Ennobling the Poor

Could Mike Pence be any more embarrassing?

Federal SNAP benefits–food stamps, in everyday parlance–average about 1.40 per meal. Not exactly filet mignon level benefits. But Indiana’s delusional Governor (who is running for President and who will be eviscerated by a national spotlight that doesn’t suffer fools gladly) has announced that he plans to “ennoble” SNAP recipients by cutting off those who can work. As he explained to Faux News

“I’m someone that believes there’s nothing more ennobling to a person than a job,” Pence insisted. “And to make sure that able-bodied adults without dependents at home know that here in the state of Indiana, we want to partner with them in their success.”

“You know, it’s the old story,” he continued. “Give someone a fish, and they’ll eat for a day. Teach them to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime.”

Where to start?

First of all, SNAP recipients who are “able-bodied adults without dependents at home” are a small percentage of the total.  I’m sure the Governor’s rhetoric plays well with the GOP base he is targeting, but the vast majority of SNAP recipients are elderly, disabled or children–not the “welfare queens” of the Right’s fetid imaginings.

Second, there aren’t jobs available in low-wage Indiana that allow people to put food on the table. If our Pastor Governor wants to “ennoble” Hoosiers, he might consider changing his economic development efforts to concentrate on bringing good jobs to the state, rather than boasting over the poverty-level ones he actually attracts. As the United Ways’ ALICE report (more on that tomorrow) documents, basic household expenses in Indiana cost more than most Hoosier jobs can support.

Third, even poverty-level jobs aren’t widely available. Things are better than they were–thanks primarily to President Obama, not the Governor or our do-nothing Congress–but they’re far from good.

Tell you what, Mike: if you really want to “ennoble” struggling Hoosiers, stay out of Iowa, pass up the cozy get-togethers with the Koch brothers, and start doing the job you were (barely) elected to do. And just as a reminder–that job didn’t include suing the President, harassing the Superintendent of Public Instruction, marginalizing LGBT folks, preaching against reproductive choice or pontificating about the “nobility” of going hungry.

If you want to “teach a man to fish,” maybe you should consider stocking the lake.


  1. Is that a word? Ennobling? Is he trying to be the Sarah Palin of Mississ – I mean Indiana?

  2. ALG; “enobling” is a word, I questioned it and found it in my years old dictionary. It just doesn’t fit this situation as it doesn’t increase a jobless persons nobility by denying them food. “Rev.” Pence might also consider improving Indiana resident’s lot in life by not denying them access to affordable health care through his f#*ked up state system which prevents them applying for ACA which is probably much more affordable. A healthy person has a better chance at employment. Now let’s move on to Global Warming, local pollution and the EPA; those fish the “Rev.” referred to are in rivers and streams in this state (and many others) which are so polluted by big businesses that they are unsafe to eat. He stepped right into that one with a misused Bible quote. Some of my friends are among those who are elderly and disabled or with children and are suffering under his preaching to the Republicans only choir.

  3. Paul Craig Roberts recently stated – “As I have pointed out for a decade, or longer, the US economy no longer creates First World jobs. The US economy creates jobs for waitresses and bartenders, hospital orderlies, and retail clerks. The fact that the complexion of the US work force is becoming Third World is not considered a notable problem by the media or financial press, and economists seem immune to the facts. ” “My point is: how does consumer demand grow in order to propel the economy when good jobs are replaced by low-paying jobs?”

    You certainly will not see Pence out on the Picket Lines advocating for a Living Wage. Yes, the able bodied can go out and “fish” for jobs that pay the minimum wage or slightly more. They will not be able to live on it.

  4. I am reading Piketty’s book, Capital. Among his points is that the US reached its peak in production as a percentage of the world’s output in the 50s, as Europe had reached her’s in 1913. Since the 50s there has been growth in percentage of output by Asia and other parts of the world. Since 1989 the countries of East Europe have taken a slightly greater share of production. He calls it convergence. It means that jobs are flowing from here to Vietnam or Uruguay or Bangladesh or Romania. It means there are fewer entry level, well paying jobs for young Americans who exit high school, but do not chose further education. Meanwhile, there is a process of divergence here, or trickle up, where wealth, through favorable legislation, flows to the top, to the upper two or three percent. In short, there are many forces playing against the average American.

  5. Isn’t it ironic that a career politician – a miserable failure in the private sector – would suggest that “…there’s nothing more ennobling to a person than a job.”

    I suggest he leave politics immediately and go get a job. (I’m sure there’s a nice one lined up already at some radical, religiously-based think tank.)

  6. Apparently the thinking is that existing on $1.40 per meal is such an attractive option for people that able bodied people capable of finding and doing a job that pays more and allows, say $3.00 meals, is just not motivating enough.

    I’ve never been more than hungry in a fleeting way, and neither have 99% of Americans, but the theory is that starving would be enobling enough to inspire those suffering from it to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes and become hard working educated responsible citizens doing their duty for oligarchy.

    Of course us liberals think that starvation is a desperate life threatening circumstance and most humans would be motivated to desperate measures. Like prostitution, burglary, armed robbery and such. We don’t see that the solution to that problem would be simply more armed police, bigger jails, drugs to help people cope and emigration control from the ghetto. Close all of the borders that allow ordinary people to interfere with oligarch comfort. We’re so stupid that we think that the result would be slavery without work being done and that slaves are happy satisfied people singing their gospel and blues from cell to cell.

    It’s time for the Great Oligarchy Plot to admit that governance is just totally outside of their capabilities and move on to something that they are capable of doing like preaching or entertaining or bean counting. In other words work for a living.

    Maybe it would enable them.

  7. If our nation really wanted all its citizens to work, they would quit rewarding large corporations for moving jobs to Asia. Why do the “R” people think these corporations should be rewarded for firing Americans? Why does Wall Street value their stock more when they fire Americans? Not much nobility to be found in this process.

  8. Time for Mr. Pence to get a job he can do, perhaps one the part-time positions held by people who are not counted among the unemployed, but who need food stamps to survive.

    We desperately need a breathing Democrat who will run aggressively against this guy. He can campaign on Pence’s record: mean-spirited, self-righteous, parsimonious, hateful. Just promise that he will run the state in the interests of the common good, not the crazy few.

  9. If Pence were to attempt to get a ‘real job’ based on his prior work experience he wouldn’t have a chance at one with a decent living wage. He would most likely be qualified to work at Walmart stocking shelves. He could proudly join the employed (enobled) Walmart employees that also need food stamps to survive.
    I’ve lived in Indiana my entire life, but have come to hate this God-forsaken place more and more each year. Pence is definitely rapidly escalating my desire to escape this madness!

  10. I think Pence’s job at WalMart would ennoble us all, and he could discover that people who work part-time jobs need food stamps but count among the employed. It’s a win-win situation.

  11. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Yes, ennoble is a word (2 n’s in there). What to do about Mike Pence? I have no clue except the suggestion that you vote him out. We have our own troubles with oil man Bill Haslam, Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander.

  12. An A+ column if I ever read one. I’d like to be able to make those (former) Facebook friends (Christians all) read your column every time they post something inane about people on welfare and food stamps.

  13. Yes Betty; I noticed I had misspelled ennoble after posting the comment. When I first read Pence’s statement, I wondered if he meant to say “enable”? In his mind taking away food stamps might “enable” these people without jobs to realize they needed one. We will never know for sure because we do not and cannot think as he does about humanity.

  14. How can the Republicans make statements like Pence’s with a straight face? Are they just not in on the joke, or do they think this fake piousness looks genuine to everyone? Maybe they have fallen so deeply into their alternative reality that they truly don’t recognize the real world any more.

  15. Daleb, excellent question. I wonder how many actually believe this stuff and how many are just playing the game. I have been told that a number actually buy in, which is much more problematic, as well as dangerous. If they were devious and hypocritical politicians, Mark Twain even wrote about them. But true believers? That story doesn’t have a good ending.

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