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Food Stamps Feel A Lot Classier On A Credit Card

Topics: Lifestyle & Culture | 4 CommentsBy admin | January 8, 2010

One in eight Americans is benefitting from food stamps. Are you one of them? Would you be if you had to?

I joke sometimes about being a socialist, but in reality, I’m the type of person who’s more inclined to work within the system I’m born into. Since I was born in one of the most capitalism-obsessed nations on Earth, and raised in an intellectual, bleeding heart liberal college community, I’ve always had an odd mix of values. I’ve never applied for “welfare” of any kind, including unemployment (okay, 3 months when I was 18!), food stamps, or other kinds of assistance, but I think “the poor” are entitled to such help. In the past, I’ve always found it easy to balance these vaguely conflicted values, mainly because the overall economic situation in the states made it possible for me to go get some kind of work in thin times. I think a lot of “average” Americans feel the same way, but recently I was surprised to find that several “average” friends of mine were using something I’d never heard of to defray expenses: a Michigan Bridge Card. Suddenly being broke seemed a lot less shameful to me. Somehow “defraying expenses with a bridge card” sounds a lot better than “buying hot dogs with food stamps“. And apparently this is a national trend; the New York Times has a whole series called The Safety Net, where I ran across this interactive map that made me realize that in the county I live in (home to the relatively prestigious University of Michigan), one in ten people are collecting food stamps. This kind of blew me away, and when I add that to my ongoing ire over the secretive bailouts of billionaire bankers and the impending commercial real estate crash , I start thinking a little differently. As a self-employed person, I made some financial mis-steps over the last couple of years that I’ve struggled to bounce back from. I’m sure this is the basis for my anger about bank bailouts; no one came along to bail ME out and wipe the credit slate clean. But maybe it’s time to revise my strategy. I mean the NYT is literally advising us that walking away from our mortgages is okay. So why shouldn’t we “strategically default” and go on government support? How about you? Are you struggling? Would you accept government assistance if you were? Let’s not forget that the banking industry did, and they’re money experts!

Read Comments

  1. Posted by TeacherPatti on 01.08.10 10:10 pm

    I didn’t know what those were either, until I worked legal aid years ago. I think they may be some kind of debit card, too, b/c once I was at that party store by the Ann-Ashley parking garage and the woman in front of me somehow used it to buy beer. The guy behind the counter asked if it was her ATM and she said, “Bridge” and he said “You can’t use that for beer” and she said something about how you use it as cash. I don’t want you to think I’m a bad person Ian, but that pissed me off to no end. No way should one use tax payer money for beer, even craft beer (which this wasn’t).

  2. Posted by Stella on 01.09.10 8:27 am

    As another self employed person I find my income is too convoluted to be willing to go through what I would have to to get bridged. Last years taxes frequently have jack all to do with the money that’s coming in right now. But I do resort to the foodbank on occasion. Plus I can tell you that JC and my friend I live with, were only offered 10 bucks a month on bridge, and they are/were people living on disability which is basically 700-800. So….

  3. Posted by TeacherPatti on 01.09.10 11:25 am

    $10?!?! WTF?! That’s insulting! I’m afraid that part of the problem is there’s much abuse that people who really need them don’t get them :(

  4. Posted by admin on 01.09.10 3:44 pm

    So this whole thing has actually given me serious thoughts about my approach to finance, as dramatic as that may sound. I could never quite put my finger on what angered me so much about the bank bailouts and bonuses, aside from the obvious basic “unfairness” of it all. But as I’ve pondered things like fictitious capital and the whole idea of capitalism as what it fundamentally is, i.e.: a “social contract”, I find it harder and harder every day to think the same way about my work, the revenue it generates, and why I’m being taxed on it. I mean, my business technically “failed” last year, and no-one was there to bail me out. THAT is capitalism. I can work under that arrangement, but not if the people who make money by simply holding my money aren’t held to the same standards. So I’m either starting a bank, or looking at the many alternatives. Watch this space, as they say.