Welfare Reform: The Great Debate

It Had to Happen...

Ok, enough is enough! It’s time to crawl up on my “soapbox” and scream bloody murder about the people who abuse the system. After the experience I had today in a local convenience store, I’m about ready to explode—and it’s been several hours! And all of this just because I needed ice…Deep breath—pulse back to normal—alright, I’m better now.

I stopped at the Corner Store for ice. I was tickled to find that there was only one person ahead of me since there were perishables in the car from the grocery store and I live several miles out of town. The young man in front of me was clean-cut—blue jeans and a clean T-shirt—looked as if he had just gotten off work. He had the usual selection of “5 o’clock somewhere” items—two quarts of beer, cigs, a couple of 2 liter sodas, Icee. So, when it came time to pay, he flips out his Lone Star Card, the Texas method of disbursing TANF and SNAP.

Texas Lone Star Benefits Card
Texas Lone Star Benefits Card | Source

Now, I have to admit, I was already a bit put out by that; I believe that governmental aid should never have been expanded to include sodas and candy. I believe that food stamps should be used for, well, food—real food that is nutritious, healthy, you know, the stuff that Michelle Obama would approve of, but held my tongue until he started to argue with the clerk about how much he should have had to pay after applying the benefits. Finally he go heated to the point that he exclaimed, “It would be a lot easier if I could just pay for all of it with my card!” Then, I got heated…

I said, “I don’t think so! It’s bad enough that I have to pay for your sodas and candy bars, but I’ll be darned if I’ll sit by and see my tax dollars go to keep you in booze and cigarettes!” Well, needless to say, that didn’t sit well with him, but I had on my cap that said, “Disabled Vet, Medicated for Your Safety,” and I think he might have been afraid it was true. Anyway, between the scowl on my face, and on the faces of the people in the long line he had created, he decided to cut his losses, pay the bill, and leave. Good choice.

The Good...

Now, I realize that the young man was probably just blowing off steam, at least I hope so, but unfortunately there are plenty of people on the system that feel that way, and have figured out how to do it. Don’t get me wrong—I’m just a bare bit above the cut-off on what a person can make for his family to receive Food Stamps—I have plenty of good friends that receive Government Assistance, and really need it. These folks that are really trying to get ahead, but can’t quite get above water yet, are the backbone of why the welfare system was initiated to begin with. These are the single mothers with two or three kids that couldn’t hold their little job without daycare assistance. They’re the ones working for minimum wage or just a little better that couldn’t feed that family without help with the groceries.

And don’t tell me the food pantries are all they need. This poor mother still needs milk, butter, meat, you know, the stuff the pantry doesn’t give out. If she had to buy that out of her little something of a paycheck a utility bill might not be paid, or she might not be able to keep gas in her car to get back and forth to work. I know first-hand that there are those that just couldn’t make it without the programs to help. Add in that maybe she’s trying to go to school to get a degree or skill certification so she can move up and off of the system and there is no way to make it without help.

The Bad...

No, I’m talking about the other side of the coin. You know, the “crack-head” that waits for the card to get loaded each month so they can race to the local drug dealer and sell the money meant for food for the kids just to get their “stuff” for a little while. In the meantime, the only meals the kids get each day are the free breakfast and lunch at school. On weekends they have to fend for themselves because Mama or Dad are sprawled out in the living room, possibly passed out, and could care less where the kids are. As much as you might desire to close your eyes to this and pretend it doesn’t happen, it’s a real thing. There are people who don’t get anything as far as income but the “check” and those who live well off of the money those people get. It’s an “industry” in any “hood” you care to check into, but be careful if you do. Those are real bullets in those guns and these folks don’t care to be exposed.

Source

The Ugly...

Of course, drug testing of welfare recipients sets off the alarm bells in Liberals. They immediately accuse anyone in favor of such a thing as suggesting that the “poor” are more likely to use drugs that those that are “better off.” Even though that’s the most absurd argument I have ever heard they consistently convince courts that the accusation is valid. Yet, no one sees the conundrum between this and drug testing athletes, employees, military, etc. Heck, I’m 63 years old and am drug tested monthly by the VA to make sure (and here’s the rub) that I have drugs in my system to prove I’m taking my prescriptions and not selling them, then I turn around and am drug tested by my employer to insure I’m not taking anything.

I have to provide a prescription bottle with my name on it or I’ll get fired! So, if it’s ok to drug test me coming and going, then why is it wrong to drug test someone who gets government assistance? Are you suggesting I am more apt to use drugs because I’m a Veteran? Or is it because I’m over 50? How about the fact that I work with the public—if anything would drive somebody to take drugs, that would! So you can see I don’t react well to the argument that these people are being targeted by nasty rich folks just because they’re poor.

Welfare Reform: Yes or No

Do you think Welfare needs to be reformed?

  • Yes, Drastically
  • Yes, Somewhat
  • Not Committed Either Way
  • No, it's fine the way it is
  • No Opinion
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And let’s not play the race card, either. According to the Department of Housing and Human Services for the first decade of the 21st century, Caucasian recipients were on the average within 4 percentage points with a margin of error of ± 2 points with these two groups comprising approximately 70% of total recipients. Non-white Hispanics make up the other 30%. These stats are still running true and have for the last 12 reporting years. Now you can put away the myth that welfare is a “Black thing.” That claim in itself is racist to the bone and simply reveals just how stupid you are to even suggest it.

So, as much as welfare reform is needed, nothing crucial is going to happen at the Federal level. What politician wants to face re-election having to tell his constituents that he or she made it harder for them to get their hand-out. And, before you jump me for calling it a hand-out, remember, we are talking about the abusers and users here, not the one who really need a little help. Nevertheless, the most vocal of the protesters of welfare reform are paid by those who would rather keep the poor community in need. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to live high on the hog on other people’s money without doing a lick of work.

Reform Works...

Welfare reform has worked in several instances. Look at Texas as an example and the Welfare to Work Initiative and the Choices program. The first requires all recipients, except the elderly and the “payee only” cases that represent an under-age child, to be registered with the Texas Workforce Commission. This is the States revamp of the unemployment office and houses the offices of TANF and SNAP right on the premises, coordinated into one entity. All candidates must be evaluated and then register with the Texas Workforce Commission. For the first 30 days, the candidates must complete a certain number of job searches on the Workforce computers and file applications for those jobs. They must them actively seek interviews that are verified by the Workforce staff. This put a stop to the practice of simply walking into a business, asking if they were hiring, and turning in two to three names each week. The companion Choices program actively trains recipients in job hunting skills, helps with resumes, and job skill training.

In 2005, ten years after the programs were put in place, the number of active cases was reduced by 70%, and through the Choices program 48,240 cases entered the workforce, causing Site Selection Magazine to name Texas the “best business climate in the nation.” In the month of July, 2005, 62% of those enrolled in the Choices program entered the workforce. So, the reforms in Texas are working by creating an atmosphere that really helps the recipients rather than enabling them.

Activists, though, continue to lobby against serious reform overall because the electorate will continue to vote for the one who votes to give them more of the governments money. President Obama, after his first term in office, campaigned on the fact that thanks to his administration there were more families on Food Stamps than ever before. This is the wrong kind of legacy to leave behind. No one should be proud of the fact that more people are unemployed and poor because of his great accomplishments.

Unfortunately, there will always be those like the young man in front of me in the store that think my taxes, and yours, should buy his beer and smokes so he can enjoy the worthless lifestyle he has become accustomed to. He, and his peers, are the ones that will try to get deeper into my pocket so I will pay his way, and probably join him because then I’ll be just as broke as he is. But, as long as there is breath in my body, it’s not going to happen. It will be a sad day when it’s more promising to loaf than work, and when that day comes, where will the money come from to pay the benefits? Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Are we going to become the modern day Rome, or will we fight to again become the Nation of the American Dream? It’s your call….

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4 comments

Shawn McIntyre profile image

Shawn McIntyre 13 months ago from Orlando, FL.

You may want to rethink your statistical analysis on race, because the numbers don't show what you think they do. The report you linked to breaks down TANF recipients by race, not the percentage of each race that receives TANF assistance.

If we look at 2010, we see that the percentage of white and black recipients was almost identical (31.8% and 31.9% respectively), however in 2010 whites made up over 77% (1) of the population, while blacks accounted for just 13%. So that means that, even though there were nearly six times as many whites in 2010, blacks still made up an identical percentage of TANF recipients.

So yes it's true that, raw numbers wise, both races received assistance at near equal levels, a much larger percentage of the black demographic was receiving TANF assistance. Maybe you meant to link to a different report and simply grabbed the wrong link (something we've all done before), but the numbers you provide not only don't support your argument as presented, but they actually contradict your conclusion.

1. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html


W. Joe B. profile image

W. Joe B. 13 months ago from Central Texas Author

Thank you for your comment, Shawn. The whole purpose of my political articles is to encourage healthy debate. I appreciate that you did not chose to express yourself with the venom so often displayed by others. Even so, I approve all comments that contain no vulgarity, as some of them are quite funny at times.

But, I digress. You are correct in the statement of your values as it concerns percentage of population, but that was not my purpose in citing these numbers. It was simply to illustrate that the number of recipients was pretty evenly broken between the three major races involved, ie: Blacks, Caucasians, and non-white Hispanics.

The indication intended was that not everyone receiving benefits was black, as far too many of those involved in the debate at higher levels infer. My purpose was to call attention to the fact that the need for assistance wasn't a "black thing" nor is it a "Hispanic thing." People of all races and backgrounds need a hand every now and then.

The major point of the article, though, was to illustrate that there are still major loopholes in the system that need to be structurally examined. Also, that there is, within the system, a thread, one not common to everybody, but nevertheless there. It is the mindset that equal distribution of wealth is a guarantee. Several years ago a caller called in to one of the myriad of talk shows that have sprung up in imitation of Rush "the mouth" Limbaugh, and argued with the host that the Constitution guaranteed food stamps. To me, this attitude denigrates the families with the real need and humiliates the caller by exposing the entitlement mindset.

That's why I brought up the Texas figures, showing that well-thought out and effective reform can reduce the rolls of recipients by helping them better themselves.

Keep reading and keep commenting, Shawn. Intelligent insight such as yours is always appreciated.


Shawn McIntyre profile image

Shawn McIntyre 13 months ago from Orlando, FL.

The article overall is great. I think you did a great job of handling a potentially difficult subject. The problem I have with it, is that this is actually a racial issue. Saying that it's not a "black thing" because whites and blacks receive roughly equal levels of assistance, minimizes the fact that a far larger percentage of the black population is in need of assistance.

Now I know you're just trying to counter a negative stereotype concerning blacks and welfare, but you're inadvertently minimizing a very real, very serious problem, one that's already hard enough to discuss without the conversation devolving into the standard Internet mud fight.


W. Joe B. profile image

W. Joe B. 13 months ago from Central Texas Author

I understand your position, Shawn. In fact, I'm probably quite a bit closer to the situation than you might think. I'm in the senior ministry of a predominantly black church. I work in the upper level of a black candidate's run for Sheriff of a county that is a major..Major...Republican stronghold. And even though I am a registered Republican myself, I am working for a man i believe in, not the party he nor I represent. Yes, it is a black issue, or more correctly a minority issue. When I talk about single mothers with two or three kids struggling to raise them, work, and get a higher education, I speak from the wealth of friends I have.

but, Shawn, don't get lost in the demographic and miss the point of the article. It's not about the demographic. It's about the need for reform. I think we both agree on the need for that. As technology advances, answers will be found. It will be hard to "sell" the card and pin number if using it requires a fingerprint scan to validate identity. but, right now, there are other ways that need to be found to make sure the system really "helps" the recipient, rather than becoming an "enabler" as is often the case.

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