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WORKING, ON FOOD STAMPS

At Slate, Krissy Clark writes about "The Secret Life of a Food Stamp." Read her series in full at tbtim.es/foodstamp. Here's an excerpt.

Let's start with Adam Hudson, age 21. Last summer he got a job at a Walmart Supercenter in Dayton, Ohio, as a hardware associate - stocking shelves, organizing displays and helping customers - making $8.25 an hour. Until then, he had a pretty low opinion of the food stamp program. "I'd always considered people who use food stamps as just taking advantage of the government," Hudson says, because they "weren't working hard enough to be able to afford for themselves." But at Walmart, Hudson saw lots of his co-workers working hard and still needing (food stamps). One day after he returned home from work, he was talking with his fiancee, who was pregnant. "She had mentioned that she was hungry - hadn't been able to eat that day," he told me. "I kept trying to suggest things we could do, like calling my mom or my dad for a little bit of help. ... It dawned on us that we can't afford to feed ourselves and make sure all of our bills are paid and have a car with gas to get to work every day." A few weeks after Walmart hired him, Hudson enrolled in the food stamp program.

Give parents a (tax) break

At Slate, Reihan Salam, a self-proclaimed childless professional, says that "we should slash taxes on parents by jacking them up for nonparents." Read "Tax the Childless" in full at tbtim.es/taxchild. Here's an excerpt.

Who should pay more? Nonparents who earn more than the median household income, just a shade above $51,000. By shifting the tax burden from parents to nonparents, we will help give America's children a better start in life, and we will help correct a simple injustice. We all benefit from the work of parents. Each new generation reinvigorates our society with its youthful vim and vigor. As my childless friends and I grow crankier and more decrepit, a steady stream of barely postpubescent brainiacs writes catchy tunes and invents breakthrough technologies that keep us entertained and make us more productive. The willingness of parents to bear and nurture children saves us from becoming an economically moribund nation of hateful curmudgeons. The least we can do is offer them a bigger tax break.

In this game, Putin holds all the trumps

At Project Syndicate, Ivan Krastev provides a trenchant analysis on Vladimir Putin and the West. Read "Putin's World" in full at tbtim.es/putinworld. Here's an excerpt.

At this point, the West has no idea what Russia is willing to do, but Russia knows exactly what the West will - and, more important, will not - do. This has created a dangerous asymmetry.

The need to look past the end of your nose

In the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who grew up in a tough neighborhood before going to college and becoming a writer, criticizes those who use "black culture" and "the culture of poverty" as near synonyms and sees worship of "middle class values" as myopic. Read "Other People's Pathologies" in full at tbtim.es/cultures. Here's an excerpt.

(Children) need to be taught that all norms are not transferable into all worlds. In my case, physical assertiveness might save you on the street but not beyond it. At the same time, other values are transferrable and highly useful. The "cultural norms" of my community also asserted that much of what my country believes about itself is a lie. In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells and Malcolm X, it was my responsibility to live, prosper and attack the lie. Those values saved me on the street, and they sustain me in this present moment. People who take a strict binary view of culture ("culture of privilege = awesome; culture of poverty = fail") are afflicted by the provincialism of privilege and thus vastly underestimate the dynamism of the greater world. They extoll "middle-class values" to the ignorance and exclusion of all others. To understand, you must imagine what it means to confront algebra in the morning and "Shorty, can I see your bike?" in the afternoon. It's very nice to talk about "middle-class values" when that describes your small, limited world. But when your grandmother lives in one 'hood and your co-workers live in another, you generally need something more than "middle-class values." You need to be bilingual.

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