This is probably pushing it - but I think a lot, and I am bored (whoooooooo! Saturday night!) So here is my fiscal year 2015 proposal for the US to get its shit together by 2020 - realizing full well that its INSANE that any one man should think himself better at setting policy than the entirety of the US Legislative and Executive branch. But such are the times.
1) A draw down of armed forces and a strategic redeployment of the Navy
The US rules the waves. But in my opinion we exercise far more hard power than is necessary in todays world. There is no real threat to the security of the Atlantic or Pacific trade routes. Let scale down and reposition our fleet - continuing to have a strategic presents in the gulf while basing the cream of the Atlantic and Pacific fleet in Australia in the south Indian sea. This give the US the ability to easily mobilize forces in the areas most likely to need them with an emphasis with being available for missions of mercy to much of Africa. the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh 2030 anyone?), and South East Asia (in case of more typhoons.)
A small force kept on ready in San Diego and Everett, and Norfolk should be sufficient for the current balance of power.
China and Japan can be relied upon to sea to there own interests in the south and east china sea. Denmark has a navy. Its small but coupled with that of the other Scandinavians I'm sure its sufficient for the Baltic and north sea (Russia against the EU on the sea? I think not . Britain and France can surely keep a lock down on the Mediterranean if it comes to it, the west need not fear.
2) Currency reform, debt restructuring, and the dramatic re-organizing of certain time honored entitlements and institutions. I feel these have become necessary and it better that we take it into our own hands rather than wait for the market to drop us. This is where my 'A case for food stamps" really comes in. There should be a national policy to "empower the individual and strengthen the nations food sovereignty" or some such easily marketed bullshit. Most everything here is on the chopping block here as far as I'm concerned. The Healthcare Act, The Department of Education, pretty much everything but foodstamps and PBS.
3) A clean farm bill/food stamp reform. I have already talked about some of my reasons for thinking food stamps may be our nation and movements godsend, so now I want to rail about things that need to be reformed with food stamps. Change the things they can buy. Real simple. Just cut Coffee, Heavily sugared cerials, and most processed over packaged salt snacks. One should not be able to buy Cheetos with food stamps. When I think of the Oil burned in these heavily industrialized processes I freak. I haven't been able to walk through a super market and feel comfortable in SEVEN YEARS. I have no problem in saying that society should care enough for its members to see them fed. But using the most wasteful methods possible for the unhealthiest products? Hell no. and now I have to split the cost of your bypass!?! Its to much to bare. Get on the cauliflower train and we'll talk about firing up those elector-paddles. Action do have consequences after all and while its societies duty to care for its citizens it can not assume all the cost for their risks.
GAH. All right, rant semi ended. Taking questions and Criticisms
OK, Landon, since you stay up late stirring the pot, I'll bite and give my loopy opinion.
Hungry people don't need stamps, they need food. Stamps or plastic cards to go buy food are not the same thing as real, edible food. It would be a lot easier, and cost the government less, if they went into the food distribution business: Open up provisioning shops where people can come and get bulk foods: rice, beans, flour, cornmeal, oil, sugar, etc. That would make sure that hungry people get adequate food and keep the nosy from becoming apoplectic at what food people buy with their stamps.
Basically what I'm advocating is a program in which someone in a leadership role says "Hey, see what the first lady has done -what with the vegetable garden, go do that. Its a matter of national security. In fact, quit your middle management job, stop commuting, and use this existing SNAP system to subsidize your efforts. These subsidies will be looked at again in two years and we are going to shift what these credits can be used for to reflect the world of today" (essentially removing a subsidy from industrial food production processing).
Edit: Lets not even touch the 'food production' and instead say processing. Again a very valid argument I see against food stamps is that not only are the taxpayers subsidizing the persons food, but often the cooking too, and passing the cash to industrial food processors (I'm trying to envision how much fuel is used by kepblar elves here... this makes food stamps a energy subsidy as well)
Landon - you're a brave, brave man to wander into these waters.
Food stamps - tricky issue.
The reasons people buy what we would call "junk food" are myriad - whether they are on food stamps or not:
--they live in a "food desert" where convenience stores provide the only access to "food" - this greatly limits choices
--they may take medications that make some food "intolerable" or "enticing"
--that may be the type of food they were raised on (way more common than one would think!) and that's what they think of when they think of "food". I had a French roommate once. She refused to eat most American dairy products claiming that they were not food. Have to say I agree with her. Plus a lot of "health" food is garbage - why eat an egg without the yolk for instance? Why remove fat from certain foods? And "fortify" others....
--people may not know how to cook
--people may have disabilities that prevent them from cooking (said the semi-blind woman - although I do indeed cook - I also am fortunate to have small appliances that help me NOT cut off my fingers....)
--people may not have TIME to cook. As an assignment for a class, I went with a person on multiple forms of assistance one day to see what she went through. Because assistance is provided by a myriad of government and non-government agencies - we spent an entire day trying to add her new twins to her existing benefits. This entailed going to 4 different offices scattered across the city. We had to take public transportation and she had the two babies and another child with her. Her husband worked full-time but was classified "working poor". We literally spent a 10 hour day riding, waiting and filling out redundant paperwork. And she had to visit a few other offices later that week. She could have done SOME of this online - but they didn't have a computer. Because she didn't grow up with computer access, we didn't bother going to a library to do the paperwork, and on and on and on....
--others rely on services such as meals for the elderly - these actually are one of the more nutritious options around, however, they regularly provide whole fruit which many elderly cannot eat due to tooth/jaw issues or there are some fruits and veggies that interfere with medications common to the elderly like greens interfering with blood thinners and citrus interfering with some blood pressure meds.
One of the most successful ways I've seen people get nutritious food from food stamps was a "cottage industry" in a low income Hispanic neighborhood here in town. A pair of abuelas (grandmothers) made a deal with some young women with families who were on food stamps. One or more of the women would take the bus to the grocery store and buy a list of ingredients for a weeks worth of cooking (list provided by the abuelas). The other women would caretake the children. Once the ingredients were purchased, the abuelas made the food and distributed it. They also go some free food out of this and the families got wholesome food. Problem is - this kind of arrangement is "quasi-legal" as people who were not the owners of the food stamp cards used them. Stupid, I know.
As for some kind of "control" over what people consume - I, a known progressive, will come right out and say "get the hell out of my fridge". I know so many people who have eaten healthfully all their lives and end up sick. And vice versa too - people who live on coffee and cigarettes who die, cussin' and screamin' at 98.
Whew - had more to say on that than I thought!
Thanks for the opportunity to purge on that topic, Landon.
Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
Thank you for your thoughtful reply which did indeed bring up some very important issues. I also wonder if perhaps 'foolhardy' is the moniker you where searching for. Frustrated certainly. Brave? I've got a computer screen and untold distance between me and anyone who want to pick a fight. But thanks, I'm flattered.
First. Food deserts. This is a major truth, a presents a real hurdle. I'd like to think its getting better though, I mean I've spent time hanging out in Harlem and Jamaica (Queens not Caribbean) and there are options for grocers. But point taken, though I still would suggest More produce produced = more opportunities to bring produce to market.
Second. Medical issues. I actually worked for several years as a dietitian in a hospital kitchen. Not the CHIEF dietitian, who had a degree and actually formulated all the menus, but I was responsible for incoming patients and insuring that they where assigned and received the proper diets. I also prepared the food and insured the right meals got to the right people. For those who are on special diets there are so many food options available in a standard super market. I am not suggesting that every packaged food be immediately disqualified. Also 90 percent of the time these diets involve low salt or low sugar (see Cheetos and Super Sugar Diabeties Fun Puffs)
Third. As a bus rider who has had to deal with the myriad of bureaucracies I can totally appreciate the amount of soul sucking time it takes. But as for not having time to cook. Step one, Open can of beans. Step 2 heat in pan or microwave. Step Three, spreed on tortilla and add lettuce . TA DA! A 'Home cooked' meal. Time? 153 seconds. Mark! Or easier still. Buy a can of soup, engage can opener, poor into pot. Eat from pot. Now you've made the time back from not having to wash a bowl
Four. People who don't know how to cook. Fuck 'um, figure it out. Burn a couple things, start an oil fire, practice makes perfect.
Five. People who can't cook. Totally. I forgot about this group. Meals on Wheels is officially off the chopping block. Microwave dinners too. Why not.
Finally Cottage Industries. This is EXACTLY the kind of thing I would hope the above proposal would foster. Lots of people with more time plus extra veggies? Insta local economy.
As for control. I'm not suggesting we BAN coffee or cheetos or anything. I just think there are some things that the tax payer shouldn't be liable for. Coffee is definitely one. Now I won't go on a rant about export crops and social justice at the moment (though I do really want to) but coffee is undoubtedly NOT food, it is a DRUG. It has ZERO nutritional value (and the program is called S Nutrition AP) I certainly would never expect tax payers to pay for booze or cigarettes or weed. The cream? sure - but the Coffee? Save the 8.50 for it. Cheetos et all? Mostly I threw those in to try and appease the liberal health nuts and the no food stamps for anyone conservatives. But also because I really do believe somebody has to steer America into having an Adult conversation about many of the issues I'm hitting on. Oil Calories per Food Calorie is one of those issues. I realize fully our food system is complex and global and not likely to change over night. But once again - I must say, Have a craving for Oreos? They cost 2.50. Let's not subsidize that as a society.
I really do feel like the only way to successfully address these thing is as a society too. I am not suggesting anything Draconian I hope. But modest reform is necessary in my view. I'm trying to suggest what I feel would be a decent way to approach it. To my mind this would tackle Health, Hunger, Poverty, and Fuel Consumption all in one go. And it would present an opportunity to make people more aware of each of these issues in turn. All while using a system that is already in place and functional. No new legislation or other complicating factors needed.
Thanks again for your reply, I hope my reply didn't come off as flippant.
Lot's of moniker's could apply! LOL - Foolhardy? Well, I've been known to go there MANY times myself.
So my post above is kind of playing devil's advocate and kind of coming from a place of experience - some is direct experience and some is insight gained by hanging out with a friend here in town who developed the "Farmer's Market Nutrition Program" for the Central AZ region. She is also on the Farm to School committee for the same region. She has worked in food distribution/access for those in need her whole career. She has managed LARGE food banks and developed and implemented new farmer's markets here in town. She also developed a "food truck" distribution system for the more rural areas in the region to deliver healthful foods to those without access due to distance, disability, age, etc.
Let's face it - this is a complex issue. Like anything else, there is a portion of the food stamp population (interestingly, a relatively small percentage) that seems to piss people off. These are people who occur as "malingerers" to the general populace. This then gets extrapolated to "everyone on food stamps is a malingerer and needs to get it together". The same can be said for people on disability - we, as a group, are seen as "useless" to society and so we are looked down upon. Much of the population sees us as malingerers and "unworthy" of help even though the majority paid into the system to begin with.
Quite honestly, I see this as not so much about people's individual choices of what to purchase as food - but rather an issue of what "food" has become in the overall society. I hear so much complaining of "those food stamp people" that "I'm supporting with my tax dollars" but rarely do I hear "those corporations controlling our food supply are producing crap and marketing the hell out of it" and "I'm supporting this with my tax dollars (in the form of subsidized farming, tax breaks, etc)". Methinks addressing this issue from many angles is probably what will make a bigger impact. The thing is - government and corporations are hard to take on. On the other hand, it's fairly easy and seems "morally justifiable" to denigrate portions of the population that might occur as undesirable. This, for me, is a slippery slope.
As to your points above.
First. Food Deserts - I'd like to think they're getting better too. I don't know that they are or not - perhaps in some regions they are. Around here - not so much. The biggest change I've seen to the convenience stores around here is that they now carry bananas and ask you at the checkout if you would like to buy a banana.
Second. Medical issues - funny story. I've had the pleasure of being hospitalized several times in the past 9 yrs. I always make sure people know I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian (and have been for 30 yrs). You'd be surprised how many times this is completely ignored! I had a cardiologist during one hospital visit who flat-out refused to believe I was a vegetarian. (I reported her behavior) I actually had to return food because they insisted that I eat meat. Seriously. And the choices in the hospital were things like burgers, pizza, chicken tenders. Sides were veggies cooked within an inch of their lives, lots of potatoes in various forms and lots of "sugar added" fruit items. WTF?
Third. I would say that most large cities do mass transit FAR FAR better than Phoenix does. Phoenix was designed for cars - people without cars be damned. And Phoenix is HUGE and spread out like LA. We're improving but it takes time. And I totally agree with your point on not having time to cook. Many meals are very simple. People do need to get that. My dad can now make soup from a can! This at the age of 77....
Four. There are some cool programs, some put on by Ag Ext to teach people how to cook with fresh stuff. Really - people don't know. It shocked me too.
Five. Yeah. There's a fairly large group of people with mental, emotional and physical afflictions that cannot (or should not - can you say dementia?) cook.
Cottage industries. Agreed - this is an ingenious way to what boils down as "working the system". Another acquaintance of mine is working on a variation of the food truck theme. In her model, folks with food subsidies (WIC, SNAP, FMNP) would be able to pre-order food - either in the form of ingredients or already prepared foods ahead of time. The ingredients would be purchased in bulk and redistributed at a lower cost. The prepared foods (filling the niche of people unable to cook, lacking time or skills to cook, etc) would also be made from bulk purchased foods with most fresh stuff being sourced locally. They would be packaged in single servings and be appropriate for freezing. There would be weekly deliveries. She's been working on this system for at least 4 yrs (lots of red tape) and has manage to get as far as the distribution of bulk ingredients and locally sourced produce delivered to "food desert" areas within the city.
Re coffee. Hmmm.....I'm not sure I see the issue with this. When I was on mass doses of chemo, coffee and soda helped to calm the gagginess caused by the drugs. I was grateful I could purchase them.
I believe the Adult conversations need to be had not just with Americans in general, or Americans on food stamps particularly - but most especially with Corporations (hey, they're people too!) and how we are stripping most foods of any intrinsic nutritional value. Work at the issue from the bottom up, the top down and the middle - then you get the best chance for success. Just think if we could reclaim our food systems from corporatization - we would have better food for ALL Americans ('cause let's just face it, it's not JUST people on assistance who may choose to eat crap!)
OK - lead on McDuff!
Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
I'm not going to wade full-on into this discussion, even though y'all are being nice. I just have 2 cents.
1: The more complex the system of delivery, the more cumbersome and expensive it is ands the less well it works. The WIC program is designed by the government to give people food with restrictions that the food be healthy and it is complex, confusing, and the food is not very healthy. A great new addition is the option of fruits and vegetables. The rest is pretty junky though. The only peanut butter allowed has trans fats, no organic anything, the bread is full of chemicals and junk, the milk can't be organic or even hormone free... this is what happens when good intentions meet nitpicking. The SNAP (food stamps) program is meant to give people both food and dignity. Don't forget, it's government bureaucrats making decisions about what is healthy and what isn't, not sensible permaculturists.
2: To give another reason why people shouldn't judge the food in other people's carts- my stepson is on the autism spectrum. He can be rigid about things and doesn't have a lot of things we can use as reinforcers of good behavior. We get the best food we can get, but for it to be a good reinforcer (and sometimes for him to eat anything at all) it sometimes has to be junky. This is small in the scope of what we need to deal with for his health and well being. If someone was poor and also had a kid on the autism spectrum I would hope she could buy food for him without people judging her. We never know what someone else is going through.
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