Friday, June 12, 2015

Snap. Crackle, Pop...There Goes Your Food Budget

Once again, this Evil Science Experiment called "Life" rears its ugly head. Our food stamp allowance has been cut by two-thirds, from roughly $357 to $80, due to a household expense deduction that was erroneously given...whoops, we made a mistake, now it's you who's gotta pay! Heads, you lose, tails you lose.

Of course, considering the opaque language that often characterizes these notices, it's hard to decipher the rationale, so -- like any good citizen -- you contact the agency, and hope that someone can explain it in English. So I guess I should reserve judgment until I hear it. That's the rational response, right?

The other side is a lot tougher to negotiate, obviously, because it means scrambling to fill the gap. On one hand, it's not the end of the world yet, since I can pick up an extra gig or two to paper over the cracks. On the other hand,'s hardly a welcome development, since Squawker and I experienced a couple years -- relatively speaking -- of stability on that front.

For awhile, we could (wonder of wonders) actually plan out a good portion of the month. As any nutritionist knows, you'll eat healthier if you're not always fending off hunger, since you can get the appropriate ingredients, and work out meals around them. That's less likely to happen, however, if slim resources get pushed -- then snapped -- past the breaking point.

I only have to look at our grocery store for further reference: I can count the number of sales on the "better/premium" lunch meat, versus the high-fat, high-salt, high-risk-of-clogged-artery varieties...on which you always see deals, rain or shine. What's my conclusion? Only yuppie careerists, apparently, are entitled to good nutrition. Sound extreme?  Now you know what kind of day I've had.

What's especially galling about this particular shoe drop, of course, is that it comes with little or no warning. The same thing happened last fall, when our apartment complex's management suddenly informed us that we were going to pay a monthly water, sewer and trash bill. At this writing, that means seeing roughly $240 fly out the window every year that we could certainly better spend at the dinner table.

Such arrangements are part and parcel of the way America operates, however. As the above examples illustrate, the relationship is an Occupier-Occupant one. As the Occupant, you're summoned for whatever nonsense that the Occupier -- be it your boss, caseworker, landlord, or political hack -- can't wait to cram down your throat.

Naturally, you have no voice in the matter, although the decision will cause varying degrees of chaos and disruption. Your interests be damned: The Occupier's needs always come first, and that's that. No further discussion required. I
 got the same vibe this week in reading Days Of Rage, a fascinating look at America's largely forgotten history of violent '60s, '70s and '80s-era radicalism. 

I don't want to write a review -- that's better left for another post -- but you can draw striking parallels between today's society and the early '70s turf that much of this book inhabits. 
Then and now, you had a stagnant economy; a growing underclass cast permanently adrift (don't forget that Orwellian term, "benign neglect," coined during this era); electronic snooping that went unacknowledged, until a public outcry forced the issue; and an arrogant, unresponsive government that worked hard to stifle dissent wherever it could.

On a surface level, at least, it looks (and smells) like "deja vu all over again," though I won't have a lot of time to ponder the implications, personally...after all, I've got a crack to paper over. So it goes: wash, rinse, repeat. --The Reckoner


  1. well, your landlord is only doing this for one reason; to make money.if he loses money on renting,he is not getting anything out of the property he pays taxes might check up,if you can,if his taxes on the building have gone clear up,or the utilities have gone up.OR,your neighborhood is pricier now,and he can charge that,people want the apartments.whatever it is, he's probably getting attacked himself,monitarily,so he;s passing it on to may have to move to a less-pricey neighborhood.--or even town. Whatever apartments that would be a lot cheaper. Sorry, that's real estate biz; it's there to MAKE MONEY, not LOSE IT. i feel yer pain, quite a few years ago,i had to leave my whole state,move to a cheaper,crappier one,cuz it got too pricey to live there.but so did thousands of others.--now the poorer state is expensive too!! its the damn, huge, bloated fed. govt. that's making our high cost of living. it's crushing everyone.

  2. ok, you never heard me say this;but i know what a LOT OF POOR PEOPLE are doing in huge stores,wal-mart,the big grocery stores, ect. they are shop-lifting like crazy!!that includes FOOD.YEAH, FOOD. how they are doing it, i don't know,but one big grocery said,they put all their prices up,cause the shop-lifting was so prevalent.EVERY SINGLE STORE has this problem now,they told us!!EVERY TYPE of store!!THAT IS HOW a lotta poor people,and families,are getting by; they're stealing should ask a lotta yer poorer friends,if they might be doing it.Don't turn em in; ask how they're doing it,ect. EVERYONE is being considered,doing it now,just to survive,not cause they are kleptos.--and not cause they are bad people,or criminals;they are doing it so they can EAT.--Despite all the cameras, ect,. they're doing it any way.Honesty and obeying the law do not stay where families have no food. you might think about that. ASK some people you know,who might do it. Get the low-down. Our societies' laws are vanishing; so this is happening more & more.

  3. Tara, thanks for your comment. To reiterate, though -- the point of this post is that all too often, those on top pass on the pain without any warning. It's easier to deal with these things if you have an inkling that they're coming -- less so when you literally told, "Oh, by the way..."

    Again, for the record, the local managers didn't implement the water bill, the property owners -- who live in SE Michigan -- did. Our issue isn't with the managers, who are nice people, and pretty responsive, too.

    As far as this particular apartment complex goes, I think you'd feel rather less sympathetic to the management's plight -- and I'm putting that term in quotes for a minute -- once I told you the full range of prices here. Many of the folks who live here pay closer to $900, even $1,000 per month for to live here, particularly if they have a lake view -- so, trust me, the owner isn't living on the breadline. But why should that go unchallenged? Why give him a free pass -- which people do by saying, "Ah, that's the way it is"?

    More relevantly, though, my overall point is that, unless there's some kind of change in housing policy, moving to a cheaper place doesn't accomplish anything over the long run. It might, in the short run, but -- as you acknowledge in your next to last line ("now the poorer state is expensive too") -- eventually, the gentrifying locusts will follow you there, too.

    And, more to the point -- if people don't challenge these things, then everything gets worse for the majority. That is what the bad guys want you to do -- give up, say uncle and accept your lot, no matter how miserable...which is what moving somewhere else would essentially do.

    Greed does not have to accepted as the status quo. I was in Germany at the time that the Wall fell, and what strikes me today is how the East German state rapidly evaporated, once people no longer believed in it. But that wouldn't happen here, I guess -- that's why we're still stuck with the trickle down scam, three decades after Reagan and Co.first rolled it out. Anyway, thanks for writing... --The Reckoner