A sign in a market window advertises the acceptance of food stamps in 2010 in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Regarding the Nov. 30 front-page article “For poor in Wis., a painful new model for food stamp aid”:

While “offer a hand up, not a handout” is a persistent undercurrent in American thinking, we, as citizens, are now being asked to support draconian regimes for food, health care and other assistance to the needy. Capitalism may be the best system we have found to serve the greater good, but there always are those who fall by the wayside — sometimes because of their own bad decisions, but often not.

Part of the United States’ greatness is our generosity of spirit; a rich nation should be able to find a way to help without hurting. The current approach to work requirements is simply mean-spirited, with only a surface painting of acting in the best interests of our most desperate citizens — as though the economic and political elite and their apologists ever could possibly understand the true nature of poverty and despair. The United States can do better.

Michael C. Heffner, Gaithersburg