Bill Maher recently told liberals to “shut the fuck up” for probably the millionth time, but this time it was for their constant intramural skirmishes over who’s doing it right, and who’s not. While his aim was characteristically scattershot, I couldn’t help but agree with him on the subject of Gwyneth Paltrow’s SNAP challenge. In case you missed it, Paltrow decided to wade into the now-flagging trend of seeing what it’s like to live on a food stamp budget of $29, and made the mistake of tweeting about it (which is actually the whole point):
This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week. pic.twitter.com/OZMPA3nxij
— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) April 9, 2015
You can read all of the predictable replies, accusing Gwynnie of condescension, joking that poors can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods (the groceries are from Safeway), and slagging her choice of staples. Blog posts of condemnation followed, which Wonkette‘s Rebecca Schoenkopf ably rounds up and flushes down the toilet as the petty bullshit that they are. Don’t get me wrong, no one likes a good bit of privilege piñata, but calling it out has supplanted actually doing good for people as white liberals’ number one pastime. As Schoenkopf points out, the worst that will happen is that someone might think about the issue of poverty next time they vote. If they read her next tweet, maybe they’ll even donate to a food bank.
I get why a celebrity like Paltrow is such a ripe target, but the first thing this made me think of was much bigger asshole John Stossel, who uses his platform to actually harm poor people. Take whatever energy you were going to expend yelling at Paltrow, and use it to mail Stossel a box of dogshit.
But another favorite hobby horse of the left is bagging on another favorite hobby horse of the right: welfare shaming. For example, All In host Chris Hayes recently interviewed a Kansas state legislator named Michael O’Donnell about his state’s law banning the use of TANF (welfare) money on cruise ships and strip clubs, of all places! Hayes completes a satisfying grilling of O’Donnell about the bill, including a nifty gotcha at the end wondering why there are no restrictions on how farm subsidies are spent, Good times.
This isn’t a new thing, as states have long tried out a laundry list of restrictions on food stamps and TANF benefits, many of which promote exactly the same false notion that poor people are getting over on taxpaying white people by purchasing lobster and marijuana with their EBT cards, and yeah, it’s infuriating, but as a former poor and current taxpayer-American, who gives a good goddamn? Hayes is absolutely right, there is absolutely no evidence of widespread TANF use on handjobs and cruise ships, and these laws are just time-wasting attempts to be dicks to poor people, but unless the watch Fox News, what poor person is ever going to be harmed by this?
And there are people in the squishy political “middle” to whom lobster laws hold some appeal, who might not see a big problem with them, and when liberals spend all this time on it, those people then begin to equate such restrictions with other laws that actually can hurt people, like the ones that reduce family benefits for the children of certain convicted felons, or drug test welfare recipients, meaning if your mom smoked a joint, kid, you’re going hungry.
Of course, both sorts of measures need to be pushed back against, but the latter are more important, and the way to fight the former is to give in. Every time someone suggests banning food stamps or TANF from some ridiculous space, the liberal response should be “Fine, then can you also kick in a few more bucks? And can we also do something about food deserts? Can we make them sell kaffir limes at Dollar General?”