Let’s Educate Ourselves About Welfare and Poverty So We Look Less Stupid

This week I am fascinated by the preoccupation some people have with believing, truly believing, they are personally subsidizing various public welfare programs. When you hear of their reactions to Obama’s re-election, it is as if they are quite literally opening their wallets and being forced to hand out their money to the less fortunate. There is so much resentment in this idea that the haves are being forced to pay for lavish lifestyles for the have-nots.  Motherfuckers need to educate themselves by looking at actual statistics because they’ve clearly fallen down a rabbit hole of profound ignorance and it is way too dark down there. 

(I am not even going to get into this absurd rhetoric about the hard workers of the middle class and the poor, lounging in chaises, and eating bon bons.)

Here is a breakdown of how tax dollars are spent. Because I want to be a spy, I’m particularly amused by the amount that goes to the CIA.

Most people are making neither $200,000 a year nor $100,000 year so the money their taxes are contributing to the welfare system are a pittance. A PITTANCE.

A family of four, in a state with a robust welfare system, might receive $500 in food stamps a month. Between Starbucks and restaurants, many of us eclipse $500 without children. I mean yes we (I) are just terrible with money but still.  Can you feed a family of four on $500? Sure, but it is going to be a stretch. Now what if you have three children or four or more? A monthly financial assistance check might be $900. (That’s my rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in a rural town, utilities not included.) You cannot receive welfare if you earn more than $1000 a month. You cannot support a family of four with this kind of subsidy. You cannot support a family of most any size with this kind of money. The only thing you can do is barely get by. What, precisely, is there to resent? How much suffering is enough recompense for your tax dollars?

There are 300 million people in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4.1% of the population is on welfare

46,670,373, are receiving food stamps in the United States. The state with the highest percentage of people on food stamps? Mississippi, where the majority of residents voted for Romney, who would have done his best to see that those hungry mouths went unfed.

Instead of worrying about all these  poor people snatching money out of taxpayer hands, isn’t the better question, “Why are so many people going hungry?” or “What do we do to feed these people?” 

I don’t mean to go on a crazy rant but I really cannot see one more fucking meme, social networking post, or other missive bemoaning the imminent ruin of the middle class in light of Obama’s reelection. It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It’s annoying and ignorant. The way people want to disavow all responsibility for their fellow citizens is just sad. Poverty in a country as wealthy as the United States is shameful but more than that, poverty here is like an infection without a cure. This country is designed to keep the poor poor, to allow no escape. We love to believe that this is the land of opportunity and for some, it can be with amazing dedication, luck, and the ability to recognize opportunities when they come your way. For many though, there is no way out of poverty. You grow up in a poor community with an impoverished tax base which means limited infrastructure, social services, educational opportunities or resources. Schools struggle to retain students in high school, if not earlier. Remember the Chicago teachers strike not too long ago? One of their demands? The ability to have textbooks to give to their students on the first day of school.  There are few job opportunities for people in these communities. The cycle repeats itself over and over. People work for minimum wage, live in subpar housing, and try to get by. They often have no health insurance. When one little thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong. Predatory lenders, loan sharks really, lure the poor in with immediate cash for a 400% interest rate. FOUR. HUNDRED. PERCENT. All too often, once you take out a payday loan, even for an amount as low aas $200, you can never get out from under it. This is just a fraction of what the poor face. One of the best things I’ve ever seen written on American poverty is John Scalzi’s “Being Poor,” and it’s as timely now as it was seven years ago when he first wrote it. 

This notion that we, as taxpayers, are personally subsidizing the poor is borne of out of arrogance and grandiosity, the desperate belief that the world revolves around us. It’s embarrassing, actually.