“She has eighty names, thirty addresses. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000... drives a pink Cadillac to cash her welfare checks at the liquor store”
- Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the US
How do you feel about Reagan’s view of the Welfare Queen? With the use of certain terms like "pink cadillac", do you think he is hinting at a certain race? Like him, there are many that believe this narrative about those that receive government assistance. In their eyes, recipients are people who are too lazy to work or look for a job, deviously sell their benefits for cash, frivolously spend on materialistic things, and contently wait on the next handout.
Let me tell you why I disagree as I challenge 4 Common Myths About Welfare Recipients:
But First, The Untold Narrative...
Imagine living your life day to day with minimal to NO privacy. Every change in your life from income changes to household changes (Who lives with you? What is their relationship to you? What is their social security number? Do they work?) has to be reported this one particular agency within a certain amount of days.
Why must you report to this agency? --because you finally decided to leave the father of your kids because of domestic violence. Thing is your abuser just so happened to be the breadwinner too. Great, you courageously ended an abusive relationship. On the contrary, you suddenly have to find a way to feed your children, provide shelter for them, and make sure they remain healthy all on your own. Eventually you may become stable enough to accomplish everything independently, but in the meantime you have found yourself needing the agency’s assistance. If you fail to report even the most minor changes to the agency …well… say bye to your most basic needs: food, shelter, and medical care.
Soon you find out that there is NO pity given to devastating life circumstances that may occur unexpectedly, to car troubles that may prevent you from getting to the agency for mandatory appointments (have to make these appointments to retain assistance), or for the lack of access to a computer to report any changes to the agency via internet.
Even with the agency’s “help,” you have no choice but to learn how to survive with minimal assistance under zero tolerance conditions.
Don’t think you only have to report changes and then you’re “invasion free.” In fact, expect workers from the agency to frequent your home in search of evidence that would cause them to suspend assistance. You are in a position where you can’t refute anything you consider an invasion of privacy. Reality is you depend on this agency for yourself and your family at the moment. One “wrong move” could result in homelessness.
"Of course not every welfare recipient share this same story. The point is to understand that not every welfare recipient is looking to "scam the system."
Myth 1. Don’t Want to Work:
Please do not be fooled by this myth. That nice co-worker that comes to work full of cheer and preparedness to do work just might be receiving some type of government assistance. We have to debunk this stereotype now. Sometimes poor paying jobs enhances the need for welfare because basic needs still cannot be met. Yes, you read it right. A person can work full time and be a tax paying citizens and STILL not have enough money to survive in today's economy.
You don't believe welfare recipients work? Just research some of the requirements that have to be met in order to receive assistance. One program called TANF (temporary assistance for needy families) actually requires single parents to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. In 2012, the Department of Agriculture reported that most recipients DO work according to Groundswell.
Myth 2. No remorse:
Let’s be serious; How embarrassed would you feel being interviewed by a social worker who asks you about every personal detail of your life? How embarrassing would it be to pull out your WIC vouchers and hold up the line of cash paying customers at Wal-mart? How bad would you feel if your food stamps failed to load to your food stamp card on the standard date (gotta love those good ol’ system glitches) but your child is staring you with eyes like , “mommy/daddy, I’m hungry?”
Though I held a part-time all while attending college, I needed government help in the process because I wasn’t making enough to be an independent provider. I felt downright terrible some days. Sure, college would pay off in the long run but my son had immediate, basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing.
So many times I questioned dropping out of college to obtain a full time job in order to try to struggle a little less – but how would that affect my chances of upward mobility? I'm not the "abnormality." There are plenty of similar hardworking individuals (with and without children) that feel shame, guilt, and remorse. Many strive to use the assistance as a stepping stone instead of a crutch. However, outsiders looking in are so blindsided by the narrative of the lazy “Welfare Queen” that they get angry and defensive.
Myth 3.Poor budget:
Really this is common sense. If you are told that all you have is $5.00 to live on for a week, a rational person would ask themselves, “how am I going to make this stretch?” Let’s be for real. What is $5.00 going to get you?
You’d be surprised at how innovative and meticulous a person could become if they knew that was ALL they would be given and nothing more. Same with most welfare recipients in my opinion. You’d be surprised at how accountable and careful most are. Outsiders question budget because money is not always in welfare recipients’ savings account. However when you’re living on minimum it’s easy to just focus on surviving. If you are truly struggling financially, establishing a savings account can seem like a far-fetched idea in the moment.
Just When You Think All Of Your Tax Dollars Are Going To "The Poor"...
Whew! Corporate welfare is a topic for another blog post. However, I will challenge you to do your research and see where your tax dollars are really going. All too often I see the complaints about tax dollars going to welfare recipients but no one ever mentions the corporations that are reaping MAJOR MONETARY BENEFITS. Just take a look at this website in your spare time: http://usuncut.com/class-war/10-corporate-welfare-programs-that-will-make-your-blood-boil/
Did You Know in 2010, the Economic Policy Institute found out that the biggest corporations cost Americans $7 billion by writing off inflated executive pay?
And that's not the even the whole tea!
Even though I have obtained two bachelor’s degrees in the fields of psychology and criminal justice, I felt unfairly compensated when I first entered the workforce. I’m sure there are many other college graduates that can relate. I was offered positions for a pay that I could have probably obtained without going to school. Sure, I was grateful to have any offers at all but $10/hr offers seemed like a slap in the face for all the education I had obtained. $10/hr was not going to be enough to cover my expenses, my son’s expenses, living expenses, and so forth.
Furthermore, it’s no secret that women are paid less on the dollar. Being of the minority as well, I felt hit with a double whammy as a black woman. Though I was a fresh college graduate in 2015 trying to survive, I couldn’t quite make ends meet and still needed assistance. I'm sure some conservatives looked at me from the “outside” as a Welfare Queen greedy for assistance. I am a single mom that gave birth at the age of 18.
However, what some don't know is that I worked my butt off in college: making the Dean’s list, double majoring, holding jobs, participating in organizations, job shadowing, interning, and so forth all while being a mom trying to achieve self sufficiency. Not once did I seek pity or request for anyone to cut me slack.
I wince when others disparage or belittle people like me that truly needing help at points in life. The freeloader misconception has never been true for me.