What do you imagine when you hear the word "welfare"? Most of us think of a minority living in a filthy house with five kids running around while an alcoholic dad sleeps it off face down on the couch ... if there's even a dad at all. I talked in another article about the things politicians will never understand about poor people, but it's not just Washington elites who treat the poor like an alien species. Hell, I find myself thinking in "welfare queen" stereotypes, and I grew up among them.
The problem is that everyone -- from the news media to well-meaning activists -- refer to "the poor" as one group having the same problem, when in reality no two people are in the category for the same reason, and almost none fall neatly into the stereotype. Right now there are millions of people out there who are using government assistance because they are ...
#4. People in a Temporary Emergency
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Want to know kind of a cool fact that politicians tend to leave out of the rants when they're tossing around numbers like a monkey throwing its shit? Nineteen percent of people on AFDC (one of the most common forms of government aid) are on it for less than seven months.
That's pretty damn important in my book, because it's a huge demographic that never, ever, ever gets covered by the news. And why would it? That statistic doesn't help support any political points because it ... well, it's kind of boring. It shows that this part of the system is working exactly as it should. People get into some trouble and need some help, the government supplies that help, the people get back on their feet, and everyone walks away happy. Problem solved. Eat a butt-fart, poverty.
I've decided to start saying "butt-fart." I'm sorry.
Yep, that one's on me, gentlemen. Enjoy the new world behind the door I've opened.
I've known many people who have been in situations where they've lost their jobs (hey, nowhere in the company handbook does it say we can't do "ninja flips" off of the forklift), and unemployment simply wasn't enough to live off of -- or was denied altogether. Or maybe the company flat-out closed. Maybe there was an injury or an illness, and the job doesn't pay sick time. Put yourself in those shoes: In the ensuing clusterfuck, you realize that you were making just enough money to survive, even while working a 40 (or more) hour job. There is no savings. At least not one that can support you and a family for any extended period.
So you swallow your pride, head down to the public aid office, and get set up with your "just got wallet-fucked by a company dildo" check, and then you bust your ass looking for a new job. Shit happens. Learning to deal with it is what makes you an adult. Don't let the government bullshit you into thinking that welfare is a system they handed you out of the goodness of their own hearts, using their own money that they pulled out of thin air. The checks you've received from all of the (legal) jobs you've ever worked have paid into this system. It's yours to benefit from when you need it.
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"Thank God, I didn't know how I was going to fill the tank this week!"
And like almost everyone who has ever had to be on this assistance, they hate every second of it. They can't wait to get off of it because every time you use a Link card to buy food or a medical card to pay for the removal of the LEGOs you glued to your neck (or whatever it is that people go to the doctor for), you feel like a failure. The sooner you can stop depending on that shit, the better. Regardless of what the extremists say, getting government assistance is not like finding buried treasure -- it's like digging coins out of the bottom of a sewer.
"Well if so many people get off of welfare so quickly and easily, why do we still have such a massive problem with it? Are the politicians and media just lying?" Well, no, not really. See, a frighteningly large number of welfare recipients are ...
#3. People Trapped in (and by) the System
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In my last article on poverty and welfare, I cited a staggering statistic, and it bears repeating here ... and in every article I ever get a chance to bring it up: 91 percent of welfare benefits go to the elderly, the disabled, and working households. And that number I quoted earlier in this article? The 19 percent who get off of AFDC in less than seven months? Well, it turns out that pretty much the same amount stay on it for more than five years. There's a reason, and it's a pretty common one.
Well, no, not really. Getting out of poverty requires massive sacrifices. This is the part that seems to be the hardest for others to understand, because the easy answer is "Well, no shit, I sacrifice hobbies, sleep, and even time with my family for my career. If I can do it, you can do it, too, Poor Person!" But urging someone to sacrifice is making a huge, unspoken assumption: that they have something to sacrifice in the first place. If they're unemployed, they're in a Catch-22 where they need a car and a working phone to get a job, but they need a job to afford a car and a working phone (and yes, if you are lacking both of those things, your application is almost certainly going in the trash -- they won't hire somebody they can't call in for work on short notice).
"I've got 50 people waiting to take your job, mister. Now go on, that garbage isn't going to eat itself."
And if they are employed, it's actually worse. This is why that stat about how most of the poor have jobs is so important -- it's one thing to ask somebody to sacrifice sleep and bong time in order to get a job, but it's another to ask them to sacrifice their paying job in favor of college classes or an internship that won't pay anything. At that level, the current employer doesn't give two shits what else you're trying to fit into your schedule. Throw kids into the mix, and it gets more complicated still. You can't get ahead because all of your time, money, and energy are being poured into just maintaining the life you're currently living.
That's how they get stuck in perpetual welfare. They're using 100 percent of their time, money, and efforts to maintain this level of basic life -- including the government assistance. Without some kind of outside intervention, they just never break free. This isn't theory -- I've seen it happen. I grew up with it. And it's terrifying to see that machine in action. After continually fighting it for so long, people just give up and resign themselves to that life.
Pretty sure this is how that crazy dump Muppet from Labyrinth was born.
And this is where it gets really crazy, because once you introduce children to this cycle, you get ...