Statement: Many Americans dislike the concept of welfare.
Is this an exaggeration? I think not. There are a few myths perpetuated by conservative critics of welfare that I have taken the opportunity to debunk, below:
1) Welfare recipients are slackers, have no work ethic, and would rather skate by on welfare than join the workforce.
This just isn't true. Most recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) cash benefits and food stamps are children and therefore not expected to work. Unemployed adult welfare recipients face numerous barriers that prohibit them from entering the workforce: Poor health (lack of money means substandard health insurance... Additionally, fast food restaurants are, by far, the most convenient and cheapest, and a contributor to America's obesity epidemic. McDonald's dollar menu, anyone?), job scarcity, lack of transportation, lack of education (which, studies show, is the greatest predictor of family income), or the desire to stay home with their children, which stems from an inability to pay for child care or distrust (and rightfully so, in many instances) in the quality of child care providers (USDA 2004).
In the 1980s the Reagan Administration attacked welfare, spouting the old party line: Americans, specifically the lower class, need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Reagan loved to share the story of the happy welfare mom who cruised around in a Cadillac, using the government's generosity to her own selfish ends. This hypothetical freeloader, the "Chicago Welfare Queen," was never found.
2) Welfare mothers have large families and many children.
"On average, mothers receiving welfare checks have no more children than mothers in the general population. In 2003 the average number of individuals in TANF families was 2.5, including an average of 1.9 children (Office of Family Assistance 2004)". The average size of household receiving food stamps in 2003 was 2.3.
There are two types of welfare: one that benefits the individual and one that benefits the corporation. You don't hear many complaints from the GOP over the latter; "wealthfare." Corporations receive better financial assistance from the federal government than do its citizens in the underclass. In 1992 welfare for the poor (AFDC and Food Stamps) totaled $50 billion, but welfare for corporations (consisting of pork-barrel projects, business subsidies and tax breaks) was estimated between $86 billion and $800 billion.
In order to understand, and truly appreciate, the blessings of Capitalism, one must understand its failings. It is simply too easy for those in power, who are typically of the upper class (because, let's be frank, those with money succeed in politics), to ignore the layman's affliction. It is in the best interest of the US to support stability, economic and social. The Convergence Hypothesis is a possible answer to this social problem. Granted, this model has its failings, much like Capitalism and Socialism have theirs. We should strike a balance, one that promotes competition yet manages to provide a comfortable work atmosphere and treats the worker with dignity.
If we do not want to provide "hand-outs," I suggest the Federal Government invest in its educational system, an approach other than "No Child Left Behind". The better educated an individual the higher his/her income. The government would do well to subsidize more junior colleges.
While many a tax payer may be unhappy funding state schools, they need only take a look at the US justice system to see a complete waste of their money. Keeping a man imprisoned day in and day out cost a absurd amount of money, not to mention they have their own federally funded health care system in prison. Even more significant, the cost of executing a prisoner is many times that amount (legal fees, etc).
At the moment 1 in 100 Americans are behind bars. This is a disturbing fact when, according to themorningcall.com, in an article titled "Getting smart on crime saves taxpayers money,":
"A prison cell costs about $65,000 to build and $24,000 a year to operate. States spend nearly $50 billion a year on corrections, more than four times the amount from 20 years ago, and they are projected to spend an additional $25 billion over the next five years to accommodate more inmates."
To save the tax payer's money, first we must reject capitol punishment, and second we must decriminalize marijuana use and grant pardons to those convicted under the three strike law (freeing up a considerable amount of prison space). Rather than imprisoning users, we should focus on criminals with hard drugs instead (see "Marijuana Globalization," a study published by Northwestern University: http://docket.medill.northwestern.edu/archives/000045.php). The money saved should then be invested in our educational system. Once it becomes easier for the lower class to attend school and acquire a degree, their cultural capitol will increase and more opportunities will be afforded to the individual (allowing them to take part, successfully, in our Capitalist economy).
Second, I propose we invest in educating those in prison. Statistics show that prisoners (who typically have little to no formal education prior to conviction), who receive a high school education while imprisoned are half as likely to commit a repeat offense and end up back in prison. Those that receive a college education while in prison are half as likely to end back up in prison as those who receive a high school education. In the long run this will save the tax payer's money. Education is the key.
I mentioned, previously, two of many myths concerning welfare. I would like to now rebut another myth:
1) The New Deal and the Feminist movement are the root cause of the current breakdown in the American family structure.
Right off the bat, I would absolutely love to see some sort of evidence that supports this statement. I have seen none. The truth is poverty is more prevalent today among female-headed single-parent households than among other types of family structures. Let me break this down for those who don't quite understand the situation: Young women have sex with young men (perhaps because of abstinence only programs; programs that, according to statistics, are nowhere near as effective as those that promote safe-sex), the women become pregnant, the father hasn't the education or the cultural capital to effectively support the family, so he runs away like the uneducated, irresponsible delinquent he is. Rather than use the Feminists or The New Deal as a scapegoat, let's address the real issue: lack of opportunity for the lower class; opportunity that welfare and government subsidized social programs aim to give.
Or as James Carville puts it in his book "We're Right, They're Wrong:"
"After exhaustive study, we have finally found the answer that has eluded so many people: Illegitimacy is the result of unprotected copulation between post-pubescent males and females who are not married to each other. Does the heavy hand of government, you ask, have a role in this? Not much, if any. If you have read any of the research, its impossible to argue that welfare is a significant cause of the rise in single-parents families. Let's use our own common sense:
1) Since 1972, the value of the average monthly Aid to Families with Dependent Children has withered away by 40 percent. If you throw in food stamps, too, the benefit has fallen 26 percent. But the ratio of out-of-wedlock births has risen in the same period by 140 percent. If welfare caused women to have kids out of wedlock, wouldn't you expect out-of-wedlock births to fall as the welfare benefits shrank?
2) States that lower welfare benefits usually have more out-of-wedlock births than states with higher benefits. If welfare caused out-of-wedlock births, wouldn't you expect the reverse?
3) The teen out-of-wedlock birth rate in the United States is off the charts compared with the rate in countries where welfare benefits are downright generous. If welfare caused out-of-wedlock births, wouldn't you expect countries offering higher benefits to have higher rates of out-of-wedlock births?"
The ideological left and the ideological right do little to help the social problem at hand: poverty. Our economy and society, specifically its survival, is built on trade-offs; marginal cost/marginal benefits analyses. Not everyone can be happy 100% of the time, and sure, not everyone can be helped. That said, let's not hide behind a destructive myth.
The Right is wrong on many counts, welfare being one of them.
Statement: Many Americans dislike the concept of welfare.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment