Op Ed

Put Me in Charge

The following is a status update that has been floating around the internets, attributed to a Texan letter to the editor. People are copying and pasting it and vomiting it out as though it were their own, and other people are cheering it on:

Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Hos, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.


Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine and document all tattoos and piercings. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, smoke or get tats and piercings, then get a job.


Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your “home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.


In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good…”


Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules… Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.


If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices. AND While you are on Gov’t subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov’t welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.


Suppose this piece of crap showed up on your news feed. How do you respond? Well, here’s the short answer:

Put me in charge of character. I’d get rid of assholes and those who have a complete lack of empathy, and anybody who discriminates against people with a fucking tattoo because they are so sure their choices are the only choices possible. I’d also get rid of anybody stupid enough to think that if they have one medical catastrophe and therefore fall on hard times (which, actually, all of us are in danger of), they will not need a support system. Or who thinks the “living wage” in America is actually a living wage. An ignorance of the fact that veterans of foreign wars have a higher unemployed rate than the rest of the population would also be disposed of. I’d make sure common sense and an understanding of economics was mandatory, so that nobody would walk around thinking for one second that by NOT taking care of the downtrodden, a country can succeed.

But suppose the person who posted this status update is a thoughtful person, one who can appreciate logic and truth, and simply is misguided?  Let’s break it down:

The general idea is if a person is receiving government benefits, they should be more tightly controlled by the government, to an extreme. The government (or the person who posted the status) gets to choose what the person eats, when the person procreates, how a person decorates their body, the manner in which they live, and how they spend their time.

First and foremost, such restrictions are a violation of the 4th amendment, which protects all citizens (not just those who are above the poverty line) against unreasonable searches and seizures. I don’t care how much you dislike somebody or find their lack of a job disgusting, it is unconstitutional to intrude that far into their lives without a warrant. Getting a warrant for each situation would require probable cause. Not earning a certain amount of money? Does not constitute probable cause. It constitutes being poor.

The interesting thing about such status updates is that, when I have seen them, they are put forth by people who would profess that a small government is the key to economic prosperity. And yet the government should be micromanaging every aspect of the approximately 50 million people getting government assistance?

Let’s get a little further into this. What is it about somebody that needs help that is so abhorrent to the poster? What kind of person do they have in mind?

First, it is somebody they do not know, or, at the very least, do not respect. The tone of the post makes that blatantly clear.

But what of their race? Any guesses?

The statement, “We will sell your 22-inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the ‘common good'” makes that abundantly clear. The stereotype of a young black man, in a low-riding expensive car with spinning rims and loud hip-hop music, is instantly brought to mind. Is that what this is about? Treating black people like the second-class citizens the poster thinks they are?

Let’s set aside the racism for a minute and think logically. What happens when you restrict the lifestyle of a sixth of the population? Those who are above the poverty line get to eat what they want, including Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. Those below the poverty line subsist on rice, beans, cheese, and milk. You know what happens when you fuck with people’s food supplies?

In case you need some evidence, according to the UN, food crises lead to violence. From the 2011 World Economic and Social Survey: “The severe impact of the 2007-2008 food crisis on living conditions was attested by the riots that broke out in over 30 countries.” This is, of course, talking about food shortages, while the poster is talking about food restrictions. Obviously they are not one and the same, but food crises often lead directly to revolution. People are willing to fight and die over food. Deciding that one class of people gets their choice of food while another is restricted is moving into dangerous territory.

So we stir resentment and violence up in a sixth of the population. Then what?

Oh, right. Sterilization. STERILIZATION. The U.S. has an ugly history of forced sterilization, which it is still paying for today. With a peak in the late 1920s, 30 states performed 60,000 sterilizations, mostly of mentally and physically disabled people, socially disadvantaged groups, and those living on the margins of society. Sounds good, according to what the poster would like. Right? If you want to reproduce, get a job? American eugenic laws and practices implemented in the first decades of the twentieth century influenced the much larger National Socialist compulsory sterilization program, which between 1934 and 1945 led to approximately 350,000 compulsory sterilizations and was a stepping stone to the Holocaust.  Oh yeah.  I forgot. The most famous sterilizer in history was Hitler.

We should also, according to the post, prohibit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, tattoos, and piercings. Because what the government should be spending its time on is an individual’s body, right? Prohibition was tried in the United States, for everyone. It failed, resoundingly, and we are still feeling the consequences today: a rise in organized crime, a crippling of the economy, an increase in alcoholism; these are just a few effects. And what happens when some people, the wealthy, get to take part in such activities, while others do not? Once again, it is a breeding ground for resentment and violence.

And the suggestion that some asshole should get to decide how a person pierces their own body is ludicrous. Is he going to monitor haircuts, as well?

He also suggests forced labor for those who are not working. Forced labor worked out quite well for the Soviets in Siberia. Read some Solzhenitsyn, and report back to me if you still think this is a great idea.

Speaking of the Soviet Union. There were, of course, many reasons why communism was attractive to the would-be-Soviets at the end of the 19th century. One of them was the ridiculous level of inequalities between those at the top and those at the bottom. When you institutionalize class inequalities, it can be a rally cry for the masses to rise up. Be careful what you wish for, and upon whom you tread.

So his suggestions for improvements are all disgusting, and classist, and racist, and would lead to serious resentment, possibly riots, violence, and revolution, by the targets. The most ridiculous part of the statement is the idea that “all of the above is voluntary.” As though the one in six Americans on government assistance have chosen this. As though the fact that there are nearly five people looking for a job for every position that opens up means nothing. “If you want a job, go get it!” But not everybody, because there aren’t enough openings. How about for white, educated men; they have the lowest unemployment rate. So if you want a job, go get it! And be born white, and male, and privileged enough to get an education. You know what? Fuck off.

Oh, and even if you are white, and male, and educated?  The majority of us are one medical emergency away from financial ruin. Nearly two out of three bankruptcies stem from medical bills, and even people with health insurance face financial disaster if they experience a serious illness, a new study shows. So you’ve done everything right.  You’ve been born the right color, and the right sex, and into the right circumstances, and you’ve gotten that job.  Good for you!  But then it turns out you have multiple sclerosis.  Oh shit.  Too bad.  You should have chosen not to get that.

It is toward the end of the post that his asshole really shows. “If you want our money.” Our money.  This is a simple message: us vs. them. We are well off. We are smart, and hard-working, and we are being taken advantage of. You are poor, and lazy, and black, and you are stealing money from us. But guess who else is taking our money? Everybody. Everybody who uses our roads, everybody who uses our libraries, everybody who uses our student loans to get our education to get our jobs.  Half of the people who have received social program benefits from the government think they have not, and even if you aren’t one of those people (my money is betting that you are), asshole poster guy, you certainly are taking advantage of taxpayer money in other ways. Oh wait, but that’s your money, because you are white and smart and hard-working, and so you deserve it.

Oh, and last but not least, let’s take away voting rights of those on government assistance. I have a better idea! Let’s let each unemployed person count as 3/5 of a person. We can just re-use documents from an earlier, sweeter time, when black people picked “our” cotton and didn’t use up “our” resources.

And once again, fuck off, asshole.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

13 replies on “Put Me in Charge”

The tattoo/piercing thing really irks me. Probably because I’m on Medicaid and just got a new tattoo about a month ago.

They’re trying to say that if you have the money for ink you should use it to pay for your own health insurance, I guess. Which demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about one time cost versus recurring cost.

I was able to scrape together a couple hundred bucks one time and set it aside to use to get some new ink as a birthday gift to myself. The amount I paid for a tattoo might equal one monthly payment for private insurance. Which means the amount I scraped together? I would have to come up with that on a regular basis. Finding that money consistently is not feasible, and my still having the extra couple hundred I spent on the tattoo in my bank account wouldn’t change that.

But by all means, take away my Medicaid over this one little picture on my arm. Because you know, I’d be much MORE productive and able to find work if I had to go off my anti-depressants. Certainly.

The thing is – I don’t think that’s what they’re getting at.  I could see the logic behind an argument that “don’t waste your money on art if you don’t have any money.”  As you said, it’s not that simple, but I can see the argument.

But the way it’s shoved in there with piercings and drugs and alcohol, it says to me that having a tattoo or a piercing is a Bad Decision and you lose your right to make Bad Decisions when you start being poor.  Which is ludicrous, both in the idea that you would lose your rights because of no money and because having a tattoo or being pierced is not a Bad Decision.

It’s – tattooism?  Not really racism, sort of classism, but discrimination based on the way that you present your body.

I kind of read it as the author of the original post doesn’t feel that anybody who accepts aid or government assistance should be allowed to have ‘extravagances’. And they include tattoos and piercings in that, along with rims, video games and ‘nice food’. It seems to me that they hold some prejudices about certain groups of people, obviously. Namely, African Americans and the tatooed/pierced (hippies, maybe?). It’s ridiculous either way, because most of their prejudice seems based on untrue stereotypes to begin with.

At some point, past all the politics, I wonder where people lost their empathy, because on a real simple, 2nd grader logic level, that’s what this is. Between the whole American individualism/exceptionalism and the fact that most of these folks are just plain lucky that they haven’t had to deal with any of these scenarios , you think there would still be an empathetic response behind it. Like, yea, I have all these things, but this person doesn’t and that sucks. But instead, anyone who is struggling and taking advantage of the benefits that were put in place so that they wouldn’t be at the bare rock bottom are perceived as threats to those who haves success. Its the ultimate in bizarre.

That’s on a very basic level, not even scratching on the thinly veiled racism/sexism/policing. Hmmm, I wonder who might have written this. Perhaps a white guy who cant see his head from his ass?

People in the states really hate poor people. Its like they constantly remind us that we could be them and we resent and hate them for it. And were Americans ! That could NEVER happen!

There was a Facebook response to this article – somebody said that it rubbed her the wrong way, that people shouldn’t be entitled to benefits…and later in the thread, admitted that she had been on government assistance “for a little while” and “just to get back on my feet.”  I think that the lack of empathy is shocking, but at its root is the belief that THOSE PEOPLE, the ones that the poster is talking about, are substantively different from me.  I am good.  People on welfare are bad.  I am hard-working.  People on welfare are lazy.  I am smart.  People on welfare are stupid.  I have morals.  People on welfare are thieves.

Because so many people are or have been on government assistance, it almost forces those who are ideologically opposed to such things into a more extreme stance – to prove that even though they have needed help, they are NOT the stereotypical welfare recipient.  To further marginalize the group that they are sort of a part of in order to build their own self-esteem.

What’s most terrifying/depressing about the rant (not yours, Malyshka, but the one that inspired you) is that it’s not just coming from some ridiculous fringe group. New York State’s Republican candidate for governor last year wanted to institute “voluntary” hygiene/work camps on the grounds of former prisons for welfare recipients. It’s just awful. These ideas are SO BAD and yet people flock to them.

I laughed. Probably because I prefer to give my laughter than my tears and frustration to someone who thinks in such a black and white (woops?) way.

Of course, there are solutions in this. Let’s just forget that humans have this nasty habit of speaking their mind, protesting and simply not knowing what’s good for them. I mean, it worked in 1984, right? Except for the ending, so maybe we should allow them not to group together, speak their mind .. maybe just have their tongues cut out. And don’t teach them two read or write either.

Yes, I sometimes wished that we could take humankind by the hand and push it into a better way. Turning the government into the wise parents sadly isn’t possible, nor a good idea.

Wow. And once again I am thankful that I’m not close to my extended family, and that my immediate family are all liberal, ’cause I hadn’t seen this. (Hilariously, the one conservative high school “friend” who insisted on adding me later defriended me, I assume because she was outraged by all of my pro-babykilling posts).

Thank you for this. You have said everything I have wanted to say, but just couldnt find the words. I linked your article on my facebook, and I no longer care about the shitstorm it may cause. My “friends” obviously don’t care how it makes me and others feel to read that bullshit THEY post about drug testing welfare recipiants and shit along those lines, so now I am turning the tables. Once again, thank you.

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