Author Topic: Food Stamp Challenge  (Read 9070 times)

2Birds1Stone

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5050
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Earth
  • K Thnx Bye
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #100 on: January 24, 2019, 09:15:48 AM »
I would have to increase my food spending to do this...

Same, and we eat very well.

Cassie

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4878
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #101 on: January 24, 2019, 12:08:42 PM »
Alex, were you a single parent with kids to care for when poor? Many people use their benefits to get some job training to get back to work. Most are on for short periods of time. Itís not a lifestyle. I was a social worker so I know whatís reality and whatís myth.

jim555

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1918
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #102 on: January 24, 2019, 04:12:09 PM »
But whether it's the "great majority" is a tougher question, actually.  Do you truly believe a majority of these people would never be able to support themselves?  I'm not talking about the mentally ill, disabled, obviously - but able bodied adults.  I think these programs and handouts encourage people to stay poor.  From a day to day perspective, sure they need the funds to eat, from a broader view, I would say that a majority do abuse the system even if not intentionally.

I think the food stamp challenge is awesome.  And of course it proves that people can eat VERY well on food stamps.  I'm wealthy and I barely spend more than the food stamp challenge on day to day meals.
I looked into SNAP aka food stamps out of curiosity.  Able bodied adults 18-49 are limited to 3 months in a 3 year period.  They are required to have a job or be in training or face the limit.  Only in times of high unemployment can this be waived.  Also the amount is calculated with a strict budgeting formula that accounts for your expenses.  It is rare to get the full allowed monthly amount.  Adults from 50-59 also have to be ready for work or training.  Only 60 or older do not have a work requirement.  Bill Clinton added these conditions in his welfare reform. 

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6138
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #103 on: January 24, 2019, 05:03:13 PM »
Alex, you are a insensitive troll.

I'm ok with you thinking that. I think able-bodied people should be able to support themselves, and that truly disabled (including mentally) should be taken care of by the majority.  If that's trolling, then sure, whatever.  I went from living on my own with a McDonalds wage (extremely difficult) to being wealthy - constantly pushing to get ahead.  So yeah, I'm not that sensitive to perfectly capable people who sit at the bottom and don't put the effort in to pull themselves up.  It never occurred to me to live that life forever, to seek out government assistance, etc.  So I do have a hard time empathizing with those that do.

Funny thing is, it's a pretty mustachian way of thinking.  :)

There's the rub, eh?  40% of working families cannot afford food, housing, medical care, clothing, all at the same time.

It seems to be not so popular here on MMM to want to look at the overall system and status of jobs (or lack thereof) in the US though.  Bootstraps and all that.  Survivor bias.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #104 on: January 24, 2019, 05:44:24 PM »
But whether it's the "great majority" is a tougher question, actually.  Do you truly believe a majority of these people would never be able to support themselves?  I'm not talking about the mentally ill, disabled, obviously - but able bodied adults.  I think these programs and handouts encourage people to stay poor.  From a day to day perspective, sure they need the funds to eat, from a broader view, I would say that a majority do abuse the system even if not intentionally.

I think the food stamp challenge is awesome.  And of course it proves that people can eat VERY well on food stamps.  I'm wealthy and I barely spend more than the food stamp challenge on day to day meals.
I looked into SNAP aka food stamps out of curiosity.  Able bodied adults 18-49 are limited to 3 months in a 3 year period.  They are required to have a job or be in training or face the limit.  Only in times of high unemployment can this be waived.  Also the amount is calculated with a strict budgeting formula that accounts for your expenses.  It is rare to get the full allowed monthly amount.  Adults from 50-59 also have to be ready for work or training.  Only 60 or older do not have a work requirement.  Bill Clinton added these conditions in his welfare reform.

That's not accurate at all.  I never actually claimed people receiving SNAP weren't working at all.  Able bodied adults must work at least 20 hours in order to receive benefits for longer than 3 months.  They can receive these benefits indefinitely providing they meet the continuous requirements.

This, of course, is also ignoring the MASSIVE rise in "disabled" adults.  In fact, there is a county in Alabama where 25% of the working age population is "disabled."  NPR did a very in depth report on the rise of disability.  It's one of those things where it starts to ruin it for those who are truly disabled and in need.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #105 on: January 24, 2019, 05:49:53 PM »
Alex, were you a single parent with kids to care for when poor? Many people use their benefits to get some job training to get back to work. Most are on for short periods of time. Itís not a lifestyle. I was a social worker so I know whatís reality and whatís myth.

I would never have made the CHOICE to be a single parent with kids and poor.  We just have different ways of viewing things, obviously.  You don't know reality anymore than any of us.  You just know what YOU saw and what you chose to believe.  Your experience doesn't trump mine.

Cassie

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4878
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #106 on: January 25, 2019, 12:33:14 AM »
Most single parents start out as a couple. The marriage breaks up and suddenly the custodial parent is poor.  You have no idea what people go through. Enjoy your fantasy land.

Fi(re) on the Farm

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 148
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #107 on: January 25, 2019, 05:04:47 AM »
Most single parents start out as a couple. The marriage breaks up and suddenly the custodial parent is poor.  You have no idea what people go through. Enjoy your fantasy land.

This was me, married too young, ended up divorced with 2 kids, one of whom is disabled. I was on welfare, food stamps and homeless. Now I'm FI on my way to retirement. Most people who receive food stamps are the elderly, the disabled and children. Many people who receive food stamps are going through a bad patch and are working. It's really easy to vilify the poor to make ourselves feel  better about the circumstances they find themselves in. 

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #108 on: January 25, 2019, 07:17:29 AM »
Most single parents start out as a couple. The marriage breaks up and suddenly the custodial parent is poor.  You have no idea what people go through. Enjoy your fantasy land.

This was me, married too young, ended up divorced with 2 kids, one of whom is disabled. I was on welfare, food stamps and homeless. Now I'm FI on my way to retirement. Most people who receive food stamps are the elderly, the disabled and children. Many people who receive food stamps are going through a bad patch and are working. It's really easy to vilify the poor to make ourselves feel  better about the circumstances they find themselves in.

I would never vilify you for your situation.  I'd applaud you.  I support these programs, generally speaking, for those truly in need.

Cassie

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4878
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #109 on: January 25, 2019, 05:18:06 PM »
Well you had me fooled Alex.

Fi(re) on the Farm

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 148
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #110 on: January 25, 2019, 07:45:34 PM »
Okay, we can all talk about the food stamp " challenge" and able bodied people getting food stamps etc. but unless you've done it, you have not a fucking clue. I've been there, done that, and it fucking sucks. I'm FI and close to retirement and every day I thank the powers that be that I got a helping hand. On Monday I was at a train station waiting for my train that had been delayed (then cancelled) and there was a woman asking for someone to buy her lunch and I did. She didn't ask me for money, she asked me for a hamburger and I bought her that and fries and a drink. We can all sit and talk about it but everyone who's commented on this page should stop and think about how much it SUCKS to be poor in the USA and how fucking lucky they are. 

Cassie

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4878
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #111 on: January 25, 2019, 08:18:21 PM »
Fire, you are awesome!

Severian

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #112 on: January 25, 2019, 09:49:42 PM »
I think it's worth understanding that there's a difference between living as if you were poor and actually being poor.

I make just under 130k base and anywhere from 0 to another 60k per year (hopefully more soon) from other sources, but I try to live on <25k spent. My rent and utilities come to about 15k per year, so I have to be moderately careful about food costs. I bake bread twice a week and I buy less expensive cuts of meat on sale (I'm a decent cook, so a lot of inexpensive cuts are actually what I want anyway- I don't need rib-eye every day or every week and a guisado of 2 buck a pound pork shoulder is at least as tasty as an expensive steak if you know how to cook.) So honestly I don't spend all that much more than the challenge requires- it wouldn't be much of a challenge for me in the short-term.

But it's worth noting that I can amortize my purchases. I've been really poor in the past, and it is the inability to amortize costs that kills you when you're poor. I can eat well on five dollars a day if I have pots and pans, buy flour 10-50 pounds at a time, can buy two weeks of groceries at once, and olive oil by the gallon. I can't eat well if I start from nothing every day with five bucks.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #113 on: January 26, 2019, 07:03:33 AM »
We can all sit and talk about it but everyone who's commented on this page should stop and think about how much it SUCKS to be poor in the USA and how fucking lucky they are.

There has never been a better time in the history of mankind to be poor than right now, in the USA.  Sorry.  It doesn't "suck" to be poor in the USA.  We have just completely lost perspective.  It sucks to be poor in Sudan.  It sucks to be poor in India.  It does not suck to be poor in the USA.  Tens of thousands travel through horrible conditions to try and cross the border in to this country so they can be POOR, because being poor in the USA is still pretty darn nice.  We have very few in this country truly in dire need and homeless and that's almost always due to mental illness and they should be helped.  Most poor people have a roof over their head, electricity, running water, refrigeration, hot water, food, clothing, sewer, heat, you name it.  Heck, smart phones, tv, cars, home internet, cable.  In fact, the poor essentially live like pharaohs and don't even know it because it "sucks" to be poor... right.  Spare it.  It's a total mind fuck.  We have convinced everyone they are somehow victims and suffering as they sit on their COMPUTERS and smart phones reading about how much they are supposedly suffering.  I've lived on my own as a McDonalds employee.  I was totally broke.  I was fine.  It didn't suck.  I enjoyed free things to do.  I just wanted more.

I also find it funny that this entire site/blog is about basically learning how to live REALLY well, POOR (on similar income as poor person, if not less).  So yeah, wrong place to preach about how awful it is to be poor.  The pure irony of complaining about how horrible it is to be poor, in the "Share your badassity" sub forum which is literally a place to brag about how awesome life can be on a poor mans income.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2019, 07:49:40 AM by AlexMar »

Dicey

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9180
  • Age: 60
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #114 on: January 26, 2019, 08:40:59 AM »
@AlexMar, you've made your case quite eloquently. It's reasonably clear that you have qualifications that others lack, even if you were poor for a time. You appear to have had a decent education. You read, write and comprehend English, and have the ability to reason capably. You are presumably able-bodied. You are also not a woman who has limited birth control options. These things are H-U-G-E advantages. You seem to think everyone is the same as you are, which simply isn't true.

Comparing the poor in the US to other countries is meaningless. What matters is how your situation compares to the general standard of living where you live.

It appears that your compassion muscles are flaccid at best. Perhaps you could strengthen them with use. What have you done to help others who find themselves in the position you used to be in? You can give of your time and/or your money to make real improvements in the lives of others. Food banks and literacy programs are two easy places to get started. You will be amazed at what the experience of helping others will do for your overall health and well being.

I do not expect my words will change your mind. There's a chance that someone else will read them and decide to take action. Call your library, food bank or local school. There are volunteer opportunities galore. The one who will benefit the most is the person making the call. Will it be you, Alex?


AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #115 on: January 26, 2019, 09:31:45 AM »
@AlexMar, you've made your case quite eloquently. It's reasonably clear that you have qualifications that others lack, even if you were poor for a time. You appear to have had a decent education. You read, write and comprehend English, and have the ability to reason capably. You are presumably able-bodied. You are also not a woman who has limited birth control options. These things are H-U-G-E advantages. You seem to think everyone is the same as you are, which simply isn't true.

Comparing the poor in the US to other countries is meaningless. What matters is how your situation compares to the general standard of living where you live.

It appears that your compassion muscles are flaccid at best. Perhaps you could strengthen them with use. What have you done to help others who find themselves in the position you used to be in? You can give of your time and/or your money to make real improvements in the lives of others. Food banks and literacy programs are two easy places to get started. You will be amazed at what the experience of helping others will do for your overall health and well being.

I do not expect my words will change your mind. There's a chance that someone else will read them and decide to take action. Call your library, food bank or local school. There are volunteer opportunities galore. The one who will benefit the most is the person making the call. Will it be you, Alex?

I appreciate the response.  I find the psychology surrounding this topic rather fascinating.  Always have.  Your comment "What matters is how your situation compares to the general standard of living where you live. " is exactly the point I'm making.  As you admit to, it's a mental thing.  It doesn't matter how high your standard of living is, as long as those around you are doing even better.  Won't there ALWAYS be those who have more than others?  This will never change.

It's really about being angry that you have less than those around you.  Miserable because of it.  We hate seeing people do better than us.  The only reason it "sucks to be poor" in a country where the poor have nearly everything, is that you feel lesser than others who don't necessarily have more than you, but just have nicer things than you.  It's why no matter how much we improve the lives of those less fortunate, it really doesn't matter.  The poor have the world at their fingertips via smart phones.  Internet, can look for jobs, read up and educate, for free, on nearly any topic.  But it doesn't even matter, they are as miserable and downtrodden as ever!  Why is that?

What's fascinating is that it seems the more improvement and access to things that only rich people used to have... the more miserable poor people are.  Again, the psychology behind this is a very interesting topic.  It has to do with our culture and people who constantly preach victimhood.  It's not a philosophy or lifestyle I embrace and never have.

The reality is that life is amazing now even for the supposed "have nots" - providing they live in a first world country.  Think about the spice trade - only rich people even had access to common pepper.  Columbus discovered America... looking for spices!  Now the poorest of the poor take their free money and can buy nearly every spice on the rack from anywhere in the world.  Food Stamps provide the funds to eat extremely well, especially from a historical perspective. As I said, and you obviously understand, it's all about perspective.  And our perspective is so horribly skewed that we think we have nothing when we really have it all.

Dicey

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9180
  • Age: 60
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #116 on: January 27, 2019, 07:41:03 AM »
Your point is ah, interesting, but it is absolutely not the same as mine. I believe it is disingenuous to compare the poor of one country to the poor in other countries. Saying that the poor in the US, for example, are better off than the poor in India is a useless comparison, because they are not in fucking India. No, it is not mental thing.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #117 on: January 27, 2019, 07:58:13 AM »
Your point is ah, interesting, but it is absolutely not the same as mine. I believe it is disingenuous to compare the poor of one country to the poor in other countries. Saying that the poor in the US, for example, are better off than the poor in India is a useless comparison, because they are not in fucking India. No, it is not mental thing.

Then you hold an irrational opinion.  Simple as that.  I'd love for you to elaborate on how it's not a psychological thing.  Should be entertaining.  Are you suggesting humans have different survival needs if you put them on the other side of an imaginary line?  The need for basic food, water, shelter is biologically different? Sure.  Let's hear it.

You do realize you wrote:  "What matters is how your situation compares to the general standard of living where you live." - How you can suggest that is not a psychological thing is beyond me.  I think you are trying to just be argumentative and can't admit when you are wrong or be open to different opinions - and when you do that, you end up contradicting yourself because your position isn't well thought out.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2019, 08:03:42 AM by AlexMar »

Sailor Sam

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4244
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Steel Beach
  • Semper...something
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #118 on: January 27, 2019, 08:14:35 AM »
Your point is ah, interesting, but it is absolutely not the same as mine. I believe it is disingenuous to compare the poor of one country to the poor in other countries. Saying that the poor in the US, for example, are better off than the poor in India is a useless comparison, because they are not in fucking India. No, it is not mental thing.

Then you hold an irrational opinion.  Simple as that.  I'd love for you to elaborate on how it's not a psychological thing.  Should be entertaining.  Are you suggesting humans have different survival needs if you put them on the other side of an imaginary line?  The need for basic food, water, shelter is biologically different? Sure.  Let's hear it.

You do realize you wrote:  "What matters is how your situation compares to the general standard of living where you live." - How you can suggest that is not a psychological thing is beyond me.  I think you are trying to just be argumentative and can't admit when you are wrong or be open to different opinions - and when you do that, you end up contradicting yourself because your position isn't well thought out.

Jesus god, you are acting aggressively unpleasant. Have all the opinions you want, but take the assholery down a notch. One of the forum rules is to refrain from being a jerk.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #119 on: January 27, 2019, 08:31:12 AM »
Your point is ah, interesting, but it is absolutely not the same as mine. I believe it is disingenuous to compare the poor of one country to the poor in other countries. Saying that the poor in the US, for example, are better off than the poor in India is a useless comparison, because they are not in fucking India. No, it is not mental thing.

Then you hold an irrational opinion.  Simple as that.  I'd love for you to elaborate on how it's not a psychological thing.  Should be entertaining.  Are you suggesting humans have different survival needs if you put them on the other side of an imaginary line?  The need for basic food, water, shelter is biologically different? Sure.  Let's hear it.

You do realize you wrote:  "What matters is how your situation compares to the general standard of living where you live." - How you can suggest that is not a psychological thing is beyond me.  I think you are trying to just be argumentative and can't admit when you are wrong or be open to different opinions - and when you do that, you end up contradicting yourself because your position isn't well thought out.

Jesus god, you are acting aggressively unpleasant. Have all the opinions you want, but take the assholery down a notch. One of the forum rules is to refrain from being a jerk.

I like how "useless comparison, because they are not in fucking India" is not aggressively unpleasant/jerk-like though.  :)  Is it because you don't like my opinions that you overlook others?

And fairly noted, I will be more cognizant of how my posts come off as being an asshole.

Sailor Sam

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4244
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Steel Beach
  • Semper...something
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #120 on: January 27, 2019, 08:48:59 AM »
@Dicey has her own level of stridency. She has some definitive views on the mortgage thing. However, I've been interacting with Dicey for something like 5 years, across thirteen thousand posts. I have a depth of experience to know when she's crossing a line into personal attack. She's disagreeing with you, not attacking you personally.

You have 85 posts, and you've been a member for 31 days. It's possible that your posts hold no personal animus, and the perceived level of stridency is simply a mixture of poor writing and being a tyro in the community. If that's the case, then the good news is that this place tends to be forgiving towards those who own their mistakes, and move towards a better path. Speak your piece calmly, without personal attacks, and we can have excellent debates.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2019, 07:43:12 AM by Sailor Sam »

Severian

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #121 on: January 27, 2019, 04:43:04 PM »
The reality is that life is amazing now even for the supposed "have nots" - providing they live in a first world country.  Think about the spice trade - only rich people even had access to common pepper.  Columbus discovered America... looking for spices!  Now the poorest of the poor take their free money and can buy nearly every spice on the rack from anywhere in the world.  Food Stamps provide the funds to eat extremely well, especially from a historical perspective. As I said, and you obviously understand, it's all about perspective.  And our perspective is so horribly skewed that we think we have nothing when we really have it all.

I, like you, am more concerned with absolute standards of living than relative standards (I'd just like to see everyone have enough to live well, and would see substantial inequality as a good if it helped achieve that.) And I would certainly rather be (relatively) poor in the US now than poor in most other places, at most other times. Much of human history is a horror-show though, and I'm not sure we should use that horror-show as our only standard of comparison.

I think you underestimate the difference between living on very little by choice and having very little though. I can't say I live as if I were poor- I try to keep my spending to <25k a year, but will go to 30k if I really want to for some reason. That's actually more lower middle-class than poor for the US, but kind of poor where I live, and living here allows me to make what I make. But it's less than a third, edging toward a quarter, of what I take home, not counting some windfalls I get from time to time.

This gives me a tremendous buffer against what I consider the worst part of being poor- the insecurity of living paycheck to paycheck. If something goes really wrong for me I have years worth of money in the bank, and that can solve a lot of problems. When you live paycheck to paycheck, even if your paycheck is about what I spend, it takes just a little wave to swamp your boat. I know, because just a few years ago I was doing that, and I was like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs the whole time. Luckily the worst thing that happened was that I had to borrow a little rent money, but if anything had gone really wrong I would have been in trouble. And I felt that the whole time.

I'm also in a position, now, to make the leap to something entrepreneurial as I please. And that's how you make real money. I have some side-hustle I'm hopeful about and if it becomes clear that it is a good bet I can take a year off unpaid to work on it. If it doesn't pan out I can just return to working and still have a healthy bank balance. I'm not, by the way, a mustachian who wants to stop working. I just want to work on what I want, when I want, as much as I want, with people I choose to work with. I just don't want to have to worry about how much I make doing that.

The thing about the US is that what you want is cheap, but what you need is expensive. I guess I'm biased, as I have worked to reduce my wants until what's left is mostly needs, but... the cost of flat-screen TVs seems unimportant to me (I don't have a TV.) The cost of housing in an area with economic opportunity seems the most important thing. And that's a big deal- I was in talks about a job with a company in Boston recently and realized I would need at least a 20k raise to break even on housing there (I do have cats, so that limits my options.) I would need a lot more for SF. Housing isn't exactly cheap where I live though- it's just not Boston or SF or NYC.

I'm all for personal responsibility and making do with what you have. But I'm also in favor of opportunity and, frankly, the rent is too damned high in the areas that offer opportunity on the US. I'm lucky in that I'm mid-career and have an unusual set of skills that works well remotely. I'm thinking pretty seriously about Mexico, because the rent is not too damned high in Gunajuato. But of course I can only consider moving there because I am not poor- you need to prove about 125k in cash assets to get a resident visa. 
« Last Edit: January 27, 2019, 04:50:42 PM by Severian »

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #122 on: January 28, 2019, 07:49:09 AM »
The reality is that life is amazing now even for the supposed "have nots" - providing they live in a first world country.  Think about the spice trade - only rich people even had access to common pepper.  Columbus discovered America... looking for spices!  Now the poorest of the poor take their free money and can buy nearly every spice on the rack from anywhere in the world.  Food Stamps provide the funds to eat extremely well, especially from a historical perspective. As I said, and you obviously understand, it's all about perspective.  And our perspective is so horribly skewed that we think we have nothing when we really have it all.

I, like you, am more concerned with absolute standards of living than relative standards (I'd just like to see everyone have enough to live well, and would see substantial inequality as a good if it helped achieve that.) And I would certainly rather be (relatively) poor in the US now than poor in most other places, at most other times. Much of human history is a horror-show though, and I'm not sure we should use that horror-show as our only standard of comparison.

I think you underestimate the difference between living on very little by choice and having very little though. I can't say I live as if I were poor- I try to keep my spending to <25k a year, but will go to 30k if I really want to for some reason. That's actually more lower middle-class than poor for the US, but kind of poor where I live, and living here allows me to make what I make. But it's less than a third, edging toward a quarter, of what I take home, not counting some windfalls I get from time to time.

This gives me a tremendous buffer against what I consider the worst part of being poor- the insecurity of living paycheck to paycheck. If something goes really wrong for me I have years worth of money in the bank, and that can solve a lot of problems. When you live paycheck to paycheck, even if your paycheck is about what I spend, it takes just a little wave to swamp your boat. I know, because just a few years ago I was doing that, and I was like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs the whole time. Luckily the worst thing that happened was that I had to borrow a little rent money, but if anything had gone really wrong I would have been in trouble. And I felt that the whole time.

I'm also in a position, now, to make the leap to something entrepreneurial as I please. And that's how you make real money. I have some side-hustle I'm hopeful about and if it becomes clear that it is a good bet I can take a year off unpaid to work on it. If it doesn't pan out I can just return to working and still have a healthy bank balance. I'm not, by the way, a mustachian who wants to stop working. I just want to work on what I want, when I want, as much as I want, with people I choose to work with. I just don't want to have to worry about how much I make doing that.

The thing about the US is that what you want is cheap, but what you need is expensive. I guess I'm biased, as I have worked to reduce my wants until what's left is mostly needs, but... the cost of flat-screen TVs seems unimportant to me (I don't have a TV.) The cost of housing in an area with economic opportunity seems the most important thing. And that's a big deal- I was in talks about a job with a company in Boston recently and realized I would need at least a 20k raise to break even on housing there (I do have cats, so that limits my options.) I would need a lot more for SF. Housing isn't exactly cheap where I live though- it's just not Boston or SF or NYC.

I'm all for personal responsibility and making do with what you have. But I'm also in favor of opportunity and, frankly, the rent is too damned high in the areas that offer opportunity on the US. I'm lucky in that I'm mid-career and have an unusual set of skills that works well remotely. I'm thinking pretty seriously about Mexico, because the rent is not too damned high in Gunajuato. But of course I can only consider moving there because I am not poor- you need to prove about 125k in cash assets to get a resident visa.

Appreciate the thoughtful reply.  First, unless you HAVE to quit your job to focus on your new business - I would do everything you can to work on it in the evenings and off time.  I speak from experience on this.  It's better to dabble and try businesses carefully until something works and can replace your income.  Took me nearly a decade to get to that point (you could do it in a week, hopefully, but never know).  But once you get to that point, you didn't sacrifice your savings.  And you virtually always end up throwing money at the business, more than expected, because you want it to succeed.  So having that backup income can be critical.  Anyways, that's off topic but I wish you the best.

When you talk about insecurity being the worst part, you are right.  This is why some Euro countries have massive safety nets, to relieve that insecurity.  Whether this is worth the cost (HUGE cost) or not depends on ones political views and whether they think it's worth working a lot longer instead of FIRE.  It's certainly WAY harder to FIRE in these countries because the tax rates are too high, but it's also easier and less stressful working because you don't have insecurity about your income.  The system definitely works, but it comes at a cost that some find totally worth it, and others not so much.

That said, and you know how I feel about absolute standards vs relative standards, the first thing that comes to mind is that people used to have insecurity about starving or freezing to death due to a bad winter.  In many places, they still do.  In the US, insecurity is more about having to work a little harder, push a little harder, borrow, etc...  Yeah, I guess on some level it is factually correct that it "sucks" but I think the problem is over exaggerated.  I don't consider these people victims in any way.  They have food, healthcare, shelter, water, etc.  And the worst case scenario is that they have to put a little extra effort in to figure it out.  I'd like to see quality of life improved for everyone, and it IS drastically improving.  So I don't see an issue, I see amazing progress that is making the lives of the poor pretty darn awesome.

On a side note, and on topic - we tallied up our grocery spending and went way over the Food Stamp challenge in the first month, lol.  But still WAY down from where it was ($1200 - $1500/mo).  About $450 we spent, but I equate that to the fact that we stocked up like crazy on some staple ingredients since we are changing our habits drastically.  If we didn't have the cash, it would have just meant an extra few trips to the store, but we have a big freezer in the garage so decided to just stock it up.  I think next month and moving forward, I'd be surprised if we break a $200 average.  EDIT:  Just re-read the first post to get the numbers and apparently for a family of 4, that would be $498/mo.  Which even with overspending and stocking up we were under.  This challenge is almost obnoxiously easy.  Are food stamps really $500/mo for a family of 4?!
« Last Edit: January 28, 2019, 07:57:20 AM by AlexMar »

Dicey

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9180
  • Age: 60
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #123 on: January 28, 2019, 10:31:14 AM »
...but we have a big freezer in the garage so decided to just stock it up.  I think next month and moving forward, I'd be surprised if we break a $200 average.  EDIT:  Just re-read the first post to get the numbers and apparently for a family of 4, that would be $498/mo.  Which even with overspending and stocking up we were under.  This challenge is almost obnoxiously easy. Are food stamps really $500/mo for a family of 4?!
So many contradictions in this paragraph!  It's unlikely that a person who qualifies for assistance will have the assets required to do what you're calling "obnoxiously easy". They don't have the cash up front to "just stock it up",, they don't have a "big freezer in the garage", and even if they did have both garage and freezer, they probably don't have the wherewithal to even cover the additional utility costs, much less a suitable vehicle with which to haul such bounty, even if it was free from the Food Bank. Your choice of words appears to reflect an utter lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by those who need EBT. May you always be so lucky.

robartsd

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1997
  • Location: Northern California
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #124 on: January 28, 2019, 10:42:20 AM »
I agree that the amount of aid provided with SNAP benefits is more than adequate (on average). And generally the other programs provide for needs as AlexMar stated(though I think a more detailed look into housing the poor is worth looking at).

The big challenge with being poor in the US is the total lack of security. Every unexpected expense is an emergency when you can't save (as little as $2000 in liquid assets can trigger benefit cuts). It seems the system is designed to keep people poor and teach them to spend everything they have.

Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3240
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #125 on: January 28, 2019, 10:45:53 AM »
...but we have a big freezer in the garage so decided to just stock it up.  I think next month and moving forward, I'd be surprised if we break a $200 average.  EDIT:  Just re-read the first post to get the numbers and apparently for a family of 4, that would be $498/mo.  Which even with overspending and stocking up we were under.  This challenge is almost obnoxiously easy. Are food stamps really $500/mo for a family of 4?!
So many contradictions in this paragraph!  It's unlikely that a person who qualifies for assistance will have the assets required to do what you're calling "obnoxiously easy". They don't have the cash up front to "just stock it up",, they don't have a "big freezer in the garage", and even if they did have both garage and freezer, they probably don't have the wherewithal to even cover the additional utility costs, much less a suitable vehicle with which to haul such bounty, even if it was free from the Food Bank. Your choice of words appears to reflect an utter lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by those who need EBT. May you always be so lucky.

Plenty of us have none of those things and still do fine. We've never owned a car, had a garage, or had any sort of freezer bigger than the one attached to our fridge. We also have extremely limited storage space as our entire apartment is only 400 square feet, so stocking up or buying in bulk is generally not a thing for us - I can manage to shove one sack each of flour and rice into one of the cupboards, and that's about it.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #126 on: January 28, 2019, 11:05:13 AM »
...but we have a big freezer in the garage so decided to just stock it up.  I think next month and moving forward, I'd be surprised if we break a $200 average.  EDIT:  Just re-read the first post to get the numbers and apparently for a family of 4, that would be $498/mo.  Which even with overspending and stocking up we were under.  This challenge is almost obnoxiously easy. Are food stamps really $500/mo for a family of 4?!
So many contradictions in this paragraph!  It's unlikely that a person who qualifies for assistance will have the assets required to do what you're calling "obnoxiously easy". They don't have the cash up front to "just stock it up",, they don't have a "big freezer in the garage", and even if they did have both garage and freezer, they probably don't have the wherewithal to even cover the additional utility costs, much less a suitable vehicle with which to haul such bounty, even if it was free from the Food Bank. Your choice of words appears to reflect an utter lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by those who need EBT. May you always be so lucky.

I seriously don't think you even read my entire post.  You should do that before responding - slowly.  Your response makes no sense at all.

For one, according to the challenge, I pointed out that they DO have the same cash as my large "stocking" order.  Which surprised me by how much food stamps appears to be (at least according to the OP's post).  My stocking order was also not the entire $450 spent... that was just included in the monthly total.  Two, I said if I didn't stock up, it would have just been more trips, we decided since we had a freezer, may as well just do it in one trip.  Your response has absolutely nothing to do with what I said and is just an attack built on, possibly, an intentional gross misrepresentation of what I wrote.

Sailor Sam

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4244
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Steel Beach
  • Semper...something
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #127 on: January 28, 2019, 11:40:38 AM »
I think everyone posting on this thread would benefit from reading a book I just finished - Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms Pat.

For those on the insistence side, the book a good (read: brutal) expose into the chaos that happens in the lives of the poor. It might cultivate some sympathy that yes, there are systems that make it difficult to be poor.

For those on the compassion side, I think it's also a good reminder that Williams is a success story, in that she 'got out' of the ghetto. Though I lean more towards the compassion side, I found the book a good reminder that success does happen. And that with the right programs, implemented in the right way, and extended for the right amount of time, success could be come the norm, rather than the exception.

JZinCO

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 684
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #128 on: January 28, 2019, 11:53:11 AM »
I haven't heard of this challenge and my initial inclination was how snobbish this shit sounds. These efforts to expand circles of compassion often have a paternalistic, woe-is-you tinge to them. I'd rather they focus on 'wow don't you realize how you have been swimming in food! (and probably wastefully!)". I'd rather others use this food stamp challenge in order to recognize how ingrateful they have been rather than carry the banner of victimhood for those who one feels they are positionally superior to.

I know what I just said was controversial and it may help to know where I come from. Back before I knew what food stamps were I weighed 130 lb (my normal weight is 180) and I was eating tortillas and beans pretty much for all meals. A decade ago I got on food stamps and that ($150/mo) enabled me to shop at Whole Foods. Eventually I moved out of state and gave my ex my EBT card which had kept accruing credit on it month after month because I couldn't spend it all. Four years ago I had got on unemployment but I had $5K in the bank so I didn't qualify. And nowadays I spend between $60 and $100 per month (+ up to $30 for those months where I splurge on eating out + $20/mo for beer). I think my personal experience demonstrates that the program is useful but it's not not enough.
I've read through most of this thread and heard all the excuses why a dollar for someone with cash isn't the same as a dollar for someone without. And I'd accept many of those arguments, regarding personal finances sans food. But, at least in urban environments, I fail to see why a dollar doesn't buy the same food for someone with disposable cash that it does for someone without disposable cash.

(edited for grammer and...)
edit: I don't say any of this to denigrate SNAP. I think the best way to get out of poverty is to have cash. Once someone has cash it diminishes the cognitive load of making decisions between shitty choices. For example, choosing between  getting a payday loan to buy a need or going without the need. And having cash opens up possibilities. E.g. getting into a half decent apmt might require having money for a deposit. SNAP alleviates spending allowing someone to option to save if they so choose. My point is to say, as many others have already, the SNAP challenge isn't a challenge.. just appears to me to be social justice warrioring.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2019, 01:42:01 PM by JZinCO »

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #129 on: January 28, 2019, 11:53:39 AM »
I think everyone posting on this thread would benefit from reading a book I just finished - Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms Pat.

For those on the insistence side, the book a good (read: brutal) expose into the chaos that happens in the lives of the poor. It might cultivate some sympathy that yes, there are systems that make it difficult to be poor.

For those on the compassion side, I think it's also a good reminder that Williams is a success story, in that she 'got out' of the ghetto. Though I lean more towards the compassion side, I found the book a good reminder that success does happen. And that with the right programs, implemented in the right way, and extended for the right amount of time, success could be come the norm, rather than the exception.

I don't think it's fair to suggest those on the "insistence" side lack sympathy or compassion.  It's our sympathy and compassion that drives us to want those to do better, just in a different way.  I've lived in the "ghetto" and it's accurate to say my success is the exception more than the rule.  I would argue that these programs, by design, are the reason my success is the exception and not the rule.  I sympathize with those who are on hard times and desperately trying every day to better themselves.  I don't sympathize with those who do nothing to get out of these hard times and instead sit at the bottom.  Unfortunately, these programs largely help those sit at the bottom and, in fact, encourage it - along with rampant abuse.  Pointing this out doesn't mean I lack sympathy for those in need, it's quite the opposite - I would suggest the programs could be so much more effective at driving people out of poverty and with less abuse (including those who don't strive to better themselves), we would have more funds and resources to do just that.

How compassionate are you when it comes to 25% of an entire county supposedly "disabled"?  Are you allowed to find an issue with that but still be compassionate and empathetic?
« Last Edit: January 28, 2019, 12:02:16 PM by AlexMar »

Dicey

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9180
  • Age: 60
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #130 on: January 28, 2019, 12:09:56 PM »
...but we have a big freezer in the garage so decided to just stock it up.  I think next month and moving forward, I'd be surprised if we break a $200 average.  EDIT:  Just re-read the first post to get the numbers and apparently for a family of 4, that would be $498/mo.  Which even with overspending and stocking up we were under.  This challenge is almost obnoxiously easy. Are food stamps really $500/mo for a family of 4?!
So many contradictions in this paragraph!  It's unlikely that a person who qualifies for assistance will have the assets required to do what you're calling "obnoxiously easy". They don't have the cash up front to "just stock it up",, they don't have a "big freezer in the garage", and even if they did have both garage and freezer, they probably don't have the wherewithal to even cover the additional utility costs, much less a suitable vehicle with which to haul such bounty, even if it was free from the Food Bank. Your choice of words appears to reflect an utter lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by those who need EBT. May you always be so lucky.

I seriously don't think you even read my entire post.  You should do that before responding - slowly.  Your response makes no sense at all.

For one, according to the challenge, I pointed out that they DO have the same cash as my large "stocking" order.  Which surprised me by how much food stamps appears to be (at least according to the OP's post).  My stocking order was also not the entire $450 spent... that was just included in the monthly total.  Two, I said if I didn't stock up, it would have just been more trips, we decided since we had a freezer, may as well just do it in one trip.  Your response has absolutely nothing to do with what I said and is just an attack built on, possibly, an intentional gross misrepresentation of what I wrote.
I assure you, I read every.single.word. I made sure to use quotation marks and bolding so that it was clear that I based my response on your exact words. Perhaps you truly do not realize how your words, especially the bolded ones, come off to others. Shall we just politely agree to disagree and move on with our admittedly privileged lives?

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #131 on: January 28, 2019, 01:29:03 PM »
...but we have a big freezer in the garage so decided to just stock it up.  I think next month and moving forward, I'd be surprised if we break a $200 average.  EDIT:  Just re-read the first post to get the numbers and apparently for a family of 4, that would be $498/mo.  Which even with overspending and stocking up we were under.  This challenge is almost obnoxiously easy. Are food stamps really $500/mo for a family of 4?!
So many contradictions in this paragraph!  It's unlikely that a person who qualifies for assistance will have the assets required to do what you're calling "obnoxiously easy". They don't have the cash up front to "just stock it up",, they don't have a "big freezer in the garage", and even if they did have both garage and freezer, they probably don't have the wherewithal to even cover the additional utility costs, much less a suitable vehicle with which to haul such bounty, even if it was free from the Food Bank. Your choice of words appears to reflect an utter lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by those who need EBT. May you always be so lucky.

I seriously don't think you even read my entire post.  You should do that before responding - slowly.  Your response makes no sense at all.

For one, according to the challenge, I pointed out that they DO have the same cash as my large "stocking" order.  Which surprised me by how much food stamps appears to be (at least according to the OP's post).  My stocking order was also not the entire $450 spent... that was just included in the monthly total.  Two, I said if I didn't stock up, it would have just been more trips, we decided since we had a freezer, may as well just do it in one trip.  Your response has absolutely nothing to do with what I said and is just an attack built on, possibly, an intentional gross misrepresentation of what I wrote.
I assure you, I read every.single.word. I made sure to use quotation marks and bolding so that it was clear that I based my response on your exact words. Perhaps you truly do not realize how your words, especially the bolded ones, come off to others. Shall we just politely agree to disagree and move on with our admittedly privileged lives?

Your explanation made it clear you didn't read/comprehend it.  You wrote that an under privileged person wouldn't have cash up front to "stock up" like me - when the post was about the Food Stamps providing MORE money than I needed to stock up.  You then went on about poor people not having the space to stock up, but you conveniently removed my sentence that we only stocked up because we had the space, but it wasn't necessary, and if we didn't, it would just be a couple of more trips but no big deal.  You see why I might question whether you actually read it and/or failed to comprehended it?

Sure, can move on if you like.

Severian

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #132 on: January 31, 2019, 07:41:06 PM »
I agree that the amount of aid provided with SNAP benefits is more than adequate (on average). And generally the other programs provide for needs as AlexMar stated(though I think a more detailed look into housing the poor is worth looking at).

The big challenge with being poor in the US is the total lack of security. Every unexpected expense is an emergency when you can't save (as little as $2000 in liquid assets can trigger benefit cuts). It seems the system is designed to keep people poor and teach them to spend everything they have.

I think you hit on the two things we do worst in the US when it comes to living standards and social assistance.

First- well I ran across a way of putting it (due to Arnold Kling, IIRC) the other day. We have a habit of (through policy and regulation) "restricting supply while subsidizing demand" for a number of critical items. Housing and medical care come to mind as most significant, but there are plenty of other examples if you look for them.

A fair amount of the insecurity people feel even when making what would be considered middle class incomes in much of the world is due to this tendency.

Second, the effective marginal rate on a dollar earned by someone on public assistance can be very high- it can be well over 100% at certain breakpoints. This is, IMHO, extremely unfortunate. Entirely solving this problem is tricky, requiring either cutting benefits significantly or raising them to unrealistically high levels, but we could certainly improve the situation without doing either.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2019, 07:43:35 PM by Severian »

Severian

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #133 on: January 31, 2019, 08:49:30 PM »
Appreciate the thoughtful reply.  First, unless you HAVE to quit your job to focus on your new business - I would do everything you can to work on it in the evenings and off time.  I speak from experience on this.  It's better to dabble and try businesses carefully until something works and can replace your income.  Took me nearly a decade to get to that point (you could do it in a week, hopefully, but never know).  But once you get to that point, you didn't sacrifice your savings.  And you virtually always end up throwing money at the business, more than expected, because you want it to succeed.  So having that backup income can be critical.  Anyways, that's off topic but I wish you the best.

Trust me, I work this calculus on a regular basis- I'm a little older than is probably average on this board, and have been through the wringer a bit in business. I'm enjoying putting well over 2/3rds of my take-home in the bank at the moment and won't stop doing that without good reason. I don't consider it retirement savings though- I'm just in a capital accumulation phase ;).

I wont get into the gory details, but my side-hustle is fairly serious (and something I was paid, though badly paid, to work on for a few years, until the company funding it essentially folded- it took a while to work out, but we have acquired the IP and moved it to a separate corporation now.) It consists of some very tricky novel algorithms, and a practical implementation thereof, with the potential to greatly improve a fundamental process in a multi-billion dollar industry. If I can manage to capture even a very small fraction of the value it could create I will do OK.

Unfortunately, I suspect it is going to be both a hard sell (the industry involved is surprisingly conservative) and a difficult one in which to capture value because of platform and other issues. In other words, I am pretty sure that it could make me moderately wealthy, but also sure it could fail to make me much money even if a lot of people ultimately derive a great deal of value from it (which I think inevitable.) We'll be releasing our first product some time this spring, and I'll def hold off on working on it full-time until I see how the release goes. I'm afraid that the only way to answer some of my questions about its potential will require someone to work on it full-time though, and if the initial release goes as I hope it will I might make the jump even if revenues just cover my expenses at that point- I'm the only partner in a position to work full-time for 25k take-home, mostly because I am the only one who knows how to save, but that's a story for another day...

When you talk about insecurity being the worst part, you are right.  This is why some Euro countries have massive safety nets, to relieve that insecurity.  Whether this is worth the cost (HUGE cost) or not depends on ones political views and whether they think it's worth working a lot longer instead of FIRE.  It's certainly WAY harder to FIRE in these countries because the tax rates are too high, but it's also easier and less stressful working because you don't have insecurity about your income.  The system definitely works, but it comes at a cost that some find totally worth it, and others not so much.

I don't think the European model is even possible in the US (and doubt it can remain so in Europe much longer.) I don't think even the Canadian model (and I hold dual US-Canadian citizenship, have lived in Canada and have close ties to it, etc.) is remotely possible in the US. As an intellectual matter I'm interested in what a better US model would look like, but there is so much low-hanging fruit here that we don't pick, so many cases where bad Nash equilibria lead even the well-intentioned to a state of disillusionment, then corruption... we will continue to have our current model, with mild perturbations, for the foreseeable future, I think.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #134 on: February 01, 2019, 07:03:46 AM »
I agree that the amount of aid provided with SNAP benefits is more than adequate (on average). And generally the other programs provide for needs as AlexMar stated(though I think a more detailed look into housing the poor is worth looking at).

The big challenge with being poor in the US is the total lack of security. Every unexpected expense is an emergency when you can't save (as little as $2000 in liquid assets can trigger benefit cuts). It seems the system is designed to keep people poor and teach them to spend everything they have.

I think you hit on the two things we do worst in the US when it comes to living standards and social assistance.

First- well I ran across a way of putting it (due to Arnold Kling, IIRC) the other day. We have a habit of (through policy and regulation) "restricting supply while subsidizing demand" for a number of critical items. Housing and medical care come to mind as most significant, but there are plenty of other examples if you look for them.

A fair amount of the insecurity people feel even when making what would be considered middle class incomes in much of the world is due to this tendency.

Second, the effective marginal rate on a dollar earned by someone on public assistance can be very high- it can be well over 100% at certain breakpoints. This is, IMHO, extremely unfortunate. Entirely solving this problem is tricky, requiring either cutting benefits significantly or raising them to unrealistically high levels, but we could certainly improve the situation without doing either.

Could you give examples of the government restricting housing?  I'm open to the idea, but I really can't think of any actual examples.

Being on MMM, I would suggest the insecurity middle income people feel has less to do with restricting/subsidizing and more to do with lack of financial education and living well beyond their means using credit.  High schools totally fail at preparing young adults for the real world and my personal opinion is that this lack of education can be easily solved and would have a massive benefit to the country.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #135 on: February 01, 2019, 07:09:50 AM »
I don't think the European model is even possible in the US (and doubt it can remain so in Europe much longer.) I don't think even the Canadian model (and I hold dual US-Canadian citizenship, have lived in Canada and have close ties to it, etc.) is remotely possible in the US. As an intellectual matter I'm interested in what a better US model would look like, but there is so much low-hanging fruit here that we don't pick, so many cases where bad Nash equilibria lead even the well-intentioned to a state of disillusionment, then corruption... we will continue to have our current model, with mild perturbations, for the foreseeable future, I think.

It absolutely wouldn't work in the US as a whole.  But States and municipalities can implement many of these things.  For example, NYC providing healthcare for all.  I'm NOT a fan of this model, by the way.  But having a large Danish family, I've had the opportunity to experience it quite a bit, along with many wonderfully long discussions about it.  The system does work, though cannot continue in it's current iteration forever - but that's normal, right?  We always have to adjust and grow as humans progress and the government is no different.  So it's impossible to say it won't work, just that it won't work forever as it currently is in the current conditions.

APowers

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 988
  • Location: Colorado
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #136 on: February 01, 2019, 07:46:41 AM »
I agree that the amount of aid provided with SNAP benefits is more than adequate (on average). And generally the other programs provide for needs as AlexMar stated(though I think a more detailed look into housing the poor is worth looking at).

The big challenge with being poor in the US is the total lack of security. Every unexpected expense is an emergency when you can't save (as little as $2000 in liquid assets can trigger benefit cuts). It seems the system is designed to keep people poor and teach them to spend everything they have.

I think you hit on the two things we do worst in the US when it comes to living standards and social assistance.

First- well I ran across a way of putting it (due to Arnold Kling, IIRC) the other day. We have a habit of (through policy and regulation) "restricting supply while subsidizing demand" for a number of critical items. Housing and medical care come to mind as most significant, but there are plenty of other examples if you look for them.

A fair amount of the insecurity people feel even when making what would be considered middle class incomes in much of the world is due to this tendency.

Second, the effective marginal rate on a dollar earned by someone on public assistance can be very high- it can be well over 100% at certain breakpoints. This is, IMHO, extremely unfortunate. Entirely solving this problem is tricky, requiring either cutting benefits significantly or raising them to unrealistically high levels, but we could certainly improve the situation without doing either.

Could you give examples of the government restricting housing?  I'm open to the idea, but I really can't think of any actual examples.

Being on MMM, I would suggest the insecurity middle income people feel has less to do with restricting/subsidizing and more to do with lack of financial education and living well beyond their means using credit.  High schools totally fail at preparing young adults for the real world and my personal opinion is that this lack of education can be easily solved and would have a massive benefit to the country.

Rent control legislation comes to mind as one way the govt restricts housing supply while subsidizing demand.

Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3240
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #137 on: February 01, 2019, 09:04:09 AM »
I agree that the amount of aid provided with SNAP benefits is more than adequate (on average). And generally the other programs provide for needs as AlexMar stated(though I think a more detailed look into housing the poor is worth looking at).

The big challenge with being poor in the US is the total lack of security. Every unexpected expense is an emergency when you can't save (as little as $2000 in liquid assets can trigger benefit cuts). It seems the system is designed to keep people poor and teach them to spend everything they have.

I think you hit on the two things we do worst in the US when it comes to living standards and social assistance.

First- well I ran across a way of putting it (due to Arnold Kling, IIRC) the other day. We have a habit of (through policy and regulation) "restricting supply while subsidizing demand" for a number of critical items. Housing and medical care come to mind as most significant, but there are plenty of other examples if you look for them.

A fair amount of the insecurity people feel even when making what would be considered middle class incomes in much of the world is due to this tendency.

Second, the effective marginal rate on a dollar earned by someone on public assistance can be very high- it can be well over 100% at certain breakpoints. This is, IMHO, extremely unfortunate. Entirely solving this problem is tricky, requiring either cutting benefits significantly or raising them to unrealistically high levels, but we could certainly improve the situation without doing either.

Could you give examples of the government restricting housing?  I'm open to the idea, but I really can't think of any actual examples.

Being on MMM, I would suggest the insecurity middle income people feel has less to do with restricting/subsidizing and more to do with lack of financial education and living well beyond their means using credit.  High schools totally fail at preparing young adults for the real world and my personal opinion is that this lack of education can be easily solved and would have a massive benefit to the country.

Rent control legislation comes to mind as one way the govt restricts housing supply while subsidizing demand.

I think archaic zoning laws and actively fighting against density, preventing multi-unit developments from even getting built, is also an example of this.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #138 on: February 01, 2019, 09:34:00 AM »
I agree that the amount of aid provided with SNAP benefits is more than adequate (on average). And generally the other programs provide for needs as AlexMar stated(though I think a more detailed look into housing the poor is worth looking at).

The big challenge with being poor in the US is the total lack of security. Every unexpected expense is an emergency when you can't save (as little as $2000 in liquid assets can trigger benefit cuts). It seems the system is designed to keep people poor and teach them to spend everything they have.

I think you hit on the two things we do worst in the US when it comes to living standards and social assistance.

First- well I ran across a way of putting it (due to Arnold Kling, IIRC) the other day. We have a habit of (through policy and regulation) "restricting supply while subsidizing demand" for a number of critical items. Housing and medical care come to mind as most significant, but there are plenty of other examples if you look for them.

A fair amount of the insecurity people feel even when making what would be considered middle class incomes in much of the world is due to this tendency.

Second, the effective marginal rate on a dollar earned by someone on public assistance can be very high- it can be well over 100% at certain breakpoints. This is, IMHO, extremely unfortunate. Entirely solving this problem is tricky, requiring either cutting benefits significantly or raising them to unrealistically high levels, but we could certainly improve the situation without doing either.

Could you give examples of the government restricting housing?  I'm open to the idea, but I really can't think of any actual examples.

Being on MMM, I would suggest the insecurity middle income people feel has less to do with restricting/subsidizing and more to do with lack of financial education and living well beyond their means using credit.  High schools totally fail at preparing young adults for the real world and my personal opinion is that this lack of education can be easily solved and would have a massive benefit to the country.

Rent control legislation comes to mind as one way the govt restricts housing supply while subsidizing demand.

I think archaic zoning laws and actively fighting against density, preventing multi-unit developments from even getting built, is also an example of this.

But these aren't federal laws.  Of course small municipalities may object to developers building whatever they want, wherever they want.   I don't see how this is a significant restriction, however.  This country is overflowing with empty lots waiting for someone to build a house.  Even nearly free houses already on lots...  To me it seems less a restriction on housing and more about people unwilling to relocate.

Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3240
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #139 on: February 01, 2019, 10:11:47 AM »
But these aren't federal laws.  Of course small municipalities may object to developers building whatever they want, wherever they want.   I don't see how this is a significant restriction, however.  This country is overflowing with empty lots waiting for someone to build a house.  Even nearly free houses already on lots...  To me it seems less a restriction on housing and more about people unwilling to relocate.

There are lots of cheap lots in places that don't have jobs, for sure. In Canada right now the major cities are all facing a housing crisis, because this is where all the jobs are so everyone comes to these cities. In Vancouver there's been a big fight for years now regarding rezoning, because most of the city is zoned single family house only, and it's driven apartment rents through the roof due to the lack of supply.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #140 on: February 01, 2019, 10:30:19 AM »
But these aren't federal laws.  Of course small municipalities may object to developers building whatever they want, wherever they want.   I don't see how this is a significant restriction, however.  This country is overflowing with empty lots waiting for someone to build a house.  Even nearly free houses already on lots...  To me it seems less a restriction on housing and more about people unwilling to relocate.

There are lots of cheap lots in places that don't have jobs, for sure. In Canada right now the major cities are all facing a housing crisis, because this is where all the jobs are so everyone comes to these cities. In Vancouver there's been a big fight for years now regarding rezoning, because most of the city is zoned single family house only, and it's driven apartment rents through the roof due to the lack of supply.

Is that a restriction on housing?  Or is it our inefficiency to spread economic opportunity around?  Land is finite.  You can only fit so many people in a small area.

Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3240
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #141 on: February 01, 2019, 10:50:09 AM »
But these aren't federal laws.  Of course small municipalities may object to developers building whatever they want, wherever they want.   I don't see how this is a significant restriction, however.  This country is overflowing with empty lots waiting for someone to build a house.  Even nearly free houses already on lots...  To me it seems less a restriction on housing and more about people unwilling to relocate.

There are lots of cheap lots in places that don't have jobs, for sure. In Canada right now the major cities are all facing a housing crisis, because this is where all the jobs are so everyone comes to these cities. In Vancouver there's been a big fight for years now regarding rezoning, because most of the city is zoned single family house only, and it's driven apartment rents through the roof due to the lack of supply.

Is that a restriction on housing?  Or is it our inefficiency to spread economic opportunity around?  Land is finite.  You can only fit so many people in a small area.

We could fit a LOT more people into Vancouver if the vast majority of the city wasn't single family homes only. I'm not saying they need highrises on every block, but a model like Montreal or Paris where basically the entire city is 3-4 stories high (businesses on ground floor, plus a couple levels of housing on top) would work really well here.

I think it would be great to spread economic opportunity around, but I don't think it's going to happen - the country is just too big, and there are too many areas where nobody wants to live.

tralfamadorian

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1112
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #142 on: February 01, 2019, 12:38:20 PM »
*snip*

But these aren't federal laws.  Of course small municipalities may object to developers building whatever they want, wherever they want.   I don't see how this is a significant restriction, however.  This country is overflowing with empty lots waiting for someone to build a house.  Even nearly free houses already on lots...  To me it seems less a restriction on housing and more about people unwilling to relocate.

Zoning and time to acquire permits are significant local barriers for real estate developers. Time to acquire permits in particular are an issue because a developer either has investors who need return on their investment or a bank that needs loan payments while the property sits in limbo for months or years waiting for local bureaucracy to do its job. This all eventually drives up the price that the apartments/condos/houses need to rent for when the property is finally finished for the developer to take on the project at all.

On the federal level, I would include the government's restriction of legal immigration to fill the extreme construction labor shortage the US is currently facing. Construction costs are so high that in most parts of the country it is extremely difficult or impossible to built new housing supply that rents for an amount that low and middle income people can afford.

Ergo, the only new construction that can be built profitably so is built is high end construction, which frustrates the low and middle income renter, who often blame the developers and landlords for being "greedy" and fuel measures like rent control. This exacerbates the issue by driving away new construction, lowering the number of units available for rent (some owners will keep an unit empty rather than rent in rent controlled or difficult to evict munis), and lower overall quality of units (in general, rent controlled units are not as well maintained as market priced units). Supply decreases while demand increases (more people can afford the artificially price-deflated rent controlled units). 

Regarding (re)location, it's about the jobs. People want to live where there is opportunity.

AlexMar

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 192
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #143 on: February 01, 2019, 01:21:24 PM »
Appreciate the responses.  They are insightful.  But this is WAY too complicated of a topic for a Food Stamp Challenge.

Any new updates on anyone actually doing the challenge?

Severian

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #144 on: February 11, 2019, 12:09:26 AM »
Appreciate the responses.  They are insightful.  But this is WAY too complicated of a topic for a Food Stamp Challenge.

Any new updates on anyone actually doing the challenge?

I haven't been doing the challenge, but I have been tracking what it costs me to eat well over the last few weeks. Works out to about six or seven dollars a day. Note that this includes quite a bit of meat (pork tenderloin ftw) but also requires me to bake my own bread, etc.

So I _could_ live on food stamps, but it would be uncomfortable to do so. I wouldn't starve- in fact I would eat a lot better than I did when I was so poor as a teenager that I stole ketchup from roadside stands and made ketchup and rice for my equally poor friends.

I lived on my own starting when I was 14, and state law prevented me from working more than two nights a week, so I had to live on 60 dollars a week, take-home. My rent was 80 dollars a month, to sleep on a dirty mattress in a well-trafficked living room. Those were the days though- I was always hungry, but I had a great time. Never took food stamps though- when I was hungry I was hungry, and that was that.

That's how my Mom was too- we lived in third-world conditions when I was a kid. When I was 13 we lived in an un-insulated house on Stannard Mountain. It was probably the coldest inhabited house in Vermont. It was not unusual for the temperature in my bedroom to hit -10 Fahrenheit at night. The water had stopped running in December, and we didn't even have an outhouse. When I had to take a shit I would go into the old pig sty- until you have dropped trou on a mountain-side in northern Vermont you will probably not understand what it means to be cold. Still, there was very little artificial light in the sky on Stannard Mountain and I remember how crisp the stars were.

My mother could have taken advantage of welfare programs, I suppose. She didn't, because she was proud. I was raised in abject poverty, and I have done OK, I think, because I am proud, far too proud to take food stamps even if I am hungry. I have been hungry.

pressure9pa

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 44
Re: Food Stamp Challenge
« Reply #145 on: Today at 07:35:19 AM »
I averaged about $.85 / day for food from Jan 2nd to Feb 2nd, but there are some huge caveats to this number.

First, I ate 6 restaurant meals free of charge (work reimbursed).  A few I took home leftovers, and stretched the free food even more.  I also had a few hotel stays, with complementary breakfast.

I am able to buy in bulk.  I only charted food consumed, not food purchased.  Someone on more limited means may have struggled to buy as effectively. 

I realized after the fact that I did not count the cinnamon I used in a few breakfasts.  I did retroactively include this in the $.85/day number above, but it makes me think I may have missed other spices I may have used.

I ate oatmeal for 2 meals a day during a notable portion of the month.  I don't know how sustainable this would be, though I'm still doing it sporadically into Feb.  I'd like to think I'd replace it with something just as inexpensive, but who knows.

I did not count coffee.  For whatever reason it didn't occur to me, and this may have pushed me over $1.

Conclusion:  I would have no trouble living at the food stamp challenge level on an ongoing basis, but that doesn't automatically translate for everyone.  The obvious contradiction in my example is that my "free" hotel and restaraunt meals occur because I am working, and thus do not need the SNAP benefit.