An article in the 10-11 December, 2016 Wall Street Journal focused on “staple” products in the food stamp program. The first sentence says it all,” In a rare tuneup to the $74 billion federal food stamp program, U.S. regulators deemed potato chips and ice cream too unhealthy to count as staple foods.”

Well, is comment really necessary? And where do I begin? It is hard just to get past the fact that food stamps is a 74 billion dollar program in and of itself. That is just mind boggling, especially in our affluent, first-world, expanding economy where there is so much job growth, construction, and low unemployment. Next, the fact the potato chips and ice cream were ever considered staple products is… just embarrassing.

Two more references to the article are necessary.  The first is that “more than 45 million people received funds from the program last year.” The current population of the U.S. is about 318 million people. That means that about 14% of our country receives assistance from the food stamp program alone.

Wikipedia lists 79 “means tested” programs for which 2.3 trillion dollars were spent in 2011. These programs include social security, housing, food, training, childcare, and medical programs among others. The 2011 figures do not include the so-called Affordable Care Act. The 2011 figure amounts to a cost for each American of about 7,192 dollars per year. That is just the cost of welfare programs. Is it any wonder our national debt is so high?

Last point of reference from the article is that not only were potato chips and ice cream removed from their former status by the USDA, but “Twinkies can no longer be considered bread and pork rinds aren’t considered a staple meat.”

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There was a time when children had economic value. If viewed from a purely economic perspective, from the cost/benefit perspective, that is certainly not the case today. At least not for most people- there are of course welfare recipients whose business it is to procreate. The more children, the more money comes in the form of welfare entitlements. But that is not my direction here, deconstructing the welfare system, or the state of humanity.

If prospective parents sat down and discussed the potential economic benefits and economic burdens attached to procreation before having children, I think many would opt out of the process. If a spreadsheet was used, or a budget was prepared, or a “business plan” was written, if due diligence was done, the economic burden would surpass the benefits, not to mention the income, of many Americans. Okay, some people do plan well enough for their children. And some, I am sure, do opt out of the process for economic, as well as other reasons- I actually know a number of people who have. Unfortunately many of these people are the kind of parents kids need- logical, caring, practical, and educated. Still, too often logic is overridden by emotion and animal instinct, not to mention marketing.

Throughout history parents have had flocks of children purely as an economic endeavor- the more children you had, the more that were likely to survive and thus help provide for the family. It was about cost/benefits. And it was human instinct- animal instinct, at work. There were 40,000 years of human evolution behind the process, not to mention millions upon millions of years of pre-modern human instinct to back it up. Yes, it is true- humans are not different than so many animals- having large litters of offspring is an adaptive response intended to enhance the perpetuation  of a species. Of course with most animals there are checks and balances in the form of population pressures- the physical environment, availability of food, climate, and disease to name a few. These limit the number of animals in the species, the viability of offspring, and in all cases on a long enough timeline, the species itself. It is, or was, a self-correcting system.

This premise can be applied to other systems at work in our society as well- say religion. Various religions tell people to “be fruitful” and so forth. The idea here is the same animal instinct institutionalised. The more offspring members have, the more power that religion will eventually have.

Following these ides then, natural selection has been undermined by technology and marketing, religion, and our world today, by entitlements. What was once a necessity has now become about economics, which translates into power. The continuation of a vicious cycle is at play here, still institutionalised. But instead of a church, or a militaristic state, or the needs of an extended family promoting procreation and perpetuation of the lineage, now it is about the perpetuation of our economic system. The more mouths to feed, the more iPhones will eventually be sold. The more babies there are, the more consumers in the future. The more humans, the more money can be made by the few who make most of it. It is neo-feudalism, where the general population, the vassals, are paid a pittance, but kept happy through beer, drugs, and television. And unfortunately the more the population grows, the more limited the resources become.The more we “need”, the shorter our timeline becomes.

What was once adaptive, a response that insured our survival as a species, has now become detrimental to our very survival.

We live in America, on the planet Earth. This is not the planet Vulcan. The needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few.