Dear Rich (and our readers),
Now I know how it feels to be publicly shamed, I guess.
I can’t say I wasn’t anticipating a bit of pushback from the article, that was to be expected. But the amount of vitriol behind some of the comments was kind of hurtful and surprising. A got a personal note from Michelle from the blog and she said: Thank you for responding to comments on the article. Some of them are not the kindest – which is not the norm for Making Sense of Cents readers. Sorry that you are experiencing that.
But alas, what can you do? Such is the nature of the internet.
The comments bothered me at first, but then the next day, I continued on with my technology fast, and got over it pretty quickly. When I checked back in on the comments several days later, there were several more hurtful comments, but by that time, it didn’t bother me that much. It was like, once I’d read one, I’d read them all, because they were all saying pretty much the same thing.
Thank you for all your help with the comments, by the way. You do a good job of addressing people fairly and kindly. I liked what you had to write.
So, anyway, because of all this, I want to break protocol for a moment and instead of addressing this post just to you, Rich, I would like to break through the fourth wall and directly address our readers and comment some of the issues that the Making Sense commenters had with me and the choices I’ve made. Because, if I’m making these choices, I might as well be able to stand behind them and defend them, right?
That’s kind of the point of this whole blog, isn’t it?
Let’s start here.
Here is are two actual comments that pretty much sum up what a dozen other commenters were saying:
WOW! JUST WOW! It’s one thing to do all of this but totally another to BRAG ABOUT STEALING FROM THE GOVT. I guess there is a first for everything and this is the first time I have seen someone with balls big enough to brag about ripping the govt. off in writing. THIS is why people do without because people like Penny “steal” and there isn’t enough for others who NEED IT.
I am very liberal and support the existence of social programs for people in need. But this is disgraceful – you don’t have “need.” Read what I am writing: you don’t have need, you have “want” and are gaming the system so that other people are paying for it. Other people’s tax dollars are funding your food stamps and earned income credit, while you deliberately under-earn and use the earnings of others to pay loans you voluntarily incurred, rightfully owe, and will reap the rewards of as your husband’s practice grows. Shame on you.
First of all, I think a lot of the commenters were mistaking my unbridled honesty for pride. Nobody is proud to be on food support. If anything, it is the opposite. It takes a bit of humility to accept that is offered.
I don’t think I’m stealing from anybody or lying about anything. As you’ve seen here, I’m honest almost to a fault. I mean, I’m laying out my monthly expenditures for everyone to see and critique, line by line.
Note: This page has affiliate links to products we endorse. Full disclaimer.
As far as taking money from other people who really need it… here’s the thing: If my family, at our income level, is getting this kind of support, this means that other families are getting support too! Isn’t that a good thing? Just because we’re getting support doesn’t mean that we’re taking it from others who need it. We’re ALL getting help! Yeah!
Secondly, I don’t find anything ethically wrong with accepting benefits that I legally qualify for. As Rich pointed out in his response to one of the comments:
This idea that Penny should voluntarily give up assistance that she qualifies for, because some people think it’s unfair, is misleading. How many people out there qualify for tax breaks, refunds, mortgage interest deductions? Is anyone sending that money back to the Treasury because they don’t really need it? Should we all reject our standard deduction, because, well, we can afford a computer, so it would be immoral to accept the tax system the way it is? I don’t think so. The tax benefits that one qualifies for and how one spends their money are two quite different matters.
If food support helps families like mine, and we have money to go on modest vacations or to put toward student loans, I think that is fine. But here’s the thing: I also think that it’s fine if people who get food support choose to spend their money on things like alcohol and cigarettes. We should be wary about entering into a totalitarian state where individuals no longer have the freedom to decide how to spend their money. To be free is to be human. Let’s not take that away from people.
Thirdly, and to address the argument that I should just work more so we don’t have to collect food support: I like what you had to say about this in the comments as well, Rich:
Would she be wise to just turn down assistance that she qualifies for? Probably not. Would it be better if she worked night shifts and became an irritable wife and tired mom? Probably not.
I’m not sure what I’d do in Penny’s situation, but we’re different people and I’m an ambitious guy, so maybe I’d be working 3 jobs and missing my family in the process. Maybe that would lead to greater stress and to divorce and child support and so on. If there’s one thing I know about Penny, it’s that her family is strong and her kids will be in a good position to contribute to society. That is a social good that lasts generations.
(You really did have good things to say, Rich.)
I think there is a bit of a glorification of work and business in this culture, and a devaluation of being a homemaker. I value being a stay-at-home mom and a homemaker more than anything. (I want to revitalize the term “homemaker” and make people okay with to using it again!) Even you, Rich… when we were doing our Cost of Raising a Child posts, you suggested that I account for the missing income I would have had if I didn’t put off my career.
I told you I didn’t want to do that because that would be operating on the pretense that mothers having an outside “career” is the norm. For me and my family, motherhood as a career IS our norm. I should not account for it otherwise.
So, I make no apologies for choosing not to work and therefore earning less money for the family and being eligible for food support because of that.
Here’s something that’s wrong with technology and why I am enjoying my time away from it: blog conversations like this one. People would never say to my face what they write in the comment section of a blog. It’s so easy to dehumanize a person on the internet. We are all forgetting how to relate to one another. I’m a real person, you guys! You don’t have to be mean to me. I can hear you.
Ultimately, people don’t have to agree with my choices. Heck, they don’t even have to understand them. But what I think remains important is to treat one another as human beings who deserve love and respect. We can have discussions like this and try to make sense of our differences, but it is all secondary to that.
P.S. Have you ever read the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson? It’s a good one. I read it awhile ago, but now I understand it on a whole new level.