Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Things that hack me off...

Added March 2009
This post has become pretty popular with people looking up where to use their Horizon Card in Utah. It has offended some, and I thought I should clarify some things right up front before I offend some more.

I've worked my way up from nothing. I came to this country with $200 in my pocket, and have since found a way to put myself through school, all while raising a family and working full time. I've been through tough times and I know what it feels like. And it sucks.

In the past year or so, I've become far more partial to government assistance programs, but I think there are always going to be those that see this as a right and not a privilege or a safety net. I have long held the belief that communities should take care of eachother, but I think we've lost that basic desire to take care of one another, allowing the goverment to intervene on our behalf.

My issues with the benefit program in Utah are:

1 - I could like likely qualify for assistance, but I live a good life and my family eat healthily, so I don't feel the need or the right to apply. Obviously I'm on the upper end of the poverty range, but cable TV, a cellphone and a brand new car are not rights.

2 - I've worked as a cashier on occasion. While there are obviously people out there who need assistance, most if not all horizon card users who came through my checkout where buying expensive and unhealthy food. More often that not, the alcohol, tobacco, candy, soda's and similar products would come through and be paid by with cash. Where after the TV dinners and other processed stuff would be put on the card.

Is the benefit program necessary? - I believe it is, especially in these times.

Is it abused? - absolutely, and unfortunately the abuse takes from those who really need it.

So with that in mind, please don't be offended by the following article. I could probably have written in more sensitively, but at the same time, I'd just mailed off my taxes and the subject of my being annoyed was not buying healthy food, she was buying expensive nutritionally deficient crap. On top of that she was treating her kid like crap.

I'll be the first to admit I don't know her situation, and I have absolutely no right to judge. So for what it's worth... Here's what I wrote previously...

I've become much more tolerant in recent years. It's helped, especially when I commute, now I view myself more as being in the same boat as everyone else navigating the traffic, and less in conflict with them.

There are however a few things that still get to me...

Friday night I took my two youngest kids shopping. It was the weekly grocery shop, so we ended up getting a fair amount of stuff. Usually my youngest son will sit in the cart, but towards the end when avalanches started becoming a regular occurrence all around him, I figure I should heed his cries to get out and walk.

I suppose Friday night at Walmart isn't the busiest time of the week, but all the same, they only had one major checkout open. There were a couple of express lanes open, but I had way more than 20 items.

I ended up behind a lady with a full cart and the checkout belt loaded high as well. I'm not a judgmental person, well, not as much as I used to be, but I think a description of this lady may add to the story. She wasn't small by any means, and I don't mean tall either. She was probably about 5 foot 4, and probably well exceeded 300 pounds. She had the stomach that comes out and then hangs over the tight leggings. I'm sure the legging are comfortable and provide a level of support - I race in tight clothes and I prefer it - but there are parts of the morbidly obese I would rather be left to the imagination.

Her kid was probably about 3 years old and looked to be headed in the same direction, gravitationally as his mother. This story isn't all bad. He was a really cute kid. Pretty quiet, but he kept interacting with my two monkeys, and it was fun to watch. Nothing quite like watching the fruit of your loins interacting with those around them.

So after about 5 minutes I gather that she has a couple of different orders she was working on. I think I had joined the line about half way through the process, as bags were piled up at the end of the lane. OK, so I sometimes have different orders, I can't complain about that.

For the next bit, let me describe what was on the belt. Soda, and we're talking a lot of soda. Those cheap, crappy, bought in a box pizza's. I do enjoy the pizza other than home-made, but even I can't stomach these things. Little more than cardboard with tomato paste and a few strands of cheese, and then an inordinate amount of salt and oil. Perhaps this was the start of the clues as to why the woman was as large as she was. Gatorade - it's a sports drink people, and there was no way in hell she does any kind of athletic activity. But the belt was piled with it. V8 juice - Perhaps a sad attempt at being healthy... and then a ton of other brand name stuff, piled as high as could be.

It was then that it hit me, well that and noticing what she was doing...

Have you ever gotten behind a price matcher? These people are the most inconsiderate people out there. I have problems with price matching on many levels...

1 - If Walmart were truly about saving money, their prices would be the lowest. Stealing other companies deals is just dishonest.
2 - If you want a good deal, go to the store that is offering it.
3 - If you're price matching, why are you going for all the brand name stuff. If money is your motivator, why not get the cheap stuff and save even more.

OK, so this lady was price matching everything. Which really hacked me off even more.

I'm sure there were other things too, but the grand finale was when she whipped out her horizon card. If you know what an horizon card is you probably understand already. If by chance you use a horizon card or know someone who does and are going to be offended by what I'm about to say. Speak up, I'd love the chance to help you realize what a bad program this is.

OK, so the horizon card is the State of Utah's benefit to people who have fallen on hard times. I am sure there are a few who might need this, and use it as a good way to get back on their feet. I would guess that about 90% don't need it, but enjoy sucking my tax dollars dry because I obviously owe them for being a productive member of society and making them feel bad about being good-for-nothing losers. I was up late doing my taxes last night and mailed off a check to the State of Utah this morning, so they can fund more of these bottom feeding, lazy pieces of crap. The other thing that bugs me is that these people who have the card always buy the fancy food to eat, while I, who actually works in order to feed my family, have to get the cheap stuff - Me, bitter?

OK, so not only was this lady price matching, then she whips out the horizon card, solidifying in my mind her status as scum sucker. She then starts yelling at the kid who is obviously bored out of his mind because she is taking so freaking long... And he wasn't doing anything really bad at all.

She finally gets done, much to my and the cashiers relief. The cashier apologizes, even though it wasn't her fault and I made some comment about the despicableness of price matching. She then says that WIC users (Another abused government entitlement program) are about as bad, and that lady had done all the WIC stuff before I got there.

I was late getting home, late to the gym, and on top of that I now have a cold. Might as well blame the fat lady for that too!


  1. Wow Koda,
    Why don't you tell us how you really feel.

    2 items:
    First, If only she was using her horizon card to buy cigarettes and/or alcohol. That would have been perfect. Or if she had a Handifat sticker on her car...

    Second, I like to thank you for saying"hacks me off." I haven't heard it recently but one of my best friends throughout high school used it all the time.

    Third, I'd like to point out that I'm a price matcher and proud of it. But I've never had more than 2 or 3.
    Let me try to respond to your 3 points about price matching.
    1.) Walmart is not about saving money. Walmart is about EARNING money.
    2.) I like to think of it as doing my part to reduce global warming. I'll go to Reams for Produce and macey's or Smith's for meat and other things if they're on my way home, but walmart is about 5 blocks from my house and if I have to leave the house to grocery shop, then it's walmart for me. I have to burn a lot more CFC's to get to one of the others.
    3.) I price match for brand name items because it's the only time I don't buy Western Family. We all have times when we like to feel like the rich folk. (can also be read 'Horizon Card Toters')

    Just my 2cents worth.

  2. Well, I think with it having been more than a week since I've blogged, there was just a lot of pent up emotional energy.... I actually feel much better now, except for the cold I'm fighting but that's another story.

    I wouldn't doubt that she had a handifat sticker on her car, but I didn't get done quick enough to chase her out and see.

    I should probably qualify the pricematching comments as well. I have been known on occasion to price match as well, but like you, just on one or two items. My references to price matches involves the ladies (I've never seen men do this) who have the notebook with the ads from 20 other stores, and their entire cart is filled with price matching items, so that everything has to be handkeyed by the cashier. And then they try to be cute about how wonderful they think they are, or stop to argue about how they don't like the color of the banana's (Which they picked out in the first place ?!?!? - and that's a true story)

    I generally try to support the store with the best deal, but sometimes it's just not worth the extra time or gas to get there. I figure I'll pay an extra 50c for something if it saves me 5 miles and 20 minutes of my time.

  3. I can't really relate to any of this, but I will ask, what is handifat?

  4. I can relate to everything you said Urban.

    When it comes to price matching, I have considered it, but in the end I would be too embarased to actually try it.

  5. I believe, although I could be wrong...

    Handifat refers to those who have acquired a handicapped parking tag due to their obscene obesity.

    I think I've blogged about how I feel about people who take this route towards the ultimate lazy lifestyle... But I think you (Morgan) put it best when you set they could start calling it a disease when you can actual catch it from someone else.

  6. This is all very judjemental.
    First of all why are you shopping at WalMart....the company is pretty much the scum of the univerese. If I walk into walmart ever, I know what to expect. This entire situation shouldn't suprise you one bit.
    Second, you don't even know her situation.
    I was/am a stay at home mom. My husband made alot of money. He decided one day to pack up at leave. For the first month he gave me $200. Let me also say that I belive in buying organic and very healthy food. What am I supposed to do? I have to go to the state for help first. So when im at the check out like are you going to judge me, when i have my cart pilled with organic food and vegetables that do cost more.... Why should i have to compromise my beliefs and what is healthy for my children.
    Our situation are kinda oppostie but im sure you might have the same thoughts standing behind me. Why can't she buy the cheap stuff?

  7. Anonymous,

    First of all, I didn't mean to offend someone like yourself. Perhaps if I could point out a few key things in what I wrote...

    The lady I was standing behind was not concerned about the health of her children or herself, as evidenced by the brand name crap which she was purchasing. Also, you don't strike my as someone who would just yell at your kid for no rational reason. Her kid was doing nothing wrong at all, unless you count smiling at giggling at my kids as a carnal sin.

    I shop at Walmart because I don't have a lot of money - and if I don't need to use welfare, I won't - I actually think I qualify, which is ludicrous!! If other stores have cheaper stuff, I would much rather go there - I don't do the price matching thing either.

    In all honesty had I been standing behind you, I don't think I would have noticed if you had an horizon card or not. And if I had, I would have been impressed that you were still trying to live a healthy life - You don't strike me as the kind of person who wants to use government assistance, but have needed to through bad circumstance. That's why the program is there - for those that need it.

    Now I don't know the specific situation of the lady above, but based on my experience (and I unfortunately include some family members in this). There is an element of the population that loves government assistance. They are typically of the lazy variety, using the program by choice, and have absolutely no desire to do try and get back on their feet.

    I am grateful at least that my taxes are going to help someone in a situation like youself, and wish you all the best, despite the rough hand that life has dealt you.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. I decided to apply for food stamps last month, after I volunteered at the Food Bank, and realized, I was giving away more food to one person than I had of my own. Hmmm... could I have been eligible for assistance all these years?! (Ten years of work history and a degree doesn't always land you a decent job, but my resume looks pretty cool.) I thought of how much healthier I would have been without wondering what I was going to eat to sustain life...and how even fifty extra bucks would have made paying living expenses easier.

    So, when I applied, I realized I was ineligible to receive financial assistance because I am actually employed. I work an average of 42 hours/week, and I get a standard $960 every month. I wondered about the people who make even less than me, and can't get assistance "because they are employed." When your rent is $650 and your utilities can be $200 you start wondering how long it will before you have beg, borrow, steal, or kill your credit in order to survive.

    Today, is my first day to use my Horizon Card. $110 in food stamps! I don't know what I'm doing, don't know where I'm supposed to go, but I'm mega grateful that I'm going to be able to make it to my next pay period without wondering how to make something out of one egg, 1/4 cup of soy milk, a wrinkly bell pepper, and some cinnamon. I am wondering if Whole Foods takes this pretty piece of plastic?

  10. Thanks for stopping by Birdforbeans and taking the time to comment.

    There is definitely something wrong with our civilization, when good, hardworking people still can't ends meet.

    I'm ashamed to admit that my opinions and political views were very much a part of that problem, but I'm working on correcting them and I'm hopeful that I'm moving in the right direction.

    This particular post has been particularly popular in recent months, and I don't think that's a good thing either.

    I hope you weren't too offended by it, and can take some comfort in knowing that the comments of honest and hardworking people like yourself have helped me realize what an arrogant ass I have been, and likely continue to be to some extent.

    Please accept my sincerest wishes that things work out for you in time.


  12. Wow Reshuna!

    First of all, please breathe. I'm not the heartless bastard you suppose, and would hate for you to asphyxiate yourself all while getting upset over something some moron wrote on the internet.

    Second, I'm sorry you missed the first part of the post explaining that this is how I used to feel.

    Anyway, all that aside, my apologies for hacking you off as well. Have great week!!

  13. I am not sure when you posted, but I'm going to say something about your post. I have been someone who has worked hard and has never been on any government assistance. I'm almost done with college and just got laid off from a 40,000 a year salaried job. I have been unemployed for three weeks and seriously did not get enough on my final paycheck to pay rent. I had to ask for help from family and my church for that.

    THEN came the humiliation of applying for food stamps. I cried the whole time I filled out the online application at job service. I was given $200 a month for one person, which I thought was incredibly generous. I found a job today and will start on June 26th so I will only need to use this once; however, I am incredibly grateful that the program exists.

    BTW . . . I weighed 370 pounds 15 months ago and have lost over 180 pounds in that short time. Don't judge based on weight. I'm incredibly intelligent (with a 3.91 GPA from a four-year university) and am NOT a lazy person. I walked six miles Sunday . . . how many did you walk? Be careful with your judgments because you never know when you will be in a different position. I never thought in a million years that I would ever use public assistance. I haven't used the card yet but am honestly terrified to use it because I'm worried everyone will look at me and think what you did . . . that I'm somehow lazy, sucking the life out of public assistance. I don't look needy because I have worked hard in my life. . . but I am in need now.

    I will always be more careful in how I judge others. I'm glad I only need it once. Others can't live without it.

  14. Michelle, thanks for your comments. I only posted this about a year ago, but in that time, my opinions have shifted almost 180 degrees.

    Actually I heard a song today, that I think sums up how I would prefer to live life from here on out...

    What a shame, what a shame
    To judge a life that you can't change.

    While this post is still attracting a fair amount of attention, I've left it up to remind myself where I came from, and hopefully with the comments from people such as yourself, I can stay well away from it from here on out.

    Finally, if I may add. I am in awe. To be able to drop 180 pounds is a phenomenal feat. I used to be a little heavy myself, but fortunately had a good neighbor drag me off the couch and take me out running with him. That was 2 years ago, and now I'm training for an IronMan Triathlon in St. George next year. But that said, your efforts are very inspirational. Well done!

    And again, thank you for you comments!

  15. I didn't finish reading all the comments, but it feels like a lot of emotions and maybe even anger here.
    I came to this country with $300 in my pocket and paid half of that the first for my share of rent. Since then, I learned the language, graduated from college, and instead of working full time I am a stay-at-home mom. I absolutely love working! And I miss it dearly. But I just can't leave my baby with somebody else... This is my sacrifice for being a mom!
    My husband is a foreigner too. We both are trying so hard to make it here in America. He is in between schools right now and is working part time as a teacher before he enters Grad School.

    We absolutely love this country! Even though, not everything is perfect here, it is the best country I've ever lived in!

    For our first baby we paid all the expenses that insurance didn't cover, even though we could have applied for CHIP. I had no idea what CHIP was and you know, I would have applied if I knew. We, as foreigners, cannot have government student loans, so we have only one choice- high interest bank student loans, that I am sure will be a pain to pay off! So, that $3000 we paid for our baby, I wish we had them right now!

    My neighbor told me to apply for WIC, so I did. Did I feel ashamed in the store? Oh, I was! I still am! But, I have no choice! We are not making it with my husband's part time job! And as an international student, it's hard to find a legal job that will be approved... What can we do? We are bond by the law. You think my husband enjoys bringing so little home? Of course not!

    We just received an Utah Horizon card. That's how I found your blog. I googled it :) I know nothing about it and it's something I need to learn. Am I planning on abusing it? Never. We are from Europe and love home made food, fresh salad, soups, etc. We eat very healthy. In addition to my stinginess on our budget, I don't think I can ever buy expensive foods and thus abuse such a program.

    I can see though how that lady in the store could have upset you. The items you described that were in her cart were never in our cart when we both worked with good wages just because they are not healthy.

    Well, I just want to say that not everybody is like that lady. My husband and I are in this situation only temporally. And I am grateful that there is help! Our savings are going down, no matter how hard we try to not spend them. This Christmas season, we give presents to our family members that we made, found at home, or got from Freecycle. No shopping and won't be for a couple more years, till we graduate and find a full time job.

    It is a good program, and I wish people had better understanding of it and did not abuse it. And I wish somebody would teach that lady. I feel so sorry for her child.

  16. Thanks Anonymous! I appreciate your insights.

    I think we all could stand to learn a lot about each other and how to treat others.

    I for one have learned a ton from this very post, and have a great deal more respect for those who have no choice but to use Government programs.

    In hindsight, perhaps the Lady in Walmart could have used a helping hand, and a whole lot less judgment from me.

    Thanks again, and all the best for your future!

  17. I can't stop thinking about this now... We are foreigners, paying the same taxes as Americans do, but don't have the same opportunities in finding a job, applying for student loans, or applying for Medicaid. I was actually very suprised to receive the Utah Horizon card, because I was applying for my daughter's insurance (who is an American).

  18. I hear ya! The tax thing is annoying and then the benefits are just wacky.

    I lived in New Zealand for a while before I came over to the US. I tried to apply for a job through the government employment agency.

    I couldn't apply for a job through them, unless I submitted a request for government assistance. I ended up getting $200 a week, which was really generous, since I lived at home, and then when I called to cancel it 4 weeks later because I had a job, they kept asking if I was sure...


  19. i am in the same boat as anonymous, hubby use to make really good money, but he unfortunately became disabled as we were expecting baby number two, but we buy organic too, eat unsweetened things, never anything processed, why cant people mash their own potatoes anymore? anyways, we are struggling, had his parents heling us as long as they could and when they couldn't we turned to gov't assistance. i also hate it when i see fat families using the horizon card to buy unhealthy things, there should be a no no list on things u cannot buy! if u r on assistance u should be REQUIRED to eat healthy and NOT feed your kids crap! but thats just my inside opinion

  20. Update: I spent a year and a half on food stamps starting at $140 a month, and finishing at $200 a month (although my circumstances didn't change, DWS processes sometimes seems arbitrary). Rarely have I eaten better, or chosen healthier options since being on food stamps. I am now Vegan, and eat 60% fresh produce, 20% bread, 10% pre-packaged health foods, and 10% dark chocolate. It is so hard for me to imagine going back to my previous eating habits, that were based entirely on convenience. Although I haven't experimented with canning, I've gotten pretty good at making my monthly co-op order extend through the month by cutting, and freezing half of it for easy use when I'm running out of fresh things. This way, I avoid wasting when there is abundance.

    I have figured out where to shop using a Horizon card, and now that I am no longer eligible for food stamps, I will be spending my "real" money in the places I have come to love. I find that some of my best deals and some of the freshest produce has come from the farmer's market, and the asian markets. Shop around, and you can find things to keep your diet interesting, and make grocery shopping a little pleasurable. Most groceries will take the Horizon Card, and some convenience stores will too (7-11), but are far more expensive. I do most of my staple shopping at the Downtown Smith's, and since they have a great bulk section, I've gotten pretty savvy at preparing grains from scratch, and always having something on hand. I love the way my cupboard looks with all the quinoa, basmati, bulgar, lentils, chick peas, sunflower seeds, raisins, israeli couscous, millet, pearled barley... in varying sizes of glass jars I have washed and reused when I do purchase prepared foods. I haven't gotten the hang of making my own pickles, but I did make Sauerkraut when I had an abundance of cabbage from the co-op.

    Having food stamps was a life saver, and made it possible to maintain a balanced life, and use my limited funds to keep up with my other bills without bouncing checks. I'd like to remind you that the Food Stamp program is not considered welfare, it is considered a nutrition supplement program, and in some states, recipients are encouraged or required to take some classes in nutrition and how to budget.

    One of the neatest things about food stamps is that they will also cover vegetable/fruit seeds and seedlings. I was able to line my windowsills with mint, lemon balm, basil, spearmint, and parsley, so I have fresh herbs year round to use in teas and for flavoring savory things. This has made a huge difference in how much I enjoy my food, and prevents me from buying flavorless dried herbs that have to be replenished regularly. The fresh herbs replenish themselves.

    I don't have a garden space that would work, but for those who do, the food stamps can help create a sort of victory garden, and reduce the pressures of difficult finances. If you can eat well, it is a lot easier to face the future, and make the steps so you can get back on your feet.

    I know not everyone is like me, but I do believe that with any service, it means nothing without education. Resources are only as good as the ability to use them effectively.

    It's a good time to learn how to cook.

  21. Thanks for the update BirdForBeans - I'm feeling pretty inspired after reading that.

    Glad to hear things worked out for you, and all the best for the future!

  22. So I know this is a very late response to your post, but your blog came up in a google search for the horizon card. It sucked me in and mirrored a few of my own feelings. I recently applied for food stamps- not the highlight of my life. When hard times came I made it as long as I could without, but after running through our food storage and feeding my family of four canned peaches and homemade bread for two days straight I figured in the pride vs. my children's health battle I might have picked the less important side. I received $450 in assistance for the month of October. I am amazed and a little bit disgusted. While I am very grateful for the program this amount seems a little bit excessive to me. I am a nutrition major and we have always eaten fairly healthy at my house, I know what it costs to cook nutritionally sound meals and it is not necessary for a family of four to spend $110 a week. You might not enjoy the more expensive foods like steak or salmon but to me when you are desperate (and I am) and asking for charity you don't ask for more than what is necessary. If I were to beg someone for a desperately needed winter coat for my child I would not demand that it be a brand new Columbia coat with matching snow pants, I would take whatever would keep them warm and be grateful. Food assistance should be the same way, as long as I can feed my children a healthy diet I will be grateful. Tax payers should not be asked to supplement anything beyond the basic nutritional needs, especially when so many of them can't afford anything beyond that themselves. I have to admit I disagree with what Birdforbeans posted. Foodstamps are a form of welfare. Welfare is defined by Mirriam-Webster as aid in the form of money or necessities for those in need. This welfare is not paid for by some mysterious Uncle Sam that creates money for the needy but by the tax payers. I know when I was a tax payer with a salary of $55,000 a year I could not have afforded all of the wonderful grains you listed off. Yet I had to pay taxes so that you could. I do not mean to offend or judge, but I strongly disagree that you were allowed the privilege of spending your assistance on food that was not just adequate for a healthy life but way above and beyond when the majority of those who are paying to fund your delicious meals can not afford such luxuries themselves.
    Like I said I am grateful for the program but I think at some point the line needs to be drawn between a need and a want. You do not need Israeli couscous for a balanced diet. Government assistance is paid for by all tax payers, it is not from voluntary contributions. Therefore it should be a need only program. If you want anything beyond that you should turn to local charities where the money is voluntarily contributed.

    By the way I price-match brand name items because
    #1- If you combine it with a coupon you can sometimes get it for much less than the store brand, but only sometimes.
    #2- I have a 1 year old and a 2 year old, have two part time jobs and am a full time student, at this point in my life I sometimes just don't have the time to run to 4 different stores.

  23. "Now I don't know the specific situation of the lady above..."

    You should have thought of that before you decided to spend an hour writing about why you think she's a terrible human being.

  24. I am glad that people are making a concerted effort to have healthy diets... I think if the emphasis was on health Urban Koda's post might not have ever happened.

    @Anonymous: there is a lot I do without to "afford" the food I choose to eat. For those who are uninformed, Israeli couscous isn't more expensive than regular pasta, it's just a different shape. I have found that my use of whole grains has made my food budget much lower than it ever was when I did eat "normal" store-bought foods. Just because it is something unfamiliar, doesn't mean it is taking advantage of everyone who has ever payed taxes.

    I wish, for the benefit of many I have served in my work, that more people would have the option to have a food-supplement program. I have seen so many malnourished unhealthy people seeking the quick fix through contemporary medicine, not actually taking care of the lifestyle that might have contributed to their ill-health.

    I think we should all encourage more education about how those on limited resources can provide for the well-being of themselves and their families. Learning how to garden, making things from scratch, and just all and all being responsible and conscious about the way money is spent, can contribute to this effort. In my opinion, it doesn't whether it is their own, or through some sort of assistance, we are all responsible if there is someone who does not have the knowledge, if we never bother to share it.