How can you tell when the social safety net has become a hammock? What are the government’s obligations to help someone who could work but really just wants the handout? What about when a second-generation perpetual welfare recipient is even ambivalent about her own children and whether they should have a job when they grow up?
Progressives look at unemployment and people on welfare, seeking someone to blame. It might be big business, or the system, privilege, or failures in education. But for anyone to suggest that the problem could (even sometimes) be found in the welfare recipients themselves would spark outrage and indignation.
“Austin’s Morning News” (a radio show) had exactly the kind of caller that gives those same Progressives fits. One woman called in to say that someone in her position is just as much a “good person” (this point was important for her to stress, she brought it up more than once) as someone who works for a living. What is her position? She’s a chronic welfare recipient.
She doubles down on her argument. Not only is she just as good a person as someone who isn’t on welfare (more on that point in a moment) but the “real” reason people work for a living is so they can claim moral superiority over people who don’t.
Good person? Of course some people on welfare ARE good people, and some who work are NOT. But that isn’t exactly what she is saying here. She is on welfare, and has been, probably her whole life. Her parents are on welfare, and when asked about her hopes for whether her kids should work when they are grown, she is ambivalent.
She laughs at working class schmucks who pay taxes for her to stay home, smoke weed, and visit her friends all day. She gets subsidized rent ($50/month). She gets an Obamaphone, she gets utilities, she gets food stamps. And she wouldn’t want it any other way.
How does she defend it? She justifies it. Two ways.
First, she uses the age-old “there are worse offenders than me” tactic. Complaining about the benefits illegal immigrants get, including free college (“I don’t get free college!”) she plays the “at least I’m an American citizen” card. Because, I suppose, being a citizen somehow makes it ok to take advantage of other American citizens.
Then she goes the other route. “If someone offered you a million dollars, you’d take it, too.” She used this exact phrase several times in the conversation.
But it’s a lie. For several reasons.
First off, she’s not getting a million dollars. She signed on to become a government vassal, and traded her freedom for a pittance. Government assigns her an income. Government decides how much her budget is, where she can live (subsidized housing) what she can eat, drive, and wear. Government decides what kind of vacations she can afford to take.
Secondly, we have ample proof that not everyone else jumps at such opportunities for freebies. It turns out that a great many people in America still can’t be so easily bought as she can.
She doesn’t work, and doesn’t want to. She doesn’t see the need, or value in it. She doesn’t see how building something, earning something, achieving something is an important aspect of the human experience, and failing to do so is leaving the top tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs unmet.
I could stop here and make the case for why we need to make it harder to game the system like this woman is. (We do.) She herself said that if welfare were cut off, she’d have to get a job. Sounds like she needs to be cut off.
I could take a side tour here and mention Mike Rowe’s excellent program (scholarships included) of connecting people to solid jobs. There are “3 Million jobs that nobody seems to want”, and Rowe is dedicated to helping people who really want to work, make the jump.
But the point I really want to make was one I first heard made by Bill Whittle.
We have a word for it already.
A place where housing is provided. Where food is provided. Where everything comes easy to you, and you can lounge around all day doing nothing.
That perfectly describes a zoo. But people, like lions or wolves, are ill-suited to life in captivity.
Those who abuse the system — not the truly needy, but those like the woman who called in — should be helped “to return to the wild”. She has said what that would look like in her case: if she’s cut off.
The one thing we know for sure, is that there is nobody in the system that this woman can blame for wanting to game it — except for the politicians who made it easy to do so.
So let’s start dealing with them.