I am sure you have heard it before. More people in 2011 were on food stamps than ever before. This was not because of anything in particular the president did, but rather the result of a horrible economy. The statistcs are alarming: more than 45 million people needed food stamps to get by last year. That's higher than the 31 million from the previous three years. If you think about all those people who actually qualify for food stamps but do not apply because they don't want to be a drain on the system, the number goes even higher.
I was reading about a man who lost his job several years ago and ended up homeless. He refused to apply for welfare out of a sense of pride and shame. He subsisted on handouts and by living out of his car for years. Recently, he gave in and applied and now re ceives about $200 a month in bensfits. This is someone who was literally starving. And guess what? Unlike what Santorum and Gingrich wouldhave you believe, this homeless man was a we,l-educated mechanical engineerwho was unable to find suxtainable work since getting laid off.
My Husband and I lived in Chicago until a year ago. We had to move south because there were simply no jobs there. And what few jobs popped up, he had to compete with hundreds of applicants. By the time we left, about half the properties on our block were empty. People were leaving, going to places where they could find work, even if it paid half of what they had earned before. We, ourselves, needed food stamps to survive for about a year, otherwise we would have gone hungry. My parents even had to use food stamps for a brief period of time when I was very young. Back then, they were real stamps and you put them in little books to use when you went shopping.
People on food stamps are not living high on the hog at the tax payers' expense. They are people like you and me experiencing hard times who simply need a helping hand to get through the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Politicians need to stop blaming the victim here. They need to start listening to the concerns of those struggling to make ends meet instead of telling them to go to school and get a job. It's easy to criticize people for being poor when such a tragedy has never happened to you. It's easy to tell someone to pull themeselves up by their bootstraps because you did it yourself. Everyone's circumstances are different. What works in one locale may not work in another. What we need is fewer selfish and judgmental people and more tolerance and understanding -- and a willingness to help others.
The point of food stamps (or SNAP, as it's called now) is not to perpetuate a poor person's dependence on government assistance. It is a way of helping people rise up from the rubble of a shattered life; a way to help people rebuild and to give them hope for a better future. Sure, there are those who abuse the system, but that's the risk you take when you become willing to help people instead of blocking off help for everyone.
The cognitive dissonance of the current crop of GOP candidates is so loud that it's even turning off lifelong, diehard conservatives. When you start to look like a jerk to the very people who voted you in, it's time to start re-evaluating your campaign. President Obama may not have done everything I wanted him to do, and he has done some things I wish he hadn't done, but given the choice between him and the competition, there is no question about who will get my vote come November.