On Being a Bleeding Heart Liberal


As I was leaving the grocery store yesterday, I passed a car in the parking lot that had this bumper sticker displayed:

 

It made me feel angry and sickened.  What a crock of shit.

What I want to know is: what do you consider to be “welfare”?

I suspect that when most people think of “welfare,” what they think about is food stamps and checks rolling in to pay for (undeserved) living expenses.  I think to a lot of people, the idea of “welfare” conjures up images of a trashy mom, obese from the fruits of her food stamps, parked on a sofa, chain-smoking and eating Doritos and watching Jerry Springer on the tube as her ten children from ten different fathers by turns slurp Coca Cola from their baby bottles, graffiti the neighborhood as they ditch school, and corrupt the good children from hardworking families with drugs and foul language.

I’m sure there are people out there exactly like that.  But you don’t really believe that that picture represents the majority of people on “welfare,” do you?  Do you think anybody likes being poor?  Do you think very many people are proud to collect government assistance?  And do you really believe that very many people who are on welfare are living high on the hog?  Sure, there is definitely welfare fraud going on, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about people who humbly tap into a resource that allows them to feed their children, and to eke out an existence that is still probably considered poverty-level.

Why do the Haves begrudge the Have-Nots so vehemently and meanly?  Why are so many people so deeply invested in the Mine-Mine-Mine! mindset?  How is it that many of the same politically conservative people who out of one side of their mouths insist that the United States of America was founded on Christian values and that we, as a country, have strayed too far away from those values insist out of the other side of their mouths that those who are less fortunate, those who have fallen on hard times or who were born into hard times, are moochers and parasites?  Isn’t helping those who are less fortunate a basic Christian tenet?  Shouldn’t it be a basic human tenet?

Why are so many people so hypocritical – and they don’t even see it?

Consider this: “welfare” is not merely food stamps.  “Welfare” is defined as –

. . . the provision of a minimal level of wellbeing and social support for all citizens. In most developed countries, welfare is largely provided by the government, in addition to charities, informal social groups, religious groups, and inter-governmental organizations. In the end, this term replaces “charity” as it was known for thousands of years, being the voluntary act of providing for those who temporarily or permanently could not.

***

Welfare systems differ from country to country, but Welfare is commonly provided to individuals who are unemployed, those with illness or disability, the elderly, those with dependent children, and veterans.

It is fair and accurate to say, then, that “welfare” encompasses any program designed to provide medical, monetary, or other assistance at the expense of taxpayers.  That means – and I’m talking to you, my friends in the Down syndrome community – Medicaid, early intervention services, respite care, and diapers from Regional Center.  If you have taken advantage of any of those, then you, my friend, have received welfare.  Should anyone begrudge you that?  Does it make you a moocher or a parasite?

Maybe the person who owns that car with that bumper sticker has never, ever received anything on the taxpayers’ dime.  But what would that person do if, by some catastrophe, they lost everything?   What would that person do if they had a child with a disability and that child needed therapy or extensive medical intervention?

It’s funny how it’s a whole different story when the circumstances come home to roost.

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11 Comments on “On Being a Bleeding Heart Liberal”

  1. theeisforerin
    November 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    I was just talking about this with my husband yesterday, because my aunt posted something “funny” on Facebook about welfare recipients being lazy etc. etc. What really made me crazy was that I know for a fact SHE WAS ON WELFARE when she was young!! She was an unmarried, young mother trying to provide for her family. She soon enough married her babies’ father, got a loan, and built a very successful business. THAT is exactly why welfare exists, so people like her can get a leg up and make something of themselves instead of being poor forever. And yet even SHE looks down her nose at people who now are where she once was… makes me crazy.

    And I say, even when people abuse the system – and some do – their children are not guilty of their mistakes. No child should have to go hungry and homeless because they were born to parents with no means to provide.

  2. Holly F.
    November 10, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Wow Lisa. Wow. Thank you for saying, so well, what I’ve been screaming. Shared on FB.

  3. Carolyn Gabriel
    November 10, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    “The people will go on” Mother Joad at the end of “Grapes of Wrath”. We are an elderly couple with a middle aged DS son. When my husband was young, he was a Republican. Nixon’s motto was something like “He’s the one.” When I was sitting home alone I felt that Nixon was “the one” as I was home alone without my husband. After my husband got into ARC administration in the south, he changed his view point and became a staunch Democrat. His opinion is that Republicans don’t want to do anything for anyone except to cut taxes for the wealthy. My experience has been in the public sector. What I learned and saw in the south was that we really don’t take care of ‘our’ people well enough. I think when women apply for food stamps for children, they should go home with a voucher or some means of obtaining food. People can become impoverished through no fault of their own. One radical proposal that I heard was to just take the ‘funding’ and give it directly to the mothers, while educating them on how to spend it. What may happen to the developmentally disabled in the future is scary, as the budget cuts are frequent and deep. My husband and I raised enough funding for the ARC to have a Preservation Fund when he retired over ten years ago. Thank God it still exists. When my Mother was living, she once said to me “do you really think that you can depend on the government to provide for your son?” Well, not any more! Our nation is so politically fractured, we will not be able to work together and have maximum utilization of our resources until a majoritypeople adopt mature, open mindedattitudes and are willing to see the plight of the impoverished and disabled. I enjoy your ‘blog’, thanks for listening, whether you agree or not.

    ________________________________

  4. CJ
    November 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I receive “welfare”. Em has life long state covered medical care as a term of her adoption. J is covered by the state because Ash’s company won’t cover her and I am self-employed. I do not have any health insurance. I receive “food stamps” because our household income qualifies and gluten free food is expensive. Ash and I both work 40 plus hours per week. We both pay taxes. Our goal is to no longer need that assistance and we are working towards that. I’m not ashamed. I do what I have to in order to protect and provide for my kids.

  5. Jody
    November 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    It’s the gross numbers of lazy individuals who take advantage of the system that causes people who criticize welfare to get such a bad rap. It is annoying and frustrating to work hard and see the abuse and mis-use and POLITICIZATION of this system. I truly don’t think that all people who feel this way “dismiss” the need for real and true welfare to help those who need it – it’s just that the people who really don’t need it and take advantage of it really piss us off who work our arses off. please try to see both sides….. because the special needs (both kids and adults and especially mental health benefits) community is not getting ENOUGH because of the fakers/takers. I would put this bumper sticker on my car in a minute! There is seriously a need for true reform and stop using it to get votes…..

    • Lisa
      November 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      Jody, it seems that everyone who has negative feelings about welfare qualifies it by saying “I don’t begrudge anyone who really needs it,” while at the same time, in effect, lumping everyone who receives assistance into the same lazy/undeserving group. What qualifies you, or I, or anyone else to judge, to decide who needs it and who doesn’t?

      • KMs
        November 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

        Lisa, I appreciated your article, and your comments. However, someone must “judge” who receives assistance and who does not, that’s how the system works. I received assistance when my husband walked out on my son and me when he was born. I didn’t have a job, and I just couldn’t leave my precious child with strangers all day. So I stayed at home for awhile, on state welfare. I hated it, but was grateful it was there.

        My anger is directed at those people who just don’t want to work because it’s hard, or inconvenient or they’ll make more money on welfare(haha), or whatever the excuse is that makes them do it. I have a relative with a bad back, she would LOVE to be qualified as disabled so she didn’t have to work, but the “judges” in their wisdom said, NO, you are not disabled. I applaude them. She is not disabled, she is in pain, well, who the hell isn’t? I’m in pain every damn day, but I get up and go to work and come home and take care of my pain. I have a family to take care of, that’s what you do.

        I work hard, I pay my taxes, I don’t mind helping those in NEED, but I do mind helping those who do not want to help themselves. Is that wrong? Is that selfish? No, it just is.

        There is a huge difference between mandated charity, and true charity. True charity comes from the heart for those truely in need, and anyone with compassion has no problem with that. Mandated charity is never charity, and because of that, you have people who resent it, like me.

      • Lisa
        November 15, 2012 at 12:05 am #

        I’m really not sure what you mean by “mandated charity.” Anyone who receives government assistance has to apply for it (i.e. qualify). Is the system perfect? No. Are there people who abuse the system? Without a doubt. But who should judge “need”? You? All the haters with the snarky bumper stickers? What really bothers me is that it seems that every single person who rants about welfare and welfare recipients says “Of course I don’t begrudge people who really NEED it,” as if it’s their place to judge who really needs it. And all the while, they actually disdain ANYONE who receives assistance, lumping them all into the same loser/lazy category.

        You are aware, of course, that there would be plenty of people who would have something to say about your own experience receiving public assistance? You were able to work, but you chose not to because staying with your infant was more important. While you may feel that’s noble and worthy, not everyone does. There are plenty of people out there who leave their newborns in the care of daycare or whatnot because they “have” to work (I was one of those; I had to go back to work when my first baby was 9 weeks old. However, I don’t look down on your choice, because it wasn’t my choice to make and I didn’t walk in your shoes).

        I don’t like moochers, either, and I certainly think that there is a generation of people who have been raised with an entitlement mindset and a poor work ethic. But I also think it’s unfair to categorize everyone who receives assistance as lazy, because I just don’t think that’s true.

    • Lisa
      November 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

      The truth is that EVERYONE needs help at some point in their lives. Some people get that help from family, some from friends, some from church, some from charity organizations, and yes, some from government. Not everyone has the same safety nets and resources in place that some other people do.

  6. Heather
    November 11, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    I agree that a welfare system is needed. My early intervention for Morgan was a state based program, not a federal program, and funded through my state. I had to pay into the program on a sliding scale according to our annual family income. There is just so much abuse of the system. I have a friend on facebook who spent the summer traveling and when she was home, swimming with her kids. She is a single mom who gets federal housing, income, and food stamps. And I love her! But it hurt to see how much free time and fun she was having with her 3 teenage children while I was working my butt off all summer and missing out on things with my 6 children. Not once has she mentioned she is looking for a job. Well actually she did mention it once but said with her qualifications she would get paid around $40,000/year and that would make her lose all of her benefits. She currently gets $37,000 a year assistance from the federal government plus food stamps and $900/month housing allowance. It honestly makes me wonder why I’m working so hard to make ends meet when others seem to be doing quite well living off the government.

  7. Meredith
    November 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    I know many people who refuse to give money to people who are living on the streets because they don’t want them to just go spend it on booze or drugs or whatever other bad habits they might have. While I can understand that sentiment, I don’t think it’s necessarily right. When I help someone or give something to someone in need, I’m doing that because I feel it’s the right thing to do. I’ve done my part. It’s up to them how to spend the money. It’s not up to me to tell them how to spend it. That’s not true charity. There are people out there who need help. We’ve all needed help at one point or another, whether it’s financially, emotionally, physically or otherwise. So we should reach out to those in need and help out however we can. I don’t necessarily think the government should have such a big role in it, but that’s not for me to decide. Examples like Heather gave of her friend who can make more off the goverment that from a job are the ones that make people so angry. I am all about helping people and do it whenever I can. But there definitely needs to be some reform in the welfare system if people are choosing to stay on welfare because they can get more money than from a good paying job.

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