Monday, November 3, 2008

Wish it Were That Simple

Of course, this is a comment against Barack Obama's statement to Joe (the one in Ohio) about spreading the wealth around. Ever since that comment was made there has been lots of talk about taking from those who work the hardest to give to those who are too lazy to work. To my mind this is simply too simplistic a way of looking at this issue. There is still a general assumption in this country that if one works hard enough he/she will be able to realize the American Dream (ethereal as that is). It is also generally assumed that being poor and being lazy are one and the same. I have a hard time buying that argument. If anyone has a relative in a nursing home watch how hard the aides work, keeping in mind the fact that they earn less than $20k a year. In other words, they are poor. The guys that cut your grass? Yeah, them too. The custodian at school? Yep you guessed it. Oh, and what about the guy who picks up your garbage every week? Most likely him too. Are there people out there who could and should be working harder? Without a doubt yes. Is it a really high number? What percentage of the population would you say it was? And do you think that they are all receiving welfare? I did a little research and found this gem produced by the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Interesting reading if you are so inclined. The bottom line is that, as of 2004 (latest year data is available for), only 3.7% of our population is dependent (meaning that more than half of their income comes from traditional welfare programs including TANF/AFDC, food stamps and SSI) on welfare. Think about that...that means that 96.3% of our population has at least some earned income, yet we still have just over 15% of our population living in poverty. Another interesting read regarding social stratification.

I'm not one for direct handouts. For my part AFDC, WIC, TANF and the like could be eliminated (I know I'm sounding like a good red-state girl now!) These programs are highly dysfunctional, create a culture of entitlement, do nothing to improve the long-term prospects of the recipients, and have had the adverse affect of discouraging the formation of two-parent families. I firmly believe that everyone who is capable should be encouraged to take care of themselves. Of course, this is a fine line to walk. How do we address the extreme needs of the poorest amongst us without direct handouts? How do we create the needed cultural shift that moves people from relying on the government to personal responsibility? I don't know the answer. Well, actually I believe that a big part of the solution lies in mandating the rise of minimum wage to a true living wage (whew, back to blue). Obama seems to have some ideas for improving the plight of working families as well. One of the reasons he will get my vote.

Barack Obama will provide a "Making Work Pay" tax cut for America's working families:
Obama and Biden will restore fairness to the tax code and 95 percent of workers the tax relief they need. They will create a new "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family.
Strengthen fatherhood and families:
Obama and Biden will work to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, fund support services for fathers and their families, and support domestic violence prevention efforts.
Restore Work-Family Balance:
Obama and Biden will double funding for after-school programs, expand the Family Medical Leave Act, provide low-income families with a refundable tax credit to help with their child-care expenses, and encourage flexible work schedules.


We can't continue to deny the existence of poverty in this country. Nor can we continue to vilify as lazy all of those that suffer in it's midst. We also can't continue to think that it isn't our problem. It very much is our problem as it determines the kind of society we live in.


Gigi said...

Great post, Marianna- very thoughtful and well stated.

Andrea said...

That was terrific Marianna!


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