September 11, 2010

Applying for food stamps: “Don’t you feel guilty?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 2:39 pm

I’m currently reading a book called “The Holocaust,” and in one of its first chapters the author describes Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany — wherein, in the early days of the National Socialist party, Hitler’s Brown-Shirts were thugs and bullies whose main policy was to pick only on vulnerable little guys. Apparently, Hitler’s SS-in-training only went on the attack when they knew that they were significantly more powerful than their opponents. Their main targets were always elderly people, women, minorities and isolated random individuals out on the street by themselves.

This same policy seems to be currently popular here in America now too.

A major policy of America’s many right-wing hate-machines seems to be one of never attacking any of the rich and powerful corporations, bankers and weapons manufacturers who blatantly receive government welfare — billions of dollars at a time. No, the highly vocal right-wingers only attack those who cannot defend themselves — such as the vulnerable salt-of-the-earth Americans who are now forced to apply for a “welfare” helping hand after their jobs have been shipped overseas by wealthy corporatists who also enjoy receiving the government dole.

How come it is considered to be a wonderful thing for the rich to receive welfare — but if the middle-class or working classes apply, they are ridiculed and shunned? Why don’t bankers and weapons manufacturers who live on the dole get that same scorn heaped upon them?

Recently a friend of mine was forced to apply for food stamps after having been laid off when the small company he worked for went belly-up due to lack of customers. My friend was a middle-class, middle-aged man steeped in the American tradition of self-sufficiency, and you could tell that applying for food stamps had been a decision that had humiliated him a lot.

“So why did you do it?” I asked.

“I’d been laid off my work, my unemployment benefits were tiny and my house payments were huge. And after my car broke down….” He shrugged. “It was either get food stamps — or no food.”

“And what was it like?” I meant what it was like applying for food stamps. I already know what it was like to have to make choices between other things and food.

“Humiliating. Guilt-producing. Embarrassing. I kept looking around to make sure there was nobody at the food stamp place that I knew.”

“Where did you apply?”

“At the county agency. I walked into this building, into a huge room, where I saw about ten people standing in line — so I got in line behind them. Wrong thing to do. ‘Ex-CUSE me!’ shouted a very angry lady behind me. ‘This is NOT the end of the line.’ The lady then gestured behind her and I saw approximately 150 more people standing in line behind her, snaking down and across the room and back up the other side — waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

“Waiting to get a number. And after about a half-hour, I came to the head of the line and was given my number too. I had stood in line all that time just to be given a number? This was worse than the DMV. It was the waiting line from hell.”

“Then what happened next?” I asked, curious.

“I people-watched for about another hour. And felt even more humiliated. And there was a police contingent in one corner — like they were expecting us to riot or something. And everyone else looked as humiliated and downtrodden as I did. They could have at least put up a sign at the door telling us what to expect.”

“So. Did you get your food stamps?”

“I waited around in the waiting room — with about 300 other people — until my number was called. But, you know, once I finally got to talk to a real person, it was okay. The employees were really helpful and nice. They must have to deal with hundreds of people every day — yet they were still very nice. I was impressed.”

“Then did you finally get your food stamps?”

“No. I was given an appointment to come back the next week.”

This is what you have to go through to apply for welfare if you are a middle-class American citizen — in order to receive perhaps as little as $35 a month in food stamps. However, if you are a RICH American and want to receive BILLIONS (if not trillions) of dollars in welfare from the United States government, you only have to place a few calls to your lobbyist or Congressman and you will get immediate service — and probably valet parking as well.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the super-rich American corporatists who are now receiving government hand-outs by the truck-load were required to report to their county social services office and be forced to stand in line, be humiliated, feel guilty and take a number too?


August 4, 2010

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel & Iraq: America’s favorite money pits

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 2:16 pm

Yesterday my two-year-old granddaughter Mena and I were completely at logger-heads. She’d already stubbornly refused to make nice at the library, a restaurant and an olive-tasting party — and now she was refusing to take a bath. Ah, two-year-olds. I’m too old for this!

“But Jane,” someone advised me, “she’s obviously rebelling against you because she is bored. She’s tired of doing little-kid things and now she wants to do big-kid things.” I’ll just bet that she does. And what kind of big-kid things does she have in mind? Declare wars, get drunk, pollute the air and/or lobby to corrupt our politicians?

“What that kid needs is to go to a pre-school.” Hey, you might be right. So I trudged off to look at pre-schools for Mena.

There’s a neighborhood pre-school right down the block from me, the Martin Luther King Child Development Center, that is run by our school district and serves as an inexpensive daycare provider for working parents who might otherwise not be able to afford safe and decent daycare. My son Joe went there 30 years ago — and the place is still going strong. So I went over to see if I could enroll Mena there too. No luck. “There’s a really good chance that we will be permanently closing our doors forever on August 31,” said one of the school’s teachers. “The State is cutting our funding.” What?

Let me get this straight. California is going to cut its funding for daycare for working parents and then said working parents are going to get fired because they can’t show up for work without daycare — and then all these working parents will be forced to go on unemployment? And this saves the state money how? That’s totally stupid.

“But government shouldn’t be paying for people’s daycare,” you might say. Well why not? We already pay for billionaires’ tax breaks — even though statistics prove that for every corporatist billionaire created by outsourcing or subsidized weapons manufacturing or Wall Street bailouts or tax breaks for the uber-rich, approximately 100,000 working-class Americans sink below our country’s poverty line. If we are going to flat-out subsidize billionaires, why can’t we also subsidize daycare for people who actually do pay taxes?

And speaking of layoffs and things that our government should or should not be spending money on, apparently it’s not okay for our government to spend money on police and fire protection either. Oakland just laid off80 cops and San Jose just laid off 53 firefighters. But if spending money on that stuff is also a no-no, then what exactly SHOULD our government spend money on? Apparently nothing — except for corporate welfare and wars.

I remember back in the day when the United States used to have all kinds of surplus money — more than enough to fund education, infrastructure improvement, libraries, firefighters, cops and even daycare. But what happened to all that surplus money? Where did it all disappear to? Hmmm. As far as I can tell, an awful lot of it has been vacuumed off into America’s all-time four favorite money pits — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Iraq.

Little did we know when the Twin Towers were destroyed back in 2001 that what we were watching on the television screen was not just two buildings being destroyed but also the United States economy’s destruction. It took mere hours for the World Trade Center to fall. And it took almost a decade for our economy to fall after it. But the causes were the same — and the results were the same. We were sold a bill of goods and conned into spending our money on guns instead of butter. And now there are guns everywhere but there’s no butter — and no pre-schools either.

Sorry, Mena. You are just going to have to be bored. And if we don’t stop shoveling trillions of dollars into America’s favorite money pits in the Middle East, by the time you’re an adult, one of the big-kid things you’re gonna be doing is standing in an unemployment line.

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