July 1, 2009
Tonight on the news, apparently the Massachusetts state senate is about to engage in “Welfare Reform” to “break the cycle of poverty” and to spend less money. At least they’re taking a different tack – spending money used in putting people up in hotels in a different way – implying that they might actually find housing for people – oooh, what a thought! Of course, there’s the expectation that the recipients will work for their money, as they have in many states since Clinton. This welfare-to-work thing actually works in the lives of some people and it’s reasonable to expect most people to work. But here’s the thing: people work for money, as well as self-esteem, and the poor know this all too well. Don’t talk to them about work values if they can’t eat. $7.00 an hour isn’t nearly enough pay in a place where it costs $700.00 per month for rent. OK, it’s enough for rent, but if you want food and clothes and heat and electricity, good luck.
Men and women with full health care and a salary – no matter how hard the work — simply do not understand what raising a child on minimum wage is like – especially for a single parent or if there are any “complicating factors”. If your child is mentally ill or physically ill, it’s pretty much all over for your budget and an easy life. Between meds, appointments, school visits, etc, working a 40 hour week at minimum wage is damn near impossible. So here’s a thought: No one who hasn’t been on welfare – or at least known somebody on welfare – should engage in creating welfare reform.
A few years ago, there was a movement to have legislators voluntary live on food stamps for a week or a month. Even that would be better than what we’ve got now.
Another unspeakable thought: there are people who just simply can’t work – crazy, physically ill, too old, too young, unable to focus, not smart enough to run this machine or that gizmo – people whom the education system has failed or whatever. We need to figure out what to do with them. Not feeding, clothing, or housing them isn’t right and it isn’t enough.
My final thought: when it’s all said and done whatever we do to reform welfare, the people affected should be able to get what they need. If it doesn’t do that, it’s not reform. It’s just a new form of injustice for the poor.
July 1, 2009