Wednesday, August 4, 2010



This morning’s Chicago Sun-Times reports that a record 786,162 Illinois households are now participating in the food stamp program, now euphemistically referred to as the SNAP program. Marielle Sainvilus, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Human Services, gushes

A lot of the stigma is starting to go away with one out of every six Americans on SNAP benefits. More and more are applying, from seniors to students to middle class families.”

How wonderful is that? No one should feel the least bit bad about taking a handout from their fellow taxpayers, many of whom are facing their own struggles, and we are legally responsible for all those newly non-stigmatized at the federal trough.

I realize that people need help, maybe just once, maybe from time to time. But shouldn’t there be at least a little bit of stigma attached to not being able to support one’s self and family and thus relying on the forced “generosity” of the taxpayers, many, maybe most, of whom would rather die than bear the ignominy of having to take a handout? Shouldn’t there be at least sufficient stigma that, even when one has no alternative and must turn to food stamps, one will do everything in one’s power to get back on one’s feet and thus no longer need, or even want, to be on such a program? Or are we being told that one should be proud to be perpetually dependent on others for the necessities of life?

I also realize that we are indeed responsible for the welfare of our fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters and children of God. That is why charities exist and that is why we should all be overly generous to charities that help people with the necessities of life and that at least try to put people on a path toward being able to no longer be dependent on the charity of others, many of whom are having a hard time putting food on their own tables. Charities can make demands on the recipients of their, and our, largesse. Those demands, in any well run charity, involve helping people to help themselves. Such efforts deserve our support.

The government, though, apparently can’t make such demands but, instead, tells people that there is no shame in being dependent. A limited food stamp, and more general, welfare, program is necessary and commendable in a civilized and compassionate society. But a welfare system that its “beneficiaries” see as a way of life is contemptible in such a society.

Okay, so I’m old-fashioned, curmudgeonly, and perhaps a bit misanthropic, but not as misanthropic as I have been, and will be, called when I express opinions such as the above. But our country, and our world, is in big trouble, and not just fiscal trouble, when people are being taught that there is no shame, indeed, a measure of pride, in extracting the fruits of the labor of others.

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