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No Ice Cream

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

icecream

Years ago I read a piece—I wish I remember the author—about the still popular sport of beating up on the poor for daring to share in the simple pleasures of life. The context was welfare moms, and the author was responding to another writer’s criticism of them for buying ice cream for the kids. The writer of the piece I was reading did not take kindly to this view. Since then, whenever I read about cutting welfare, I fasten on the image of parents in bad straits not being able to serve ice cream to their children. Let them eat cake? Heck, no.

Which brings me to Rob Port’s recent post with the headline, “48% Of North Dakota Welfare Spending Is On Fast Food, Eating Out, ATM’s And Movie Rentals”. The ATM part is a puzzle. A table he includes shows that 27.66% of state welfare funds are spent on ATM/cash withdrawals. That’s money, right? Why is that a problem? But anyway, then there’s the 12.4% on fast food restaurants. Port concludes that the money is spent “on frivolities and luxuries rather than needs.” Like ice cream for the kids, I think to myself.

Or, as Roy Edroso writes at alicublog,

Think about a single parent with kids using her TANF to buy clothing, shelter, school supplies, etc. Maybe some of the money is spent more frivolously, sure, but that would be hard to manage: In 2004 the maximum monthly TANF benefit paid in North Dakota to a single-parent-headed family of four was $573. And, in case you think it’s gotten better since then, TANF benefit levels have plunged by 22.3% in North Dakota since 1996.

So maybe a couple of times a week the recipients eat at McDonald’s or a diner instead of in their hovels. Maybe they get chips, soda, and smokes from the service station. And very rarely they rent a movie.

[snip]

I’m beginning to think it’s a psychological condition. Maybe some of it’s upbringing. Maybe some of us are born without a capacity for empathy and by the grace of God avoid the life of aimless crime into which some sociopaths drift, and instead become… well, the kind of person who thinks people on welfare have it too easy and that junk food is a luxury they don’t deserve.

(Hat tip: atrios.)

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