1. The Rise of Part-Time America

    An article very much worth reading, if you can spare a handful of minutes:

    NY Times: A Part-Time Life, as Hours Shrink and Shift

    A snippet:

    At its store here, just east of San Diego, Shannon Hardin oversees seven self-checkout stations, usually by herself. Typically working shifts of five or six hours, she hops between stations — bagging groceries, approving alcohol purchases, explaining the checkout system to shoppers and urging customers to join the retailer’s loyalty program, all while watching for shoplifters.

    “I like it. I’m a people person,” said Ms. Hardin, 50, who used to work as an office assistant at a construction company until times went bad.

    But after nearly five years at Fresh & Easy, she remains a part-time worker despite her desire to work full-time. In fact, all 22 employees at her store are part-time except for the five managers.

    She earns $10.90 an hour, and with workweeks averaging 28 hours, her yearly pay equals $16,500. “I can’t live on this,” said Ms. Hardin, who is single. “It’s almost impossible.”

    Ouch. As a guy who hasn’t worked a part-time gig since my college days, I can freely admit that I have a difficult time comprehending the worklife situations of the story’s interviewees.

    But if you’re the sort who wants a sounding board for “Damn all these greedy corporations!” then you’ll have a delightful time perusing the NY Times’ article’s comments section. Reading through that will require a significantly larger investment of time than the article itself!



  2. Lottery Winner Keeps Suckling at Public Teet

    I’d say it’s a shocking story, but sadly, it isn’t. Not to me, anyhow. Rather, it’s just a very stark picture of what we’ve become:

    ClickOnDetroit: $1m Lottery Winner Still Collecting Welfare

    I can think of plenty of descriptive terms for this woman, but as I try to run a mostly-family-friendly blog, I can’t really print them here.

    Local 4 tracked Clayton down to her Lincoln Park home where cameras spotted her and a U-Haul truck, getting ready to move into a new house—that she paid for in cash—now that she has struck it rich. She also bought a new car.

    These purchases are nothing out of the ordinary for someone who just won the lottery, however hidden cameras followed Clayton grocery shopping, where she admitted she uses a Bridge card to pay for her items. She said she gets $200 each month, from taxpayers, to foot her food bill.

    When confronted, Clayton said she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong.

    I hope the state of Michigan feels good knowing that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, their tax dollars were subsidizing this young woman’s lottery habit. (“The more, the better,” right, Michigan politicians?)

    And that Ms. Clayton has no problem whatsoever feeding at the public trough as long as it’s allowed … regardless of her own circumstances. Maybe she was a TBTF banker, or automaker CEO, in her previous life?

    UPDATE 03/08: But wait! It appears that Ms. Clayton just got her Bridge card yanked once news of all this got out …



  3. Fast Food & Food Stamps

    I know this scheme has been in the works in certain areas for a while, but that doesn’t change the fact that every new article I read about it makes me want to throw heavy office equipment through a window:

    WTVM.com: Fast Food Giant Lobbies for Food Stamps

    I love issues like this, because it’s so easy to see exactly where they lead. If you come out against it with the argument of “Folks on public nutritional assistance shouldn’t be using the funds to buy crappy fast food and other items of convenience,” then you’re an out-of-whack, heartless, right-wing conservative nutso. I unflinchingly reside in this camp (as readers have undoubtedly noticed).

    To clarify, my views register something like this:

    Should public food-assistance programs be widely available?

    Yes. Which they are.

    Should public food-assistance programs be “unrestricted;” i.e., they allow access to most all goods/services that private funds could otherwise purchase?


    Should public food-assistance programs be “painless;” i.e., the programs make extra efforts to reduce the stigma and “social obstacles” of being a user of the assistance?

    Hell no. In fact, I’m all thumbs-up for bright orange EBT cards.

    However, I’ll also take a step the other direction — a step at which many pro-business righties gasp — and say that for companies like Yum! Brands to take up such a blatant “Hey look! There’s a pile of taxpayer money over there! Let’s go get some!” lobbying effort is downright pathetic, and worthy of scorn. Most weeks, I’m good for at least one trip to Taco Bell. And I do loves me some Pizza Hut pan pizza from time to time. But that can stop.

    We Say “No” To More Government Programs (That Don’t Benefit Us)

    Such corporate behavior is pretty typical, though, I’ve found. Expanded government programs are anathema to private business interests … until they figure out that they can get their hands in the pot, too. At that point, miraculously, it’s all good.

    “Everyone, regardless of income level or economic station, should have access to our quality offerings,” they’ll exclaim as camera-flashes pop. “We will take special care to ensure that only those who meet the strict qualifications can utilize the program in our many locations.”

    Sure you will. And all the while, you’ll be continually and quietly lobbying for increased access by SNAP participants to your “quality offerings.” Trim a big restriction here; remove a little restriction there. Because, hey, there’s more profits to be had … and isn’t it, you know, unfair to limit this wonderful program to JUST the homeless, elderly, and disabled, when you really think about it?

    One thing is certain: The hole will just get deeper and deeper, because the game is such that EVERYONE who is ANYONE will step up to the trough.



  4. Food Stamp Usage: Still, Still Rising

    Courtesy of Yahoo, I’m reading that food stamps are now used by 1 in every 7 of us Americans. That’s up from July of last year, when 1 in 8 Americans were on the program.

    Looks like the effects of Recovery Summer™ have long since worn off. Pity, that.



  5. Food Stamps: Where Does Your State Rank?

    Last month, I posted about the fact that roughly one in every eight Americans will participate in food stamp programs in the coming year.

    Now the Wall Street Journal presents us with an article, and accompanying chart, regarding each state’s participation in the program:

    WSJ: In U.S., Some 14% Rely on Food Stamps

    Turns out that my state, Oklahoma, shows up at #15 in the ranking of states with the highest percentage of population on food stamps. I can’t say I’m surprised that 16.5 percent of Oklahomans utilize food stamps, as the Sooner State has never been noted for any sort of widespread affluence. (We do likes us some crappy Easter baskets, though, uh huh.)



  6. Food Stamp Participation: Still Rising

    Here’s a shocker: U.S. food-stamp participation (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) is still rising.

    Per Bloomberg, roughly one in eight Americans will participate in the program during the upcoming fiscal year.

    Chart source data here and here. Ugly spreadsheet here.



  7. Food Stamps Buy What?

    During an early-evening visit to our corner grocery store a few evenings ago, I snapped this pic:

    Buy It With Food Stamps!

    Anybody care to guess what that bright orange stamp says?

    If you said “FOOD STAMPABLE,” you were correct.

    That’s right, Oklahomans: This Easter season, feel free to use your food-stamp (“Access Oklahoma”) card to buy a crappy plastic basket full of crappy plastic grass, a crappy plastic doll, and a few packages of crappy colored sugar crappiness.

    Pretty neat, given that a record-high 450,057 Oklahomans were enrolled in the food stamp program as of March.

    Should be enough to cause any maker of crappy plastic Easter baskets to become downright giddy at the thought of this untapped market segment.

    Because I’m the curious sort, I surfed to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services website to see what sort of guidelines applied to food-stamp use. Here’s a snippet from the FAQ page:

    A person may buy only eligible foods with their food stamp benefits. Eligible foods include plants and seeds that can be used to grow food. You cannot buy the following items with food stamp benefits:

    Paper goods
    Cleaning products
    Household items
    Personal care items like toothpaste
    Alcoholic beverages
    Tobacco products
    Vitamins or medicine
    Foods prepared to be eaten in the store
    Hot food prepared in the store to be “carried out” and eaten

    Hmmm. Nothing in there about Easter baskets.

    I don’t know about you, but I have a big problem with my state allowing their oh-so-gracious $3.40/day (thanks for that recent bump, Stimulus Fairies!) of public food assistance to be used to buy fringe “food” items like Easter baskets.

    Who knew the Easter bunny needed public assistance?