The problem that is increasing the number of able-bodied welfare cheats is that too many communities have lost their proper pride in being able to take care of their own. I’m barely even middle-aged–have more white hairs, but also more black hair, and more energy than I had at 21–and enjoy excellent health. From corporations’ point of view, the main reason not to hire me would be my long history of successful self-employment. The past ten years have gone from lean to rough to unsustainable; I less than $2000 for the entire past . (If you think about that, even if I were screaming and swearing, instead of saying “You sound so angry” you’d say “You on that? You’re willing to after a year like that? What a MIRACLE!” Oh yes, phenomenal woman, that’s me. As if anybody notices phenomenal women any more.)
The problem that is increasing the number of able-bodied welfare cheats is that too many communities have lost their proper pride in being able to take care of their own. I’m barely even middle-aged–have more white hairs, but also more black hair, and more energy than I had at 21–and enjoy excellent health. From corporations’ point of view, the main reason not to hire me would be my long history of successful self-employment. The past ten years have gone from lean to rough to unsustainable; I grossed less than $2000 for the entire past year. (If you think about that, even if I were screaming and swearing, instead of saying “You sound so angry” you’d say “You lived on that? You’re willing to work after a year like that? What a MIRACLE!” Oh yes, phenomenal woman, that’s me. As if anybody notices phenomenal women any more.)
So I have an online writing project, which people have failed to fund. I have a little weekly newsletter, which has grown, but not into enough to meet the grocery expenses of anyone who wasn’t living in an orchard. I can produce the newsletter or peddle it around town, but not both. So instead of helping me peddle it, or better yet advertising in it so that I could pay a better salesman a commission to peddle it, I get: “It’s not replacing the free-to-readers, ad-funded weekly newspaper we used to have as long as it costs a dollar.” [Some truth there.] “I can’t spare a dollar, not every single week anyway.” The newsletter is occupying an actual economic gap, and it’s about the only way I can still imagine anybody launching a new business on the pocket change that seems to be all people want to pay for anything I’ve done lately. I’m far too old to be considered for a corporate job, far too young and too energetic to retire. Nevertheless: “Why don’t you just go on food stamps?”
That’s the usual reaction. I’ve also got “Hey, I can get these pills…” and “You could still be a hooker, well I’d still pay…” Well, I’m related to at least one tough cop and two killer lawyers, too, but the idea of such propositions being made to a nice middle-aged teacher-type like me is such a hoot I’ve never reported the propositions to them–yet.
My physical disposition is cheerful, but now everyone should be able to understand why I’m beginning to think I may have lived too long. Who wants to live in a world where people think like that?
I would literally prefer to starve rather than to welfare-cheat. There are reasons for this. The reasons don’t include any lack of enjoyment of being a writer, of living in a beautiful home in beautiful country, of walking, gardening, music, books, knitting, relatives, my social cat family, and all the other things I blog about on Blogspot, Blogjob, Live Journal, and so on. (“Depression” may be common, but it’s also horrendously overdiagnosed.) However, I believe in putting facts before feelings.
Facts that apply to me more than they apply to the average able-bodied, unemployed (not even self-employed or self-underemployed), welfare cheat:
- Most of my favorite people were older than I am, and even my favorite person who was younger than I am (my brother) is, like them, already dead.
- I was brought up a Christian and have always lived as such. I’m not perfect, but lapses of faith and losses of temper are the heaviest burdens on my conscience. I’m not worried about the afterlife.
- I have no children or grandchildren.
- Since my husband died I’ve met exactly one other man I could imagine living with…and he’s been ill.
- Since age seventeen, I’ve supported myself, and a big part of my charitable efforts has been aimed at helping other people support myself. Welfare-cheating is an addiction, like meth or crack or LSD, that I’ve consciously and publicly opposed all my life. If I dabbled in those addictions now, I’d feel that I was invalidating thirty-plus years of hard (though mostly joyous) work.
Talk to your neighborhood welfare cheat; I’m guessing none of these things, except possibly the lack of children, will describe him or her. And that’s why that person has come to terms with a lifestyle that probably involves faking some sort of disability–alcoholism, dyslexia, “depression” or whatever–and cultivating really bad job and job-interview skills, and other nasty things.
I would love to get paid to research more of the degradations welfare cheats endure in order to maintain their chosen lifestyle. They do, in their horrible, destructive way, work. For some of them the “work” of begging and lying may be as much of a drain on their energy as, e.g., cleaning a building after a fire is for me.
But, step out on their own? Try to understand this, Gentle Readers. I’ve been on my own for thirty-some years; for some of those years I’ve done jolly well on my own. I made the Dean’s List at Berea. I’m an internationally published writer. My background and pedigree are nothing to sneer at even in Virginia, and my resume is nothing to sneer at even in Washington, D.C. And I still get, “You can’t do it, you can’t make it all by yourself out of nothing and I prefer to spend my money on more restaurant meals and cable TV subscriptions, so you’ll never launch another successful business. Why don’t you just go on welfare?”
Now consider someone who’s never been self-employed, who’s too old to be hired by a corporation, and who may in fact have some sort of trivial “disability” like a stiff knee or an ulcer. Can you see why that person chooses welfare-cheating?
It’s a problem that we in the United States have set up a system that makes welfare-cheating possible…but scolding the cheaters, or even cutting the program, is not the solution we really need. (Not all of it, anyway.) First we need to become a society that rewards and encourages people who may be poor, who may be literally hungry (which I am as I type this), for continuing to work on our own. If you hate welfare-cheating, do something useful about it. You don’t necessarily have to take out an ad in my paper, if you know someone else who’s trying to do something on his or her own rather than welfare-cheating, but you need to pick one of us and support useful work as a sustainable alternative to welfare-cheating.Tags: Food Stamps poverty welfare