Food stamps and moral separation

Discourse, futuretalk.co11 Comments

People’s views on social programs are directly affected by moral separation.

Because we live in a society with a high degree of moral separation, there are many people who believe that food stamps, for example, are a bad thing.

There are two arguments I’ve heard repeated, “food stamp recipients should go out and work hard so they don’t have to rely on the charity of others” and, “food stamps are a waste of tax dollars.” Libertarians might even go so far as to say that people should rely on individual compassion and charity rather than a government program. That last one is really a nice sentiment if you’ve never had to rely on individual compassion or charity.

If you read this blog, I probably don’t need to even tell you that the reason these arguments don’t work is because they don’t recognize systemic barriers. They end up reinforcing the status quo by privileging the historically privileged and showing no compassion toward those who struggle.

But they are also aloof to moral separation. When the kinds of people who have time to sit around and talk about whether or not to cut federal assistance programs present their arguments, they are presenting abstractions. They talk about the role of the federal government. They talk about hard work and the American Dream. They talk about taxes.

They do not talk about people.

So not only does moral separation allow the persistence of such a ridiculous notion as there might be a reason why we shouldn’t help each other out when it’s fairly easy to do so, but it also anchors the entire argument in the realm of abstraction. And so long as we deal in abstractions, our discussions about right and wrong will not be informed by the tangible impact we can have on people’s lives, but, rather, they will be informed by ideology.

SorenFood stamps and moral separation

11 Comments on “Food stamps and moral separation”

  1. Ellington3

    This is so very true, but how does one remedy this belligerent way of saying things “things” but not helping people?
    I find this so sad, to be honest. Why is helping people considered a weakness?
    Why does the Conservative Right purport “Christian” values but forget what Jesus said about helping the poor?
    I know you did not bring religion into this but to me it seems to be a part and parcel with the views that you have been discussing especially in the United States.
    “Christian values” are not so much an ideal here in Canada for doing or not doing something.
    Thanks for discussing this. : )

    1. Megan

      As a Christian myself, I used to wonder about this a lot…I mean…Christianity is based on the teachings of a homeless bachelor who preached socialist values…the exact opposite of what you hear from the conservative Right so often. (It’s one reason why I love http://www.thechristianleft.org so much).

      Honest, I think the Right clings to Christianity so hard BECAUSE of the hard-hearted things they teach…without some moral facade, they’d be pure social-Darwinists and few people will admit to that line of thought. Besides that, they’ve managed to win over people who probably wouldn’t even follow politics by playing on their racism, class-ism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism (something that didn’t show up until the second Great Awakening in American Christianity, prior to which, the acquisition of knowledge was considered a holy pursuit) and xenophobia.

    2. Tasha

      I think the reason why American’s constanlty bring ‘god’ into everything because Americans are self-justifying people who want to be right even when we’re wrong. And because people seek to hid behind religion as a means of justification for ways of thinking, ideologies and behavior in which they know or could be perceived as being unacceptable, they will use religion as a shield or a justifiable means to their end result (which is really a baseless form of individual logic shaped by personal ideologies and assumed ‘morals’ and life experiences).

      If a person was born into a wealthy family, he or she will assume that life is not as hard as the ‘have not’s’ make it. They’ve never wanted for anything in life, and have never had to live a day where they may not have anything too eat. And because their parents, grandparents, and so on alway’s had money or was alway’s successful; they start life with a foundation for economic success prior to entering the first years of pre-school. On the other hand, a child born on the other side of the tracks (like Jesus the Carpenter) will see life differently. Thus they may need a helping hand (i.e. government assistance) to find the nourishment needed to live and see another day. Two different people with two different ways of looking at life, in relation to the environment in which he/she resides.

      Many on the right can’t stand socialism or anything that involves communal support (i.e. social health care) yet A. claim that Americans are caring, charitable people, and B. Never realize that Jesus never concerned himself with such topics. He helped who he could and asked for nothing in return (all politics aside). But many far reaching right-wing conservatives are unknowingly against the very values they claim they support when subscribing to Christianity.

      For me personally its mind-blowing to listen to some of their logic and reasoning, but they would say the same about me being a liberal. Thus, one’s individual interoperation of the policies that have shaped our nation is skewed; no thanks to those whom think they have a better understanding or grasp of the holy gospels. People here in America want a separation of church and state, yet want to influence polices and legislation thats rooted in their personal religious beliefs and ideologies.

      Go figure.

  2. Megan

    “And so long as we deal in abstractions, our discussions about right and wrong will not be informed by the tangible impact we can have on people’s lives, but, rather, they will be informed by ideology.”

    Beautiful. I love the abstract, but questions of social improvement come down to nothing but reality.

  3. Alicia

    Education/skills training is the only way out of poverty. Food stamp recipients should automatically qualify for continuing education programs.

      1. Tasha

        Although I agree that anyone seeking government assistance should also seek higher education and job training (especially if they’ve received the same assistances for an extended period of time); I have to ask you Alicia (and many that feel the same as yourself) what about the people whom are educated and successful by have fallen upon hard times (college students and graduates, career professionals who’ve been laid off from their jobs)?

        With the recent down turn of the economy, more people from a variant education levels and backgrounds where forced to seek government funded programs as a means of survival until they where able to find employment. And even after becoming gainfully employed, many of them where forced to take jobs that didn’t pay as much as the positions they previously held. Thus, they still where forced to seek assistance while employed in lower paying positions in order to support their families and themselves.

        I think the issue that many who are strongly opposed to such programs have with the programs themselves is that a stereotype has been assigned to the “recipient”. Many assume that these programs support underprivileged, impoverished minorities whom care nothing about education, career advancement, or being self-sufficaint. The Ronald Reagan ‘wel-fair queen’ has become the poster child for anyone who is willing to admit that he/she is receiving assistance from the government, making it much easier for the critics of the programs to justify them being abolished. They claim their ‘hard earned’ tax pay dollars are going towards supporting these programs only, when honestly, our tax dollars go more towards those programs that we don’t talk about (i.e. weapons development/defense spending, medicare/medicaid)

        Not everyone who receives support from these programs are uneducated (or don’t have a desire to actively enroll in an institute of higher education). Some of these recipients are students, single mothers who’re going back to school (some widowed some separated/divorced), single fathers, unemployed professionals, even military families qualify to receive assistance from such programs when one spouse is of a junior rank or deployed.

        Thus, not everyone who’s receiving food stamps, WIC, welfare or TANIF lacks a skill, education, or some level of job training. I’ve known and heard of EMT drivers who’ve qualified for government assistance (food stamps, WIC).

  4. Alicia

    people who have fallen on hard times can go back to school and learn a skill that is currently in demand. Engineering, IT, or healthcare for example. I believe the average person changes jobs 6 times in their lives, so its not too much of a stretch, especially if it were free.

    1. Tasha

      Key word being ‘free’ Alicia. Such training in most cases is not free, and if its free for the food stamp recipient that means that the government is picking up the tab (thus making it government funded training). I am an IT, luckily the training I received was due in-part to my training in the military; but everyone can serve in the Armed Forces due to various restrictions and limitations. Don’t know about the changing of careers much less jobs with in one’s life time. Most of the people I know personally have held the same position with the same company for many years. But any skill set that’s learned is a plus, but doesn’t mean that he/she will become gainfully employed in a position that will assist with the cost of living in their area.

  5. Alicia

    I am talking about “should.” Im talking about how we should realistically address the problem of poverty. My solution is free education.

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