My quasi-liberal bent is sorely tested

ALBANY—The New York State Senate has passed the “Public Assistance Integrity Act,” that would prohibit welfare recipients from using cash assistance for tobacco, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets or gambling.

Waitaminute. Are you telling me that people are using food stamps to buy lotto tickets?

Let me establish my bona fides. When dear old dad decided to bail out because being a dad wasn’t his thing, man, we went on food stamps for a brief period of time. Additionally, Fr. Tulley from St. John Bosco arranged a few food drops. Overnight, my mom went from housewife to breadwinner. She hustled and got a job at an office supply store and got us off food stamps as quickly as possible. This all occurred during my formative years and needing a hand-out was a grievous humiliation that I used to define who I was for a long time.

It depresses me a little to think people are gaming the system in this way. I can almost understand tobacco and alcohol because those are addictions and when you have a substance addiction, you’re not going to let a little thing like an impropriety stand in the way of getting what you need. But lotto tickets?

I am a naïve waif to be surprised by all this. You can take the boy out of Ohio but, etc. I am in favor of this law. Merchants can now refuse to sell these items to customers who are paying with food stamps. Does that make me heartless or (shudder) conservative? Christ, I hope not. I don’t want to be either.

*      *      *

The New York Times and CNN have been following the story of the Norwegian ex-pat in Dubai who went to the police after being raped and was promptly sentenced to 16 months in prison for illicit sex outside of marriage and alcohol consumption. It doesn’t do much for my opinion of Islamic law and even less for Dubai, which is apparently a gilded cage and a hell-hole for women.

I meditated on this. I’m a tolerant guy but reading stories about Muslims who immigrate to Western countries and then wall themselves in and refuse to follow the rules of law when they conflict with their cultural or religious beliefs doesn’t give me warm feelings. It makes me wonder why they’d want to be here in the first place.

Dubai is an appalling place but everyone going there knows the rules. As egregious as they are, should they to be condemned for enforcing their laws any more than we are for enforcing ours? They have since issued a pardon, but a pardon implies she’s guilty of the crimes charged. I hope they realize how foolish they look.

*     *     *

It’s helpful for small children if the first book that grabs their attention is also the first book that breaks their heart. It gets them in the mood for Romeo and JulietEthan Frome, marriage, life.

Joe Queenan
One For The Books

Summer is half over.


24 thoughts on “My quasi-liberal bent is sorely tested

  1. i’m not entirely sure you CAN use cash assistance for those things. i’ve seen people segregate items from orders and pay cash for the items that you CAN’T purchase with assistance — which includes toilet paper, by the way. the laws in NY may be different…

    one thought: there are people who sell their assistance cards (most states are using debit-like cards, rather than paper vouchers) for less than the actual value to convert them to cash. the NY law may be assigning criminal penalties to doing that…

    oh, and even if the journalist is pardoned, what do you think the chances are that the rapist will EVER be tried/convicted of a crime? somewhere between “zero” and “dick”… grrr…

    • Someone explained to me that the idea of actual food stamps is quaint and old fashioned. It’s all debit cards now and apparently, there’s no push-back from retailers on what you use it for. I hope that changes.

      I need to go back and revisit that story but I think they put the guy who assaulted that woman in jail under the same charges. A silver lining?

  2. I am unfamiliar with what the laws are when it comes to food stamps…And, I am not sure if they are different in every state….BUT, Food Stamps should be for food and staples, like toilet paper—that is shocking if they are not. The only good thing about Food stamps being used for Lotto Tickets is—if a person wins, they will certainly be off food stamps, pretty quick.

    • I can assure you with 100% certainty that people buying lottery tickets with food stamps will never win. The odds are astronomical. Better to concentrate on getting off welfare than daydream about lottery wins. My mom did it. Anyone can.

  3. Ugh, the implications of this rape case is monumental. It means that most women who are raped, won’t come forward for fear of being arrested. Like they haven’t suffered enough.

    • Dubai is not the only dark area on this. Even today, in some Western countries, women are reluctant to report such assaults.
      And when they do, they must further endure the ignominy (yes, I believe that IS the word) of a court case.

      But friends post pictures of youngsters enjoying a summer beach….it helps. 🙂

    • Excellent point. It seems to me that men in the Arabian peninsula treat women no better than the way they treat their shoes. Why are they so afraid of women?! They’ve spent centuries keeping them down on the ground. Too much religion makes people go crazy.

  4. I think gambling can be an addiction too, but the law is a good one, as you say. I’m surprised you shudder at being thought of as conservative – I seem to remember saying you’d like to vote for a moderate Republican.

    • You are correct, sir! Thanks for the reminder. I actually voted for Bush his first time around. Remember that “Compassionate Conservative” bit? Well, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. The current governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is a Republican I could probably get behind. I stand corrected!

  5. trust me gambling addiction is every bit as pernicious and debilitating as substance ones… I was in rehab for the gambler, lovely guy, in his late 20s, he had gambled everything, girlfriend, house, job, family. One day I was talking to him about it and said – “It must be good though when you win that feeling of success”. He snapped round to look at me with the most sorrowful expression “Oh God no, that is terrible because then I just know that I have to keep on until the winnings are gone”.

    The very very sad thing with him was he was trying to get clean as he suffered from cystic fibrosis. He wanted his last years to be clean. He got about 18 months in sadly before he died he only just made 30.

    • Thanks for the lesson. I like to fancy myself a student of the odds. I occasionally visit a casino and belly-up to a craps table. The lottery seems so silly and trite to me that I guess I was unwilling to see it as a legitimate problem. But you’re correct. The road to hell can be paved with scratch-off lottery tickets just as easily as pack of cigs or a tumbler of bourbon.

  6. I think regardless of how food stamps are given, i.e. vouchers, debit cards, etc., those who want to, will find a way to purchase the “forbidden” with them. I feel like for the most part, the welfare system is no longer a “hand-up”, but a “hand-out”. At this point I would prefer to see this country go back to some type of WPA program, and put some of these people back to work, while at the same time, making necessary improvements to infrastructure. I look at that as a win-win—the country gets improvements, and these individual’s self-esteem is raised by earning the money.

    • Man, I can’t tell you how low-down it felt to be on food stamps. It was my secret shame, even though I had nothing to do with it. I was just a kid! To this day, none of the friends I grew up with had any idea. But we needed it. We were in dire straights and I’m not sure what would have happened to us if it weren’t for a little gub-mint assistance. I wonder if people feel like they’re getting a hand-out? Is there still a stigma still attached?

  7. Nobody in my family has never been on food stamp or their UK/NZ equivalent, but we’ve been close a couple of times. Any form of such help can be abused, so I suppose it makes sense to try and stop such misuse, but it really erodes the self-image of the recipient.

    I really hate ALL religions, but Islam seems much more close-minded than any other. What I cannot understand is the immigrant’s attitude of bringing their culture and viewpoints to their new country. Why leave for f*ck’s sake. When I cam over here to NZ, I adopted, in the main, the culture and mores of my new country. I still have a viewpoint based on my upbringing and previous experience, but this is an extra viewpoint, which adds to the richness of my adopted country. Go the All Blacks.

    • Well, look who it is! Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes! You said you were going to take some time off but I thought you were kidding. Welcome back.

      I’m just dumb enough to believe that people are grateful for any charity offered and would never think of abusing it. What a rube!

      I’ve said it before in this space…organized religion causes the lion’s share of the world’s miseries. It’s hard to size-up which one is worse than the other. The radical factions of Islam and Christianity both seem hellbent on domination. And BOTH seem to hate women! Allah and Jesus would wretch if they saw what was being done in their names. I suppose they immigrate for new opportunities. Same reason throughout the ages. But don’t expect your new host nation to bend to your theological will. And that goes for people moving to Dubai.

  8. Circa 1993-4 i hung out in a bar in the seedier section of town where this went on everyday, sometimes fiddy cent on the dollar, best part was there was a supermarket right across the street, nickname “The Dirty Bird”, so you could score your illicit food stamps and then head across the street and then home to cook dinner after getting crocked.

    • This sort of thing has probably been going on since the day after they passed the Food Stamp Act of 1964. I simply don’t have a devious mind. It would never have dawned on me to get Pabst Blue Ribbon with my food coupon. Makes me wonder what else is going on that I’m unaware of.

  9. For anyone who has fallen so far through the flimsy American social security safety net, the least we can do for them is to let them spend their meagre amount of money as they wish. Why does being poor mean that the givers of the money have a moral control over the recipients.

    The whole idea of food stamps, in any case, is utterly odious and they shuld have no place in any decent society.

    About the Dubai case–what worries me about it is that there are probably hundreds of poorer or lower-status women whose stories we hear nothing about. She was an articulate, educated person from an advanced country. Many others aren’t so lucky.

    And I think I’ve mentioned the man next door but one to me who has managed not to learn any English in 47 years of living in this country; and I would happily vote for a law similar to that in France, which prohibits the burqa.

    • I know I must sound like a terrible judgmental prig but using a charitable resource for lottery tickets and whiskey seems heinous to me. I can tell you my mother never would have done it. Does that make her a better person? I don’t know. Perhaps it does. Charles Bukowski has a great essay about how when you’re down and out, OF COURSE you’re going to drink. You have to numb the pain, and that’s what people who have never been flat on their asses fail to understand.

      I suppose I have a conservative bent after all. I, too, would gladly vote to outlaw burqas. A terrible insult to women. It’s enslavement.

  10. We have a law coming out the same in this neck of the woods. Tobacco and alcohol are addictions but so is gambling right? Do lottery tickets count as gambling or is that just pot luck, I might get out of this sorry mess with a few squillion quid ?
    Do you think merchants will refuse them these items or take the tokens? It’s a contentious issue, this one.

    Remind me not to go to Dubai.

    • The state lottery is absolutely a form of gambling! You are placing a wager that a certain set of numbers will come up. It’s a fool’s bet. They never do. It’s a tax on the poor. And I don’t think merchants will give a damn about the new law.

      I wouldn’t visit Dubai for free.

    • Let it loose, baby. This is the place. Go to Dubai and speak your mind and they’ll hang you upside down by your ankles. And don’t dare drive, either. Jerks.

  11. Pingback: My quasi-liberal bent is sorely tested | Millennium 42

Vent Central:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s