Society has two very problematic thought processes.
1. There is a certain standard someone must live up to in order to be considered worthy enough to get government assistance.
2. Anything a poor person buys that is not deemed “worthy” by society is assumed to have cost an obscene amount of money, bought recently, bought with food stamps, and that person is clearly abusing the system.
Let me first start off by talking about food stamps. The way food stamps now work is they go on an EBT card. This is a debit type card that stores both food and cash benefits. The only thing you can buy with food stamps is food. So, if you see someone using their EBT card to buy diapers, they probably have cash benefits. You cannot buy alcohol, drugs, or anything like that. I don’t care if you, “know a guy,” attempting to buy booze with food stamps will deny your card.
Some people say, “well they get away with it by selling their food stamps for cash.” Exactly how does that work? The food benefits are on a card, they can’t be withdrawn as cash. So either a person would have to sell their card, in which case they’d eventually be caught since the card is attached to their name or the person with the card would have to buy things for the other person. Which, again, all they’d be able to buy is food.
Now, to my first point. It seems that poor people or people on welfare are not allowed to have any sort of recreational activity or nice things lest they be labeled, “abusers of the system” and people spout off all sorts of idiocy’s about their tax dollars. So, let’s make a few things clear.
1. A person receiving assistance is allowed to work.
2. A lot of people on government assistance also pay back into the system (yes, poor people pay taxes too).
3. The majority of people on welfare are white with the average number of kids being approx 2. The idea of the “Welfare Queen” was a story fabricated by Ronald Regan.
4. It is impossible to live a “life of luxury” on welfare money. In fact, the more kids a person has the less this is likely.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that people abuse the system. However there are two things to remember:
1. They get caught. It may not be right away, but eventually they will get caught. People on welfare have to meet with case managers and have their cases reviewed every several months. Furthermore, if you’re on assistance you must work within 2 years. So this idea of a person living years and years on government assistance is simply not true (this does not include disabled people)
2. The majority should not be punished for the stupidity of a few.
Now let’s talk about my second point. Let’s say a person on welfare has a nice looking phones. Here is what people should think:
1. Good for them! They’ve been going through rough times, they deserve something nice!
2. They must have had that phone while they were still working.
3. Wow, they must have been saving forever for that.
4. I wonder if that was a gift.
5. Oh, that must be one of those affordable pre-paid phones that look like iPhones
Instead the majority of people have these thoughts:
1. Ugh! I’m sick of people abusing the system! Buying iPhones with their food stamps!
2. Those are my tax dollars how dare they! (never mind the fact the a much, much higher number of tax dollars go to big banks and corporations, but the guy with a phone is the problem).
3. What a freeloader!
Now for a personal story. Months ago I received a large lump sum of money (I will not post amounts). With that money I paid my rent 3 months ahead, bought a car (in order to expand my perimeters for job searching. The public transit where I live is only within the town and only runs once an hour), paid off some bills, and got my Phoenix tattoo (which I had been planning months for). Recently I was given a sudden eviction notice (citing, “urgent family matter” as the reason). Currently I am only working enough to earn gas money. This is not by choice, I am looking for full time work (my circumstances when I first moved to NH are a lot different they are now. Back then, working part time was not a problem). My landlord gave me 30 days to evict. New housing usually requires first, last, and security deposit. Let’s say I get an interview tomorrow. Usually the interview process takes a few days (so, middle of next week). Then, let’s say they want me to start the following Monday (8/26). That would mean my first pay check would be 9/6. This would mean I’d have 2 weeks to save up moving fees (I don’t have a savings because I live check to check). Obviously this is next to impossible, so I decided to ask for help raising funds to move (while looking for a full time job).
Recently a snarky comment was made about how I shouldn’t use my food stamps to buy a, “giant tattoo” and the “beg my Facebook friends for money.” Ignoring the fact the someone believes a tattoo can be bought with food stamps, this is the type of stigmatizing I am talking about. It didn’t matter that I had my rent paid months in advance, it didn’t matter that I had over a month to until my next payment, it didn’t matter that the eviction was sudden, and most importantly it didn’t matter that this person had no idea how much the tattoo cost or if it was done for free by a friend (that’s not the case, but you get my point). Why? Because people on welfare are not allowed to have anything nice, they can’t go out, and if they do they are harshly judged. For example, I used to go clubbing a lot. When I went out I either got there while entrance was free or paid no more than $5. I didn’t drink and I took public transit. However, I was judged and people made assumptions that I must be spending obscene amounts of money going out partying or what not (even a family member made these assumptions). If a person is on welfare they are expected to stay home, not buy something nice for themselves, and if they do it means they are doing it in the extreme sense.
Like I said, I am not denying there are people who abuse the system. However, it is unfair to generalize based on a small amount (and trust me, it is smaller than you think). It boils down to this; you don’t know a person’s circumstance and making assumptions is extremely unfair and ignorant. Also stating, “I know a guy” or “I once saw someone…” are not viable defenses. Furthermore, there was probably more to that one personal story you like to use as your reasoning for why everyone on welfare are blood sucking freeloaders. Here is a good example:
“I saw someone buying beer with food stamps!” First, as I mentioned before both cash and food are on the same debit type card. So, you probably saw them using their cash benefits. Now, while it is entirely possible that person (and remember one person does not make up everyone) is abusing the system, it is unfair to jump to those conclusions. Maybe they spent 99% of their money on rent, bills, etc, and are using the little bit left to buy the beer for a night with friends. Maybe they are buying it as a gift (yes, people buy alcohol as a gift. You should see how happy my step brother is when he gets a case of Heineken for the holidays). The point is you simply cannot assume something simply based on what you see in passing.
To sum it up: Poor people are allowed nice things, you don’t know how they got those nice things (unless they tell you), they deserve happiness, and the mistakes of some do not negate the honesty of most.