Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Excessively bitter tirade (EBT), and the new American dream

So, I've confessed many times that I'm a craigslist junkie—no need to revisit that point. I'll try to keep the rest of this post short, so as not to rant for too long.

I always look at the freebies on craigslist. It's how we landed our awesome couch, and a handful of other goodies. People are wealthy, or comfortable, or in a sticky situation that requires immediately unloading items that still hold value... For whatever reason, folks sometimes choose to simply give away perfectly good stuff. Craigslist is a treasure trove for cheapskates like me.

A few days ago, I saw that someone was giving away cooking magazines on craigslist, exceptional publications that mirror and complement a fascinating, high-level cooking show on PBS. I can't watch the show, as we don't have cable and we live at the bottom of a hill. I also can't justify ordering the publication because, frankly, I never follow the recipe anyway... Plus I have lucked into free, cast-off copies of this very magazine from friends who did subscribe... But then, they changed their subscription to an on-line version. Sad for me.

Alas, though, this someone on craigslist was unloading a bunch of the very same magazines! More recent printings, to boot. And the map showed that the giver was located very close to my favorite grocery store. Huzzah! I wrote a note, the giver responded, and the next morning on the way to shop, I swung by to pick up the magazines. There they were, on the spacious front entry of a stately brick home in a nicer section of our neighboring hamlet. I snagged the mags and went about my errands.

Later, as I unloaded my trunk of the car, I first put away frozen items and then quickly sorted the magazines by year. There were a bunch of them, not just my desired publication but also many other foodie mags, the pricey, glossy-covered seasonal editions that catch your eye at the checkout; most of them looked as if they'd never been opened. As I separated the items, I was shocked to find a couple of pieces of mail stuck between covers. One looked as if it might be a check, the other appeared to be an electronically generated pay stub for automatic deposit, and a piece of junk mail, too. I will drop this mail off at the correct house in the next few days, when I find myself in that area again. I will leave a note explaining where the pieces came from. Hopefully, the person will learn a valuable lesson about craigslist anonymity and how it's wise to remove personal items from anything you give away to strangers. (Duuuhhhhh.)

But then, as I emptied one bag of mags completely, I found a receipt. From Giant Eagle, one of southwestern Pennsylvania's prominent grocery chains. The receipt contained a few items: lunch meat, name brand kid drinks, that sort of thing. And I couldn't help noticing that the items had been paid for with an EBT card. I also couldn't help noticing that the card had already been used to purchase an alarmingly expensive amount of food, because (who knew?!) the receipt prints the card total used thus far in addition to the total for the current purchase. I'm guessing it's a per-month stipend, but I am not certain.

Okay, I know what you'll say. Perhaps this receipt, stuck in the bottom of a used plastic grocery bag, perhaps it got there by accident. But how? If those bags are reused, it's by the person who originally had them, yes? And if you do recycle plastic grocery bags, you take them to a recycle container at the Giant Eagle and shove them in there to be sent away to a plant and made like new. So how did that receipt get in there? I must conclude (perhaps wrongly I know, but let's be serious here) that the person who gave me the items was the same person for whom that receipt was generated. There is a very good chance that is the case. My assumption isn't ironclad, but it is likely.

In which case, I am left wondering how that can be. That nice big home, in a good neighborhood, and all those expensive magazines, ordered and purchased... then given away. It doesn't add up.

I have long been a supporter of separate purchasing facilities for recipients of government assistance. Maybe that sounds mean, but the fact that all stigma has been removed from the hand-out culture contributes, I feel, to the abuse of that culture. Requiring assistance here and there is human, but an able-bodied person requiring it as a lifestyle is ridiculous. If this person needs help with food costs, why don't they begin by shopping where I shop? I go there because it is cheaper. And maybe cutting out the name brand items would keep costs down, too. Name brands are not required for health and physical prosperity.

Then I argue with myself. Maybe that particular Giant Eagle store is the closest grocery to that person. But if the card-carrier is the person in that home, then my theory is not true. We live in Suburbia, for cryin' out loud—there are grocery stores handily located in every direction. And the grocery store that I frequent doesn't even HAVE those shiny magazines by the checkout.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe that EBT receipt ended up there by some fluke. But if it belonged to the giver of all those magazines, purchased by someone hanging out in the fancy-shmancy Giant Eagle, buying name-brand items and spending over two times as much on food per month as we average here in our eat-in household? Then my suspicion that all these helpful systems are being abused is confirmed tenfold. I know abuse occurs, even without this proof. I have personally seen people qualify for WIC, over-buy, then give away the excess milk and other items so their allotment won't be reduced because of under-consumption. It is sickening. Needless to say, I have not yet accepted the handouts, from either abusers or the government.

I read an article about the death of America: the day that Oblamma was re-elected. I didn't want to believe that this great country was over, even though the statistics prove me wrong, as the contributors are now out-numbered by the receivers. Each day, however, I am being forced to accept the truth of this situation.

My only hope now? That my little family can achieve the new American Dream: finding a secluded, undesirable plot of land somewhere far from a city, and hiding out to live our quiet, low-cost life. We'll try to find a little community of faith wherever we end up, will stay in touch with family, will try to make friends with like-minded people, and we'll support those people in need and pray that they return the favor when the time comes... because that's the superior help system that preceded Big Daddy Government. That's who we would go to now, if need be; if I am forced to ask for help, I'd much rather seek it from people whom I know and respect.

We've enabled and trained up a majority population of lazy, helpless luxury-lovers. God help us.