I read an article recently which got me thinking about welfare. I have heard a lot of people gripe about the American welfare system and I myself can think up more than a few pessimistic comments all on my own. For instance, I think it’s outrageous that people can abuse the system to attain cell phones and high speed Internet. Nevertheless, I think critics of welfare are often too harsh and fail to see its benefits. Yes, there are plenty of people who abuse the system; who view welfare not as it is intended - as a last ditch effort to help Americans back on their feet or even avoid starvation. It can be infuriating as a taxpayer to see someone who simply views welfare as a free ride. I mean ... if you’re just going to squander my hard-earned cash then ... well, give it back. In my opinion, I think welfare should exist for several very simple reasons: to clothe, feed and shelter those who can not do so themselves. And to help the unemployed who are able of mind and body to find a suitable job by providing them with the bare necessitates of life while they strive toward that purpose.
That being said, there are groups of people – people who desperately need the aid of welfare – that are often overlooked. In understanding the importance of welfare I think it is important to look at the difference between the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the effects of the recent Great Recession. Now, admittedly, the Great Recession was not quite as steep a downturn in the economy as the Great Depression, but it was potentially devastating for Americans in poverty. Yet America didn’t see anywhere near the kind of mass suffering that it did during the 1930s. While that can mostly be attributed to the fact that the situation was not as severe, I think that a fair amount of credit is also due to the welfare system doing what it is supposed to do; making sure Americans don’t starve to death.
In making my point, I would also like to draw attention to people who suffer a non-permanent crisis, people who go on welfare and only stay on it for the duration of their affliction. One of the most common forms of welfare is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which replaced its predecessor – Aid to Families with Dependent Children – under the Clinton administration in 1996. Under TANF, each state is allocated some $17 billion in federal aid which they are required to supplement with an additional $10 billion (in the grand scheme of things this is not a whole lot of money). Beneficiaries of TANF are also restricted; an individual can not receive more than 60 months of TANF benefits and states can pass even shorter restrictions should they so choose. Furthermore, recipients are required to find a job with in 24 months of first receiving TANF aid. Of those who receive TANF, an estimated 19 percent go off of it within the first seven months, which is quite a substantial number. That number indicates that there are many people who are using TANF when they are down and out who are able to find work, an example of welfare working in exactly the way it is intended.
Another interesting fact about welfare is that a vast majority of those who benefit from it are the elderly and the disabled. Now, there will always be someone willing to feign a debilitating infirmary in order to freeload and abuse the system, it is an inescapable fact of human nature. However, there are many more who do desperately need government aid. Individuals without family who can not support themselves. The fact that I live in a nation which seeks to help these people is one of the things that makes me proud to be an American. Often times these are people with nothing, who have no one to look out for them, but thanks to the government – and their fellow Americans – they can still get something to eat.
Follow me on Twitter