Friday, December 20, 2013

The poor, welfare and google

(photo by Marija Jure; used with permission)
My friend, John, blogged his experience and thoughts on judgements about people on public assistance in his post "The Poor Shouldn't Smoke?"

This came on the heels of reading a very heated lively discussion on another Facebook group about drug testing for people receiving public assistance.

I have very different feelings about social justice and social programs than I used to.  I had a lot of questions and very staunch assumptions.  I had people challenge them, and one day I finally started to listen.  It was hard to do, because assumptions.  But I dared to.  I learned so many things and continue to learn more.  I encourage others to do the same, but sometimes they just ... don't.  I can't make them.  I can't make them want to.  All I can do is share my voice in the conversation, continue to learn and continue to productively love other humans in the way I live out my life and my vote.

So, I encourage you to read and watch and sit.  Everything on this page is a different corner of the same subject.  Just sit and chew, if you want to.  Taste something different first, without assuming it will be bitter.  Look at it from many angles.

If you have a question like, "How can someone be getting welfare and have a brand new TV in their living room?" then google it.  A lot.  In a million different ways.  Or ask and talk to many, many, many people on public assistance.

If you think to yourself, "How can all these wealthy, highly intelligent people be the morons voting for more social programs to give away more of their money?  It makes no sense!  Morons!" then I would encourage you to ... find out why.  Dig around.  Answer your own question by going to the people that have poured their lives and research into it.

If you want to.  When you're ready.  I had many factors that played into my life that pushed me to listen more and dig deeper.  It had to become more important to me for me to do that work for myself.

It was work.  I won't sugar coat it.  It still is.  Autodidacticism can be a bitch.

"Utah is On Track to End Homelessness by 2015 With This One Simple Idea"

"Drug Tests of Welfare Recipients Prove Costly"

"What Non-Smokers Will Never Understand"


barb_aloot said...

Great topic and great timing. I've been on welfare. Here's how come I have occasionally had things people might think I shouldn't be able to afford.

My son has always had some good clothes and loads of toys because my parents buy them. No, they can't support us. They aren't rich. But they do buy their grandson birthday and Christmas gifts.

So do other people in my family. Sometimes they even buy me presents.

Sometimes friends and family upgrade their stuff and we get some awesome hand-me-downs. No joke, we've been given two TVs that were perfectly good but otherwise heading for the dump. We are lucky to have several people in our lives who have children a bit older than my son, so I haven't had to buy a bike, for example.

I have decent office worthy clothes, and even clothes to go out on the town, because I used to have a good job. I didn't throw them out when I got laid off.

In fact, I used to buy all kinds of nice things, and mercifully the welfare office did not come to my house and seize them.

I get my hair cut once a year. BTW, while I appreciate the compliments, I personally HATE my hair long. But I'd rather spend the money on taking my son out to do stuff that welfare people aren't supposed to do. Also, I don't wear make up. Huge savings right there. But ya know, another mom might have a great hair cut and wear make up because she's found another place to cut back.

Bottom line, you cannot judge based on what you see in public because you have no idea what is being sacrificed behind the scenes or how friends and family are helping. Maybe the stylish mom has a friend who is a hair dresser or a sister who works retail and gets a good discount. Maybe the mom buying a lot of candy is planning a birthday party and you have no way to know what she hasn't bought to make it happen. Living on welfare makes you very, very resourceful.

Ashley said...

I live on Welfare too. (I hope to not, someday) Yet, I look around my living room and I can see where the judgement might come from.

Yup, that's a genuine Egyptian papyrus on my wall- A gift from my partner's parents who lived overseas for 3 years and bought it *in* Egypt when their income was larger and tax free. Upon redecorating, they had no where to hang it and passed it on to us.

An electric fireplace hums in the corner- Essentially a glorified space heater it keeps electricity costs down, and although 200.00 to purchase retail, another gift. This time from friends who were moving somewhere with a "real" fireplace. My loveseat and chair matcch, but the pattern is 10+ years old . I was given the loveseat for free, and then a friend, scouring kijiji, found a matching chair and purchased it for a housewarming gift. My Wii? Hand me down. My iPad? A gift from my mother, and all I recieved that year.

Lastly, the one people *love* to throw at me- You have so many pets!!

My cat- Neutered, male, BLACK. No one wanted him. He was 30.00 at the shelter and his neuter was included.

My partner's (225.00) minature parrot? A gift from his breeders to us because they knew he would have a good home here.

My gerbils? All rescued. All outcasts no one wanted. Yes, they are my children. Maybe I'll be blessed with the two-legged variety some day, but for now these are it. I buy for them in bulk- And they eat before I do. Actually, some of the things I buy I can only justify purchasing because the bird and gerbils eat them too- ie: fresh fruit and veggies, because otherwise they would spoil.

Ask. Think. Be compassionate.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I haven't been food-stamp poor, but I've been kids-on-free-lunch poor and I was lucky enough to have family to give us stuff we needed or wanted - including hand-me-down-tvs. Now that I am more financially fortunate I have tried to articulate to some of the contemptuous always-haves around me that judging the poor based on your assumptions is misguided.

Caylee said...

Great post - but the woman who wrote that essay has been revealed as a fraud (she's an upper middle class woman who was private-school educated and works as a democratic political consultant) and most of what is in her beautifully-written essay never happened to her. A paper has the deets:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info, Jacee. I have updated my post.

Anonymous said...

One of the most palatable ways to discover these things (in my opinion) is by watching Stephen Colbert. Because he is also unbelieveably hilarious. (a spoon full of sugar...)

But here are two more for you from very recent times (I could send you hundreds more):

1. Here's an audio segment about the "original welfare queen" as described by Ronald Regan. As it turns out she was in NO WAY representative of people on welfare. It will make your jaw drop:

2. And although this is not specifically about the poor and welfare, it IS about how mass media wildly distorts things just out of laziness really (and sensationalism) to create an atmosphere of blaming the victim and bullying:

I guess I always feel (when having a debate with anyone about these issues) it's important to acknowledge that there is fraud in the system. But this is to be expected! Even if there's 15 percent fraud (and that's probably a little high), that means 85 percent of people on assistance really NEED it. Why is it OK to deny them because of the 15 percent?

And SNAP is one of the best run programs in the country. It's food for children and disabled primarily as well as working adults and non-working adults. Plain and simple. I find it painful and heartbreaking to hear people talk about cutting snap. Because there but for the grace of God go I. And you. And them.