Eating like a poor person: Why are rich politicians so baffled by simple grocery shopping
08.21.2013
09:42 am

Topics:
Class War
Economy
Politics

Tags:
poverty
hunger

breadline
 
Politicians, many of whom have probably never met anyone on food stamps in real life, played a fun game over the summer.

The SNAP Challenge!

As of May more than 47 million Americans are on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, what we used to call “food stamps”). The program was not originally designed to provide an individual’s or family’s entire food budget. It is supposed to provide supplemental money for food, in addition to other income from work, pensions, child support, or government benefits (unemployment, disability, Social Security, SSI). However, 20% of people on SNAP (almost 10 million people) rely on it alone to buy groceries.

Democrats started the #snapchallenge over the summer to show how difficult it is already for this 20% of our nation to get by and make a real-life point about why SNAP cuts are a bad idea. They ate on $4.50 a day, using the average SNAP payment for one person of $133.44 per month. Journalists from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette joined them but were allowed to budget $6 a day.

A family of four could receive up to a maximum benefit of $668 in SNAP per month for food. According to the USDA’s Food Plans, updated in June, for a family of four (a couple with two children between 6-8 and 9-11 years old) SNAP benefits are slightly more than the USDA “Thrifty Plan” of $632 per month. The “Liberal Plan” is $1250 a month for the same family.

The USDA does have somewhat decent resources, including a list of cheap recipes to enable recipients to plan meals around the food one can afford, searchable by dollar amount, and ponderous, somniferously dull Dietary Guidelines. This is useful for SNAP users with access to computers and internet access, probably at their nearest library branch, which is hopefully within walking distance or on the same bus line as a grocery or dollar store.

For a family of four including teen-agers, I suspect that surviving on $632 would be possible only if they also raised chickens, had a large vegetable garden, and at least one actively extreme-dieting family member subsisting on protein shakes and cotton balls dipped in orange juice.

Massachusetts’ Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Stacey Monahan did the challenge for a week. She told WCVB:

Yesterday I had my last apple. And I was really anxious about that. If this were my way of life for more than just a week, I can see how that would be really difficult. A lot of people that utilize SNAP run out of their benefits by the third week in the month.

Unfortunately a lot of Democrats – however good their intentions were with this challenge – are clearly not used to grocery shopping for themselves. They made themselves look foolishly out of touch with people living in poverty. Instead of buying in bulk, shopping at a farmer’s market, making a lot of food and freezing it in portions for future meals, they pulled idiot moves like buying expensive Boca Burgers (Rep. Mark Pocan), grated cheese, non-seasonal fruit, one (!) presumably free-range egg dipped in gold for $1.08 (Donald M. Payne, Jr.), and—preposterously—setting foot in Whole Foods (children’s health advocate Matthew J. Wright).

Fitness and nutrition blogger Lisa Johnson used the USDA “Thrifty Plan” in 2012 ($491.10 for 30 days in her case, which is 30% higher than SNAP), and shopped only at Whole Foods in an attempt to prove that if you really, really try, you can feed your family healthy organic food near the poverty line. When she succeeded, Whole Foods agreed to reimburse her for the month’s expenses. She asked the company to donate the amount to a local food bank instead.

Lisa wrote:

Throughout the 30 days I kept thinking of families who were living at or below the poverty level trying to feed everyone. It was such a struggle for us even though we had done our homework and only had to do it for one month. I can’t imagine what the grind feels like after months or years of living like this.

If you’re on food stamps it can be really challenging to feed your family healthfully. Starches are cheaper than produce and it’s easy to reach for those. I can see how the poverty/obesity trap happens and why it’s so difficult to get out of.

Over the 30 days, I gained a lot of knowledge about how to feed a family well even on a tight budget. When I started our meals were starch heavy but as I got savvier about living on a frugal budget, I figured out how to add more produce into our diets. It’s definitely possible, but it takes a lot of patience and tenacity.

A former Wild Oats (bought out by Whole Foods) employee told me that the Thrifty Challenge is do-able if you buy almost everything in their bulk food aisle and carefully shop their sales. Hope you like quinoa and dried figs!

To prove that living in poverty and getting enough to eat on a daily basis is no biggie, lawmakers like Texas congressman Steve Stockman declared the SNAP Challenge to be a left-wing publicity stunt and set out to disprove it. In fact, one of his staffers, Donny Ferguson, claimed that all the SNAP Challenge accomplished was prove that poor people are already getting too much food assistance and the program should be decimated. It also had the unintended consequence of proving that Donny Ferguson is a morally-repugnant douchebag of low character who possesses zero empathy for his fellow man. No doubt this Texas Republican toady considers himself a good Christian…

A press release from Stockman’s office bragged:

Donny Ferguson, who serves as Stockman’s communications director and agriculture policy adviser, was able to buy enough food to eat well for a week on just $27.58, almost four dollars less than the $31.50 “SNAP Challenge” figure.

“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps. I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself. I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling,” said Ferguson.

“We can cut the proposed benefits by an additional 12.4 percent and still be able to eat for a week,” said Ferguson. “Not only am I feeding myself for less than the SNAP Challenge, I will probably have food left over.”...

“Not only did I buy a week’s worth of food on what Democrats claim is too little, I have money left over. Based on my personal experience with SNAP benefit limits we have room to cut about 12 percent more.”

Here’s what he bought to feed himself for a week:

Two boxes of Honeycomb cereal
Three cans of red beans and rice
Jar of peanut butter
Bottle of grape jelly
Loaf of whole wheat bread
Two cans of refried beans
Box of spaghetti
Large can of pasta sauce
Two liters of root beer
Large box of popsicles
24 servings of Wyler’s fruit drink mix
Eight cups of applesauce
Bag of pinto beans
Bag of rice
Bag of cookies
Gallon of milk
Box of maple and brown sugar oatmeal


Paraphrasing Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat empty calories and carbs!”

What is objectionable about this challenge is that it is a political version of The Simple Life. After smugly making their case for or against SNAP cuts, like Paris Hilton and Nichole Richie going back to Beverly Hills after taping an episode among the peasants in Bumfuck, USA, these politicians, journalists, bloggers, and public policy researchers can go back to a normal, much higher food budget, whereas the people for whom this struggle is daily reality…. can’t.

Democracy Now’s report on food insecurity in the U.S., below:
 

Written by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Trolling is his business: the world according to Dave Mustaine


 
So I was gonna sit here and write a long, rambling post about Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine and the amount of bullshit that’s been spewing out his tiny little mouth of late. You know, something about a guy with a shoulder length frizzy perm being anti-gay, something about a 100% no-homo-heterosexual dude feeling threatened by the sex lives of African women and other consenting adults. Maybe throw in a little reference to still smarting about Metallica here, or “small man syndrome” there, perhaps go off on a diatribe about the über-pseudo-macho world of heavy metal being just as “authentic” as that of drag queens, about how the biggest shit-talkers always reveal themselves to be the most immature, petulant little nerds desperate to live up to a false sense of masculine superiority in the end.

But I’m not going to waste my effort.

I mean, why should I bother? Mustaine is doing all that hard graft for me! Seriously. Here are a selection of quotes from recent interviews displaying the wisdom of Dave Mustaine:

Dave Mustaine on Bible prophecy:

Mustaine explained a biblical prophecy to LA Weekly. “Even if you don’t believe in God and you don’t believe in faith, you’ve got to understand, when Israel became a country again, that was a prophecy in the Bible that came true, and the Bible was written so many hundreds of years ago,” says Mustaine. Also, any of the stuff that it says in there about the end times — that stuff’s really happening right now. Look what’s happening over in the Middle East. It’s crazy.”

Dave Mustaine on Rick Santorum:

Earlier in the election, I was completely oblivious as to who Rick Santorum was, but when the dude went home to be with his daughter when she was sick, that was very commendable. Also, just watching how he hasn’t gotten into doing these horrible, horrible attack ads like Mitt Romney’s done against Newt Gingrich, and then the volume at which Newt has gone back at Romney… You know, I think Santorum has some presidential qualities, and I’m hoping that if it does come down to it, we’ll see a Republican in the White House… and that it’s Rick Santorum.

Dave Mustaine on Afircan women:

There’s so many houses without a dad that it’s just terrible. I mean, you know how they used to say there should be a license to have a baby? Well, as far-fetched as that sounds, I really think that, if the parents aren’t going to stick together, they shouldn’t make that kind of commitment to life. I watch some of these shows from over in Africa, and you’ve got starving women with six kids. Well, how about, you know, put a plug in it? It’s like, you shouldn’t be having children if you can’t feed them.

Dave Mustaine on gay marriage:

Do you support gay marriage, or is that something you oppose?

Well, since I’m not gay, the answer to that would be no.

OK. What about for people who are gay?

Since I’m not gay, the answer to that would be no.

Would you support legislation to make marriage between a man and another man legal?

I’m Christian. The answer to that would be no.

All this is a real shame, because Megadeth were a fucking great band. It’s just too bad that if Dave Mustaine’s reputation ever recovers from being a “very conservative” über-douche who lets the TV make up his mind for him, he’s going down in the annals of history as the guy who wept for Metallica:
 

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Strengthen Social Security: Poverty is a death sentence in America


 
Glad to see that Senator Bernie Sanders isn’t out on a limb by himself this time. The new legislation he’s introduced to shore up Social Security by making the wealthy pay their fair share has co-sponsors Dan Akaka (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Surprise, surprise, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is also on board. No surprise, of course, that no Senate Republicans have signed on in support. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon’s 4th district, will be introducing the same bill in the House

Via Down With Tyranny:

The gist of Bernie’s legislation is to strengthen Social Security by applying the payroll tax that most Americans already pay to those with annual incomes above $250,000. Right now the payroll tax cuts off at $106,800. This simple, painless change by itself would keep Social Security solvent for another 75 years, about as long as Social Security has already existed. and although right-wing crackpots and extremists like Rick Perry may call it a Ponzi Scheme and predatory Wall Street shills like Mitt Romney may want to privatize it and turn it over to Wall Street, the vast majority of Americans see it as the most successful government program in our nation’s history and understand, despite Republican lies—that started 76 years ago—that it hasn’t contributed one dime to the federal deficit. It has a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it can pay out every nickel owed to every eligible American for at least the next 25 years, according to the Social Security Administration. Before Social Security came into being something like half the senior citizens in the country lived in poverty. Now they have a much better chance of ending their lives in dignity and without eating cat food. In fact, less than 10% of the elderly live in poverty and more than 53 million Americans receive retirement or disability benefits.

“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American,” Sanders said. “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 75 years is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on income above $250,000. Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as a billionaire. That makes no sense. The Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits or raising taxes on the middle class.”

 

 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion