It seems that every properly organized propaganda campaign or classic Disney film has a hero, a villain and a damsel in distress that only the dashing hero can save. In the fairy tale we’re about to discuss, the damsel in distress is America and only by defeating the evil “welfare queen,” can she be saved. This is an argument and stereotype that has been repeated over and over since Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign by many (not all) conservatives and libertarians while they demand ever lower taxes for the richest among us.
The fact is, very few people actually want to be on welfare. Despite all the moaning and kvetching from people who say “I’m just gonna quit my job and get food stamps,” it doesn’t work that way and they know it. Most of the people on welfare are the elderly, disabled, or even working families who might work 40 hours a week but still don’t make enough to get by.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only about 9 percent of recipients of entitlement funds aren’t members of the aforementioned categories. So why is there such a clamor from blowhard politicians, TV pundits and the people who mindlessly lap up their talking points to cut, or remove altogether, the social safety net?
Hint: it’s not because they’re concerned about the deficit, our debt or even instilling a work ethic. If Congress was actually worried about spending, it wouldn’t have authorized two wars on the credit card and continually demanded more defense spending, which is about twice the amount that’s put into “welfare” programs.
It’s also not because they’re “concerned” about fraud and people taking advantage of the welfare system. As my colleague Thomas Barr pointed out last month, we lose about $750 million per year to food stamp fraud. To put that into perspective, we lose right around the same amount every month & a half thanks to Apple’s tax-dodging strategies. I don’t see Washington rushing to rewrite the tax code or put in place specific penalties for multibillion-dollar corporations who take advantage of us in that way.
Of course there is fraud within the welfare system, just as there is evasion within the corporate tax system. The big difference is, many of the people who are considered to be “cheating” the welfare system are doing so out of desperate necessity — the same cannot be said for a single one of the corporations cheating the tax system. Either way, both situations could use some clearer penalties and better oversight, something our government has failed at miserably.
The biggest problem is the fact that Congress doesn’t want to create a jobs market where there’s plenty of opportunity, because that would allow workers to hold out for the best opportunities. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, a good jobs market is not in the best interests of the billionaires bankrolling our elected officials in their reelection campaigns, or lobbying on Capitol Hill. The corruption is remarkable in its simplicity, especially considering how many people have yet to catch on.
Even if we cut every dime of food stamps, rental assistance and other welfare programs, it would not close the deficit. Why would they like to see this done? It’s simple and two-fold — more money for defense contractors and other special interests, and more struggling people forced to work for minimum wage, desperately trying to squeeze blood from a turnip to keep food in their mouths and a roof over their heads. As long as we keep electing idiots to Congress who legislate with their pocketbooks rather than with our best interests in mind, nothing will improve — in fact, you can be damn sure it will only get worse.
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