More than 40 million Americans rely on food stamps given to them by the U.S. government, with the intention of the program being to fulfill gaps in earning wages. However, controversy has recently been stirred over the “Lobster and Steak Welfare Queen”, food stamps users who buy luxury items instead of grocery staples.
In 1976 and on his presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan scorned what he called the “welfare queen”, saying “She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexisting deceased husbands.” And forty years later, there is still an uproar about people on welfare and those using food stamps as either abusing the system or tweaking it for their own benefits.
Almost forty years later, the image of the welfare queen is still very much alive, but she’s changed into someone who drives a Cadillac Escalade, has the latest iPhone and, yes, still fills up her grocery cart with lobster and steak and pays for it with an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. But how well founded is the idea of the welfare queen?
Some form or shape of her will always exist, especially when people likeJason Greenslate proudly espouse the jobless life and go on welfare to literally buy steak and lobster. The 29-year-old Californian has no fixed address, as he sleeps on the couches of friends and families and uses the $200 he gets per month on buying gourmet food.
But people like Greenslate tend to be the exception, not the rule. It’s true that there are people who abuse the system—those people will always exist—but millions of Americans do depend on social benefits just to keep afloat. For every Greenslate, there are a thousands of Americans who have fallen on tough times and need a hand up. Citizens working multiple jobs, commuting hours each day, living paycheck to paycheck—these are the faces of welfare, not the welfare queen. While a portion of the population will always happily and proudly milk as much as they can out of the system, millions more would gladly trade the shame and stigma associated with going on welfare for the chance to work an honorable job and be able to provide for their families.
Because while not everyone may be a fan of steak and lobster, if they do indulge, it’d likely be preferred with the knowledge that it was an option, not a cheat.