Newsflash: People on Public Assistance Are Stupid

So indicates the Chicago Tribune and the jerks it interviewed for the article Politicians, health advocates seek transparency, restrictions in food stamp program.

At issue is the worn-out “debate” about whether food stamps recipients should be able to decide for themselves what they want at the grocery store, or whether the government should decide for them.

Suddenly, the government cares that corporations peddling unhealthy food and beverages may receive “government money” in the form of people using food stamps to buy, for example, Pepsi. As though major corporations don’t receive government perks at every turn, and the thought of a poor person enjoying a soda just offends certain officials’ senses of corporate ethics.

As though the “healthy food” that the government would rather poor people use their food stamps on is not also corporate-owned and already government-subsidized just as the “unhealthy food”.

I will never understand why punishing poor people for their poverty is a solution when they likely live in “food deserts”, where real grocery stores, let alone farmer’s markets and the like, are scarce and the junk food sold at bodegas is easier to get and more filling.

Punishing poor people for being poor will not make them healthier, will not cause them to make “better” choices, and will not stop the sale of unhealthy food and beverages. It will simply be another way in which the government and our society infantilize and condescend to the poor without offering any real solutions aimed at the root of their problems. In fact, it seems we believe the poor are to blame for their own poverty, which is why they need the government to tell them what to eat and what not to eat. The assumption that poor people are dumb lies barely covered beneath the surface of these crap arguments.

If these unhealthy food items and beverages must be banned from the poor, why not also everyone else? If the government and “health advocates” are so concerned about the public health effects of unhealthy food, why not ban it from everyone, regardless of income level? That would certainly strike that blow the government is suddenly so eager to strike against the corporations producing these products.

4 thoughts on “Newsflash: People on Public Assistance Are Stupid

  1. Your last paragraph nicely highlights this issue. So I suppose individuals not on public assistance can be trusted to make the “right” decision while individuals on public assistance can not? So insulting. Infantilization is definitely the word for it.

    I also appreciate your mention of the issue of accessibility. It is not a simple “right”/”wrong” decision issues, but involves multiple aspects, including ability to prepare food (which involves time/energy, materials, etc.).

  2. That is a good point! The same big-name grocery stores near where I used to live really varied by neighborhood/area. The same grocery store, when right next to the big-name university and high income neighborhoods around where I worked (I referred to it as the “fancy” grocery store and learned that everyone else also had similar names for it) was incredibly well-stocked, clean, and always had fresh produce, while the one near where I lived next to the abandoned buildings and lower income neighborhoods was not nearly as well-stocked or clean and the produce was often not fresh. HMMM… (there were similar trends regarding other services)

  3. Yeah, that’s my experience too. The same grocery chain will offer very different foods dependding on the location of the store. They will also have very different standards of cleanliness and customer service as well. Sometimes even different pricing structures.

    Is this based on consumer demand or on management’s assumptions?

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