September 13, 2013

The Attack at Home

A new bill threatens the food security of millions Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

While the attention of the country has been riveted on President Obama’s proposals to launch missile strikes in Syria, hidden in the shadows, the House of Representatives has been busily preparing an attack of its own. This attack will not be directed against a foreign government accused of massacring innocent civilians with chemical weapons. Rather, it will be launched right here at home, and its targets are our fellow citizens, whose crime is simply being poor and dependent on federal assistance in order to eat and feed their families.

In the coming week, House Republicans will introduce a bill that delivers a major blow to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. For 48 million Americans, 17 million of them children, food stamps serve as a fragile lifeline to food. SNAP benefits are far from adequate, since a family of four might receive at most about $668 in assistance per month, while many receive less. Recipients often run out of funds before the end of the month, and they usually have to restrict their purchases to processed foods—cheap and high in calories but lacking the vital nutrients provided by more costly fruits and vegetables.

Despite these shortcomings, SNAP still serves as a critical safety net that protects the vulnerable from an even deeper plunge into the pit of food insecurity, a situation in which they might have to skip meals, reduce their nutritional intake, or go for days without eating. The program has been found to be particularly effective in improving the health and learning abilities of children, who find it hard to concentrate at school with empty bellies. From an economic standpoint, food stamps have proven to be an asset rather than a liability. A study by the Department of Agriculture found that each $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in gross domestic product (GDP). An independent study says that "expanding food stamps is the most effective way to prime the economy's pump."

The people who depend on SNAP are by no means exploiters of the country's largesse: almost 90 percent live in either poverty or extreme poverty. The program thus provides a helping hand to those who, without these benefits, would have no way to feed their families. However, this hand may soon be withdrawn. This coming week, the Republican majority in the House will introduce a bill that slashes spending on SNAP by $40 billion over the next ten years. To get an idea of what this means, consider that in June the Senate approved a bill to reduce spending on SNAP by $4 billion over the next decade. Earlier this year the House had debated a bill that would have cut SNAP spending by $20.5 billion over the next decade—a figure over five times that proposed in the Senate. After prolonged debate, in July House conservatives decided to put off a new proposal until the end of the summer.

Now they have drafted a bill, and it’s one that would double the cuts to SNAP from $20.5 billion to $40 billion. The bill also lays down more stringent requirements for obtaining food stamps and more flexible conditions for states to deny nutritional assistance to those who apply. This double whammy is bound to hit millions of struggling people with the force of a shock-and-awe bombing campaign. 

What consequences will this draconian measure bring about, should it prevail? The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers a detailed analysis of the likely impacts of the cuts, the main features of which I’ll summarize:

It would deny SNAP to between 4 and 6 million low-income people, as well as many low-income children, seniors, and families that work for low wages. These would include 2 to 4 million poor, unemployed, childless adults who live in areas of high unemployment, and 1.8 million people who have gross incomes or assets modestly above the federal SNAP limits, but disposable income below the poverty line. Two hundred and ten thousand children in these families would also lose free school meals. The bill authorizes states to cut off an entire family’s food assistance benefits, including their children’s—and for an unlimited time—if the parents don't find a job or job training slot. However, the bill apparently provides no measures to create jobs, no work or workfare programs, and no additional funds for work or training slots.

While the bill’s proponents insist that recipients of SNAP must get off their butts and find a job, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that this “rhetoric about the importance of work also overlooks the fact that most SNAP recipients who can work do so. More than 80 percent of SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult worked in the year before or after receiving SNAP.”

Families do not turn to the government for assistance in meeting their basic food needs because they are lazy and want handouts from officials with bleeding hearts. The reason is simply that they can't afford adequate food, and they can't afford it because jobs are scarce, incomes stagnant or declining in real purchasing power, and too many jobs pay wages that are minimal or as close to the minimum as employers can get away with. For this reason poverty in this country remains at unconscionable levels, with the gap between the super-rich and everyone else growing wider

When President Obama turned to Congress to marshal support for rocket attacks against the Assad regime in Syria, conservatives in the House voiced doubts and objections, maintaining that such an attack would not advance our interests. Few objected that we don’t have the funds to support another war. If they had felt we had some stake in the conflict, they would have certainly found the funds. When it’s a matter of war, somehow funds always manage to materialize.

When, however, it comes to helping the poor and needy, they suddenly find themselves crashing into a wall of fiscal constraints that force them to allow a substantial segment of our population to slip down the slope of poverty. Instead of bringing forth hearts of compassion to renew—even expand—the programs that provide for people’s needs, our elected officials harden their hearts and close their hands.

It is often said that a budget is a moral document. How our representatives spend our taxes reveals in stark black and white our nation's values and concerns. And how we respond to their decisions reveals, too, our own souls, our own deepest values. These responses show where we stand in relation to our neighbors and to those across the country who share our humanity, who look to us for a ladder up from the pains of poverty, illness, and hunger. When a proposed bill puts lives at risk and endangers the future of millions—including millions of children—it must be flatly rejected on the most compelling moral grounds.

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi is a Theravada Buddhist monk originally from New York City. He is the former editor of the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and has many important publications to his credit, the most recent being his full translation of the Anguttara Nikaya (Wisdom Publications, 2012). In 2008, he founded Buddhist Global Relief, a nonprofit sponsoring hunger relief and education in countries suffering from chronic poverty and malnutrition.

Images courtesy of Flickr/NCReedplayer, Flickr/Conway L.

Further Reading

A Moral Politics: Nourishing change in US food policy

Into the Fire: Food in the Age of Climate Change

Preserving the Fecundity of the Earth: Climate change poses the single greatest threat to the world’s food supply. But we can stop it.

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zumacraig's picture

People want to change their life situation but cannot do so because of social obstacles. Take a look at any intro to social problems book and it's explained there. This is true at all strata except the 1%. Those folks do not work, they live off old money and capital gains.

Awakening is a collective process. If my neighbor is suffering then I am suffering. Blaming them for their situation is not an answer that holds up to scrutiny. That's the point I've been making. This train of thought is dualist and not faithful buddhism. We are collective subjects of structures. It is the structures that cause the suffering and must be changed...collectively for the collective end of suffering.

As far as breakfast being ideological, when I eat oatmeal with apple sauce, I'm making a conscious ideological decision to eat whole plant foods and not meat. This is, in part, an intentional, ideological act. Everything is ideological and to be unaware of this or deny this is still an ideological position. Ideologies are what we use to 'see' the world and attempt at making sense of it. There's no right or wrong ideology, we have to choose that. I choose the ideology of ending suffering and immanent critique. Blaming people for their situation in life doesn't get to the cause of suffering. It's deeper and more insidious than that. You've demonstrated an inability to see or want to see this. There's been no name calling, just clear attempts at explaining your position to you. I hope that you can think beyond your emotional reactions at some point. It's tough work, trust me, but necessary for collective liberation.

buddhaddy's picture

Growing up as poor as I did, without the benefits you say you had as a youth, I was at a great social disadvantage. and for a while, I played the "oh woe is me" game. but it got me nowhere. when i took on my own situation, and quit blaming the "system" for my problems, i began to make progress. it took a great deal of time to overcome those social obstacles. But that struggle is what makes us who we are. anything we obtain without a struggle has little meaning. Perhaps if you have a life without struggle, you would find that statement frightening to confront. However, it is truth for me.

lookingout72's picture

You may not be watching the news then. The economy of Spain, Greece, and Italy are in shambles. The world bank is intervening to bail them out. When I say government force, I mean taxation. We should share with people with happy minds voluntarily. Not through government tax. Does anyone pay taxes with a happy mind?

Rob_'s picture

Government force is taxation? That's quite creative. So what's your alternative, no taxes? Obviously, government provides necessary infrastructure to it's citizens. Roads and schools are a couple. You don't want that? I'm not in full agreement with everything the government does, I defy you to find someone who is in full agreement. I don't go belly aching and saying silly things like the "government is forcing" because we're taxed. Egads, grow up.

buddhaddy's picture

Infrastructure? I look around me, and see how much money was taken from us in the last few years to "invest in infrastructure". I see a lot of government/business cronies getting wealthier, but don't see much infrastructure? Do you? Where?

Rob_'s picture

All the bridges, roads and schools have disappeared? What are you talking about? You know, you say all sorts of weird crap. I've gotten this tone from you that capitalism is sacrosanct. In the beginning your big issue was government assistance. All the "poor, lazy" people. Now it's government/business collusion. But I suspect you see this is not "pure" capitalism. Even though in previous posts they are "isms", put into practice by "flawed humans". So nothing is working for you. If you want to basically say everything is shit, enjoy yourself. I went through that phase in my teenage years. I grew up.

Stop being so offended by money "taken" from you. It's called taxes. You want to do something about it, vote, express cogent opinions, educate. But all you do is bellyache.

buddhaddy's picture

No, the roads and bridges haven't disappeared. they are right there before your eyes, not being fixed with the money that was taken. but I see the rich who are buying all those politicians with lobbyists, getting richer from that tax money. there are plenty of poor, hard working people. but they aren't the ones complaining. they wait to start complaining when their hard work finally starts to pay off, and they are labeled in with the "rich", and they starting getting taxed out of business. I didn't say nothing is working for me. I work for what I get. And when I can't afford it, i give to somone anyway. Because that's what being a buddhist is. give me an example of where socialism is working. The only places I see are where they are moving away from it, like Germany. Much of Europe is leaving it. what do you say about that? (in an intelligent statement, not just denigrating me or what I say.)

buddhaddy's picture

no "ism" is sacrosanct to me. Freedom is. the roads and bridges are there. but they are falling apart. where did that money go? your language is not that of one who "grew up". I bring arguments to the table, explanations of my point of view. I'm not seeing that kind of detail from you. Yes, Government/business collusion. I believe that if government would quit helping those giant corporation friends, they would not be so powerful, and so rich. Government bailed out banks, and other large business entities. What did they do for the little guy? and please don't answer with platitudes you've heard from someone else. what do you really think? and what is your answer based upon? And you think humans are perfect, not flawed? Have you ever struggled to find food? to keep a roof over your head? I have. and yes, Humans are flawed. only someone who lives in some kind of bubble would think otherwise. And you are wrong about "nothing is working for you". much is working for me. Because I work hard to make it work for me. I get nothing free from anyone. Anything that I don't have, I can blame myself for. Everything is not "shit" for me. everything is as it should be. If humans weren't flawed, this would be a boring world indeed. You need a happiness pill. Or maybe just to have a little real struggle in your life.

Rob_'s picture

So let's see Mr. argument man ... I could go back and tediously show you that you haven't provided arguments and explanations, but I'm not going to invest the time. At best, you've provided conclusive statements with no supporting statements. There's a vast difference. Most of your "explanations" are mere sloganeering.

And now you go on about some weird strawman about perfect humans. No one ever mentioned perfection, it was never even implied. But you can make up your own story around this to throw a few ad homs at me. Enjoy yourself. You're the one who has repeatedly brought up the notion of flawed humans in association with "isms" and government to point out the uselessness of "isms" and the failure of government. You can't grok that you're not analyzing a damn thing. Do you keep this "flawed humans" statement in your back pocket and pull it out whenever you want to criticize something?

There's nothing profound about flawed humanity. You can't use this as some catch all "reason" to criticize something. There's something called the nirvana fallacy, look it up.

And why exactly are you worried about what the government did for the little guy? You've been complaining on so many posts about the poor, lazy people. And you don't seem to want any help from the government, nor any "intrusion". So make up your mind. Just another one of your contradictions.

You don't have a clue about critical thinking. And this has nothing to do with whether you're right or wrong. You simply haven't begun to explain yourself in a cogent manner.

buddhaddy's picture

Again, No Answer: All you have is: "So let's see Mr. argument man ... I could go back and tediously show you that you haven't provided arguments and explanations, but I'm not going to invest the time. " I doubt you could do what you say, or you would have. so if you don't want to invest the time, then don't waste it answering my "sloganeering". You have said many negative things about me, but haven't said a thing to prove I'm wrong. Human flaws aren't a negative thing in themselves. It's just why you don't give any human total power over another, such as government, without having unintended consequences. You have plenty to say about those "rich" who are putting down the poor. so what makes them worse than anyone else? Their flaws?

Rob_'s picture

No answer? I gave an answer. I described how you're bullshitting.

You doubt I could give examples? I gave a few, and now I've started on other posts of yours. I've said numerous times exactly how your "thinking" is wrong. And you have no answers to it. Don't sit here and play this game of denial.

The man who says so many negative things about others has a complaint. I don't have "plenty" to say about those "rich" putting down the poor. I haven't even mentioned it. You're the one that projects notions on what is being said that simply aren't being said.

You're so ignorant of proper techniques to formulate an argument, even if I point it out, you have no clue. Educate yourself.

buddhaddy's picture

Still no refutation of "Mr. argument man's" argument.

Rob_'s picture

There's no argument for me to refute when you've given fallacious arguments. I have pointed out your fallacies. Do you have any response to that? Probably not, because you haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about. If you wish to ignore me, and keep belaboring some point ... a point you haven't made I might add, by all means. I can't make you educate yourself and respond cogently.

lookingout72's picture

Roads and schools are one thing. I mean when tax dollars are used for welfare programs (e.g. food stamps). Yes, taxation is government force. If you don't pay, you go to jail.

Rob_'s picture

So because you're not in full agreement with how your taxes are used, this is government force. Well, than "government force" is applied to everyone, because you're not going to find anyone that is happy with everything taxes are earmarked for. It must be quite a burden you carry because the government doesn't do things to your liking. Welcome to adulthood!

buddhaddy's picture

No, it is not applied to everyone. Almost 50% of the Us population pays no taxes. I imagine that it's pretty easy to be ok with how the tax dollars are being spent when it's not your money. I would be curious to know how much you paid in taxes last year. when you are actually one of those supporting the poor, giving to the hungry, and creating jobs for people, as I am, then you can say "welcome to adulthood".

Rob_'s picture

You are wrong again. Read more detailed information about taxes, if you can even comprehend mr. black and white man. They do pay taxes. But don't let any evidence persuade you. You get your information from sound bites and whole heartedly believe it because it fits in with your world view. Most likely you'll keep repeating and believing such nonsense, even though I posted information showing it as nonsense.

And unfortunately I will not be saying, "welcome to adulthood" to you. You've shown a naive, and simplistic perspective on so many issues. You show a basic lack of the facts. I can keep pointing this out if you wish.

You go ahead and believe taxation is government force, believe almost 50% of the population pays no taxes. A simple interpretation of the world, so you can focus all your animosity on something. Even if your interpretation of that something is entirely inaccurate.

buddhaddy's picture

I stand corrected. I was aware of all of those taxes. I pay them, because I run a small business, and don't get a free cellphone. those taxes are buried in many of our life and business activities. I'm happy that the poor have the cellphones, television services, utilities, and other costly items that those taxes are buried in. when I was poor, we didn't. so now that we have hopefully parsed my statement finely enough, I will amend my statement to say that if all Americans participated in that much more visible income tax, their voting might change. and if we had one simple flat tax, the voting would definitely change. We will never know though about that, will we? as to those buried taxes, instead of those sound bites you cite, simple go out and ask a few of those "poor" people what hidden taxes they pay, and you find that they are unaware, or only vaguely of what they have been told about those taxes. So it has little or no effect upon their voting. If they paid income taxes, you can bet they rise up, just as any of us do when anything that affects our income in a negative way becomes apparent. I do have a tendency to believe what my eyes and ears tell me, rather than what someone's statistics tell me, especially when I haven't seen the detailed data behind those statistics. I apologize for that failing.

buddhaddy's picture

the problem is that government grows out of control, because of the flaws of people, specifically the ones in charge. the taxes are usually spent in inappropriate ways because of influence peddling, vote purchasing, etc. it's just a reflection of the imperfect people in office, and in the system. taxes are needed, but should be a simple percentage, with none of the "behavior modification" taxes, or hidden utility fees, etc. just a simple flat percentage so that we, as a people, can see how much they are being raised, and limit this out of control graft and corruption. out of this percentage, all government spending would come. Government IS force. if you don't like what a business does, you can choose not to trade there. they can't force you. if you choose not to do what government says you must do, they can come to your house with guns, impound you property, etc. How is that not force?

Rob_'s picture

An amazing insight, people are flawed. And it's only the government I suppose, we do vote you know? Yes, and that's imperfect too, but you do have some kind of voice. In some countries, people don't even have that.

Yes, technically if you go to the extreme of not paying taxes you can go to jail. I doubt there will be a showdown of the police coming with guns to take you away. But it does make for a dramatic story about government force. I guess you don't have a clue as to civic responsibilities. Taxes would be one aspect to this. If you wish to put childish labels like "government force" on notions most of grow up to accept and participate in, by all means. Like I said, lots of drama, but you're not saying much here.

buddhaddy's picture

No, it's not only people in government that are flawed. all of us are. you, me, and all the rest. We are just people. And that includes those in government, and those that buy the lobbyists, who buy the politicians. You only want to criticize those rich guys. but they wouldn't pay the lobbyists so much money if there weren't politicians to buy.

Rob_'s picture

People are flawed is not an argument! Are you deaf, are you obtuse? I've repeatedly said why this is utter b.s. Do you read, do you discern, do you even look up anything when I mention it?

I don't only criticize the rich guys. I think the only criticism I've leveled is business/government collusion. The problems of too much money in politics. And even with this criticism. You want to lay blame soley on politicians. Because "they wouldn't pay the lobbyists so much money if there weren't politicians to buy". Come on. Stop your one sided moralizing.

buddhaddy's picture

If you are criticizing business/government collusion, then we have nothing to argue about. we're on the same page. I have made that same statement in other areas of these pages. politicians are only one third of the problem. their rich buddies are the second third. The rest of us are the last third, for allowing this to happen. there definitely is too much money in politics. There should be terms a little longer, and only one per person. most of that money is needed so politicians can be re-elected. it is spent by the rich because they get the kind of regulations and restrictions they want, partially to keep their small business competitors out. All of this has happened because of the way Americans have voted. And both republicans and democrats are culpable. Currently, in the first two years of the current administration, congress and the executive branch were in total control. did this disparity between the rich and poor change? why yes, for the worse!

buddhaddy's picture

So why does all of the civic responsibility fall on those of us who pay the taxes, and none on those who spend them? Are you looking around you at the state of the "infrastructure", the state of our cities, at california's deficit? Are you going to cite "voting" again? As long as you can offer cash and food stamps, free cell phones, rent, and other amenities those who would take them in return for votes, i would suggest that you don't use that argument.

Rob_'s picture

Yep, must be all those poor people dragging us down. Although you've also mentioned something about government/business cronies. So I guess you can't blame everything on po' folk.

There's this thing called business. Business in America can roughly be defined as capitalist. I'm sure we can have an endless argument on how "purely" capitalist we really are. They spend an inordinate amount of money on lobbyists and contribute to campaigns. Who do you really think is getting more from the government? Businesses who invest so much in getting their voice heard, or a bunch of po' folk who have no clout?

buddhaddy's picture

definitely business, especially big business. And while you blame, (correctly) big business for employing lobbyists and campaign contributions to buy our politicians, those politicians who they buy ARE the government that you want to depend upon to spend our taxes ethically. I can't believe what I'm hearing. I grew up very poor. I was one of your "Po folk". I've gone hungry. I've lived in the worst of neighborhoods. when our family got christmas dinner given to us, it was some kind people who do those things of their own accord. they didn't take the lazy way out, saying "the government should help the poor". When I became an adult, I decided to try to make a life, find my career, and help others. blaming others for my trials never got me an inch ahead. working, and helping others did. without business, how would houses be built for shelter? how would food be grown, harvested, readied for our consumption? how would or cars be built? Were these computers we are blogging on built by government? Your answer to this, I gotta hear!

Rob_'s picture

It's a simple question, who do you think gets more from the government ... business, which pays for a voice, or poor people with no clout? You can't seem to answer this. Your crap about, "without business yada yada yada", is evasive nonsense. There was no proposition of a world without business.

buddhaddy's picture

And there's a simple answer: Business gets more. Why? because the people running the government get more from business. And yet you seem to believe that government can solve our problems? and thank you for the comprehensive, thoughtful, and insightful response to my "crap". I think "yada yada" says sooo much.

Rob_'s picture

Government is us. Do you understand? It's not about the government solving "our" problems. It's part of our existence. We can interact with it or not. We can define shortcomings and try to implement changes. But to you everything is defined in black or white ways, it's either good or bad, nothing in between.

In your eyes it's all about people seeking the government to do things for them. Everyone votes based on getting a handout. It's must be so comfortable to explain all humans in such a way. You can simply keep repeating your mantra that, "government isn't the solution". That's never been what all this is about.

Obviously you can't understand the yada yada. I'll explain more clearly to your dull mind. Your statement was something like "without business you'd have no material goods". It's some weak defense of business because I pointed out one problematic dynamic, business influence in politics. It's crap because you always want to create these strawman type arguments, but I haven't said any such thing. I haven't condemned this big thing called business. I was criticizing one dynamic. And as usual you turn this all around in your black and white thinking to mean some whole-hearted condemnation of business.

buddhaddy's picture

Government is "us"? who is "us"? government used to be us. Most of the current politicians and those actually working in government have completely different situations than we do. I have to create my retirement, and if I fail, it's my fault. I like it that way. those in government have theirs all wrapped up, and tidy, and I'm paying for it. why the politicians even want to exempt their staffs from the ACA. and the employees of the IRS also. How are they "us"? Never mind, we'll never come to agreement. You just want to curse at me, make personal remarks. There is no benefit in that. It is true that I don't like the way our taxes are being spent. It doesn't matter, as they will be spent that way anyway. I want more freedoms, and it appears that you don't. We will always differ on that, so we should give up trying to come together, unless we can somehow fall into that "collective mind" of zumaCraigs. It has been a pleasingly stimulating argument, minus the personal attacks.

Rob_'s picture

Whatever brother. I've pointed out your faulty reasoning more times than I can count. You don't challenge it, you just ignore it and move on to the next tidbit of nonsense.

Whenever you define what the hell you mean by "more freedoms", we can have a discussion about it. You've used it several times, and I don't have a clue. It's simply a slogan.

And you're right, a few times I've stepped over the line. I keep showing how your arguments aren't arguments, but I'm probably just pissing into the wind because you keep repeating the same fallacious statements. But do us all a favor. Admit that you also have leveled personal attacks.

lookingout72's picture

Forget Europe, have you heard about Detroit?

Rob_'s picture

Detroit happens to be in a capitalist country? Your point?

buddhaddy's picture

I know it's an alien concept, but why not actually take the time to look deeply, Dare I say mindfully?, into the history of detroit, and how they actually got to where they are today. It wasn't capitalism. It was business in collusion with government. Just like in the more socialist countries, (if there are any more out there that are actually more socialist). Or listen to the talking heads that you must be listening to now. Your choice.

Rob_'s picture

I don't know the intimate history of Detroit, but even if there's some failed government policies that doesn't go to disprove something called socialism and conversely promote the advantages of capitalism. This is like climate change deniers proclaiming there is no climate change because of a week of snowy weather. There was also an exodus of auto worker jobs as the auto companies looked for cheap labor elsewhere. Certainly that had a component in all of this. But in your world, any mention of a possible business failure or adverse influence is just not acceptable. There's one source for all these problems in your world, government. Simple, neat ... and naive.

I haven't seen you present anything except empty platitudes. Do you have any information to provide? Stop your condescending suggestions about "looking deeply and mindfully". Your constant crap about getting out of the blogs and listening to talking heads. This is all fluff and b.s. suggesting I don't have correct information ... yet you do ... although you never present any. If there's something you disagree with, show it in some way. Provide some real content, except over-generalized, simplistic notions about complex problems.

buddhaddy's picture

platitudes? I asked you about detroit. you didn't look into it at all, did you? you just gloss it over, and reject it. It's not socialism i'm rejecting. it's a great idea. it just won't work, because the system that has to run it is made of people. People will always look out for themselves for the most part. Socialism, marxism, communism, capitalism. all the Ism's. they are great theories. They just never work in practice, because they're run by flawed humans. Freedom is the best path, because you can make your own choices. If you choose to buy a bigger house with a bad loan, and not look a the paperwork closely, then you suffer the consequences of that choice. If you choose to not take the job at macdonalds because it won't support your lifestyle, then so be it.

Rob_'s picture

Yes, you asked about Detroit. Did you say anything about Detroit? Nope. Somehow whatever you're asking is just so "obvious" I suppose. Present the obviousness to me. And I haven't rejected it, I mentioned a possible other influence to Detroit's problems. You know, something that isn't solely the government, which you seem to reject as a whole.

So you're not rejecting socialism, yet you say it won't work, that sounds like rejection. You consistently talk out of both sides of your mouth.

I haven't been promoting any ism. These theories provide containers for humans to exchange ideas, that's why they're useful. I'll let you in on a little secret, Buddhism is also theory.

"Freedom is the best path". And what exactly does this empty, meaningless statement mean? I'm sure you agree we have government in our lives. A discussion of the shortcomings of government, how things might be done better can be worthwhile. But to you, "humans are flawed", "all the isms are great theory". You paint a nihilistic world where humans can't even communicate to resolve issues. Good luck to that.

buddhaddy's picture

you said: "You know, something that isn't solely the government, which you seem to reject as a whole."
I keep saying, it's not solely the government, but you aren't listening. Let me ask a more simple question: does big business pay lobbyists to get what they want from government?

Rob_'s picture

So you had this gem. "It wasn't capitalism. It was business in collusion with government". Really? Business isn't capitalism? What is it in America? Besides the fact that in other posts this collusion is blamed by you on politicians. Business people escape your scrutiny. The other thing you had to say about Detroit was your old tired standard, "the system that has to run is made of people" and they're flawed, yada yada yada. I've gone on ad nauseam about nirvana fallacies. So actually, in your incorrect way of explaining, you are implicating the government.

Besides, I know you don't only blame the government. You mostly blame, poor, lazy, fat people.

Do you have anything more to say about "freedom is the best path"? No further explication? Of course not. You live in the airy, fairy world of slogans.

buddhaddy's picture

So, you believe that the people that make up government will run the economy much better than business, because those who make up the government are somehow less greedy, or less self-serving? I would like a clear answer to this, or I will just let you have your say, and leave for a more intelligent conversation. And if I have somehow offended you personally with my discussion of personal choice and consequences, per your apparent fixation on the "poor lazy fatties" (your term), I apologize.

Rob_'s picture

Uh, right, poor, lazy, fatties is my term? In a sense I suppose. A more colorful rendition of what you have used, "poor, lazy, and fat". And you haven't necessarily used all those adjectives all at once. Although poor, lazy has been more often used in tandem by you. The fattie was added on your strange explanation of why the U.S. compares so unfavorably to many other first world health systems. So play your game implying I somehow threw this in to the mix due to my own fixation. You're the one that has this fixation on explaining the cause of so many issues on, "poor, lazy, fat" people.

"So, you believe that the people that make up government will run the economy much better than business, because those who make up the government are somehow less greedy, or less self-serving?"

Never said such a thing. I was pointing out how you wish to demonize those in government while those in business escape you're moralizing. Are there greedy people in government? Of course. Are there greedy people in business? Of course. There are also moral, responsible people who don't solely focus on a buck, both in government and business. We're back to your very black and white thinking. You've shown a consistent problem in seeing issues in more nuanced ways. You always seem to go for the "either or" explanation.

The government doesn't run the economy, it certainly does affect it with it's policies. And yes, it may have more impact and influence, maybe even intrusion than it has in the past. But we had a time in our very own past when there was far less government involvement. That would be the gilded age. A wonderful time! 40 hour work week? Didn't exist. Child labor? Sure, why not. Health and safety regulations for working environments?. Don't need em. No standards for food processing and manufacturing? Just added costs. I could go on and on about all the "wonderful" benefits during this time.

lookingout72's picture

Detroit was not a capitalist city. Their welfare programs were out of control. Now, those people depending on Detroit welfare can no longer receive it.

buddhaddy's picture

But I'm sure it was only state-run capitalism? Right, ZumaCraig?

zumacraig's picture


Good point. Not many fleeing Germany, Sweden or Iceland.

Love your comments, BTW. Are you familar with Speculative Non-Buddhism?

buddhaddy's picture

Germany is moving more toward capitalism. Sweden and iceland are very small. We should do the same thing here in the states. get the federal government out of everything but running the military and post office, and allow the states to form examples of Socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, even marxism if they want. See who fails, and who succeeds.

lookingout72's picture

Some socialist regimes in Europe are collapsing. My mother-in-law lived in Spain where she received "free" healthcare for many years. Eventually, she and many others in Spain lost these benefits. Why? Because these welfare systems are good short term solutions but are not sustainable in the long term. My mother-in-law left Spain and now lives with us. People in Greece lost all their government benefits for the same reasons. I have a friend from Greece whose father served in the Navy and collected a government pension. Now, the pension is gone. The Greece economy collapsed due to unsustainable welfare benefits. You cannot trust the governments to manage this money. It is true that socialism can be applied in varying degrees successfully. If a "middle way" could be sustained that would work. Unfortunately, when a new administration takes over they typically promise more benefits to get elected and to keep getting re-elected they offer even more benefits, until the government spends more money than it can possibly tax. Some socialist governments turn into totalitarian regimes once the government controls every aspect of the economy. This is where the "greed" factor comes in. Cuba is a great example. Castro promised the people free healthcare, housing, food, etc. The government there provides the people with all these things. So, why do they always flee on rafts for Miami? If you don't believe me, here is an article:

As a Buddhist, I want all beings to be happy and have a fruitful life. I just don't think that socialism provides that in the long term. I have family members who are young and capable of work, but have opted to live off food stamps and welfare benefits all their lives. They can only eat what the food stamps allow them to eat. It only allows them to eat cheap processed food. They live in government housing that is crawling with criminals and drug dealers, they are obese, and they have diabetes. I do not think that this is a nice way of life for anyone. Nevertheless, I try to keep politics out of Buddhism. I don't think the two can be reconciled. Politics leads to separation and suffering. Things happen for karmic reasons.

buddhaddy's picture

I just have to say again, very well said. My approval may mean nothing, but I'm very heartened to see those who think as you are out there in the world.

buddhaddy's picture

Very well, and mindfully said. I believe we can change the world. but we must do it by first changing ourselves. then try to change any others we can, through mindful, reasonable, and clear discussion, not allowing these empty statements. Then any of those that we change, can change others. the effect can be widespread. the same as the old story of the reward of a piece of grain on first square of a chessboard, two on the second, four on the third, and so on. there was not enough grain in the kingdom. In such a way, can we change humanity.

valerie2's picture

Yes! Thank you for publishing this thoughtful and dynamic piece. Tricycle - is there a way to make this one article available to all who come and read it beyond the usual day or two that it is available to be seen by non members?

Joanna Piacenza's picture


Since this article is published on the Tricycle blog, it is free to all members and non-members! If you would like full digital access, to our current and all previous issues, you can join the Tricycle community here:

So glad you enjoyed the post.

All best,
Joanna Piacenza
Web Manager