiative goes, I don’t see the veiled hatred of the poor that pretty much any other Republican who might’ve proposed this would’ve displayed. I think this really IS a measure to help lower-class malnourished people, of which there are many. At least, as it’s portrayed it doesn’t seem like yet another cudgel with which to beat the poor.

    Another possible way of thinking about this: they’re Food Stamps, not Garbage Stamps, and their use should never have been extended to things that aren’t nutritious in the first place.

    It’s a tough situation. We can expand farmers’ markets, but there are certain areas farmers just don’t want to go through.

    Take a look at this map:
    http://www.grownyc.org/files/gmkt/map.pdf

    See that vastly underserved area in (you’re not from around here I think, so we’ll just call it) Northeast Brooklyn? That’s the area that needs better nutrition options the most. But so far as I know there’s no groundswell of support for new markets here among either of the farmers or citizens.

    (Also note from the map that all the farmers’ markets in the outer boroughs DO in fact take food stamps.)

    I guess my point here–which is much smaller than the one you’re trying to make, and ironically much more local, as I’m focusing only on NYC here–is that this is a top-down, paternalistic measure, and that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ideally we’d prefer to see solutions come from the people themselves, but in this instance I really don’t see how it harms anyone in health or dignity, and it might very well do some good.

    Comment by jimmy james — October 9, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    • I refrained from passing judgement on the thing itself. Under a less criminal system maybe it might make some intrinsic sense. But by now I think we always need to look at the big picture and reject all negative policies as misdirection. We simply should not ever judge them out of context. Now that’s bad nutrition for us.

      So there’s another reason to always demand the affirmative.

      Thanks for that map. I know it’s hard to get farmers’ markets into all the places they need to go, just as it’s hard to transport poor people to the ones which do exist. The point of my post was that these are the real problems, and solving these is also the solution to the nutritional problems advocates of the policy are claiming to want to solve. But the negative policy in itself, just like most others, treats only the symptom and not the underlying condition.

      (It’s on account of that and much of the accompanying rhetoric that I also brought up the poor-bashing motivation. I have no idea if Bloomberg personally, consciously wants to bash the poor or not. I know he’s no Giuliani, at least in hateful demeanor.)

      If I were you I’d be a lot more suspicious of Bloomberg’s seemingly kinder, gentler wielding of the neoliberal knife. People already clamored for him to run as an Independent in 2008. Imagine the clamor in 2012.

      Just what we need – that kind of drain on anti-system energy. As if Bloomberg’s not a system criminal.

      Comment by Russ — October 10, 2010 @ 8:09 am

  4. This is an interesting subject. I hate those kind of drinks but I don’t want to take a position just based on whether I like or not the thing being banned.

    Isn’t the fundamental problem here the food stamps themselves? Aren’t they just a top-down paternalistic ploy by the elite to create dependence?

    What is the anarchistic approach to state provided welfare in general?

    Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 10, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    • Odd that you mention dependance.
      “The poor” have this much over “the rich” that THEY at least are painfully aware of their STRUCTURAL EXISTENTIAL dependance as living beings on this earth.
      “The rich” are at a disadvantage there.
      But then… our “liberal” society is living one big lie on the question of dependance (read the possibility of cooperating and interconnectedness in this word) and its impossible idol, “independance”.

      Comment by Debra — October 10, 2010 @ 11:34 am

      • good point about dependence and “independence”.

        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 10, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

    • None of these kinds of benefits are sufficient to create dependence. Recipients still struggle tremendously.

      Things like inheritance, trust funds, corporate welfare, etc., on the other hand……

      The elites no doubt consider them an opiating ploy, but that’s no reason any recipient can’t use them constructively.

      I don’t know if there’s an established anarchist position on this, but to me it’s obvious. Take whatever you can rightfully get and use it to help yourself and your people. In this case, the hungrier you are, the less effective you’re likely to be on behalf of yourself or anybody else.

      As for what’s rightfully gotten, this government has stolen every cent it extracts, so it’s not possible to wrongfully take anything from it, unless you fraudulently take something earmarked for those even poorer than you.

      Comment by Russ — October 10, 2010 @ 11:56 am

      • this government has stolen every cent it extracts, so it’s not possible to wrongfully take anything from it

        Take whatever you can rightfully get and use it to help yourself and your people

        What worries me is that these two sentences also exactly describe the moral (or lack there of) of the wealthy elite. Fight fire with fire I suppose.

        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 10, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

      • I reject false equivalences.

        The government of course steals on behalf of the rich, as they know well. When they engage in anti-government rhetoric they’re simply lying.

        Nevertheless, since by now this government is a terminal kleptocracy which will never again do anything significant but help them and hurt us, we too must accept and engage in the anti-government attack as well. But we’re not lying about it.

        Same for rightfully getting – the rich say that, and of course they lie. For them, “rightfully” getting simply means any means of getting.

        So while I may support fighting fire with fire in some contexts (though I can’t think of any immediately), this isn’t one of them. Here our interest requires us to truthfully and sincerely say and do as the criminals have falsely said and done.

        Comment by Russ — October 10, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

      • Foods Stamps by their very nature are paternalistic devices based on the assumption that if you give regular old money to the poor, they will just spend it on crack, beer, or ho’s instead of feeding their children. There is a similar idea behind Section 8.

        In Europe, in contrast, the poor are just given money.

        So it seems quite normal under these conditions, to further define what the poor can buy with food stamps, since that is by definition what food stamps do anyway.

        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 11, 2010 @ 1:24 am

      • That’s part of it, no doubt. The program is rendered politically more palatable by making it a food stamp rather than another generic welfare check. So in that sense this restriction is certainly “normal”, which means nothing regarding the merits of it.

        There’s also corporatism involved in it. The Food Stamp program is part of the Farm Bill. That was primarily the result of political backscratching: Rural state Big Ag representatives and urban poor representatives made a deal to support one another’s programs.

        But it’s also that making it a dedicated food program means that some of that money comes back to Big Ag anyway. Indeed, this kind of restriction must look like a double-cross to Big Corn. “We had a deal. How can you turn around and use it as the occasion to attack HFCS?”

        Comment by Russ — October 11, 2010 @ 6:36 am

      • Are you familiar with the work of Alice Waters from Berkeley? She certainly revolutionized the eating habits of the bourgeoisie of the Bay Area, and for the last decade or so has been trying to do the same in intercity schools. I have not heard much recently if thess moves are making any headway. If she could just be half as successful in the intercity as she was in the City then that would make a huge difference.

        Comment by kevin de bruxelles — October 11, 2010 @ 8:46 am

      • I know of her but I don’t know much of the details on what she’s doing now. (Except that they say she made quite an impression at the White House when the Obamas first came in.)

        Comment by Russ — October 11, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  5. Here’s a good article on the subject, giving a broad overview and ending up making the same point I did.

    http://civileats.com/2010/10/08/banning-soda-for-food-stamps-raises-tough-questions/

    Consider this. While nationally food stamp recipients are spending $4 BILLION per year on soda, in 2009, only $4 MILLION of food stamps were redeemed at farmers markets. This difference is shaped by the fact that USDA has not equipped farmers markets with free debit card terminals (which are needed to accept food stamp benefits), and prohibited federal nutrition education programs to promote farmers markets. Does this mean the Department of Agriculture values soft drinks one thousand times more than farmers markets?

    Mayor Bloomberg has proposed only half the solution. USDA should grant him the waiver he requests if and only if New York City agrees to redirect the $75-$135 million that would have otherwise been spent on soda to programs that encourage food stamp recipients to purchase locally grown foods at farmers markets, community supported agriculture farms, and other community-oriented venues.

    Comment by Russ — October 11, 2010 @ 9:08 am

    • Don’t take this the wrong way, but that post also makes the same mistake you did: talking about generalities when the specifics of New York City are already much as you’d want them.

      What, specifically, does that poster want? To be able to use food stamps at farmers’ markets. Well that’s already done… so what’s the issue?

      Comment by jimmy james — October 11, 2010 @ 11:01 am

      • My post was about generalities and used NYC as an example.

        I’d have to go back and reread to make sure, but I think that article does the same.

        Nationwide only 25% of farmers’ markets can accept food stamps, according to the link in the OP. If NYC has a much better record than that, that’s good. It may even be an argument in favor of Bloomberg.

        But like I said, the point of the post isn’t to criticize the Bloomberg policy in itself, but to criticize the mindset behind it, when the real solution heads in a totally different direction.

        And as you said and the map shows, there’s a large uncovered area where I assume there are many people on food stamps. The markets aren’t there, and I’d bet there’s no easy or even moderately difficult way for people to get to them.

        So that’s the real problem that needs affirmative solution, not the feel-good-by-being-punitive restriction which isn’t going to help much if people don’t have better alternatives.

        Let me be clear if it wasn’t already, that my project is opposed to all trickle-downism (including food stamps) where that’s advertised as the sufficient “solution”, the way liberals want things.

        The real solution to all these problems is the one that encompasses them all: We need to transform the economy and society so that people do well producing for and managing themselves.

        Then all of this would be moot.

        But for the time being, if people are going to argue about the best mechanisms of relief, I want to advocate steps which at least head in the right direction, even if they’re still within the realm of trickle-down reformism.

        That’s the basic idea behind this post.

        Comment by Russ — October 11, 2010 @ 11:32 am

  6. You’re missing the point on the food stamp issue, which goes MUCH FARTHER than touching the poor.
    The plastic cards… are PATERNALISTIC and INFANTILIZING for EVERYBODY, and not just the poor. ALL the plastic cards…
    They are very responsible for much of the concentration, and centralization that we’re griping about.
    We can moan on and on about abuses, but until we get rid of ALL THOSE PLASTIC CARDS, there will not be radical change.
    I agree with Kevin about the food stamp issue : in Europe people get MONEY, not food stamps, and getting food stamps is already a veiled punitive attitude along the lines… FUCKING POOR, we’re going to punish you for being poor, and JUST IN CASE you might want to go out and blow your money on alcohol and cigarettes… (can you imagine how a RICH PERSON would react if somebody pointed a finger at HIM and went tsst tsst about smoking or drinking ??), we’re going to MAKE SURE that you CAN’T DO WHAT YOU WANT with OUR money (no gratuity, no grace there..).
    No. You gotta buy one hundred percent food with that money.
    A while ago I told my friends on my home blog that basically I see little difference between a society where THE GOVERNMENT hands out care (oops, gives access to “rights”) and one in which INSURANCE hands out care. People.. are still getting “cared for”.
    But.. it isn’t GRACEFUL, COMPASSIONATE care. It’s busy, efficient, GRACELESS pseudo punitive “Protestant” care.
    Yuccky.

    Comment by Debra — October 11, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    • I’m not sure who you’re arguing with. I just made it clear again that I oppose all trickle-downism.

      But this post wasn’t about that. For purposes of this post, I was taking things “as they are” and saying “What’s a better way of looking at that? What’s a better way of thinking and doing?”

      Since you insist on debating the tactical level here, I don’t see any point in fighting over the details of particular relief programs. I reckon those who are eligible for them are glad they exist, given these increasingly vicious circumstances. So I’d say let’s take them as they are, and where necessary fight to improve, or more likely to preserve, them.

      (To once again put the Obamas in proper perspective, the money for Michelle’s touted anti-obesity program is slated to come from cutting food stamps. And of course that money will just go mostly to corporate “consultant” and “educational program” con artists. So once again it’s class war from above, wealth redistribution upward, even at the most meager nickel-and-dime level. The breadth and at the same time the fundamental meanness of these crimes is simply astounding.)

      But I’d put the bulk of my effort into trying to build a transformational movement, the core actions and educational efforts of that.

      So therefore I’m content with things like food stamps as they are, except insofar as they’re under attack. Of course they’re set up to be demeaning, but that’s why citizen educators should teach why recipients should not find them demeaning. I’d hope someone might read a post like this and say, “There’s a new world we can strive to build, and the fact that for the moment I receive trickle-down assistance from the same criminals who stole my opportunities to work to feed myself is no reason to feel bad about myself. Instead, I’ll focus on the work that can be done toward recovering those opportunities.”

      (And my attitude toward cards, if I haven’t said it explicitly before, ought to be inferrably obvious. I wish no such thing existed. But the physical form of the card isn’t the point here.)

      Comment by Russ — October 11, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

  7. In Brazil they just give the poor money; the only condition is to send their kids to school. Yes the poor are much poorer than here, but there is a Worker’s Party in power and it makes a huge difference in attitude – whatever the compromises it has made. The U.S does not have a worker’s party, it has dueling factions of Capital and the peasants have to decide which gun is the biggest.

    The U.S. is a hopeless joke when it comes to social policy, the rest of the world has long passed us by, and this will inevitably show up in ‘growth’ numbers even as the decline in imperial power is not even in question.

    Comment by purple — October 12, 2010 @ 2:28 am

    • Attitude makes a big difference.

      Building political self-confidence is a major part of the task. That’s one thing the frigging “progressives” refuse to understand – that fighting hard for a strong demand feeds on itself in a virtuous circle of building confidence, even if some fights are lost, while caving in every time, for crumbs or more likely for fake crumbs, plunges people into the vicious circle of demoralization and self-degradation.

      Comment by Russ — October 12, 2010 @ 3:29 am


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