Stop shaming poor people for being poor

One of the most searing memories from my childhood is the day my mother sent me to the local IGA with a book of food stamps in one hand and a grocery list in the other. Little else I have done in the intervening three decades of life made me feel as much shame as I did that day.

Until conservative policymakers understand the depth of that kind of shame — and its causes — they will never garner enough support for sensible policies that may improve the lives of the poor and working class, especially those restricting the use of food stamps, which the government has repeatedly rejected.

Even some of the most thoughtful conservatives seem to not get that point, as evidenced by a recent piece in The Washington Post titled, “How liberals undermine the food stamp program.” In it, Charles Lane referenced a November report from the Agriculture Department to argue that though food stamp recipients spend roughly $13 billion a year on junk food with taxpayer dollars, liberals don’t want the program reformed, even as it contributes to increasing rates of obesity.