Mak, 31, grew up in Westchester, graduated from the University of Chicago and toiled in publishing in New York during his 20s before moving to Baltimore last year with a meager part-time blogging job and prospects for little else. About half of his friends in Baltimore have been getting food stamps since the economy toppled, so he decided to give it a try; to his delight, he qualified for $200 a month.

This Salon piece about well-educated 20- and 30-somethings buying organic and artisan food from their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotment has been making the rounds; One Story Up’s Megan Cottrell has more over at It’s been causing consternation in the usual circles, and while it’s raised some compelling questions about why the cheap, shitty food that the poor are apparently supposed to confine themselves to is actually cheap (here’s a hint), I’d been looking for something brief and resonant to squeeze the matter into a ball, as it were. And fortunately, Reason came through.

One of the very angry commenters on their aggro-libertarian blog mentions how when his daddy was the same age as the U of C grad above (“this pathetic fuck is 31 years old”), he was working the land like a good solid American midwesterner. 640 acres, which is a lot. I was curious where it came from.

Turns out, according to the commenter, the farm was built up over the generations, going back to the 1870s, when… wait for it… it came from one of the federal government’s biggest welfare-to-work programs in history, the Homestead Act.

My book larnin’ isn’t worth much on the free market, but it does sometimes provide a rich sense of historical irony.