Milk money blues


Last week a young woman of my acquaintance-let's call her "Amanda"-posted a Facebook status about picking up her free birth control at the local pharmacy:

"Thanks President Obama!"

I've known Amanda for a long time. She was raised by Christian parents, was homeschooled until her early teens, graduated from a conservative college, and is now the happy mom of a little boy who's almost a year old. Both she and her long-term boyfriend work at jobs that pay well enough. I don't know what kind of birth control she's using (but Obama knows!), but I'm pretty sure she could pay for it. We all set priorities and make choices-except when a high-profile executive-department decision signals that money an individual sets aside for one need can go to something else.

This young woman isn't stupid. She knows that her birth control wasn't really "free" and that somebody else paid for it. What makes my heart sink is that she's fine with that. Then I remembered that at her age I was fine with accepting vouchers for milk and cheese from the WIC (Women Infants and Children) program. Relatives told me about it: "It really helps," they said. We "qualified"-at many times in our lives we would have qualified for food stamps, too, but we drew the line at the feds buying our groceries.

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Accepting milk money didn't seem too bad, especially since the cash we would have spent went to stimulate the economy somewhere else, like buying Happy Meals at McDonald's. Still, I see now, that was one little choice we allowed the government to make for us. They decided our children needed milk, cheese, juice, and certain approved cereals. We let them make that decision, and provide those commodities, and take away just a little of our responsibility for our own family.

It may not be a straight shot from WIC to federally funded (even mandated) birth control, but it's definitely a meandering path. It's a tangle of overlapping federal agencies determining, in its chaotic brain, what people need. Not just for emergency situations, but for years of choice-suspension and responsibility-easement. We never used to see citizens living their whole lives on the dole. Now we do.

What's worse, we see college-educated people like Amanda, who should be moving into the middle class with a husband and a mortgage, not only leaning on President Obama but also thanking him for taking another decision off her hands. It's disheartening. But then, I let the government buy my milk for a few years. If we allow faceless agencies to feed our families, it's no surprise they'll offer to limit our families. It is only a few small steps from the kitchen to the bedroom.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.


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