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A musician tackles the shame associated with food stamps in an epic rant.

Mikel Jollett used to be on food stamps, and he's not ashamed.

A musician tackles the shame associated with food stamps in an epic rant.

When White House budget director Mick Mulvaney defended cutting the food stamp program, musician Mike Jollett couldn't stay silent.

Food stamps, part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are in the news with the unveiling of President Donald Trump's latest budget proposal, which would cut $193 billion from the program over the next decade.

Critics of the SNAP program, like Mulvaney, think cutting social safety nets will motivate the people who rely on them to find work. The truth, however, is that many people who receive SNAP benefits do work — a fact Jollett knows all too well.


Growing up, Jollett's family relied on food stamps to live, and in this epic Twitter thread, he shares a personal anecdote to show how they helped him find success later in life:

He continues:

"If we’d not had food stamps, we wouldn’t have been able to afford a place to live. This would have made matters worse.

It would’ve exposed us to higher risk of crime, a vicious cycle of shelters or who knows what else. Instead, we got some help for a while.

My mom eventually bought a house. Instead of being homeless, I graduated from high school with a 4.3 GPA, went to Stanford & graduated w honors."



These days, Jollett sings with his band, The Airborne Toxic Event, and would personally benefit from Trump's policies that favor the wealthy — but he doesn't want that.

"I’m a person now who would benefit from this stupid Trump tax cut. But I don’t want it," he tweeted. "I want the kid that was me 30 years ago to have it. So he can do his thing, succeed and contribute something great to our society."

Jollett at a 2014 show in Las Vegas. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

"So yeah, people don't need a second sports car. But kids do need food. That's just common sense and common decency," he tweeted, before wrapping up the thread with a cutting concluding thought:

"Trump's tax cut plan is not only cruel, it's [INEFFECTIVE], it makes us a less equal and therefore a less PRODUCTIVE society."

Jollett hopes his tweets help clear the air around the myths and outright falsehoods when it comes to things like food stamps and health care.

"It gets intellectualized as Right vs. Left or something instead of, 'Hey this program feeds kids. That is good,'" he says. "I think it’s weird that the debate has this shaming aspect to it. Like poverty is a sin instead of a circumstance."

Jollett at the 2014 Firefly Music Festival. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Firefly Music Festival.

Public opinion about food stamps and welfare is too often shaped by caricatures rather than the facts behind them. Nearly 44 million Americans rely on food stamps each year. A January Department of Agriculture report found that the program had a rate of fraud of just 1.5%, and the truth is that most recipients of social welfare programs spend less than three years on assistance before getting back on their feet.

Misconceptions and stigma should not affect public policy, and that's why it's so great to hear people like Jollett (and so many of the people who replied to his tweets) speaking up.

By offering his own story and a bit of personal vulnerability, Jollet says he hopes to push back on what he sees as a "failure of empathy" that shapes bad politics. "It’s easy to reduce people to caricatures, to create an idea of people and dismiss their struggle. It’s a lot harder to dismiss a human being with a story."

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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