On Food Stamps


There is considerable antagonism in some quarters to food stamps, recently manifest by some Republican “leaders” referring to President Obama as the “Food Stamp President,” a dysphemism because the fact that his mother was actually able to access and use this form of social support is not considered a good thing by the coiners of what they consider a pejorative phrase. The anachronistic image of a coupon with the legend “U.S. Department of Obamaculture” is clever, but superficial.

There’s much more to be considered.

In addition to the announced intent of providing assistance to impoverished families, the food stamp program constitutes an indirect subsidy to the food processing and distribution industries and a secure revenue stream for grocery chains.

Besides, since neither dollar bills, coupons nor plastic cards are edible. Indeed, debit cards and credit cards are simply alternate currencies, making the same difference as whether a person writes with ink on paper, carves letters in stone or sends electronic blips from a computer. All are using symbols to communicate information, relationships or obligations. It’s only money.

The cons, people who object to assistance on principle, do so, one suspects, because, for some reason, they do not perceive relationship and obligation. What they ‘get’ is ownership — having something or someone else as their own and holding on to what they have for dear life. What they have has to be conserved, because without it, they are as nothing.

Think of it as comparable to

“you are what you eat.”

“you are what you consume.”

“you are what you own.”

The ownership society. It’s where Dubya felt at home. “I am because I own.”

owe and own

Look what a difference one letter, one symbol makes!

“I owe” sits at the nexus of past and future and anticipates completing an act, a transaction. “I own” is static, not even an end point.

In the beginning, EuroAmericans traded their properties (the basis of human rights) for the right to own others as property. And that bargain persists in the parental right to own children, in the interest of which ownership right, a woman’s right to privacy and bodily integrity is to be dismissed.

Who owns the sperm that fertilized the egg? It is a legal question? Much of our jurisprudence is focused on ownership.

We say our natural rights are God-given. The petty pols respond, “then let God enforce them.”

I think Obama made reference to that concept in his inaugural speech. I’ll have to check. The whole thing was pretty much a challenge to the cons.

For people who accept the dictum that there is “no free lunch” and that they have to be subservient just to survive, that some people are cared for and get a share of the earth’s bounty, apparently for free, seems like an insult and prompts their jealousy. People who have bought into ownership as their defining principle consider themselves challenged by other people sharing. And they’re right. Ownership is a sop and those who buy into it have been suckered. But, that doesn’t give them cause to resent those who share.