What’s wrong with this picture?

A news story:

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Lighter fare. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. skull kid says:

    Food stamp cards for a lady who can afford a $400 purse?

  2. Pingback: THEFT | Catholic Bandita

  3. silicasandra says:

    I think the overall point still stands, but I do feel like pointing out that just because the purse is worth $400 it doesn’t mean that’s what she paid for it. If you know where to look, you can get “the real thing” – not knockoffs – for much, much less, and without breaking any laws.

    I am more puzzled about why a person would carry so much cash and then leave it unattended.

  4. Jerry says:

    Or the purse and wallet could have been purchased while she was employed.

    I agree that it makes no sense to leave that much cash and an expensive purse and wallet unattended and in plain view.

  5. pseudomodo says:

    It’s purple! That’s whats wrong!

    But Seriously….

    Maybe she doesn’t trust banks.
    Maybe she just got paid.
    Maybe when she noticed the purse missing she didn’t notice the window smashed in!
    Maybe the purse and wallet weren’t expensive after all.
    Maybe she bought the knock-offs at a flea market.

    Could be anything!

  6. NescioQuid says:

    Ha must be a joke. Surely not for real. The incongruity and irony is too great.

  7. APX says:

    It is true that one shouldn’t judge a person by their accessories. I have a $200 Guess purse, a pair of $200 Oakleys, a $250 Michael Kors watch, and a $75 Guess wallet. The only thing I paid for was the wallet, which I got for $25 US from a Guess outlet store in Portland, OR. The rest was all given to me by family members as gifts, which even they only paid a sliver of the price for as they live in Oregon and have easy access to outlet stores and have the patience to go shopping on Black Friday.

    That being said, it is not uncommon for people on welfare to waste their money on things they don’t need and can’t afford. I remember delivering food hampers in high school at Christmas time for the poor only to walk in their home and find a big screen tv, surround sound, and the latest video games.

    I know the food bank here and in my home city have a waiting period for food hampers because students abused the system by spending their student loan cheques on alcohol, and getting free food from the food bank.

  8. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Could it be a media attempt to portray the “welfare” of the rich?
    Could it be a complete lack of proofreading skill in the media?

  9. Scarltherr says:

    It’s ironic to come here and find this post, after reading an article on Mexican Embassies helping immigrants get food stamps. It seems to me the FDA is expanding SNAP as a means of easing us into food rationing. It is entirely possible that the woman had cashed her welfare check, or gone to one of those ridiculous check cashing places for a payday advance. It is equally possible that she exaggerated the values in order to get more money from her insurance company. There is simply not enough information.

  10. Mary Jane says:

    Too many expensive accessories and cash…coupled with food stamps…sounds fishy. Then again, perhaps folks are right…maybe the accessories were gifts…but it still sounds fishy.

  11. Could it be she is exaggerating the value of the stolen goods?

  12. Supertradmum says:

    If this is true, makes me sick. If someone has friends wealthy enough for those prices of bag and wallet if they were gifts, they could be helping her buy food. I own two very small handbags-one white and one black. Total cost of two $19.00. I have one wallet costing $7. I have two pairs of shoes, one white and one black. Cannot remember cost, but inexpensive. I do not own a car as I cannot afford one, and walk or take transport. Cash I carry around would be about $5 max. or less.

    I am not on food stamps. I do not have a credit card. I have never had $800 of cash in my possession at one time. I do not even have that much in the bank in recent times. I am not on food stamps. I eat what I can afford.

  13. APX says:

    But then again, there was that episode of People’s Court with the woman on welfare who used the tax payers’ money to fund her collection of designer sunglasses she purchased as “prescriptions” so anything is possible.

  14. Tina in Ashburn says:

    The article failed to mention the damage to her Mercedes?

  15. TC says:

    Um, people, there _are_ no Food Stamps.
    Perhaps the woman’s EBT card was stolen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Benefit_Transfer

    I always wince when I see stories whose import is either “look how good the poor have it!” or “well, they’re not really poor if they own X.”
    When I was on welfare years ago (something I wouldn’t wish on anyone) I owned some nice stuff thanx to the generosity of my family at birthdays and Christmas (let’s hear it for lots of siblings!). If I had been robbed I’m sure the reaction of anyone reading the report would have been “Another bum living large on my tax dollars!”

  16. Joe Mulvihill says:

    Makes me real grateful that I only have to answer for my own actions and not those of others. (:>) Don’t need to know the details, but if the government tells me I’m qualified for “free money” – I don’t argue, just take the check. I do, however, take better care of my worldly possessions; that’s for certain.

  17. heway says:

    @ Tina…you took the words right out of my mouth, except I was going to say her Lincoln (American made)…ha, ha! This all happened as she watched Tv on her 72inch flat screen.
    This could go on and on.

  18. LisaP. says:

    These stories are always fun in a weird way (don’t think for a minute that reporter didn’t see exactly what he was writing and how he was writing it!), but I’m with TC. People like juxtaposition and paradox and they *love* to think they’ve caught a crook, an ingrate, or a hypocrite. Stories like these, however, usually seem to have missing elements that make them less dramatic and far less fun. I’d guess the cash was to pay the rent. I know lots of people who get in financial trouble who don’t have bank accounts, bank accounts make it easier to have your funds garnished, etc. And let’s take the case of a woman who lost her $200,000 Realtor position three years ago and has been working at the Seven Eleven part time ever since — she bought the purse for $400 when she was impressing clients, now she could get $30 for it on Ebay, are we really thinking she needs to sell that before applying for welfare to feed her kids? How about if she has a job interview next week that she’s saved her fancy purse and best suit for?

    Reminds me of the McDonald’s story with the coffee where everyone used it as an example of over-litigation — but the woman’s lap was burned down to the muscle and McDonald’s had been sued many times before for too hot coffee and always just paid the small change suits and kept policy the same, the punitive fine was to get them to turn down the temp.

    Or the new news going around conservative talk radio (which I listen to as a fan) — how the applications for disability are going up dramatically, and many are taking that as some indication that we’ve got a sudden uptick in Americans leaching off the system — what that number says is that there are millions of Americans who *have* been working despite pretty serious disabilities, but now the job market is in the toilet the 60 year old woman with MS is the first to get laid off and the last to get hired, so she’s finally applying for the disability that she actually qualified for and never drew years before. She doesn’t want to. She wants to work. She has been working, despite the difficulty. But now, there are no jobs.

    The shake your head stories do, I have to admit, give me a chuckle. But the real story is usually much sadder and much drearier.

  19. disco says:

    Insurance fraud?

  20. fvhale says:

    Urban legend.

  21. acardnal says:

    No sane person puts a cup of hot coffee between their legs while driving a car unless they’re a moron.

  22. Dies Irae says:

    Haha, very funny! What is so ironic is that this happens all the time. Many people read stories like these and it hard not to stereotype all people on welfare. In many, not all, but many cases, this news story is real life, for people.
    Not to sound like a mean old ogre, but if you are unable to live without ‘welfare’ money, you shouldn’t be having entertainment. I know that sounds harsh but, my family doesn’t struggle with money because they are good stewards with their possessions which God has given them, and don’t spend it wildly; my mom would be horrified to have a $400 purse (unless, like some of you say, it was bought at a discount price :) Some welfare people (relatives of mine) see all the concerts and movies in town. Heck, I don’t know the difference between Brad Paisley and Brad Pitt (don’t really care either,) ’cause my parents wouldn’t spend that kind of money that they had worked so hard for on unnecessary things like that. But when you didn’t work hard for the money you spend, well who cares what you do with it?!

  23. SKAY says:

    Of course there is always the possibility that the rest of the story might even make it worse.

    An article I just read that talks about the US – Mexican food stamp program Scartltherr also mentioned.


    Does anyone realize this country is $15 trillion in debt?

  24. Papabile says:

    SNAP – SNAP – SNAP…..

    In the 1980’s, participation in SNAP was about 1 out of every 48 people. Today it’s 1 in 7. USDA expects it to go back to 1 in 9.

    Here’s some interesting info from USDA’s perspective: http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2012-march/what%E2%80%99s-behind-the-rise-in-snap-participation.aspx

    Here’s a good CRS Report on Mandatory spending that delves into SNAP. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc85455/m1/1/high_res_d/RL33074_2012Mar23.pdf

  25. Maxiemom says:

    Does not surprise me. I was once in line at the grocery store, buying ground beef and store brand cereal, behind a woman with an expensive handbag and more gold jewelry on that I own, purchasing shrimp and lobster tail with food stamps.

  26. SKAY says:

    I’ve been there also Maxiemom. The car they drove off in was much newer and nicer than mine also.

    We all know there are American citizens who truly are in need – and that is what the program was originally for. Unfortunately there is so much abuse of this and other gov. programs that those who pay the taxes that actually support these programs become cynical- sometimes for good reason. This is especially so when the drumbeat for higher and higher taxes for more and more is constant.

  27. wmeyer says:

    When I was 4, I pulled over a vacuum type coffeepot, scalding myself. I was not “burned down to the bone”, and at age 4, I suspect was a good deal more tender even than the woman’s legs. But my point is that a) coffee cannot possibly be served hotter than 212F, and b) even the largest cup McD serves will not result in anyone’s legs being burned down to the bone. Come on, people, use your heads.

    And as to the robbery, it is not urban legend, it happened a few weeks ago in Atlanta. Yes, there could be mitigating circumstances which make it less laughable than it sounds. I would have to do some digging to see whether anyone did any real investigation. But this sort of insanity is commonplace. In California, I stood behind someone at the checkout who was paying with food stamps–the purchase included nothing that any rational person would construe as staple items.

  28. fvhale says:

    As papabile mentioned above, the real story here is the US Dept of Agriculture and the SNAP program (commonly called Food Stamps).

    When the program started in 1969, about 1 in 70 Americans receieved benefits of about $6 per month.

    In 2011, 1 in 7 Americans received beneifts of about $24 per month in constant 1969 dollars, or $135 per month in nominal 2011 dollars.

    Why are so many Americans, about 50 million, receiving federal food aid? Why has the aid incrased so much per person, even after inflation is considered?

    Is America so much poorer now than it was in 1969? Statistics on child poverty are actually pretty flat (roughtly 1 in 5 American kids lived in poverty in 1998, and the same percent in 2008), even if inexcusable.

    What is going on with Big Brother’s Food Pantry? Is it just political pork to support farmers? To hold up (ever increasing) food prices? What would happen to food prices if the USDA stopped pumping $72 billion (2011 amount) into the wallets of American grocery shoppers?

    This is a much more intersting story.

  29. Bea says:

    Laughable, if it wasn’t so pitiable for us, taxpayers.
    This has been going on for a llllloooooonnnnnggggg time
    My mother (Rest in Peace) had a friend who’s chauffeur used to drive her up to pick up her free cheese, milk and other goodies. She (my mother ) would shake her head in disbelief. This was in the 50’s. This woman, to boot, was a “social bug” around town.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    fvhale, the SNAP program does what every socialist program does on purpose-makes adults into children by making them dependent of Daddy Government. With a populace eating out of your hand. what is the chance of you getting voted out of office, or worse yet, being deposed as the tyrant you are? Under socialism, adults no longer reason out issues, but vote with their SNAP feet. The entire evil of socialism is to take the dignity out of work and make an entire populace dependent on the few.

    This has nothing to do with farmers, who, by the way, hate government interference, as I know from living in the Breadbasket of the States and watching heritage farms being sold by families who could no longer stick the system which tells them when to plant what where. Talk to any real farmer, not an industrial corporation owner of mega-farms, and you will here how socialism has ruined the family farm.

    This scenario is one reason why 150 years of Pope’s have taught against socialism-it takes the nerve, energy and guts out of the working man and woman.

  31. SKAY says:

    The problem will be when China decides to stop loaning money and demand payment — and they won’t want money just printed in Washington with nothing to back it up.

  32. LisaP. says:


    I scrolled back up to make sure, I said down to the muscle, certainly not the bone! Essentially, burned past all the layers of her skin, she had skin grafts and was hospitalized. I imagine this had a great deal to do with her biology, as a 71 year old woman and not a young boy, and with the particular circumstances of the spill. But there are some pretty awful pictures of her burns, you can google it, and I don’t think there was any dispute that the coffee caused them. She wanted $20,000 for her hospital bills and missed work days. They offered her $900. That’s when the lawyers got involved. Anyone who wants to can feel it’s “on her” for putting the coffee in her lap, or that she should just chalk it up, or whatever. But the story is not what the media portrayed it as, and what so many of us like to use as a modern fable to tell our kids to scare them about the dangers of out of control litigation. This wasn’t about a greedy idiot.

    My point was that I think many of these stories about much like that. In the end, purse lady might be defrauding the government seven ways from Sunday (insurance fraud came to my mind, too). Or you may legitimately feel that before anyone goes on food stamps for even a small time, even with children to feed, she should sell everything she has of value. But reading that blurb and making the assumption that this woman, that none of us even remotely begin to know, is wildly taking advantage of the welfare system — that’s the kind of thing Reality TV is made of, that urge to look in superficially on someone else’s life so you feel like your sins and foibles are nothing in comparison. It’s not a useful thing for a culture to indulge in, or I guess for an individual, either.

    Like I said, I’m good for a laugh at the juxtaposition. But beyond that, I’m not using this blurb as additional evidence for any point of view I might have about the welfare system in general.

  33. everett says:

    (Everett’s wife posting) When we’d been married a little over a year and I was at home with an infant, finances were tighter than tight and we were getting monthly staples at a local food pantry. While waiting in line I overheard the woman in front of me talking on her cell phone about how her kids were hogging the TV and Wii so she never got to use them. I forced myself to think charitably–maybe she had been given them or won them somewhere. That charity vanished with her next statement–“Yeah, we’re going to get another TV and Wii so I can play too.”

  34. LisaP. says:

    One personal story, we went on food stamps for six months. The IRS had hit us hard and we used it to bridge a bad time so we wouldn’t have to move our kids to wherever we could get a better job. I think it’s very fair for anyone to hold the position that we should have done everything, move if necessary, to stay off food stamps because if we had any other options at all, it was theft. We struggled with it, and even though we still qualify for food stamps we do not take them because we can survive without them, but I believe we made the right decision for our family.

    I mention it because we buy tons of Gatorade for one of my kids. She has a blood pressure problem, and has actually been told by her doctor to drink a ton of Gatorade every day. She hates the stuff, but can just barely stomach one variety which they don’t make as a powder. So as I was buying with food stamps, I was sure there were people around me wondering where I got off buying the expensive Gatorade with taxpayer money. It was a time that really helped me with my humility (much needed in me).

  35. acardnal says:

    It wasn’t McDonald’s fault; it was her fault. She put the hot coffee between her legs when driving. McDonald’s didn’t put it there. She did. Nothing from me if I was on that jury. In fact, I would have suggested that the jury watch “12 Angry Men”.

  36. wmeyer says:

    acardnal: What, you expect me to take responsibility for my actions? How unreasonable!

  37. acardnal says:

    wmeyer: Could not have said it better myself. Actually, I was going to add that to another post but changed my mind. Everyone wants to blame someone or something for their own actions. Reminds me of the old Flip Wilson line, “the devil made me do it.” The devil can’t make you DO anything! He tempts.

  38. wmeyer says:

    Lisa P.: Sorry I did not quote what you said. My error, to be sure.

    That said, the fact remains that at 71, she should have had sufficient experience with coffee and with driving to reason that putting a cup of steaming coffee between her legs was a very bad idea. Consider what would happen if she needed to make a panic stop: either she would be likely to spill the coffee, even crush the cup, or, possibly worse, she might have the presence of mind to try to protect the coffee, and so not make the panic stop.

    Consider an alternate case: your teenage daughter is out for a drive, puts a big slurpee between her legs, and suffers a mishap when she then needs to make a sudden stop. She fails doubly, spilling the slurpee, and hitting the car ahead. So when she says to you, Mom, I couldn’t help it….

    Do you accept her excuse?

  39. acardnal says:

    Or, in addition to the Flip Wilson line, this stupid McDonald’s lawsuit reminds me of the slogan, “guns don’t shoot people. People do.” Well, hot cups of coffee don’t burn people either. People do.

  40. Father Bartoloma says:

    Reminds me of the parents who beg and cry for tuition assistance for Catholic School, yet never come to Mass and then send the kids to the first day of school in September with Mickey Mouse Ears from the exciting trip the family took to Disney World over the summer…

  41. bookworm says:

    “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this freeloading welfare cheat. I fast at least twice a week because I’d rather starve than get help from the gubmint, and I pay taxes on my whole income.”


  42. acardnal says:

    Father Bartoloma: you got that right! Can’t tell you the number of people I have known who declared bankruptcy because they spent every dime they ever received not on saving for a rainy day or retirement, but spending: vacations, TVs, cable tv, satellite tv, cell phones, new cars, leased cars, subscriptions, cruises, new houses every couple of years, “keeping up with the neighbors”, “you only live once” . . . . And now they want the taxpayers to pay them for doing nothing.

  43. acardnal says:

    2 Thess. 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’”

  44. AnnAsher says:

    I’d bet she lied about the stolen property. Too bad there are no direct quotes. But just like kids who go missing from a locked house were usually lost by those who make the report, so property lost from a locked location.

  45. Dies Irae says:

    Amen, acarnal, you’ve got to be pretty stupid to put a cup of coffee between your legs. Did the thought never cross her mind that the coffee would be hot? Did she not feel that it was hot? If she had made the coffee herself would she have sued herself?

  46. Dies Irae says:

    I mean, gosh, if she was doing it for the attention, she could have just cut off her finger and put in her chili, would have been less painful.
    (and yeah, people are stupid enough to hurt themselves for attention. couple years ago, a girl a couple towns over stabbed herself in the stomach with a pencil, and told everybody her boyfriend did it. More than morons.”

  47. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I’ve been on unemployment for seven months now, and I don’t get a check. It’s deposited automatically on a debit card. If I use the card to buy in certain stores, I can get additional cash out, which I can then take to the bank. So yeah, I’ve had the “fun” experience of walking from store to bank with a hundred dollars in my wallet on multiple days, just so I can have money in a format usable for my bills. This lady may have been doing something similar, but on a bigger scale.

  48. GordonB says:

    What’s wrong with the picture? Perhaps that there’s a rush to judgment on the individual involved and a lack of concern for the story of this individual… one time affluent, now divorced when her husband abandoned her and left her with her kids… and what she has left of the life she knew was her Christmas gift of a purse and wallet… and maybe getting help on the side with cash from friends and family… or perhaps its better to just let her eat cake!

  49. Jerry says:

    wmeyer: The plaintiff in the McDonald’s coffee case, Stella Liebeck, (a) was a passenger in the vehicle, which (b) was parked at the time the coffee spilled.

    It took all of 30 seconds to look up the facts.

  50. BLB Oregon says:

    That the purse was worth a lot on paper does not mean she could have sold it for that. There may even be some of her former things sitting in a pawn shop that were the source of the cash. Maybe she is someone who got public assistance because she is bad with money, but there are an awful lot of people who had a lot two years ago or four years ago (or a lot on paper), but only have some baubles left now.

  51. NoTambourines says:

    There’s just one detail that gets me. For $200, I’d expect my wallet to have voice-print identification, shoot rainbow lasers, emit a gentle lavender scent, levitate, and play Boccherini’s Minuet.

    Otherwise, my $5 wallet is great for holding the money I didn’t spend on a wallet.

  52. Gemma says:

    My husband has been on unemployment now for 11 months and prior to that the only job he could find was in another state with half the salary he made before. He took it and slept on a church basement floor for ten months since we could not afford to move to the state he had his job in. He came home on weekends. In case you are wondering we spent our money to sent our kids to a college that did not have govt. aid. We sacrificed so our children would learn the truth. They all are strong in their faith. The lady in question could have been given that money to pay her rent. Times are extremely tough right now in America. Lose your job and find out! I don’t honestly think that many people understand what is happening in our country. Of my two college graduates, one just found a job after two years of looking and one other one is still looking looking. I could give you many stories to match this one.

  53. What’s wrong? Well, the story seems a little thin. It gives us neither the woman’s name nor address, apart from the street it’s on. And why a “residence?” Why not “house” or “apartment building?” What aren’t they telling us? A vague term like this makes me suspect this “residence” may be:

    1) Campus housing
    2) A halfway house
    3) What her order calls their convent nowadays. [j/k, I hope]

  54. jflare says:

    So this woman has begun using food stamps, but still possesses a purse valued at $400, while her wallet could be sold for $200. ..And she’d had $800 IN the wallet.

    I don’t buy it.

    Look, I’ll acknowledge that it’s vaguely possible that these items could be valued this much legitimately by virtue of being antique heirlooms. Facts I see here don’t suggest this though; antiques I’ve run across USUALLY have been set aside from routine use, that they might last longer.

    More likely would be that, as law enforcement began investigating the crime, they acquired a description of the stolen items. They’d need to know what they intended to find to solve a crime of theft. They’d need to know how critical these items really might be, based in no small part on monetary value. Police have better things to do than go looking for a purse that’s worth all of $5. If something sounded pretty valuable, they’d likely need to consult an appraiser, say a pawn broker, auctioneer, or similar authority. Otherwise, they would’ve bother listing a valuable.
    As much as we’re called to be charitable, we’re also called to be smart and savvy.

    I think it highly unlikely that a person who can afford items that’re this expensive has a tremendous need for food stamps. Quite likely a sound bit of counseling with regard to how one spends her time and money, but she doesn’t sound to me as though her straits are precisely that desperate.

    ..Unless, of course, the purse, the wallet, the money, and the money to buy said items came about from some form of illegal activity. Then we have a completely different ballgame.

    Whichever way it may be, someone needs to review her food stamp case VERY carefully.

  55. Kerry says:

    Aren’t Michelle Obama’s purses worth about $2000?

  56. Kerry says:

    On the other hand, we are inundated with the pestilential belief that things such as $400 purses can bring happiness.

  57. Why am I not surprised.

  58. LisaP. says:


    I agree.

    People are still talking as if we were living 15 years ago. We are in an economic depression. When I graduated from school there was no question of being able to find a job. Maybe not in your field, maybe not at a salary you’d like, but you could always work at Walmart until something better came along. Now a Target opens and thousands line up to apply. We’re only now starting to see part time, seasonal jobs and a few long term jobs start to open up around here, simply because business can’t wait any longer, but they’re not hiring a single person more than they think they can manage the basics with. People are still talking as if this were the eighties or nineties, as if bootstraps were all you needed to move out of mom’s house after graduation, or stay off disability and get some job even if you’ve got MS. There aren’t jobs. Corporate America is down to the bone on labor and won’t be hiring until they know what the heck is going to happen in the economy, and any small business that tries to pop up is shot in the head by government regulators. Our cultural choices and our federal government have destroyed our economy and there simply aren’t enough jobs for all the people who want to work.

  59. acardnal says:

    “there simply aren’t enough jobs for all the people who want to work.”

    STEM: Science, Technical, Engineering and Math fields are wide open but no qualified applicants. There are jobs in the high tech manufacturing field, e.g. CNC operators, and health care. Unfortunately, degrees in English, History and Psychology don’t qualify you. People need to go to Community college/tech schools instead.

  60. wmeyer says:

    Jerry: Thanks for the info. It does not change, however, the reality that responsibility lies with the person who takes such action, not with the supplier of the coffee.

  61. LisaP. says:


    No, not in my experience. I have a friend who is an experienced nurse, she gets work. But it’s not like it was. Lots of people went into nursing because they wanted to do exactly what you are recommending, go for an industry in need, and then lots of nurses didn’t retire when they planned because the stock market tanked. So there is now more of a glut of nurses, also. I agree on the broad idea that our ed system and our priorities mis-educate people for our economy, but it’s not just that. I’m glad to acknowledge that there are those general trends that have been there for decades — poor education, high “self esteem”, lots of useless degrees. Much of that is the responsibility of the worker/student, although if you watch “Waiting for Superman” it will give you an idea of my POV on that stuff, our kids aren’t just being anti-educated, they are being told they are little geniuses that can do anything they want in life even if they can’t add 2 + 2, you have to cut someone who has been given 12 years of that garbage a little slack, give them a few years on their own to sort out things. But there are other factors here, too. Many of the nurses who can’t get jobs in nursing are taking jobs in retail, folks who would have taken retail and working fast food, folks who were manual labor and other low rung jobs are out entirely. Maybe the guy with a GED should have gotten his PHD like the guy who took his lawn mowing job, but that’s not the whole story. The job base is being (in my opinion, potentially intentionally) destroyed in this country, and you can’t say it’s just about the stereotypical purse lady, or the stereotypical Phd in history kid, anymore. There are some hard working, highly qualified, long term workers out there with real skills that are chronically, and potentially terminally, un or underemployed.

  62. LisaP. says:


    Everyone needs to take responsiblity for the consequences of the choices they make, using reason.

    So, if this lady took a risk, as a passenger, of opening her coffee to put cream and sugar in while in the car. I’m sure she knew she was risking a good scald if she dropped it, if it spilled — redness, pain, ruined clothes, maybe some blisters. She weighed the risk against wanting to cool her coffee to drink it sooner, and figured it was worth it.

    What she didn’t figure on was that the coffee was kept 40 degrees hotter than other restaurants served theirs because McDonalds purposely served their coffee at an undrinkable temp (seriously — drinking it right away would result in serious burns) because it wanted the market of folks who drove though to pick up coffee to drink later. They did this without letting people know. It is reasonable to think she would not expect she was taking the risk of skin grafts and two years out of work.

    She was one of 700 people seriously burned by the coffee.

    I am really good with you still maintaining that she should have had to pay all expenses because she’s the one who lifted the lid. But she wasn’t the only one who weighed risk and benefit and made conscious choices here. If I handed someone coffee at my own home and she carelessly spilled it, and my choices about how to prepare the coffee and fill her in resulted in skin grafts and work loss, I’d certainly feel some sense of responsibility myself, wouldn’t you? If you had superheated coffee in your microwave for later, then gave someone a cup and she got seriously burned, would you just say she should have been more careful?

    I’m not saying the jury was right. What I’m saying is that the story is not as definitive and ridiculous as people want to make it to reinforce their stereotypes. It’s very much like the Zimmerman case right now, or the story where Bush I got a hard time for marveling at scanner tech in the grocery store, as if he never bought his own milk (it was actually a new system and he was remarking on that). People enjoy a good forehead slap and eye roll, and that’s fine, but we need to base our opinions on culture and public policy on something different than these fictional gotcha stories.

  63. acardnal: “Unfortunately, degrees in English, History and Psychology don’t qualify you. People need to go to Community college/tech schools instead.”

    However, a liberal arts education – which usually consists of English, History, Classics, music, etc. – teaches you to think, to analyze, to be orderly and able to learn skills quickly. Technical education is not necessarily the most vital ability. Engineers who don’t know how to create a useful set of directions or write a report on their latest project are missing something – namely the education of the free man, the education of the whole person, which the liberal arts provide.

    Is getting a job the only reason to send kids to school? In that case, yes, send them to a completely secular college so that they can commute from home, (thereby still relying on their parents and not learning to stand on their own two feet), and come out with technical skills, a probable loss of faith, and a focus on making money. I see too many of my friends with an over-wordly mindset who will choose careers based solely on what will give them the most money, not on where their God-given talents lie or where they can do the most good.
    What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?

  64. acardnal says:

    @LiteratureAddict: I agree with your comments. Just saying, if you want a job STEM is the area you need to be studying at this time.

  65. acardnal says:

    @LisaP: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

    Taken from above USG website:
    RN Job Outlook
    “Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur primarily because of technological advancements; an increased emphasis on preventative care; and the large, aging baby-boomer population who will demand more healthcare services as they live longer and more active lives.”

  66. wmeyer says:

    LisaP: Not to beat this to death, but as someone who likes good coffee, I will grant that McD does a reasonable job of delivering coffee that tastes better than dishwater. Temperature is one element in doing that. If I go to a diner and receive coffee at a temp ready to drink, I will also find that it is so weak it might be termed dirty water. Alternately, and far too commonly, it may be hot, but have been on the hotplate long enough to carmelize.

    Yes, if I served something in my home which resulted in a guest being injured, I would feel responsibility. But if they were injured because they elected to do something quite unwise (I am being very gentle in my words here) with whatever I served, and especially away from my view, where I could not advise against it, my sense of responsibility would not be great.

    If I serve a guest alcohol and allow him to drive home when I know he’s had too much, I feel responsible. However, if I give someone a a bottle of wine, and they are then so foolish as to drink it in the car on the way home, I do not feel responsible. Adults must make choices, and must bear the responsibility of those choices.

  67. acardnal says:

    @LisaP: Another example from “Crain’s”, a respected business periodical in Chicago.


    The jobs are there if you look and get schooled in the right fields.

  68. acardnal says:

    @ListP: Herewith the entire article in case the link above didn’t work correctly to “Crain’s”:

    Chicago’s most-wanted workers: techies, nurses
    By John Pletz July 19, 2012

    (Crain’s) — Computer systems analysts are the workers most in demand in Chicago, followed closely by nurses, according to an analysis of online job postings.
    There were an average of 4,067 job listings each month for computer systems analysts, according to data from online job postings in 2011compiled by the Conference Board for the Illinois Innovation Index. Nurses were second on the list at 3,772 listings, followed by web developers (3,642) and retail salespeople (3,031).
    Companies doing the most hiring last year were: Advocate Health Care, the area’s biggest hospital system, with 1,110 jobs posted each month, followed by consulting firm Deloitte LLP (901), bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. (740), staffing firm Allegis Group (664) and retailer Sears Holdings Corp. (505).
    The Illinois Innovation Index is a monthly series of economic indicators put out by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition and World Business Chicago.

    Read more: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120719/EMPLOYMENT/120719744/chicagos-most-wanted-workers-techies-nurses#ixzz21AzGcbAK
    Stay on top of Chicago business with our free daily e-newsletters

  69. irishgirl says:

    @LiteratureAddict: How right you are! I am so sick of hearing constantly about the ‘math and science, math and science’ mindset in education these days! What happens if you’re not so good in math and science? I certainly wasn’t proficient in those subjects in my schooldays! In fact, I absolutely HATED math! I couldn’t figure it out, aside from doing ordinary things like adding and subtracting! Good thing that geometry and algebra weren’t compulsory forty years ago; I’d still be in high school!
    My ‘best’ subjects were history and English, though I took business courses my last three years of high school just to keep my parents (particularly my mother) off of my back.
    Back on topic: I’m on ‘public assistance’ and food stamps myself right now (since early May), plus I live in a subsidized apartment. But I don’t have expensive purses or wallets, and carry only a small amount of cash with me. I don’t have a big screen TV-only a used analog set, given to me by our chapel organist and her husband. I either watch my own videos and DVDs, or borrow them from the library. And I sure don’t want to ‘abuse the system’.

  70. oddfisher says:

    Might as well add my two cents.
    $400 purse food stamp lady: Does anybody know the original source for this? I know there’s a desperate need to reform and rationalize the food stamp program, but I’m suspicious of “look at how good all the poor people have it” stories.

    McDonald’s coffee: Why are people so sure she was driving? How do they know the car was even moving?

  71. LisaP. says:

    O.k., wmeyer, I guess we just really hold opposite opinions! Not on the core subject — personal responsibility — but on whether it can be applied in such a way in this situation. I doubt if I’d been on the jury I’d have punitive’d McDonalds into turning down its temp, and doubt I’d give her money for pain and suffering, but I think I’d consider it fair to have them pay for her medical bills since it’s reasonable to think she expected she was risking blisters but McDonald’s knew she’d be risking much greater injury. So, I consider this a story overblown to promote a stereotype, while you consider it a real example of not taking personal responsibility for your choices.

    Why do I always wind up disagreeing with folks about coffee here? ;)

  72. LisaP. says:

    So, 4000 listings for nurses each month for Chicago, and a number of them have got to be repeats, a number not real ads (e.g. the position is filled already, but we are required to advertise, etc.), and a number are going to be cross-filled positions (I mean no new nurses hired, just a couple nurses wind up “swapping” jobs). So, fair to say 10,000 to 20,000 nursing jobs per year in Chicago.

    Here’s one quick thing I found from the AACN:

    Applications and Acceptance Rate: In the 2010-2011 academic year, 255,671 completed applications were received for entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs (a 5.6% increase from 2010) with 159,387 meeting admission criteria and 101,060 applications accepted. These data translate into an acceptance rate of 39.5%. For a graphic showing a eight-year trend in applications received, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/apps.pdf.

    So, certainly you’ve got better shot at employment with a nursing degree than with a history degree, all other things being equal. But it’s not the sure thing it used to be, even in a nation which is quickly turning into a country full of people emptying each others’ bedpans. Engineering is another good example, I know engineers and I think the field holds more potential for employment than, say, sociology! At the same time, I remember the last round of recession we went through and meeting mechanical engineers who were stunned, they’d worked the job for 25 years and now they’d been downsized. They had no place to go but Walmart greeter. The folks I know who do computers or engineering, the smart ones know they can never stop swimming. Even then there are no guarantees, but you’ve got a better chance.

    But this is a solution for some people — 10%? 30%? Most folks are not going to be top in their field in software development, and if every American suddenly qualified to do that then it would kill that security because there would be a glut. We don’t have a broad enough, diversified enough, or stable enough economic base to support a population of real workers. We’ve made up for it by taxing the real workers to support a nation of bureaucrats, but that’s unsustainable and we’re seeing it fall apart right now. I know two guys who made their career in computer tech. One does well with a home business, but he’ll never be a billionaire, and he doesn’t rest on his laurels. The other keeps hiking up his skills just behind the curve, and found himself in foreclosure after his family had premature twins and he was laid off .

    I agree that for any individual, the STEM route is good advice (I’m great with my kids going STEM and then reading Dickens and Dostoevsky at home!) for survival, but it’s no guarantee, and it’s not a prescription for our economic woes overall. Purse lady is not going to benefit from taking a student loan out to get her masters in nursing (since to compete you now need higher degrees in nursing, just being a good LPN doesn’t give you much security any more).

  73. acardnal says:

    LisaP: “Applications and Acceptance Rate: In the 2010-2011 academic year, 255,671 completed applications were received for entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs (a 5.6% increase from 2010) with 159,387 meeting admission criteria and 101,060 applications accepted. These data translate into an acceptance rate of 39.5%. For a graphic showing a eight-year trend in applications received, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/apps.pdf.”

    What that data shows and nursing schools will corroborate is that there are not enough qualified teachers in nursing school to meet the demand.

  74. LisaP. says:


    I don’t doubt that in the least — also that people are not coming out of high school qualified to enter a nursing program. But what I’m saying is that if somehow the schools could accommodate a quarter million new applicants a year, you don’t think even our hugely growing medical needs would call for that, do you?

  75. LisaP. says:

    Found a source on the prospects for nursing, looks like my opinion is not entirely out there! :)


  76. acardnal says:

    LisaP, assuming this report is accurate, it’s good to know we are in good shape with nurses for another eight yrs. Well, really four years since it takes an average of four yrs to train them for a BSN. Perhaps the researcher should contact the hospitals in Chicago. I hope you read the entire article because more nurses are needed!

    “Bigger Shortage
    “Going ahead into 2020 and beyond, there are concerns that the kind of shortages we’ve had will be larger than what we’ve seen,” Staiger said.
    “The nursing shortage is likely to re-emerge and nursing is going to continue to be a good occupation choice for young people,” Staiger said.
    “Polly Bednash, chief executive officer of the group, said she’s worried the report will lead policy makers to think they don’t need to invest in the nursing field.
    “We need to put all the support we can into keeping the pipeline robust,” she said in a March 19 telephone interview.”

    Returning to the theme, there are plenty of job vacancies right now in STEM and high-tech manufacturing. People just need to get schooled in the fields that are needed. Not yesterday’s jobs.

  77. Girgadis says:

    I’m pretty sure “food stamps” no longer exist. They’ve been replaced by the Access card so people in need can have a modicum of dignity when they shop. With that said, I’m always amazed when I read police reports in our local paper about theft from autos. People claim to have everything but the kitchen sink in the car at the time.

  78. LisaP. says:

    acardnal, I did miss that part. However, that reads to me just like the colleges not wanting this info to endanger their funding. It looks like we’re looking at an oversupply of nurses. As for STEM, I’m not in a high tech area geographically, although a nearby urban area probably has the average tech. I see a few STEM ads every week, mostly in defense. That’s all I’m seeing. I’m not sure exactly what is convincing you that there are tons of jobs out there, but people just aren’t qualified to take them.

  79. Mamma B says:

    While it is true that there are a lot of people who truly need food stamps ( I received them when I was a single mom in nursing school,) I am reminded of a story from my husband’s job at local senior/disabled services branch. He came home and told me that a client had called him in tears stating that she needed more food stamps, because she was “so poor that I had to cut back to BASIC cable!”

  80. bookworm says:

    “Is getting a job the only reason to send kids to school?”
    It shouldn’t be, but since public education can no longer really deal with philosophical and spiritual issues in a suitable manner, perhaps people who want a “classical” education for themselves or their children should get it in their spare time or at home (by checking out Great Books from the library, going to museums and concerts, etc.). At the university level, a secular school with an active and orthodox Newman Center ministry (Texas A & M, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) may provide a better Catholic education than some CINO private institutions, and at far less cost.
    You’ve probably heard it said that “all parents are working parents,” in reference to moms (and some dads) who work inside the home without pay. Likewise, I would say that all parents are homeschoolers — the difference is that some teach every subject themselves while others (the majority) delegate the teaching of certain subjects and grade levels to institutional schools. But in the end, the most important lessons are ALWAYS taught and learned at home.
    Here’s a sidenote I’d like to add concerning demand for nurses, particularly in the Chicago area: right now the Illinois Department of Public Health is considering rules that would require all nursing homes to have at least 20% of direct care to residents provided by registered nurses. Currently the rules require about that percentage of care to be given by any “licensed nurse,” meaning, either an RN or an LPN.
    Although well-intentioned, the problem with this rule (as I understand it) is that while it’s not that hard for nursing homes to meet the 20% RN requirement in the Chicago metro area, where there are lots of nurses, it may be well nigh impossible to meet in downstate and rural areas, because what RN is going to want to work in a small-town nursing home when they can obtain a better paying and more professionally rewarding (for most) job at the closest hospital? (This may also be part of the reason it’s hard to find qualified instructors for nursing schools, since many nurses with higher than bachelor degrees go into hospital administration or similar fields.) In that sense, there is still a VERY severe nursing shortage when it comes to long term care facilities in rural and small towns that need RNs. My point is that whether or not there is a glut or a shortage of nurses depends on where you are and what field you are talking about (hospitals, long term care, nursing schools, doctor’s offices, etc.)

  81. bookworm says:

    And returning to my previous comment regarding the Pharisee and the publican: bear in mind that “publicans,” or tax collectors, were despised in Christ’s time for good reason. They collaborated with the occupying Romans and literally lived off the taxpayers — they were notorious for demanding more taxes than people legally owed and pocketing the difference. In other words they were just as bad, if not worse, than food stamp/welfare cheats, aggressive public employee unions and public pension double (or triple or quadruple) dippers are today. Yet, Christ made the publican the “good guy” in this parable because he recognized his sinfulness, while the law abiding and faithfully tithe-paying Pharisee was too busy comparing himself to the publican and thinking about how much better he was. And that, I believe, is a temptation we need to avoid when reading stories like the one originally posted.

  82. LisaP. says:

    what a sad situation. Certainly if the consumers of nursing home care (patients and families) felt they needed RNs to change adult diapers more often the market would have sorted that. I worked in a nursing home, you don’t need more degrees and licenses there, you need competent skilled nursing assistant and personal care providers.

    Any shortage can be manufactured with legislation, of course, driven by advocacy groups. Reminds me of the California law that legislated that any medical function (e.g. dispensing tylenol) performed in a school had to be performed by a nurse. This put a lot of kids with chronic medical conditions in an odd place — instead of the classroom aide supervising their insulin shot like always, now a nurse needed to be there — and there weren’t nurses. So the kid stays home? Mom or dad comes in three times a day? What about the kid needing an epi-pen for an emergency, gotta call the nurse from the other school?

    When the market is not free, perversions happen in the job market and we are there in almost every area now, in spades. It will be difficult to predict what career path a young person should follow as employment becomes less and less about forces of reason, need, want, supply and demand — and more about a command economy dictating labor demand from the top down.

  83. LisaP. says:

    Mamma B,

    I’ve worked for a few folks in a situation where they can no longer do much with their hands, have no mobility, eyesight is failing, they have no visitors, they sit in their home all day watching TV. Not a happy life, but they get by. Now this person has to choose between eating and basic cable (many homes can’t get any reception at all without cable or satellite these days), meaning she can eat and stare at the wall all day or watch TV hungry.

    I’m going to try to avoid being harsh here, but the 83 year old woman on oxygen who cries because the TV going away is just the last straw, she never expected to be old and sick and alone and bored and without resources or help, and maybe she should have planned better but which of us plans so well that life can’t happen? She’s not the problem. O.k., maybe I’ll give you that she might be a smidge of the problem. But if we’re concerned that the nation is in debt, that taxpayer funds are confiscated and used unproductively and to encourage irreponsibility, that modern Americans have developed a bizarre sense of entitlement, there are a lot of bigger areas to look.

  84. bookworm says:

    “if the consumers of nursing home care (patients and families) felt they needed RNs to change adult diapers more often the market would have sorted that”

    Actually, the rationale behind the rule is not that you need an RN merely to change adult diapers. It is that if RNs, who have some diagnostic training, have regular contact with residents they will spot warning signs that a person’s condition is deteriorating and alert their doctor sooner than LPNs or aides who are trained simply to carry out tasks or orders given to them by others. For example, an RN might be able to tell that a resident was having trouble controlling his/her blood sugar when an LPN or aide might not. That is the theory, at least, along with some studies said to prove a correlation between the number of RNs on staff and the quality of a home’s care. Whether it works that way in practice is another story.

  85. LisaP. says:

    Thanks, bookworm. I know several excellent nurses, not all of whom are RNs, and have run across a few doozies, some of which were RNs. You sound like you have medical experience, I’m curious, do you buy the rationale? When I worked in residential care, what was needed was more time with residents, not more licensing. If a home can either hire 3 CNAs or 1 extra RN, I know I’d want my mom in the place with enough CNAs that they have time to take a breath and interact with the residents rather than automatically one with stressed staff on the floor and extra RNs making visits. Others would choose differently. Seems like it should be a market decision to me. The whole health care system is so distorted by monopoly and government forces and burdened by such bureaucracy it’s a wonder it functions at all, much less as well as it does, as an aside.

    Good publican explanation, btw.

  86. bookworm says:

    I don’t have any medical experience, rather, my work is in the regulatory field. No, I don’t quite buy the rationale for this rule. As you say, hiring more and better trained CNAs and LPNs would probably improve care as much or more than insisting on more RNs.

    If every job that involves direct contact with people, performing repairs or maintenance, etc. requires a license and/or a college degree (and licenses also require license fees and periodic renewal fees on top of the cost of the education) that just makes it harder for poor people to work their way out of poverty, in addition to other problems.

    suspect it’s an attempt to impose a one-size-fits-all simplistic solution on the problem of improving nursing home care.

  87. LisaP. says:

    I so agree. It also ties poor people more closely to government programs. If you don’t have your own stake to put up (money for the programs and licenses) then you have to get a patron to put one up for you, and that’s government loans and grants.

Comments are closed.