General Question

ninja_man's avatar

Is welfare immoral?

Asked by ninja_man (1133points) August 30th, 2012

Let me preface this by telling you few things you don’t know about me. I care deeply for those that are down and out, and have volunteered extensively. I am the guy that not only gives the beggar a buck, but a handshake as well. I have qualified for welfare of various types many times, but the only government program I have utilized is the job service. So, keep that in mind while you demonize me please! Thanks!

That said, is it moral to take someone’s money, essentially at gunpoint, and give it to someone else? Does this not violate the freedom of the individual? Does this not rob individuals of the choice to give freely?

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66 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Wait – the title of your question and the details are asking different questions.

@ninja_man: “Is welfare immoral.”

@ninja_man: “That said, is it moral to take someone’s money, essentially at gunpoint, and give it to someone else?”


Could you clarify? Specifically, what are you referring to when you use the term “welfare”? If it’s a particular government program, please be as specific as possible? Are you referring to food assistance or tax breaks for corporations?

KNOWITALL's avatar

It’s only immoral if you are fraudulant in your claims.

tedd's avatar

Welfare brings us all up, and makes us a far better country/society.

No I do not believe it is wrong at all.

(I do believe welfare abuse is very wrong)

ragingloli's avatar

On the contrary, not providing welfare is immoral, because that is wilfully leaving millions of people to be homeless, starve and live in filth.

“That said, is it moral to take someone’s money, essentially at gunpoint, and give it to someone else?”
A rubbish argument. Every single tax “currency unit” is going to end up in someone’s pocket, be it the construction worker that builds the bridge funded by tax dollars or the janitor that works in a private company that produces the office paper that government agencies consume.

“Does this not violate the freedom of the individual?”
Every. single. law. that exists “violates the freedom of the individual” to adhere to the laws’ underlying sentiments volunatrily. The laws that make it a crime to kill people (murder) violates the freedom of the individual to choose freely whether he is going to kill people or not.
And anyway, I value the poor’s continued survival, not having to starve and freeze at night lying in filth higher than your desire to keep your precious money in your bank account.
You also do not exist in a vacuum. Society around you and their actions created the environment that enabled you to succeed. It is your responsibility and duty to pay society back.

Coloma's avatar

No, welfare is not immoral. Every society has it’s share of poverty, physical/mental illness and other issues that effect a persons ability to work. Welfare is only “immora“l when it is used in a fraudulent manner.

LostInParadise's avatar

Is it moral that some people are born to wealthy families and can live off the family fortune, while others have to work for a living?

Is it moral that some people are born with more talent and some with less?

Is it moral that some people risk their lives fighting for their country, become disabled, and end up with poor medical coverage and limited job opportunities?

Life, as they say, ain’t fair, but we can take actions to make it more so. Providing welfare is one way of doing so..

trailsillustrated's avatar

@ninja_man could I ask what sort of welfare you qualified for other than food stamps and the jobs service? I am under the impression that only families with children get welfare?

sinscriven's avatar

I do not equate money with “freedom”. So no.

It’s a part of the social contract. You give up some of your natural rights to receive rights and protections granted by society. the money taken from your taxes is used to support infastructure, keep people employed and healthy, and the system moving. This makes society in general better for everyone because people who are not homeless, ill, or starving can become more productive people, quality of life increases, crime decreases, it’s win/win.

Libetarians argue that private sector and charity will take care of the poor and sick, but Americans are not charitable enough to provide for the massive need of the people who would use the help, nor do they have the infastructure to do so. Angel Food ministries for example was a great organization who would resell food at a discount to lower income families for nearly a decade, but because of massive corruption by the owners now tens of thousands of families are now SOL without a way to provide food at a lower cost. But what if instead we just pumped more money into the WIC system and get local independent farmers involved to provide healthy locally grown nutirtious foods to families and pay through EBT? (This already is in place). This way, farmers markets all over the place can contribute, sell their harvest and keep the business running, and families get fed REAL food all over the country as opposed to a small group holding a ton of money who are buying on deals from megacorp food processors that provide only high carb/fat/sodium products.

So if we feed the families that are struggling, they will be happier, work harder, study harder, their kids will become better educated and will get good jobs that makes them not dependent on that welfare system. And because they’re eating well, they’re less likely to get sick meaning less overall healthcare costs that we pay out of pocket.

The American way of doing things is focused on fixing problems, not finding solutions so problems don’t happen in the first place.

tinyfaery's avatar

Money is not moral, immoral or amoral. It’s pieces of paper that people ascribe value to. It is immoral to let people starve and live in filth while you have 8 cars and an off-shore bank account.

wilma's avatar

No, abusing welfare is immoral.

CWOTUS's avatar

Yes, your assumption was correct. It is immoral to demand of others anything that they would not willingly provide.

ninja_man's avatar

@tom_g All taxation takes place under threat of force. This is not to say that taxation is wrong or we shouldn’t pay taxes, it is merely a statement of fact. When I used the term ‘welfare’ I meant food and housing assistance. Things which would seem (at first glance anyways) to benefit the individual prior to providing any good or service to the public. And I did not mean to address tax breaks for corporations, but I also think that it would be hard to argue that those provide any benefit to the public prior to providing good to the individual corporation (and corporations are legally ‘people’).

@trailsillustrated I qualified for tuition assistance, food stamps, perhaps some housing assistance had I lived on campus during school, and of course to aid provide by the job service. When I was younger and living with my parents I (or my family to be more specific) qualified for school lunch programs as well. Sorry, I should have made that more clear from the outset, but did not for the sake of brevity.

My chief concern was not whether or not helping those in need is right or wrong, as I tried to make clear in the description. It was rather to address moral issues in our priorities and how we go about helping those in need.

I really want to get a feel for what people are thinking about this issue, so thanks for the answers everyone!

MilkyWay's avatar

I don’t think it is. As other people above have mentioned, it’s abusing the welfare system that is wrong.

wilma's avatar

@ninja_man I also have qualified for free school lunches for my children and didn’t take them. We had food in the house, if we hadn’t then I probably would have taken advantage of them.
To me, the difference is in the details.
I don’t want anyone to starve or go without medical care. In that way I think welfare is moral.

I don’t want the public to have to pay for someone else’s cable TV or cigarettes, beer or luxury foods. I don’t think taxpayer dollars should be paying for anything that isn’t an essential.

ninja_man's avatar

@wilma And thanks to new standards implemented a few years ago when they started issuing EBT cards, alcohol, tobacco, and ‘luxury’ foods are not covered.

yep, I used to work at a grocery store

wilma's avatar

Yes @ninja_man it is getting better.

Paradox25's avatar

When I was younger I used to look at social help programs in a similar way. Well, I’ve gotten a bit older since then (and hopefully wiser) and reality finally hit me. Now I look at what you’re asking from another angle.

Let’s face it, we’re always going to pay taxes, whether Repubs or Dems are in office. We also have to pay taxes or many of the things that we depend upon would fall apart. Many of the politicians who would agree with your statements will not lower your taxes, and there is no evidence whatsoever that proves conservative policies lower taxes on those making under $250,000 a year. There is no evidence that conservative policies produce less government, but yet they preach about how good ‘smaller’ government is.

The way I look at this, freedom truly is a subjective term, varying greatly by individual. Maybe it is a loss of personal freedom to fund social help programs against our will with our tax dollars. However, I personally consider it immoral (not amoral) when those who want to cut social help programs want to spend my tax monies on unnecessary wars, the war on drugs, creationist platform in public schools, the patriot act, and quite a few other things.

Maybe more liberals should start playing conservatives own games against them, and start condemning the conservatives about how much money they spend, and how they love to expand government power. The hypocrisy from the ‘less’ government crowd is amazing. I do agree that welfare and unemployment fraud is rampant, and I would like to see more regulation and enforcement when it comes to these. I do feel that we likely waste alot of money too, but if you’re going to use small government rhetoric you have to go the whole nine yards here.

dabbler's avatar

Providing welfare is a good investment. It helps reduce crime, lets single-mothers feed their kids so they’ll do better in school and be better burger-jockies, car mechanics and rocket surgeons for all of us.
It helps get people off the street, and even if you don’t care about others you’d probably appreciate the aesthetic improvement of reducing homeless folks in plain sight.

“Take someone’s money, essentially at gunpoint” That’s ridiculous. Our taxation system makes it as painless as possible to pay your tax obligation. If you resent taxes in general that’s another topic besides welfare. But if you take a big view of your life and your community and your nation you will see that you benefit a great deal from government services including roads, airports, water & sewerage, and public health and welfare programs, even if the government check is not written to you directly.

Jeruba's avatar

Immoral to help those in need? If that’s so, then every religion in the world teaches immorality.

ninja_man's avatar

@Paradox25 GA indeed!
@dabbler Your point is exactly what I am looking for, and you have laid out welfare’s benefit to society as a whole very well. However, I do stand by what I said about taxation being backed by the threat of force. The government doesn’t give a care whether you agree with taxes or recognize them as necessary. But you can rest assured that you will pay them. If you refuse, the escalation (which is entirely up to you) could very well end with arrest or worse.
@Jeruba I think you are confused. I did not ask whether it was immoral to help others (as I thought I made clear). Rather, I am asking if our welfare system is a moral way to do so. I fall in the camp of people that think how one does something is just as ethically significant as what is being done.

wundayatta's avatar

If we, as a society, choose to provide welfare, how could that be immoral? To say welfare is immoral is to say the society that created welfare is immoral.

This society uses democracy to make decisions on behalf of the society. We are all brought up to agree to go along with the things the society decides through our form of government.

Some people like to think of themselves as above society and not bound by its rules. They may refuse to pay taxes or they might characterize taxes as a burden imposed upon them at gun point.

I would say they have a choice. They can refuse to pay taxes and suffer the consequences. We live where we are born, and we can choose to participate in that society and follow its rules, or we can choose to break the rules and see what happens. I have found it is possible to break many rules and suffer no ill consequences. But then, I choose to pay my taxes and even though far too many of them are spent on guns and killing people, I am proud to pay taxes that support programs like welfare.

People who act like government is taking their money from them at gunpoint are delusional, in my opinion. They are irresponsible and they want to shirk their duty. They don’t recognize that they are a part of society and they have no clue about what they get from society. Most conservatives are like this. They are uneducated and don’t understand the benefits of government. They point to one problem or another, and use this as an excuse to get rid of all government, as if they get nothing good from government at all. This is sheer delusional thinking.

Romney is trying to make fun of Obama for this very issue. Obama says that our society helps out many people who want to start businesses. We provide all kinds of assistance. Romney says there is no assistance at all. He says business doesn’t benefit from roads and public transportation and grants and infrastructure. He says that business people do it all on their own. They totally reinvent all the wheels. Romney is delusional.

People who think business does it all alone are delusional. But the argument sells to those who don’t like to admit that we, as a society, need to help each other out, or we will flounder and sink. We can’t do it on our own. We always need cooperation of others. Unfortunately, conservatives pretend this isn’t true.

THe idea that we do it on our own is immoral. Not welfare. It is moral to help each other out. It is immoral to isolate people into uncooperative groups. That is a policy that will kill this country if it is allowed to move forward. It is people like Romney who have no clue that propose these immoral policies that must be stopped.

wundayatta's avatar

@ninja_man That was a very silly comment. Are you trying to start a flame war? If you are, it’s too late. I’m gone. I don’t tolerate stupid comments like that.

ninja_man's avatar

@wundayatta No, I was merely a little put off that you resorted to calling me delusional. After all, I recognize the threat of force as being the grid-work governments must rely on, yet have no issue paying my taxes. Nor do I fail to recognize the good government does produce. Nor am I irresponsible.

Nor am I uneducated, but then, I am not ‘conservative’ either so perhaps you didn’t mean that to be directed at me. Even so, that is still a generalization; I have known many and known of many well educated conservatives.

Shall I go on?

Jeruba's avatar

@ninja_man, I read your question carefully more than once. You did not ask a “how” question. You asked four yes-and-no questions:

• Is welfare immoral?
• Is it moral to take someone’s money…?
• Does this not violate the freedom of the individual?
• Does this not rob individuals of the choice to give freely?

If you say I’m confused, it must be so.

ninja_man's avatar

@Jeruba Touche! Next time I will ask ‘How should we enact welfare?’ Though I suspect that you are aware that the title for a question is meant to be a brief description, and the rest is meant to flesh out the question??? Though, I am rather new so perhaps I do not understand how that works…

CWOTUS's avatar

@Jeruba on this question, I have to say that you are, and it is so.

Paying taxes at the point of a gun is not the same as giving freely. Dealing in stolen property is immoral. It’s not alms.

Jeruba's avatar

@CWOTUS, it was not apparent from the question—or not apparent to me, anyway; maybe to you and everyone else—that the subject was Welfare rather than welfare; that is, a specific system of social services that operates in the United States. I took it much more generally as pertaining to any governmentally administered system by which public resources are made available as aid to needy members of the society. And I do think it’s highly moral for a society to help those who can’t take care of themselves. Not to do so is barbarous, in my opinion.

I should have thought that a different (and perhaps more literal than intended) interpretation would be regarded as a different interpretation and not as a sign of mental ineptitude.

At any rate, I’d like to add emphatically that I do not consider religion to be the author and sole source of morality. But I do see that as one of the roles that religions confer upon themselves.

ETpro's avatar

Is it moral to take money “at gunpoint” to build roads for you to drive on, and for the trucks that bring your food and furnishings to you to roll over? Is it moral to take money from you to pay for a police force to protect you, and a fire department, and ER crew in case disaster befalls you. How about to pay for a powerful military to keep this nation safe from attack?

Charity had its chance to take care of the poor. For thousands of years, it failed miserably. One only has to read Charles Dickens to see this is so. It was the case in America till the new deal came along and actually did take care of the poor.

Here’s a different take on it. Welfare does NOTHING to stop charitable organizations from systematically depleting its rolls till it is no longer needed. If all those that rail against welfare want to end it, but have just been waiting for the call, here is that call. They should either start giving enough to actually care for the handicapped, the inform, and the poor; or shut up about the system that is finally doing at least a bit toward that end.

cheebdragon's avatar

If its genuinely needed, then I don’t see anything immoral about it. Unfortunately, there are just way too many people scamming the system.

Shippy's avatar

I really respect a country that creates enough wealth to care for citizens who cannot care for themselves. Coming from a third world country myself, I haven’t experienced this. I have been ill for some two years or so. In the process I have been screamed at to get better, get out to work, or ignored. I also haven’t wasted my time approaching the government. I had in my well days policies that I paid every month in the event of various illnesses. None paid, the policies lapsed due to lack of funds. I was practically on the verge of being homeless. Well I still am in a sense.

What does sadden me a great deal is people who take from the system and are not sick. I have met many on my travels via the Internet. One persons comment was “We are better off now than when we worked”.

I also watched a program on a person that was trans-gendering and relying on the UK government to supply the funds. Here that would just be laughed at, of course. As even life saving operations here have to be paid for. What struck me the most about this story was the person in question was threatening to commit suicide should the operation not get authorized. I just wondered why they were not working and also saving up to assist this process if it were so important? I chose that story there are many different stories I am sure, it’s just that I have wondered about that since I watched it.

Blackberry's avatar

How about no one pays taxes at all, since they’re essentially pointing a gun and taking it from us! Wtf?

Do you know where systems like this work? Somalia.

ETpro's avatar

@Blackberry There are a significant number of multimillionaires who earn millions per year and get checks from the IRS. It is interesting that the same characters who piss and moan about small checks for the poor are determined that the big oil companies, the most profitable corporations in the entire history of the planet, must get billions in subsidies every year. Any guess where the “welfare waste” will go if the GOP’s Gordon Gekko set finally succeeds in convincing Americans we can’t afford to care for the disabled and mentally challenged among us?

As Van Jones so presciently said, “America’s not broke, we’re being robbed.” And here’s a newsflash. The ultra poor are not the robbers. If they were, they wouldn’t be poor any longer.

dabbler's avatar

Taxes “rest assured that you will pay them” in the U.S. that’s mostly the case. And everyone who lives here benefits greatly from that. The reason U.S. treasuries are considerred just about the safest investment anyone can make is because they will get paid. We can be confident of that because, compared to other countries, the U.S. collects its taxes. (Compare to Greece, which collects about 30% of the taxes due the federal government. Would you like to be in their shoes? If so then ship out, mate.)
Besides enjoying that ‘risk-free’ investment standard, there are all the other benefits of being in a collective social situation that works.

Please note that you aren’t ultimately forced to pay U.S. taxes, unless you live here. You can go to a more idyllic place like Somalia or South Sudan where there is all the freedom you can stomach and effectively no government raining on your parade. Enjoy that if you like.
If you like living in the U.S. reflect on the countless aspects of life you take for granted here and expect that exist only because of the social contract that requires the contributions and cooperation of all citizens to work. Being “forced” to pay taxes is an unconstructive us-vs-them way to look at it. You have to be ignorant of colossal facts to miss the connection between willful cooperation and that’s consequential mutual benefits.

jca's avatar

@trailsillustrated: Not only families with children qualify for public assistance. Individuals do, as well.

cheebdragon's avatar

I don’t know anyone on welfare that honestly needs the help, and yet I know at least a dozen or more people who are currently collecting it. People who just like to have that food stamps card around for when the want to order a pizza, buy groceries for a friend or family member in exchange for cash, but the saddest part is that most of these people just lend their cards out in exchange for drugs.
Obviously, not everyone on welfare is doing this, I’m only talking about the people I know.

tedd's avatar

@cheebdragon *facepalm

You can’t buy a pizza with food stamps. Unless it’s a store bought oven/microwave pizza.

Moreover, I’ve never in my life seen anyone exchange their food card for cash, or drugs.. and all the stories I’ve heard of it are like yours.. vague. I flat out call bull sh*t on your story. You are either out right lying, leaving something out, or simply don’t know the full story and think that you do.

Educate yourself.

jca's avatar

@tedd and @cheebdragon: I have known people who know what stores will pay half on food stamps, so @cheebdragon is not lying when she says that occurs. It does, and I live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. However, there are many people that do need the help and legitimately receive it.

Working for the government, in a department that doles out benefits such as the one we’re discussing, I can tell you that it would be hard, if not impossible, for the government to really truly know what each and every person’s sources of income are, when people work off the books all the time and do other things in exchange for cash. Unless you were to follow the person to work and then prove that they’re receiving an income, and obviously that would be impossible to do each day for each recipient, it’s more of verifying what proof is available (pay check stubs, bank balances, etc.).

cheebdragon's avatar

@Tedd Yes, EVERYONE is lying to you….even the state of California….type Pomona in the location box, and you will clearly see that not only does pizza hut accept food stamp cards (ebt cards), but so does el pollo loco, subway, burger king, yoshinoya, bravo burgers, la pizza loca…..should I continue Tedd? because the list goes on, and on, and on….let’s keep in mind that this is just for the city of Pomona. In Compton you can use your card at jack in the box, daily donuts house, del taco, Popeyes chicken, dominos pizza….are you starting to feel like an ass yet for calling me a liar? Did you know that an ebt card can also be used to withdraw cash in some locations? At one point they were able to withdraw cash from ATM’s but those pesky money grubbing republicans eventually ended that party train when liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos became food stamp hot spots.

Apparently I am educated, can you say the same? You called several people liars, but you have nothing to back it up with? I’m not saying you’ve lived a sheltered life, but it certainly appears that way. The world isn’t just full of rainbows and happy shit honey, one day you will find that out for yourself…

tedd's avatar

@cheebdragon I stopped reading your post 5 words in because you chose to have it in tiny font the whole way.

Even taking you at your word that you can use food stamp cards to purchase pizza from a restaurant. Is pizza not food now? Is pizza hut pizza less healthy than the majority of food you’ll be getting for dirt cheap at the grocery store?

And now I’m not feeling like an ass for calling you a liar, because I still flat out reject that you “know people who do this.” I’ve heard that line a lot over the years, but when I dig deeper I find out it’s “someone this person I know knows”, or an incredibly exaggerated story.

And you’re right the world isn’t full of rainbows and happy shit, there’s plenty off people like you out there to make it crappy too :)

tedd's avatar

@cheebdragon I would also like to point out you apparently only looked up the California rules for EBT cards. Here in Ohio you cannot use it for fast food…

So I also stand by the request that you educate yourself.

RandomMrAdam's avatar

@cheebdragon—If you know at lease a dozen or two people who are collecting Welfare and do not deserve it (as you say) then simply report them. This organization has over 100 employee’s who will investigate welfare fraud based on referrals. If they are buying drugs with food stamps, them I’m sure they will appreciate your tip.

Referrals come from:

a. district Eligibility Workers,
b. the Central Fraud Reporting Line (CFRL),
c. We Tip, (hint <——)
d. computer matches such as wage and asset matches,
e. direct calls from the public, and
f. referrals from other public and private agencies.

Of the 30,000 to 40,000 cases they review annually, they find about 5,000 – 8,000 cases of fraud. The 12 – 27% of fraud found figure was higher than I would have thought, but then again I do not know many people who collect welfare. BUT that still means, that of the approximately 40,000 people who were investigated for fraud, between 73 – 88% are NOT abusing the system (i.e. qualify for Welfare).

Also, by saying that you know a few people on welfare that trade food stamp for drugs (I don’t know how desperate drug dealers are these days) then that doesn’t necessarily mean lets rip out the system —btw, I am not saying you are claiming that, but I am wondering if that is what you suggest…Is it?

I think for the most part, Welfare has been working by design and helping people it was designed to help. Will the system be abused by a smaller fraction? Sure…but let’s not come to a knee jerk conclusion that MOST people abuse the system.

What we should be doing is using the statistics we have, based on the cases followed by the Department of Social Public Services, and use the cases and findings to change, not remove, the system to make it more effective.

And not to get too involved into politics, but Obama has approved a method similar to what I am suggesting. For governors who think that the current welfare system isn’t working as it should for their state, they can get a waivers if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent.

jca's avatar

@tedd: I posted at least once on this site that across the street from my job at the bodega (I work in NY), there are, on a daily basis, people going in there (I see them, this is not someone telling me this) buying chips, chocolate bars, soda, maybe $12 worth of stuff and paying with food stamps. I don’t buy that stuff at all, maybe soda but not the other stuff, and if I did, it wouldn’t be from a little store like that because I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t afford $12 a shot for some crap, but with food stamps, they do. @cheebdragon is not lying, I can tell you I’ve seen it (and like I’ve said above, I’ve posted this previously on this site).

tedd's avatar

@jca Chips, chocolate bars, and pop are still food. Was this in an area with no grocery stores nearby?

Plus you have to keep in mind a lot of people were raised with parents who never taught them the value of eating healthy. Not infrequently these are the same people who end up failing out of school and have to take crappy jobs when they finally realize what a mess of their life they’ve made… and low and behold they end up on food stamps.

I remember when I was in college, for about 6 months I had no car. The closest grocery store was about a mile away, so for the entirety of that time I lived off “groceries” I bought at the local CVS, and the cheapest fast food I could get multiple meals out of (usually Dominoes pizza)... At the time I was living off probably right around the same amount of money food stamps offers for food. But I would hardly call my choices for what I spent my food budget on bad, I simply didn’t know any better and didn’t really have any better options.

I do immediately give you more credit though since you cited actual life experiences, and even gave a brief description.. unlike some people in this thread :)

tom_g's avatar

I love how the entire conversation of the effort to help those in need is dominated by talk of those that “abuse” the system. Even those that express some sympathy with these programs feel the need to speak parenthetically, always sure to add “but I don’t support abuse of the system.”

What other systems do we currently have that can only be discussed while reflexively stating how immoral “abuse” of such systems is? Do we argue about the value of public fire services in the same way? “There are some people who really do need the services of a public fire service. I just don’t support when people abuse it. There are people in my neighborhood who carelessly smoke while falling asleep on the couch. Then there are the scumbags who call the fire department for any little problem they have.” or… “I support public roads, but there are those that drive dangerously on those roads and cause accidents. Also, do they really need to drive on that road, or are they just taking advantage of the system?”

If there is “abuse”, does it really deserved to be defined by those who illegally violate it? Do you evaluate the concept of unemployment compensation by focusing on those that have illegally filed and scammed the system?

Additionally, there seems to be an understanding among many people that if public funds are used, the public deserves the right to judge and dictate behavior for those who are using the funds. If it’s food stamps, then we are demanding (suddenly) that people eat healthy and cheaply. What about your student loans and grants? Should the public have the right to sit around judging you, your choice of major, your grades, and your career? What about privacy? Did you buy a beer that semester you were using public funds? Are those in need required to abandon all privacy and dignity?

To those of you who feel particularly violated or robbed by public assistance programs – how much exactly do you pay per year in federal taxes? Or better yet, how much of “your” tax dollars goes to the particular program you feel is being abused? You can get an estimate here. Now, of that amount, how much do you suppose is going towards those that are simply “abusing” the system? Let’s take a good look at that number for awhile and compare it to the anger and outrage.

tedd's avatar

@tom_g Well said.

I would add that no one seems to be up in arms about corporate welfare. We give more money to corporations in tax incentives, tax breaks, free government land, and even just straight out money for them to hire people with…. than all welfare programs combined. Why do they get a free pass?

jca's avatar

@tom_g and @tedd: I am moderately conservative on this subject (or moderately liberal, whichever way you look at it). I feel these services are needed and justified, and I have stated so in other threads. I think in this case above, what @cheebdragon is saying, and certainly what I am saying regarding the chips and soda being purchased with food stamps, is that if one is buying chips and soda at $12 a shot, perhaps one doesn’t need food stamps? Mind you, this particular store is one that has everything from vegetables to hot food to cold cuts to fruit, so it’s not like the only choice available here was chocolate bars and soda.

In response to @tedd‘s earlier post about never seeing anybody exchanging food stamps for cash, yes, I’ve seen that, and again the thinking would be if they’re exchanging food stamps for cash, obviously they don’t need those food stamps.

These services are necessary for the majority but there’s definitely abuse of them, as well.

As I stated, I work in the government office that gives out these funds and believe me, outside you’ll see the latest handbags, phones, people with incredible manicures, clothes, way better than what I wear making what I make in salary.

tedd's avatar

@jca As someone who works with people who like to have the latest handbags, phones, manicures, etc… I can tell you there’s quite the market of incredibly cheap knock offs out there.

And you’ll have to forgive me, but I simply don’t believe people anymore when they tell me they’ve seen people swap food stamps for money or drugs or blah blah blah. I’ve dug deeper on this probably a dozen times and every single time the person was either lying, misinformed, or leaving out key details. Sadly there’s no way for you to prove it over fluther.

And people using their food stamps for unhealthy food instead of healthy food available at the same convenience store, while upsetting… is still them using it for food. Like I pointed out, isn’t it entirely possible that no one ever raised them with good eating habits… which I would cite as a frequent co-occurrence with people who were raised so poorly that they ended up on food stamps because of making poor choices at some point in life?

I don’t discount that abuse of welfare happens, but I don’t believe it happens with anywhere near the frequency that people complain about.

cheebdragon's avatar

@Tedd just like you don’t care about the welfare system in California, I just don’t give a flying fuck about Ohio. Just because there are different regulations on welfare in Ohio, doesnt make what ive said any less true. Here in California every single person that I know personally, who is currently on welfare, does not actually need it. They use it as if it were a monthly bonus. I have seen people hand over their ebt cards for someone else to use in exchange for cash (a few have even tried to get me to do this), and I have seen them do the same thing in exchange for drugs, I’ve been good friends with their drug dealer for over 10 years now. Believe me, or don’t, I don’t really care, but if you are going to call me a liar, at least have the balls to back it up with something better than the equivalent of “well I’ve never seen that, so it must be a lie”.

jca's avatar

@tedd: I have seen it so I know it’s true. I have seen people working off the books and collecting. Before I started full time for the agency I work for, I worked part time as an intern, and one of the guys who was on public assistance got shot in a store. What was he doing in the store? Working off the books. Rampant is the abuse where people work off the books, doing child care, house cleaning, auto repair, landscaping, whatever, and collecting. Among the Hasidic population, they work in the Diamond District (NYC) for cash, and they live in Section 8 housing and are in the “welfare” office all the time. Yes, there are knockoff handbags, but one will still run you $60 to $100. I hate to tell you this, but there are no “knockoff manicures” (your words). I WORK IN A WELFARE OFFICE. I see stuff all the time. I have friends who would have no money on them, go into a store with a food stamp card and come out with cash. Magic? Please don’t be naive. If you want to, stop by my job and I’ll show you around (pm me and I’ll tell you where I work and you can come visit).

jca's avatar

@tedd: I know chips and chocolate bars are still food, but the fact that they’re being bought in a store like a bodega, and such a large amount is being spent on junk, is problematic. There’s talk in these here parts (LOL) of giving vouchers for specific items instead of just one lump sum, in order to regulate what’s purchased. Some people are against that, and say they should be able to buy what they want, but in my opinion, if you’re earning the money yourself, you can do what you want with it. However, if you’re not, it’s another story. Also, I don’t know about you, but I try to buy food at a place where I can get the best value for my money. Unless I’m starving and desperate, I won’t be buying $12 worth of junk from a bodega, because I won’t get that much for what I pay. Obviously, if someone can use food stamps for such an amount, it doesn’t matter to them.

tom_g's avatar

Ok, so we know people abuse this. We’re not entirely sure what percentage, and for now let’s put that aside. How exactly does this affect you? I suspect many people feel that they are unable to send their kids to college because of people buying knockoff handbags rather than milk. I’ll entertain these arguments as long as we’re willing to look at the actual numbers. Like I asked above, what did you pay in federal taxes and how much of that is going to these programs? What percentage of that money is going to the “abusers”?

Even if we can demonstrate actual financial harm that is disproportionate to the amount of harm caused by shifting the tax burden from the rich to the not rich, or any other money in the federal budget, what is the lesson to be learned (in your opinion)? What is the solution (if you still support the programs)? Is it to expand the programs so that they can be managed in a way that can guarantee that a larger percentage of the money goes to people who really need it? Is it to defund the programs?

I personally don’t care all that much that there are people who “abuse” these programs so they can get a few extra bucks, buy a purse, or buy drugs. These are exceptions (I have yet to see any data on how big of a problem this really is), and these exceptions are people who are not living high and rubbing elbows with the wall street crowd. These are likely the victims of shitty economic policy. If they can debase themselves by living some crappy life living for a hit and somehow swindle a few bucks, well that’s what is going to happen when you are living in a country that doesn’t give a shit about really addressing poverty in this country. We demonize these people and insinuate that they are the reason we can’t send our kids to college.

jca's avatar

@tedd: Wait a minute. Up above, you called @cheebdragon a liar, or said she was leaving something out or “don’t know the whole story and think that you do. Educate yourself.” You said that to her and now you’re admitting you’re wrong, after being totally nasty to her. Do you think that maybe you owe her an apology?

ETpro's avatar

Who hurts the USA more, the food stamp recipients who buy soda pop with their stamps, or the billionaires who off-shore their money, set up shell corporations in places like the Cayman Islands and have them bill their US profit centers for “management services” so that the US profits end up zero or below, and pay no taxes while drawing massively on government services. Why is it so easy to sell the delusion that the most powerless among us are robbing us all blind, while the robber barons of today are celebrated as great entrepreneurs even though most of them inherited what they have?

jca's avatar

@ETpro: I didn’t start on that topic by saying one hurts the country more than the other. I started to back up @cheebdragon to @tedd, when he was denying what she said about public assistance. If you’ll notice, my only other post prior to those was to tell @trailsillustrated who qualifies for PA. Now, when all is said and done and @tedd is wrapping up his argument and backpedaling somewhat IMHO, I feel he owes @cheebdragon an apology.

(crickets chirping waiting for @tedd)

RandomMrAdam's avatar

@jca—You really think @tedd is the only one who owes an apology? Forums that involve social matters like this can stir up quite a bit of heat since many people have strong opinions based on how a particular program may have helped them. While you and @cheebdragon have been going on about all these people abusing the system – the fact of the matter is that statistics do not lie, and statistically the number of people who abuse the system is dwarfed by the number of people which it actually helps.

Again – of course people will abuse the system. That is what you and @cheebdragon will focus on, and @tedd is simply getting offended because you two fail to really put emphasis on the system dire need for a welfare system because of the state of many people in this country.

Let us get back to the OP—Is welfare immoral? Absolutely not. It helps many people across the country. Is it abused? Sure, some cases worse than others, but nonetheless the system is not immoral and it’s silly to fight your differing opinions because you are both right. You are simply telling a different part of the story. Does everyone you know abuse the system? Probably not… even if at first glance it seems that way. And if you truly believe they are, simply report them instead of whining about it on a forum about how much of a drain it is on our economy, meanwhile doing nothing about it.

jca's avatar

@RandomMrAdam: I never said anything about welfare not helping people across this country. I know not everyone abuses the system, but @tedd makes it sound (and using his words) like @cheebdragon is a liar, which is naive at best. I understand people have their “strong opinions based on how a particular program may have helped them” but calling someone a liar, IMHO, deserves an apology, when he was clearly wrong. Welfare is good, I“m not against it, I work for it but name calling is not necessary, that’s what I’m saying. We all have strong opinions, but is anybody else calling anybody liars?

RandomMrAdam's avatar

@jca – well I never said you claimed welfare wasn’t helping. I simply said you were focusing on the minority that abused it, versus the majority it helps. It’s easy to stereotype those on welfare by being people who get by doing nothing at all… I mean after all, they are using our tax dollars to buy junk food, am I right? Well maybe, in some cases, that would be accurate. But you can’t take the floor out from the majority of people who genuinely need the system just because some people abuse it. Report and punish those who abuse the system.

I will not fault @tedd for calling someone a liar in a forum, because if he truly thinks that the rhetoric that @cheebdragon is spouting is a stereotype then it sometimes takes calling someone out for them to elaborate. Never take someone in a forum at their word, if you do then you are naive and hopefully not too impressionable. I know many people who will spout rhetoric about social programs without knowing any of the facts and simply repeat stories they hear from others without knowing all the details. You can’t tell me that hasn’t happened. I encourage people like @tedd to pry at people so that I can truly get the details and evidence to back up their initial statements. That’s really the only way to find the closest thing to the truth.

jca's avatar

@RandomMrAdam: Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree, but I feel that “prying at people” is one thing and calling them names like “liar” is another.

ETpro's avatar

Living in Massachusetts, I know that @cheebdragon made a legitimate point about some people milking public assistance. We do have workfare instead of welfare now, and that means that unless someone is disabled and unable to work, they can’t just live on public assistance. They have a maximum of 5 years to get themselves back on their feet and working. It’s up to each state to set up how they manage that, and if California has problems with its plan, that’s for California and it’s voters to address.

Here is a lively discussion on the topic. I’m all for ensuring that assistance only goes to those who really need it. But I am concerned that be done in such a way that it doesn’t exclude many who desperately do need our help. And I am outraged at the Romeny/Ryan plan to reduce Romney’s effective tax rate from the 13% he claims he has been paying (but won’t show evidence of) to 0.82% on income of $20 million per year or more. People who make far in excess of $1 million per year should pay at least as much as the working class in effective tax rates. I am outraged that US oil companies, the most profitable corporations in the history of this planet, get billions in subsidies each year. I’m not interested in even looking at tightening up on public assistance for the poor till we get rid of absolutely unnecessary welfare for the rich.

RandomMrAdam's avatar

@jca – I personally don’t take the same approach that @tedd does and I know people respond differently to it, but it sounds like he has encountered people in real life trying to make the same points @cheebdragon was trying to make and then as @tedd dug deeper, it was basically cherry-picked facts to support their opinion. We all know this happens. If you have an opinion and trying to argue it, you will find statistics and figures that support your claims. But the truth of the matter is, when it’s all said and done with, people do investigate these claims and MOST people do not abuse the system, or at least not abuse it to the point where they are falsely qualifying for it.

tom_g's avatar

Where’s @tedd?

While we’re awaiting his arrival can we elaborate on exactly what @tedd is supposed to be apologizing for? I’m sure he’s more than capable of speaking for himself, but I went back to this….

@jca: ”@tedd: Wait a minute. Up above, you called @cheebdragon a liar, or said she was leaving something out or “don’t know the whole story and think that you do. Educate yourself.” You said that to her and now you’re admitting you’re wrong, after being totally nasty to her. Do you think that maybe you owe her an apology?”

…and decided to see where @tedd admits that he’s wrong. I couldn’t really find it. I seriously just might be overlooking it, however. What’s this whole “apology” thing about?

RandomMrAdam's avatar

@tom_g@jca and @cheebdragon seem to be salty about opposing opinions in a forum. I can see why they might be upset, but quite frankly, I wouldn’t let some stranger in an internet post who called me a liar get me all irritated. I certainly wouldn’t be waiting for an apology, lol.

tom_g's avatar

@RandomMrAdam – No, the reason I posted my comment above, is that I think there might be some misunderstanding. Or maybe someone read my post and attributed it to him. I couldn’t find the post by @tedd that was now admitting that he was wrong or something. I don’t know. This thread’s dead anyway.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@ninja_man by your eloquent answers and discussion here, I will say that I think that welfare is not a bad thing. You seem like a young man that will give back. Therein lies your answer.

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