Friday, September 10, 2010

Applying for food stamps: "Don't you feel guilty?"

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?