I gave them an inch and they took a mile. Then they went on a high-speed chase and crashed the mother-fucking car. Yesterday, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a carton of busted intentions AKA AB110. This bill basically restricts the items a FoodShare recipient is allowed to purchase to a very specific list decided on by people like the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Dean Kaufert (R) (who happens to be an ex-potato chip sales guy). He and Popcorn Vos must have delicious meetings.
The reason I say that I gave them an inch…
Well, let’s start from the egg (but not a brown one!!!).
Years ago, I worked at a grocery store for about 5 minutes (well, maybe about 6 months tops). And I did, indeed, notice a significant amount of food stamp purchases going toward junk or luxury items. When I would check out a guy buying prime rib with his food stamps and beer with his cash – yes, it annoyed me. It annoyed me because I lived on chicken flavored ramen noodles for YEARS. And while I wasn’t always the most responsible employee (I quit that job so I could attend a Dead show) – until I decided to be a SAHM, I worked steady since the age of 14 and never received any governmental assistance. Why I felt I was in a place to decide what was a luxury for whom…who knows. I was young and prematurely bitter.
For a long time I have been suggesting major changes to our FoodShare program. Of course, I know very little and I often have to knock myself down from that tower of idealism. But I always wanted healthier food to be available and affordable to those living in poverty and the working poor. My attention was usually focused on fast food, however. And I have written about some of this in the past.
And I wrote this WAYYY back in 2005, which brings me to a funny story. I will preface this story by saying that Rep. Robin Vos can be pretty brilliant when he wants to be. He has been known as one legislator who is very on the ball when it comes to responding to his constituents. And back in the day (not sure about lately), he would usually make a phone call. I say this is brilliant because not only does it get him this reputation for being in touch with those in his district but there is also no paper trail. If there were – this story would be much more interesting.
Back when I wrote that blog in 2005, I also sent him a letter – suggesting a fast food tax in Wisconsin. He called me back from his cell phone while he was driving on a summer evening. He was very polite and explained to stupid little me that a tax on fast food would only harm the poorest in our state. That it would be punishing those we should be helping. Because we all know that the Wisconsin GOP lives and breathes to help our poor, right? RIGHT?? (crickets)
Hot Coffee (hold the creamer)…
You need to watch this film. Everyone. Do it. It really illuminated just how manipulated we are by the powers that be through the media and desired legislation. I am not an intellectual. I don’t read every story that pops up in my newsfeed. And I was one of the blind followers who thought that suing McDonald’s over a hot cup of coffee was ridiculous. Why? Because the details were never in the cover story. Because the late night hosts were so funny with their drive thru one liners. Because I was lazy.
The political push towards tort reform by those such as Karl (barf) Rove lassoed the main stream media and big time PR manipulation took over. But fact is, we knew nothing. And we had no idea who was controlling the strings when it came to this old lady and her McDonald’s coffee.
I bring this up now because I was Hot Coffee’d when it came to this bill.
When I first heard about the proposal, I thought…well…it’s really not THAT awful. I mean, I knew that their intentions were not noble by any means and were certainly not out of concern for the health of others. But I, too, would like to find a way to make the Food Share program work in a more healthful way.
Parents make terrible food choices for their children all of the time. I almost died the first time I saw a mother pour Mt. Dew into her baby’s bottle. Rich parents make these choices just as often (perhaps even more so) as poor parents. But I figured, as long as the money is coming from tax payers – maybe we DO have a say in the choices that can have future consequences on a society.
My thinking wasn’t really out of line with past opinions such as the smoking ban or a push for healthier school lunches. I have no problem with “sin” taxes (they really gotta come up with better wordage on that one). In fact, I am waiting for the day when they legalize weed and tax the shit out of it.
But after learning more about what was REALLY in this bill…it has been proven once again that I was a lazy commentator.
This bill mandates that 2/3 of the Food Share allowance be spent on WIC approved foods only. So, to be fair, 1/3 can still be spent on other items. However, it should be understood that the monthly allotment for a family of 4 with a net income of around $1000 per month is about $365. That is about 30 bucks a week for 4 people to spend on something that is not on the WIC list. So if you NEED to provide your child with soy milk or gluten-free bread – that must come out of that $30 bucks a week.
And I don’t know about you, but my family of 4 spends about $200 per week on groceries. It is difficult to eat healthfully on much less than that.
Some things that are NOT allowed to be purchased…
Brown or free range eggs, soy or almond milk, gluten-free bread, frozen meals, soup, cheddar cheese (in WISCONSIN), any juice box that is NOT Juicy Juice brand, etc. So, if your child is allergic to cow’s milk…screw you. If you’re concerned about the treatment of animals…screw you. If you have celiac…screw you. If you chose to eat organically to avoid the toxins of pesticides and hormones…screw you. Older people who depend on a microwave for their meals…screw you too.
They could have put provisions in the bill to help cover lean meats, but no. They could have worked to provide a bill which could make local produce available through farmer’s markets, but again…no. This bill was not proposed with intention of helping people. It was designed to punish, to dictate and to make way towards future privatization. And all the while all of this session time and tax payer money is not only being flushed but is also plugging up the toilet.
Rep. Kaufert stated (about the bill), “It is widely popular. It’s one of those street or sidewalk issues where everyone has a story (about FoodShare problems).”
Well, Mr. Kaufert, have you ever watched the Jaywalking segment on Leno? I’d rather you didn’t decide on what to legislate based on what random people are bitching about on the street corner, thank you very much.
I should also mention that this likely will not amount to much. It is the feds who have the most say in how these funds are distributed. Also, grocers are already protesting the measure. Costs to implement and maintain such a strict remedy cannot be predicted but are expected to be very high and unreasonable. Computer systems will need to be changed at the cost of the store owners. How will this be policed? It certainly won’t be cheap.
Why not spend this time, money and energy in eliminating the fraud which taints these programs to begin with? Why fight First Lady Obama’s proposals for healthier school lunches while telling poor people what kind of cheese they can eat? Why stomp around complaining about smoking bans while you are trying to convince us that you give a shit about the health of our communities? This inauthentic, hypocritical bullshit is so blatant that I don’t think they even try to hide it anymore.
Okay. I have blathered on long enough. There was much more I wanted to bitch about…but, once again, The Root River Siren beat me to it. So read that HERE. As for me…I am off to the grocery store, coupons in hand and carrying an ass load of gratitude that I don’t have to make my purchasing decisions based on the asshats in Madison. Not today, anyway.
**In full disclosure – yes…some Democrats DID indeed vote for this bullshit. It was not my intention to gloss over that nonsense. However, bloggers are out in full force (including the Siren’s post linked above) reporting on that piece of the pie. So, I didn’t bother to harp on it. I imagine that some of the Reps are voting according to the wishes of their loudest constituents. I just happen to believe that many of the more liberal/Dem-leaning voters have been hot coffee’d much like I was. And there weren’t enough of those who knew better to make noise BEFORE the vote. That is my only perceived explanation as to why on earth Dem Reps voted for this. I guess we will have to wait and hope they make some kind of statement as to their reasoning.