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Fixing Our Broken Welfare System

One thing that drives me absolutely crazy is hearing people complain about the welfare system in our country.  It’s not that I don’t think the system needs repair.  I know it is greatly ineffective.  My problem is that almost all of the people like to complain about it without offering any idea of how they would fix it.  Making matters worse, many people complain about redistribution of wealth constantly.  Just yesterday, I got into a discussion about this subject based on a person’s complaint about us handing out “cash, food stamps and housing allowances to people who chose the life they have.”  The absurdity of this claim is only topped by the fact that the same people debating the issue with me wondered why I think many conservatives don’t want to help those in poverty.  Maybe because all we hear is constant complaining about doing it?  We’ll get back to that.

More importantly, I mentioned during that discussion that I learned a lesson years ago.  I was taught that you will never really be taken seriously if you bring someone a problem.  You should always bring a solution.  Even if its not the right one, or the one that ends up correcting the issue, you always want to give the person a way to fix the problem.  That’s exactly what I feel should be done with the welfare discussion.  Here’s my solution.  

The solution to our welfare problem begins with access to education.  Education in our country is a joke at all levels.  Particularly the educational system in poverty stricken areas.  It needs a complete overhaul.  I’m pretty sure that is a concept on which we all agree.  Our children should all have equal access to quality education at no additional cost.  Conservatives may want to sit down for this…it’s going to cost a lot of money!  That money will have to come from somewhere.  Increased taxes.  Decreased spending in areas like defense.  I’m not really going to tackle the funding issue, but this will cost.  

Of course, even access to great education won’t solve the poverty problem.  There will always be a need for assistance.  It’s how we give people that assistance that is important.  Here are some aspects of our system that must be in place for this to work:

  • Assistance must provide for the needs of the individuals, including the nutritional needs, without the ability to transfer the assistance to another party or use it for unnecessary items (things like take out pizza – I’m looking at you Papa Murphy’s).  
  • Contraception must be available at no cost to individuals on welfare.  
  • People should be approved for an amount of assistance and it should remain at that level, regardless of whether or not they have any children after they are approved (women who are pregnant should be approved including the anticipated child).  
  • Drug tests should be mandatory and each recipient should be tested every time they pick up their assistance.
  • Vocational training or higher education (not beyond a bachelor’s degree) should be mandatory and provided at no cost.  Missed training (excluding illness) should constitute reduced or denial of assistance.  (There’s that spending again conservatives.  Try to stay calm.)
  • Companies that don’t pay a living wage and have employees working full time while collecting benefits should be charged a penalty.  We do not subsidize the workforce of private companies…I’m looking at you Wal-mart. 
  • None of these reforms should reduce the amount of assistance provided.  If savings are realized from the reforms or additional revenue is brought in (thank you, Wal-mart), the money should be used to stabilize the assistance programs during periods of recession and/or expand coverage. 

Now I’m sure that there are plenty more specific changes that I would make if I knew the welfare program well enough.  The point is that I’m not going to sit here and complain about the government taking my money and helping people who need assistance.  I would much rather have my taxes pay for assistance to the impoverished than wars around the world in which we have no business being involved.  I would much rather have some people taking advantage of the welfare system than have rich defense contractors getting even richer lining the pockets of decision-makers to get million and billion dollar contracts.  We spend as much on our defense as the next 13 countries below us on the list of top spenders combined…with room to spare!  I’m pretty sure we can lower the budgets for defense and reallocate a large portion of that money to making sure that we can feed and shelter our people. 

The point is that we are all sick of hearing about it.  Conservatives are in the minority when it comes to what they try to condemn as “entitlement” programs.  The reason our country is seeing a fundamental shift in the way that people are voting is because we don’t want to see the rich getting richer while complaining about assistance programs.  And don’t tell me how generous conservatives really are.  Generous people don’t complain about the fact that their money is being redistributed to the poor.  We want to help the people of the United States.  We see no reason that anyone should go hungry or homeless in the richest, most powerful nation in the world.  Do something about it or deal with it.  Just stop complaining.

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