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[Susan notes: I rarely read the nut case-comments that appear on newspaper websites but after reading the opinion piece about a woman buying a $41 ice cream cake with food stamps, I ventured into the predictable World of the Nasty. And then I posted my own comment, suggesting that people need to read Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, where he points out that poor people want sugar in their tea just as much as rich people--even though it may not be a wise financial move. Readers quickly condemned me, noting that poor people have no right to sugar paid for with taxpayer dollars and also noting that I'm probably on welfare. Then it got uglier, and I stopped reading the replies to my comment, though I did add that rather scrutinizing what people buy in grocery stores, concerned taxpayers would do better to question the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter planes and so on.



So I'm glad to see these letters in the published edition--calling to task people in grocery store lines who monitor what other people choose to buy.



Being poor shouldn't mean one is deprived of all choice.]

Published in Wall Street Journal
05/23/2011

To the editor

The sight of a woman buying a $41 ice-cream cake with food stamps left Warren Kozak feeling "like a chump," and "wondering what lesson" her son would learn from the purchase ( Food Stamps and the $41 Cake, op-ed, May 18). Clearly, Mr. Kozak learned no lessons from the bad deal.



The truth is Mr. Kozak knows nothing about this woman's life. The cake could be a one-time treat. The boy may not be her son. The woman may spend so much time working at or near minimum wage that there is no time to make a cake. She may not drive 30 blocks for a deal because she doesn't own a car. Being poor is hard enough without Mr. Kozak's assumptions and conclusions.



Josh Brodesky

Tucson, Ariz.



I was that little child many years ago standing in line at the grocery store with a parent and, at the time, ashamed of the fact my family was poor and used food stamps. Back then, there was no EBT card; "food stamps" looked like monopoly money. The grocery-store clerk was quick to announce on the intercom "assistance in aisle 10" when we had a can of household cleanser included inadvertently in the purchase. What shame and embarrassment I felt that I was less of a person or somehow didn't measure up to my peers.



I, too, "arrange[d] my travel" around "taking a little extra effort" in getting to the grocery store. I walked with my brother and sisters 1.5 miles to the store to get groceries and 1.5 miles back. If we were fortunate, we sometimes caught the bus that came every 90 minutes.



Like Mr. Kozak's grandmother, my parents only graduated from high school. However, they taught all six of their children to stay in school, study hard and focus on education first before starting new families. With the help of the food stamp program, we didn't go hungry. My parents have six college graduates. In this case, government worked as it was intended to do.



However, to this day I recall people like Mr. Kozak standing in judgment behind me in the grocery line, stereotyping me as ignorant and looking down on me with disdain. I suggest it's the $25,000 a plate "pay to play" fund-raising dinners in both political parties, the continued culture of corruption and the setting of bad policy that are the real problems. Not the $41 cake.



Gail Bowler

Chamblee, Ga.

Josh Brodesky and Gail Bowler


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