The Corner

re: Stigmas

Several responses to my post from this morning on food stamps and social stigmas:

E-mail #1:

Your blog today lamenting the diminished stigma to accepting food stamps struck me as callous and not as thoughtful as I know you to be.  Obviously, the vast majority of new food stamp recipients would rather be working and buying their own food.  Most are not voluntarily unemployed people and need no additional shame to get them back on the job once that job is available to them again.   Would you have cruised the bread lines during the Great Depression shouting “Get a Job!” ?   Your post today makes one wonder.

E-mail #2:

You are certainly correct about the culture of “permanent poverty” where no shame attaches to anyone on the dole these days.  I am a Public Defender in Missouri and I deal with the indigent everyday.  However, I must say that over the past year or so, I have seen many new clients who used to work but are now unable to find employment.

The number of available low skilled jobs appear to have significantly declined over the past year.  While I join you in your lament about the loss of the work ethic, I would bet that the numbers you cite are perhaps a sign of the worsening economy as well as the lessening of the stigma usually attached to such things.

Me: Obviously there are hardship cases, especially nowadays. We should show compassion for those who are down on their luck. Good people can be put in tough positions through no fault of their own. At the same time, I fear for the day when no stigma attaches itself to the acceptance of government handouts.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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