Why Welfare?


I have always considered myself an independent because I am a socially liberal person but also economically conservative (the quizzes classified me as Libertarian). However, my dad is a staunch republican and we sometimes discuss politics. We argue about topics such as immigration, gay marriage, and healthcare. A while back, he sent me one of those forward-chain emails with a short quip about a father and his college-age daughter discussing politics (sorry- I do not have the original source where he found it).

A Classic conversation:
A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very liberal, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his. One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs.


The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school. Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn’t even have time for a boyfriend, and didn’t really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

 

Her father listened and then asked, How is your friend Audrey doing? She replied, Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She’s always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn’t even show up for classes because she’s too hung over.

 

Her wise father asked his daughter, Why don’t you go to the Dean’s office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.

 

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father’s suggestion, angrily fired back, That’s a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I’ve worked really hard for my grades! I’ve invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!

 

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, Welcome to the conservative side of the fence.

 

I think a lot of us can relate to this story in some way. I think that Welfare in this country enables many people to live a lifestyle that they did not work for or deserve. People on welfare are not only receiving necessities of life, like food, but also television and cable. I think that people on welfare need to feel pressured to do better and succeed and not rely on other tax-payers money to help them out. Welfare is even paying for some people’s luxury items, like cable TV and cell phones. There are also statistics that show that 97.7% of “poor” people on welfare own a TV (65% own more than 1), and 78.3% have air conditioning (http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/272081/modern-poverty-includes-ac-and-xbox-ken-mcintyre). Therefore, if they can afford these luxuries, then why is government giving them more money? It is disappointing to me that our society enables people who can afford to live this lifestyle because there are some people that genuinely do need welfare to live from day-to-day. If the definition of “poor” were changed to exclude the less-needy American families, more resources could be allocated to those who truly need help to get a job and on their feet.

This article about a woman named Sharon Jasper, from New Orleans, perfectly exemplifies this issue of inappropriate welfare in America (http://www.snopes.com/politics/satire/jasper.asp). Jasper claims that “I might be poor, but I don’t have to live poor,” as welfare has funded her with a nice, hardwood floor apartment as well as a flat screen TV (which she complains is not a plasma). Although this short article is a piece of satire according to the author, the thoughts and feelings of Jasper are real and most likely exemplify the demeanor of other Americans on welfare.

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7 thoughts on “Why Welfare?

  1. Just a random comment. I recently gave a fully functional and nice TV, but a non-flat one, to my church’s yard sale. It must have cost us at least $500 around 2002 (when we moved to this house). The TV from before we got for $25 at a Salvation Amry store. It looked totally like it had been in a bar since 1975. Dials. Brown plastic fake wood cover. I loved it.

    But the one I got rid of, because we move to a flat screen, was ready to be sold to raise money for my church. I dropped it off. Next day, I was back. The pricers marked it at $2. $2!!!!!!!!!!! You think Enron or AIG shares lost value. Holy shit. The copper and other metals in it alone must be worth more than that (though maybe hard to extract). Some Pokemon cards we dropped off were $3.

    I am not sure owning a TV is the best measure of financial security for households. There are more complex versions of this point (for example, due to globalization and competition, the price of many durable good is much less in real terms than it was 20 or 40 years ago).

    But it is illustrative. I could have bought my own TV back and felt it was a good bargain.

    PS- I challenged the pricing and the pricers said if they charge more, TVS don’t move. There were about 4 there, all $1-$3.

  2. My parents also tend to send me email forwards all of the time. This one was pretty interesting though. It is an interesting way to explain welfare as well as a very simple way to make people understand. I find myself socially liberal but economically conservative. Personally, I don’t think it is very fair that people who work hard to gain a high position and salary would have to give up this salary they worked hard for. But at the same time I don’t think people who are exceedingly rich with a constant unnecessary surplus of money to spend on whatever they want, need that money. I don’t know where the line should be drawn between the two but I do agree with you that it is not fair to take money away from those who have earned it.

  3. I love this post. I feel the same way about politics: economically conservative and socially liberal. My parents too, are hard republican. The story your dad sent you is hilarious and such a good way to look at the economic system. Welfare in general is one of those topics that just gives me a head ache. It’s so frustrating that so many people can get away with getting a nice welfare check and foodstamps while spending all day on the computer or laying in front of the T.V. I was actually in line at a grocery store once where the person in front of me was paying in food stamps…..while she was texting on an Iphone. At the time I didn’t even have an Iphone! How is this fair!? Some people do need welfare, but over half just cheat the system and live off those who work hard for their money.

  4. Wow, I’ve never thought about economic issues like that before. That is a great and thought provoking example. I tend to agree with democratic views on the economy, but reading this post has definitely caused me to rethink my opinions. I strongly believe that there need to be welfare programs to help those who are not as fortunate, but I also believe that there need to be very strict limitations on the welfare that people can get to avoid situations like the one in the article. Putting this into perspective is difficult for young adults, since very few college aged students have made enough money to seriously be affected by taxes going towards welfare programs.

  5. Do those collecting welfare and food stamps have restrictions to get off of this government aid? I just feel that if individuals are living off of the government, that there should be both a time limit and provisions to the arrangement. Regular drug tests, maintaining a steady job, and submitting a monthly budget as well as accountability for expenses should all be part of the deal. This is necessary to ensure that those on welfare get off of it within a reasonable timeframe and also that those on the dole truly need the assistance.

    • Usually there are lifetime limits, plus expectations of looking for work. Should companies that get subsidies have drug tests too? Maybe all the bailed out ones’ cross?

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