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Monday, October 17, 2011

Social Systems and Hand-Outs

I have recently had my views on welfare and social handout systems challenged.

I find that that creates a PERFECT opportunity to write about the general views I hold on these systems.

First of all I believe that EVERYONE should work to their ability. EVERYONE should carry their own weight in the world. I believe that there should be no place for people whose lives are spent leaching off the hard work of others and whom choose to not participate in being a productive member of society.

There are, however, exceptions to this scenario. ALL of those exceptions revolve around the idea of a person requiring outside assistance due to circumstances beyond their control.

For example I know of several people with crippling illnesses. Most of them are still being productive members of society on a schedule that is considered normal for the average person. Most of these people will lose their ability to maintain that schedule over time. As their ability to support themselves decreases below a threshold of self-reliance I feel that society should tend to them because they had been active participants in society. Their inability to retain that status is not their CHOICE, but an unfortunate event that could happen to anyone. This applies to diseases, genetic defects that end up crippling people and people whom suffer from tragic accidents. There is one category of people whom I would exempt from this exception. That category is people who are seriously injuring doing something incredibly stupid that they shouldn't have been doing in the first place.

I also know of many people whom choose to NOT participate in society according to the rules of supporting yourself. These people are people whom I do not think should get support and help from my tax dollars. These people are people who have taught their children to expect handouts and that welfare and food stamps are their RIGHT and a valid career options. These people sicken me. I, personally, have met MANY people who fall into this category. Granted, most of the people I have met in this category do currently reside in one of the poorest counties in the country AND probably have no means to make their situation better but the reality is that they are not even trying AND they are teaching their children to live the same way.

I have also met many people who are not, by the standards of the system currently in place, abusing the system but, in my mind, they are. One of these categories is people who use (what used to be referred to as) food stamps to purchase goods that are NOT essentials. The idea behind food stamps is to provide a family the means to have their basic nutrition when they cannot afford it on their own. One major limitation on this is that they cannot use them to purchase hot foods; one major failure in the hot foods exemption is that it is defined by the temperature of the prepared food. When I was working in a convenience store with a sandwich station in it I sold a great many cold sandwiches to people on food stamps because the cold (but still prepared) sandwiches were NOT exempt but the hot ones were. I sold sandwiches to the same individuals on a daily basis. I sold a volume of sandwiches to individuals who did NOT work that was greater than the double the volume of prepared foods I could afford on the wages I had working in that store. While this falls within the rules of the system it is, as far as I am concerned, an abuse of the system. Similar to this are the people who use their food stamps to purchase "slush puppies" or candy bars or lobster or steak or soda or chips or fresh salmon. All of these behaviors and purchases I am mentioning are from direct experiences I have had selling the items (because I had to) or because I directly witnessed the behavior in a grocery store. I am not generating random examples of POSSIBLE misuse.
Another, completely different misuse of our social support system that falls COMPLETELY within the rules of the system is the collection of unemployment by seasonal workers during the off season. I have worked season jobs. I have had jobs that disappeared during the off season. I replaced those jobs with other jobs for the remainder of the year. It is one thing to not have a replacement for a seasonal job one year but completely another to not bother seeking a replacement because one knows that they may collect unemployment for four months during the "off season" and resume their job when the "on season" starts again. I do not find this behavior acceptable, yet there are many people who do it because the system allows it.

Do I believe that the abuse of the system lies in the majority of the people who use it? No. Many people will try to inform us that the abuse is a very small statistical minority out of the whole. Those people may be exactly correct but they are not including the abuses of the system that fall completely within the rules of the system itself.
I believe that the true level of abuse of the hand-outs systems are larger than the proponents of those systems want to admit and greater than any statistics can show. I believe that, until we change the rules of the system we cannot see how wide the abuses actually are.

I also believe that if we were to start gathering data on the "legitimate" uses of the system that I feel are abuse we would find the numbers are MUCH higher than the number of people who are blatant abusers of the system in the ways that the news media demonstrates.

This is my view on social systems that generate free hand-outs. I welcome your opinion. I welcome you to challenge my thoughts. More importantly, I welcome you to make observations and see for yourself how often the subtle abuses that are within the rules of the systems happen. If you watch closely at the grocery store you can see the use of food cards among other patrons.... look at what they are buying. Is ALL of it a core staple nutritional item or do they have ice cream and cookies?

I've paid attention. I've made up my mind based on direct observation and NOT based on what I hear on the news. I've based my opinion on the usage of the system by people whom I know well whose COMPLETE stories I know. Even among them I see abuse at varying levels.

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