Welcome To Welfare

I generally try to avoid controversial topics on my blog simply because in my experience it’s impossible to have a logical informed debate with most people on the internet. A great number of us would like to insist that our opinions are more correct than the opinions of those around us without really considering new information or alternative perspectives on the same topic. Despite the reality of this, I feel the overwhelming need to discuss something I came across not too long ago; something that pretty much solidifies my stance on welfare programs in general.

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea about me I’d like to make it clear that my views on welfare hardly coincide with my upbringing. I was raised in a large family that depended heavily at times on the welfare system. While I had two working parents for quite some time, their hard work simply wasn’t enough. The world kept hitting them with one bad thing after another and if I didn’t know my parents as well as I do I would say they pissed some almighty being off and were being punished for it. They both lost their jobs at the same time, lost our home when I was very young, and fell victim to illness time and time again. By the time I was ten my father couldn’t even work and my mother became the sole source of income with only a part time job. Needless to say with six kids and unyielding misfortune, describing our situation as “hard times” would be a huge understatement. There were holidays we had to skip, school supplies we couldn’t afford, and programs we had to utilize in order to stay afloat.

Despite the challenges we faced and the misfortune that befell us, we survived. My siblings and I joined the workforce as soon as we were of legal age. I was working forty hours a week when I was only seventeen and a junior in high school. My siblings were working just as hard at their respective jobs.

Up until my second job in a supermarket I had absolutely no qualms with the welfare system. It had helped my family stay afloat when we all thought we were going to sink. It was only when I began that job that my views of the welfare system began to shift and become something else entirely. Time and time again I watched as people would purchase the most shocking things with food stamps: $80 worth of crab legs, $50 worth of lobster, and over $100 worth of energy drinks. I’ve worked in a grocery retail setting for nearly eight years and during that time I have seen things that would surprise you: hundreds of dollars of hostess products being purchased in one trip, a seventy-five dollar birthday cake for a three year old, and individuals who sell their food stamps for cash (which I’m fairly certain is illegal). What nearly set me off recently and prompted this post was my interaction with a man who “needed to use [his] food stamps before they ran out” the next day, which happened to be the end of the month. What did he buy with those food stamps? Forty dollars in candy; bags upon bags of sugar with not one iota of nutritional value. Did need that candy? No. Could he have let that money be recycled back into the system to help someone who actually needed it? Of course not.

I absolutely hate when people generalize and to be perfectly honest I would love to say that the instances I spoke about above were isolated and didn’t happen often, but the reality is that I sadly can’t say that. These things happened on a daily basis. The majority of the people I came across abused the system in whatever way they could, capitalizing on its numerous flaws. With the only real limitation to the system being its inability to accept taxable items (which has changed somewhat over the years with the advent of Cash Assistance), it’s easy to see how the system could be taken advantage of.

What I find more alarming is that according to USDA statistics from 2008 to 2011 the use of food stamps has increased from 28.2 million to 45.7 million (with that number only continuing to grow in the year or so since). I find an increase of 17.5 million people on food stamps in three years as something notable. It brings about numerous questions and countless concerns.

From what I’ve seen and what I personally have experienced as a child who grew up with welfare assistance multiple times I am disgusted with what the system has become. It’s no longer for those in dire need, but rather an open resource for the masses. While some would argue that there are more people in need now than ever before, I counter with the following:
1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment overall within the United States has decreased in the last three years.
2. The welfare system was designed to be a temporary solution for those in need, not a system to feed upon like leeches for years on end.
3. If a person can afford the luxury of a smartphone, that person can afford to buy his or her own food.

The welfare system is clearly broken and without proper reform it may be beyond our fixing. Americans will continue to see the system as a crutch and something to take advantage of. They will continue to engage in buying unhealthy foods, alarmingly expensive foods, and making a mockery of not only the hard work that the rest of us put in on a daily basis, but those who truly need governmental assistance. Of the 45.7 million people on food stamps in 2011, how many do you think really needed it?

Despite my very clear stance on this issue I am always open to discussion and would like to know what you think. Do you have ideas for reform? Do you think we should do away with welfare altogether?

Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry


About C.M. Berry

I'm an aspiring author, blogger, and poet fluent in sarcasm, profanity, and dark humor. I have something to say about everything and whether you love me or hate me, you'll always come back for more.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Welcome To Welfare

  1. cavery says:

    Knowing you, I am a little bit surprised to hear your stance on this issue. However, also having been your co-worker at Big Y, I can not say that my surprise is absolute, nor can I say that I totally disagree. I have also witnessed the junk bought with food allowances, the people who whip out their EBT cards from their designer purses, and so on. I am always careful to comment in any situation as I myself have been lucky enough to have had a good family with enough money to get by, but it does often seem as if there are plenty of abuses.

    Despite my concerns, however, I agree with the system and its true purpose. I have to put a disclaimer here, I am going to be brutally honest about welfare’s true purpose. We like to sugar coat it and say it is because we care about people, we can not let people starve and we can not let people live in unimaginable poverty, and to some extent that is true, but that is not the true intent of the welfare system. The welfare system exists to keep society in order. It was put in place to prevent the disorder that followed the great depression, to prevent the communist revolutions which occurred in the Soviet Union and other countries around the world, to keep people engaged in our society. Picture our society. Who is it that benefits the most from our society and it’s existence? It is, for the most part, the rich, then, after that, the middle class. We all benefit from a stable government, lower crime, a capitalist structure (some more than others). If society were to collapse tomorrow, we have the most to lose. The poor have nothing to lose. I society collapsed tomorrow, it could only benefit them (theoretically speaking). When you are poor, it is because the system is not working for you, so a collapse of the system could only benefit you. This is why the working class overthrows the Bourgeoisie and institutes a communist state, why there are endless and destructive riots in Greece. In these situations, there is a class which is no longer engaged in the society in which they live.

    I want to be clear at this point, I think the system works towards its true purpose of keeping people engaged in a society, but I don’t necessarily this is the best reason to have the system. When we have a welfare system for this reason, we tend to ignore the causes of poverty and the potential for its elimination. We tend to look at the safety net we have created and think that as long as it is catching people from hitting rock bottom, we are doing our jobs. We are not. We should be concerned about others’ well-beings and the well-being of society as a whole. If, instead, this is our main concern, then we will enact steps to get people off welfare and above poverty level and this will lead to less need for welfare. For example, in Switzerland, everything is ridiculously expensive, but for the most part everyone that lives there, regardless of the job they have, if they work full-time, they can live comfortably (and by this I mean, not have to worry about having the things they need). They have a society that cares about the well-being of its people and, for this reason, there are few people that live below the poverty level. This doesn’t solve the welfare problem. There will always be people that try to cheat the system. However, when employment is readily available and full-time jobs pay a living wage, it will be harder for people to cheat the system.

    That being said, I think there are a lot of ways to fix the system we already have. For one, I would like to see food stamps treated more like WIC (although I don’t think the foods offered by this system are really the best). I think they should be given for certain types of food, including vegetables, milk, eggs, meats, fruits, etc. Snacks could be allowed in moderation, but I think limiting the products one could buy to healthier options would be a good start to improving the program. (As a side note, to those who say healthier options are usually more expensive, I would have to disagree to some extent. While I cannot speak for the country as a whole, where I lived when I attended university, I was able to buy fresh ingredients to feed me for a week to a week and a half for under $40, and I was never starving).

    I apologize now as I have lost my train of thought and cannot continue and I also apologize that the writing is a little bit “stream of consciousness” rather than well structured. I would also like to put a disclaimer that I cannot really pass judgment in these situations and I have been very lucky up until this point in my life to have been born to the family I have and to have the life I have. Not everyone has the opportunities I have had which are at least partially attributable to luck.


    • C.M. Berry says:

      I completely agree that Foodstamps should be treated more like WIC with only certain products allowed on it. I actually just mentioned that to a friend of mine. I also disagree that healthier options are more expensive. The problem is that a great number of Americans are either lazy or ill informed about how to prepare healthy meals at an affordable price. It is very possible. I also couldn’t agree more that the safety net we’ve created distracts us from the real issues. I think a great deal of the problem is that the United States is so broken and divided in so many ways that it’s difficult for us to focus on the problems that need to be fixed. And everything is structured in such a way that we don’t even know where to begin. We’re in such an economic, social, and political shitstorm that we’re not even working together in the most basic ways to fix what we collectively broke. I really appreciate your comment. It has got me thinking about more things than I can focus on right now.


      • cavery says:

        You reply actually reminded me of the last point I thought would improve the system (hopefully it doesn’t add too much more for you to think about). I think there should be more financial education. I might be biased as I study finance and economics, but part of the reason my middle class family was able to do better than most was because my mother’s cousin was a financial adviser. We had some of the best financial and investment advice usually reserved for more wealthy families which allowed us to save up enough money for the important things. Part of the reason the “rich get richer” in the US is because they have access to this advice while poorer families, who need it most, do not. I have often tossed around the idea of a non-profit financial advising service, but unfortunately, the reason so many lower-income people are left out of getting proper financial advice is because advisers tend to go where the people will pay them the most (and that’s usually the rich). This is probably an obvious solution to some, but I think its incredibly important. There are so many things that I assume are basic knowledge about finance that so many people have no idea about.

        Also, as for America being broken and divided, I couldn’t agree more. I wish more people could see that once we fix the other problems there will be less need for welfare and it will be easier to spot abuse. It’s hard to claim you need welfare if you have plenty of job options and they all provide a living wage (besides as with most things, a smaller pool of people means you can monitor each case more closely).


      • C.M. Berry says:

        Wow. You really hit the nail on the head. What is common basic knowledge to us really isn’t common knowledge to other people. You have a financial background and I have a background in banking and investments. And while I am STILL poor despite that, I understand finances better than quite a few people our age. Maybe then the real issue is education. Not just financial education, but education in general. As I mentioned before most people don’t even have a working knowledge of how to prepare healthy meals at an affordable price. If we tackle education we tackle quite a few of the issues that Americans face. Another thing to ponder. Lol.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s