Mail 728 Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Subject: Food Stamps aren’t credit cards
Jerry, I’m not sure you’re aware of this, but I’ve been kept alive for the last several years mostly because I’ve been on food stamps. I understand why you don’t like the way it’s run now, from a specialized debit (not credit) card, but I’d like to point out a few things you either may not be aware of or hadn’t considered.
First, let’s talk about how it used to work, long before I qualified.
If you were on food stamps, you’d get a booklet of script in the mail that you could use to buy food. Every time you went shopping, you had to make sure you had it with you and when you got to the check stand you had to separate things out into two different purchases: first, your food and second all of your ineligible items. After the first half was rung up, you’d hand your booklet to the checker who would remove the appropriate amount of script, rubber stamp it, put it in the register and give you more script as change. Then, the rest of your order would be rung up and paid for. This was a long, slow process that held up everybody else in the line.
Now, there’s no need to separate things because the register knows what’s eligible and what isn’t. You use your EBT (Electronic Benefit
Transfer) card just like any other debit card with the price of your food being deducted right then and there. Then, if needed, you pay for whatever isn’t covered. It’s also possible to have a cash balance on your card, but I’ve never been eligible for that, so I don’t know how that’s handled.
Yes, this way of doing things keeps recipients from being embarrassed by the fact that they’re on the dole, but that’s not the main reason for using it. It’s easier, faster and more accurate and you carry the card in your wallet, just like any other similar card. In fact, as I’m diabetic, that’s probably saved my life more than once because I’ve occasionally had to buy some juice, fruit or candy in a hurry because my blood sugar was getting dangerously low and I was too broke to buy anything with cash. Now, of course, that’s not as much of a problem, but there was a time when it was very much an issue for me.
The point here is that, at least in my opinion, going back to the old way of using script for food stamps would make shopping for food more difficult for everybody, not just for the recipients, because handling it is a longer, slower process than the new debit card is.
The question is, why is it our obligation to keep you alive? In your case I certainly agree that it’s a good idea, and I don’t regret that part of our taxes go to this; I’d far rather pay for your top ramen and cabbage than for bunny inspectors or furniture safety inspectors or a cubicle worker who can’t tell you precisely what he does. The question is whether government ought to be paying for welfare at all.
Now I know in your case that you’re a veteran and pretty damned frugal and a very useful friend to have around, and once one accepts the notion that government ought to keep people going when they’re perfectly willing to work and pretty good at what they know how to do, but don’t have credentials of the kind demanded –
And there things get complicated. If we had a lot less Mickey Mouse in the jobs system, you’d be working, since I know for a fact that you’ll take what work you can get.
Given that I can’t change all that – your point is well made. If we are to have a welfare system, it ought to be as convenient as possible for those who have to implement it, and that most certainly includes the clerks at Ralph’s or Von’s. And God forbid that we try to set up some kind of government run distribution system; that would really be disastrous.
Moreover, I for one don’t really want to bring embarrassment or shame to welfare recipients. What would be the point? Those who really are embarrassed probably shouldn’t be, and those who should be probably don’t care much. Religion commands us to give to those who ask of us, and in fact my guess is that were the Food Stamp system made voluntary on tax forms – check here to give $200 to the Food Stamp Program (which as near as I can calculate is about what the program costs taxpayers) – it would probably be funded, and those voluntarily funding it would not want it to include embarrassment. I remember growing up in the Depression when families (not mine; we were pretty well off compared to everyone around us) sometimes had to go on welfare.
Edmund Burke reminds us that for a man to love his country, that country ought to be lovely; and it certainly would not be a lovely country if we had people literally starving. It would be lovelier yet if the system of support were more voluntary – charity is actually more beneficial to the giver than to the receiver – but that’s another argument. Those who advocate that it is the duty of the Republic to support everyone at some basic minimal level do not invoke religious arguments. Indeed, most of them reject the whole notion of religion as an influence on political behavior.
And that, I think, is sowing the wind.
Thank you for making me think about this. I can recall having something like this conversation with my father when I was six years old.
The problem is that once you admit entitlements exist – that some are obligated to support others, will they, nil they – where do those obligations end? For every entitlement is an obligation laid on someone.
We know one source of obligations, and it is told in the story of the beggar at the rich man’s gate. But that is not a political argument.
I sent this to my friend, who says
Excellent. Your reply highlights the two problems that many liberals (and all Liberals) can’t see: how do we help the deserving without subsidizing the indolent and even more important, how do we pay for it?
I like your idea of allowing taxpayers to earmark part of their taxes for this type of thing but I suspect that you’d get more money from the right than from the left because most Liberals are only interested in sharing other people’s wealth. (Oh, no, that’s different! I *have* two shirts!)
It always comes down to the basic question of deserving and undeserving poor, and we must be willing to reopen that debate. We once could talk about such things. As to the story, it is here.
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Dear God! I’d almost forgotten.
It was twenty-five years ago today when President Ronald Reagan issued that challenge to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, in a speech by the Brandenburg Gate on 12 Jun 1987.
. . .
Can you imagine ANY of that from the current occupant of the White House?
It was a moment of importance, and a turning point in the Cold War. And today you do not see the wall at the Brandenburg Gate.
Bunny Inspectors and Firefighters
You noted, "Since they haven’t laid off the Bunny Inspectors, I doubt that they’re serious about any of this."
Mitt Romney was on Fox last night pointing out that the federal government doesn’t hire teachers and firefighters, the states and cities do.
But the federal government is the employer of bunny inspectors, no?
Isn’t that why they’re harder to get rid of?
TARP had money for local government hires – actually Clinton began the practice of sending money for the first years of state employees after which the states and cities were on their own for funding. Charming idea.
Governor of Wisconsin
In contrast to your celebratory comments, the Wisconsin recall election was a disaster. Lehman (D) narrowly defeated Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), giving the Democrats control of the Wisconsin State Senate. The AP has not called the race yet, but with all precincts reporting Lehman leads by 779 votes. Living just across the border from Wisconsin, and having spent abundant time in the state, my assessment of the likely outcome of this election was that there really was no chance at all that Governor Walker would be recalled, as most Wisconsinites (even liberal Democrats) believe that recall elections should be reserved solely for the recall of crooks and lunatics. Wisconsin liberals are now highly aroused and focused on retaining the US Senate seat currently held by retiring Senator Herb Kohl. The major consequence here may be that there are now lots of new Democratic voters registered in Wisconsin; Tammy Baldwin (D) will very likely ride Obama’s coattails and defeat the excellent (presumptive) Republican candidate, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.
You continue to focus on executives (Presidents and Governors) at the expense of legislators. I fear that many other Conservatives are currently making the same error, using extreme litmus tests for conservatism as a means of excluding candidates who might actually be electable. Case in point: based on what I’m hearing from friends in another neighboring state, it looks like Joe Donnelly (D) will almost certainly defeat Richard Mourdock (R) to replace Richard Lugar as Senator from Indiana. Unless conservatives get a clue here, we may get a liberal neocon President (Romney) plus a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House. Have the Republicans completely lost their bearings? Are the Conservative Wisemen all Drunk or Demented? What the hell happened to the Republican "big tent?" This is truly frightening.
As I’ve mentioned to you before, I consider gerrymandering to be the major threat facing our Republic. Stupidity of Republican political strategists is perhaps a close second…
One does what one can. Of course control of Congress is important, but it is also important that you really control it, not just have a Party majority. Under Gingrich the Republic was safe even with Clinton in the White House. Once he was gone and the Establishment Republicans took over again – Newt was never part of them and they damned well knew it – then a Republican majority with Bush headed us toward ruin. Then the voters turned the Republicans out of Congress, and the Democrats continued, and then came 2008.
You may be correct about Wisconsin and you may not. I have no special knowledge there. I do know that there is now a chance to turn Wisconsin around.
All politics is local, and the only way to take back your government is through local effort. Self government requires that good people be willing to be part of government. And I think this may be a better year than you know. We have come to the brink of disaster but we are not there yet. Now is the time to redouble our efforts. If the Tea Party can learn to play a ground game, the republic is not lost.
Although it’s raising taxes to pay for non-military budget items you’ve written about, I happened to read this speech today and this line of Churchill’s otherwise suits your theme perfectly –
Expenditure always is popular; the only unpopular part about it is the raising of the money to pay the expenditure
Socialism is always seductive. It works until you run out of other people’s money.
I love freefall
I’ve been reading from where Sam and Helix take the "mugged" robot to Florence for repair. If there is an antidote for debugging simulations all day, Freefall is it.
For those who don’t know, Freefall is a cartoon series. Begin with http://freefall.purrsia.com/fcdex.htm and the first episode, because it will not make sense if you plunge in anywhere toward the end. The entire series only takes up a couple of months in story time, and a lot happens. Just begin. The first few episodes aren’t very interesting and some is mere slapstick, but then it begins to take hold, and after that it’s interesting all the way. A couple of things to note. Sam is wearing an environment suit, and he is neither human nor humanoid, and while his race is intelligent it is not technological. You’ll learn that in the story. I have read it from the beginning, and as I say, after the first dozen or two episodes it begins to take hold. It won’t make as much sense at first as it will later, but that’s by design. I won’t give away more.
Global warming helps Arctic algae suck CO2:
“[A] vast CO2-sucking phytoplankton bloom has been discovered beneath Arctic ice . . .”
"This wasn’t just any phytoplankton bloom," Stanford University marine scientist Kevin Arrigo told <http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2012/0607/Beneath-Arctic-ice-scientists-find-an-ecosystem-never-imagined-video> The Christian Science Monitor. "It was literally the most intense phytoplankton bloom I’ve ever seen in my 25 years of doing this type of research."
Curiouser and curiouser. You’d almost think that a global homeostatic mechanism had evolved in the last half billion years or so – ever since our biosphere almost froze to death.
One does wonder how we got from ice ball to our middle earth…
A Minnesota high school student who wears rosary beads to school in support of his cancer-stricken grandmother was ordered to pocket them by school district officials, who said the beads could be a symbol of gang membership.
Anything could be a sign of gang membership. What if gangs all wore t-shirts and jeans, would we have to go about naked so idiots could feel safe? This is ridiculous and, more to the point, it infringes on this person’s Constitutionally protected rights.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Evaluation of the tough counter terrorism president
Reading your site’s comments and reading about President Obama’s ‘EVOLUTION’ to taking brave, tough actions against terrorism, to me it is obviously just part of gearing up a campaign for November’s election that really been going on since 2008- from ‘getting’ bin laudin, to attacking iran et al with computers and drones; everything seems so insincere and desperate; inadvertently today I saw a few minutes of the first lady campaigning on comedy central, she was quite on point, the whole ‘show’ was so well polished; sadly people take things as served up by either side (your old ‘creeps’ & ‘nuts’) and just seem to so entrenched in their beliefs.
Much of the non-fox media is to some degree biased towards President Obama as is certainly much of the current government; everything such as economic forecasts & reports will have a pro Obama slant; and corrections to initial reports are given far less emphasis then the original, optimistic reports. Certainly bin Ladin, like Saddam Hussein before him, were both bad men and the world is a better place without them, but just as certainly if a Bush were president there would have been no end to loud attacks about assassinations; Seal team 6 and drone operators would be demonised, even indicted, along with Republicans instead of praised for their work with our great President leading from the podium,,,,,,, I will admit President Obama does orate well, but to me it seems like an actor or more likely a comedian, like Jerry Seinfeld, I watch him stop for applause to gauge the reaction.
The last 3.5 years have been photo ops, speeches and fund raisers; I shudder to think of an Obama not worried about reelection.
Have Cop’s eyes arrived?
A staple from Mr. Niven’s world, the Cop’s Eyes provided constant surveillance over the population.
Now where’s my transfer booth?
Climate scientists see ‘tipping point’ ahead
As we’ve speculated, with the recent contrary reports to the AGW alarmists, their rhetoric ramps up:
Climate scientists see ‘tipping point’ ahead
‘The Day After Tomorrow’ may come the day after tomorrow
US Navy uncloaks stealthy underwater solar cells
If these can be made to work well, this will be quite an achievement
US Navy uncloaks stealthy underwater solar cells
Energy capture up to nine meters down
By Iain Thomson in San Francisco <http://forms.theregister.co.uk/mail_author/?story_url=/2012/06/07/navy_underwater_solar_cells/>
Scientists at the US Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) are developing solar cells that can work effectively up to nine meters underwater, powering marine systems for long periods of time.
Big data is not just for the boardroom, but for the battlefield as well, and military planners are working on using a lot more stealthy sensors and systems that need power without carrying batteries or sticking a solar panel out of the water. But light isn’t very effective at penetrating seawater, and conventional solar cells that rely on silicon aren’t very good at catching what little light that does.
"The use of autonomous systems to provide situational awareness and long-term environment monitoring underwater is increasing," said Phillip Jenkins, head of NRL Imagers and Detectors section, in a statement <http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2012/photovoltaic-cells-tap-underwater-solar-energy> . "Although water absorbs sunlight, the technical challenge is to develop a solar cell that can efficiently convert these underwater photons to electricity."
While the amount of light penetrating seawater falls off rapidly with depth, what little that does get down is in a fairly narrow spectral band. The scientists focused on this area using gallium indium phosphide (GaInP) solar cells, similar to those used by satellites, which are highly efficient in visible-light wavelengths, and perform far better than run-of-the-mill photovoltaics in the blue/green portion of the spectrum predominant in seawater.
US Navy solar cell performance underwater
New cells focus on what little light you can get in the vasty deep
The team now estimates that a square meter of these cells would generate 7W of power at 9.1 meters of depth, with better performance – of course – at shallower depths. The team suggests they’d be most effective in coastal regions on low-power applications to replace monitoring stations using fixed power lines. ®