Social Question

john65pennington's avatar

Should Congress "rethink" the nations welfare system?

Asked by john65pennington (29192points) April 14th, 2010

I realize that there are people on welfare that genuinely need to be there for their physical and mental conditions. i realize that people on welfare also need a place to live. i have no problems with those genuinely “in need”. but, what about those that are milking the system for all its worth? you know the people i am talking about. they could work at doing something. and, what about the people on welfare that always have a roll of money in their pocket? was this money gained through an illegal activity? i have seen this so many times in welfare-assisted housing. should people on welfare be tested for illegal drugs? i read this question earlier on Fluther and this is what came to mind for my question: is it time for the Federal Government to “rethink” the whole welfare system? Is it time for new rules and regulations to “weed out” those people that are committing fraud at the taxpayers expense?

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53 Answers

UScitizen's avatar

Rethink is much too mild of a term. The system should be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up.

janbb's avatar

Am I under a delusion that welfare was reformed under Clinton and is not the same as it was for years? It seems to me that there is now a requirement to be working toward employment and the old system of people being perpetually on welfare has been curtailed severely for a number of years.

mattbrowne's avatar

People that are committing fraud at the taxpayers expense are a minority. Generalizations really hurt people who would love to have a job and care for themselves, but can’t get one. Estimates in Germany show that less than 5% on welfare are lazy and actually don’t want to get a job and just pretend to.

wonderingwhy's avatar

No question it needs an overhaul, but I’m not sure the country is ready to see the bill racked up by doing so. There are so many components that go into it, any system that would properly address it would be large and would require full state support down to the local level. There are some simple measures you could take but the ACLU and various other organizations would immediately file lawsuits and strand such measures in legal quagmire for years. A grassroots effort could show some progress without a lot of money, but it can’t capture everyone and really can only help with people who are interested in and capable of helping themselves, but it would rely heavily on local education/commercial/industry support. Plus, you’d really need long term (and that’s key, because giving someone a job then firing them 6 months later isn’t really helping) national corporate support/sponsorship which doesn’t look like it would be fast in coming considering the current unemployment rate.

Qingu's avatar

I’d like to see some specific suggestions.

“Kick out people who are taking advantage of the system” sounds great and all, but how would you actually do it? How would you differentiate between such people and people genuinely in need? Would you want to higher more federal enforcement officers to be in charge of doing so? Would you want to create some kind of online confirmation mechanism to track how individuals use welfare and search for employment?

I’m sure the welfare system can be improved, but it won’t be improved by spouting bland, easy-sounding platitudes about welfare queens instead of actual, workable suggestions for improvement.

mammal's avatar

no it’s not, Americans have a fanatical aversion to taxation, they want a comfortable lifestyle on the cheap, they would rather go to war in order to secure that lifestyle, to ensure that oil and other resources are freely accessible and at prices that they deem, reasonable. They would rather that wealth generated is highly concentrated amongst individuals or corporations. The right wing media focus on welfare cheats and scroungers and suggest that the problem is epidemic and that government departments are inherently profligate with tax revenue. That isn’t to say that either of these problems are non existent it is rather that the media exaggerate the extent in order to terrify your average working Joe so as to get him on side politically and thus keep unprecedented wealth in the hands of individuals and corporations.

Trillian's avatar

I’d like to see the Welfare System enabling low income single mothers to get better educations and good child care while they’re doing it. I think probably that life skills should be a part of that education, and possibly some really good counseling by dedicated, competent therapists.

CMaz's avatar

“you know the people i am talking about. they could work at doing something.”

I agree. But then you have a liability. Now we not only have to cut them a check but add the cost to insure them. And while they are working in order to receive welfare, if they get hurt on the job. We would now be responsible to possibly having to provide disability benefits. THAT is a can of worms we do not want to open.

So it is better to just have them do nothing, while it lasts.

limeaide's avatar

@ChazMaz I don’t think the OP meant what you thought. I think he meant the people milking the system can work and have no reason not to besides being lazy and trying to milk the system. An example I can think of (not welfare that I know of but disability): This man has disability for a bad back and doesn’t work. Although last summer I saw him unloading a truck of rock and mulch, bending lifting (heavier objects than I could) and landscaping his yard. If I see this again I’ll be mindful enough to take pictures and/or videos to get this a$$ kicked off disability.

CMaz's avatar

“I think he meant the people milking the system can work”

Exactly! I understand clearly. :-)
You have to design the system for all. No way to just pick out the “lazy” ones.

As far as blatant fraud goes. That is something that can only be uncovered by a case to case basis.

limeaide's avatar

@ChazMaz Oh ok, I misunderstood what you meant. Why would you have a liability for making people do something to earn the benefit if they weren’t disabled mentally/physically? I think that’s where I stumbled on your response.

CMaz's avatar

Why would you have a liability? Because we are making them do something.

It applies to everyone, or you would be turning welfare workers into slaves.
Having them work, with all risk on them.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think they need to get rid of the absolute worst offenders, but I think a larger problem is the culture of the working poor that’s evolved by bowing down to corporate America. e.g. Wal-Mart moves in, kills off the decent-paying competition, forces those people to now work for it and sucks the vitality from the community, and encourages it’s employees to sign-up for welfare to subsidize it’s meager wages. It’s basically welfare for corporations.

Under the Republican leadership of the Bush Administration we’ve seen the middle class’s wages shrink, while the fat cats, get even fatter.

plethora's avatar

Before we start working on the people on welfare, we should possibly start with all those members of Congress and the President who want to add millions more on welfare via Amnesty. Seems like we should fix the hole before trying to bail out the boat.

Qingu's avatar

@plethora, I don’t see how that’s really a “hole,” since it doesn’t yet exist?

Or what it even has to do with welfare? Since, you know, illegal immigrants tend to work for a living. Often harder and for less pay than citizens.

Strauss's avatar

@plethora Last time there was an “amnesty” in this country it was because Reagan wanted to break up the United Farm Workers.

plethora's avatar

@Qingu It’s a hole that has existed for 44 years and is about to be dramatically expanded if Harry Reid and Obama have their way. I just hung up the phone after calling a dozen senators to stop its passage. Many illegal immigrants do work for a living, but they are breaking the law being in this country and do no favors to legal immigrants who have to do a lot more than walk across a border to get here, including paying taxes. Further many illegal immigrants do not work, but they all soak up the health and other benefits that we pay for and are free to them. @Yetanotheruser Let’s stay on topic.

Qingu's avatar

Yes, please stay on topic and explain what any of what you just said has to do with welfare abuse.

casheroo's avatar

they be ballin’ with all those rolls in their pockets

Emt3225's avatar

Ahhhhhhh… Welfare… I remember a few years back when i had to have these people from a welfare program come and volunteer at my nursing home where i work.. I wasnt to crazy about the idea, but what the hell i figured i could use the help..I will never forget the first day these 5 women from the ages of 25 to 50 walked into the nursing home.. They all had cell phones(more expensive then mine). Gold chains around their necks and lived in their own apartments and didnt have to pay a cent… I use to hear all sorts of excuses as to why they didnt show up for work… The best was “I was hit by a bus yesterday and i couldnt move” .. There wasnt a scratch on this girl.. The other girl tells me she is 3 months pregnant and is too tired to come to work everyday.. I said to her how many kids do you have.. Her answer to me was 6.. She told me that the more kids she has the more money she makes… I think it was at that point i realized that there is something seriously wrong with our welfare system.. There are people out there that really need it and cant get it..

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb I tought so too, but then recently I learned about this EIC money people get back at tax time. Seems like that is welfare? I am not sure if that replaced the old welfare system, or if both were there and only welfare has changed?

The abuse of the system really bothers me, although I do really believe in helping people temporarily who have hit hard times. There are changes I would make. One, while receiving government money, food stamps, medicaid, you get less money if you have a child while on any of these programs. I would redirect the money to child care and other programs, I am even ok with providing housing incentives, I believe in giving each child a decent shot, but I would not put more money in the hands of that mother. I also would make the money more like food stamps I think. You cannot buy TV’s Jewelry, cell phones, $100 sneakers, etc. with welfare money, or something like that, I have not thought it through.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’d like to see drug testing as a requirement for adults . And identification of both parents if assistance is to be provided for the child. If the father cannot be determined then a DNA sample from the child must be taken. This can be used later to identify the father.

I do not mind helping people in need out. But it does piss me off when they are spending my money drinking or taking drugs.

Also, if you are healthy then you should be required to work. Clean the streets. Plant a garden, something. You should not be permitted to sit at home watching Maury.

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy When you say assistance for the child what exactly do you mean?

gorillapaws's avatar

I certainly don’t deny the existence of “welfare queens” and that they are a problem, but I think a MUCH BIGGER EXPENSE to the US is RICH people who are able to game the system and shelter their funds from taxes. The tax rate on the super rich used to approach 90% after WW2. I’m not saying that it should return to those levels, but noone can deny that the super-rich have it better than they ever have before, and many are sheltering that cash overseas (i.e. not “trickling it down” via voodoo economics). I’m certain that the amount scammed in this way dwarfs the welfare abusers by comparison.

Just to reiterate, I’m not saying we don’t need to fix the welfare system, but I am saying that the rich like to point at this small fraction and scapegoat the problem onto them, when in-fact they’ve never had it so good. It’s all smoke-and-mirrors.

misterx's avatar

The system definitely needs to be “rethought”. I am a conservative and am whole-heartedly against our current welfare system. Many think that just because I’m conservative I don’t want to help others, but that is just not the case. I would gladly give the shirt off my back to help someone who is down on their and in need of a little help. This is not what our current system does though. Our current system rewards those who are lazy and gives absolutely NO incentive to returning to being a productive member of society (a job which brings in tax revenue). We need a workfare system in which people who are receiving this welfare, go out and complete jobs and work for the money they bring in. These jobs would be as simple as highway trash cleanup, parks clean, trail maintainance in our parks and forests, etc. We can expand the program into basically a 40 hour per week job in which two days of the week a person is actually working on these projects, two days of the week there is an education session teaching basic things such as basic computer skills and resume building, and every Friday be an active job hunting day. They could also set the work days to only be half days therefore every afternoon there is given time for job hunting. It is time we stop promoting laziness in this country and start investing into our people. This type of program would seperate those who have no desire to work and are looking for a hand out from those who are truly down on their luck and in need.

plethora's avatar

@gorillapaws Yeah, those damn rich people. They’re the problem. You talkin about the 50% of us who pay all the income taxes while the other 50% pay none? I agree, let’s slam it to the folks who are paying the taxes. Spread em out so everybody pays some.

Rangie's avatar

@worriedguy Yes, I agree, with you. I know somebody that is now 49 years old. She has never had a job, except babysitting. She claimed brain damage from a high fever and her spelling is so bad, anyone would believe brain damage.She got herself qualified for food stamps first, then medical, then full on welfare, and section 8 for housing. She has been living on all of us for at least 20 years. I can’t stand that mind set that somebody owes them something. My neighbor is the same way, and yet I see her out carrying pieces of furniture from here to there. She is suppose to have a bad back. She doesn’t work, but seems to have plenty of money to purchase those expensive cigaretts. I see her walking up and down the street all day. She does not work, but certainly could.

Rangie's avatar

@gorillapaws If I had the cash right now, I would be sheltering it overseas too. It is going to get worse before it gets better.

Rangie's avatar

Don’t you know, every time they raise the minimum wages, everything goes up. And the minimum wage earner is back where they started or worse. If an employer has to pay his employees more per hour, what is he going to do. Either fire someone, or raise the price of his product. I guarantee you he is not going to absorb the increase. I use to live on $2.25 and hour. I lived better then, than now. $.50 an hour increase does not go very far, when all the food, gas, and other necessary products go up. Sure we can give them $50.00 an hour, what do you think you will pay for food, and gas etc. then?
When minimum wages goes up, who pays for those wages. All of us do, with the cost of living, then add the taxes and it becomes more and more difficult to keep what you earn. Thus, loosing the incentive to work. Then what? WELFARE yes that “W” word. It cost more than you think.

gorillapaws's avatar

@plethora no, I’m talking about the top 2% who used to be paying massive taxes, and are now enjoying some of the lowest in history for their income bracket. I’m talking about the 52,000 people originally named in the UBS tax evasion scandal, many of whom have scammed the US gov’t out of over 20 Billon dollars who are pointing at welfare queens and saying to people like yourself, “that damn braindamaged lady with her expensive cigerettes, scamming the government out of HUNDREDS of dollars every month is the real problem with American, please ignore the tens of MILLIONS I’m laundering through top level accountants to foreign accounts…” I’m talking about how CEO pay has gone from 24 times the average worker pay in 1965 to 319 times in 2009.

It’s truly embarrassing how gullible and easily manipulated people are.

Rangie's avatar

@gorillapaws But we are not talking about the CEO’s. We are asking if the government should rethink the nations welfare system. The CEO’s are another topic that really needs dealing with as well. But right now, what is your stand on the Q at hand?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Rangie I think you need to fix welfare, I think you need to figure out ways to prevent abusers of the system, while still providing a saftey net to those who need it. HOWEVER, I think a higher priority should be at the top. It’s like sending 95% of the police chasing after kids setting off fireworks and then only using 5% of them to try to track down the mad-bombers who are blowing up buildings. Sure we need to stop the little guys, but the amount of energy devoted to this problem has been so radically skewed away from it’s white-collar counterpart. It’s a lot of propaganda.

Rangie's avatar

@gorillapaws If those loop holes are there, they will use them. And wouldn’t you? As long as they are legal, who wouldn’t use them? Get a flat tax and most of that will go away. Things will be more fair for everyone then.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Rangie flat tax rate would help the highest percent even more, and further encourage them to spend America’s wealth overseas. It would cause our poorest people to shoulder an even higher percent of the burden. Any particular reason why we should put the needs of the top 2% over everyone else? They’re getting rich off of people’s hard work after all. The Republican theory of voodoo economics has been shot-to-hell, and it’s been ruining this country. It’s a big part of why we have so many people on welfare in the first place.

Rangie's avatar

@gorillapaws And what would the top 2% be spending their money on overseas? I just don’t understand how a supposedly intelligent person can make such a singled out statement, and expect us to take them seriously. The Republican theory of voodoo economics has been shot-to-hell, and it’s been ruining this country Is that really where you place the blame for the condition we are in today?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Rangie it’s a huge part of it. When you buy a ferrari, that money goes overseas; when you buy a rolex, that money goes overseas; when you buy a yacht, that money is most likely going overseas. Voodoo economics suggests that this money is supposed to linger in the economy and trickle down to the little guy. Except it’s not.

Inflation increasing hurts people with wealth much more than people without it fyi (not that excessive inflation is a good thing). I’m not saying rich people are bad or evil or whatever, just that as a group, they’ve managed to radically reduce the amount they were expected to contribute to the country in the form of taxes. And at the same time, write massive bonus checks for themselves.

Skim through this .pdf to see what’s happening to working-class Americans. Most of the working poor work hard.

Rangie's avatar

@gorillapaws Believe me I know what hard work is. I just think a few yachts, ferrari’s, rolex’s are nothing compared to the things outside this country that our government is spending money on. And you can’t pin that on any one administration. Yes, I am a conservative, but I am big enough to to be fair to both parties. It is both of their faults. Come on, a lumber mill in a desert. So many more billions are sent out of this country for silly stupid things, we don’t have enough rich to buy enough products outside of this country to even make a dent. I know some liberals like to blame the rich or the republicans. Why don’t you liberals every admit that there are as many rich democrats as there are republicans. It is not the party, it’s the politicians. All of them. If they didn’t send all of that money out of the country, we wouldn’t have any poor in this country. Why don’t people want to help this country? It is our home. Why do people adopt kids from another country. Why don’t they adopt them right here. We have children sadly looking for homes right here.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Rangie my point was simply that the major premise of voodoo economics has proven false. The UBS scandal is just ONE bank and there were 52,000 Americans involved in that (probably not many welfare queens). Under Regan, the claim was made that massive tax cuts for the richest Americans would end up benefiting everyone, and it simply hasn’t happened that way. What HAS happened is that the rich have gotten richer, they’ve not passed on profits to the little guys and our country is much worse off.

And the thing that really gets me going is how so much of the media, and conservative politics has been focused on welfare queens. Sure, they suck and need to be dealt with, but they really are tiny part of the bigger picture. Is the Government wasting money? Absolutely, but a lot of it is being put to good use, and I’ll bet much more of it stays in the US than it would if it were given to the rich in the form of tax cuts.

Rangie's avatar

@gorillapaws Well mister gorillapaws, I think now is a good time for us to say we will agree to disagree. I can see we have exhausted many issues and are no closer to the same conclusion than before. I do not want this to turn into another Tattoo saga. However, it has been very interesting talking with you, perhaps we will debate another issue. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Rangie's avatar

@john65pennington Great Q. Thanks for opening this issue. I think it give all of us somethings to think about. Good Job.

Ron_C's avatar

1. Welfare is controlled by the states, not the federal government.
2. If you don’t like the way welfare is set up in your state complain to your representative.
3. Most states have a requirement that a welfare recipient actively engage in job hunting.
4. Everyone that I know on welfare want off of it.
5. The tax system is set up to allow the richest of us to keep more money so it doesn’t trickle down.
6. More of use are likely to go on unemployment and end up on welfare because good jobs are being sent out of the country.
7. Unskilled jobs are going to immigrants here illegally and willing to work for slave wages. Politicians are keeping it that way.
8. Tax laws are written so that companies get a deduction for moving operations out of the country.
9. The middle class pays for their own health care, tax deductions for international companies, and to support welfare.
10. Politicians want the system to stay as it is.
11. Be nice to the guy on welfare, it may soon be you.

Rangie's avatar

@Qingu I believe what @plethora was talking about is the illegals, that have been draining the welfare system for years. I lived in an area where has been and still is a very big issue. I personally know some of them. I also know they are still coming just as easy as they did before. A few months ago I was talking to an acquaintance of mine and her son showed up. She introduced us and I ask, how did he get here. Both heads went facing the floor. No answer, so I left it alone. I know they have certain people helping them. Somehow they get on our system and live quite well. I have said many times, If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I am coming back as an illegal. They seem to get all kinds of special deals, that most of us don’t even know about.

gorillapaws's avatar

Whenever I hear people talk about illegal immigration it makes me think of this. I agree that it’s a problem, but the people we should be putting in jail are the farmers and contractors who hire them, not the poor bastards who want to work their ass off just to have a chance a decent life.

@Rangie if you think being an illegal is so dandy, why not renounce your citizenship and try it out. I’m willing to bet it’s not all that much fun.

Rangie's avatar

@gorillapaws I never said it was dandy, but I will guarantee from what I have seen, they are living better than some of our own citizens. That is horrendous.
As I said, I believe you and I will not come to any amicable agreement. Thanks anyway

plethora's avatar

@gorillapaws Bias seems to be the “sin unto death” on Fluther. I read your pdf and I believe the numbers are accurate and they are put together skillfully to paint a picture of discrimination. But that false mantle fell away when it started talking about Mississippi. I am very very famiiar with MS and I know exactly why it ranks #49 in every category, and it is not discrimination. 68% of the population has very little use for education, work, and thrift. And a very large % of the state knows exactly how to work the welfare system to serve their ends.

Back to bias….you got a healthy dose of it.

gorillapaws's avatar

I just think there has been an unprecidentedly radical shift towards favoring large corporations in this country. It’s like the Republicans want to return us to the Gilded Age. Mega-corps aren’t what powers this economy, it really is the smaller and medium sized businesses that employ most Americans. The it’s the big guys that are using their size to gain competitive advantages (often unfairly) that are driving out competition and killing lots of good middle-class jobs.

Take a look at some facts from the Wal-Mart movie to see exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. I’m all for capitalism and free competition, but the strong emphasis on de-regulation has led to a climate where large corporations are behaving abusively, and the result is huge expenses to the taxpayer.

I’m not some crazy biased socialist, I go where the data is. If you have some numbers to show me I’d be happy to take a look. I consider myself fiscally conservative, and think the Government should spend money when it expects to see a return on investment and/or savings elsewhere.

For example, if the government can spend a few thousand dollars to support a family on welfare for a few months to help them get back on their feet, and prevent the father from going out an committing a crime to try to support his family instead, costing tens-to-hundreds of thousands in legal and penal expenses then I think it makes a lot of sense. Especially so when you factor in the tax revenue he will eventually be generating once he does get a new job and also the fact that any children he has will have a greater likelihood of turning out to be decent tax-paying citizens with their parents working instead of being in jail.

Republicans behave as if there’s this over-abundance of good-paying jobs out there and that the impoverished could easily support themselves if they just worked harder, and stopped being so lazy. From that .pdf I linked, the average number of hours worked by the working poor is 50 hours. Many work 2 jobs just to scrape by.

Ron_C's avatar

@gorillapaws Great answer! It seems strange that the government is prepared to spend trillions of dollars saving banks engaged in gambling and ponzi schemes but balks at a few thousand to keep families off the streets.

Priorities are twisted to the point that we need to clean out all republicans and democrats from elected office and start over again.

plethora's avatar

@gorillapaws I agree with this post completely and saved the Walmart piece. I think Walmart abuses capitalism at every turn. All except for placing the blame on Republicans. Democrats do every bit a much damage. It’s truly a bipartisan effort. The current push for legalizing million of illegals will have a direct negative impact on the impoverished by taking the lowpaying jobs and will cost the taxpayers by putting even more pressure on health facilities. The Democrats have their reason for this….called votes. Both parties are guilty.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Ron_C I actually believe the banking bailouts were a necessary evil. If those institutions had fallen (and they would go like dominoes, one triggering the next) main-street america would have been decimated and the US government would have lost a hell -of-a-lot more than they did. The executive bonus stuff of course infuriates me, but I don’t think many people appreciate how necessary that bailout was.

There was actually a lot done for “the little guy” with the stimulus that never seems to get mentioned. A lot of jobs would have been lost that weren’t had it not gone through, of course it’s hard to appreciate when someone does something that prevents something bad from happening that didn’t.

I think they need to do more though, but it mostly starts with not bowing down to the large corporations, and to focus efforts on the smaller and medium sized ones. Governemnt regulations need to be put in place to ensure free competiton, not the robber-baron(industrialist) system that deregulation creates (this and special tax deals for corporations and the highest 2% is where I believe the Republicans have been most guilty).

@plethora to a large extent, I agree with the immigration problem, but I think the blame should fall on the businesses that hire illegals right? Shouldn’t they be paying for the insurance, healthcare and other costs that they create for the American taxpayer? Because nobody is going to just sit there and die when they have some medical emergency simply because they don’t have insurance.

It’s a bit off-topic (still tangentially related), but I think there should be a controlled mechanism for allowing these workers to come in and work in a well-documented and regulated manner. And if they put in x number of years working to better America without breaking laws, then they should be put into an accelerated path to citizenship so they can start being productive tax-paying citizens, like the rest of us (non-Native Americans) who are descendants from immigrants.

plethora's avatar

@gorillapaws Absolutely….businesses should not be hiring illegals and there is a program in place called E-Verify by which businesses are supposed to verify citizenship. DHS does workplace enforcement. Unfortunately Janet Napolitano is a foe of workplace enforcement, despite the fact that it is in her job description. Enforcement would decrease the number of all those future Democratic voters that will come in should amnesty pass. See this site for commentary relating the immigration issue to poor and illegal workers.

gorillapaws's avatar

@plethora Janet Napolitano is the Secretary of Homeland security. I would hope she has better things to do than driving around to construction sites, verifying citizenship. It’s not like the Bush administration was doing much to try to punish businesses that hire illegals.

The democrats aren’t blameless, but the Republican pro-corporate policies have been the biggest source of depressing wages for the average American worker. Here’s a nugget to chew on from that .pdf on Wal-Mart: the Bush tax cuts saved the Walton family “at least $190,367,803 in federal income taxes” in 2004. I think I got a few hundred bucks.

Strauss's avatar

@gorillapaws and that few hundred bucks was probably not taxes you saved, but taxes you overpaid through withholding, and that we allow the government use interest-free for about 15 months!

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