“Poor People at WalMart”

Another facebook wall find!

In this story, a white, probably financially stable, conservative, college-attending female, worked in retail, used bad retail experiences (unheard of!), at Wal Mart and its lower income customers (another surprise!) to justify her political ideologies and class stereotypes of “poor people”. Surprisingly, this story has appeared beyond Facebook and has traveled as far as the Associated Press.

Food Stamps

Now, our author Christine, throws in various welfare programs so it’s hard to discern what she is directly criticizing. Yet, let’s start with food stamps. There are distinct restrictions in place about what can be bought using “food stamps”.

And as Politifact points out, there are restrictions on the purchasing of edible versus inedible gourds, so obviously there are strict restrictions against all non-food items: So if you’re a conservative worried about someone using foodstamps to buy evil household goods, shoes, or any non-food item…fear no more!

Concerning, the purchase of steak, cake, and lobster, these items are explicitly listed as available. Yet, if you were worried that the government simply did not know people could purchase these things, there is a ten page paper on why they simply allow all food without dietary/cost restrictions for what you can purchase.

A little bit of research goes a long way in talking about things beyond anecdotes  The reports details how the feasibility for dietary restrictions on food items is complex, and difficult to implement nationwide , how it would increase the cost of the program, how it could accidentally put grocery stores under further strain with increased chance of violations.

TANF

Speaking of which, in her tales of “things that happened today at work”, there is very little substance in terms of numbers or facts. She lists one conservative website, which seems to have a slight agenda against welfare.

I’ve looked into the top results for Maine and the TANF program to get better picture. Since there is very little actual information provided int his article.  I found this report by the Maine Equal Justice Partners, the state’s website, and TANF‘s website:.

Here they point out that people in the program are required to do work related activity for 30 hours a week, must have children, there is only 2% or less of fraud, much lower than the national average (from people who actually investigate fraud). That since the program was implemented, the amount of people enrolled has been reduced.  That families in the program stay in for an average of 21 months. There is a 5 year maximum. That the amount given through these programs is comparably low. That the max payout for a 3 person household is $485 (which if this is accurate, wouldn’t cover rent ).  I’m not saying that there are not real problems with Maine’s spending in welfare, just that Christine and the anti-welfare website, tend to ignore numbers that don’t adhere to their purposes, and don’t paint an accurate picture.

JUDGEMENTAL JUDGE JUDGE

My biggest gripe with this piece, besides the relative lack of sources or program research, is the judgments made on other people and their lives. Only one of the things she listed could be construed as fraud, the rest are just assumptions based on stereotypes. I find it plausible that some lower income people, would not have a computer, internet, or land line, and instead have an iPhone in order to make their day to day emails and phone calls. I haven’t written a physical letter to land a  job in probably five years, and definitely only communicate with my work through email. Or maybe they had the phone before going on welfare. Or maybe it was given to them by a family member to help out. But I’ll acquiesce, maybe none of these things are the reason the person has an IPhone.  Yet the point is, Christine, being someone most likely has never been in a remotely similar situation, probably has lived relatively comfortably, just thinks that these mean unemployed people are greedy/lazy! But the truth is, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t really know anything about these people. Yet, she sat there and made a fictional narrative based on products on a Wal-Mart scanner, made broad assumptions about “poor people”, wants to make policy changes based on that.

And I find this overreach by conservatives strange and menacing. Should there be a list of things that poor people should not be allowed to purchase when they are receiving welfare? Who should decide? This girl? A research team? Are toys for kids on the “Do not buy” list when you are poor? Do people give up all autonomy and rights while on welfare? Should they wear collars that sound an alarm if someone on welfare buys something not on “the list”? (After hearing the debate on drug testing welfare recepients, I’m afraid the answer could be yes).

BIGOTS & PREJUDICES

Then, the whole character judgment thing. Any one, who has worked a day in their life in retail, knows that customers can be assholes. And the “Retail Warriors”, do their best to go through their days and not let it get them down. Just because, for example, I have had a rich housewife in a fur coat yell at me and asked for her money back, doesn’t mean I write a blog post about how all rich people are stingy, and rude, as Christine concludes about “poor people”. It’s a human thing, not a class thing.

There are some in retail, who do their jobs and come to disgusting generalities about: “poor people, Asians, blacks, old people, teenagers, rich people, Muslims”, or any other demographic. I know in my time waiting tables, I’ve heard racist assumptions of who would tip well and who would not. These people I’ve met, who tend to promote and propagate stereotypes based on race, age, clothing, income level…they just tend to be bad human beings.

The idea that a whole article could be primarily oriented around the idea that, “poor people are rude and lazy”, is what initial interested/enraged/annoyed me about this article.

REPUBLICANS & POVERTY

This whole debacle reminds me of this article I read yesterday, that generally just discussed conservative policies, it’s lack of concern with poverty and demonizing of those who are in it. This strikes me as odd, particularly as we are in the middle of one of the longest recessions of our time, of which people are hurting due to no fault of their own, but are at the whim of an economic downturn.

…there has been no serious proposal by the GOP to address poverty and revive the American middle class. Conservatives are prisoners to a set of ideas whose only purpose is to serve capital. Addressing poverty would require conservatives to break with those ideas.

Poverty has always been a difficult subject for conservatives. The only way they know how to talk about it is to scold, demonize and stereotype the poor–and their advocates (witness the savaging of ACORN). But the louder the calls for “personal responsibility” for the poor, the lesser the willingness to demand accountability from corporations

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5 thoughts on ““Poor People at WalMart”

  1. She’s not complaining about poor people in general. She’s complaining about the poor people that collect welfare food stamps and abuse them. She never stated that all poor people abuse welfare, she’s only stating that the people who are on welfare and abuse it- tick her off.
    I admit that I completely agree with her. I worked at a Meijers gas station for 2.5 years while obtaining my BA degree. It is amazing how many customers would come in and want to put lottery tickets, cigarettes, chips, and pop on their food stamp card. These types of people abuse the system and do not appreciate the help the government is giving them. If they did appreciate it, they would take the money spent on chips and pop and go up to the store and buy a can of spaghetti sauce and pasta to feed their entire family at the same price. I actually witnessed a man take the UPC code off a 24 pack of pop and tape it to a case of beer. He went through the self check out line. He put the “pop” on his food stamp card. Luckily I caught him and he ran out the door without the beer. Things like pop, chips, and candy should not be allowed on the food stamp card. Better regulations will help all welfare recipients make better decisions when grocery shopping. This will also result in healthier children and maybe even *gasp* lower our obesity rate.

    • Did you read any of the report I linked, where they directly talk about why there are no specific food limitations? It would be easier to talk to you about this, if you had read their reasonings and could dispute them or talk about them. I think there are much better ways to lower the obesity problem, starting at school lunch programs and health education. But that’s something most conservatives oppose on some level.

      I also feel like, sure, some people will scam. I listed, there is a 2% rate in Maine. And I hear all these anecdotes, with no actual numbers behind them.

      Just because you see one poor person try to rip someone off, doesn’t mean all poor people are ripping people off. And there are probably so many more people who are living their life, following the rules, just trying to get by, that you don’t pay attention to.

    • She may SAY this is about the abuse of welfare and not the rest of welfare recipients, but when she directs her complaints at people who are not in fact abusing welfare, she’s making it about those people as well.

      • Particularly, when she makes the case for policy changes without a look at actual statistics or the details of the program, changes which would affect everyone.

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