A welfare myth

by laurafrombaltimore

The Myth of Welfare’s Corrupting Influence on the Poor

Discuss!

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139 thoughts on “A welfare myth

  1. I am surprised there is not more research on the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, and how it is spent. Each year the state gives every resident (including children) a fixed amount of money. This year is was just over $2k. Anecodataly (and based on advertising), many spend that money on alcohol, the REI PFD sale, the Alaska Airlines PFD sale, etc. The money doesn’t go to college funds, debt repayment, wealth building, etc. However, I may be totally incorrect – but there is not the research.

    I think there is a difference between the poor in the US vs the poor in developing countries. The recipients of cash grants in the countries referenced in the NYT may not already have riding lawnmowers (oh! NYT why must you always use photos that bias me against your argument?).

  2. Here is a chart of the crime rate 1960 to 2012:

    We now know that the rise and subsequent fall in the crime rate was the result of lead exposure from paint and leaded gas. However, I think in the minds of many voters, the fact that the rise in the crime rate accompanied the start of LBJ’s great society programs had them convinced that welfare was the reason for the dysfunction.

  3. This is why it’s awesome to have Scarlett back — she can provide the “people respond to incentives” perspective. Glad you’re back, Scarlett!

  4. Ok, I’ll jump in. I’m in favor of a minimum threshold below which we will not let people fall. That includes some combination of housing, food, and access to medical care. Some people will take advantage, and I accept that. There have been some interesting experiments recently where the homeless were given housing, not just a cot in a shelter, and it had transformative effects. I think we focus too much on treating things on the tail end once they are critical rather than addressing issues early on. Better schools in the poorest communities, for example. Identifying and treating learning disabilities as early as possible is a huge win. Well over 40% of prisoners are found to have dyslexia and many have other learning issues. Teaching them in elementary school would be so much cheaper than housing them in prisons as an adult. We need to use our available funds in more cost-effective ways than we go today. Any program that requires a recipient to wait hours in a government office between 8-5 makes it very difficult for that person to hold a job. We just need a complete overhaul in how we administer assistance.

    As for does it make people lazy – I don’t know. I’m getting a first hand view of this through the one branch of my inlaws. Some are lazy. The new wife of the one who slept on my MIL’s living room floor on an air mattress doesn’t work. She has kids around 20-ish that someone else raised while she lived with my nephew, so that is not what keeps her from working. They have months where they cannot afford their medicine, or their cell phones get cut off, or they can’t go anywhere because they have no gas for the car, but she still doesn’t get a job. Other family members have told her of a friend who is hiring and they can guarantee she’ll get the job, but she won’t apply. She was recently outraged that she could not get disability when she fell and hurt her back, but if you haven’t worked, you don’t qualify for disability. But I don’t think public assistance MADE her lazy. I’m not sure what, if anything, they qualify for. So in the anecdotes of the lazy welfare queen, I don’t think causation has been proven.

  5. Won’t be able to follow much of this today, unfortunately!
    In Texas, in general, to get cash help, your family of two (1 child and 1 adult) cannot have monthly income of more than $163 and that would get you a maximum $247 of cash assistance. To get SNAP (food stamps), your family of two cannot earn more tha $2,191 and you get a maximum of $357 on a card you can use to purchase approved items. In both cases, you must be working, looking for work or in an approved work program. For SNAP, adults without kids can have 3 months of benefits in each 3 year period. In both cases there are exceptions, but seriously, these are not the level of benefits that are going to allow anyone to “live the good life”.

  6. a family member who has had various assistance commented this weekend about my job “If I had to sit at a desk for 40 hrs, I’d blow my brains out after the first week”

    so yeah, I definitely see the lazy type, but agree we do need some type of asistance

  7. Examine the study upon which the NYT article is based, look at Page 5 of the .pdf, and you’ll see the amounts of cash or in-kind transfers they’re evaluating. We’re talking about amounts as low as $4 per month in Honduras. Levels around $30 per month is typical, and the absolute max I can find listed is $75 per month per household in Mexico.

    I’m not terribly surprised that these amounts were mostly insufficient to convince the recipients to retire to the hammock. We’ve been sending each of our sponsored kids in Bangladesh about $30 per month, and, at least according to their letters to us, their parents haven’t yet decided to retire on it and put their feet up. But unlike the NYT, I’m not convinced that the transfer levels analyzed in this article can reasonably be extrapolated to what we would consider a baseline level of welfare in this country.

  8. MBT covered my thoughts, but much more eloquently. I want to live in a society that does not abandon its most vulnerable just because a few bad actors take advantage of the system.

    This topic does bring to mind a quote I saw in a different context this morning:
    Don’t bring an anecdote to a data fight.

  9. Milo, Austin listed out some of the benefits available in Texas. I think there are also child care subsidies available, payable directly to the provider. Your comment sounds like you think there are more benefits available. What else are you considering? There is EITC, but they have to be employed to get it. Are the benefits more generous in Virginia? In any state, if you are an adult without a dependent child can you qualify?

  10. MBT – I read the article as saying that Clinton should never have agreed to welfare reform, because welfare makes no difference in whether recipients are employed. So the question would be what were the levels that were generally available going into the 1990s.

  11. MBT – Yes, there are child care benefits, but the details are not easily accessible online and the amount they pay varies by where you live and does not necessarily cover the full cost. Also, the provider has to request to be one and not every child care facility participates. I’ve also heard the complaint before that for those who work other “normal business hours” have a hard time finding centers to meet their needs.

  12. I don’t know how much rescuing of the adults can be done, but I think there is much that can be done for the kids and sadly you cannot help the children without helping those who care for them. We can spend a ton on education but if we do not help the household a lot of that is lost. If you can make a family more secure and more stable – you can do a lot for the next generation.

  13. Once again, the SNAP numbers are, IMO, quite generous. I would prefer to see lower per-month numbers, perhaps spread out over longer time (are there time limits for SNAP?), along with some education/information on how to stretch those dollars.

    Perhaps better yet, lower the SNAP benefits for families with school-age kids when school is in session, and feed them at school.

  14. SNAP is only a small part of the benefits paid in my state.

    If you are a single mother with two children age 3 and 8 and a live-in boyfriend who is disabled, here is the monthly benefit:

    TANF: $700/month
    SNAP: $649
    Disability: $460
    Section 8: $1,000 month for apartment
    Head Start: $1,000/month if you had to pay for day care (Head Start is full day here and includes meals)
    Health insurance: Free through medicaid and state program for uninsured children and disabled; includes dental coverage. Cost to the state would be about $1,700 per month for this family.
    Heating assistance: $80/month averaged over year
    Free breakfast and lunch for public school children: Value of about $50/month

    That totals $7,648 per month, or $91,776 per year.

    Median household income in my state is about $65,000.

  15. For those wondering, if she ditches the live in boyfriend she loses the $460/mo in disability and about $700 in health insurance cost, but the rest of the numbers would stay the same. I’m assuming he didn’t qualify for food stamps.

  16. I think Milo’s point about the level of assistance is a good one. My uncle-the-slumlord (owner of lots of Section 8 rental apartments) also observes that by avoiding marriage, you can have one employed person provide the cash (possibly under the table) and one unemployed person (or under-the-table employed person) with children obtain the government benefits. I suspect the amount of time you have to be employed before your benefits clock resets varies by state. Many people are neither employed nor unemployed. They are intermittently employed.

  17. Sky,

    But, isn’t that sort of cherry picking to get the highest possible number? TANF is limited to 60 total months in one’s lifetime and the $1000/month for daycare is only until they are in school. It’s not like people are spending their lives at this amount.

  18. $650 a month for groceries for a family of four is a decent amount – Mr. Money Mustache would not approve of this level of grocery spending.:)

  19. I chose the mom and two kids because that was the theoretical family on the TANF chart at Ada’s link.

    I don’t think the problem is TANF or SNAP or SSI at the root.

    It’s a society that thinks that fathers are not necessary, and that contributing to the society through work is not necessary.

    Those ideas go far beyond the people who end up on TANF and would be much harder to change, if change is even possible.

  20. “$650 a month for groceries for a family of four is a decent amount ”

    That’s like two trips to Costco, and you can still get home, unpack everything, flatten the boxes, and say “There’s nothing we can make for dinner tonight. Let’s just go out.”

  21. L, I’ve looked at the level of SNAP several times over the years, and compared it to what we spend on food, and found them comparable, even though our spending goes way beyond basic necessities.

    E.g., Ada mentions $374/mo for a family of 3; extrapolate that to a family of 4, and that’s about $500, which is about what we spend. There is a lot we could cut from our spending and still meet our basic nutritional needs.

    Use Sky’s number of $649, and it’s really easy to feed our family of four for less than that.

    BTW, we do most of our grocery shopping at Costco, which accepts EBT cards.

  22. “Anecdataly (and based on advertising), many spend that money on alcohol, the REI PFD sale, the Alaska Airlines PFD sale, etc.”

    This was the experience here when our erstwhile giant employer paid an annual wage dividend to all employees in March, I think (never worked there). Car dealers, appliance stores, etc all advertised great ways to spend it…then the cycle repeated a month or so later when people got their tax refunds. Said employer has shrunk pretty much out of existence.

  23. “That’s like two trips to Costco”

    Yeah, it’s easy to spend that much there, but how much of that is groceries? And do you eat that much in groceries in that month?

  24. “This was the experience here when our erstwhile giant employer paid an annual wage dividend to all employees in March, I think”

    Back when I was in college, I heard that on one island, that same type of spending pattern tracked the MJ harvest.

  25. Finn – That was mostly me being sarcastic. If you’re primarily buying staples, it’s obviously very cost-effective.

  26. Yes, there are people who work the system for those near/at/below the poverty line.
    A single parent with one child I know with an “average” annual income of $30K a year, knows every food bank, church, thrift store, etc. where she can get assistance. She is out of work 2-3 weeks a year due to the nature of her employment. The day after her last day on the job, she makes the rounds to all these places. Some will give gas money to look for work, some give food, some low or no cost clothing for an interview outfit, etc. She rarely applies for SNAP or TANF because by the time those process, she is working again.

    I can’t find the study today, but the numbers I recall are roughly 40% of the people who receive benefits do so for 3 or less years during their lifetime (including during childhood), but another 30% received benefits for 8 or more years in their lifetime. This latter group is generally who all the reforms are targeted at. However, this didn’t breakout how many of the latter group had this long stint while in childhood.

  27. The $649/month for a family of four is about $40/person/week, or just under $2/person/meal. I find it very difficult to bring our grocery spending in at that level, at least if I’m being honest about everything that goes into a meal and not handwaving away pantry ingredients and stuff I had a bit left of from something else. Possible, especially if you’re eating mostly rice and beans. But difficult, especially if you’re trying to work in vegetables and fruit and meat and fish.

  28. Temp Handle, those sound like great numbers. I’d fall into the 40% of people who receive benefits for 3 years or less during childhood and then unemployment when laid off as an adult. It would be interesting to see how many of the 40% received benefits for six months or less and how many between 6 months and three years.

    I would look at this data as % of cumulative benefits paid by duration. Instead of looking at “who received benefits at any time during his life?”, I would chart, “What percentage of benefits are paid to people who have already received X dollars of support?”

    I think it’s important to look at dollars, not weeks, because Finn usually looks at the maximum SNAP benefit as the “typical” benefit and at least in my state, the “typical” benefit is much lower than the “maximum” benefit.

  29. I’ll also add that I’m not alone in my opinion of SNAP benefits being very generous. One of my data is from an article in our local paper several years ago in which they listed some benefit amounts, and the online comments to that article were overwhelmingly in agreement with my opinion, although most of them expressed a great deal more outrage.

    Milo, would it be difficult to feed your family for $500 a month? How about $649? A true Moustachian would, I imagine, have little difficulty eating on much less.

  30. Just as a point of reference, DW made French onion soup last week. It was great and pretty easy to make she said, but expensive. Costs from the grocery store:
    White Onions $12
    Gruyere Cheese $6
    Beef Broth $3
    other stuff that we already had to include 2oz cheap cognac, some spices, maybe some butter, call it $2
    Crusty bread $2
    $25.00 for 6 big bowls. Yes, cheaper than buying it at a restaurant, and better than most. And with a moderate salad made for a nice dinner.
    Just not as cheap as, say, opening 3 cans of Campbell’s Chunky Soup bought when on sale and with a coupon. We do that sometimes, too, just not very often.

  31. Finn, but to be Moustachian, you have to have the time and transportation to find low prices. In the fall, my produce costs are very low, because I buy from a not-certified-organic farmstand run by a farmer who bought his prime land before local farmland prices took off. He appears to be at least 80 (his name is Homer) and he is not interested in maximizing his revenue. He likes to put out his produce in the morning and let people weigh it themselves and leave money in the coffee can. His customers (in contrast to the people who want to raid his coffee can) are very honest.

    We just bought 20 lb of (small, imperfect) Fuyu persimmons off craigslist for $1/lb. But we had to go to the farm a few miles outside of town during business hours and sort them ourselves.

  32. I think looking at max SNAP benefit makes sense, because that’s the benefit for those deemed most needy by the eligibility formulas, and thus should be an amount sufficient to meet the basic nutritional needs for those people. Those receiving less than the max are deemed able to foot some of that bill themselves.

  33. Milo, would it be difficult to feed your family for $500 a month?

    That would work out at $1.10 per person per meal.

  34. “Just not as cheap as, say, opening 3 cans of Campbell’s Chunky Soup bought when on sale and with a coupon.”

    Good example. There are a lot of soups that can be purchased with EBT at Costco for less than $2/can, and I don’t think anyone is going to starve on a diet that includes one such can for dinner every night.

    “Possible, especially if you’re eating mostly rice and beans.”

    Right. IMO, people living on SNAP should be mostly eating such staples.

  35. Finn – We don’t do a very good job keeping track of spending, so I don’t have good data for that. Also, keep in mind that while we are a family of five, my eldest eats what might be half a meal, and my younger two eat about a quarter of a meal each (except when it’s dessert time). So, if we have burgers, for example, I’ll make four burgers and there might be half of one left over.

    To your question, yeah, we could do it for $500 a month, following the usual advice. I’d incorporate more sweet potatoes baking all day in the crock pot, switch to frozen, concentrated orange juice, less shrimp, and so forth.

    A nice, stable middle-class family in our community lost their house to a fire a few months ago. Nobody was hurt, praise the Lord. When I heard about it, I had the fleeting thought of how awesome it would be to just have all your household crap go up in flames, and you get one nice insurance check to start over with nothing and buy exactly what you need right now and nothing more. All the closets cleaned out in 20 minutes with no effort whatsoever! But naturally, all these people in our area were arranging donations of used clothing, used baby supplies, used toys, used household goods. I thought that being on the receiving end of this, and having to act gracious, would be Rhett’s version of Hell. And then the people realized that there was nowhere to even put this stuff, because they were going to be in a hotel for a little while, then a rental house while their replacement house is rebuilt. So some neighbors were offering their basements as storage areas for all this crap to be in ready-standby for the moment their new house is ready.

  36. don’t think anyone is going to starve on a diet that includes one such can for dinner every night.

    One can of potato, cheddar and bacon bits soup is 320 calories. If that’s the largest of your three meals a day, you will starve.

  37. I hope no one in the SNAP family has diabetes and needs to be on a low-carb diet. That would pretty much be all eggs, all the time.

  38. I’m clearly the Anti-Rhett.
    My baby is clothed and cared for in donated or borrowed goods, since all my friends have completed their families and were looking for a good outlet.
    My neighbors give my their leftover groceries if they can’t use them for some reason. One neighbor dropped by a box of spinach, onions, carrots, a rutabaga and celery. Obviously, that’s roasted vegetables, soup base and the spinach went into Italian wedding soup.

  39. WCE – We actually have a large portion of the kids’ clothes from hand-me-downs and the church consignment sale. We’re certainly not against used stuff at all. It was just the thought of your house burning down, and NOW the next thing you have to do is spend a few months sorting through all this donated junk to figure out what you’re going to use. It didn’t seem very appealing to me.

  40. Milo, the max benefit for a family of 5 is $771/month.

    WCE, for a family of 6 it is $925/month. I would be shocked if you couldn’t feed your family for much less than that.

    I’ve looked at SNAP/food stamp benefits many times over the years, and continue to be convinced that the benefit levels are very generous. IMO, a lot of that money would be better spent elsewhere, e.g., educating recipients on how to feed their families for less, more meals in schools, before/after school care to make it easier for parents to work, perhaps transportation benefits (e.g., bus passes), and of course, deficit reduction.

  41. The problem is that people on SNAP don’t eat mostly staples. It may be because they don’t know how to cook, don’t have stable housing and the kitchen equipment required to cook, are depressed/drunk/high/psychotic and don’t plan well. So, SNAP goes far if you’re MMM, but not necessarily if you are the type of person who chronically needs SNAP.

    This is why I support culturally appropriate food boxes issued by the government. A more WIC like approach with very limited selection, but adequate quantities. Government cheese! No government cheetos.

    Love, your resident socialist.

  42. Sunday dinner (adjusting quantities to make it come out more even — in actuality I cooked an 8 lb roast so we would have some leftovers) — 4 lb. tritip roast, $22, roasted potatoes and baby carrots, say $5 including cost of butter and seasoning, 2 lb. mushroom baked in sour cream and onions with parsley and stuff, $10 or $11, broccoli, maybe another $3 for the amount used. So $40 for a decent but not gourmet dinner for 5 (mine do NOT eat half or quarter meals at this stage), or $8 per person. And that leaves enough food to feed another couple of people — let’s say 8 if none of those people are teenaged boys — so we’ll bring it down to $5/person, same as Fred’s soup. If we’re trying to come in at $40/person/week, we’re still going to have to eat more cheaply than that since we now have $35/person left and 20 more meals to cover. (And I’m not even counting drink prices!)

  43. I just don’t seem to care that a family of four making less than $44,863 gross can get $649 of My Precious Tax Dollars. Go ahead, take it, Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t want to live on that little. Especially with two kids and all the stupid school expenses and everything that kids have nowadays. All due respect to Milo, I’d way rather cut the defense budget, particularly the parts of the defense budget that are beyond idiotic.

  44. I volunteered in a food pantry recently and it was all basic stuff – rice/beans/rice casserole mix/basic cereal/pasta & pasta sauce. The “treats” were soup/noodles. It was an eye opener for my kids who looked at the ages of members in the family and if there were kids, my kids wanted to include the few snack treats that the food pantry had. DS including way more bread than we were supposed to give out. At home we eat a fairly simple diet mostly vegetables and meat/fish some days but the fresh produce costs more. Even the inlaws who eat a simple diet would have a hard time if it were rice and beans every single day.

  45. “And I’m not even counting drink prices!”

    Tap water is very inexpensive, and sometimes included in the cost of rent.

  46. I just don’t seem to care that a family of four making less than $44,863 gross can get $649 of My Precious Tax Dollars. Go ahead, take it, Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t want to live on that little.

    +1

    Which brings up a question I have for Finn: In your mind, are these people more or less like you, it is just that they have chosen to make poor choices?

  47. “The problem is that people on SNAP don’t eat mostly staples.”

    Not to mention all the stories about SNAP recipients selling or bartering their benefits to use them for non-food items.

    “This is why I support culturally appropriate food boxes issued by the government.”

    I believe they used to do something like this. The fedgov used to (and probably still does) buy a lot of foodstuffs as part of corporate welfare/farm aid, and distribute some of it to welfare recipients and school cafeterias. When I was a kid and had to do cafeteria duty regularly, I saw a lot of those cans, IIRC, the labels usually indicated they came from the USDA.

    But this is also why I support feeding those kids in school, when it’s in session, rather than via SNAP. There are other benefits to that as well, e.g., providing an incentive for kids to attend regularly, and facilitate learning.

  48. Rocky – I’m not arguing for lower SNAP benefits. I doubt that a $100 or $200 difference is all that significant in the big picture. All I did was discount the validity of the study cited by the NYT.

    I support cutting the defense budget. I loved the way the House Republicans played Obama like a fiddle on that one through the Sequestration fight. Oh, those “Draconian” cuts!

  49. Amen RMS!

    My family gets so upset about the undeserving poor who get more than their fair share. I don’t get it. Reminds me of Matthew 20 or the company that gave everyone a base salary of $70K.

  50. Finn, I’d have to adjust what I cook to feed three teenage boys and the other three of us on $925/month. I estimate our current bill at $700/month, and my sons weigh an average of 50 lb. Beans give Mr. WCE indigestion and all my boys like meat/fish, so that’s an example of something I’d have to change in my budget.

    More importantly, the people I know who get SNAP are working families who get maybe 25% of the listed maximum amount. I was talking to a Mom of 3 teens and a preschooler whose husband earns ~<$40k and I realized school lunches are the only place where her teens get protein. Home food is mostly potatoes and various incarnations of homemade, whole wheat bread.

    We have community gardens, and she seemed motivated enough to get a plot, care for it and use the resulting produce. (She had recently moved from out-of-state.) But as Ada points out, some of the people on SNAP are not as long-term in their thinking as she is.

  51. otoh, it is the *SUPPLEMENTAL* nutrition assistance. There’s no rule that says it’s the only money a family is allowed to spend on food and treats.

  52. Rhett, I think part of the problem is that they don’t know how to stretch their food dollars, and thus I agree with Atlanta about educating them, and not just giving them more money. More SNAP benefits helps in the very short term; learning to eat on less will help in the long term and, IMO, will help more to lift their SES.

    I do think that many of them have made bad choices, although a lot of that may be due to ignorance and lack of role models to model better choices.

    We’ve also discussed many times that one thing that helps Totebaggers get to where they are is the ability to delay gratification, and my guess is that “these people” are not as good at that. I also benefited greatly from parents who were able to delay gratification, and a mom who learned who learned in college how to really stretch food dollars.

  53. ” I’d have to adjust what I cook to feed three teenage boys”

    Did I miss something? Are your three boys now teenagers?

  54. “otoh, it is the *SUPPLEMENTAL* nutrition assistance. There’s no rule that says it’s the only money a family is allowed to spend on food and treats.”

    I believe the expectation is that families will spend 30% of their income on food, and SNAP will provide benefits to make up the difference to the amounts cited above, e.g., $771/mo for a family of 5.

  55. I could feed my family on $500-600/month. Peanut butter, eggs, black beans, canned tuna, rice, pasta, apples and bananas. I am certain that no one would starve. But, man, even in my fairly cushy life with some paid help, access to whatever food and cooking equipment I want and lots of leisure time, some days I just don’t want to make 3 meals from scratch. And I really like to cook! I don’t know, I am fine with the amount of $ that is paid out for SNAP, WIC, etc.

  56. No, Finn, I was thinking about whether $925 would be sufficient for groceries when they are teenagers, and I don’t think it would be, especially if that $925 has to include school lunches. School lunches here are $2.25-$2.75 right now. But if we were on SNAP, I guess we’d probably qualify for free lunches. (Free and reduced price lunch households are all free here now.)

  57. I feed my family of 4 (2 teenaged boys) easily on $600 per month. We eat mainly vegetarian with meat about 2-3x per week. Usually chicken, ground turkey, or frozen shrimp. Lots of frozen veggies, lots of fresh fruit–mainly apples, bananas, oranges and grapes. Not as many berries as others, due to the expense. Lots of canned beans and rice. Cook at home. Pack lunches. Our one meal a week outside is not included in this figure.

    My budget also includes soda, snacks, beer, and (cheap) wine. We eat quite well.

  58. Rhett, note that Houston says they eat lots of rice and beans. Beans are the cheapest source of protein, with eggs, dairy and peanuts probably second.

    Maybe some of our discussion is whether people should be constrained to a diet heavy in rice and beans if they require nutrition assistance.

  59. I think some of you need to spend more time with people that really need these benefits vs. people you think are abusing these benefits. It sounds so easy to say I can spend “x” when everyone on this board can drive or afford transportation t get to the stores with the lower prices. We have the time and money to shop around.

    NYC has worked very hard to insure fresh produce is available in many types of neighborhoods by insuring that farmers markets are now brought into all boroughs. In addition, it is only in the last 5 – 10 years that stores like Target and Walmart have been able to open in some of the poorest areas of the city. Until this happened, the people with the least amount of money had little access to fresh produce at a fair price. Even canned or boxed food was more expensive in a bodega vs a large supermarket chain. There are studies that linked the high rates of obesity and other diseases in some of the poorest neighborhoods to the lack of “real” food that wasn’t in a can or box.

    Also, what about all of the kids that have diabetes, celiac, allergies etc? Food for these kids is more expensive.

    I know and believe that there are people that abuse the system. I get it, but there are so many other people that really need the money. I wish we could address other problems like why do so many of these women have so many children? they can’t afford the kids that they have, and then they continue to have more children. This makes it even harder to go back to school or full time work.

  60. I was left with 2 kids, no car, and was a full time college student (ex husband was a piece of work,..); he cleared out our bank account(last time I will ever have joint account!), and I had NOTHING. I went into the “welfare” office (as they were called then-20 years ago), and cried my heart out to the worker; she didn’t care-just handed me forms, went through her spiel, and summarized my benefits; $500 cash benefits, and under $400 for food stamps. This was for me and 2 kids. My rent was $400 for a 3rd floor walk up. I “;lived” on that for 3 years till I finished my degree and got a full time job (I also worked part time all those years to supplement my benefits). I had to pay utilities, and insurance for the used car a dear friend gifted me. I could not have made it without the benefits (the ex never paid child support/hell he never worked again, instead he lived off of his girlfriends-he owes my about 60K in child support-my youngest is 24 now). If anything , it motivated me to stay working crappy part time jobs, finish college and move up the career ladder. My kids never got free lunch-I was too embarrassed for them and didn’t want them to know we were that poor-so I made sure all the food stamps covered their lunches and dinners first.
    Not sure what the point of me writing this is, but it helped me when I needed it-as someone too proud to ask for help, it was humbling and scary, but allowed me NOT to move back with my parents and be that dependent; and I was the “smart kid” in school, high expectations, etc.-no one could have predicated that fate, but I learned a lot about myself.
    Also interestingly enough, I worked for many non profits and these recipients were my client base. There were some who were complacent and lazy, however there are always some bad apples.

  61. Some other thoughts are that it costs $50 annually to shop at Costco. Not a huge amount, but it’s something, and if you’re already month-to-month on your spending, that could be a big hurdle. And you can’t very easily get your 50 lb bags of rice and beans home on the bus.

    It’s interesting to see where this debate breaks down to the resident socialist proposing that the government start instructing people on exactly how and what to cook, which is breaking off from the liberal saying to just give them as much money as they want, and the conservatives (like me) in an uneasy balance between cutting costs and promoting more of a nanny state.

  62. @WCE – the home country diet is big on rice, beans, pulses, fresh vegetables and milk. My grandparents used to end their meals with a banana because that was a cheap fruit that they could afford. Only if you were better off, could you afford meat, fish, milk products, and fruits other than bananas.

  63. WCE, how close is the nearest Costco? Would everyone that is on welfare have a car or the ability to get to a store like Costco, or any discounted stores?

    If you look at the numbers of where really poor people are living in the US, it isn’t just inner cities. I spent a week in Appalachia, and I didn’t see a way for those folks to have access on a regular basis to a costco or one of their competitors.

    My taxes are insane, and I know that there is abuse. I am just saying that you really need to think about how hard it truly is for some of these families, and many are just single women to get to the places that have less expensive food.

  64. “Lots of canned beans and rice. ”

    Am I correct in assuming that the beans are canned, but not the rice?

  65. Slight tangent: The second half November is when I stock up on children’s “winter” clothing, which is most of what we wear through June. Tomorrow (Nov 11) is Kohl’s best winter sale day (see fatwallet for details; note free shipping and you need a Kohl’s charge for 30% off to stack with $10 off $25).

    Gymboree’s best winter sale is on Thanksgiving (online) and Black Friday. 50% off plus 20% off with coupon.

    Kohl’s carries Osh Kosh, Carter’s, etc. Chaps navy pants/shorts match the Cub Scout uniform shirts. Fleece pants are same quality from both Kohl’s and Gymboree, based on a sample size of ~100 worn out pants. :) Eddie Bauer Dockers-style pants were frayed within a season, though worn only for church.

    Gymboree shirts are better quality than Kohl’s and if you order the long sleeve shirts with sewn-in sleeves, you can cut out the long sleeves, making them short sleeve shirts, when the cuffs get stained or frayed. Gymboree online is better quality than Gymboree Outlet, as discussed about outlets in general.

  66. Lauren, there is a Costco in one city but not the other. Winco (Northwest’s low price leader) beats Costco’s prices on most things anyway and you can buy one or two lb at a time with no membership fee. I am underwhelmed by Costco.

    I buy a lot of long grain brown rice and Winco sells it in bulk for $0.59/lb. Oatmeal (quick or old-fashioned) is ~$0.50/lb. Winco is sufficiently convenient to the university that most of the students shop there. It has had great prices on ramen noodles for back-to-school.

  67. I just don’t care much about the fraud wrt food. Every program, whether for the rich or poor, has fraud. There is waste at every level. I just can’t care much that a small % of the population is scamming the govt for some extra food. Drop in the bucket. If we are going to care about fraud, I would much rather we start with disability. That is a total scam of a system.

  68. “Gymboree’s best winter sale is on Thanksgiving (online) and Black Friday. 50% off plus 20% off with coupon.”

    hmm. I wonder if DW knows this. BIL and his new wife are coming back East for T-Giving, and it will be the first time any one has seen them since they got married*, so we’re going to be spending the long weekend with them.

    *Finn can have fun with that sentence.

  69. All of these lovely low cost food budgets are assuming that the family has access to a working kitchen, pantry storage, a car (to get to Costco), and a full set of pots and pans. The reality for a lot of people on SNAP is that they are living doubled up in a tenement where rats infest the kitchen, the stove doesn’t work half the time, and they don’t have a car. when my sib lived out in a poor part of Appalachia, she didn’t have a stove at all in her rental house, and that was evidently common there. She cooked on a hotplate. A lot of people out there are miles from the nearest cruddy grocery store – no Costco for 80 miles – and their ancient cars break down constantly. Some people grow stuff, but to realistically produce food takes decent soil, equipment, and knowledge, and the growing season isn’t all that good. The kind of budgeting you guys are engaging in is the kind of budget that works for the middle class, not the desperately poor.

  70. Many people who are food insecure have very little in the way of possessions in general. One family we know through scouts had 1 frying pan, 1 likely 3 qt pot, 1 baking sheet, and one 9X13 baking pan, 1 large mixing bowl, a few wooden spoons and a spatula in the way of cooking supplies. They had a can opener, a bottle opener, one sharp knife, a cutting board, and one set of dishes (cup, bowl, plate, knife, fork, spoon) per family member, plus bottles for the the baby.

    Through the SNAP program some food banks provide cooking and nutrition classes. But, that assumes they are at a good time for your schedule. Several community service projects have been done in our area to take the “normally” distributed foods from the food bank and develop receipes that are healthy, filling and need very few or no additional ingredients. They also tend to focus on preparation methods that require minimal pots/pans and utensils.

  71. Lauren, one of the reasons I advocate feeding kids in schools is that it reduces of problems their parents have in shopping for food for them.

    Perhaps it might make sense to open the school cafeterias even during school breaks. If the goal is just to deliver nutrition, that may be more efficient that SNAP for most kids, although for rural kids it could be quite inefficient on non-school days.

  72. “Perhaps it might make sense to open the school cafeterias even during school breaks.”

    That’s kind of embarrassing, isn’t it? “Finn, Jr. goes to school even during Christmas vacation. That’s where they eat dinner every day.”

    I know my kids buy lunch using a numeric code to debit an account that we pre-pay. I would assume that, at the kid level, the process is identical for those students who are eligible for free lunch, so there would be no opportunity for anyone to feel ashamed.

  73. Finn,

    The other issue with your family’s diet of brown bread and raw carrots is that you’re using the money to pay for a fancy private school, a fancy house, ski trips etc. It’s quite another thing to do that when you have nothing and little expectation of ever having more.

  74. I input hypo family of three, mom, two middle schoolers, data with normal rent into the MA SNAP calculator and the max monthly benefit if I earned or otherwise received 25K a year – a steady 40 hours a week at 12.50 an hour, is 185. SNAP phases out completely at 40K. The max is 490 a month, which at 16 dollars a day is manageable.

    When we were broke, but not poor, the family of six ate meatless half the time – noodle casserole or cornmeal mush with cheese, with lettuce on the side and ice water to drink. The thermostat in the drafty house was set at 60. Nobody was particularly chubby and never missed any school for illness. However, the hamsters died. Many years later my kids informed me that they always left the table a little bit hungry.

  75. I think the concern about incentives is often improperly conflated with the concern about fraud. While there may be overlap, the whole point of the incentives concern as I understand it is whether certain policies encourage or promote decision-making that further entrenches the need for such policies. In other words, it’s not about fraud but rather what a rational person would/should do in light of the policies. I think sometimes people view concerns about incentives as divorced from concern about affected people, when in many cases it actually stems from a deep concern about how people are affected. (Of course, people also have very different views about how incentives work, whether they matter, how often relevant decision-making is related to these incentives, etc. etc.)

  76. Yep. I agree with most of you today. Let’s make them eat Kraft Mac & Cheese, Raman and overstock creamed spinach. After all, we can easily pay more later for their health costs for obesity and other ailments later when it’s mostly on our kids.

    I don’t think it would be easy living off of welfare. Certainly not down here. It is difficult to find doctors that will take Medicaid. They are very few and far between. More serious care is delivered through the hell hole hospital downtown. Section 8 housing is not exactly a nurturing environment, normally, and wait times down here are very long.

  77. Should it be?

    Are you familiar with John Rawls’s concept of a veil of ignorance?

    The question would be: How hard would you want living on welfare to be if, once your system was set up, you were send back in time and assigned a new random set or parents, abilities, temperament, etc?

  78. “why do so many of these women have so many children? ”

    I don’t understand this either, it makes it much harder to break the cycle of poverty when you add on to the family you already need assistance to afford to take care of

  79. it makes it much harder to break the cycle of poverty

    I think in many cases they don’t think the cycle can be broken.

  80. Sex is a natural urge. Birth control costs money and takes prior planning — quite a bit of prior planning if you’re talking pills or IUD, not to mention access to medical care. As a country we’re not super supportive of organizations (cough Planned Parenthood cough) that seek to make birth control more readily available.

  81. Finn, by making it difficult and horrible to live off welfare or SNAP, you end up with people who are using so much of their brainpower just trying to live day to day that they no longer have the mental energy or capacity to do anything to break the cycle. When we look at countries or eras in which there was not a lot of support or help for poor people, we see huge hordes of people in despair, turning to crime or substance abuse. Look at the dysfunction in the vast slums in places like Brazil. That is what you get when you try to make people on welfare as miserable as possible

  82. why do so many of these women have so many children?

    Because their health insurance, if they have it, doesn’t cover birth control.

  83. My closet feminist has to come out and ask
    “Why do so many of these MEN have so many children?”

    Multipartner fertility is, in my opinion, the main reason why outcomes for the poor in the United States are so much worse than outcomes for the poor in Europe, not differences in our social support systems.

  84. i volunteer at our local food pantry about once a month. Food pantry clients are allowed one visit per month, and they have to prove their eligibility every six months. It is distressing to see the same people year after year. Some of the food bank patrons have obvious physical and mental problems, but others it is hard to figure out why they have a need to shop at the pantry. The local college has established a back program for elementary aged kids. The program covers the seven elementary schools in my area. Kids are given a backpack every Friday with enough non perishable food to last them through the weekend. The empty backpacks are returned to school on Monday morning and then handed out again the following Friday. I think that this program is totally funded by the college. The college kids are the ones who fill the backpacks every week. When college is not in session, local people step in to help out.

  85. WCE, in answer to your question of why poor men have so many children, I’d guess that if your lifestyle is such that you’re never really going to end up being held to account for child support, and your preference is for bareback, why would you buy condoms? If your partner doesn’t want to get pregnant that’s her problem.

  86. And really, why does anyone have children? If you’re living in poverty or are working poor, chances are not good that you’ll leave a legacy in the form of your name on a building or scholarship fund, or a respected body of legal opinions or contributions to science or groundbreaking works of art or lives saved, but you can still leave great-grandchildren.

  87. HM, I think you’re right. And I wonder why women have such low standards. As I observed to my fellow high school female students, “If the idea of child support isn’t a threat, why have sex with him?”

  88. “If the idea of child support isn’t a threat, why have sex with him?”

    You think he’s the best you can do?

  89. Why so many kids: Partly it is lack of access to b.c. Colorado had this great project providing free long-term contraception (IUD and depo-provera stuff) and it cut teen and unmarried birth rate substantially. So naturally we eliminated it.

    And partly, to judge entirely from my sister-in-law, it’s that hope springs eternal. This boyfriend will be different — his promises that he’ll support the family will actually come true unlike the promises of the previous three boyfriends. THIS time she’ll have the comfortable middle-class life that she’s always wanted. Until he goes to jail like all the rest of them.

  90. I think I am coming down on the side of those who feel/believe/know that the amount of fraud in our supplemental food programs is truly minimal compared with the amount of good done for the highly deserving.

    Partly this is informed by the stories DW tells about some of the clients at the food cupboard where she volunteers every other week (oh and they definitely have people who seem to be working the system).

    And partly by how much we are able/fortunate to spend on food for our enjoyment, not merely nutrition.

    Yesterday was our anniversary, so DW & I took vacation days and just spent time together. Ate all 3 meals out at nice, but not fancy, UMC places where all food is scratch prepared, so it was really a vacation day:
    Breakfast: 1 bowl of oatmeal, 1 bowl of yogurt, granola and a lot of fresh berries, 1 chocolate croissant, 1 café au lait and 1 large regular coffee $22
    Lunch: 1 cup and 1 bowl of the of the best tomato soup I have ever had (creamy, made with chipotle chilis), 2 “artisan” grilled cheese sandwiches, 1 with bacon, + a bottle of wine (1/2 of which we brought home $51
    Dinner: Arancini appetizer, beet salad, pasta with fresh clams & sherry sauce, pasta with artichokes & gorgonzola, 1 glass of wine, 1 beer $95

    Not as much as some might spend and also more than some might spend to feed their whole family for a week. We’re lucky.

  91. The surprising answer I got from some teen moms was that they had babies to keep part of their boyfriend’s love, even if they knew he would leave.

  92. “I don’t think it would be easy living off of welfare.”

    Should it be?”

    In my world, it would not be humiliating for people to be on welfare. With a very sick child it would not be many transfers on a bus to an unsafe inner city hospital to wait the night in the emergency room. Preventive care would be available. Housing would be adequate and safe.

    Yeah. I’m with Rocky and Cat and a few others today.

    Let’s make welfare a little easier and less stigmatizing. Shit can happen– believe it or not even to us! (Perish the thought!)

    As a member of society who has received many benefits based simply on my invitro luck of picking responsible parents, I have received a lot. I have a lot.

    But as a member of our society, I want to be able to look myself in the mirror in the morning as I go about my daily relatively privileged life.

    I have been fortunate. Many have not.

  93. Rhett, “partner quality” is a threshold variable.
    If your potential partner doesn’t meet the threshold variable, you either wait for a better partner or modify your own characteristics (say, by earning a degree that allows you to support a family yourself) so that the available partner is acceptable.

    This requires a certain amount of delaying gratification, which has already been discussed.

  94. “why do so many of these women have so many children?
    Because their health insurance, if they have it, doesn’t cover birth control.”
    I’m pretty sure everybody’s health insurance covers birth control now.
    My OBGYN friend who serves many medicaid teen moms says that when he talks to them about their plans to prevent another pregnancy, most of the girls don’t want to prevent another pregnancy. Pregnancy gives status, and someone to love you. It is one of those things I don’t want to believe, because I want to believe these kids are having babies in 9th grade because of a terrible lack of access and education, and not because they intend to get pregnant. But sometimes what I don’t want to believe is actually true.

  95. (say, by earning a degree that allows you to support a family yourself)

    For what percentage of the population is that possible?

  96. Who was it — our own Scarlett? Who recommended the book Promises I Can Keep, which looks in-depth at why women have children when their circumstances are problematic.

  97. Some years ago, someone here (maybe Meme?) mentioned a book about poor women who have children because they want them. ( I read a good chunk of it, and wish I could remember the title.) They know all about birth control, and notwithstanding insurance coverage issues, it’s really not very expensive. It IS difficult for women living in chaotic circumstances to remember to take a pill every day, and some have tried the pills but dropped them because of real or perceived side effects. They know that the fathers of their children aren’t necessarily going to stick around, though some of them may be hoping that the presence of a bouncing baby boy may induce dad to help out.
    But they WANT kids. Maybe for all the wrong reasons, but they want them and regard having a baby as a rite of passage to the grownup women’s world. Motherhood gives them an instant status boost in their communities, and the child is someone who belongs to them. In their world, women don’t finish school and then find full-time employment with a decent paycheck and benefits. They have kids, not always with the same partner, and then start the cycle all over again.

  98. Statistically, when you make long-acting birth control easily available, pregnancy rates plummet. Specifically, they encouraged patients getting abortions to use long-acting birth control (IUDs, implanon) and then measured abortion rates, the percentage of abortions that are repeat abortions, and teenage births. Bringing some data to the anecdata:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4000282/

  99. “My closet feminist has to come out and ask
    “Why do so many of these MEN have so many children?””

    WCE – It’s OK to come out of the closet. =)

    “But they WANT kids. Maybe for all the wrong reasons, but they want them and regard having a baby as a rite of passage to the grownup women’s world.”

    This.

  100. I did read Promises I can keep. It was a very good book.
    At the food pantry – I approached the desk with kids in tow. I could see the look on the receptionist’s face as she sized me up. Single mother with two kids but not quite fitting the client demographic. Possible refugee perhaps. She seemed relieved when I asked where the volunteers should report to. BTW, dinner tonight is green beans, my kids don’t care for them.

  101. “Specifically, they encouraged patients getting abortions to use long-acting birth control”

    Perhaps patients getting abortions have more incentives than their luckier peers to get serious about birth control? It is probably harder to convince the young women who haven’t yet had an unintended pregnancy that they COULD have one and should therefore use long-acting birth control. Assuming, of course, that they don’t actually want to have kids.

  102. I’m wondering why, if RMS, Scarlett and I can all agree that government-paid access (free at point of source) to long-term birth control for all (even those who can’t afford medical insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid) would be a good thing, why doesn’t said access exist?

    On my mental Venn diagram of possible positions, this is where almost all of us overlap.

  103. WCE, I also agree. Making BC more readily available is one reason I give to PP.

    Who would oppose it? Catholics come to mind right away.

  104. The Catholics I know are not opposed to birth control for other people. They are religious conservatives who hold themselves to standards that they do not believe should be applied to all people. But you’re right that the Catholic Church would probably be obliged to publicly oppose expanded contraception availability.

    The same concept applies to other religious conservatives I know- the Hindus don’t want to outlaw beef, the Muslims/Jews don’t want to outlaw pork, and the LDS don’t want to outlaw alcohol.

  105. I agree that it’s a great idea for those who are not prepared to be parents to take steps to avoid unintended pregnancies. The precise methods for doing so, and who should pick up the tab, are different issues.

  106. Anyone thinking of getting a Kindle?

    “Starting Thanksgiving, November 26, prices for a Fire tablet, the best-selling product on Amazon since its launch, will drop $15 to $34.99.”

  107. I recommended Promises I Can Keep. It helped me to understand that many poor women perceive the choice not as between celibacy (or at least waiting a long time) and sex with non marriage material partners, but as between childlessness and single motherhood. The normal UMC practice of having children in mid thirties or later seems unnatural to them. One is normally a grandmother at 40. There is a lot of literature on waiting – the full details of the marshmallow experiment make it clear that if there is no expectation of future gratification, it is not rational to defer.

    There are so many ways in which other people’s taxes have benefitted me and my family, beyond infrastructure, national defense and the maintenance of civil order, fire protection, etc. My DC based mother was a part time government employee with a salary and eventually a pension, and also lived into her nineties, recouping far more from social security and medicare than she ever put in. I worked at NIH as a college student. I had a National Science Foundation fellowship for grad school. We received WIC coupons and surplus food for 2 years. All of my children and I attended public schools for at least part of our education. My older boy was sent to special ed school for two and half years at public expense. Two children attended public state colleges. Everybody, including me, had Perkins or Stafford loans. And that is just the obvious direct transfer stuff.

    As I made my inexpensive dinner tonight, I was trying to think of all the steps, equipment and stored cooking knowledge required to complete this meal for a tired person after work with hungry kids, SNAP or no SNAP. It was stuffed peppers. I went to Costco in my car today and as part of my run picked up a nice pack of 8 red and yellow peppers and made sure that there were a couple with flat bottoms. (I can’t find the receipt, but I guess 5 dollars for the bag). I preheated my functioning oven, and boiled water on the functioning cooktop in a saucepan to parboil the peppers (saves oven time and improves the result) with the tops off and the insides cleaned out. I took out a pound of lean ground beef – 5 dollars a pound purchased yesterday at TJs, car trip) from my functioning refrigerator, divided it in half and made 2 hamburger patties out of the other half, and put them in in a new ziploc freezer bag from which I squeezed out the air to prevent freezer burn, and put them in my functioning freezer compartment. I heated olive oil (pantry) in a heavy covered pan and chopped and sauteed onion and garlic (fridge), browned the ground beef, seasoned with spices (pantry), added some leftover brown rice (fridge), filled the peppers, used the same heavy pan from the browning, poured in a can of no salt tomato sauce (pantry), sprinkled parm cheese (fridge) on top and baked. Took 40 min start to finish. Served with homebrewed iced tea (me) and discount diet soda (DH). Afterwards my spouse, not me, cleaned up and put the dishes in the functioning dishwasher.

    Of course, I make this food not to be virtuous but because it tastes good and for me it is quick and easy. I haven’t made kugel or mamaliga (see previous post) as a main dish in 30 years. And later tonight we’ll have decaf cappuccino from beans I order from Seattle (Vernon’s 3 Rivers Decaf) in the 4 figure Saeco machine.

  108. ” The normal UMC practice of having children in mid thirties or later seems unnatural to them. ”

    Just as it seems unnatural to us totebaggers to have kids in our teens and be grandparents by 40.

    This suggests there is something to the theory of more mixed neighborhoods/schools where some of these kids can see other life choices. Good for the lower SES, not necessarily good for the UMC, somewhere in between for the MC.

    “As I made my inexpensive dinner tonight, I was trying to think of all the steps, equipment and stored cooking knowledge required to complete this meal for a tired person after work with hungry kids, SNAP or no SNAP.”

    For me, it might be more like:

    Wash some rice, put in rice cooker, press start.
    Take out frying pan. Open can of Spam, slice, fry.
    Dump frozen vegs in a bowl, microwave.
    Call family to dinner.

  109. I think when you have children is location-dependent as well as class-dependent. UMC people in flyover country have children younger than UMC people on the Coasts. That’s especially true if you define UMC as a percentile based on state rather than a percentile based on the whole country.

    I’m still kind of shocked to find I had all my children in my 30’s rather than my 20’s.

  110. And stuffed peppers was one of those dishes that my grandmother considered a common staple, bordering on peasant food, and she was shocked to find that by the time she was in her 80s, it was appearing in trendy upscale restaurants.

  111. All of our friends had their kids in their early thirties. I don’t think anyone wanted to delay having second or third kids much past thirty five. It was doable since most were married in their late twenties.

  112. I know far more people around here who have had children in their 40s than in their 20s. I even know a few who have had children in their early 50s but not one who had a baby in her teens (although I do know teen mothers, just not around here and not just PTM). I mostly think that these people around here aren’t rich or UMC because they had their kids late. They had their kids late because they are are rich/UMC.

    I get why women who don’t have a lot of room for increasing SES have children young and have more than they can afford. I don’t think it is irrational and I don’t really know how we can fix it. I think the best we can do is offer free birth control, keep abortions safe and legal and support the kids to the extent possible.

  113. “if there is no expectation of future gratification, it is not rational to defer.”

    Yeah, that.

    Sorry I missed this yesterday. Clearly, I am in the category of worrying more about providing adequate support to people in need than in worrying about those who take advantage. I think this article meshes with the article we discussed a few weeks ago that tracked the long-term impacts of fairly small cash benefits for kids. I think short-term investments in getting kids out of poverty can have long-term societal benefits in reduced crime and violence and prison spending, and generally more contributing members to society.

  114. Stuffed peppers are peasant food, definitely. I rediscovered them as a meal option when large orange and yellow peppers became widely available. I don’t like the taste of green peppers, and I never make stuffed rolled cabbage, which is in the same family. The only item from the always lean years that will never pass my lips again is powdered milk. After we stopped getting WIC coupons, it was a couple of years until we could afford fresh milk, but still didn’t serve it regularly except at breakfast or with afternoon cereal/snack. A 2 1/2 gallon refrigerator keg had to last us for the whole week until the milkman came again. And we didn’t buy orange juice except when we had overnight company.

  115. Completely off topic – I know this crowd loves its Vitamix blenders – I am currently on the phone with Vitamix about repairing my $400 one that I bought in August. Could not be more annoyed. Knob on it broke this morning.

  116. My mom thinks it is crazy that Rainbow Trout is a featured and expensive menu item at certain restaurants. It is food she ate as a child because they were poor.

  117. Oxtails have gotten crazy expensive. And tongue is like $5/pound at Sam’s Club. Oxtail has always been a local favorite, but for tongue I blame the chefs.

  118. “I know this crowd loves its Vitamix blenders”

    Some of us are satisfied with our 20+ year old Osters.

  119. “The only item from the always lean years that will never pass my lips again is powdered milk.”

    I can empathize.

    One summer, my sister stayed a few weeks with my Uncle’s family while we were in the process of moving. My aunt was amazed at how much milk she drank, but that was because their milk came in cartons, not from mayonnaise jars in which we reconstituted powdered milk, and actually had milk fat in it, and it was such a treat for her (my sister, not my aunt).

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