Social Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

Should public assitance pay for drugs, wide screen TVs and fake fingernails?

Asked by LuckyGuy (35606points) June 28th, 2010

Money is a fungible asset, meaning it can easily be swapped for something else. Public assistance supposedly pays for necessities the recipient cannot afford: food, housing, etc. That makes perfect sense. However, in my area, the people who are on it, in general, are the ones doing drugs, have unlimited cell phone plans and manage to afford (scary, IMO) nail treatments and other extravagances that require funds. Does that mean the assistance payments are too high? Should they be reduced?
Just to set the tone. I guess you’d call me liberal of sorts. It’s just that I happened to be in court (for someone else) the other day and watched other individuals entering, waiting and leaving and noticed some trends that I believe are statistically significant. For example, I pay for my cell phone and am careful with minutes. The other people were jabbering about nothing for long periods. How do they afford it? Why can they afford it if I am paying for their housing?

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29 Answers

Qingu's avatar

Obviously not. Obviously the problem of mis-spending welfare money should be addressed as much as it can be.

But if you’re going to say it’s statistically significant, I’d like to see some… statistics.

Also, how did you know the people you saw were on welfare?

marinelife's avatar

Suppose they have a good plan. They need their cell phones to look for work. How do you know that these people you saw are receiving public assistance?

knitfroggy's avatar

I don’t know that it’s that they get too much but that they don’t spend it correctly. There are a lot of people that honestly need help, use it until they no longer need it and then take care of themselves. But the people who sponge of the system, won’t work, and basically do everything they can to stay poor and desperate probably don’t spend their money the best way they could.

marinelife's avatar

Oh and perhaps they did their nails themselves or bartered with a friend. How do you know? It is important to people to look good.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I believe there are some people that take advantage of the system, but I’m not sure if it is actually the majority or not. I’d be in favor of a system that only allows the money to go to particular things (like how WIC uses vouchers for specific foods or how most states have EBT cards in place of the food stamp coupons now), but I don’t know how they would manage something like that with welfare.

chyna's avatar

I was in the unemployment office a couple weeks ago and a young girl was in there talking very loudly about how she couldn’t live on 300.00 a month, that her baby’s daddy refused to even give her 100.00 a month. She was at the computer taking a test, using her IPhone to look up the answers. I wondered who had paid for the phone and the internet. I have a cell phone, but have no internet, no texting, nothing fancy because I can’t afford it. I was hoping she wasn’t spending the 300 dollars she was supposed to feed her baby with on her IPhone.

knitfroggy's avatar

@Seaofclouds I totally agree with you. I work retail and I see people on foodstamps buying $50 worth of candy and chips. It makes me feel good to see the people that buy chicken, hamburger, bread, milk, etc. Actual meals.

Qingu's avatar

I’ve found that most Americans—not just people on welfare—have pretty warped senses of priorities when it comes to finances.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I won’t say how I know because I don’t want to be accused of being a racist or biased. Let’s just say it was obvious in the courtroom. Try it yourself. You will see. I have no intention of doing a scientific study. Sadly, I have to work to support myself.
It was an intersting day in court and made me a bit angry how my tax dollars are being spent.

gemiwing's avatar

No it shouldn’t.

There are people who live within their means, and there are those who try to game the system. It’s the same as I view people who use tax evasion and file fake exemptions. Most people are living in the rules- some will always break them.

We have to remember that generalizing everyone who looks to fit in one’s idea of what a person on welfare looks like doesn’t lead anywhere either. I’ve met rich people who made all their money from slaves, poor people who make bad money choices- I’m sure if I concentrate enough I can find fault with every single person, myself included.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@knitfroggy I use to work at a grocery store when food stamps were still the paper money. We had customers come in and buy things that were cheap just so they could get the change (like a pack of gum). If the change is less than a dollar, they would get regular money back instead of the food stamps. They would buy several packs of the $0.25 gum and pay for each one separately so they could get the change. Then they would take their quarters and buy cigarettes. Legally, there was nothing our store could do about it because they were allowed to buy gum with their food stamps.

knitfroggy's avatar

@worriedguy My friend and I were just talking today about some of her daughter’s family members that are abusing the welfare system. I told her she and I were so stupid! We actually work for our money! Like I said above, I know there are people they really need it and use it as it’s supposed to be used, but the people who don’t really piss me off.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have an additional crazy example. I had knee surgery a while back and was waiting to be discharged. There was another woman (no health care) with a similar surgery. We compared notes and kidded about going out to the club later. There were two sets of crutches hanging on the wall – an old beat-up wooden set and a new, light, aluminum -titanium set. We both left together. She got the new aluminum set and I got the old beat up wooden ones. Why? Because I brought the old crutches from home that I purchased at Goodwill 30 years ago.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

I know what you mean. My mother drives for a medical transportation company. They take druggies and people in wheelchairs to the dentist and doctor’s office. They don’t work and it’s all paid for by the state. It’s such crap that they the state gives them money and they get flat screen tvs, cell phone plans, etc. Let me tell you that I’m on unemployment and I barely get enough to do anything. I’ve been using my ipod with headphones in the car for the last 9 months because I can’t afford to get a radio for my Jeep. Some people have just figured out how to scam the system and it screws it up majorly for people who actually need it.

BoBo1946's avatar

Worse than that, in Nevada, people are using debit cards (replaced food stamps) issued by the governmet to play slots machines!

Qingu's avatar

So what exactly do you guys propose to do as a solution to this problem?

I think distributing food stamp cards that can only be used to buy groceries is a good strategy; I don’t know how widespread it is. It seems like similar strategies for cell phones and internet—directly providing a service, rather than money with which to purchase a service—would go a long way towards reducing scams.

That said, I think we have to accept that some people in society are going to be content with living off the social safety net. Many of these people probably have a range of psychological problems, and it’s not clear they could find gainful employment to begin with. Too often I’ve seen a “they should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” mentality with the anti-welfare crowd… well, no, they really can’t, and I’d rather live in a society that provided basic needs for its useless members than letting them die in the streets or forcing them into lives of crime.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Qingu I think there should be limits for welfare similar to unemployment. If the person has a reason that they can not find gainful employment due to a psychological issue, then there needs to be documentation of that to continue using welfare. I also think there should be more programs for educations and to teach skills for obtaining a job. People on welfare should be able to go in and get assistance with training for job skills and with their resume. I think welfare should be paid in vouchers that state what they are to be used for (similar to WIC vouchers) instead of cash. The EBT cards for food stamps work well. Some people find ways to work around them, but it makes it a bit harder to do. I don’t know how well the voucher idea would work with welfare and I’m sure it would be hard to monitor, but I think it sounds like a better idea than handing out cash.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Qingu
I’d demand drug testing randomly twice a year if you are on total public assistance. I figure if you can afford drugs, you should not be getting PA. I have a job and must pee into a cup if asked. Why can’t they do the same?

Val123's avatar

I can tell you that the assistance payments are close to worthless, as far as actually helping a family with their bills. After my divorce, I, with 0 income for one particular month and supporting 4 kids (one was a grandkid, and yes, the rest all have the same Dad. We were married for 10 years), received $500 in assistance for that month. However, the state also took the $150 child support payment for that month(ex was forced to send child support. Long story.) What possible good is $500 going to do when you have $350 rent (which is LOW), $120 utilities, a $50 phone payment, plus the miscellaneous expenses of supporting 4 kids? However, there is a certain sect of persons that would apply that $500 to a big screen TV instead of their rent and bills, and, of course, those are the same people who move every three months. It used to slay me how those supposedly poor people could afford cable TV of all things! Total, unnecessary extravagance, IMO, especially if you’re going to run around telling people how damn poor you are.

What IS extravagant, however, are the amount of food stamps they give you. I never ate better, before or since. It was like, $500 a month just for FOOD! They may be swapping up for that.

benjaminlevi's avatar

@worriedguy Do you think the people you would kick off welfare with your random drug tests would outweigh the costs of drug testing everyone who is on welfare?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@benjaminlevi It might. A drug test is pretty cheap now. $40 for a basic screen. One rejection and you pay for 15 tests per month. Get one rejection in that group and you pay for another 15 per month. At two tests per year that is 180 people tested – all free.
Knowing the test is possible might also act as a deterrent. That would reducing crime, drug related shootings, abuse, etc. and might even help keep people employed.
The system of free handouts isn’t working now. It just continues the cycle of poverty and ignorance. We need to try something different.

knitfroggy's avatar

@Seaofclouds I worked at Dillon’s when I was in high school and foodstamps were paper money then too. I remember people buying something cheap to get change back as you said. I recall it ticked me off when I was 17 too!

ratboy's avatar

Yes it should. It doesn’t bother me at all that some poor people use tax dollars acquire things they don’t “deserve.” What does bother me is that the ultra wealthy have legalized their thievery by purchasing legislators.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I’ve seen it too and I know they don’t get much at all in state assistance- I think they get housing assistance which might help alot- I’ve wondered about the fake nails, the wigs, the iphones, and the escalades. I have no idea where it all comes from.

Val123's avatar

@knitfroggy guilty. sniff. i sorry.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@Val123 hey pooky pooks snook snook bear what are you guilty about?

Val123's avatar

@trailsillustrated Sniff. I had food stamps, and I’d try to work it so that I got as close to a dollar back in change as I could. I’M SORRY!!!!

casheroo's avatar

Food stamps don’t come in cash form anymore. It’s a debit card. So is cash assistance…which is highly limited. You have to prove you need it every six months with lots of documentation, and even then, it’s really not a lot of money. So people with children, who usually really need it, are just getting a small amount to barely help them. But, any help is good.
I’ve been to the County Assistance Office multiple times. I see the hair and nails. I know what you are referring to. But, guess what? I have nice hair as well. I also have a nice car. My best friend is a hairdresser at a high end salon. My aunt and uncle sold us a nice car for very very cheap. We’re lucky. You don’t know how or why they have the things they have.

Ladymia69's avatar

What about the government assistance that is given to the wealthy, such as ridiculously extreme tax breaks? Does this not bother you?

And by the way, the wealthy are just as apt to spend the money they are given from tax breaks on drugs and unlimited cell phone plans and other “extravagances”. I know form personal experience with them.

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