Why Is Welfare Okay?

We’ve all heard the stereotype, the octomoms of this world, milking the system taking those welfare checks, taking our hard earned tax dollars and living the high life while we all have to work for a living.

It’s a familiar tale, and one which a Republican will only be too pleased to tell.  They probably know someone, a friend of a friend, who started having kids at 17, and now they have four.  The government has given her a house, and a car, and pays her electric bill, and she shops at the best stores, and is thinking of having another kid to make even more money from the unsuspecting government.  And guess who is paying for all this?  Hard working folks like you and me.  It’s just not right I tells ya.

The thing is though, my liberal friends, we have to stop accepting this anecdotal crap about the millionaire welfare queens, and come to terms with the fact that actually welfare is okay.

The reality, for most people on welfare, is that life is extremely hard.  It means living in a poor neighborhood, going without, buying the cheap food with food stamps, boredom, discrimination, depression, and often poor health.  It isn’t some free ride, it isn’t easy street, it just plain sucks.

Republicans you meet will be quick to disagree, and trot out even more examples to prove their point.  Then they may tell us how we need to force these people to get off their collective lazy asses and get a job.  We’ve all heard the stories I’m sure.

Here’s the thing though.  First of all, when someone gets pregnant young, drops out of school and becomes a so called welfare queen, it isn’t necessarily their fault.  Perhaps had they received better sex education, that didn’t include all that abstinence nonsense the Bush administration was forcing on our kids, she might never have become pregnant in the first place.  Maybe if she had not become pregnant, she might have finished school.  Maybe if college education was more easily available to the poor of America, she might have gone to college, and found a successful career and paid her taxes.

You see, people are often on welfare in the first place because society created that path for them.  Lack of access to proper sex education, poor quality education, no access to higher education, disinterested parents, poverty, poor health care, and other issues that can affect the transition from child to adult.

And the thing is, even if we fixed what is broken in our society and the way we raise our children, there would still be people on welfare, and that’s still okay.

They say that in a typical company 20% of the work force will generate 80% of the revenue of the company (Paretos Principle).  And similarly in society as a whole, there will be people who are stupid, unfortunate, lazy, unlucky, careless, or otherwise destined to spend much of their life living on the charity of others.

As liberals we need to get over the ‘hard work’ culture of America a little bit, and just realize that no matter what you do as a society welfare recipients will always exist.  Now sure, you can slash the social programs and make it harder to get welfare, but then you simply push people into poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, crime, and create a whole new level of social programs that affect the whole of society.

And this is why welfare is important.  It is a safety net that protects vulnerable people from living rough on the streets and dying in the gutter when they get sick.  Unless you want to live in a third world country where homeless children run up to your car when you park begging for money, we need welfare programs.  In fact in my opinion, we need more of them.

Despite what many Republicans would have you believe it is a fact that America has been giving less welfare dollars to welfare recipients year on year since the late 70s.

All this said, it is true that welfare spending is pretty expensive.  It’s the one thing we spend on that rivals our stupidly large military budget.  And when we hear stories on the news about our deficit and our debt, it is easy for Republicans to argue that we would be better off slashing social programs and hoping that charities will step in to take their place.  But this is just a Republican fantasy, much like trickle down economics.  When you cut social programs and welfare, real people are affected, real people are made homeless, real people are pushed into poverty; a trap from which they may never escape.

As a liberal it is important to care about people.  It is important to be concerned that the poorest and most vulnerable in our society are taken care of.  And it is right that much of our tax dollars are used to ensure that there is a safety net for those in need.

I believe that we also need to look at the causes of welfare dependence, and rather than using Republican strategies of forcing welfare recipients to become the working poor, we need to address in a real way what put these people in this position in the first place.

Often it all starts with a poor education system.  This can be exacerbated by the problems of teen pregnancy.  Finally, a lack of affordable health care and higher education, can seal the fate of the next generation of welfare recipients.

As is common for Republican thinking, the initial reaction is to look at the problem in simple black and white, without really looking at the gray areas or bigger picture.  We’re spending too much on welfare, so cut back on it, seems to be the typical attitude.  But the right solution, at least in my opinion, is to try and address issues of poverty, and take the steps necessary to equip our citizens for a future of employment and prosperity.  And in the meantime, we need to stop looking down our collective noses at those on welfare, and see them as people that we as a society have failed, not some greedy lazy moron that needs to work harder.