Several years ago I made some decisions that left me financially tied up. I was partnered in a home renovation gone wrong, made more wrong by the fact I was living in the home as it was crumbling around me. At one point, I got to mix camping and normal life when I slept within a three walled room; the missing fourth wall exposed me to the elements and probably some very confused neighbors. Taking summer classes and working at the time made things even more tribulating. It got to the point my initially daring business partner and I felt bankruptcy looming. It was then I decided to save money by living on $20 a week or less except for bills, gas, and school necessities.
I can appreciate that this one summer of “difficulty” is nothing compared to the lives of millions of Americans, but it is the context to one of many, and probably the most memorable, moments in my life that cemented into me a conservative mindset.
Like many college students, I worked after classes during the week, studying and doing homework during my breaks. It was during my time at work when I had this conservative revelation. It was the end of the day and I was checking out the final shopper before we could start closing the store. We were held up because a member of the shopper’s party had run to the back of the store to get one more thing. So, the cashier and I waited as the customer ran up holding a plate of shrimp exclaiming, “here’s dinner!” Not a big deal, we sold shrimp and I’m glad people bought it. This sentiment left however, when I saw EBT pop up on the screen when she ran her card.
I, living on PB&J and spaghetti, was subsidizing that woman’s shrimp dinner.
I am not against food stamps per se and I certainly don’t want to see people go hungry, but a shrimp dinner? You gotta be kidding me. Talk about a “let them eat cake” moment. People need help, this is true, but more importantly they need to learn to help themselves. In my financial plight, I, who had no previous experience living on a budget, recognized the necessity and was able to act to stabilize my finances; living on a limited budget, and selling a car putting me in a hot-red 1993 Plymouth Voyager. And just in case budgeting didn’t work, I had three back-up plans, none of which included living on anyone else’s dime, the government’s or my parent’s.
I’m sure this woman could have, at some point in her life, made at least one plan to handle her money better – the idea Ben Carson was referring to when he claimed, “poverty is a state of mind.” Instead, she relied on the hand of others to provide food; and fine food at that. This is one of the reasons I call myself fiscally conservative; I do not believe someone’s earnings should be forcibly separated from them to pay for another’s extravagances. A sentiment I believe we are all on board with.
This is not to say all people should be denied assistance, but it is just that: assistance. When you say you can’t put food on your family’s table, I have no problem chipping in for some bread and honey, but you better work your way out of the debt you owe society for picking up your shortcomings. Wasting other’s money on shrimp is not the best start.