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We all know the story of the fabled welfare queen, a woman (typically poor, urban and dark-skinned) who supposedly has kids in order to get welfare money. She then allegedly spends that money on living a comfy life instead of investing it in her kids' well-being. Now, forgetting the impossibility of living an actual comfy lifestyle on the amounts of money paid by welfare benefits, I think we've come to the conclusion that this is a myth. People don't, by and large, behave this way. It's a right-wing meme that has been and should remain discredited. Right?

Well, recently I had an interesting talk with a friend of mine about the concepts of taxation, welfare, and generally the redistribution of wealth from those who've got it to those who don't. She grew up quite poor, with an abusive father in and out of the picture, barely supporting his family; with her mother disabled, as the eldest of three girls, she was essentially the sole breadwinner for a family of five. There were times she had to choose between caring for the family's medical needs and paying the rent. Several times they actually did become homeless and had to stay with friends or relatives to avoid being out in the street.

My friend scraped together enough financial and psychic resources to move out, find somewhere better to live, find a job, get loans, and go to college. She's the first one in several generations of her family to actually get a college degree.

Now, her claim is that the welfare queen does exist. As evidence, she points to her two sisters. They are unemployed, and receive some amount of public assistance, I don't know how much or under what programs. The elder of the two rents half of a house with her husband, their two kids, her husband's mother and his aunt. Nobody in the household is employed; my friend says the only person in the household who ought to be receiving any government checks is the mother-in-law, who is eighty years old and shouldn't be expected to bust her butt for her daily bread.

My friend's younger sister, she describes as a grifter - conning everyone, the government, her family and friends, and kind-hearted strangers into supporting her with generous offers of housing and financial support in exchange for... well, nothing really. "She's going to get herself hurt, really badly. Hurt or killed," said my friend.

So, this friend of mine objected to the existence of welfare programs and the taxation required to fund them. "The government is taking my money, which I worked for, and giving it to my sisters," she said. "And [the elder] is basically spending money on luxuries like game consoles and DVDs for the family, instead of medical care for her husband, kids and MIL."

I tried to pin down her feelings on welfare programs in general, but she kept returning to how much she resents her sisters' alleged misbehavior. She did, however, agree with me that a civilized society has a responsibility to take care of children, the elderly and disabled persons if they cannot care for themselves.

I've met my friend's elder sister, and the family does seem irresponsible to my admittedly inexperienced point of view. They own a number of game consoles and buy additional (different) ones every so often; the elder of their two kids, who's old enough to enjoy playing the more complex kinds of games, sits on his butt for most of the day and fiddles with his games. His eyesight is failing, which may or may not be related to his indoor tendencies. My friend's brother-in-law is reasonably able-bodied, or was until recently, but he's ill - he is hardly able to digest anything he eats, because he's so completely blocked up inside, and he's dumped an awful lot of weight as a result. It's just terribly odd to me to see a family whose financial needs are not met (they do come to my friend, not every month but frequently, to ask for financial help) to be buying game consoles and quantities of games and DVDs while the unemployed but employable members of the household are not apparently looking for work. And they are considering having another kid. But hey, I can't judge because I don't know the full story. For all I know, they got the best medical care available to them for the sick family members and doctors just couldn't or wouldn't help them - but then why are they spending remaining monthly dollars on electronic recreation rather than saving it to help pay the bills? It leaves me puzzled and uncomfortable with my doubts of what my friend says.

Anyway, I tried to explain to my friend that since she agreed with the basic goal of welfare systems - making sure nobody had to go without life's necessities for mere lack of cash - the issue was building a welfare system that would help those in need more effectively, and help and encourage them to become economically sufficient, while cutting down on fraudulent claims. She just kept returning to her anger with her sisters. She sometimes disparagingly refers to her family as "white trash" or "trailer trash".

I wonder if there's a way to address this anger, so intense it keeps her from being able to think in more general terms. Is there any way I can encourage her to let go of that anger and just discuss things in general? Is there a way to dispel the myth?

And on a more general note, how does the existence of negligent or fraudulent misuse of welfare funds actually relate to the welfare-queen myth?

Originally posted to Shaviv on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 08:46 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (21+ / 0-)

    "You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams." -- Dr. Seuss

    by Shaviv on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 08:46:41 PM PDT

  •  The "welfare queen" is not a myth. It is (20+ / 0-)

    an exaggeration. People like that exist, sure, and the GOP exploits that fact by blowing the perception of its incidence out of all proportion.

    I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

    by doc2 on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 08:59:12 PM PDT

  •  Welfare Queens? It's a non-issue (26+ / 0-)

    The real "Welfare Queens" are the corporations that get massive subsidies to do what they would do anyway: Make huge profits.

    This country literally ladles money over industries like the petroleum biz. We've farmed out vast areas of what was once was the responsibility of our armed forces to private contractors, at an exorbitant cost. We give tax breaks to companies to relocate off-shore.

    Sure, there may be some folks that take advantage of the welfare system.

    But if we were to abolish all the various forms of "welfare", that would represent maybe 4 percent of the country's budget outlay. That's a small price to pay so that we don't come to be a third-world nation.

    •  Yes - and no..... (0+ / 0-)

      I understand the point made.  Talk to anyone on the 'front line' in ana agency dealing with the 'needy' and you'll get plenty of stories of people gaming the system or trying to.  The now retired head of a local community assistance program had stories.... she was pissed as hell at those who were trying t con governemtn and others - whe others really NEEDED help... One story about a 'Katrina victim' up her needing help with the rent ... and the agency person that gave it - no questions asked.  I was in the office when this came out.  WHAT?!?!? Did you confirm her story?  Talk to her landlord?    turns out it was all a scam - she was a local who took the money and.....

      She also stopped having Christmas parties for kids because the parents would fight over who got 'better' presents.......

      A teacher I know in the Brons would collect USED coats to give out in winter to kids who had none.  She got NEW ones the first year only to see parents sell their kids new coat for.......

      The problem is that ANY 'safety net' has people that will abuse it, try to con it or who simply don't deserve it.....

      I've got a brother who's mentally ill - readily treatable with meds - who was handed over half a million dollars over the course of his life.  He owns a co-op - handed to him after my parents died.  

      He had refused treatment for his illness all his life ......and at present is on Social Security disablility after having run up god knows how much in medical expenses paid for by the state becaues he was finally let go from his minimum wage job BECAUSE he refused to get treatment.

      The money spent - squandered - on him could have/would have transformed the lives of others.

      Sorry, but there should be limits IMO.

      •  But, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Annalize5

        That is mental illness and no one has figured out a way to make someone take the meds.  Part of the illness is the inability to take the drugs that help.  It isn't as simple a s being willful or motivated. We have a niece in the same boat. She has been bailed out by her parents, has lost two kids and still won't take the meds regularly.  She starts up with good intentions but won't continue.  I can't understand it but my son does the same thing.  He could have a good life and moans about his illness keeping him from one, but he won't medicate.

  •  you know, if they were rich & just sat on their (15+ / 0-)

    butts all day & played video games, there wouldn't be a problem. what does paris hilton do with her time, shop? go to clubs?

    Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

    by rasbobbo on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 09:09:58 PM PDT

  •  She can't dictate the values of others (7+ / 0-)

    and seems somewhat wrapped up in herself to so thoroughly generalize welfare's goals by this single example, IMHO.

    For all we know the game consoles are the only way the parents know to give their kids something of "value" at this stage.  Maybe the parents need some education about what might be more enriching for their kids and truly don't foresee the consequences of making home time mostly about electronic entertainment.

    Or, maybe they have more experiences and it's just not visible.

    Depression could be an issue here, too.  It's pretty silent and often goes undiagnosed, but can result in deep bouts of lethargy as one of its symptoms.

    Thinking of having another kid could be part of some highly wishful thinking and may go with the modern game console ideal: if you are surrounded by "more", maybe that means you're doing OK.

    I can't judge effectively here, but to offer a response for your question, I think your friend needs to stop competing so harshly with her sister and instead see if there are ways she can help in a more progressive manner (which, from my personal experience, is often far tougher to do from an emotional standpoint - anger is easier).

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 09:13:55 PM PDT

  •  What was happening to her sisters (10+ / 0-)

    as they were growing up? Sounds like she did have the self-motivation to improve her life. Did she try to influence her siblings to do the same? Did they just refuse to follow her example? Or did she just take charge until she could leave, and not try to teach them to share in the responsibility, and the sisters were suddenly left to cope on their own without having a clue how to?

    What does she think her sisters would do if they were not on assistance? Does she think that alone would inspire them to become self-sufficient? Does she know that official assistance programs came about because people like her sisters were living and dying on the streets, or in Poorhouses or Debtor's prisons which would make today's homeless shelters seem like college dorms?

    Also, I suspect the gaming is serving as the equivalent of a narcotic. It takes the place of alcohol or drugs - you would probably be less surprised if they were wasting their money on liquor instead of DVDs. It is a way to escape a life with little meaning or hope.

    PROlong LIFE with affordable & effective Health Care for all.

    by Belle Ame on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 09:14:54 PM PDT

    •  They show the signs of dysfunctional childhood (8+ / 0-)

      All of them. Like children of alcoholics, one can be a superachiever, one can be the peacemaker, one can be the evader; different personality reactions to the dysfunction. Not likely to be acknowledged without  therapy or deep introspection, which it sounds like the friend is capable of, but maybe not her sisters so much. She's the responsible one, resenting their apparent lack of responsibility. Their ways of coping differ from hers.

      How's that for remote analysis?
      ;-)

      •  Yes, I suspect a lot of that, too (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, George Lynch

        But as you mention, it is remote. I have seen and experienced a lot of what is briefly described in the diary and I can make pretty decent guesses about the dynamics in the family. But I find that you can't tell people what is wrong - you have to lead them to it, if they can't figure it out for themselves.

        ;-)

        PROlong LIFE with affordable & effective Health Care for all.

        by Belle Ame on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 11:15:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Adult Children of Alchoholics (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, Belle Ame, mashed potatoes

        It's exactly what I was thinking as I read the diary. It sounds a lot like my partner's family. My partner is super responsible and owns his own business. The rest of his siblings are in various stages of just-hanging-on.

        His sister is just like the sisters in this diary. I got so frustrated with partner's sister and all of her calamities that my partner always had to bail her out of that I finally did a little research. The whole family are textbook examples the the syndrome known as adult children of alcoholics (Their father was a mean, violent drunk.)

        One out of five turn out like my partner, hyper-responsible, sometimes to the point of obsession. The rest are deeply irresponsible, and behave like addicts themselves, even when there is no substance abuse involved.

        My partner and I both read a book on the subject, sorry I can't remember the title, but it was an eye-opener for him. It helped him understand both himself and his family better. It helped him be less obsessive himself. I recommend it to the diarist's friend. There are support groups too.

        It turns out news delivered on a for-profit basis is a bad business model for democracy.

        by George Lynch on Fri Jul 30, 2010 at 05:35:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How do you know they're not looking for work? (10+ / 0-)

    Personally I'd take all this with a grain of salt.  Her political views seemingly affect her storytelling, and unwittingly or not, you are perpetuating the myth.  Too many video games?  Having another baby? Really?

  •  Myth buster no 1 (10+ / 0-)

    The government does not hand money.

    EVER. Just getting unemployment when you have been terminated because of lack of work is difficult to obtain.

    Since becoming poor, I wasn't always, I always hear stories told by fellow poor people about how they are better than so and so because at least they have a job, and so and so is getting checks from the government. ????

    There are no magical checks from the government. Sorry.
    In order to have welfare queens you have to have welfare. The U.S. does not.

    Reality is not Passe. Hold The Media Accountable For Their Actions.

    by Krush on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 09:21:53 PM PDT

  •  I have an older sister (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krush, blueoasis, Oh Mary Oh

    who has spent the last 22 years in gaming the system in various ways. It is hard frankly, not to be resentful when you are killing yourself trying to make it and you personally know people who are abusing the system.

    In my sisters case it isn't depression or any of the other PC answers we tend to try and excuse it away with- she simply has no desire to work and has openly stated that to the entire family.

    In general rather than try and fight the myth- which isn't so much a myth as an exaggeration - I think the best method is to tweak the system, have it pay for childcare while allowing people to earn more. Or better yet make child-care free for all families making under a certain amount.

    In her specific case, your best bet would be to avoid the topic of the sisters all together. Trying to convince her that her assessment of them is wrong and that you know her sisters better than she does is offensive and presumptions is just going to make her shut down and not be open to any of your ideas.

    Good luck

    Our lives pivot on real things that are non-material...To believe only in what you can see seems a peculiar form of blindness- Rabbi David J Wolpe

    by siduri on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 09:35:03 PM PDT

    •  So the poor kid (0+ / 0-)

      had to sit in some mediocre childcare facility all day? After sitting in some mediocre school?

      Oh, did you think these kids were going to get some posh place to be while Mom is working her minimum wage job?

  •  There is lots of Welfare in the US (23+ / 0-)

    If you own a pro sports franchise and if you threaten to move it to a different city; you will receive lots of government funding for a new stadium.

    If you are a defense contractor, your welfare comes in the form of no-big contracts.

  •  BP is a welfare queen (or king). eom (4+ / 0-)
  •  Three comments, really. (11+ / 0-)

    About your friend and her anger, I'm not sure that there's much you can do. Though she expresses her anger as being about misuse of welfare funds it's probably as much about unresolved childhood issues or guilt that she made it out of that income level and they didn't or self anger at what might be enabling behavior. If it was me I would not dwell on that point, either get her to talk about some other facet of her relationship with her family or turn the talk to some other political topic.

    About the sister and her family, what looks like a life of luxury at first glance isn't. It sounds like they have a number of people crammed into a small space, a constant worry about money and few coping skills. The video games may well be a coping mechanism good for keeping kids relatively quiet and occupied or for letting adults escape from worry for a while. Not necessarily a good solution but better than alcohol or drugs. Is it a waste of money? Yes, but not as much as you would think if they are asking your friend to provide the money or getting the games as gifts. Its a sad fact in this economy that such luxuries are cheap while necessities like medical care are expensive.

    As for the existence of welfare queens in general. Nobody is actually acquiring real wealth from welfare but it sometimes appears that way. First, status is important to all people and for the very poor their self esteem may be tied to their apparent wealth so place high value on not looking poor and may be putting up a false front of wealth. Second some people may assume a person is receiving help that they aren't getting. I hear anecdotes on another forum where people claim to have seen a 'welfare queen' do this or that and when asked it turns out that they 'just know' what they couldn't possible know.

    It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races. Mark Twain

    by Toon on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 09:46:51 PM PDT

    •  It would have (0+ / 0-)

      been nice if more yuppies had saved instead of worrying about acquiring their status symbols during the last boom.

      •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yella dawg

        As someone who has moved up in income levels I was lucky to stumble onto the idea of lettin go of that desire to hide poverty. I think a lot of people who work their way up hang onto that need to not look poor.
        One of my keys to staying in budget is to not care if others think I don't have much because I know what's in the savings account.

        It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races. Mark Twain

        by Toon on Fri Jul 30, 2010 at 09:47:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  America is turning into a very strange place.... (9+ / 0-)
    I had an argument a few weeks ago with a 23 y/o young man.  He lives with his parents.  Sells pot.  The family's on food stamps.  Step-dad just got his  CDL back after a DUI.  Mom collects child support...  You get the idea.

    This kid had the fucking balls to call me a leech for collecting unemployment.  He's lucky I'm non-violent.

    "When all you have is an assault rifle every problem looks like a target." - Something the Dog Said

    by PvtJarHead on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 10:00:04 PM PDT

  •  Is this a diary debunking a myth? Or reinforcing (10+ / 0-)

    one - hard to tell.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 10:16:29 PM PDT

  •  What we are doing in Ohio with food stamps.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krush

    is that you now get a credit card that can only be used for specific items. So you can't buy alcohol with your food stamps card. We have moved away from sending them cash. However the new game is that people sell the value of the card for 50 to 75 cents on the dollar and use that buy their drugs of choice. I think the card and things that keep the liquidity of the benefits static are the best ideas because most of the people recieving the benefits are too irresponsible to handle their finances and or are con artist with zero motivation.

    On another note, the comment that we shouldn't judge them because we don't know every aspect of the situation is patently retarded. There are very few things that are going to make me change my opinion of someone who I think is a piece of shit. If I know someone enough that I know they can work but don't, and know that he/she is on welfare; what part of her life story is going to make me think, "oh well then nevermind you deserve benefits." Just like racist, if you see one you should deride them until they either change or kill themselves.

    You aren't poor because of someone else

    by FatBaby24 on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 10:24:02 PM PDT

    •  Oh FatBaby (7+ / 0-)

      On another note, the comment that we shouldn't judge them because we don't know every aspect of the situation is patently retarded.

      How could that argument be a patent for retardation?

      You already have the patent. And if you know anything about patent's, there is only one issued per concept. Or maybe your patent has run out, and you are seeking ways to keep it, through floating retarded thoughts.

      who is to say

      Reality is not Passe. Hold The Media Accountable For Their Actions.

      by Krush on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 10:42:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sounds like a pretty good method to me (7+ / 0-)

      FatBaby24: you are a piece of shit. I will deride you until you either change or kill yourself.

      Seriously, are you a freeper? This idiotic rant, coupled with your ridiculous signature, makes it seem like a strong possibility to me. There are plenty of sites out there for you to spew your bulllshit in earnest.

      TEABAGGER=Totally Enraged About Blacks And Gays Getting Equal Rights.

      by Mike Peterson on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 10:46:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This commenter was in favor of lynching (10+ / 0-)

      people who are drug users in the ThisIsMyTime diary yesterday. Reader beware of some posers... oops posters here on DKos.

      Why can't they say that hate is 10 zillion light years away- Stevie Wonder

      by blindyone on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 10:52:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yannow, FatBaby24...? (11+ / 0-)

      When I was a young single mother, I was on Aid to Dependent Children for a while.

      I also received food stamps, because children do, after all, get hungry from time to time.

      You so remind me of the cashier at the grocery store in the little red neck town we were stuck in.

      What I remember most about her was that she pursed her lips as I was checking out, it look sorta like an asshole on her face.

      She studied every item, making a judgment about each one to see if I was squandering the state's money on silly things like maybe ice cream for the kids or even (gasp) some cookies.

      Worst of all she looked at my two daughters as if they (by nature of their birth alone) were costing her some money.

      She was very fortunate I never lunged over that counter and wiped that asshole off her ugly face.

      Have a great life. I hope you never breed and bring an innocent child into this world.

      "The first step towards madness is to think oneself wise." ~Fernando de Rojas

      by Annalize5 on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 11:09:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I already have a child.... (1+ / 1-)
        Recommended by:
        burrow owl
        Hidden by:
        taylormattd

        it was born in wedlock and we are still married. Both of us are employed so no I will never know that look, I made concious choices to avoid it.

        Secondly I do not begrudge or hate every person who recieves aid. I hate the ones who don't need aid but are lazy, or addicted to get off of it.

        You aren't poor because of someone else

        by FatBaby24 on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 11:23:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My grandmother used to say... (10+ / 0-)

          "Now sister, don't ever say never, because just as sure as you do you'll have to take it back."

          Interesting you call your child an "it", not "he" or "she". Oh and, I'm soooo pleased to hear "it" was "born in wedlock".

          Pssssst...even children born out of wedlock come from the same mysterious Creator the in wedlock ones do.

          Both of us are employed so no I will never know that look, I made concious choices to avoid it.

          Um...do you read the news at all? You could be on the street with that child in a New York minute...unless of course you're living on a trust account.

          I hate the ones who don't need aid but are lazy, or addicted to get off of it.

          You are one of the most reprehensible human beings I've ever had the displeasure to meet on this website.

          "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:12)."

          You really, really creep me out.

          Fini.

          "The first step towards madness is to think oneself wise." ~Fernando de Rojas

          by Annalize5 on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 11:37:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm sorry to hear that (1+ / 1-)
            Recommended by:
            burrow owl
            Hidden by:
            taylormattd

            First I refered to the look as it, not my child.

            Secondly I have been unemployed before, as has my wife. But because we are educated, industrious people, with good backgrounds and solid work histories we don't stay unemployed long.

            Yes all children are of God and come from him/her. But the ones who are born out of wedlock are statistically born into disadvantage (Economically, socially, developmentally)

            In terms of judge not lest ye be judged. I'll give you that one to a point. Ethics and morality however aren't floating points of reference however in that what works for you is right for you. Some things are just wrong and will always be wrong.

            You aren't poor because of someone else

            by FatBaby24 on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 11:51:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I had three (6+ / 0-)

          beautiful boys and a great, hard working husband.  He died in a work accident.  Then my youngest was diagnosed with epilepsy.  Then my eldest was denied his dream and his scholarship for college because he was declared ineligable for service (heart condition)thus not allowed to attend Annapolis.  Had to scramble to go to college.  Number 2 is schizophrenic.  Has my life been easy?  No, neither has their's been.  We have received money from the government and my two youngest are on Medicaid and Medicare.  One is on SSD.  You are disparaging me and my family who, through no fault of ours, has been royally screwed.  I would never fault anyone on assistance because it is impossible to know the circumstance.  And I hope your life stays as rosy as it is now and nothing drops out of the sky for you and yours.  I am confident it won't because in my experience I have noticed that assholes always seem to float above it all avoiding any problems.  I guess that is where the saying, " You only get what you can handle." came from.

    •  Like the millions of unemployed who cannot find (6+ / 0-)

      jobs which were sold to China?

      most of the people recieving the benefits are too irresponsible to handle their finances and or are con artist with zero motivation.

      A lot of people with your attitude are now living the reality of being poor.

      At least those who were poor while everyone was doing well know how to live within their means.

      Hit a yard sale in the last hour and you can get a lot of free stuff.

      I cannot afford to buy books new (I read  3 - 4 a week) so every  year at the church rummage sale they would give me the boxes of books left over and after I read the ones I like they all went to the VA Hospital.

    •  just foul. hydrated. (0+ / 0-)

      if you see one you should deride them until they either change or kill themselves.

      HOS.  period.

      _

      There is a certain charm in the purity of irrelevance. But the more relevant you get, the more real you have to get. (Barney Frank)

      by dadanation on Fri Jul 30, 2010 at 11:17:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Queens? No. Entitlement based? Some. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man, mamamorgaine, Oh Mary Oh

    Nobody is living like a queen or king on public assistance and charity.  That is truly a myth.  As a kid I ate the govt. cheese and benefitted from AFDC at times and had "free lunch" or "reduced lunch", so I support these kinds of programs.  They really did help, and we didn't want to be on assistance any longer than we had to be--yet it happened.  Growing up that way is one reason I'm so tight with a buck even still.

    In addition, my wife has done a lot of housing assistance work and other programs to help folks get through tight spots or who are working toward self-sufficiency.  Many of these have been hard working single mothers, hanging by a thread, often attending classes too.  The assistance programs truly made a difference for them.

    Now for the flip side:
    I've seen the grifters many times, mostly males, but some females, they seem to home in on me in various places, particularly grocery store lots, giving me a story and angling for money.  Most were black, some white, there is no monopoly on this and it may very well have been only a function of local demographics so don't read too much into it.  Some of them have better stories than others, and I'll give those a few dollars in case they are being honest.  The others I tell, "I don't have any cash."  I grew up poor and have been in tight spots before with broken vehicles, etc., so I'll take a chance helping someone unless I'm obviously being scammed.  It was so frequent in Houston I would keep a $10 or $20 in a front pocket so that there was no need to pull a wallet to help someone--and the whole time when one approached me I was scanning for an attack by an accomplice.

    Equally disturbingly, I've seen some mothers display an unbelievable sense of entitlement, like everyone owed them something.  This has been most noticeable at parades in the South.  Nothing kills the spirit of a parade like someone loudly demanding a handout.  In Galveston during a daylight Mardi Gras parade I watched a woman seriously go off on some costumed character handing out candy or some such because he didn't give enough to her kid according to her.  I've seen this same thing happen at other parades in other states several times.  In none of the cases did the person actually get shorted from what I saw (they were always standing well in front of me and I was holding my kids back to let others get theirs first.)  I don't know their financial situations or anything of their true background, but they looked much like the unfortunate stereotype.  It pissed me off because while I believe in the programs, it is people like those that jeopardize them.

    I worked for/with an honest fellow who was rather conservative that claimed he had a prospective renter tell him years ago that her employment was, "making babies for the govt."  I can't say it was true, but the guy never stated anything I knew to be untrue in the years I knew him.  He saw things differently than me politically, but he didn't lie to me that I knew.  Assuming he was telling the truth, one person like her can do immeasurable damage to everyone else.  

    I wish there was no truth to the entitlement mindset.  But it exists, whether it is someone on public assistance, or a Wall Street CEO.  Folks will abuse/exploit the system.  Neither type get any respect from me.
     
    Am I willing to dismantle the safety net for a few bad apples?  Hell, NO!

    Note to Democratic leadership: I'm all out of carrots, but I still have my stick.

    by Celtic Pugilist on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 10:41:04 PM PDT

  •  But people do this at places of employment, too (6+ / 0-)

    The exaggerated character of Wally in the Dilbert cartoon is a master at avoiding work or dumping it on other people. But everything in that strip on based on real types and events from workplaces - the cartoonist didn't invent him. (The cartoonist gets dozens of submissions every day.)

    It's not hard to find someone who works with a Wally. Is it worse to have (a fairly small fraction really) of your tax money go to someone who doesn't work through government assistance than to have your employer pay someone the same wage as you for doing much less work than you? Basically there are people who will find some system that they can game, through the government, through an employer, through toxic mortgage securities or through faked nonexistent investments. The level just depends on how smart and arrogant you are.

    PROlong LIFE with affordable & effective Health Care for all.

    by Belle Ame on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 11:30:01 PM PDT

  •  Sometimes... (5+ / 0-)

    the worst folks when it comes to judging others are those who have been in similar circumstances but managed to "make it." Whether former welfare recipients, or former alcoholics/addicts, there is a tendency (probably somewhat natural, albeit regrettable) to use one's personal overcomer narrative as a template for what everyone should be able to do.

    What is interesting about this is that you might expect someone who had overcome hardships to be especially proud of themselves, and to view themselves as quite special for having done so. In other words, to use one's own success as a way to build up one's own ego needs, rather than assume that "anyone can do it just like me." But sadly, the propaganda of the society is drummed into all of our heads (indeed colonization of the mind requires the oppressed to be conditioned every day to think badly of people like themselves), and so we get this instead.

    As for how to get through, it's a tough one. Perhaps by asking her to imagine a time when she was still poor and struggling. And at that time there were people no doubt talking about people like her, assuming she was in the shape she was in because of laziness. How would that feel? And would that have been fair?

    Also, since there are people like her, who are poor despite their hard work (in the period before breaking out of poverty), just as there are people like her sister's family, why assume the latter is more common than the former? What if most folks are actually more like her? And how would she know?

    I guess in the end the key is, if the safety net is shredded because we assume poor people are just lazy then it's going to be harder for all poor folks, not just lazy poor folks, to ever break out of poverty. ALL POOR FOLKS WILL SUFFER if the safety net is shredded. Would we rather have a safety net where indeed some people will take advantage or less of one, in which case those who are trying very hard will nonetheless face even longer odds of "making it out?"

    Guilt is what you feel because of the kinds of things you've done. Responsibility is what you take because of the kind of person you are...

    by tim wise on Fri Jul 30, 2010 at 05:33:38 AM PDT

  •  Guys, thanks for the feedback. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Belle Ame

    And the occasional poke in the eye is probably deserved too. I've got lots to think about now.

    I appreciate it.

    Are you looking for a room in north Jersey? Email me if interested (address in profile).

    by Shaviv on Fri Jul 30, 2010 at 05:51:28 AM PDT

  •  When I worked for the Food Stamp Program (3+ / 0-)

    I belonged to a club where, at each meeting, one member gave a talk about his/her occupation.  We had a back-up musician, a commercial fisherman, and a psychologist for the state prison system speak before it was my turn.

    These very educated and aware people were surprised to learn how poor one has to be to get food stamps and how small a food budget is provided.  They were surprised at the restrictions on what could be bought. And they didn't know that most people receiving food stamps get them for just a few months (or did then) until they got over some financial crisis.

    In any system you are going to have a few chiselers. You try to keep it to a minimum. The big chiselers in the food stamp program then, were the corporate types who wanted to privatize food stamp issuance and charge the state/Feds much more for each transaction than was being paid to county workers for doing the job.

    Resist corporate serfdom.

    by Mayfly on Fri Jul 30, 2010 at 05:58:51 AM PDT

  •  They do exist... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dar Nirron, Mayfly, Belle Ame

    Growing up in rural Kansas I saw this type of person frequently (aka White Trash). Entire families were multi-generational welfare recipients and this seemed to be there culture. This is what they did. I really don't know if they were proud of it but they certainly worked the system. And they certainly were more than likely to spend their public assistance on grocery items like smokes, name brand chips and generally unhealthy foods.

    Often the "workers" of this type would work long enough to qualify for whatever federal/state assistance program, usually disability and unemployment, and then spend the summer fishing, drugging, and working hard at not working. Yes, they exist.

    Effective federal policies can move a few of these folks into productive roles but they will largely continue to exist and be a drain on our society. The Right has made these folks the poster people of what happens when Liberals gain power and how this represents the proof of the redistribution of wealth.

    My rub with this is that the $10's of millions of dollars these folks waste is a mere rounding error compared to the $100's of billions of corporate welfare which represents the real redistribution of wealth in this country.

    The problem in rural America and in much of GOPanistan is that the former example is easy to see and understand and comes equipped with a national media mega horn, while the latter example is shrouded in complexity and intentional obfuscation by our elected leader and corporate-leaning government.

    <rant>

    The difference between the parties boils down to a not-so-metaphorical question: Single Payer v. Single Prayer?

    by stork on Fri Jul 30, 2010 at 06:15:49 AM PDT

  •  You're not likely... (0+ / 0-)

    ...to succeed in going general--whatever that means--when talking about other people's money.  If you want to win, you better present something concrete, that works, and addresses your friends' concerns.

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