General Question

jca's avatar

To what extent do you think the government should be responsible to those in need?

Asked by jca (29323 points ) February 21st, 2011

Besides fire, police and education, to what extent should the government be responsible to those in need?

Should government provide food stamps and public assistance eternally?

Should government provide health care?

Should government provide child care to working families who are under a certain income?

Should government provide housing for those in need of housing?

Should government pay for college through grants?

Is there anything I did not think of that you can think of?

If you are an advocate of these safety nets will it bother you if your taxes go up to accomodate them?

Or do you think that programs like the ones I have mentioned cause people to rely too much on public funding? Or is there a happy medium?

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120 Answers

the100thmonkey's avatar

What’s the point of government otherwise?

Why should government be responsible for “fire, police and education” and not be responsible for the other public services you mention?

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
thorninmud's avatar

I don’t see it in terms of the government being responsible to those in need. I feel it’s more that we, as a society, are responsible for doing what we can to keep suffering to a minimum. We have a number of ways of going about this, many of which don’t involve government. But there are times when the scale of the problem makes government the best tool for the job.

I’m a tool guy. I use tools every day on my job. I base my choice of tools on the job to be done. I don’t always reach for the biggest tool I have, but I do want that big powerful tool to be there for the big jobs. I don’t consider that the responsibility for what that tool does lies with the tool. I try to learn how to use it well, what it can and can’t do, and I keep unskilled users away from it. I don’t fear it and try to sabotage it or make it weak. I respect it and am wary of the damage it can do when misused. If I see it’s not in good working order, I try to fix it rather that throw it out.

Coloma's avatar

The problem with Government ‘assistance’ is that they do not assist taxpayers when their hour of need comes along, yet, they give freely to those that may or may not be exploiting the system.

When I divorced after 21 years of marriage 8 years ago I was barely hanging on while going through the divorce process, unsold home, ex hiding assets, etc. etc.

I went to see if I qualified for any help and the best they could do was offer me $35 a month in food stamps! Really? After being a self sufficient taxpayer and contributing citizen my entire life!

It wasn’t even worth the effort to fill out the paperwork!

I managed to hang on until the divorce was final and I was on my feet again financially.

My 1st and hopefully, ONLY experience with the ‘system.’

Talk about adding insult to injury!

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think the government should. I think all of us who have should help those who have not. Through government programs that we pay for.

janbb's avatar

Yes – I think it is our responsibility as a human society to help those in need and the government is often the instrument that we use. I have always been willing to pay taxes to pay for this.

tedd's avatar

So long as the less fortunate are willing to work, earn, and achieve goals… we as a society should be more than willing and ready to support them and help them achieve those goals.

WasCy's avatar

You are absolutely correct. I’ve been wrong all this time, but the scales have finally fallen from my eyes.

Government should take care of everything. Nothing should be left to chance, because that would be simply too… chancy. Can’t have that. It’s also so darned unfair that some have less than I do, and that some others have more. Everyone should have exactly the same so that we can be exactly the same.

All the time that I’ve spent holding up supermarkets as a great and wonderful example of capitalism at work – how wrong could I be? Since some people can’t have supermarkets (through no fault of their own, surely!), then no one should have them. We should all shop for government cheese and government canned meat and government flour at government stores. (Who needs vegetables, anyway? Besides, we’ve always got peanut butter and ketchup. That’s two servings of vegetables, right there.)

Shop? No, I was wrong. Please forgive me. The government van should come to deliver our government cheese, flour and potted meat to our doors every week. Well, every month, anyway. Because it’s too hard for some people to get out of the house, and we should all be treated the same.

Of course we should all be taught at government schools so that we can all be equally smart and ‘educated’, too. Why, that way we can all be doctors – and lawyers – and we can solve the ‘health care crisis’ in one fell swoop! Why didn’t anyone else think of this, I wonder?

I’m in need of assistance. Who’s going to write my check, please? Ah, life is going to be so much easier now.

missingbite's avatar

The government doesn’t do any of that without the people. We are the government. Most social programs should be used as a crutch and not a lifestyle. More often then not once someone goes into public housing, they stay there. Many on welfare never get off. We need transformation of these types of systems so they turn less fortunate into more productive members of society.

Should the Government pay for college through grants? Where does this money come from?

Zaku's avatar

The government of my ideal society would provide all of that and more. Much of the “cost”, as it appears from modern USA economics, would be provided by redefining some things, and altering the monetary value of other things. (For example, houses don’t need to be valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, in the 1970’s, beautiful houses in US cities could be had for tens of thousands of dollars. Those houses cost closer to a million before the supposedly-bad recent drop in property values.)

Basically, I think it’s a sad sad folly that in the USA, so many people live in fear of being denied shelter, food, and other basic needs, when we have plenty to go around, all because of the myths so many people take as fact about how everyone supposedly would prefer to do nothing productive if given the chance, and how we’ll all supposedly go bankrupt and turn into the Soviet Union if we provide for the basic needs of the needy.

bkcunningham's avatar

@WasCy you are too wise. We should use Eleanor Roosevelt’s Arthurdale Project as our example. Oh thank God the government is going to help us all equally.

dreamer31's avatar

They should absolutey be responsible for these things, especially since they have allowed so many good jobs to be sent over seas and minimum wage is an insult! Just because someone uses govt.asst. does not make them unproductive members of society. After all could you survive on $7.15 an hour, even with a massive amount of overtime without ANY help?
I do not believe that people should live on it all their lives or even that everything should be equal. But opportunities for good jobs are not always available to the poor mainly because of piss poor attitudes that they face. I wish everyone had to face poverty head on, maybe it would change some of the high and all mighty points of view.
To all the rich:
I am having a charity party, only people of high status will be invited. Door prizes and gifts will be distributed along with a steak dinner and other amenities. The cost is $10,000 per seat, but don’t worry, you can write it all off to avoid paying your taxes, just like me!

I find it hard to believe that people can be so ignorant and callous about things they have never had to face.

mammal's avatar

Why is America so Fucking curmudgeoningly? Why is it every man for himself? The most base and selfish attitude of any country on earth. i swear to God.

janbb's avatar

@mammal I ponder that question daily.

dreamer31's avatar

@mammal my thoughts exactly!

WasCy's avatar

And also the richest, @mammal. Also the richest. The poor in the US have the capability to live better than kings have elsewhere. People risk their lives for a chance at the brass rings that seem to grow on trees here.

@bkcunningham thanks. I hadn’t heard about Arthurdale before. I seem to have seen a lot of that reflected in Ayn Rand’s “tedious and tendentious” writings.

cockswain's avatar

I’m a big fan of this quote by good ol’ Confucius: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”

SmashTheState's avatar

The State has stolen from me the ability to earn a living by the sweat of my brow. They have taken away the land, the factories, the very plants which sprout from the ground, and guaranteed the rich white pricks monopoly over those things. They prohibit me from vending on the street, from playing a musical instrument for spare change, they even harass, fine, and persecute me if I beg. If you have taken away people’s ability to shift for themselves, then, to quote Crass:

Do they owe us a living?
Of course they do, of course they do!
Do they owe us a living?
Of course they fucking do!

Hobbes's avatar

@WasCy

“Also the richest”

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

“The poor in the US have the capability to live better than kings have elsewhere.”

Unless you’re a single mother whose kid gets sick and you can’t afford the medicine even though you’re working two jobs.

dreamer31's avatar

I would like to know where the poor live better than kings? I hope you carry that attitude with you everywhere…it gives me a little joy knowing how much saliva you have possibly eaten with your food fixed by those living like kings
I guess this attitude is why “it is harder for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven than a donkey through the eye of a needle.”

Hobbes's avatar

Yes, also take a moment to examine the lifestyles of the richest 1% in the world’s poorest countries. The “kings” of this world live and have lived far better than our poor.

dreamer31's avatar

@WasCy I guess if you own grocery stores, if there were no foodstamps, you would be in the same boat as all of those who live like kings.
I wonder if you really are that ignorant? surprises me everyday how stupid people who claim they are educated can be

rooeytoo's avatar

Folks can rant and rave about “the government should provide!” But even if it does, there is still not the equality they seem to want. There is free health care in Australia, but those who work buy private health insurance to augment. The social welfare programs here provide just about everything for those who can’t work or are adept at working the system, but they don’t have the same privileges that a lot of money in your pocket can buy.

Those who work the hardest are always going to have a little bit more. You can “govern” intelligence or make someone save for a rainy day instead of buying (probably on credit) a new car or plasma tv.

Generally speaking those who want the government to provide all of the above are a) a member of the group who would benefit because they are not working b) don’t want to ever work hard enough and deny themselves long enough to achieve. They sure aren’t the average working person whose taxes would go up up up not to make the rich richer but to subsidize those who don’t work as hard as I do.

WasCy's avatar

@rooeytoo

Don’t forget c) a member of either the collecting or disbursing group (or both!) and d) a contractor with a government contract to provide… whatever

janbb's avatar

@rooeytoo Not true. I am very comfortably off and still willing to pay taxes for the provision of benefits for those who are unfortunate. That compassion is part of what I see as being human. Since we are not a socialist society, yes, many who work harder, have more brains or drive or richer parents will have more. That’s a different discussion. I think what we are discussing here is providing a safety net for all, not fiscal equality.

dreamer31's avatar

@rooeytoo so I suppose the guy that cuts grass in 100 degree weather does not work as hard as you? Wrong, the people who work the hardest/have the most physical jobs are usually payed the least. Do real research and you might learn something.

Hobbes's avatar

@rooeytoo

I don’t think anyone’s saying that the government should provide people with a new car or a plasma TV. Making sure people can afford to be treated for illness or injury, or that they have a place to live and food to eat is not the same as giving everyone luxuries.

You also seem to be operating under the assumption that wages are connected to how “hard” you work. As @dreamer31 pointed out, the connection is not nearly so clear, and classifications like that tend to be arbitrary and subjective.

Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating big government, I’m just arguing that the current system is deeply flawed.

Hobbes's avatar

The thing about stuff like food, water, and medical care is that people don’t have a choice about whether or not to buy them. Certainly, people like different kinds of food, but everyone has to eat, and everyone needs medicine when they’re sick. You can live quite easily without a plasma TV, but if you’ve got a broken leg you don’t have many options. Therefore, there is always an unequal distribution of power between the supplier of these necessities and the consumer. The problem with private companies is that they capitalize on this inequality and exploit it to whatever degree they can.

meiosis's avatar

@rooeytoo Who are the people who you identify as wanting the government to provide equality? I’ve seen little call for it here. What you describe in Australia, which is pretty similar to what we have here in England, seems a good system. A safety net to prevent destitution, but not so generous as to disincentivise hard work. What’s wrong with that?

Far and away the hardest job I’ve ever done was minimum wage in a supermarket bakery. Rewards rarely match effort

Qingu's avatar

The government should ensure that people have a “safety net” of basic health and dignity.

People will always game any such system. This is better than the alternative. Like all complex systems, the safety net needs to evolve to control thieves and parasites who use welfare for luxury goods rather than necessities.

rooeytoo's avatar

The person who cuts grass in 100 degree temps is either a) not smart enough to be a brain surgeon (and as I said how are you going to legislate that) b) likes cutting grass because it is an honest living and this person doesn’t want the government to provide what they are capable of providing for themselves. I admire the grass cutter and do not feel sorry for them. If they don’t like cutting grass they can apprentice to become a skilled worker or go to school at night or avail themselves of the myriad choice of reasonably priced and/or free education. Perhaps not at Princeton but I didn’t go to Princeton either and I have managed to buy my own house, own my business, buy my own food, pay my water bill.

Those who are physically and mentally able should be taking care of themselves. Yes the government should provide assistance to those who are incapable if their family can not or does not. Otherwise get out there and cut the grass and stop your damned whining.

For the record I have had a variety of jobs, picking up poop in a kennel, working 7 days a week, 360 days a year in my own shop, and yes I even did a stint working for a mowing outfit in the tropics. I rather enjoyed it, lost a little weight (although I can’t afford to lose too much) and felt great, not to mention had a to die for tan, albeit a farmer’s tan, but it still looked good when I had clothes on.

Plucky's avatar

I don’t want to get into the debate this has turned into. I like, and agree with, what @thorninmud and @mammal stated. That’s all for now :)

dreamer31's avatar

I just want to clarify, that I do not agree with someone “milking” the system, while in the meantime they have credit cards and debt that they have gotten themselves into by their own fault—like buying plasma tvs or continuously depending on it throughout their lives.

The ones that are working and trying to help themselves can also find that they are in a situation that looks pretty hopeless, no matter what they try.

But being poor in general is not a crime.

I will just agree to disagree:) nuff said

Hobbes's avatar

@rooeytoo – Getting an education and working odd jobs is all well and good when you’re young, but if you’re 40 with a family, and you were just let go from the factory job you’ve had for the past 15 years, and no-one else is hiring because the economy is bad and most factory work is being exported anyway, what do you do?

rooeytoo's avatar

@Hobbes – I am 66, so I reckon the 40 year olds have it made. My husband who is 70 and I still work, we have our own business and both work part time for others as well. We also do unpaid volunteer work. My husband has lost jobs over the years because of restructuring and reorganization, these were high paying executive level jobs, so he did what he could to earn a buck until the economy improved. He did not expect the government to give him a house although he probably could have qualified because he had a large family. I have been self employed most of my life and I learned through being in a very seasonal business to save and scrimp during the good times to get me through the bad times.

So you really are talking about things that we have been through and survived. It is called life in the real world.

To directly address the question, I think a safety net is okay, but for a limited time only. And the recipient has to be willing to relocate and retrain for another position. Child care only for single parents. Of course, here that is abused horribly, couples do not marry and live together surreptitiously so as to get benefits they would not be entitled to otherwise. That is always the problem, so many abuse and that is what sticks out like a sore thumb to those of us who are footing the bill. And by the way, can we spare a tear and a moment of gratitude for those of us who are really working and paying the taxes, please! At our age, the taxes we pay to provide the safety net would look very nice in a savings account accruing interest. I assume you all are in favor of social security or another way to take care of seniors?

Hobbes's avatar

@rooeytoo

Of course, there will always be people who take advantage of the system. Of course, that is irritating to those who are paying taxes to support the system. Though, personally I wonder why no-one seems to get very irritated at the percentage of taxes being spent to murder people overseas…

But for every person mooching off the safety net, there are more who slip through it, or miss it entirely because it’s too small. I’m not arguing that the government should just give people houses, but I think the “by your own bootstraps” philosophy is very flawed.

Let’s say you’re 50 instead of 40, you’re a single mother with no other family, and you were just fired from the same factory job. Let’s say you immediately go out again looking for work, you spend every moment you can trying to improve your situation, but still you don’t find work again immediately. You have savings you can tap into in the meantime, and though they dwindle quickly you manage to make ends meet. But then your kid gets sick or injured, or you do, or some crucial part of your house is broken, and the repair is very expensive. Or your car breaks down, or no matter how hard you try you can’t find another job and your savings slowly but surely disappear. What do you do?

jerv's avatar

At a minimum, we should adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights yet we fail on Articles 7, 12, and 22 through 26; quite epically in some instances.

Let me show you a few highlights though.

Article 23.

* (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
* (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
* (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
* (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

So those that are out of work through no fault of their own are entitled to aid, at least enough to live indoors, eat regularly, and receive basic medical care; ”...an existence worthy of human dignity.”. Nothing fancy, mind you; no mansions, filet mignon, or elective surgery. But far more than some people are willing to give.

Article 25.

* (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Holy deja vu!

Article 26.

* (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

In this country, access to education beyond high school is determined almost solely by finances. Considering the growing inequality of wealth, that pretty much means that higher education is increasingly inaccessible to most people.

But hey, it’s not like the US really cares about human rights any more, especially not those set forth in a document written by Socialists and Communists like Eleanor Roosevelt.

bkcunningham's avatar

First, don’t knock mowing grass. My lawn guy in Florida owns a house nicer than mine with a pool. He has a new Harley and a couple of very nice trucks. He works his ass off and has grown his business from the ground up and now has a crew who works with him. He hustles and is willing to paint, trim, handwash houses and is happy to do it. He’s in his mid-40s and didn’t start out with a crew and a bustling business, but he does good from himself.

Second, I know many, many people who have had to take a handout from taxpayer funded government assistance during difficult times in their lives. Each and every time, without fail, these people I know have told horror stories of the penalties they’ve incurred as they tried to get back on their feet and better themselves. The penalties are imposed by the programs themselves which employs government bureaucrats who get paid taxpayer dollars to administer these programs.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m all for limited assistence to legal citizens. I’m not for aiding people who have more children than they can afford to care for. I’m not a Christian, I believe in abortion, I believe in self suffieciency and having children only when you can give them the absolute best care you’re able. I don’t believe every seed is sacred, there’s nothing sacred about unstable, insecure, sad, hungry and neglected children. I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to care for other’s irresponsibilities.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Hobbes same thing I have always done, work harder, more crap jobs until I get to the point where @bkcunningham‘s lawn guy is. The reward is always there, that is the great part, you just gottawanna bad enough. You keep coming up with scenarios that say this isn’t so but there are many who can prove you wrong.

So one more time I say To directly address the question, I think a safety net is okay, but for a limited time only. And I don’t know what world you live in but this earth place is full of the kind who really need a hand but also the kind who always have their hand out.

Hobbes's avatar

@rooeytoo

Unless your kid dies because you can’t make enough money in time to pay his medical bills. Or you go into debt to pay the bills and are forced from your home. For every story of self-made success there are stories of hardworking people forced into desperate situations.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Hobbes do you live in the US? I’m asking because in the US, there are countless private and government programs and charities for children who need medical assitance. Also, you can go to any emergency room in the US and you must seen and treated. I don’t think we have a perfect system of medical care in the US, there is absolutely room for improvement, especially in programs the government is involved with, but it sure is one of the best in the world.

Hobbes's avatar

@bkcunningham – I do, and I know many people benefit from those programs, but so many still fall through the cracks, or endure prohibitive expense to get the treatment they need. When people can get and afford the treatment, it’s often excellent, but that first part is a doozy.

bkcunningham's avatar

I know @Hobbes . I“ve seen people fall through the cracks too and it breaks my heart. My husband and I do all we can do to help several people just like that on our own. These people are the working poor who make too much to qualify for any kind of taxpayer funded government assistance, but not enough to afford healthcare on their own.

But there are still programs, not always very good care in my opinion, but better than nothing, for these adults. Children, on the other hand, even children of the working poor, qualify easier for the low income programs and have many, many more options.

Hobbes's avatar

All I was really trying to say is that the working poor do in fact exist. Income isn’t always related to effort.

SmashTheState's avatar

“We see that the richest property owners are precisely those who work the least or who do not work at all. It is evident to anyone who is not blind about this matter that productive labor creates wealth and yields the producers only misery, and it is only non-productive, exploiting labor that yields property. What is property, what is capital in their present form? For the capitalist and the property owner they mean the power and the right, guaranteed by the State, to live without working. And since neither property nor capital produces anything when not fertilized by labor — that means the power and the right to live by exploiting the work of someone else. The right to exploit the work of those who possess neither property nor capital and who thus are forced to sell their productive power to the lucky owners of both.” — Mikhail Bakunin

bkcunningham's avatar

@Hobbes I agree with that 100 percent. The poor will always be with us @Hobbes . It is up to us, as individual people to help when we see someone needs help. I haven’t lost faith in people and I do believe that is how it should be done. The elderly poor, the sick, people who are able and falling through the cracks and an essential need arises with no family able to help absolutely deserve the help of their community.

I personally believe that kind of help is better given on the local level through the community rather than through taxpayer dollars where so many abuses and administrative costs and redtape get in the argument and in the way. Maybe I’m living in la-la land believing that, but I’ve experienced it and seen it work this way first hand and it works better than government welfare or any other government administered programs for the poor that I can think of at the moment.

Hobbes's avatar

How would that kind of help work? Just out of the goodness of people’s hearts? Can you give me some concrete examples?

Yoman's avatar

In an ideal society, family, church, community, and charities would bear most of the responsibility for those in need. According to the Constitution, the federal government has very few obligations: defense of the homeland, maintaining a court system, and a few more. The welfare system has not decreased poverty; in fact it has increased it and prolonged it for many people. I have enough faith left in America that if the government stopped allowing people into the welfare system (and continued helping a small minority of the hard cases that truly are dependent, the needy would receive support from family, church, community, and charities.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Hobbes sure. Years ago, in the area where I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the local churches put together a plan to form a ministerial association. One of the first things they did was put together a food pantry. The food pantry is still in existance today and feeds about 400 families on average a week (my Dad is 91 and volunteers there two days a week). Grocery stores, farmers and others donate excellent food for the pantry.

At Christmas, people got together and donated new blankets and other household items and toys to be given with the food one week just before Christmas. Remember, this is a rural area where the unemployment has run about 10 percent since the late-1980s according to stats.

Another example that I know of personally, I’ve shared once on Fluther in a discussion about public schools. This man helped raise over $15 million dollars in one weekend in my community for the local Mountain Mission School. The school started as an orphanage and is now a school to assist children from families in need. They have never (NEVER) accepted one penny of government (state, local or federal) monies because of the strings attached.

http://www2.tricities.com/news/2010/jun/09/mountain_mission_school_golf_benefit_nets_record-b-ar-233713/

I couldn’t tell you the number of families the churches back home assist. Businesses and civic clubs like the Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and others give to various programs to help out with the local schools shortfalls in funding. I could go on and on. I agree with @Yoman too. Yoman is spot on.

There are clubs and civic organizations, churches and charities all around the world who help people.

meiosis's avatar

@bkcunningham The trouble with relying solely on private and charitable provision of public assistance is that it has, at times, tended to be rather partial in deciding who is deemed worthy of their largesse. In some ways using community disapproval to regulate behaviour is a good thing, but it can and has crossed the line towards coercion and the imposition of a particular moral framework on the beneficiaries.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think the government should do what’s in the best for it’s citizens’ LONG-TERM wellbeing as well as it’s fiscal health. I agree that some of the programs need to be tightened up to prevent abuses, but it’s a hell-of-a-lot cheaper to buy someone a loaf of bread than it is to try him for murder when his botched robbery results in someone dying.

The biggest issue with conservatives on fiscal issues is that they treat everything like it’s in a vacuum. Cut funding for after-school programs, save 10 million. What they’re ignoring is that it will result in 50 million in new prisons being built, lost worker productivity, increase police officers and lost tax revenues from the crimes that the kids committed because they joined gangs with no alternative programs available.

Get rid of healthcare for the poor by closing free-clinics. Save 50 million, but those people don’t just stop getting care and die. They go to the emergency room where care is insanely expensive and ends up costing everyone 10x as much to cover that cost.

It’s like a 3rd grader’s vision of the world: childish and short-sighted. Spending money on education is an investment, just like one you would make on Wall Street. You put up cash now so that you can realize much greater returns later. Or you could pull out your investments, give it back disproportionately to the wealthiest 1% in the form of tax cuts, so they can do helpful things that stimulate the US economy, like buying foreign stocks… err…

bkcunningham's avatar

In all fairness, @meiosis I believe I gave some concrete examples. Could you give concrete examples? Also, when doesn’t the US government not rely on a system of deeming who is worthy? That is one of the issues that creates the working poor who do not qualify for taxpayer funded assistance.

crisw's avatar

@bkcunningham

“Could you give concrete examples? ”

One example would be that many religious charities require beneficiaries to participate in some type of religious service before receiving benefits.

“In Hammond, Indiana, a new arrangement between the city and First Baptist Church of Hammond raises interesting church-state issues. Yesterday’s Munster (IN) Times reports that when the city-owned Calumet Area Warming Shelter was about to close, the city negotiated an arrangement with First Baptist Church for the church to operate the homeless shelter at church expense while the city retains ownership of the building. The Church is within walking distance of the shelter. Under new rules imposed by the Church, a resident must attend a specified number religious services offered by First Baptist, or church services elsewhere, in order to eat or stay at the shelter. Residents and shelter officials have somewhat different accounts of the number of services at which attendance is required. So far three people have been asked to leave the shelter for non-attendance (or leaving services early) since the Church began operating the shelter as part of its City Rescue Mission Ministry last December 31.”

bkcunningham's avatar

@crisw let me see if I follow your one example. There is a warming shelter operated by the city of Hammond, Indiana, at a cost of about $150,000 a year. The city is going to shut down the warming shelter. That would be the end of the story except the First Baptist Church of Hammond steps up and says they’ll operate the warming shelter and offer three meals a day in addition to a warm place to say.

The church integrates the warming shelter into its City Rescue Mission ministry already in existance.

William Riley, an atheist who has lived at the City Rescue Mission for two months says he’s appalled by the changes the church made. Changes which included that he attend some sort of once a week program of their choice be it a counseling program, an addiction program, church program, work adjustment program, whatever it is his decision.

He refused and now lives with someone in a private home.

Okay. Most shelters, regardless of their affiliation, require people get their asses out and about doing whatever before being allowed back in at night. They don’t want them sitting around. In places I’ve seen this happen, the residents will panhandle or sit motionless at the door of the shelter until it reopens. These are this organizations rules. People are free to choice to follow this organizations rule or do like this man did and find somewhere else to live or another organization with rules they agree with.

What is your solution with this specific example? The church shouldn’t have gotten involved?

http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/article_9c2be8d4-65d5-59b5-bc3b-5774e0e60f25.html

http://www.vba.va.gov/ro/indianapolis/Documents%5CIndShelters.pdf

crisw's avatar

@bkcunningham

The point is, @meiosis stated that “it can and has crossed the line towards coercion and the imposition of a particular moral framework on the beneficiaries.” You asked for examples of this. I gave one (and could have given others) where this church did indeed impose a particular religious framework on those who wished service, and refused service to those who didn’t accept that framework.

This is not about “sitting around.” This is about insisting that someone take part in religious services that they might not believe in in order to receive service. That is exactly what @meiosis was discussing.

bkcunningham's avatar

@crisw your example doesn’t say the church demanded the guy attend a religious service. Read the story from the newspaper with both sides.

Hobbes's avatar

@bkcunningham – Some Churches do require this sort of thing, though. If these kinds of organizations were all that existed to help those in needs, they could require whatever they wanted from their beneficiaries. Some might not attach any strings, but some might, and those in need are not always in a position to refuse whatever terms they imposed.

Of course, this problem exists with Government, too, it’s just that the strings aren’t religious or moralistic in nature.

crisw's avatar

@bkcunningham

As @Hobbes mentions, and as I implied, this one case is part of a more global problem. It is not at all uncommon for church-provided services to require some religious observance, such as a prayer before meals, or attendance at a service, to receive benefits.

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, imagine you were unlucky enough to require housing or medical care (for you or your kids) ... but the only shelter or charity in your local area was a conservative mosque that insisted you take part in their prayers to Allah and maybe even dress in a hijab.

I agree that mosques (and churches, and whoever else) should have the right to perform charity, even conditional charity. What I don’t agree—and I think this is the point @crisw is making, too—is that such charities should be the only option for people in any sort of modern society.

Now, you seem to support Medicaid and government-funded children’s health care… so I don’t think our disagreement here is a question of “if” but “how much.” And like I said, I would certainly agree that government-run welfare programs have a tendency towards waste, corruption, and gaming by recipients. But so do any complex systems, and the alternative—relying on private charities—is worse. The answer isn’t to do away with welfare programs; the answer is to evolve those programs so they can more effectively deal with the problems that conservatives love pointing out about them.

Qingu's avatar

To give another famous example of religious charities discriminating against US citizens, there’s the Salvation Army’s anti-gay policies

“When a former boyfriend and I were homeless, the Salvation Army refused to help us unless we broke up and left the “sinful homosexual lifestyle” behind. We slept on the street and they didn’t help when we declined to break up at their insistence.”

Again, I think the Salvation Army should have the right to choose who benefits from their charity… but I also think they serve as a strong argument against relying entirely on private charities to provide a social safety net.

WasCy's avatar

It seems to me that the old saying “beggars can’t be choosers” ought to apply. I know I’m outside the pale as far as the group consensus here, but it does seem – has always seemed – ludicrous to me that those accepting various forms of charity, regardless of source, get to dictate the terms under which they’ll accept it.

And apart from “attending” some form of church-dictated social event, there’s as yet no demand for conversion, sworn fealty, oath taking or the like. They want to promote their point of view; I don’t see a harm in that, frankly. So does McDonald’s, GM, AT&T and the Army, to name a few others. (And in that group, at least McDonald’s and the aforementioned church are the only ones not to have taken my money without my consent.)

Qingu's avatar

@WasCy, out of curiosity, do you come from a wealthy family? Did you or your family ever depend on welfare or charity?

WasCy's avatar

I don’t think my response to that question would be in any way germane to the discussion. If you want to make an ad hominem argument of some kind, you don’t need and won’t get my complicity in it.

Qingu's avatar

Since your position is apparently based on your subjective disdain for beggars who act like choosers, I think it’s germane to ask if you’ve ever actually been in the position of a beggar.

jerv's avatar

I concur. It isn’t ad hominem to ask if you know what you are talking about firsthand or just read about it.

rooeytoo's avatar

If I am starving, I will eat at the table and profess fidelity to atheists, catholics, jews or baptists. What is the big deal?????

Beggars can’t be choosers.

And to reverse @Qingu‘s question, are most of you beggars or welfare recipients?

Qingu's avatar

@rooeytoo, if you don’t see what the big deal is about forcing people to humiliate themselves, or give up their highest ideals, or the love of their life, in order to receive assistance, then I can’t help you. Either you value empathy implicitly, or you don’t.

And to answer your question, I have never been a beggar or a welfare recipient. I don’t see the relevance of your question.

However, since you see fit to tell us how you would do if you were a beggar, I am curious if you have ever actually been that position.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Qingu – why is is relevant that you asked if someone was wealthy, but it is not relevant to ask the opposite?

As I have stated numerous times, I have taken crap jobs in my life in order to eat and feed those for whom I was responsible. I have always found some sort of employment. At times I was probably paid less than I could have made by relying on the government to support me through my time of need but I chose not to because of my own sense of I guess pride is the word. And I am not ashamed of my pride, although you would probably humiliate me for having it.

And if empathy means doing what you have to do to eat, and I don’t get that, but then you are right, I have none, I would rather have a full belly than empathy. If you don’t like the service you eat somewhere else or take the crap job so you can buy your own food.

rooeytoo's avatar

I would love to continue this but I am off to my crap job so I don’t have to rely on public assistance while I am still capable of assisting myself. Later dudes

meiosis's avatar

The problem with social care provision from community groups isn’t just the varying degree of conformity they demand of their supplicants, it’s the capricious nature of it. One group requires abstinence from alcohol, another a requirement to abandon a gay partner, another attendance at the mosque/church etc. Social provision from the government, or at least the enabling of provision by the state, imposes a uniform requirement that we can all know and attempt to adhere to or not. Moving from one district to another in an attempt to improve one’s life won’t require suddenly jumping to a different piper’s tunes.

Qingu's avatar

@rooeytoo, it’s not relevant because I am not arguing a position on the basis of my subjective feelings on the subject. I am not saying “I don’t support welfare because being a beggar can’t be that bad.”

No, I would not humiliate you for having pride. I don’t think you have remotely understood my position, based on your response.

I also don’t think you understand how lucky you are to actually have been able to find work during a recession, or how many unemployed people today are not unemployed for lack of gumption and pride. Maybe you think all my uncle, for example, (50-odd years old, three kids, unemployed since the start of the recession two years ago) needs to do is pull himself up by his own bootstraps or something.

meiosis's avatar

In the recession of the early 1990s the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont MP said “Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we have had to pay to get inflation down. That price is well worth paying. Given this stark message, it ill behoves both the state and those remaining employed to treat those paying the price as though they are scrounging, workshy layabouts.

cockswain's avatar

Here’s what I don’t get about the disagreement: people who are innovative, work hard, have an excellent idea and run a successful business seem to think everyone on the planet has little excuse for not accomplishing the same. And let’s be honest, not everyone has the brains, charisma, or just plain good luck to run a successful business. Plenty of hard working people never had a brilliant insight upon which to forge an innovative business.

So, it’s not like everyone can just become a business owner. Who would work for the business owner? Every industry is going to have workers, it’s that simple. I will even grant that the innovators have earned a better life for themselves than the workers. But the workers are necessary. Why shouldn’t they have a safety net?

I feel so many discussions of a polarizing topic become, well, polarized. It’s not like the liberals are all socialists and all the conservatives are self-made entrepreneurs. To me, it’s obvious we need a balance, and that is the crux of this question. Yes there will be abuse, and the welfare system is in need of constant revision to stay on top of the abusers. But to act like “well I worked hard and never needed gov’t assistance” means that no one else ever needed a hand is an unbalanced view.

We need people to have the economic freedom to see their innovations lead to jobs. We need people to fill those jobs. If the jobs don’t pay enough for someone to weather a disaster, we need systems to assist those people. We should not condemn the person making $50K with a wife and kid that they aren’t working hard enough.

Qingu's avatar

@cockswain, I agree that this topic is something that has become both sides talking past each other.

Most humans have an aversion to “cheaters,” to people who game social systems and do not reciprocate altruism.

Most humans have an innate sense of empathy and a desire to help people who are unlucky.

The problem is that Republicans tend to focus entirely on the first thing—to the extent that “empathy” is considered a bad word—and Democrats tend to focus on the second thing, ignoring very real problems with incentives and cheaters.

cockswain's avatar

The problem is that Republicans tend to focus entirely on the first thing—to the extent that “empathy” is considered a bad word—and Democrats tend to focus on the second thing, ignoring very real problems with incentives and cheaters

I think this is true of those who have been fully indoctrinated by their party rhetoric, but I’ve been shying away from making generalizations about members of either party since I’ve found it is not conducive to open discussion. I think anyone who is moderate is generally going to agree that we do not care for lazy cheaters, corrupt politicians, excessively greedy corporations. Nor do the bulk of the moderates wish to see the deserving but unfortunate have their families living on the streets, not entitled to any sort of medical attention, nor fed.

Basically everyone agrees that those who are not gaming the system and are endeavoring to regain their dignity and social standing after a tough time are not the problem. We end up focusing on the extreme cases and miss the majority of the cases. Again, this system is in need of reform. The system that allowed the uber-wealthy and powerful to crash the economy needs reform too.

I’m so weary of the politics, I really am. As a guy who lived in Madison for a long time, I’m really disappointed currently to see liberals holding signs depicting Walker with his head cut off, or imagery suggesting he is a Nazi/Hitler/fascist. I’m far from a GOP sympathizer, but this is the same crap we all hated when it was used against Obama in 2009. Ironically, both sides like to accuse the other of being a Nazi whenever there is strong disagreement. This last point is off topic, but on my mind today.

bkcunningham's avatar

I honestly do understand what you are saying @Qingu . I think a very good solution (at least something to consider in cooperation with government assistance) would be for advocates of these people who feel like they are being discriminated against and put out by private charities, to provide shelters and humanity assistance without strings attached or any advocacy in their beliefs or lack of beliefs. Something to consider?

Qingu's avatar

I’m afraid I’m not sure what you mean.

Like a separate-but-equal version of the Salvation Army just for gays? (And only as “equal” as their sympathizers could drum up funding for?)

jerv's avatar

Separate but equal is almost never equal :/

Hobbes's avatar

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

bkcunningham's avatar

@Qingu not not just for gays. For anyone.

Qingu's avatar

But what if a gay person happens to live in an area where there is no funding or infrastructure for such a charity?

Jenniehowell's avatar

@WasCy whether one agrees or disagrees with you your point is made in perfect form & I had to smile. Kudos on your use of sarcasm & humor – gotta love it!
@missingbite I agree that any assistance afforded a person should be as a temporary crutch to aid healing rather than a lifestyle, but someone has misinformed you with a common misconception with regard to what most people who receive assistance do. The fact is, the average person receiving government assistance (as of the last time I read the report – which I can cite for you if needed later when I’m not on my iPhone) stays on it for 6 months with the exception of those receiving disability for a permanent physical impairment.

jerv's avatar

@Jenniehowell With the exception of those unemployed over the last couple of years who wind up collecting benefits for closer to eight months on average (source)

However, there are many who feel that those people are just too lazy to get a job and overlook the fact that there aren’t many jobs to get, at least not unless you are able and willing to relocate. Those who say “Move to where the jobs are!” overlook that moving is not free. So basically what it boils down to is that there are a lot of people who feel that the government should not help the less fortunate because the less fortunate chose not to succeed. Of those, many also object to taking taxpayer money, and strongly object to using taxpayer to help others who they feel need a swift kick in the pants rather than any sort of help at all.

@Qingu Ideally, that is where government is supposed to come in. In actual fact, tough shit.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@jerv thanks – last time I looked was 2008/09 so I knew with the current job situation that had likely gone up a bit – still though the numbers are showing a temporary time frame on assistance which was contrary to the first statement from @missingbite

I’m having fun reading this discussion on my phone & am contemplating my view.

bkcunningham's avatar

@jerv unemployment insurance benefits aren’t govenment assistance.

jerv's avatar

@bkcunningham Some (myself included) feel otherwise.
Just out of curiosity, what do you consider money to the unemployed so that they can eat and pay their bills until they find another job? I call that “assistance”. And what do you call the people that administer the Department of Unemployment and fund it using taxpayer dollars? I call them “government”.

bkcunningham's avatar

@jerv no, I mean employers pay unemployment insurance taxes. Each state administers the program based on federal guidelines. It is funded entirely by a tax imposed on employers with the exception of three states who require a very minimal contribution from employees. It isn’t “government” assistance. It is employer assistance in that it provides benefits to qualified unemployed and state and federal employees who administer the programs.

http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/uifactsheet.asp

jerv's avatar

@bkcunningham Sounds like semantics to me. Taxes, federal guidelines, administers… sounds like government to me. Just because the government uses money they obtain from employers doesn’t change that. Besides, EUC (which millions of people are on) is a federally funded program.

bkcunningham's avatar

@jerv it is all taxpayer money. Regardless. Except unemployment insurance is an added tax to employers.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@bkcunningham @jerv – seems like any money going to our govt via any tax, be it a tax on some or all of the people, and then in turn filtered from the govt to someone who displays some level of need be qualified as govt assistance?

Seems to me any govt money given to any person for something other than simply paying them back for something owed (ie tax refunds etc) is govt assistance. Even in cases where that money is to be paid back.

That covers grants, student loans guaranteed or approved via the DOE, disability, welfare, wic, VA home loans, unemployment etc etc. If it’s not paid for by an individual from theirs or their company’s pocket, or by a group/organization not receiving govt funds of any sort AND any portion of the money used for that assistance comes from govt funds on any level how would it be anything other than govt assistance?

It seems to me that those semantics are what separate one class/group from another in order for them to feel better about their argument/view on the subject of govt assistance. For example, I could give a long list of friends/family/acquaintances who are passionately against any form of govt assistance & have the view that it’s all just one group being forced to pay for another group who didn’t earn or work for it & yet all of them &/or their children got govt. Grants for school & some of them for their businesses etc. They all have received some form of govt assistance & yet their view is one that comes from wearing blinders as if it’s impossible that others on govt assistance could also be working while receiving it or as if somehow because they work while/after receiving it the money magically becomes something other than govt assistance.

If we all got refunds for govt money we never benefitted from but that our taxes went toward I doubt our refunds would be as big as we think – for instance as a lesbian who has no current legal right to the legal/govt qualification of marriage I pay for over 1100 various tax funded things which I will never benefit & a slew of other things I don’t make use of due to not being a parent. But when it’s all broken down many of those things I pay for still benefit me. For instance, without kids I’m still paying taxes that apply to the education system & though I’m in a southern state (meaning it’s almost guaranteed to be in the bottom 5 ranked education) I still benefit from the fact that I have people who can read & do math at a level required to serve me food & give me correct change when I dine out. That’s one example out of many but my point is two things 1— there’s a lot more government assistance than we’d like to admit knowing tgat if we admit it we’ll have to admit we’ve all gotten it on some level or another & then our arguments about receiving hand outs would be hypocritical & invalid & 2— when govt assistance is broken down beyond direct/immediate benefit into a wider spectrum we benefit more than we’d care to admit/notice/recognize & if we expected refunds for that which we never benefitted from it would likely be much less than we’d all like to think.

I don’t feel like anyone should get any more of a free ride than anyone else but when it’s nitpicked down to the tiniest detail & then looked at as a big picture rather than an individual one the story is much different than the one we all tell no matter which angle or who tells it.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Jenniehowell I was discussing unemployment insurance benefits. Totally different animal. These monies are paid exclusively by employers (with the exception of three states where employees pay a very small percentage).

meiosis's avatar

@bkcunningham Forgive me if I’m putting words into your mouth, but employer funded government handouts are good, whilst general taxation funded government handouts are bad? Have I got that correct? If so, what is the difference between the two that makes one good, one bad? If not, what is your stress on the employer funded nature of the unemployment handout all about?

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis honestly, I wasn’t making an argument for “good or bad” taxes. I was just explaining that unemployment insurance is paid by employers.

jerv's avatar

@bkcunningham So… companies dictate the withholding rate and administer the dispersal of the funds and the government just acts like a bank teller just as they act as slaves to corporations in other ways, eh?
I don’t buy that. Its a government program regardless of where the dollars come from. Totally different animal my ass

@Jenniehowell There are a lot of blind people out there.

bkcunningham's avatar

I don’t get your point @jerv ? Elected officials in the states dictates the rate that the businesses pay into the unemployment insurance fund for their employees and how the funds are allocated. That is how it works and you know that. Your trying to make an argument where there isn’t one to prove something and show how bad everyone is that doesn’t agree with you.

The only reason I chimed in was your statement about the unemployed, “However, there are many who feel that those people are just too lazy to get a job and overlook the fact that there aren’t many jobs to get, at least not unless you are able and willing to relocate. Those who say ‘Move to where the jobs are!’ overlook that moving is not free. So basically what it boils down to is that there are a lot of people who feel that the government should not help the less fortunate because the less fortunate chose not to succeed. Of those, many also object to taking taxpayer money, and strongly object to using taxpayer to help others who they feel need a swift kick in the pants rather than any sort of help at all.”

I just never could understand that attitude of “the big bad businesses,” Damn them for employing people. I just don’t get that attitude and the rhetoric that people keep repeating. I’ve tried and it doesn’t make sense to me to be opposed to smaller government intervention, opposed to businesses, opposed to freedom and liberty

jerv's avatar

@bkcunningham It doesn’t make sense to me to put profits and GDP ahead of people the way America does either. What is the point of being the richest nation on Earth if we can’t (or rather, won’t) feed the starving and house the homeless in our own country?
Business isn’t inherently evil, but are you *so*opposed to government that you will allow poverty and starvation to run rampant like we are a Third World nation?

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, I agree with jerv that you are misrepresenting our (libruls’) position. I don’t want to demonize corporations. However, I think it’s important to keep in mind the power balance at play here. Your employer, like your landlord, inherently has a huge amount of power over your life.

What happens when this power is inevitably abused? You claim we’re “opposed to freedom and liberty”; you don’t seem to realize that it’s possible for private citizens to deprive you of freedom of liberty. If my boss threatens to fire me if I don’t work extra hours without pay, if I don’t sleep with them, if I don’t vote for who they vote for, if I don’t worship their god, if I don’t consent to poisoning consumers, that is an abuse of power that deprives me of freedom and liberty.

And as history has abundantly shown, it’s not something that the “free market” will magically remedy. Certainly the free market isn’t doing jack shit today to employ Americans, despite corps sitting on billions of cash and CEO’s getting more and more obscenely wealthy.

Qingu's avatar

Also, @bkcunningham, with all due respect (and believe it or not, I have a ton of respect for your willingness to debate these issues so civilly in what for you must feel like a den of lions), I think your mincing words on UI is bordering on intellectual dishonesty. It’s a tax paid by employers, collected and distributed by the government into a service… just like any other government program paid by a tax. You are seizing on a distinction without a difference.

It’s fine if you support some government programs and not others, but let’s not play the “No True Scotsman” game where you pretend the programs you like aren’t “real” programs.

missingbite's avatar

@Jenniehowell If you are talking about just some things like unemployment, you may be correct. However, many people on welfare never get off. Public housing is another one. They never get out. Many do get out but some don’t. I also think anyone on any government assistance should pass drug tests. I have to just to show up for work so why shouldn’t they to receive assistance?

jerv's avatar

@missingbite That is a bit tricky. The reason some people remain on welfare is that getting a job will royally fuck them. For instance, I have a friend who is a widowed mother of two. The only way she can work is if she can earn enough to pay for daycare on top of her current expenses. Her case is far from unique; my mother was in the same positionfor a time when I was young. Now, my mother got lucky when I was a little older (old enough to go to school) but not all people get the same fortuitous breaks we got. I am pretty sure that with the employment market we have now, she would not have found work that would either accommodate her or pay enough to cover the bills.

I also think that some people cannot grasp that some people have circumstances that are rather odd. That friend I mentioned earlier cannot get unemployment because her situation prevents her from taking any shift; she has to have a job that works with the schedules of childcare providers and that disqualifies her.

Life is stranger than dogma or the law can comprehend.

missingbite's avatar

@jerv No argument here. There are all kinds of cases. Some able bodied men are out begging because they choose that. There are also some that abuse the system. I’m not saying get rid of social programs all together but we do need reform. And as I said before, I’m all for drug testing.

I live in an area where I watch people buy food with food stamps and then head straight to the casinos to gamble there money. It happens more than you can imagine.

Qingu's avatar

@missingbite, I’m sure that it happens, and enough so that reform is necessary, but this is still purely anecdotal evidence. If we’re going to discuss the system as a whole, you need to bring statistics to the table.

gorillapaws's avatar

@missingbite should we insist upon drug testing the executive board members of companies that receive corporate welfare as well? The oil industry received over 35 billion in government charity last year. Also, drug testing is very expensive on a large scale, so you’re either going to have to increase spending massively to cover it, or cut benefits.

jerv's avatar

@Qingu Remember, most of those who write those reforms have lived at least a moderately privileged life so they are a little out of touch; their knowledge is limited to anecdotal evidence. Stats would be nice but reality is a little too diverse to sum up on a spreadsheet.

Qingu's avatar

@jerv, but a spreadsheet is what’s necessary to determine precisely how big a problem fraud and gaming the system is. If only a tiny percentage of people fit the anecdote described, then it’s not something that should be made a political priority.

bkcunningham's avatar

@missingbite you know those evil casinos prey on the poor.

bkcunningham's avatar

An LA Times investigative report Oct. 4, 2010: More than $69 million in California welfare money, meant to help the needy pay their rent and clothe their children, has been spent or withdrawn outside the state in recent years, including millions in Las Vegas, hundreds of thousands in Hawaii and thousands on cruise ships sailing from Miami.

State-issued aid cards have been used at hotels, shops, restaurants, ATMs and other places in 49 other states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, according to data obtained by The Times from the California Department of Social Services. Las Vegas drew $11.8 million of the cash benefits, far more than any other destination. The money was accessed from January 2007 through May 2010.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/04/local/la-me-welfare-20101004

jerv's avatar

@Qingu Tiny percentage here, tiny percentage there… pretty soon we are talking about millions of Americans falling through the cracks. I mean, I understand what you are saying, but it’s a complex problem for which there is no simple solution, and any complex solution will be presented/implemented by the very people who made the flawed system that preceded it. It’s one of those things where human judgment is required; computer analysis or other rule-based behavior will be just as flawed as what we have now, if not moreso.

The OCD over-analyzing geek in me wants more data too; some hard numbers. But the pragmatic human side of me compels me to think that numbers don’t… can’t tell the whole story.

Qingu's avatar

@jerv, I think we’re talking past each other. I would certainly agree that stats can’t tell the whole story and we need to take into account nuances and individual stories.

Here is my point. If you are arguing that welfare as a whole is hopelessly saddled by fraud and waste, you cannot rely on anecdotal evidence. The only way to even begin to evaluate the question is through statistics. You’re correct that statistics don’t tell the whole story, but anecdotal evidence doesn’t even really begin to answer the question.

For example, @bkcunningham has, admirably, presented a statistic: $69 million of CA’s welfare is pretty clearly spent fraudulently. Now, CA spends $26.6 billion on welfare every year. So we are talking about an amount of fraud that represents 0.26% of CA’s welfare cost.

This is where human judgment comes in: is that percentage enough to substantively change policy? It’s a complex question and you need to weigh it somewhat subjectively. But at least we can base this argument on an objective quantity.

On the other hand, if your only argument against welfare is “All the people on welfare I notice are welfare queens,” there’s nothing to even discuss.

jerv's avatar

@Qingu Umm, I don’t know where you are getting the idea that I am against welfare.

However, I think anecdotal evidence is required so that the people collecting the stats have an idea of all (or at least a larger portion) of the ways things can go wrong, whether it be paying a fraudulent claim or people from falling through the cracks. It seems like the current system was made by bean-counters who have little/no idea what the numbers they come up with actually mean. You can’t base a system on anecdotal evidence, but you cannot ignore it as is often done either.

Qingu's avatar

I didn’t think you were against welfare, and I don’t disagree with what you just said. :)

Jenniehowell's avatar

@bkcunningham I understood your point & my point was that… any money paid by one person and going to another via a middle man/department of the government then automatically qualifies it as government assistance. All things assisted in any way by the government fall under the umbrella of government assistance. I pay taxes to the government and then they assist me by distributing it to those they deem in need whether or not I agree. An employer pays unemployment insurance and a govt entity dictates how much is put in and who is entitled to receive it later on. Some of that money going toward assistance benefits me and some of it doesn’t but no matter the angle I look at it, the government provided the assistance either by stipulating what has to be paid or managing it as a middle man, and the person receiving that assistance therefore got government assistance. It doesn’t matter if the tooth fairy puts money into the system – the government decides who to assist with that money as our middle man. Whether just one person puts into the pie or whether all people put into the pie it doesn’t change the fact that they pie we’re eating from is the pie of government assistance. By default any money given to the government by someone outside the government (ie the people, China etc.) and then in turn put toward assisting any person, group or business is in fact government assistance. If the government has their hand in it no matter where the money came from it is by default govt. assistance. Unemployment bennies are govt. assistance by way of the employers paying into the system, Pell grants are govt. assistance by way of our taxes, tax breaks for businesses yet another, Education yet another, Road building yet another, VA home loans another, VA medical & GI bills another and so on and so forth. It’s all govt. assistance when it comes down to it & these days whether the pauper or the elite the govt. is handing you the teet now and then – self-made men who stay made without help are few and far between in this country. The question isn’t necessarily what is and isn’t government assistance because it all is, but it is which forms of assistance are fair/justified etc. and which ones are just a messed up and unjustified imbalance.

@missingbite according to the Indicators of Welfare Dependence report statistics annual report to Congress the average time-frame someone dependent on welfare (defined as 50% or more of total income comes from AFDC/TANF, food stamps &/or SSI in a one year period) stays on welfare is 6months. There are people who go on and off of it multiple times due to various issues relating to employment but the average amount of time is 6months with the only exception being disability classified people. Additionally, according to this report over 30% of the people who are dependent on welfare are working in some capacity rather than simply sitting on their duffs getting something for nothing. I agree with you on the drug testing thing BTW, but the statistics speak for themselves which is why I stated that someone has misinformed you. http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/indicators08/index.shtml

Contrary to popular belief the statistics also show (at least since the 80’s up to the last 2008 report) that the poverty level has risen when a Republican is in the president’s seat and has declined when a Democrat is in the president’s seat. For this reason, many Republicans will try to make claims that each administration changes the formula which is used to measure the poverty level which is unfortunately not true as the same formula has been used since the 1950’s and is in major need of being upgraded to match our current culture.

@gorillapaws I would answer yes to the question you posed to @missingbite – anyone who receives government assistance on any level should be required to be drug tested in my book. I would argue that if you have the money to purchase illegal drugs &/or the mentality that using them when you need to be working to create stability in your life is smart/logical/fair to those paying your way, then you must not be as much in need of assistance as you claim. I would also argue that if you can afford certain luxuries, then you should leave the assistance to those who can’t afford even one luxury for themselves. I’m all for people being free to do whatever they want (including drugs if that’s what they choose) but when it comes to assistance I believe that if you can afford luxuries then you’re either not in need of assistance or not mature enough to handle it when you receive it due to your clear issues with prioritizing luxury vs. need in your life.

@jerv – I agree that stats don’t tell the whole story, but when you look at that report I linked for @missingbite you will see that it comes pretty close. The statistics show degrees of dependence, program spell durations, long-term receipt vs. short term, with/without labor force attachment, risk factors such as single parents, job security, education and so forth. With all of that it is pretty easy to put together a general and accurate picture to say that single women are X% more/less likely to be on welfare than two parent families or that X% of people in our society need assistance even with full time jobs or that lacking certain levels of education increase your likelihood of needing assistance by X% etc. With that information someone who is more interested in making change rather than debating it like all of us here could know best where to focus their efforts & therefore could go to high poverty neighborhoods and provide education assistance or access to better food choices or relationship counseling etc. The statistics do tell the story when they are all put together rather than cherry picked by people trying to make one point or another in a debate. I personally would make the argument that anecdotal evidence is only representative of those few who fall through the cracks and is not helpful when considering the larger whole.

In my opinion anecdotal evidence of the one here or there who fell through the cracks is no more representative of the statistics not telling the story than the anecdotal stories of the guy who with heart, courage and hard work overcomes the odds that are stacked against him. Just because one guy here and there manages to overcome odds and make something great of himself with no need for assistance despite his position in society doesn’t mean that all people have the same ability he did to do the same – in fact he is quite the exception to the rule when considering those who are truly in poverty. And just because one person here and there happens to slip through the cracks not qualifying for assistance or receiving it for too long due to certain circumstances in their lives does not mean that others cannot overcome those odds and in general get off the system – in fact per the statistics most are able to get weened off the govt. teet within 6–8 months. Regarding your specific anecdote where the job someone qualifies for or can get doesn’t pay the bills but puts them in a position to lose their govt. assistance that is quite common and I believe it could be resolved if we were to revamp the 1950’s formula we currently use for poverty calculations. Since the 50’s housing has changed, families are no longer necessarily a one income/two parent scenario with a working man and a stay at home mom etc. There are multiple factors that need to be revisited to see a better picture in the end of it all.

jerv's avatar

@Jenniehowell Very true, but I think that that presents another problem; change. It seems that, though you are correct that the one-income, two-parent household is less common than it used to be, the law is a little slow to move with the times.
Of course, changing things may increase the total costs and lead to budgetary problems at a state level (as opposed to at the household level) and given the budget problems many states already have, and the fact that increased spending generally leads to increased taxes, it’s a no-win situation for politicians. I am cynical enough to say that they may have a lot to gain by maintaining the status quo and not reforming.
As for the anecdotal evidence being more of a freak thing than the norm, I must lead a stranger life than I thought then, and in no way resembling the life experiences of the average person. I’ve seen too many odd things and too many people caught slip through the cracks that, at least from my observations, it is fairly normal. The only way it couldn’t be commonplace is if my life is one hell of a statistical anomaly (a distinct possibility).

Jenniehowell's avatar

@jerv – I agree for sure – a reform of the formula used to calculate poverty may likely shift the standards to a crazy point where a gazillion more people would qualify for assistance based on whatever standards decide who can get assistance.

Re: the anecdotal anomaly – you may be right that you are in a “special” category – I’ve often found that inquisitive folks intent upon learning and growing and gaining facts are attracted to a more ethnological method of gaining knowledge and therefore are exposed to scenarios that the rest of the world just pretends to know or gains through books and statistical reports as opposed to hands on situations. The best source of information is the source itself and so the people who recognize that may very well have a different experience than the rest simply by default of who they are. I’d assume you’re more the type to just directly ask someone about their experience rather than making judgments or assumptions. I’m similar to that type/description – it drove my family crazy when they chose to rant and rave during the presidential elections about Obama and Bill Ayers & so that I could find out the truth I simply made friends with Ayers via FB and started a dialog with him – it was quite fun to have facts and opinions straight from the source for my family to digest. LOL

missingbite's avatar

The guy who is painting my house has a live in girlfriend of 12 years. She is on government programs as she has been under the care of a Dr. who says she is still mentally depressed from her first husbands death 16 years ago. She stays at home and gets a check each month. Where does she fit in? Please don’t tell me she is one in a million people. I know her personally and am sure there are many more like her.

cockswain's avatar

On the surface, she sounds like a lame-ass, gaming the system. But I don’t know her and am not her psychiatrist either.

No one is saying there aren’t assholes and lazy fucks gaming the system. No one is really arguing the system doesn’t need reform to weed out the crap. That doesn’t mean the system shouldn’t exist in any form at all.

missingbite's avatar

I believe also that we need a system for those in need. I just think with reform it could be A LOT smaller of a system. Just one small part to fix the hole we are in.

she is a lame-ass

jerv's avatar

@cockswain Yet that is exactly the logic a lot of Conservatives use; such programs are only used by lazy people with no drive or work ethic. And you have to admit that there is a slight hint of Communism in the notion of taking money from people against their will and distributing it to people who didn’t earn it, and we all know that Communism is the purest form of evil.

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