Shame is a tool. It comes in different forms, some more effective than others, but at the end of the day it is a social motivation to improve yourself. Like all motivational techniques it may work better for some than others, but we should not deny its use to others for the sake of our own peace of mind.
The social movement to demonize shaming is, like most movements, well intentioned. No individual should feel like they are ostracized from society and all people should be given the respect their humanity demands. However, there are occasions when being different from society or even a societal norm should not be viewed as acceptable. One such occasion is government assistance.
There is no shame in going through a hard time or in not having a job that pays enough to support your family, but you should feel shame at having left yourself to the mercy of others. Through whatever the circumstance, you are left without the ability to care for yourself and those counting on you. It is not a feeling you should be mocked for. Indeed, a person who mocks those less fortunate will find harder times when he is in need. Instead, this requisite shame should be your motivation. You should not count on the next government check coming in the mail but count down until you no longer need it.
Instead we get entitlement. What should be a temporary measure becomes so entrenched in our society to see it change is beyond thought. Last week the Trump administration released in their budget a plan to decrease the cost of food stamps by converting to a “Blue Apron-type program.” The idea being the government could save money by buying in bulk non-perishable food items and sending them to food stamp recipients. The Office of Management and Budget estimates it could get goods at half the market value and director Mick Mulvaney noted only part of the SNAP benefits would come from this plan, indicating monetary benefits would still be received but supplemented by actual foodstuffs. This would also help to minimize waste as food stamp recipients couldn’t use (as many) taxpayer dollars on shrimp, fast food, and a host of other less than ethical choices.
The reference by Mulvaney to Blue Apron opened the program to comparison but the analogy doesn’t stick. Citing high costs of delivery for Blue Apron doesn’t work because the government intends to ship non-perishables not requiring the insulation and ice packs delivered with Blue Apron. Furthermore, the government does not need to make a profit as a private company does. Not to mention the fact the government does not need to directly pay for shipping as a private company would.
Some concerns over the proposed changes to the food stamps program are well placed: how will they manage dietary restrictions? How will they manage to ship out the products? The notoriously mismanaged government has trouble with big changes and something that affects 16.4 million households should be taken seriously.
All of this ignores one key point: you are getting free food. The government provides, through taxation, a resource for you to use. It should not be all you count on for daily sustenance. It should supplement you until you no longer need it. When you receive money on your EBT card you should imagine going door-to-door and asking your neighbors for that money because they are the ones giving it to you. Success of the program should not be how many people use the program but how many people get off it and never come back.
As I said, shame is a tool; one just simply needs to learn how to pick it up and use it. Do not follow the societal trend which says it is ok to be at the mercy of others, that it is ok to be dependent on the state, and that it is not ok to feel as if you could be better. Stand up and earn what is given so that one day you might repay it.