Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The welfare system

Our present system of public welfare is designed to save money instead of people, and tragically ends up doing neither. This system has two critical deficiencies:

First, it excludes large numbers of persons who are in great need, and who, if provided a decent level of support, might be able to become more productive and self-sufficient. No fed­eral funds are available for millions of men and women who are needy but neither aged, handicapped nor the parents of minor children.

Second, for those included, the system provides assistance well below the minimum necessary for a decent level of ex­istence, and imposes restrictions that encourage continued de­pendency on welfare and undermine self-respect.

A welter of statutory requirements and administrative prac­tices and regulations operate to remind recipients that they are considered untrustworthy, promiscuous and lazy. Resi­dence requirements prevent assistance to people in need who are newly arrived in the state. Regular searches of recipients' homes violate privacy. Inadequate social services compound the problems.

A few years ago I was doing volunteer work with kids and single moms trying to get being kicked off of welfare. The above words describe pretty darn accurately the roadblocks that were constantly being thrown up as these moms and kids tried desperately to survive in a world where those of privilege take this as a license to ignore, or even perpetuate, poverty --- other peoples poverty, of course.

Those words that I quoted above were written in 1967.


Steve Bates said...

Back when we were both in college, one of my best friends from high school, a conservative Christian and a political conservative, quoted Matthew 26:11 at me ("The poor you will always have with you..."), completely twisting the clear meaning in any version I know, to insist that any antipoverty programs the government undertakes in the U.S. are doomed to failure. The look in his eye as he quoted was uncharacteristically hard; apart from his religion and politics, he is a reasonably kindly person. Perhaps participation in that kind of politics distorts one's insides. It certainly distorted his interpretation of that passage.

I have come to a point at which I am intolerant of Bible-quoters in the public arena. They almost always have an agenda other than my or their own salvation. Sometimes, I just put up a hand and say, as quietly as I can manage, "Enough."

hipparchia said...

i'm kind of rude to the ones who actively try to save my soul, but i do sometimes get a kick out of quoting their own scriptures back at them in justification of my political positions.