Monday, May 9, 2011

You Are F***in' Kidding Me

194.6 lbs. It’ll break.

There was a woman at the gym in head to toe Ed Hardy gear. Must be a Jon Gosselin groupie.

On the way to work out, I saw something that disturbed me. A Burger King had a banner proudly proclaiming “We Now Accept EBT.” (Electronic Benefit Transfer for those who don’t know).

Food stamps. Burger King accepts food stamps. (This may be old news) Your tax dollars at work.

This is appalling to me. I was raised with the idea that fast food was a once in a while treat but here, they are actually encouraging people who could not afford it otherwise to consider it a part of the daily diet and you and I get to pay for it.  This is, in essence, a corporate subsidy at taxpayer expense. And we all know that such purchases will be a common occurrence.

Way back when, I had a boss who was a person of average intelligence (a lot of street savvy, though) and deeply-held prejudice. One day, this person wondered out loud if the reason that so many fat people were poor was because they could only afford to eat rice and pasta and cheap, fattening food.

It can be argued that people are free to use their food stamp money any way they choose within the program parameters. This is true: we’re adults and adults are free to make their own decisions, no matter how bad they may be. However, the corollary to that is that we are also accountable for the consequences of those decisions. (The attempts to dodge same is the reason America has such a plethora of lawyers). In this case, if food money is going to be spent on meals high in sodium, saturated fat, sugar, not to mention all the chemicals that go into make it taste good, then expect someone else to also pick up the tab for the health care (probably Medicaid. Chances are, if you’re eligible for food assistance, you need health care assistance, too) necessary to combat the issues created by relying on fast food as a staple.

Homework assignment: I f you haven’t already, see Morgan Spulock’s “Supersize Me” about his month on an all McDonald’s diet. This man was very healthy before he began, his weight and blood chemistry were measured (his girlfriend is a vegan chef). As a result, the then-32-year-old Spurlock gained 24½ lbs. (11.1 kg), a 13% body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation to his liver. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight gained from his experiment (I took this passage from the Wikipedia article about the movie).

I don’t watch Dr. Phil. However, way back in either 2002 or 2003, the guests were an obese woman with an obese child and their lawyer. They were suing (I think McDonald’s, but I wouldn’t swear to it) because of the child’s obesity from constantly eating fast food. Mom said the kid whined and begged and pestered for it so much that she gave in and bought at least 2 meals per day there. Dr. Phil, with his usual tact and respect asked her, “Who’s the parent?” I agreed with Dr. Phil, but McDonald’s ultimately settled (I THINK this is the case, Pelman v. McDonald's Corp., 237 F. Supp. 2d 512 - Dist. Court, SD New York 2003).

And now, the taxpayers of several states get to subsidize this foolishness. And have for about a year.

I’m ignorant about what can and cannot be purchased with an EBT card. The cards can be used at farmer’s markets. Can they be used to purchase seeds, seedlings or the means of planting a garden? I have a friend who’s writing a bang-up blog on gardening on a shoestring called “OC Freedom Garden.” So far, his postings have included making your own Jiffy Pots (they’re for starting seedlings. Just reading the phrase takes me back to the earthy smell of them from when my dad had huge gardens in our backyard). I spent a lot of summers mowing, weeding, picking, canning and freezing.

I had an idea a couple of years ago, when the foreclosure mania began, that cities such as Detroit should knock down some of the abandoned properties (which they’re doing anyway) and use the space for community gardens. People could not only feed themselves, but they could barter or sell the excess. There are plenty of agricultural schools with extension programs. If we can send the Peace Corps around the world to help people make their own lives better, why can’t it be done here in the US?

I’d rather see tax money go towards Burpee’s seeds and the Home Depot gardening department than to McDonalds and Dominos (which contributes generously to anti-abortion groups. I haven’t bought Domino’s Pizza in years).

I’d rather subsidize teaching people how to fish than just buy them a Filet O’ Fish, you know?


  1. "It can be argued that people are free to use their food stamp money any way they choose within the program parameters. This is true: we’re adults and adults are free to make their own decisions"

    I agree, if the adults are spending their own money. But, food stamps are other people's money. There need to be strict limits on how that is spent.

  2. I have a friend who had been on food stamps years ago. She said that they're only supposed to be used to buy uncooked food. Of course, that was way back when. The thing that gets me about this is that through EBT, we are now providing a taxpayer subsidy to these food corporations. Five'll get you ten that they lobbied for it.


Keep it civil.