If you eat ice cream, you must hate poor people.
Or at least, that's what one CNN writer awkwardly suggested Tuesday.
Here's a quick refresher: President Trump’s catching a lot of flack (of course) for suggesting that instead of just loading up EBT cards with taxpayer cash to help impoverished Americans buy food, the federal government should instead ship boxes of packaged food to welfare beneficiaries to eliminate waste, promote nutrition and make sure taxpayer money is going where it’s intended.
Here's how it would work, according to one report:
Instead of receiving all their food stamp funds, households would get a box of food that the government describes as nutritious and 100% grown and produced in the U.S. The so-called USDA America's Harvest Box would contain items such as shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. The box would be valued at about half of the SNAP recipient's monthly benefit. The remainder of their benefits would be given to them on electronic benefit cards, as before.
The USDA’s claiming this new method will save a ton of money, though that's dubious, at best.
I’m not here to debate the merits of Trump’s “food box” solution. It’s an interesting idea for reforming our woefully pathetic welfare system, but one that brings with it a host of questions, concerns and economic tripwires. In fact, here’s a good explainer from my friend P. Gardener Goldsmith the merits of the plan, if you’re interested.
I do take issue, however, with a recent CNN op-ed claiming this:
"Trump, who reportedly enjoys treating himself to an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner every night, proposes cutting billions in social support and health care, and delivering sad boxes of cereal and canned meat," writes Jill Filipovic for @CNNOpinion https://t.co/vDAEu5NY0Y— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2018
In the opinion piece, CNN opinion writer and leftist ranter Jill Fillipovic complains:
The supposed "pro-life" Republican Party, tellingly, backs Trump's budget, and shrugs at the reality of kids going hungry.
…To truly improve the lives of the poor, we have to lift people out of poverty, and that requires expanding the safety net, not shrinking it. Instead, Trump, who reportedly enjoys treating himself to an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner every night, proposes cutting billions in social support and health care, and delivering sad boxes of cereal and canned meat.
Except here’s the “inconvenient truth,” since liberals supposedly like those: we have been expanding it. Since the inception of our near-infinite number of welfare programs, we’ve literally done nothing but expand them. And look how well that’s worked.
Under President Obama, the number of Americans on food stamps skyrocketed from 28 million to nearly 50 million. The number of people on Medicaid and CHIP programs ballooned from 43 million to 73 million.
We began spending more than ever before on programs like SNAP, CHIP and Medicaid. In 2017, state and federal government spent an estimated record $1.15 trillion on welfare programs and subsidies for the poor, which includes things like cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, and just about anything else you can think of. Under Obama, we went from spending about $37 billion on food stamps to $74 billion (hitting nearly $80 billion in 2013).
In fact, welfare and entitlement programs make up the largest single category of spending in the federal government – even more than defense, infrastructure and education. Despite all that, our national poverty rate over the past decade has remained largely unchanged.
With nearly $21 trillion in debt, an ever-growing deficit (thanks, GOP) and a ballooning welfare population, spending God-only-knows how much more to constantly truck in locally grown tomatoes to poor communities may sound like a nice and fuzzy idea, but the math just doesn’t add up. A box of Wheaties and a bag of rice, however, might be doable. If you want tomatoes, you're welcome to work, earn, and go buy tomatoes, literally the same as anyone else.
Donald Trump may enjoy extra scoops of ice cream – who knows, don’t care. But assuming that’s true, and that it’s at all worth reporting as “news,” here’s why he gets to: because he’s made a crap ton of money and can afford extra scoops of ice cream. This is not rocket science.
But eating a bowl of Breyers that you paid for while giving uneducated minimum wage earners a free box of Kraft mac n’ cheese that they didn’t pay for isn’t the only thing Fillipovic takes issue with. It’s not just that welfare moms can’t buy buckets of zucchini and peaches, she says – it’s that they usually don’t feel like cooking and often choose not to, and must be educated on why handing little Johnny a heaping helping of Lucky Charms might not be the most nutritious option:
Many low-income parents work multiple jobs, or jobs where scheduling is at the whim of the employer, making it impossible to plan one's week, from childcare to meal plans. When your time is already stretched thin and you don't see your kids as often as you would like, of course you reach for the packaged, processed dinner rather than spending a precious hour chopping, cooking, and cleaning up.
And then there is the simple fact that junk food is one indulgence low-income parents can offer. "Next to all the things poor parents truly couldn't afford, junk food was something they could often say 'yes' to," Priya Fielding-Singh, a Stanford doctoral candidate, wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
So now the rest of America is on the platinum-coated hook for buying all this food for the millions who won’t, and making sure they cook it for their kids. Cha-ching.
(By the way, these are some of the same welfare recipients – not all, but some – who think their taxpayer-loaded food stamp cards should cover pet food for their dogs.)
This one simple fact is undeniable: we already spend insane amounts of money on welfare programs. We feed children whose parents won’t, sometimes multiple meals a day. We house people who’d otherwise be sleeping under bridges. We provide medical care for those who can’t pay for a doctor. We attempt to educate children whose dads can’t be bothered to show up at all.
And yes, we buy food for those who can’t afford it. Might it come in a can? Perhaps. It’s cheaper, easier to ship in bulk and lasts longer. And we buy it. If you want fresh vine-ripened tomatoes every day, you can go buy them.
A "safety net" for the poor and struggling is a good thing, and the mark of a compassionate society. Forever enabling those who do not work, work very little, or cannot support their own life choices by spending an infinite amount of other people’s money to buy them anything they want or need, however, is not a safety net.
It is generational poverty. is not compassionate.
And it. Does. Not. Work.