Below are 2 very insightful recommended diaries on the subject of food stamps in America which can be found at these links:
As I read these diaries I knew I had to write a diary in response to them. Did you know that virtually speaking the United States is the only major industrialized nation in the world that uses food stamps to humiliate its citizens. I became aware of that as an expat American living in the European Union. But that is not the surprising part of this diary. The surprising part is that one of the diarists who is obviously single doesn't mention how they can pay rent, because you can't pay rent using food stamps. Whereas in the European Union where I am living single people can routinely apply for cash benefits that may also be used to pay rent. Which brings to mind an old refrain from Michael Harrington, which is the US is among the least generous highly industrialized countries when it comes to so-called social benefit welfare payments.
This diary by way of contrast and comparison looks at the social safety net in the United States and the European Union. In doing so it looks at how single people as well as working families are treated by good old Yankee capitalism.
Now why am I talking about Michael Harrington? Well for our younger readers who have never heard of him, here is a Wikipedia link giving background information on this brilliant American.
"During this period Harrington wrote The Other America: Poverty in the United States, a book that had an impact on the Kennedy administration, and on Lyndon B. Johnson's subsequent War on Poverty."
Since his passing in 1989 his shoes as a defender of the American underclass have yet to be filled by anyone of his ilk.
One of the diaries referred to in the introduction of this diary talks about gratefully getting $100 a month in food stamps. Let's understand that in most of the Western European countries in the European Union, people receive nearly that much or in many cases more than that just for child allowance. Now you may ask what is child allowance? The reason you would have to ask that is because in America there is no such thing as child allowance, which is a benefit that everyone with kids gets to include millionaires. So every famous European parent you can think of Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, Mick Jagger, even at one point the Queen of England was eligible to receive it.
Why is it that no state in the Union gives cash benefits to single people? What would be the reason for that? Could it be to immediately impress those single people into poverty wage employment or crime. So it is that the crime statistics in the US by some coincidence are massively higher in the United States than in for example the European Union, along with the rates of incarceration.
Though axiomatically speaking we all know the US has led the world in prison population in recent decades, let's look at a smaller dataset ranging from 2006 and a very informative interactive map provided at this link: http://www.edutube.org/...
In absolute terms, the United States currently has the largest prison population in the world, with more than 2 million. In 2002, both Russia and China (the latter with a population 4 times that of the USA) also had prison populations in excess of 1 million.
As a percentage of total population, Rwanda has the largest prison population as of 2002, with more than 100,000 (of a total population of around 8 million), largely as a result of the 1994 genocide. The United States is second largest in relative numbers with 486 prisoners per 100,000 of population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, also making it the largest in relative numbers amongst developed countries).
Prison population per 100,000 inhabitants
and Northern Ireland 124
In the United States we don't like to use words like hunger in America, instead we say food insecurity in America! which is a PC euphemism for hunger.
"There has been a dramatic increase in hunger in the United States in the last three years, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Statistics are only available for 2008. US statistics do not measure hunger, they measure food insecurity and security"
How does the US social safety net protect working families?
Now this diary has taken a basic look at how we treat unemployed people living in poverty on the food stamp program. Now this diary will shift gears a bit and look at how good ole Yankee capitalism treats working families in America, and how it supports their family values. To which this diary asks the question in terms of providing a social safety net for working families, did you know that virtually speaking the United States is the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn't offer job protected paid maternity leave by right of law. To which this diary offers a number of quotes below. In reviewing those quotes please ask yourself the question, what type of family values is Yankee capitalism promulgating for the working class?
Paternity Leave / international comparisons
Did you know that 157 countries offer paid maternity leave?
Check out Wikipedia: "Parental Leave": there's a shocking chart which is an embarassment to the United States
Would you please consider telling your friends, family about how our British cousins are provided with extensive maternity benefits which maybe shared by hetero-sexual couples, as well as same-sex couples and single parent families? Isn't it time that we in the U.S. adopted these types of progressive family friendly policies?
Now we're talking about real family values not just lip service.
Maternity Leave in Britain
BBC: In the UK, women get a year off, with the first six weeks on 90% pay, followed by 33 weeks on Statutory Maternity Pay. The rest is unpaid.
A spouse or partner of the woman (including same-sex relationships) may request a two week paid (at a fixed rate) paternity leave. Both the mother and her partner can additionally request non-paid parental leave, which can be for up to 4 weeks annually, with a current limit of 13 weeks.
Prime Minister David Cameron to take paternity leave after birth of daughter
Next let's take a quick look at real family values in the Republic of Ireland.
If you think this is interesting, please share it with a friend or even share it with your member of Congress.
Maternity Leave in Ireland
Length of time Maternity Benefit is paid
Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks. At least 2 weeks and not more than 16 weeks leave must be taken before the end of the week in which your baby is due.
Let's compare and contrast that with the good old USA
where zero days of paid maternity leave are provided by right of law to families.
Now how do you feel about those types of family values?
Paid maternity leave - none.
Parental leave - Under the Family Medical Leave Act 2003 every qualifying individual has the right to 12 weeks unpaid family and medical leave, including parental leave. To qualify, they must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year for an employer who has more than 50 employees. Some States laws provide more or have less stringent qualifying conditions (see the US Study, September 2008 "A Detailed Look at Parental Leave Policies in 21 OECD Countries" by Rebecca Ray noted above)
Now let's look to our friendly neighbor to the north. I'm referring of course to the Canadians and in doing so please consider the package of maternity benefits that are guaranteed by right of law by the Canadian federal government to all families and please ask yourself what kind of family values are those and how do they contrast and compare to what we have in the US?
Canadian Maternity Leave
In Canada, maternity benefits for working mothers and parents remain the responsibility of the federal government. Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) gives paid maternity leave for 15 weeks.
Let's look at Italy's maternity leave by right of law.
During pregnancy, women have the right to a period of leave lasting two months prior to and three months following the expected date of childbirth
Australia just joined progressive nations all around the world by passing a paid parental leave act. Shouldn't we in the US do the same? Why should we deny working families the ability to fully participate in the benefits to society and wealth through their labor produce, by denying them paid maternity leave.
The Australian Government will deliver Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme from 1 January 2011. It will provide eligible working parents with 18 weeks of pay at the weekly rate of the National Minimum Wage.
Paid parental leave for New Zealand:
You can receive paid parental leave for a maximum of 14 weeks. You can transfer your paid parental leave to your spouse or partner, as long as they also qualify for paid parental leave from their employer or self-employment.
Shouldn't we view the lack of paid maternity benefit as a de facto tax levied against working families in America as a methodology for depriving working families to be able to share in the value and wealth that they produce, but aren't able to fully participate in. In fact when we view the fact for example in the European Union when we adjust for the fact that they all have universal medical systems, paid child allowance, paid maternity leave, paid sick leave and aren't reduced to the humiliation of using food stamps and for the most part get 3 or 4 weeks paid vacation a year, that working families pay less taxes, work less hours and have on average longer life expectancies, than their counterparts in the US.
Please tell us how do you feel about the lack of paid maternity leave in America today, and that America stands alone in its use of food stamps to try to humiliate its citizens in the grocery check out line. Please also share with our readers how you feel about what all this is doing to the American dream? We find ourselves in a posture where our health care reform measures will leave millions of uninsured Americans behind. Where the doors to college opportunity are being closed by ever higher tuition rates, wherein we note that the lifetime limit for the federal Stafford student loan program has not been increased in about 18 years. Where we find a prison population in the United States that has grown to over 2 million which represents a staggering loss of potential in the American society
Also please tell us about how many American companies who claim that they cannot afford to pay paid maternity leave in the United States, seem to have no problem paying them overseas in their European conglomerates? This diary is merely a discussion starter and by no means a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter, but has attempted to look at the American social safety net in a contrast and comparison to the social safety net as it presents itself in the European Union countries.