This entry is probably going to push a lot of buttons, and will probably rub a lot of people the wrong way, but I am so sick of the current political trend of party separation and stereotype. There are a lot of issues that widen the divide between Democrats and Republicans, but the topic of welfare seems to be the best example of that divide. Nothing pits Democrat vs. Republican in quite the way that welfare does. Many Republicans consider the Democratic party to be composed of poor, lazy, jobless minorities who just want to exploit a system that was designed to be a hand up, not a handout. Let me assure you that though I am a registered Republican, I do not think that way.
Granted, there are tons of people (of all races/ethnicities), who abuse the system designed to ensure that Americans who find themselves in tough times do not lose everything while they try to get back on their feet. But there are far more people who receive welfare benefits who are just honest, hard-working people who have gotten a run of crappy luck and are trying their hardest to get back on track. These people aren’t all unemployed either. Many of them are simply underemployed, that is, their wages simply do not cover all the necessities. Please note I said necessities, not expenses. Not everyone who is on welfare lives beyond their means.
For example, take the story of one of my friends (story used with permission, without names). A couple of years ago, she was a single mom, living in a home for homeless single moms and their kids. She and the other residents were required by that home to apply for cash assistance, food stamps, and subsidized childcare so they could work. She did as required, and was approved for $142/mo in food stamps and $125/month in cash assistance. She was denied subsidized child care. Because every resident was required to maintain a job, she had to pay nearly $400/mo for childcare for her child while she worked. The shelter required that each resident turn over $100/mo in food stamps, and $300/mo for ‘rent’. That rent was supposed to be turned over to the resident when they left, a kind of ‘savings account’, if you will. The extra $42 of food stamps she used to pay for baby food for her child. She also didn’t have a car, and so had to pay out-of-pocket for public transportation. The most economical solution to that was a monthly pass, which cost her nearly $125 a month.
So let’s look at her monthly expenses:
Now…at the restaurant she worked at, on average, she brought in $150. She was only able to work during the weekdays, because she had no weekend or night-time childcare option. Lunch shifts during the week at a restaurant don’t earn much…not when that restaurant is in a mall. She had a friend who was able to watch her child at night here and there so she could pick up some bartending shifts at another restaurant when her finances were tighter than usual, and during those shifts, which happened maybe about once a month, she was able to nab around $75.
So let’s look at her monthly income:
Cash Assistance: $125
Food Stamps: $142
Those figures don’t even include additional expenses like clothing, or food for herself. Her job provided her with a shift meal, and ramen was cheap, so she managed. Once in a while she was able to pick up a weekend double, which would cover expenses like clothing for her and her child. And when she left the shelter? She was never given all the money she’d given them, which would have totaled, over the course of her stay, to be about $3,000, but she has told me several times that she blames herself for that, as there was never any written agreement.
As soon as she was on her feet and no longer needed the welfare, she terminated her case. She wasn’t trying to bleed the system. She wasn’t trying to get more than she deserved. She was just trying to survive and take care of her child.
Yet many, many people lump her in with the people who do abuse the system. It was never designed to fund a life of laziness. I hear and see so many ignorant things said about welfare recipients, and I find it appalling, because the loudest rabble-rousers are the people in my own political party. While I am conservative on enough issues that I am registered as a Republican, I am liberal on enough issues that I was once a registered Democrat. And I just don’t understand why there seems to be such a huge issue working together and compromising. I’ve been on both sides of the political fence, and while I do not believe in the eradication of the welfare system, I do believe it is in dire need of reform.
Also, can I just share this little tidbit of information? Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, and other governmental programs are forms of welfare as well, you know. I don’t see people who decry welfare saying “Get rid of Social Security too! Don’t those old geezers have retirement funds or 401(k)s or something? I’m not paying for Grandpa to laze around all day!!” Their reasoning is that Social Security is okay because “Grandpa worked hard and paid into it all his life”. True. But a lot of welfare recipients have worked hard and paid into it as well, and heaven forbid one of those decriers of welfare suddenly found themselves jobless, wondering how on earth they were going to survive until they found another job. But don’t deceive yourself. I’ve heard people rail against welfare and then talk about getting Social Security for one reason or another, or filling out Medicaid/Medicare paperwork. They are also forms of social welfare.
I’m not a total bleeding heart though, dear readers. It’s no secret that I receive health insurance through the state, because the Mister and I are not married, therefore I did not qualify for insurance through his employer. One time, while at the county welfare office to hand in documentation, I saw a woman there, dressed to the nines. She had six kids and all but the youngest were playing on iPads. She was on her iPhone, yapping rather loudly. Through her conversation, I found out that she was pregnant with her seventh child. She received $1200 a month from one dad in child support, an undisclosed amount from a second father. Section 8 paid for her townhouse, she drove a used BMW that was paid for by a state program. She got subsidized child care for while she went to school, tuition paid for by the state. She received $900 a month in cash assistance, over a thousand dollars in food stamps per month, and assistance with her utilities. All I was trying to do was get my insurance back so I could go back on a necessary medication, and see a doctor for some health issues that really couldn’t wait. I was fighting tooth and nail, and she pretty much got nearly $3,100 dollars in her pocket just for having a bunch of kids. She didn’t have to lift a finger. And she was going to college, but she stated to whomever she was talking to that she had no intention of getting a job once she graduated. She made me really, really angry, because it’s people like her that cast a bad light on the people like my friend who truly needed it, took what they needed while they needed it, and stopped collecting it when they no longer needed it.
So yes, I believe that the welfare system is in need of massive overhaul and reform. But don’t try to tell me that every single person on welfare is a freeloading minority, because I will show you an example of a white freeloader, and then show you examples of people, both minority and white, who work hard to get back on their feet in tough times…back on their feet and off of the system that helped them bridge the financial turbulence.
Fact is, there are many things that divide Democrats and Republicans. Gun control is another good example of that division. And we’re all just so happy to point a finger at the other party and say that it’s their fault that nothing is changing or getting better, but that’s not the way to be. Instead of trying to figure out who is to blame for the way things are, that energy should be put to compromise. Politics should be treated like a marriage…a good marriage, based on trust, honesty, and most of all, compromise. No one side is going to give total concession to the other on a disagreement, it is the responsibility and duty of the people we elect to represent us to find that median, to reach that compromise.
I’m so sick of people in both parties generalizing the members of the other party. Who I am is not defined by my politics. My friends are not defined by their political affiliations. I am Merry, a registered Republican who also has liberal viewpoints on certain things and conservative viewpoints on others. I’m so tired of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ being thrown around like they’re insults.