Warning: Politics Ahead

I don’t talk a lot about political things here, but I won’t shy away from it, either. This blog is about life and how we live it, or at least, how I live it. Politics is part of life. Sometimes I just gotta say my piece.

This post has two topics, which kind of prove that I’m all Gemini – full of dichotomies.  I just can’t fit into one box. Some of my beliefs may seem contradictory, although of course they make perfect sense to me.

Topic the First: EBT Recipients Stole Food…

In my blog perusals this morning, I came across this. This fellow, Matt Walsh, attempts a logical treatise against our welfare policies. He impressed me by listing three logical points as the foundation of his post. I’ll repost them here:

“Logical statement #1: Something is “yours” — belonging to you, and nobody else — if you own it. You own it if you have ownership of it; a synonym of “ownership” is “property.” It is yours if it is your property. You might come to own something — making it your property — by earning it, buying it, growing it, cultivating it, producing it, making it, constructing it, or trading for it.

Agreed? Awesome.

Logical statement #2: “Stealing” is “taking what isn’t yours without permission, especially by force.” If you come to possess that which is another’s property, without his or her consent or choice, you have stolen it. You have, by any definition, “taken” what is not, in fact, “yours.” That’s stealing. That’s how any sane person would define stealing.

Agreed? I thought so.

Logical statement #3: If you employ a third party to carry out the act of forceful taking — or “stealing” — and then that third party hands the ill-gotten gains over to you, you are still guilty of stealing. Much like a husband who hires a hit-man to kill his wife is still guilty of murder.”

Okay, I don’t have a problem with these three statements, although I’d like to add that we can also “own” something that is given to us. Birthday presents, and that kind of thing.

Then Mr. Walsh proceeds to rant about poor folks who get food stamps (SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progam ). They are “stealing” because the government is “stealing” money from Americans and giving it to them.

It is amazing, isn’t it, how far people contort themselves to justify their feelings or beliefs?

Of course, the first few commenters immediately pointed out the fallacies in his argument, just as he asked people to do (“Try to follow my logic, and tell me where I’m going wrong”). I didn’t read more than a few comments, but I’m sure no one changed the fellow’s mind. I’ve observed that Americans, myself included, don’t tend to “change our minds,” no matter how much our errors are shown to us.

As proof of his argument, he told us about a glitch in the EBT system that temporarily did away with limits on peoples’ cards. Some people went to the store and bought as much as they could carry until the glitch was fixed. Hence, because these few poor people were thieves, he thinks it proves they ALL are.

Sigh.

For the record, yes, I think the people in that case were stealing. They knew damn well they were spending money that wasn’t theirs.

But there’s no way they are thieves for needing food assistance. The government is not “stealing” from us, even if you think tax rates are too high. Even if you don’t like all the ways gov’ment spends those tax dollars. I certainly don’t like all the ways. But I do vote, and I’ve even been known to write a letter, email, or make a phone call to my elected representatives, expressing my opinion about this or that. That’s what citizens of a republic do, and guess what? America is a republic. Far from a perfect one, but it’s the one we have. And as long as we can vote to elect a representative, we cannot accuse the government of stealing money from us.

Whine all you want about how they are doing a lousy job, and point out that you voted for the other guy. I understand that part of the problem. But glue your logic back together, Matt Walsh, and try not to accuse half of America of stealing.

While I’m on the subject, let me address this part of his post:

“That’s why I have a good chuckle when I hear someone say something like: “I don’t mind the food stamp program, but I DON’T THINK THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO BUY JUNK FOOD!” That’s a pretty odd place to draw your ethical line. That’s like if you came home one day to find a burglar in your bedroom stealing jewelry, and you proceeded to have this conversation:

“HEY! You can’t take that! That doesn’t belong to you! You’re going to just go pawn that for drugs, aren’t you?!”

“No, I was thinking of trading it for a treadmill.”

“Oh. OK. Well that’s healthy and constructive. Carry on, sir.””

This is so nonsensical, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I guess it’s consistent with the silly notion that SNAP recipients are all thieves.

Actually, I happen to be one of those people who think SNAP should not pay for junk food. Notice I did not say “they” (poor people) should not be allowed to buy junk food. People on SNAP can buy all the junk food they want. I just don’t think their SNAP benefit should pay for it.

I think it’s perfectly logical to provide assistance for people to buy meat, beans, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and grains. The whole point of assistance is to provide nutrients people might otherwise not have. The WIC program does exactly this, and it does it because children need high-quality calories. The WIC program does not apologize for not buying your kid a Snickers bar. SNAP shouldn’t either.

This is a source of strong debate among progressives. Many people feel it smacks of paternalism. That we think poor people are not smart enough to buy nutritious food so we have to make sure they do it.

Not at all. Honestly, that’s not it, at allThere is nothing in my statement that says I’m telling poor folks how to spend their money or how to eat. I am simply instructing my government to help people with their food budget. People can buy all the junk food they want. They just can’t do it with SNAP money. Heck, you know me. I’d rather they bought only whole grains and local veggies. Organic, even. But I’m not going to insist they must do it if they go on SNAP.

SNAP doesn’t pay for cigarettes, liquor, or even toilet paper. I don’t think it should pay for Doritos, either. Yet, it does. Don’t worry though. I won’t start screaming “thief!” just because someone uses their EBT card to pay for them.

Topic the Second: Immigration Reform

The world almost stopped rotating this morning because I agreed with something Thomas Sowell wrote in in his column (Republicans to the Rescue?).

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Dr. Sowell’s work, let me just say that he is as much a contortionist as Matt Walsh, but he probably gets paid a lot more. His columns are brilliant displays of illogic, misinformation, and misdirection. He rarely misses a beat.

But I must agree with him when he says:

Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them. One of the big problems that those who are pushing “comprehensive immigration reform” want solved is how to help people who came here illegally and are now “living in the shadows” as a result.

AND:

Almost everyone seems to think that we need to solve the problem of the children of illegal immigrants, because these children are here “through no fault of their own.” 

At this point, Dr. Sowell dips into his usual misdirection by going on about burglars, embezzlers, and the starving children in India. But he isn’t exactly wrong about illegal immigrants. They have broken our laws. We should not allow this to continue, and we should not allow their children to automatically become American citizens just because they were born here. The children should inherit the status of the parents. 

But what Dr. Sowell doesn’t acknowledge is that we are mostly to blame for the mess. Immigration is definitely a case of actions speaking louder than words. Sure, we have laws on the books, and illegal immigrants have broken those laws. Yet we’ve spent decades encouraging people to come illegally because they are a source of cheap labor, and that is far more important to us (the public “us”) than obeying any inconvenient laws.

Most of us feel somewhat smug about the fact that we ended slavery in this country. Those old southerners insisted their economy would collapse without slaves. The North took a hard line with them, won the war, and freed the slaves.

We’ve replaced them with illegal immigrants. And wow- that’s even better, because while the slaves truly had no say about being here, we can easily blame illegal immigrants for coming on their own. No one’s forcing them. When they get caught, they can be sent back and we’ll replace them with the next person in line.

Easy peasy.

You can probably see that I don’t completely agree with Dr. Sowell. I do think people shouldn’t get away with coming here illegally. I think we should be tough about that. We should also be tough with countries that encourage their citizens to come here rather than solving their own problem. Yes, I’m looking at you, Mexico.  Mexico is a large, beautiful, resource-rich country. There is no reason at all for its people to be poor and hopeless.

BUT… we are America. We still shine as a beacon for oppressed people who want a better life. Our immigration policy should allow for that, most notably by eliminating the bureaucratic red tape that forces immigrants to sit in limbo for decades, and millions of others to never get a legal way in, at all.

We might have to grant amnesty to the people already here illegally. I don’t really like that idea, but again – it’s mostly our fault that they are here. Amnesty is the price we’ll have to pay.  And we need to fix the system. We need to be clear about who can come, how they can get here, and the conditions of their stay. It needs to be simple and inclusive. We may have to set a limit – only so many people can immigrate in a given year. If you miss the limit and come anyway, you forever lose the chance to immigrate legally.

That’s a tough stance. The forum is open for ideas on how to enforce it.

 

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One thought on “Warning: Politics Ahead”

  1. Pointing out that taxes are the price we agreed to pay for collective defense, infrastructure and other benefits won’t change the mind of someone who believes he is truly a self-made man. However, for all of those self-made men who depend on the near-slave labor of underpaid undocumented immigrants – that is stealing. You should go to prison. Better, you should be sent on a slow, leaky, open boat to Guantanamo as an accessory to terrorism, because who knows what else your coyote connection is smuggling over the border. And since those self-made men also want us to believe that corporations are people, let’s send the entire board of directors and executive officers of the corporations that rely on undocumented workers to Guantanamo, too. I suspect we’ll get immigration reform in a heartbeat, and maybe even wage reform.

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