Making SNAP Judgements

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers

—Blanche DuBois

Skimming Bloomberg’s Website for the national news, the man spots an article on Spanish Lakes Homes, a mobile home park he vaguely recalls passing while driving down to Palm Beach recently, on his way to shop for Cole Hahn shoes at Nordstrom’s, and have lunch at Brio.

He doesn’t know the place. The article says that Dillie Nerios knows the place. Dillie is a food stamps recruiter. Dillie’s job is to get people to sign up for food stamps and she knows that Spanish Lakes is a forty year old development for retirees of modest means, now become a place for folks of less than modest, or even desperate means.

So Dillie goes there with packages of food and sets up at the community center and gives away food and asks people if they would like to see if they qualify for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the food stamps program available for people with incomes below $15,000.

Lots of folks who qualify for the program are reluctant to apply because they have never done so before. One man approached her diffidently. He had never in his life taken giveaways. She talked to him about the program, but he wasn’t sure. He had just moved to Spanish Lakes. He had put forty years of savings into a fleet of delivery trucks just before everything fell apart in ’07. After his bankruptcy, he had $750 left to buy a crappy little single-wide at the park for he and his wife. He had been a maker all his life, and the idea of becoming a taker was hard to swallow. He and his wife were getting by with day old bread and vegetables that had passed their best and were in the sale bin. Experienced vegetables is what they ruefully called them.

SNAP is responsible for bringing $6 billion into Florida each year, helping to sustain communities, grocery stores and food producers. It also adds to rising entitlement spending and the U.S. debt.

This makes our man furious. He is indignant that there is such a thing as a recruiter to get people to go on the government dole. He has been a maker all his life, even in the tough times. Why, when things went to hell a few years ago, he tightened up, laid off eighty of his hundred and five employees and hunkered down, making up some of the lost income with the rents from his commercial properties. Eventually, as business came back, he hired about half his old employees back. He did not ask them if they had resorted to food stamps during their two year layoff.

That evening, he and his wife meet two other couples at the yacht and tennis club, where his thirty thousand dollar membership gives him a place to eat mediocre food and be greeted by name by the club manager. The couples agree that Washington’s giveaways are ruining the country. Tea Partiers they are, determined to get their Congressmen to put a stop to wasteful programs like SNAP.

After dinner one couple invites the rest to join them aboard their yacht for an after dinner drink. They go aboard a magnificent vessel which the owners can well afford. They own sugar plantations in south Florida. Most of their income comes from government price supports, a giveaway program kept in place by a powerful lobby supported with donations from growers who get price supports.

The third man is a private equity guy who made twenty million dollars last year. He writes a check for about a half million every year to his PAC, the outfit that is responsible for making sure that Congress keeps his tax rates below his gardener’s.

Going home that evening, our man is still undone by the bleeding heart liberals in Washington. Recalling the article he read this morning, he thinks about the takers at Spanish Lakes. Losers, he thinks. Parasites. “Fuck ’em, feed ’em beans,” he mutters, as he drifts off to a fitful sleep.

And he does not for a moment consider that the next downturn could be the mother of all downturns, forcing him to not only lay off all of his help but close his business for lack of business, then his loans would be called by the bank because his renters weren’t paying rent, then his home would be foreclosed, then with only $750 to his name he would be out at Spanish Lakes getting into a crappy little single-wide and having to decide, would he be a taker or would he eat day old bread and experienced vegetables for the remainder of his mean spirited little life. What would this asshole do?


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