The Road to Farley

The Road to Farley

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fiscal Cliffs and Partisan Bickering

2012 marked the ninth presidential election I have voted in. I am a liberal and a staunch Democrat. I have voted for Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton twice, Al Gore, John Kerry, and now Barack Obama twice. I'm not saying I would never vote for a Republican, I did vote for Chuck Grassley once because I couldn't believe how unimaginative the Democrats were putting Roxanne Conlin up against him.

My hard drive on my laptop crashed about 10 days ago, so I was kind of blissfully disconnected from social media leading up to and during the election. I say "kind of" because I did go rogue a couple of times when my Facebook withdrawal flared up, and I snuck a peek on my work laptop. I retrieved my laptop from the Geek Squad last night and got caught up on the days of posts I missed.

It's funny to me how divisive our elections have become. Perhaps it's just me. To be honest, I can be very apathetic about many things. Or, maybe I just don't take anything all that seriously. I make it a point to only discuss my political leanings with like company. I have many fantastic debates on the subject in my head, but really I don't want to be bothered with all the rhetoric because I'm not going to change my mind. I do try to understand the other side, but I just don't get it most of the time.

Case in point - here is a post that a friend/acquaintance posted on Facebook last night. It is true that this person is one of the very few people whom I call a friend and who is as devoted a Republican as I am a Democrat. 
OK...the election is over and hopefully the immediate emotion has passed. I've stayed pretty quiet but needed to share a thought. I'm not disappointed in the people who voted for Obama if they voted their convictions. We shouldn't criticize a person for exercising his/her opinion. I am disappointed that our country could re-elect a president, irrespective of party affiliation, who has added 75 people to food stamps for every job he's created. Perhaps more disappointing is the realization that this likely signals the last time we'll see a true two party system for the indefinite future. How do you overcome 46 million automatic votes? Does the next Republican candidate really have to promise to add 150 people to food stamps for every job he/she creates to have a chance? Is it really based on who hands out the most? I know that is a bit simplistic but not sure it is completely inaccurate. Again, I don't begrudge Democrats who voted their consciences but it is worrisome that a candidate with Obama's 4 year record could get elected. If we took just his credentials and took the name and party affiliation away, I don't think he'd get a vote from either party. Oh is what it is. Now we have to hope our country can survive without becoming a much larger version of Greece. For everyone's sake, I hope Obama can change the direction the country is heading or the next recession will make this most recent one seem like a vacation.
I've highlighted the statements that really irked me. He makes it sound as if people are being added to the food stamp program for the fun of it or as a reward. Don't even get me started that more people were actually added to the program under former President Bush than under President Obama. I don't know what he is trying to say when he says, "How do you overcome 46 million automatic votes?" What it tells me is that he is sadly out of touch with the people who actually receive assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is what the program has been called since 2008. A few facts on the 46 million beneficiaries of the SNAP program:
  • 47% percent of recipients are less than 18 years old
  • 8% of all participants are age 60 or older, 73% of whom live alone
  • 16% of all households include an elderly member
  • 20% include a disabled member
  • Nearly 40% of SNAP households receive the maximum allotment because they have little or no income
  • Nearly 20% of households have no gross income
  • Another 19% have no net income
  • The maximum benefit for a family of four in fiscal year 2012 is $668, or less than $1.90 per person per meal.  
You can see that the argument isn't much of an argument. Approximately 21.6 million of the SNAP recipients aren't even old enough to vote. Receiving SNAP benefits is not a badge of honor. Recipients don't run down the street shouting "I WON! I WON!" when their EBT card is reloaded. Most of the people I have known who received benefits were embarrassed to need assistance. I'm also not sure how much the person who posted this comment spends on groceries for his family of five, but I know that as a single person, I can easily spend nearly $400/month on groceries, and I don't even keep all that much food in the house. Receiving SNAP isn't a money-making venture.

As a lifelong Democrat and bleeding heart liberal, I don't expect the government to take care of me. I don't feel entitled to anything. I happily pay my taxes -- without the benefit of deductions for a bunch of kids or a mortgage or unreimbursed business expenses -- and add on the school tax surcharge for my local school district, even though I do not have kids in school. It really annoys me when conservatives make references that imply "we expect the government to take of everything." No, we don't. It's just not true. I remember my mom making a comment when I was younger that we probably would have met the guidelines for free or reduced lunches at school because my dad was a self-employed farmer (and not that successful at it). But they didn't apply because they were too proud for that. I had several close friends who went through long periods of unemployment after the recession of 2007-2008, they hated being on unemployment because it made them feel like losers, and they did not apply for SNAP benefits, even though they would have been eligible.

I'm not saying that Obama is the shit. I'm not sitting here in awe of what he has done during the past four years, but as I commented in a prior blog, I personally -- and many of my family and friends -- am better off today than I was four years ago. I see steady progress. I see an overall resolve that there is more to do and that we should not be resting on our laurels. Had John McCain won in 2008, I honestly do not think our progress would be that markedly different.