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Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Welfare Reality Check

I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the response I receive to my last blog post about "My Life on the Dole".  It's funny to me how many people rant and scream against Universal Health Care in this country, but you know if we had it, 90% of the time I spent on Public Assistance, would have been unnecessary.  And I think that is probably true for a great number of people who do now, or have in the past received some sort of assistance from the Government.  I know its true of most of the people I know personally.

But I had an ulterior motive for my public revelation of my history, I want to talk about some of the ridiculous misconceptions and falsehoods and the realities of Public Assistance in the U.S. of A.  Now, my experiences have mostly been with Washington State, and Idaho State, and as I mentioned, the Social Security Department.  I know that every state is allowed to set its own rules and standards for qualifications, and I think Washington's are probably among the most liberal, but I don't know that for certain.  I do not claim to be an expert on anything here, especially not "the system", but I do have a little experience, and I have a few critical thinking skills that not everyone seems to be using these days, so I thought I would offer up some of both for your contemplation.

I have to address is this ridiculous idea of drug testing for welfare recipients.  What a complete and total waste of money, besides being an entirely asininely insane idea on its own.  Okay, so why is that stupid Mother, it sounds like a good idea to a lot of people, why are they so wrong?  Simple, they haven't really thought it out to its ultimate conclusion..

No matter what people want to believe, people who are on welfare are not there because they want to be.   They are there because they have no better alternative.  No one wants to endure the constant hassle and humiliation of dealing with "the system" if they have any other alternative.  Okay, yes, maybe there are a few con artists out there who just scam the system for the fun of it, but they are Extremely Rare, the pay off is just not great enough to bother with.  Even those who "make a lifestyle" out of it, only do so because there is no better option for them.

It might also interest you to know that the vast majority of people receiving some sort of "benefits" from "the system" are working at a "real" job.  President Clinton fixed that when he was in office, there is a work requirement for pretty much all able-bodied people receiving benefits.  The problem is, no body fixed the minimum wage to keep it current with the real cost of living.   I know dozens of people who work for Walmart and still qualify for food stamps. My neighbor worked for them for 15 years, working the maximum number of hours they would let her have, and still qualified for food stamps.  Some people just don't make enough money to survive.  For those who don't work, like my ex-husband for example, most of them can't, for whatever reason.  

So what happens if you drug test these people and they fail?  You are just going to quit giving them benefits right?  Okay, that's fine.  Now how do you think they are going to get enough money to survive?  They can't do it by working.  Do you think they are just gonna crawl off into the woods and die?  I seriously doubt it.  I'll tell you what they are going to do, they are going to do whatever it takes to survives.  And if that means stealing from you, or anybody else they happen upon, then that is exactly what they are going to do.  They have no other choice! You think crime rates are bad now, you ain't seen nothing yet!  So great, now we don't spend $10,000 or 15,000 a year giving them benefits, we spend $40,000 - 50,000 a year locking them up in prison. Not to mention needing more Police Officers on the streets to protect the public, and they aren't free. And if those people you locked up have kids?  Well, we will just spend even more money shuffling them around the foster care system for a few years.  I fail to see the fiscal responsibility in this equation.  Can anyone tell me what I am missing?

But, but, but, ... what if they are using their government money to buy drugs?  That's just terrible!  Actually its not, and I will tell you why.  First off, the last time I checked, a family of 5 received less than $700 a month in cash.  That was a few years ago, but it seldom goes up very fast, so its probably still a pretty good number.  Now if you can pay: rent on a place to live, plus an electric bill, plus at least a home phone bill, plus any other bills (like water, sewer, garbage, etc.) plus pay for car insurance and gas for a car, and don't forget all the stuff like toilet paper and diapers that cannot be bought with food stamps, and still have money left over for drugs, you should get a fucking medal not a prison sentence.  That is some damn creative budgeting if you can pull it off!  Shit, they should give those people a job in the budget office at the government!  Talk about stretching a penny!

But seriously, I don't know about the rest of you, but I for one would much rather someone who needs the help, gets the help, no matter WHY they need it, than end up with the problems that are guaranteed to arise if they don't get the help.  Once upon a time we did not have those social programs in this country, there was no safety net for the poor.  And what was the result?  People dying in the streets of starvation and deprivation.  Children begging, and stealing to survive.  Old people homeless and hopeless.  I think we have enough of that already without cutting the few social programs that do help those that need it.  We are already #1 in the world at putting our own citizens in jail  - do we really want to add more?  If we invested even a small fraction of the money we spend on the military and prison industrial complexes in this country into Free Quality Education and Universal Health Care maybe we could be Number One at something good again for a change.


  1. While my experience with people on public assistance has clearly been very different from yours (I lived in WV where a student of mine was heard to say that if he couldn't get a job at 50k out of college he'd opt for welfare as it wouldn't be worth his time working--and yes, a majority of his family was on welfare...and don't get me started on my neighbors who were VERY NICE people, really.)

    Having said that, I do believe that many people would prefer to work. I also agree that drug testing is ridiculous. Better than drug testing, make MJ legal, get more tax money, help farmers in poor states like WV be able to grow and sell their crop legally and get people into a position where they don't have to be beholden to the government.

    AND children don't choose to be poor, need food, or other basic needs. Every society should care for its children, elderly, and handicapped.

  2. As a person who is,as a last resort on assistance.I would much prefer to b working any job.But oddly,jobs seem to b in short supply. My teenage son is looking for work. But where r the jobs?that's what I want to know.