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Why Americans Hate Those On Welfare

Updated on March 15, 2016
vhayward profile image

Valerie is a social worker and freelance writer who's passion is to help her community and raise awareness of social inequalities.

As a social worker from a rural area I have heard nearly every argument both for and against the welfare system. I have been witness to both the countless scores of people who rely on the system and the rare few who (try to) manipulate the system. The truth of the matter is that welfare is necessary if we want children, elderly, and disabled to eat. It is necessary if we want those who hit hard times and face job loss to remain housed. It is necessary if we want our impoverished neighbor’s heat to remain on in the winter. It is also one of the most rigorously tested government programs for fraud making it extremely difficult to cheat the system, let alone for a lifetime.

Normally I am somewhere in the middle on social and political issues. I would argue that I am on the issue of welfare as well, though I know many will not see it that way. However, there is what appears to be an alarming mentality that has grown unchecked in the United States of America. It is the belief that those in poverty are there by choice and purposefully leaching off of hard working American taxpaying citizens. This idea has grown so common that there are actual laws in place to prevent feeding the homeless in public (though it was later lifted), ban the poor from using their money to watch movies or visit public pools, and mandated random drug testing for food and cash recipients.

More than any other demographic, the poor are charged with proving their worthiness in order to receive government assistance dollars. In other words, they need to appear to be worthy of food, shelter, heat, and medical care. Yet, no one has to prove their government subsidized student loan is being used for a “proper” education. Why haven’t restrictions been placed on these student loans requiring the students to prove that they are getting a worthwhile degree (how dare they major in philosophy!), that they aren’t squandering the loan money on an extravagant housing or too fancy a school?

While cash assistance is beginning to decline, the need for food assistance continues to rise.
While cash assistance is beginning to decline, the need for food assistance continues to rise. | Source

Why tax payer’s hard earned money is not being “wasted” on welfare

The fact of the matter is that many people receive government assistance, but it is not as overt as straight up welfare assistance, so we presume that we survive without it. If someone has ever purchased a home using a government subsidized loan such as those provided by MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) then they have received government assistance. Farmers receive countless subsidizes and are estimated to have about $4.9 billion in direct cash payments annually. Now, I have no issue with farmers receiving subsidies from the government, but I don’t see anyone up in arms to make sure that they aren’t growing any illegal foliage such as marijuana. Farmers, contrary to those on welfare, are viewed as the hardworking backbone of America. Understandably this is because farmer’s work and welfare recipients don’t…or do they?

A study found that 56% of welfare recipients were from working households from 2009 - 2011. That means that more than half of welfare recipients are working. Those who aren’t working largely are made up of the elderly and disabled. Even if it wasn’t, isn’t the point of welfare to help those who have fallen on hard times? More than half of welfare recipients are off welfare in less than 2 years, and 19% is off welfare in 7 months or less.

Furthermore, all of your hard earned tax dollars do NOT in fact go to welfare. Granted, bureaucrats make it difficult to calculate just what goes where, but My Esoteric estimates that approximately $0.06 on every tax dollar goes to welfare. Of those six pennies, it is estimated that two-fifths of that actually goes to those who are not of working age. That means that only 3.5 cents of your tax dollar are going to welfare for those within a working age. Consider that the next time you hear (or use) the argument that your “hard earned tax dollars are being wasted on those too lazy to help themselves”.

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The Hard to Break Cycle of Poverty

Clearly, the idea of “Welfare Queens” is off. If these welfare recipients are working, then why can’t they afford to pay their own bills? The problem is that the work available to many families is either part time or minimum wage (or both). There is no city in America where basic rent is affordable on a minimum wage salary. The counter argument is that minimum wage was never intended to live off of. However, regardless of what its original intent or purpose was, it is clear that these are some of the only jobs available to many Americans. Take Wal-mart for instance, as one of the leading employers in the United States. In Michigan they are only required to pay $8.15 an hour to a new employee and raises are far and few between. Yet, according to the article cited above a family needs to make $15.16 an hour to afford a 2 bedroom rental. That’s nearly twice as much!

Low wages and minimum government assistance does nothing to solve the issue of poverty. Poverty has become systematic in our society which leads to generational cycles of poverty. As much as we Americans want to believe in the self-made-man, the truth is that it is not as simple as that. No longer can a person walk out into the street without anything to their name and rise to the top with nothing but hard work. There are exceptions of course, such as Rockefeller and Edison, but exceptions are not a norm by which we should measure all people.

Someone born into poverty does not have the opportunity to live in an affluent neighborhood. Rather, they may be worried about crime rates on the way to an underfunded and understaffed school. They are at higher risk to try drugs and engage in unsafe sex, have higher rates of teenage pregnancy, and higher rates of dropping out from High School. Being a single mother or having no diploma or GED causes them to be less employable; therefore they can only find minimum wage work. As I’ve already mentioned, minimum wage is not a livable wage and so they must therefore rely upon the SNAP food program, TANF cash assistance, and subsidized housing. As you can see, simply being born into the wrong economic class can quickly snowball into a near unavoidable poverty stricken future.

Source

So why persecute of the poor?

So, why does the increased war against the poor and stricter guidelines on benefits not help? If you refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs you can see that before one can achieve actualization they must first have their basic needs of food, shelter, and safety met. Removing assistance, or adding more barriers, only serves to throw those in poverty into an even more tumultuous situation. If these needs need to be met in order to move up the hierarchy then why are we fighting so hard against these benefits being distributed to the needy?

To start with, people LOVE to feel included. We want to be a part of something, even if that something isn’t very nice, such as bullying the poor. We want to feel important and worthwhile. The poor give us two ways to fulfill these psychological needs. To start with, it is easy to look down on someone who has nothing and gain a (false) sense of superiority. In order to get the happy endorphins released from comparing ourselves to others we need to look at those with less, not more. Those who are in a better situation than ourselves are likely to make us feel bad about ourselves, or at the least, jealous of those who have more.

Secondly, we are very susceptible to group think, or rather “Us vs Them” thinking. In this type of thinking we divide ourselves, sometimes by arbitrary lines such as with skin color. We enhance the image of the group we belong to in order to boost our own self esteem and discriminate against the opposite group. Have you ever noticed that if someone supports a sports team they say “We won” and “They lost” therefore including themselves in the positive and distancing themselves from the negative.

The same thing happens when it comes to poverty. No one likes paying taxes; after all, it would be great if a third of your check were still there on payday. However, we also like certain services that paying taxes provide such as police to keep us safe, hospitals to keep us healthy, and schools to educate our children. I’ve already mentioned that people tend to wrongly assume they don’t benefit from programs as much as welfare recipients, though home owner tax exemptions, subsidized student loans, and farm subsidies benefit most people. The difference isn’t just subtle versus overt assistance, but the fact that we can distance ourselves from welfare recipients. “They” are rotten and lazy people who cheat the system and steal our tax money. “We” are hard working citizens who deserve nice things.

This stigma against the poor is so strong that nine times out of ten, when I am talking with a client who receives assistance they feel compelled to let me know that they “aren’t like the rest of those people on welfare”. They aren’t lazy like the rest, they aren’t cheating the system like the rest, and they aren’t worthless like the rest.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Wealth Gap (HBO)

Not Looking “Poor Enough”

This leads me to my last point (until my next hub of course). We as a nation have an image in our heads of what poverty is supposed to look like. Poverty is supposed to be dirt floors, empty cupboards, old stained and torn clothing, and absolutely zero luxuries. Poverty is not supposed to be fun, and if you have fun while being poor than you’re a “Welfare Queen”.

While it’s true that this is what poverty looked like during the great depression, we need to remember that times are different now. Technology, availability of different resources, and the like have changed what it means to be impoverished.

Many people in poverty have family members who aren’t poor but cannot afford to take care of them full time. However, they can gift them with things such as a new iphone at Christmas or perhaps an x-box for their grandchild. They also may have bought these items before hard times hit and they have since lost their return in value. What costs them $400 a year ago may only bring them back $100 now, and a cheaper phone may not work as well anyway. A gifted gaming system may be the only nice thing that child owns. Having nice electronics doesn’t necessarily mean the parent is squandering their small TANF check on electronics.

The nice Tommy Hilfiger shirt may have come from a thrift store. The painted nails could have been done themselves with a dollar store nail polish. Their makeup could have been a gift or all e.l.f. brand products (for men, that is a very cheap makeup brand) collected over months. Taking pride in their appearance is not a punishable offense. Looking nice does not mean they are not struggling. Rather than scorn their nice things you should applaud their resourcefulness.

Another hot topic issue is those with SNAP benefits buying themselves luxury meals of steak and sushi on the tax payers dime…I mean 3.5 cents. Let’s start with the fact that you have probably not seen someone abuse their food card. If they are buying what looks like junk food such as soda or candy consider that it may be their ONE luxury for that entire month. The SNAP benefits already exclude certain items such as alcohol and cigarettes and frankly they are probably not spending their meager $147 a month on $14/lb steak and lobster.

If they appear to be doing so consider that they cannot afford to eat out every weekend, so they may compensate by trying to stretch the budget in order to make one or two luxury foods fit into their budget. Even if they’re buying all junky food, remember that healthy food costs more than ready to eat foods. They also might have a child who they can’t stand saying “no” to one more time and so they give in and buy the sweets because they feel like bad parents for being unable to provide all of the other things their classmates get. They may not have the time to prepare three meals from scratch each day between working two minimum wage jobs and parenting.

Cheating the system or a gift from Grandma?

Source

Concluding thoughts

I’m not arguing that the welfare system is perfect or that it is 100% free of fraud (though the fraud rate is extremely low). Rather, I am speaking out against the stigmatization that we have placed upon the lowliest of our economic ranks. Being poor is a tragedy and not a crime. We need to treat our fellow human beings with compassion and not disdain. Welfare recipients are not lazy drug abusing cheats. They are people, much like you and I, who are struggling to meet their basic needs and who are continually being reminded that they are worth less than those not on welfare.

Truthfully, it has been show again and again that desperation does not create motivation. Rather, desperation breeds lower health, higher stress, higher crime rates, lower education, and can lead to onset learned helplessness. This learned helplessness is the detached attitude that is typically confused for apathetic entitlement. It is not necessarily that they don’t desire to better themselves, but rather that they no longer believe themselves as capable of becoming better.

When we remove aid or create virtual barriers to accessing them all we are doing is giving them more reasons to give up, not more reasons to keep trying. Society is only as good as our weakest members. We cannot wait for others to create these changes; rather we need to exemplify the changes we would like to see in our communities.

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    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 9 months ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Actually, Skip, drug testing IS about drugs. Why do I know this? A company I started does it nationwide. Even for tests ordered by the gov't, it goes to companies like mine who send the urine to a lab, whose procedures are strictly monitored; and they do not test DNA.

    • profile image

      skip hamilton 9 months ago

      I think this so called drug testing isn't about drugs at all. I think they are testing blood for DNA in criminal cases, also they know people who are on drugs will not apply. The same with finger printing etc.. I think all of these demands are to help law enforcement with criminals they cannot find.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 9 months ago

      Whats pathectic is when you have a job that pays crap and your lucky if you get more then 20 hours a week. Its pathetic when the employer is mega rich and he starts a food bank for employees in need and a fund you the poor person he is paying can donate to. I am happy I do not work for them anymore and can bad mouth them. Unmentioned is once you make to much for assistance then you starve. Thats right pay all your bills and be hungry all day. Politically we have a real problem in this country in researching the issues and knowing why we have a problem. All are problems are self inflicted and created by those with money and power. Immigrants are here because big buisiness wanted cheap labor and from what I can tell most of them want these employees. All these conservatives were not crying about it when they began lining their pockets and moving our jobs overseas 3 decades ago atleast. You can prevent immigration to some extent in the future but I do not see any way we can send home people who have been living here for decades. If you our going to blame someone, you have a lot of people to blame. If you do not understand the problem then you will never find a soulution that works. If your plan to solve it is National Socialismn then you our in the wrong country. Natzi's do not do to well in a land of immigrants, try going back to your own country. All the people who decided to be American and still they are not good enough for some people.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 10 months ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I think this Hub would be better, more accurately titled "Why Conservative Americans Hate Those on Welfare"

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 10 months ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Good points, Sanxuary (is #NoMandateTrump defunding you too? lol)

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 10 months ago

      A lot of people think this stuff is simply given away. You have to be really poor to qualify. Welfare you have to attend classes and you are even made to work and spend hours filling out job searches. Then you even have the people who believe unemployment and even social security are hand outs. There are people who abuse the system but even playing that game is a lot of work. Getting caught for fraud and you will be cut off. Most people are ignorant but like everything those who really need it are helped and those who abuse it hurt those who really need it.

    • profile image

      Sheila 12 months ago

      Seriously you've obviously never worked in or watched the lines in the grocery store! Food stamps pay for UNBELIEVABLE amounts of junk food ALL the time. No it is definitely NOT their monthly splurge. They get whatever they want all the time. The program needs an overhaul to say the very least. Don't get me wrong-I blame lobbyist such as soft drink companies interest and others such as that, but is it really fair that I work hard at the grocery store and watch the waste. Those collecting could work there too, but I suppose it's beneath them. Plus easier just to wait on the monthly government deposit.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      We must do a better job of helping one another.

      Great hub!

    • profile image

      RoseQB 2 years ago

      Thank you so very much for this thoughtful and honest writing. Recent years have been frustrating to say the least when trying to discuss this subject with people I've known for years. The absolute disdain for the financially poor...which many of them are themselves....is embarrassing to see. It's like I don't know them anymore, they've forgotten what it was like at times in some of their pasts, when they struggled. Oh I could go on and on, lol, but thank you again.

    • vhayward profile image
      Author

      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      I appreciate everyone taking time to both read and comment. It truly is interesting how we feel entitled to judge those of a lesser economic status than ourselves.

      My Estoric, I think that it is extremely odd how evenly the poll is split as well, but I don't think that it would remain so if it was a larger (and therefore more statically valid) sample size. My guess is that the largest number of votes would go to the middle/moderate answers if we saw this in a sample of say 1000+ people. However, I couldn't say for certain until all is said and done.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I find the current results from your poll question and how evenly divided it is. And, with 30 responses now, the pattern starts becoming becoming statistically meaningful.

    • profile image

      SanXuary 2 years ago

      Why would anyone hate people on welfare. Half the country is in a program or is forced into one. Communism and Socialism is a foregone conclusion. This Country is tyranny and thousands of men and women are its political prisoners and we are only speaking of those not imprisoned. The day to fight for your freedom started 20 years ago but the war can begin anytime and I would be fine with that.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I heard the following vignette on POTUS - A single mom was in desperate straights, but by working menial jobs and getting public assistance, she and her child were able to scrape by. Like most in her situation, she didn't want to remain in this condition so she worked to get her CNA. With that she got a somewhat better job, but not enough to get off assistance. She excelled and after a few years she was offered a promotion to a supervisory position.

      We now get to the point of the story. When she sat down to figure out whether is was worth her while to accept the promotion, she found she could earn $200 more a month by staying on assistance. Fortunately, she took the long-term view and accepted the pay cut.

      Question, why does our public assistance programs put people between the rock and the hard spot in these situations; and I personally know of two similar stories.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Wonderful Hub, Valerie. The welfare system is not perfect but is necessary for those who fall between the cracks of our economic system. Those who feel that all on welfare are there due to their own bad behaviors are looking at the system from their extreme philosophical views. They are very inhumane and narrow minded. Life can throw many people curves that are out of their control. I was out of work almost 4 years after the financial meltdown. Luckily I had enough money saved but that cannot always be true of everyone.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I have heard about the pay arrangements for flight attendants before and each time I shake my head in amazement that that system is even legal, let alone an industry-wide policy. In any case, it is just one more example of how rich corporations keep workers poor. I wonder if anyone has challenged it in court yet?

    • profile image

      DebMartin 2 years ago

      Thoughtful Hub. Thanks.

      To judge another does nothing for the person your are judging. Better to let go of any judgement and help. You'll feel better for helping. Because to judge another affects your own way of being in this world and your health. And that's not pretty.

    • vhayward profile image
      Author

      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      Hendricka, thank you for sharing some of the reasons people spend their little amount of money on luxuries. To quote one of the articles linked in my hub "being poor isn't fun, and the state of Kansas is going to make sure it remains that way"...overall quality is something we need to really focus on, and yet, we cannot even meet some peoples most basic needs.

      Robert, I'm glad that you found my article useful. I agree, picking on the poor is like a grown up picking on a child, they have very few means of standing up for themselves.

      Melissa, I am sorry to hear you have witnessed people abusing the system. However, as I have pointed out before- this is far from the norm. Thank you for explaining how flight attendants do not get paid per hour worked. Corporations should have to pay a fair wage for work and there is currently no city in the United States where minimum wage will support a basic rent. Unfortunately, those are some of the only jobs available to many families.

      Buildreps, thank you very much for sharing the social system in the Netherlands. I personally think your nation is a great role model for other nations to aspire to. The quality of life in your nation is exponentially higher than that of the United States with a very small gap between the rich and poor.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      Great Hub. I don't know so much about this issue. I live in a country (Netherlands) with a high developed social security system. That is good and it costs much more on taxes than in the US. The best earners pay 50% taxes on their income. That is the price of being social, and that's something most people in my country feel OK with.

    • Hendrika profile image

      Hendrika 2 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I am sorry, but I am back again. If I want to be honest I have to admit that I am getting more and more upset about people's lack of understanding about how it feels to be really poor. Only people that never leave their homes to do anything but grocery shopping and work. If you even watch one movie a month you have no idea what it feels like to just sit at home and being totally unable to do anything. I can promise you it is hell and I can understand a person drinking beer on the sly. Fortunately in South Africa you have to have very little to qualify for government pension or allowance, but if you do, it is your business what you do with it. Many people are still homeless in spite of this help as it is not even enough to rent a room.

      So, we have many old people having to do without basics such as soap and toilet paper because the money does not stretch that far, and of course, if they can get hold of some alcohol some way, they cannot buy it, they are going to drink it, at least it is some form of enjoyment. Try to live on $117 a month and see what it feels like.

      If you are poor life is hard and you do sometimes waste money on luxuries because it at least it gives a little quality to your life. That is something people also do not understand, by merely "surviving" you may as well be dead as life is worthless, there is nothing in it to enjoy any more.

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 2 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      Interesting Hub. I personally do know people who have "milked" the system, in the end they are only hurting themselves and teaching their kids unknowingly by their bad example.

      I am a former Flight Attendant, with an interview coming up in a couple of weeks. I found I can't stand being on the ground all the time! Anyway, one Regional airline starts off paying $15.61 a flight hour, which is not the same as an hour worked. They are guaranteed to fly 72 hours a month. You can do the math, not enough to live on. Another airline, actually sent a memo to its' new flight attendants. It asked them not to apply for food stamps in uniform! How sad is that?

      Most Flight attendants believe welfare recipients should have mandated drug tests, because FA's can't get a paycheck without passing theirs.

      Thank you for an informative Hub.

    • Jason Marovich profile image

      Jason Marovich 2 years ago from United States

      Without passionate social workers like yourself, the system is doomed to attacks and eventually breakdown. Thanks for letting us take a look at this important issue from your perspective. The human stories behind the poverty are what you're seeing and most of us are not. Those are the stories that bring about change.

    • Robert Beyer profile image

      Robert Beyer 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      I am so glad you brought this topic up for discussion. It is so easy to pick on the poor because they cannot defend themselves. If you listen to different places you would think that every poor person is living a life of relaxation, just sitting eating bon bon's and smoking cigars. That's not the case at all. Thank you for bringing this topic up.

    • Hendrika profile image

      Hendrika 2 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I would just like to say one more thing that people do not always think about. Life gets very bad and boring when you cannot do aything for some entertainment, when even reading is a problem because the library is not close enough. Your house later on turns into a jail. For us it is not that bad because we have family and friends that visit us and take us out a few times a year, but I know about people that are feeling so bad they are seriously considering suicide simply because life feels so totally hopeless. So even becoming an alcohholic may start to look like a diversion.

    • vhayward profile image
      Author

      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      fpherj48, I would not delete your comment unless it was offensive (language, racism, ect). I really do want to hear everyone's opinions, even if I don't agree with them. I agree there should be consequences for the very, very few who do commit welfare fraud. My point is simply that someone who chooses alcohol over food is more than likely an addict. I do not think people in need should be denied benefits like food, healthcare, and adequate shelter. I also do not think public humiliation and punishment serves as an appropriate consequence.

      Hendrika, I agree that the poor should not be judged for "not looking poor enough". Unless you know that person VERY well, you have no idea what they do or do not do with their benefits and money. Keep up your hard efforts and your positive attitude.

      Jodah, thank you for your insight into the welfare system in Australia. Here in the United States the income gap is on the rise and those hounding for so called "cheaters" are usually very displaced from the actual reality of poverty. So much so that there are actually reality television shows such as "Secret millionaire" (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/jul/... portray rich men trying to live on poverty wages for a week and we call it entertainment?! I have various ideas of how we could improve the system, unfortunately I don't know how I would ever make that happen as this usually involves the very rich to sacrifice a small fraction of their privileges such as absurd tax breaks. Since those men are usually either law makers or have heavy influence I don't see that becoming likely in the future.

      Lyoness913, I think I made the same comment above as I would to your post as well. Thanks for pointing out my error, title corrected! :)

    • Hendrika profile image

      Hendrika 2 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Thank you for a very good article. We are also on a combination of welfare and help from our son here in South Africa, it is the story of so many "previously advantage" in our country. My it be as it is. We enjoy a bit of wine with our food and a pizza now and then. What people do not know is that for weeks on end we eat only paste with a little butter stirred into it to save up for these luxuries and I really cannot see what is wrong with it.

      My brother in law also gives all his "old" clothes to my husband and I wear al there children's maternity clothes disguised in clever ways. So, before judging think! Because you have lost everything shold not mean that you can never enjoy a few basic luxuries that makes life a little more bearable.

      O, yes and also, we are trying our best to get out of it. My husband is working as a caretaker for a very low wage and I am doing backoffice work from home for a compay.

      If you are wondering, my husband is 70 and I am 64. My husband used to be an assistant accountant in a government department, but the powers to be does not want white males in the goverments service and I say this without being racist it is simply a fact in our country.

    • lyoness913 profile image

      Summer LeBlanc 2 years ago from H-Town

      Very well written hub on a subject that's difficult to have a rational conversation over.

      Side note- you might want to change the 'American's' in your title to the proper plural 'Americans'- I am sure it was just an oversight.

      Of course welfare is a necessity in our country and in others. Of course people abuse it. Of course people are put in a position where it becomes all they know, and it's a vicious cycle. I don't know what the answer is, but cutting people off and starving them will lead to more crime- that much I do know for sure.

      *sigh*

      -Wendi

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This is such a well written and important hub vhayward, and not jut in America. I am Australian and can relate to everything you say in this hub. It is so relevant at the present moment and reflects the way our current Government thinks. Statements by our current treasurer include such gems as: "Most poor people don't own cars, or if they do, don't drive very far."(This was his reply when asked why the Government were removing the fuel subsidy to make gasoline more expensive), "If housing in Sydney was unaffordable no one would be buying property," (in response to being asked if the housing market was overpriced and unaffordable or the average Australian. The average house price in Sydney is $850,000) Meanwhile he owns a $3.5 million home in Sydney, his wife owns a $1 million dollar apartment in Canberra, and together they own a 1,500 acre cattle property in Northern Queensland. This Government tried to make it harder to get welfare eg. make new jobless have to wait 6 months before getting welfare and make it compulsory for them to apply for 30 jobs per fortnight, reduce yearly age pension increases and increase pension age to 70 years, and make it more difficult to get disability pension, and increase the cost of a doctor's visit as well, and more expensive to attend University. Our Government needs to read this hub. Voted up and shared. p.s. Most of the "cheaters" that make a difference to the economy are at the top end....Big Business and Multinational companies that get huge tax concessions or avoid paying tax altogether by using offshore accounts etc, not the welfare recipients.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      vhayward...Point well-taken. I certainly made my opinion known in my first comment & stand by it. At the same time, I CAN understand that cheaters are NOT the norm. In fact I mention that this is UNFAIR to the many who use the System as intended. BEER (& the like) are not necessities. There's no defense for using tax dollars for bad habits.

      Especially when there are people in need who are denied.

      Why do people do these things? Because they CAN. There are no repercussions. What's fair & acceptable is important. It has always been my belief that human beings are more intelligent, fair and honest than animals. It is not a matter of "training." It is a simple matter of what is right or wrong.

      You have the power to delete any comment you feel offensive. Please feel free to delete my response since you find it so unacceptable. My intention is not to offend....but just to be honest & realistic.

      The bottom line is that I DO agree people should take care of one another's NEEDS. I would also repeat that those who misuse and abuse harm the entire System. THINK: Insurance Fraud.

    • vhayward profile image
      Author

      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you everyone for your feedback. I am glad that so many people have read my article and felt strongly enough to comment (regardless of if they agree with me :)).

      huttriver0, I agree. Most people feel the need to support themselves rather than rely on others. They crave the feeling of importance, pride, and self-esteem that comes from contributing to society.

      prettynutjob30, I can't tell you how much I agree with your comment "why kick someone down when they are already struggling?". Ultimately that is what it comes down to for me. If the few pennies from my tax dollars can, overall, improve the lives of others who am I to complain when I have a decent job, home, and good food on my plate?

      Sunshine & fpherj, My Esoteric made the same point I would have made. This article is not claiming that there are not people who cheat the system or that there are those not receiving benefits who should. Our system is not perfect. However, the exception should not be the standard by which we judge all other recipients of welfare. The welfare system is one of the most rigorously tested systems for "cheats". I am very sorry you and your husband were denied benefits that could have helped you. That does not mean that every food beneficiary is an undeserving cheat. Furthermore, if a person is choosing to return food for store credit to purchase alcohol, they clearly have an addiction to the alcohol. When we look at maslow's hierarchy of needs, we are programmed to fulfill our basic needs (food, shelter, safety) BEFORE we chose comforts such as alcohol.

      Roughly 1.3% of SNAP beneficiaries actually commit fraud (http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/08/19/fox-mislea...

      Why should 99 people be stereotyped and suffer humiliating restrictions when only 1 person committed fraud?

      fpherj, I do not feel that public shamming is ever appropriate. If someone cheats the system to feed an addiction they should not be humiliated. They should be given help, understanding, and compassion. Punishment rarely works to modify behavior. Just as in dog training, hitting the dog may immediately reduce an unwanted behavior such as biting, but the unwanted behavior almost always pops up again. If you use positive reinforcement instead you're more likely to build a behavior they WANT to continue (not biting, being calm, following cues, not jumping up, ect).

      Punishment such as shaming will only build resentment, misunderstanding, and likely lashing out. It does not teach correct behavior to substitute for unwanted behaviors and really only serves psychological harm.

      Again, I would just like to say that regardless of if you agree with my personal opinions or not, I appreciate the time you've taken to read my article and give your feedback and opinions.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I have never understood some people's ability to take a single data point and condemn a whole system with it. The vignette a couple of posts above is, to me, a good example. Unless the beer drinker is the rule rather than the exception, why bring it up at all; we all know there are people who abuse the system, just like there are corporations who abuse the capitalist system as well (very rarely making the hit parade of complaints).

      After the "I don't judge" comment and then the story, I thought the ending would be "while I don't like these instances, it is not the norm and most people getting the assistance are honest and don't abuse it."

      Unless the point of the story is

    • prettynutjob30 profile image

      Mary 2 years ago from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet.

      I am so glad you wrote this hub, just the other day an old friend and I got into a discussion about this very subject. The truth is most people don't want to be on welfare, it can be quite embarrassing. The main reason it is embarrassing is because of people who do everything they can to shame people for taking handouts. After my husband lost his job, we had to get food stamps to be able to feed our family. I hated having to ask for help, but I knew I had to swallow my pride until we got back on our feet. Programs like food stamps and welfare are there to help people out when they are at their lowest, so why kick someone down, when they are already struggling. I am so grateful we no longer need stamps anymore, but I am also grateful that they are they are an option for people who need them.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I hear you GF. It is people like that sneaky beer drinker who leave a very bad message. As the world turns, there will always be the users & abusers. I too become angry because we often will see how the HONEST individuals truly in need of the basics....will suffer the consequences of the characters like the one you encountered.

      They want to use PUBLIC assistance in the wrong way.....I suggest they be publicly embarrassed when they are caught cheating!! I wish I'd have been with you & Dave. I would have said loudly, "Oh my, that's what you get for sneaking BEER with your SNAP money!!"

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I do not judge those on welfare. I surely do not "hate." Hate is such an ugly word. What I do not like is when a customer returns a package of coffee with no receipt because she bought the coffee with a SNAP card and then proceeds to purchase a six pack of beer ONLY to trip and fall on her way to the register and almost hit my husband while I was pushing him in his wheelchair and who has terminal cancer and was turned down for food assistance because we have two vehicles in our names meanwhile he hasn't been able to drive a car in over two years...then this SNAP customer walks out of the store empty handed and tells the woman driving the truck, "I fell in the store, but it wasn't their fault, it was mine." Those people I judge. I truly believe karma was at work in her situation. Also in the state of Florida they are allotted so much money for Medicaid and SNAP, but the deal is the less money they help the needy with and the more ahead they are with their allotted amount, they get a bonus!! Are you kidding me?? Of course making that bonus is more crucial than helping those in need. End of rant. Keep up the good work, thank you for helping others.

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      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      VERY well said! Thank you for this valuable Hub! I will probably be writing one of my own, based upon personal experience. Your point about 'having nice things' is spot on! We have a DVD player, over 400 movies, and we are in dire straits. Why do we have those things on our meager budget? Because we bought and collected them over a span of nearly a dozen years, BEFORE hard times hit. That's just one thing.

      We have a lot of beautiful artisan-crafted wooden clocks, weather stations, and a lovely grandmother-clock sized curio cabinet. Why? It was our BUSINESS before my husband's health failed; he MADE those items!

      I'll tell you who the REAL "welfare queens" are: They are the big businesses, particularly the oil companies, who manage to both get government subsidies and skate out from under ANY tax payments at all, and then charge outrageous prices to the consumer for obscene profits.

      Voted up, across, shared here and on Face Book, and double-pinned to both my education and money matters boards!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Absolutely ANYONE can wake one day to find themselves in dire straits. Misfortunes, tragedies and disasters do not discriminate. Human beings must survive.....eat, have medical care and shelter of some kind. This is basic humanity!

      Those who begrudge or judge.....I just turn a deaf ear and ignore these heartless "mightier than Thou" types.

      I have no patience nor tolerance for those who point fingers or attempt to degrade others who need assistance. WE are here on this earth to reach out to one another. Period. End of rant........UP+++

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      Krzysztof Willman 2 years ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      This is coming from a different prospective, and I enjoyed reading about it. There are many points I never thought through that I'll think about more closely. Nice hub.

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      huttriver0 2 years ago from lower hutt

      From a NZ point of view, I can say most beneficiaries would rather be working on a liveable wage and contributing to society. Bludgers are in a minority, others have health problems, including drug and alcohol dependancy.

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      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for your input Brynn. I agree, they make it extremely difficult to access benefits, keep them (if I had a nickel for every time my clients lost food or cash benefits because the review letters were lost, sent to late, or simply never sent at all I'd be rich enough to pay for them myself).

    • Brynn Thorssen profile image

      Carrie Peterson 2 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Fantastic hub! It's interesting to see it from someone working in the system.

      This is my experience, and they sure don't make it an easier, either!

      https://hubpages.com/politics/Im-the-One-at-the-Fo...

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      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you for voting! :)

      I don't know if I would go as far as to say that all drugs should be legalized but clearly our way of dealing with it in our "war on drugs" is failing, not to mention systematically prejudice against minorities (just google the difference between crack and cocain sentencing). Something needs to change.

      I am saddened that there is nearly no supported rehabs for the low income population. I had an aunt who struggled for years with alcoholism and was only able to attend rehab because her father was able to pay for it. Even then, she lost her struggle. I cannot even fathom how difficult it is when those resources aren't available.

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      My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      And awsome.

      And I had forgot to mention that I do agree with the support part, that was the way I voted in your poll. (Everybody should vote in polls, I think.) That is line with my position that all drugs ought to be legalized, but the distribution controlled by the state ... just for that purpose, to put the consumer in touch with help.

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      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      Esoteric, I'm glad that you found my hub informative and useful.

      Your viewpoint is very interesting and you make a very good point about Florida's program not running for very long. I am not sure what the policy is on drug testing in other states but in Michigan all that is required to demand a drug test is "reasonable suspicion" which has no true guidelines. Proper procedures need to be put in place with actual support for those found to have a drug problem.

      It is not so much that I am against drug testing as I am against removing the very small amount of assistance that addicts receive. It has been shown time and time again that removing resources does not motivate one to better themselves, but rather serves to increase their feelings of helplessness and desperation.

      Now, if drug testing led to rehab - actual rehab - instead of further cluttering our already overly full prisons I would be all for it.

      I also wanted to make a brief point here that many people will agree that those with addictions need help. However, they will then argue that there are 'casual' users in poverty who need to be punished. Anyone who chooses to buy drugs over food, shelter, and safety is the textbook definition of an addict.

      Regardless of the drug testing laws, I really just want to raise awareness to the crass way that we treat those in poverty. People deserve to be treated as humans and not pests on society regardless of their socioeconomic standing.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 2 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      This is probably the most cogent, articulate, well-constructed article I have read in any hub, magazine, or book; bravo!

      As you probably know, I have been beating this drum for many hub years now. But, what I have always lacked is real experience in the field, the experience you have in spades.

      Your statement "This stigma against the poor is so strong that nine times out of ten, when I am talking with a client who receives assistance they feel compelled to let me know that they “aren’t like the rest of those people on welfare”. " - is particularly poignant and so very sad. But, it also makes any person saying anything to the contrary is essentially lying to themselves and their fellow believers.

      I added the first of several tables to the Hub you got your numbers from, they will basically back-up many of the things you pointed out here.

      As to 'why' there is so much group think on this subject, you might look at

      https://hubpages.com/politics/An-Analysis-of-the-R...

      and

      https://hubpages.com/education/Are-You-A-Social-Do...

      I do, however, disagree with your assessment of drug testing those receiving gov't assistance. The foundation of why I think they, and anyone else we can figure out how to legally test is that drug use is endemic in America ... and is getting worse - and I am not talking about pot (which should be legalized everywhere). There are a couple of givens:

      - 1) It is known that drug use costs America multi-billions of dollars a year in crime, health, productivity, accidents, and deaths and the costs keep going up

      -2) It is also known that 'random' drug testing drastically reduces drug use where it is employed; this was vividly demonstrated with large reductions in use in the transportation industry where, prior to 1987, it was a huge problem.

      In my Hub, http://myesoteric.hubpages.com/hub/Drug-Testing-We... I present some stats that clearly indicate there is major drug use among the unemployed (18%), who make up a large portion of those drawing welfare. Further, you find part-time workers maintain about 9% and full-time employees are at around 8%; that's a lot of drug use.

      Worse yet, the industries who primarily use low-paid part-time workers, who generally draw assistance (I hate the term welfare even though I slip up and use it occasionally) range from 17% in the Food Service and Hotel hotel industry (which generally don't do random drug testing and often don't even do pre-employment screens (why, there won't be enough applicants left to hire) down to 9% in the Retail industry (again, it is rare for a random program to exist. Not on my table, but I am very familiar with, is the railroad industry which is heavily tested; their rates are down around 3 to 4% based on the last briefing I got.

      Consequently, testing people who receive taxpayer dollars makes all of the sense in the world to me given they are the ones on the top end of drug use. When you talk about the $30,000, that is a red-herring because FL's program never got started. Had it, those costs would have come down, the positive rates would have gone up as people got lulled and forgot to quit before the test.

      So, its not "picking" on people receiving public assistance, statistically, that is where a lot of the use occurs. Another they ought to start pushing the limits on testing are schools; I don't know the numbers, but I suspect the use is even higher there.

      Sorry for writing a Hub about this but sometimes I get carried away.

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      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      That is a great point. I debated on including drug testing in my article but it was shown that drug testing costs over $30,000 in Florida and only 2.6% were even found to test positive. Not only is testing ridiculously costly for such a nearly insignificant success rate, there are not programs in place to provide drug rehabilitation to those who do test positive. Removing their access to food only increases these addicts desperate situation and makes them more likely to resort to other forms of criminality. If they wind up in state or federal prison we'd actually be spending MORE to house, feed, and clothe them than if we'd simply given them the resources to negate these criminal behaviors in the first place.

      Your point about having to be drug tested for the low paying jobs that people on welfare work is a fantastic point.

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      Christopher Peruzzi 2 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I would like to make one last point on drug testing the poor and how stupid it is. While you can take drugs (if you can get away with it), you should not. Not to appease any of the puritanical idiots out there, but because it's necessary that you don't.

      Why do I say that?

      Most of the jobs that are paying any kind of a living wage will drug test you anyway. That's right. If the government isn't drug testing you, than a future employer will because they run a "drug free" work place. What I find really ironic is that most people who are looking for work aren't taking drugs and many people who are already working are.

      So, the theory that people who are on welfare are naturally taking drugs and paying for it with their government money not only isn't true for practical reasons but it has been shown statistically to be not true overall.

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      Valerie Hayward 2 years ago from Michigan

      Cperuzzi, thank you for sharing your story. In my two short years as a social worker I still have not lost my shock at the appalling way which politicians, media, and our communities treat those undergoing the struggles of poverty. I hope that my article is able to raise awareness for even one person.

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      Christopher Peruzzi 2 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      The ignorant Americans that mock those on welfare are committed to their position up until the point that poverty happens to them.

      I'm currently on unemployment and I would like nothing better than to work and earn my old salary. I am not gaming the system so I can receive 38% of what I used to make and be in a near constant state of anxiety on whether I can pay my bills or not. There is a large percentage of people who would like nothing better than to work than to be on a government handout.

      My sister is one of those people. She suffered a fluke accident that left the left half of her body paralyzed and is now on dialysis. She can't work. She was a single parent with a five year old son when one of her kidneys gave out. She already had a modest home before he husband left her.

      Now she's dependent on the government. She's on medicare and every program that's available and without them, she'd be out on the street and probably dead.

      I can hear all the right wingers mumble about decreasing the surplus population right now. But being poor and being in need can happen to anyone and they're not trying to live the "good life". They are trying not to starve. They don't want to freeze to death in the winter.

      And most people, like me, want to keep their homes. My problem is that my wife and I had lost our incomes on the EXACT SAME DAY. We went from a household income of $110K a year to $22K overnight. This happened in the beginning of winter and no one was hiring - this was also when Congress decided to throw a tantrum and cut unemployment benefits and then cut extensions. It came at a time when our savings were pretty much depleted and we were seriously considering bankruptcy.

      Yes, I'm poor and I have a laptop, a refrigerator, and a television. And I worry every day about food and keeping my home.

      The ignorant right wingers in this country have a misconception of who is on the government dole. Most of us hate being on it. When I'm not looking for a job and not reading on how to make myself more marketable, I am in a constant state of panic. I'm constantly thinking about how long will I last? Will I get a job? And if I do, will I be able to keep one?

      And you know what ticks us off the most? Hearing some right wing bullshit artist with a fraction of our intelligence tell us we're lazy, worthless, and leeches.