The war on mountain pride

The war on mountain pride

July 11th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, government officials are on the hunt. Unlike most government agents who've taken to these hills, however, they aren't searching for moonshine stills. They are tracking down folks who refuse to accept food stamps.

President Obama has made the expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- that's the fancy schmancy name for the food stamp bureaucracy -- a key component of his presidency.

For a change, Obama has largely succeeded in something he set out to do. In 2008, when Obama was elected, 28 million Americans received food stamps. Today, 46.4 million people are on food stamps -- almost one in six Americans. That expansion comes with a hefty price tag to taxpayers. Food stamps are expected to cost upwards of $80 billion this year.

Surprisingly, this isn't good enough for the Obama administration. In an effort to make even more Americans reliant on government handouts, local social workers are being offered rewards to encourage them to sign up additional new food stamp recipients. The Department of Agriculture, which manages the food stamp program, is also spending up to $3 million in radio ads aimed at enrolling more Hispanics and working poor on food stamps, according to a recent CNN Money report.

While researching the efforts by the administration to expand food stamp participation, Caroline May of the Daily Caller unearthed one particular point of frustration for food stamp officials: "mountain pride."

Mountain pride prevents many Appalachian residents from accepting food stamps even though they're eligible, according to the Ashe County North Carolina Department of Social Services. As a result, social workers in the rural Appalachian county, which borders Tennessee and Virginia, are developing strategies and offering rewards for defeating mountain pride. Apparently, as they see it, they need to get more silly hillbillies to take their government handouts like other Americans

Appalachian culture, above all else, is defined by self-reliance. Where cities had specialists -- carpenters, blacksmiths, tanners and bakers, for example -- isolation created by the difficult terrain meant Appalachian settlers and generations of their descendants were forced to be jacks of all trades. Every person was his own butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

If hard times hit or tragedy struck, these tough souls didn't rely on the government for assistance. They simply persevered, maybe with a helping hand from their church or their closest neighbors, who were often miles away.

While there might be fewer outhouses and more satellite dishes in hollows of rural Appalachia today than in times past, that independent spirit and self-reliance persists. As a result, some people would sooner go to bed hungry than accept a government handout. That is the essence of mountain pride.

The Obama administration's frustration with mountain pride only further indicates that the true goal in expanding the food stamp program isn't just about helping Americans. It's also an effort to give away as many government handouts as possible in the hopes that recipients of the handouts will vote for Obama.

Hopefully, the administration and its local foot soldiers will end its war against mountain pride before it is all gone. After all, if mountain pride consists of working harder instead of looking for a handout, reaching for a neighbor or a charity instead of government in a time of true need and not taking things than aren't earned, America could use a lot more mountain pride.