If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, as the old saying goes, is a liberal a conservative who's heard his kids' stomachs rumble?

Across the small towns and rolling farmland outside Cincinnati, old disdain for [food stamps] has collided with new needs. Warren County, the second-richest in Ohio, is so averse to government aid that it turned down a federal stimulus grant. But the market for its high-end suburban homes has sagged, people who build them are idle and food stamp use has doubled.

Next door, in Clinton County, the blow has been worse. DHL, the international package carrier, has closed most of its giant airfield, costing the county its biggest employer and about 7,500 jobs. The county unemployment rate nearly tripled, to more than 14 percent.

“We’re seeing people getting food stamps who never thought they’d get them,” said Tina Osso, the director of the Shared Harvest Food Bank in Fairfield, which runs an outreach program in five area counties.

This is from a recent New York Times report, "Food Stamp Usage Soars, Stigma Fades." According to a the paper's interactive map, use of food stamps in Cuyahoga County is up 25 percent since 2007, 36 percent in Lorain County, and 63 percent in Geauga and 75 percent in Medina.

So either "welfare queen" sleeper cells have been activated all over the country, or lots of middle-class white people are turning to the government for assistance during the Great Recession.

Still, prejudices die hard, and hating on the have-nots is deeply ingrained in the conservative psyche:

So far, few elected officials have objected to the program’s growth. Almost 90 percent of beneficiaries nationwide live below the poverty line (about $22,000 a year for a family of four). But a minor tempest hit Ohio’s Warren County after a woman drove to the food stamp office in a Mercedes-Benz and word spread that she owned a $300,000 home loan-free. Since Ohio ignores the value of houses and cars, she qualified.

“I’m a hard-core conservative Republican guy — I found that appalling,” said Dave Young, a member of the county board of commissioners, which briefly threatened to withdraw from the federal program.

“As soon as people figure out they can vote representatives in to give them benefits, that’s the end of democracy,” Mr. Young said. “More and more people will be taking, and fewer will be producing.”

Frank Lewis

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