March 17, 2010

Welfare reform for hipsters

By: Sonny Bunch

When did Baltimore turn from a haven for drug dealers into a haven for hipsters on food stamps?

The two friends weren’t tabulating the cash in their wallets but what remained of the monthly allotment on their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit cards, the official new term for what are still known colloquially as food stamps.

Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding — and her usual gigs — to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she’s used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.

Every time I read a story like this I mutter “hipsters!” under my breath and curl my lips into a snarl a la Seinfeld reacting to Newman. Is this really what we want our tax money going to subsidize? Out of work “artists” whose funding dried up when the economy went south? I’m all for unemployment benefits (even if I have eschewed them during my own recent leave of absence from the work force), but there’s a point at which things get ridiculous.