Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Poor people are not getting a lot of "free stuff" from the government

Over the last few years I've written a lot about people on welfare and being on welfare. Others, such as Mike Marlett, for F5, Jan. 16, 2014, have also written on what it is REALLY like to be on welfare.
AND STILL—the stereo types persist. I keep hearing people talk about all the "free stuff" people get with the Democrats are in office. "When we finally get rid of President Barack Obama the Republicans will stop all that that free stuff he is giving away" (to his constituents), I hear over and over again. I get tired of hearing that and there is little I can do about it other than writing these stories to try and educate people.
It doesn't take long to see that many people think of black folks when they think of welfare. (Public assistance has not been called welfare in many years. Still it is the term most people still use as I am using it here.) I saw a comment in Yahoo News were a person blamed the Baltimore riots on liberals giving "those people" handouts rather than forcing them to work. Supposedly we let "those people" become lazy and that is why they are rioting.
Kansas Senator Michael O’Donnell wrote an editorial to The Wichita Eagle, April 25, defending the new rules for those on welfare:

"A recent study shows that most Kansans support the intent of this bill – to make sure resources are there for needy families and to encourage independence rather than dependence. The study, conducted by the Remington Research Group, shows that 64 percent of Kansans support the HOPE Act. A majority, 66 percent, also agreed that limiting benefits from 48 to 36 months encourages self-reliance."

I don't deny the results of the poll. Much of what I hear people say about those on assistance, and the comments I read on various news sites would indicate that many people are badly misinformed and much of what they seem to believe is just plain wrong. I would bet that O'Donnell knows they are wrong but uses those on assistance as scapegoats. The poor are helpless people and when the right-wing political establishment has problems with their own policies, blaming them is a way to divert people's attention somewhere else. It is possible that O'Donnell really believes his own blather and if he is that stupid he has no business in politics.
And what is the stereo type of a person on assistance? —They are lazy; they are on drugs/alcohol or both; they make no effort to work or find a job; they are uneducated and people with low moral standards.
We see a man or woman sitting on a couch watching TV and drinking all day. These people are believed to get everything they want or need free; including phones and housing. Apparently these people are scene as those who decided it is easier to declare they are poor and then everything they need is given to them for free. They are getting a free ride while the rest of society works hard and makes less money. People get angry because they believe they are giving much of their income to those who don't work. Of course the reality is quite different.
What poor people get is not that much and little of what they get is really free. When I was doing research on my book, War on Drugs, War on People, in the 1990s, I found that Black people make up less than half of the people on welfare. I doubt if that has changed much since then. Another way to look at it is that more whites than blacks are on welfare and most black people ARE NOT on welfare.
I was on assistance with my ex-wife back in the late 1970s. Back then the two of us got $240 a month in cash. A single person I knew was getting $116 per month cash. That was before Ronal Reagan. Since that time welfare across the country has been cut—not once, but several times. I have been told recently, by people who work with poor people, that people on welfare get less benefits today than I did when I was on welfare 30 years ago. Kansas has not increased benefits at all since that time and the federal government has not either. There is no truth to the mistaken belief that Obama has increased the money people get on welfare. More money has been spent on welfare but that is only because the need for such assistance has gone way up do to the increase in joblessness.  
I talked to Debbie Frank, from the Call Center for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF/ a branch of public assistance, AKA welfare) and she gave me some ideas of what people really get when they are on welfare.
"A single person can get $194 for food," Frank said. She added that a mother with two children can get $347. That isn't much different from the late 1970s. But getting cash is a different story.
Frank said that a single person can't get any cash assistance at all. Only people with children can get cash. She couldn't give me an exact figure, however she said they look a  person's income. Most people that come in for welfare have some income, most likely part-time jobs.
There are a lot of hurdles to get cash. The recipient has to take part in a jobs program, take classes, pass a drug screening and if the recipient is a sing mother, they have to cooperate with the states efforts to collect child support.  
When I was on assistance in the 1970s I considered public housing but there were lots of restrictions. We had a dog and cat. We would have had to get rid of them. There was a waiting list. When I lived in Junction City, Kansas, working for a newspaper there, I found out they had a public housing facility and there was a two year waiting period on average. So yes...free housing if you have a couple of years to wait around for it and you want someone telling you what you can and can't do with the house.
Over all nothing from the government is really free. There are restrictions, background checks and all kinds of hurdles to keep most people from ever getting on welfare. And that includes people with disabilities. The government makes these benefits as hard to get as possible and the recent new restrictions on how people can spend their money is a good example of that.
I'm growing tired of the ridiculous stereo types that seem to be a part of middle and upper class culture today. These stereo types are wrong and they are harmful. Many people in this country have not gained the benefits from this society that we all take for granted and many of these people have worked hard. Some are still working at minimum wage jobs. Some have gone through tragedies, others simply made honest mistakes. It is bad enough these people have a hard time getting health care and other necessities. They don't need to be falsely identified as being lazy moral-less people. I for one am tired of hearing all the insults and lies. All I can do for now is try to educate people as to what poverty in this country is REALLY like. People in poverty are the most powerless people in the US. That is why so many politicians use them as scapegoats. They can't really fight back.    

 Pix from www.newscorpse.com.

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