This country lives under a misconception of what welfare is, who it was made for and whether it is beneficial or detrimental to "personal accountability." Today, I will bust the myths and present the facts.
What is welfare?
Welfare is federal aid program created in the 1930's to help families suffering in the Great Depression. In the 1990's, during the Clinton administration, welfare reform gave states more control over who receives aid and for how long. The federal government funds the state run programs through TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). TANF is only available to those who are actively looking for work and requires that all applicants find work within two years. These programs include; Medicaid, food stamps, child care assistance, unemployment, cash aid and housing assistance.
Welfare can be a broad term that, depending on the political persuasion, can include different government funded aid programs. Some political parties like to include all federally funded programs when calculating the welfare budget. For this post, I will not include programs that are not for temporary assistance. I will not include; social security, social security disability, veteran benefits, tax credits, education loans/grants or retirement programs.
Taxpayers are burdened by the cost of welfare.
About 20% of the budget is spent on defense, 20% on social security, 21% on health care programs and 13% on safety net programs for hardships. Before we complain about programs that help the needy, we have to examine where our money is actually being spent. Some forget that Americans pay twice as much for corporate welfare than they do for social welfare. In 2006, taxpayers spent $92 billion on corporate welfare compared to $59 billion on social welfare. Why the outrage over the needy and not over the corporations monopolizing markets in order to become "to big to fail?"
Welfare recipients are moochers.
First and foremost, the number one recipients of welfare are children. Call them lazy moochers all you want, but the law pretty much prevents them from being hard working contributors of society. (Sarcasm intended.) The number two recipients are single mothers, many of whom are employed. As a woman, I am appalled by the people labeling single, hard working mothers as "moochers."
Welfare is ruining our economy.
In fact, a bad economy increases the need for welfare, not the other way around. People do not need welfare when jobs are plenty and the economy is booming. Welfare is the effect, not the cause.
Welfare is expensive.
Some media outlets (cough, cough, Fox News) have made claims that welfare costs over 1 trillion dollars and is robbing American tax payers of their hard earned cash. Here in reality, the term "welfare" should not include 83 programs not related to TANF. It shouldn't include programs like social security, medicare or veteran benefits. Conservative politicians, pundits and media channels like to lump all of these programs together to come up with these outrageous numbers. This figure is not accurate, it is a political trick for those who do not have time to fact check them.
President Obama has made Americans more dependent on government aid.
I will let the numbers do that talking.
1996: 12,600,000 Americans on welfare, for a total of 4.7% of the population
2011: 4,600,000 Americans on welfare, for a total of 1.47% of the population
2012: 5,300,000 Americans on welfare, for a total of 1.7% of the population
Welfare recipients are drug addicts.
Recently, Florida made drug testing mandatory for all welfare recipients. Within four months, only 2.6% of tests came back positive for drugs. Of that 108, 40 were cancellations and most of the others tested positive for marijuana. The tests cost tax payers over $118,000 with a savings of $0.
Welfare recipients do not want to work.
This myth is my favorite. The irony is almost to much to bear. Not everyone on assistance is jobless. In fact, most people on Medicaid or SNAP have a job. Even if they are not fortunate enough to find work, these families are not living the high life. They live below the poverty line.
Welfare recipients commit fraud.
Most recipients are hard working Americans who just need a little bit of help. The fraud seen regarding welfare is not committed by recipients. In fact, 93% of welfare fraud is from vendors. Just because someone is on welfare doesn't mean they are a criminal or involved in criminal activity. They are hard working people who are struggling.
People on welfare are poor because of their poor choices.
The need for assistance is directly correlated with the economic state of the nation. When America falls on hard times, Americans fall on hard times. When jobs, education and economy are increased, the need for welfare decreases. To say that a person on welfare is there due to poor choices is an insult to your intelligence as well as the people who are living in circumstances primarily out of their control.
Welfare doesn't work despite the money we have spent on it.
Welfare programs helped lower the 1950's poverty numbers from 20% to 12% by the end of the 1960's. It prevents people from starving due to economic circumstances. Americans should not have to starve when the economy is on a decline. The economy is a roller coaster riding up and down. Welfare is the system set in place that prevents death and famine during those down times.
It also helps fill in the wage gap for women and minorities that are paid and hired significantly less than other groups. More than 47 million people live in poverty today.
75% are households headed by women, 27.4% are black, 26.6% are Hispanic, 12.1% are Asian and 9.9% are non-Hispanic white.
Welfare is a reward for doing nothing.
The only person who would think this is remotely true is a person who has never needed it. Welfare is not a free ride. The mentality that it is a pleasure to live below the poverty line being totally dependent on the government is ignorant.
Working is not a burden for humans. It gives us purpose. It challenges our brain and our strength. Sitting at home living on the government, receiving less than what a full-time minimum wage job would pay is no way to live. The incentive to work is ingrained within us. Our psychological well being is dependent on our accomplishments and abilities. We need them to feel fulfilled and happy. Depression rates are highest among those living in poverty. This is not a coincidence. We are not rewarded by doing nothing. Welfare is not a badge of honor. Any thought that this is the case is completely ridiculous.