This morning I fetched my New York Times off the doorstep then immersed myself in replying to emails, walking doggies, paying bills, and other various tasks. A knock at the door announced the arrival of a book that I agreed to read after a recent physician appointment. The book outlines a diet and lifestyle change that may help some of my minor health problems. Unfortunately, the book left me feeling pretty low. The suggested diet is in many ways more restrictive than our current Elimination Diet. Assuming my lab work suggests that this diet will be helpful, I will have to remove all sugars (including agave and nearly all fruits), some vegetables, and most of the current items on our “no” list for 90 days. This means that the summer fruits I love so much will be completely off limits until August, at least.
I sent a pretty pitiful email to The Philosopher lamenting my current state of affairs and decided to read the newspaper and do some other work until my class this evening.
So, what do I find while flipping through my doorstep news source? An editorial by Mark Bittman about his choice (and the choice of others) to fast in protest of the proposed budget cuts to WIC, food stamps, and other international food-specific aide. Humility. Sitting on my doorstep. Offering another reminder of how fortunate I am and how easy it is to take it for granted.
I try to not post about politics as I prefer not to battle friends and family who have different ideas about solutions and see things from valid, yet different perspectives. However, this opinion piece managed to touch me personally today. Maybe it’s because I have personally worked with many individuals who rely on these safety nets from taxpayers. Maybe I am remembering “Mariah Carey”, a woman whose paranoid schizophrenia defined the best parts of her personality; her strength of character, firmness of beliefs, and willingness to trust and follow-through my young, small attempts to help her find financial, housing, and relationship stability. Someday, I would like to hope we will have matured as a society and employers will welcome her creativity, openness of ideas, and worldview. Unfortunately, our world usually sees her mental illness, socio-economic status, educational level, and legal history as barriers to any future employment or success.
When we reduce Mariah’s $100 monthly foodstamp allowance to $50 in an attempt to balance the national budget is this going to save money? I suspect that Mariah’s mental health symptoms will deteriorate due to the additional stress to make her ends meet. This will lead to more appointments with her current mental health case manager, psychiatrist, counselors, and primary care physicians which will all be billed to Medicaid. Eventually, Mariah may end up in a psychiatric hospital which will also send it’s bill to the state and federal government. And unfortunately, Mariah will have moved backwards in all her hard work to become more independent and a more capable citizen.
I am certainly no expert in federal budget balancing and clearly my perspective comes directly from ground level experience making it difficult to see the bigger picture.
So readers, you have different experiences. Different stories. Different politics. Different incomes. Different histories. Different worldviews. What do we do? How can we be responsible with tax money and make sure Mariah is supported? Should we be using tax money to support Mariah’s diet? What other solutions are there for the great needs of our country’s poorest citizens. Are there short-term solutions and longer-term options that may need consideration? Do we as a first world country have an obligation to ensure that all our citizens at least have food? Are we then obligated to help other nations ensure this necessity?
And the question that always plagues me and my future career hopes: How do I provide a voice to the multitude of Mariahs so they can advocate for themselves in our world?