Reasoned Help

Every night in America there are children and adults who go to bed hungry, or not properly fed. A soaring national deficit, the political climate, and those who cheat the system has tainted those in real need. Unemployment and a stubbornly tepid economy has exacerbated the situation. A large number of American voters have come to believe those who need assistance are “deadbeats”, “cheats”, or, “illegals”. The result is those in real need face over-reacting social welfare workers bent on reducing their rolls to mitigate political pressure on themselves and the budgets they administer in a faulty, computerized system.

Consider these facts:

“Social programs in the United States are welfare subsidies designed to aid the needs of the U.S. population. Proposals for federal programs began with Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism and expanded with Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.” (Wikipedia.com)

“The history of welfare in the U.S. started long before the government welfare programs we know were created. In the early days of the United States, the colonies imported the British Poor Laws. These laws made a distinction between those who were unable to work due to their age or physical health and those who were able-bodied but unemployed. The former group was assisted with cash or alternative forms of help from the government. The latter group was given public service employment in workhouses.” (http://www.welfareinfo.org/history/)

Food stamps and Medicaid make up a large–and growing–chunk of the more than 100 million recipients. “Among the major means tested welfare programs, since 2000 Medicaid has increased from 34 million people to 54 million in 2011 and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) from 17 million to 45 million in 2011,” says the Senate Budget Committee. “Spending on food stamps alone is projected to reach $800 billion over the next decade.” The data come “from the U.S. Census’s Survey of Income and Program Participation shows that nearly 110 million individuals received a welfare benefit in 2011. (These figures do not include other means-tested benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or the health insurance premium subsidies included in the President’s health care law. CBO estimates that the premium subsidies, scheduled to begin in 2014, will cover at least 25 million individuals by the end of the decade.)” This is not just Americans, however. ” These figures include not only citizens, but non-citizens as well. (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/)

The food stamp program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, is likely the one causing the most irritation for many, primarily because it is the most visible. Stories of recipients in the grocery line ahead purchasing high end food the average folks cannot afford abound. These stories are frequent but, according to experts, do not make up the large number of folks now on food stamps due to the weak economy. Nevertheless, those in real need are seldom seen violating the trust. These folks purchase what they need, usually things that do not require freezer or refrigerator space. It is the abusers who damage those in need.

It is necessary to remember the 47% of Americans politicians have seized upon to chastise recently, are largely Social Security recipients. Disability, and those receiving Medicade benefits bring the total near that 47%. (See our previous blog.) Not all assistance recipients are in the United States illegally or are cheating the system, sorting them out is the problem.

Most of us know someone in need. Consider those who are surviving debilitating cancer or other medical treatment residual effects, who are ambulatory but unable to work a full time job.  Most of these cannot meet the needs testing now reduced to filling in check boxes on a computerized form, forms that are efficient but lack elements of human compassion and judgement. Those who administer welfare programs say there are not enough employees to fact check every applicant, or to follow up on those who may be cheating. How do we efficiently address this difficulty?

It is a conundrum.

Notwithstanding the importance of improving the job market and economy, our task is to re-build our help programs to quickly aid those who need a hand, and to identify and eliminate those from the rolls who are not deserving.

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