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Thanks for posting about this. This sort of story can't get too much attention. The demand at the food cupboard where I volunteer is up 100% this year over last. We're stunned by and and we knew it was going to happen - we just didn't think it would have doubled so soon in the year.

Well, thank goodness my mom is no longer going to be responsible for bankrupting the country. After working for nearly 60 of her 73 years at various low-paying jobs, my newly retired mom was struggling to make ends meet on her social security check. She navigated the humiliating process of asking for food stamps and was given $50.00 worth per month. That was apparently too much when they found out we were paying her utilities, (sneaks that we are) so it was reduced to $14.00. (Funny how government oversight wasn't a problem in this case.) Guess she should have saved more when she was "rakin' it in" for all those years.

I'm sorry she's going through that, VW. One of the things I do at work is try to get the money to fund human needs programs. We target the spending in the Labor HHS - Education bill but we want the number that all non-defense domestic discretionary spending comes from to be as high as possible before it gets split up into the various agencies and programs. The Blue Dogs drive us crazy b/c they always target that number for cuts, as if it hasn't already been slashed to the bone.

Maybe your mom wants to contact her congressperson and let him/her know what's happening with her food stamps and that she is not happy about it.

vw, your mom is hardly alone. Conservatives - Republican and Democrat - have been using eligibility requirements to knock people off welfare or cut their benefits to nothing from the day LBJ strong-armed his Great Society priograms through a reluctant Congress. Three years ago I wrote:

This is Part One of the conservative game: plant piles of new regulations onto govt agencies which will require lots of money and staff to implement. Part Two comes a few years later: Complain loudly that govt agencies are fat, slow bureaucracies with too many employees and too many regulations. Repeat as needed.

There’s nothing new about this. Yellow-dog Dixiecrats invented this approach the day after they knuckled under to LBJ and his Great Society programs. Led by Sen James Eastland of Mississippi, Republicans and Dixiecrats teamed up to lard Johnson’s bills with acres of means testing, ever-tightening eligibility requirements, caveats, conditions, and exemptions, all with incredibly complicated formulas designed to a) keep as many poor people off the roles as possible; b) give the opponents weapons with which they could excuse denying states the funds they were entitled to; and c) create the enormous Federal bureaucracy that would be necessary to implement all those complex formulas, a bureaucracy they could then run against as “bloated” and “excessive” and “wasteful.” They created a self-fulfilling prophecy, and then attacked it.

Dumping on your mother and people like her is intentional, part of the conservative plan. By all means she should complain to her Congressperson, who needs to understand not that people are hurting - s/he already knows that - but that they're ready to first gripe and then vote.

(BTW, Rob, this is the problem with your otherwise neat compromise solution in "Hardcore Idealism". I'll expand on that some time in the future but essentially, as long as you support Democrats, you tell them you've got nowhere else to go and will wind up voting for them no matter what they do. We have to break that cycle or vw's mom and all the others in a similar position will be on their own.)

Another problem with my compromise is that it's almost hopelessly optimistic about what people think they can do. Most people feel like they don't have time to call a Congressperson much less write a letter or visit an office. Forget about organizing consistent pressure - you need money for that - either to hire professional organizers or to have the free time to do the work on your own.

I'm encouraged by the advent of Move On, which empowers people who have access to the web. We need lots of funding to pour into Democracy schools, which would exist in three dimensions and target everyone else. We're facing a huge problem so the solution is going to have to be huge too.

On the bright side: I think the bar for what makes citizen action effective is lower than we think. Most Congresspeople do not want to see people outside their office and a demonstration will get their attention. Again, it takes a lot of work to go from getting attention to getting real change and you've got to involve the monied interests in the solution, but I think it's do-able.

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