Not only that, by the time you read this on Friday, Independence Day 2013 will be history.
Hopefully, this July 4 you devoted time to your family, and did traditional, American stuff. You know, fire up the grill. Break out the steaks, burgers and hot dogs.
Complain about the welfare recipients who are driving up the cost of food.
Ok, granted, if you’re a reasonable, intelligent person, you likely realize that people who must rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to get by really aren’t contributing to higher food costs.
There’s just one problem. In this land of the free, where everyone has a right to express himself or herself, some of the loudest people are not very bright. Besides being a bit dim, they like to blame their problems on the least fortunate around us.
An example of this dim-wittedness comes from Texas.
Last month, when a trillion-dollar farm bill failed in the House of Representatives, after the GOP sought deeper cuts than Democrats would accept, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) got to work telling a familiar story, one he said he’d heard many times from broken-hearted and angry constituents. Its protagonist is a hardworking Texan waiting in line at the grocery store. Someone’s buying Alaskan king crab legs in front of him, and he’s looking at them longingly, dreaming of the day he can afford such a luxury. Then the person buying them whips out his EBT – an Electronic Benefits Transfer card for food stamps.
“He looks at the king crab legs and looks at his ground meat and realizes,” Gohmert said, “because he does pay income tax … he is actually helping pay for the king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself.”
And that’s how cash register resentment becomes crabby conservatism – the belief that your own struggles are tangled up in another person’s safety net.
Gohmert’s gripe is a tale that is at least 20 years old. In 1993, the Columbus Dispatch ran a letter to the editor lamenting a food stamp recipient buying “two bottles of wine, steak and a large bag of king crab legs.”Since then, the crab complaint has recurred more than a dozen times in newspapers around the country, according to Arthur Delaney who writes for the Huffington Post.
I was reminded of this while scanning Associated Press stories this morning. One holiday-related article notes that this year, to host a Fourth of July picnic will cost about $6 per person.
That’s according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which launched an informal price survey this year looking at the cost of hot dogs, cheeseburgers and other Independence Day fare.
“Five dollars a person for a special event cookout is affordable for most people,” said John Anderson, chief deputy economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We certainly know that there are people who struggle with affording food and other necessities, but in general, we’re blessed with very affordable food in this country.”
Anderson notes that the cost is a bit higher than last year. About 2 percent higher. And, it’s not because poor people are abusing SNAP. “That’s kind of normal price inflation, and … I certainly think that we’re in the ballpark of those normal price changes over the past year,” he said.
But, hey. It’s America. If you want to grouse about the price of food in the grocery store, you have that right. If you want to complain about how your tax dollars are used to feed poor people, go ahead. You have that right, too.
Try to remember a couple things, though. To qualify for nutrition assistance, you have to be poor. In just about every sense of the word. To be eligible for SNAP in South Dakota, a family of two can have a maximum gross annual income of $1,640.
I would imagine that those numbers vary from state to state, just as the cost of living in Texas is likely different than the cost of living here.
You have the same freedom in our great country as Rep. Gohmert to not let facts get in the way of a good story. While firing up your grill, you can spin the tired yarn of government assistance recipients and crab legs.
Hopefully, however, as you celebrated July 4 with people you love, you took a moment to be thankful for not only the incredible gift of freedom we enjoy – no eligibility requirements needed – but also the responsibilities that go with it. Including looking out for others. Fairly and responsibly.
What could be more American than that?