Okay, so I've read the whole thread--wowsers that took a few days!
I stated above my views on how assistance should work, so I won't again.
I just wanted to ask: What do you all think about this issue of an "entitlement mentality", and is this maybe truly the heart of the debate?
I am reading anything from "you should never take/need any help if you planned or carried through with a pregnancy" to "you should take all you can get, as you've paid your share and deserve it". It seems we are very divided at the extremes, and yet we all basically agree that kids should be fed!
As an American who has lived in Japan for seven years, and now in Germany for two years I feel a bit divorced from my home culture. We have one car, and DH bikes to work when there's no snow but I still almost never drive as we just walk or bike everywhere. And before you assume I am talking about a 5-10 minute walk in a magically planned out town, I will say that I haul three kids in a trailer and baby-seat and the eldest bikes alongside for 45 minute errands at least once/week. Most of our walks are 15-20 minutes and for the last two months we have been doing so in a foot of snow, and wind and rain sometimes. It would be much easier to drive, but it's great exercise and I don't believe in driving when you can walk. Even with public transportation, and fantastically laid out villages people do still need to venture a bit outside their wee little towns for shopping on occasion. So this idea of "food desserts" strikes me as a bit like the idea of welfare queens driving caddy's. I am sure it does happen, but it's not the norm for our country at large.
I am not a super fit woman, and yet biking with kids is still very doable. (My bike and baby-seat came from Goodwill, and I pieced the trailer together from some that were being trashed--so I spent $50 on my vehicle of choice). Before I had my bike the bigger kids walked and we had a stroller for the baby and groceries--I do remember crying on the way home sometimes, but that just made be shop more often and for less. I biked to town three years ago when on an extended trip to the states and almost everyone thought I was insane! I made hour-long weekly trips to town for about six weeks and had four hecklers, and at least a dozen people pull over to express awe at the idea of biking into town, it was very surreal. In Germany I have seen a woman who has to weigh around 400 lbs biking in the town over to get groceries, and the frailest looking old woman in my village walks everyday to do errands--I truly do think Americans have a skewed picture of what is "possible" to do.
Two generations ago, my maternal Grandma raised six kids and ran a business after her husband died with no insurance. She worked at least 60 hours a week for many years, and actually did at least the same before he died. She batched-cooked on the weekends and had the oldest look after the younger ones, they all turned out great and love each other and our proud of their parents. It was what you did back then, and I am very proud of them all. Honestly what would her life had been like if she abandoned the business, stayed home on welfare for a few years and then tried to rebuild?
I guess I am just sad at what we are accepting as reality for people. Almost all people, save the severely handicapped or mentally ill, can do so many different things that would bring them self-confidence and self-sufficiency. Even if it's just working very hard at two menial jobs to provide for your family, there is a lot of pride in that if we give value to it. I personally find it very offensive to assume that the vast majority of people on aid just can't do any better--I think they can, but haven't been given the tools, or incentive, or even just moral imperative to do so.
I also would say, that unless we at MDC are just an over-paid section of society--it can't be true that most people who have posted on this thread have paid "their fair share" and should feel like they are drawing down from what they paid into assistance funds. TANF is not the same as unemployment insurance, unless you actually pay federal taxes you are not funding TANF. Look at our federal tax structure, also we don't spend 2/3 of the federal budget on defense as I saw go unchallenged many pages ago. My family makes over the median level and with four kids we get back all federal taxes plus $800 extra. Cha-ching, that's a form of income redistribution folks.
Our family doesn't pay federal taxes, much like 50% of the US population. It is federal taxes that make up almost all of these programs, so it truly doesn't matter if you paid sales taxes, or real estate taxes, or new car taxes, or boat docking taxes, or whatever else we get taxed for these days in the US--all that money is earmarked for other things and has nothing to do with TANF or WIC or food stamps.
Please take the time to digest the difference between a $20,000 tax write off and a $2,000 cash benefit....I will wait
One consists of money you worked for being exempted from taxation by law, and one is money other people earned being given to you--much like my family's $800 tax refund this year. The government isn't actually "giving" that horrid rich person $20,000, they are just letting them declare less taxable income and are therefore letting them keep more of the cash they worked hard to earn, because we as a society value fueling the real estate business. That's an entirely different debate, but letting people write things off their income does not in any way equate to whole-sale charity and I am sorry that some still insist on thinking so.
One last thing, the continued push to make the minimum wage a "living wage" is vastly misguided and such a red-herring. Minimum wage is a small amount for a very good reason. Please research it, on the surface it can seem so unfair, but the reality of paying an inflated wage for a job that could be effectively done by a part time 16 year-old cheaply, at a level needed to sustain a 2 person household, with 2.25 kids is staggering and a very serious job killer. We would have a few happy people, and even more pissed off un-employed folks. There would be no sixteen-year-olds slinging burgers to pay for their first cars ;-) No one is actually meant to live on minimum wage their entire lives, it should be a resume builder and a way to earn cash when you are young, or if you really only want to work part time. I find it incredibly demeaning to suggest that entry level work is all the "poor" should ever aspire to. If we keep pushing for this, we will end up with more people out of work with less chances to climb out of poverty and learn valuable skills.