Friday, December 16, 2011

My Time Questioning Her Time At Wal-Mart...

I'm sure most of you, if not all, have seen it by now.  The blog post by "CollegeConservative" about welfare abuse.  For those that haven't, it's right here.  First of all, I can't take anyone seriously if the advertisement on their page is referencing  President Obama is not a communist.  President Bush wasn't Hitler.  Look, you can dislike their politics, but leave the stupid comparisons to evil people alone.  You lose all credibility right off the bat.  Anyways, I saw the link to the blog post showing up in my Facebook feeds like crazy the other day.  I had to read it to find out what everyone was talking about.  Well, what I read was, in my opinion, a steaming pile of human excrement.  Basically, "college conservative" is painting people that use food stamps or other forms of State and Federal aid as a freeloading "Welfare Queen".  Hold on a minute, what?

First of all, I'm not going to suggest, not for a minute, that abuse is not happening.  Anyone who denies that people are abusing the welfare system is kidding themselves.  That said, abuse is happening everywhere, by people of all walks of life.  This isn't just being done by the poorest among us, it is absolutely happening among wealthy people as well.  People will always find a way to screw the system.  What angers me more than anything else on this subject, though, is how so many people paint with a broad brush.  I understand that abuse upsets people, I do.  However, it is completely inaccurate to suggest that abuse is widespread or that everyone receiving aid is a "freeloader" or that they are "lazy". 

Let's look at some of the information that College Conservative puts forward as facts.  She claims to have worked at the Scarborough Wal-Mart for the summers of 2010 and 2011.  She says that, in that time, she "witnessed generations of families all relying on the state to buy food and other items".  Again, perhaps this is true, to an extent, but she casually observed this while scanning items at the checkout counter over the course of two summers?  Generations of families?  Really?  This, again, seems like a pretty broad accusation.  Did she know the families personally?  Did they shop together, therefore she assumed they were families?  To me, too many questions to assume she saw "generations" of families relying on the state.

People ignored her while they talked on their iPhone.  First of all, people of all stripes do this everywhere.  It happens at the drive thru, the bank and toll booths.  It's annoying, no matter who you are.   However, she loses me when she starts using numbers.  "For those of you keeping score at home, an iPhone is at least $200, and requires a data package of at least $25 a month. If a person can spend $25+ a month so they can watch YouTube 24/7, I don’t see why they can’t spend that money on food," she says.  Perhaps the phone is a hand-me-down from mom and dad.  Perhaps they don't have a data plan that allows them to "watch YouTube 24/7".  Perhaps they didn't pay $200 for the phone, and got a refurbished version for considerably less, much like I did.  Again, alot of assumptions here, and to quote my high school Botany teacher, you know what happens when you assume, right?

She ridicules people for using TANF benefits to purchase things such as Kit Kat bars, beer and a slip and slide, then goes on to say that there are no restrictions on what TANF benefits can be used for.  So, where is the abuse?  Were they all great choices for uses of the funds?  Not necessarily, but who are we to judge.  If a person wants to waste benefits they are eligible for, and go without something that could be more beneficial, that is their choice.  If you have a problem with the system, fix that, don't ridicule the individual for doing what they have every right to do.

Extravagant purchases made with food stamps, such as steaks, lobsters and giant birthday cakes.  Again, if the system is set up in such a way that this is acceptable, then the people following the rules aren't the problem.  If a person wants to use $60 in food stamps to purchase lobster, and then has nothing else to show for it, that is their choice.  Sure, it may not be a smart move on their part, but who am I to judge.  As for birthday cakes, perhaps that is because they have a child having a birthday, and they can't do much for them, but they can at least get them a cake.  Why is that so wrong?  Are poor children not allowed to have a birthday cake? 

The hot dog vendor that purchases all of his supplies (hot dogs, buns, condiments, etc) using food stamps is an interesting case.  If this is true, that's not cool.  If this is true, I would agree, this is wrong.  However, I'd need more information first, before accusing him of any wrongdoing.  This is another case of jumping to conclusions without knowing all the facts.  If he is breaking the rules, kick him off the system.  If what he is doing is well within the current guidelines, be mad all you want, but it is legit. 

The issue of entitlement is absolutely a problem, and one I won't argue with her about.  That said, it's not just by benefit recipients.  There are people all around us, both rich, poor and middle class that walk around like their shit doesn't stink.  Nobody is entitled to anything.  We must work for it.  If we hit a bump in the road, and we need assistance in one form or another, then so be it, there is a safety net in place for just that reason.  It can hit any of us at any time.  I've been there before.  You have to swallow your pride and accept reality, and it isn't always easy.  There is no reason to feel like you are above anyone else, no matter what the reason. 

Maine does have a large chunk of the population receiving benefits, and again, I'm certain that there is abuse happening within the system.  That said, suggesting that people that are on welfare assistance are lazy freeloaders is not only wrong, but it's insulting.  If we feel that there is a problem with how the system works, then we need to focus on that, not by attacking people that are already down on their luck.  Until we walk a mile in their shoes we have absolutely no right to suggest we know anything about them or their situation.  If we spent more time figuring out how to get these people back to work and earning a paycheck, and less time demonizing them, we would all be much further ahead.  Until then, pieces like the one from College Conservative do nothing but incite anger and class warfare, and that is not helpful.  I'm just saying...