All Articles Tagged "welfare"
Some of you all may have seen that EBT (It’s Free Swipe your EBT) song, which has been going viral over the last week, right. All have to say on that one is that there is a special type of ignorant, which thinks it’s okay to mock people, who rely on public assistance for their daily assistance. Most particularly now since the right wing is doing everything in its power to strip away the very safety nets for the working class, the poor and even the middle class (when they need them), which has gotten folks through some very tough times.
For many folks, the stigmatization of public assistance continues with uninformed claims about welfare and its recipients in this country. Folks may see, read or hear about some extreme case of public assistance abuse and believe that it applies to the 45 million people, or 12 percent of U.S population, who use the plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese. Few will actually sit and mull over the fact that food stamp usage is now at record highs and climbing every month. This program now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.
Likewise, this new face of poverty in America includes more than the Tawanqie and the Shanifas of the world; the new face of poverty, mostly the result of the economic crisis and the ever weakening economy, also includes the married couples, struggling college students, the newly jobless, who have seen their unemployment benefits lapse, and workers whose slender wages leave them making the hard choice between rent and food. And still, the Republicans and Democrats who nearly eliminated welfare in the 1980s, under Ronald Reagan and again through the 90s, under Bill Clinton, through ineffective welfare reform acts, have not only unfairly targeted these safety nets but basically are in denial of the very policies and structural causes that have contributed to the need for welfare and other public assistance in the first place.
Policies including tax cuts for the rich and corporations, who send jobs overseas more than they provide employment for Americans here at home. Common place policies include providing billions in property tax breaks, free land and other kind of subsidies to attract or retain big box businesses, which do more to exploit workers than they do to provide livable and sustainable wages. And let us not forget the trillions in bailout money, including an array of other financial programs, which provided support to banks, car companies and now chicken factory farmers, who gave us little to no assurance that they will not engage in the very same practices, which caused the economic crisis to begin with.
But yet, with the economy in the condition it is in, we only want to discuss whether or not Latoya is smoking weed in her Section 8 approved apartment or has “schemed” her way into buying a $5 sandwich from Subways with her EBT card.
Last week marked the 15th anniversary of welfare reform, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The goal of the reform was to move struggling Americans into job training and employment (also known as welfare to work). After the economy weakened, states are continuing to push people off welfare, even while fewer and fewer jobs are being created. Likewise, housing foreclosure has contributed to record levels of homelessness in some places, food cupboards nationwide are struggling for funding and 15 percent of American households in general are experiencing “food insecurity” at some point. Meanwhile our elected leaders including Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan are pushing budget proposals for deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and even more fundamental changes to how it is administered, particularly turning SNAP into a block grant program, which would allow individual states to set the criteria and stipulations for how the money would be distributed.
SO yeah, with most Americans living about a paycheck and a half away from financial ruin, I find it distasteful, to say the least, to mock through song the very safety net programs, which could mean the difference between hunger, homelessness and even death. And quite frankly, I have grown weary of this aspirational mindset, which seems to sings praises of the rich while making scapegoats of the working poor. I’m sayin’, when did genuine concern over the welfare over our own citizens become a negative trait?
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
While Congress continues to hammer out the framework of the agreed-upon debt deal that would basically cut trillions in spending, in order to raise the debt ceiling, it is almost guaranteed that most of America will lose out. What they call a shared sacrifice, I call the gutting of the middle class and the poor.
If I sound a little bit jaded about this situation, it is because I am. You see, the government has been taking money from me since my first taxable job at age 15. They told me that in exchange for these deductions, I would be entitled to unemployment if ever I lost my gig; social security and health care when I retire; food stamps if ever I needed it. Yet through months of long debate about budget deals and debt ceilings I learned that the government has been borrowing against my SSI benefits and basically made it impossible for me, and people like me, to retire at 65 years of age.
But what angers me the most is watching normally responsible people bemoaning the Republicans for not taking a deal from the Democrats, the so-called protectors of the people. Make no mistake, what the Democrats were offering wasn’t any better.
Most people believed that compromise was needed to thwart financial despair. It seems like in this day and age, the coolest side to be on is the side against entitlements. The Tea Party movement is a good example of the level of cognitive dissonance, however, they are not the only ones fed up. I was in the supermarket the other day and overheard a conversation between two older black ladies, who were presumably not Tea Party members, discussing how how “both sides” are the problem. The poor are draining the system with their entitlements and the top 1 percent and corporations have been getting free passes on their taxes for decades.
This conversation between the older black women is indicative of what a researcher at Cornell University has already discovered; and that is that half of US social program recipients believe they have not used a government social program. Few folks understand that entitlements go beyond welfare, social security benefits and Medicare. Those who have ever gotten a federal subsidized student loan or a Pell grant, had their kids enrolled in head start through public school, taken the home mortgage interest deduction on your income taxes or driven on a freshly paved road in your neighborhood, have all have received entitlements.
In a way, you really can’t blame folks too much for how they feel: members of the middle class, regardless of political affliation, who think they have more in common with the rich tend to support government policies, candidates and legislation against their own interests. Ronald Reagan and the media have done a pretty good job of demonizing recipients of entitlements as welfare queens and able-bodied SSI cheats. The newfound hatred of the entitlements has enabled the middle class for two decades now to support programs that scapegoat all of our social ills on the backs of poor women, children and the disabled by throwing them off of welfare into low wage jobs, which provide below average livable earnings and little to no benefits.
However, now, the so-called middle class is now seen as the target and this time, it appears that Republicans and Democrats are working together to ensure that we are all viewed as welfare babies and able-bodied cheats. Politicians are fond of talking about how the middle class will be affected by policies and laws, but rarely do they define who is actually part of that group. Is the middle class only the top 5 percent of U.S. households, who have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975? Or is it the bottom 80 percent of American households who hold about 7% of the liquid financial assets. Perhaps the middle is the more than 40% of Americans, who actually are employed in service jobs. Or maybe the middle class is now the more than 42 million Americans, who now rely on food stamps. If this were the middle than I would hate to see what the bottom looks like.
Is it safe to say that the middle class might be dying? I don’t know for sure but our complacency and unwillingness to fight for our own interests and save the very things like entitlements, which enable the United States in the past to have one of the largest and thriving middle class, is sure a sign that we might be going down that road.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
I voted for Barack Obama.
And, while I took the opportunity to help elect this country’s first black president (with hopes of something different), I am not a Democrat. Rather, I reside on the lonely island of black conservatives—judged and misunderstood. I believe Shelby Steele described it accurately in “The Loneliness of the Black Conservative”:
The liberal-conservative axis is a bit different for blacks than for Americans generally. Under his American identity a black Republican is conservative, but under his racial identity he may be quite liberal. Many black Republicans, for example, are intense supporters of preferential affirmative action and thus liberal in terms of their group identity. (Colin Powell is a case in point, as is Arthur Fletcher, a black Republican who helped President Nixon introduce America’s first racial preference in the famous “Philadelphia Plan.”) But the “new” black conservatives—the ones who have recently become so controversial—may even be liberal by their American identity but are definitely conservative by the terms of their group identity. It is their dissent from the explanation of black group authority that brings them the “black conservative” imprimatur. Without this dissent we may have a black Republican but not a “black conservative,” as the term has come to be used.
Nearly 85 percent of black Americans identify as Democrats, which I’ve always found to be quite interesting because most can’t tell you why. Without understanding, so many blindly give praise to a party that, in many ways, has enabled them to fail. Case in point, the dissolution of the black family is often blamed on welfare and how it was designed to benefit single mothers thus making marriage less attractive and unimportant. As a result, we currently have a 73 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate and more children with absentee fathers than any other racial group in America. All studies point to that as a negative and poverty speaks for itself. Welfare was a Democratic initiative.
The Republican governor of Florida has just signed a bill into law that will require recipients of welfare to take a drug test when applying for aid. The law went into effect on July 1, and requires applicants to pay for the test. If an applicant tests positive for drugs, a family member can receive their benefits to distribute to any dependent children. If welfare recipients pass, they can apply to have the cost of the drug test reimbursed.
Governor Rick Scott approved the law, which will affect 113,000 adults, as a means to prevent tax dollars from being wasted by drug users, who he also hopes will be discouraged from using by the measure. Are these arguments logical, or is it unfair to test people for drugs just because they seek government help? Clutch magazine analyzes these issues, concluding:
The problem… is that the law does not test all Florida residents receiving aid from the state but instead targets low-income ones alone. Critics say that behind the law is a stereotyping of all welfare recipients, one that would never be applied to say small business owners seeking the state’s financial assistance.
The Florida branch of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says they will attempt to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the coming weeks. They are taking particular issue with the fact that Department of Social Services will be turning over positive drug tests to the states’ child services agency to open a possible child abuse investigation against parents. [...]
The ACLU filed their suit against Governor Scott on July 1st. They are using a similar law overturned in Michigan as precedent to prove the Florida law is unconstitutional.
The classism perpetuated by this law is obvious, and its sentiment is spreading. In addition to growing attacks on those receiving welfare aid, some states are moving to enact laws that require a drug test to receive unemployment benefits. These measures put humiliating pressure on the already downtrodden, while doing little to address their true problem — a lack of economic opportunity.
By contrast, government infiltration into the private lives of the financially stable receiving government support has not been considered. GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s husband owns a firm that benefited from Medicaid to the tune of $161,000. Bachmann herself owns a stake in a farm that has garnered $260,000 in government subsidies. Is she offering to send in urine samples to ensure that her use of these monies is legal? No.
After the $700 billion Wall Street bail out, the stock market scions immediately gave themselves record bonuses that outraged the public — quickly pocketing government cash. Cocaine and marijuana use in the financial sector is known to be rampant, but there is little talk of monitoring how that taxpayer money was spent.
As the poor don’t have the funds to contribute to GOP political campaigns, it’s much preferred to scapegoat the penniless recipients of government handouts. They cannot defend themselves.
And scapegoating is the political game Republicans play best. Rather than developing viable plans for economic development, they have honed this distraction tactic to perfection. With the public focused on the poor, who are covertly being blamed for government “waste” through these drug-testing-for-aid laws, the GOP can happily dole out corporate welfare to their cronies.
The scapegoating of the poor is a smoke screen for this dirty work — and America is falling for it. Many support the idea that drug testing for aid recipients makes sense, because on paper it does. But we need to remain aware of the larger social framework in which GOP supporters are excused from participating in the dehumanizing policies it forces on others. In the end, this routine blinds us to the Republicans’ lack of leadership in the one area that will really get people off the dole — creating jobs and spurring the economic recovery.
We need to keep our eyes open and minds clear to stay above the confusion being created by these drug testing proposals. This is the only way the GOP will be held accountable for their fiscal policy failures.
(Wall Street Journal) — Instead of paper checks, Oregon officials pay weekly unemployment benefits by loading the money onto debit cards that come with several unusual fees. After she found a job last year, 48-year-old Jennifer Schmidt of Riddle, Ore., was charged an “inactivity fee” of $2 by U.S. Bancorp for not using her debit card once she stopped drawing unemployment. The $2 fee sank the balance on her card into the red, triggering an overdraft fee of $17. ”How is it possible that the bigwigs in government can’t get a better deal for us?” she says. More than 40 U.S. states use prepaid debit cards to funnel unemployment benefits, child-support payments and other funds to recipients. Getting rid of paper checks and postage is hard to resist for cash-strapped governments, which last year steered $53.2 billion in unemployment benefits and child-support payments to prepaid debit cards, up 33% from 2009, according to Mercator Advisory Group Inc., a research firm in Maynard, Mass. Such cards made up 32% of the overall prepaid debit-card market in 2010. Banks are barreling into the business, led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the second-biggest U.S. bank in assets, which has contracts with 21 states. U.S. Bancorp, based in Minneapolis, has contracts with 16 U.S. states. The nation’s largest bank by assets, Bank of America Corp., has deals in five states and will start issuing debit cards for California’s unemployment benefits in July.
(Washington Post) — Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s proposed cuts to the District’s child welfare agency could threaten its recent progress, a court-appointed monitor warned in a report filed Monday with a federal judge. Under the budget plan Gray (D) released last month, funding for the Child and Family Services Agency would stay largely the same, about $265 million in local and federal money. But because of rising costs, the proposal appears to eliminate nearly $6 million in programs and contracts, including $635,000 for community groups that help at-risk families and a $2.5 million program that provides mental health services to badly traumatized children.
(Washington Post) — Navida Joy knows she needs to liberate herself from the District’s dole for good. The divorced mother of three has been receiving city welfare checks on and off for six of the past 10 years. But Joy, who gets about $430 a month in welfare checks and $440 in monthly food stamps, supports a controversial plan by the D.C. Council that would slash her benefits and those of other long-term welfare recipients.
(Washington Post) — The D.C. Council approved a city spending plan Tuesday that avoids higher taxes but includes far-reaching efforts to control spending on welfare programs, including a controversial move to start cutting off direct assistance after five years. On a day that saw public protests at the John A. Wilson Building and sparring among council members over the city’s obligation to care for its neediest residents, the council passed a series of amendments to close a $188 million shortfall in the current fiscal year’s budget. The vote is viewed as a warm-up to negotiations in the spring over the fiscal 2012 budget, when council members and Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) will face a projected $440 million shortfall. And although the council refrained from raising taxes Tuesday, most members agree that the debate to come will not be about whether to raise taxes but on whom and by how much to raise them.
(Washington Informer) — Two members of the D.C. Council are actively pursuing legislation that would limit the amount of time that a District resident can receive public assistance. D.C. Council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) are the chief sponsor and co-sponsor, respectively, of the District of Columbia Public Assistance Amendment Act of 2010, which would cap welfare benefits for city residents at five years. Barry said that it’s time that the District complies with the guidelines of a federal law, the 1996 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Act, by imposing its 60-month lifetime limits on those receiving cash assistance.
(Afro) — Ward 8 City Councilman Marion Barry has never shied away from the national spotlight and his latest initiative may soon gain him another distinction. The gruff councilman, who appears to have been reinventing himself over the past few years, said during a recent interview, that he wants to become a national advocate for welfare reform because the way the system works now only serves as a means to keeping poor people poor. “The present system has been a miserable failure, keeping families in poverty and joblessness,” Barry said.