Monday, September 28, 2009

What A Country

I want to tell you a story - it's about someone local but she is representative of millions of Americans. Let's call her Claire. She could be black, brown, red, yellow, or white, male or female.

Claire just turned 21, is unmarried with 3 children (ages 5, 3, 1) with a high school diploma. She had a rough childhood and is bestowing most of the same roughness on her own children. She works as a nurse's aide in a nursing home at just over minimum wage. With overtime, she brings home about $1000 per month. The State is paying a cousin nearly $900 for Claire's childcare. This method of BigDaddy Government's helping hand seems absurd to me - why pay someone else as much as Claire earns, to stay home and raise Claire's children? Why not let her stay home until they start school? I suppose it has to do with the welfare-to-work but any way you work it someone is getting the welfare for the kids, why not mom ...

Claire receives about $700 in foodstamps, and lives in low-income housing. The children are covered by Medicaid. Several times through the year she receives help from charitable organizations to pay utilities. Thanksgiving and Christmas are bonanzas with food, toys, cash, and gift baskets from churches and agencies. If she had thriftier habits and mindset she could do a little better, she still likes to "run the streets" on occasion, but she refuses to shop the goodwill or secondhand stores for clothes and furniture. Another odd thing I've noticed about welfare recipients - most are ashamed to have anything "used" or hand-me-down, but no shame at all in lining up for organizational or government handouts.

Claire is wondering about college - being that Obamaman is encouraging moms with back to school programs/grants. Several of her girlfriends have received their school grant checks and are spending fast and furious. I cautioned her to think seriously about it as most of these grants are based on class attendance, passing grades, etc. and if you screw up you will owe BigDaddy. Loans are always repaid. It's a commitment Claire, not a means to a shopping spree. Claire even refused to put her oldest son in public preschool this year because her cousin needs the childcare money and she didn't have the money to buy him "a bunch of new clothes." For crisssake - I bought 4 outfits at the goodwill for my 5-year-old granddaughter - designer brands, hardly worn. One of my contributions to recycling the world, and when it comes to money I'm tighter than Dick's hatband, splurging is for bigger events than group finger painting and grass stains at recess.

Recently Claire was discussing her paycheck and the amount of taxes withheld every week. She pays about $83 per month for Social Security and Medicare, and another $10 for state tax. She pays no federal tax. Every February she receives approximately $4000 in tax refund.

Claire began to rant about the amount of taxes withheld from her paycheck and that she shouldn't have to pay so much, weaving her head and talkin' loud and ghettofied - she's a taxpayer goddamn motherf8#!ing guvmint.

I reminded her, considering the benefits of paid childcare, EIC cash, education, utilities, housing and food assistance, etc. and all the Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security that she and her nonworking and never worked relatives receive (plus our infrastructure and a myriad of other expenses) - that her taxes do not begin to cover what she receives in return. She asked, with what I can only describe as seriously, with an epiphanic expression ... "Is that what taxes are for?" then added, "so that's why white folks get so pissed."

Groan ... excuse me, gotta run, time to fill the moat and pull up the drawbridge.


Anonymous said...

I had a neighbor who was a Russian immigrant and fellow single parent. She received a free 4-year bachelors's from NYU courtesy of the government (and she already had a 4-yr from a Russian university), along with all the educational, housing and medical benefits - for her and her child -of the US welfare class. I could not get past my anger to befriend her.

Before the government makes another welfare move which decreases benefits to U.S. citizens, it should move to stop supporting (and OVER-educating) immigrants. (I've met several other immigrants along the way who received 4-year degrees - something I once aimed at - without paying a dime. U.S. welfare recipients receive job training programs.)


Kate-A said...

I understand your anger. I knew a Russian gentleman, who, with disgust in his voice and contempt on his face, said "You Americans are so stupid with your welfare system, it's so easy here." He too had a degree from Russia along with his dad and brothers and all were benefiting from US programs. Most of the kind of deals we're speaking of are trade and pact "agreements" between governments. Corporations use education as one ploy to sweeten the pot for other countries to sign business concessions - big business helping pols write policy, grew big time under Reagan and still growing. You can almost look through a classroom at any state university and tell which country we're making deals with in any decade - Asians, Arabs, Russians ...

But I think the number of immigrants getting degrees on our dime is relatively small. Although the number of immigrants given deals to set up a small business enterprise seems to be growing.

I think the problem is the government, the funds/grants, the colleges, programs, departmental bureaucracies are not interested in educating but in lining their pockets, trickling down to the level of more and more money needed - while less than half of folks who enter college will graduate, and only 37% of those graduating are able to read and understand a book of any complexity. It seems the more the government funds education the dumber we've gotten.

I know several women with associate degrees in business - that seems to have been the big thing in the minority community programs for a while - yet none of these women can compose a simple 1 page business letter, answer the phone properly, or even file - and still have to think long and hard to remember the alphabet. None know how to maneuver in Quicken or Quickbooks or even Word other than to type, which at best is 35 wpm. None have "people skills." They received a degree simply because they went to class - and the educational participants want the funds to keep coming so keep the head count up and give a passing grade. "Job training" programs are basically the same thing. Some will learn - most will just show up and think the eventual certificate or degree means they know something.

After graduating, all of these women were hired at good places that had room for advancement, etc. but within 2 years were fired and have not found any position they can keep for more than 3 months - they simply cannot do the job - and half the reason for that is they do not have the desire to learn it. A few became "professional students" always in and out of a semester here and there for this and that.

I would support government funded free university education in a heartbeat IF applicant screening was based on ability and merit and a proven lust for learning - instead we're churning out unmotivated, functionally illiterate high school grads and telling them they're eligible for higher education monies and grants based on race or income level. It's insanity.

In lowering the bar, no one has to reach - everyone can just step over, and be stamped as "educated." I see it as too much class welfare at the top and the bottom - those in the middle, who are probably most deserving, are typically screwed.

Anonymous said...

LOL - That is I standing in the middle (and certainly not alone). Just one of the working slobs who couldn't even get WIC because the boss wasn't keen on odd extended lunch hours for DSS training on the fine art of collecting free peanut butter.

I hadn't really thought about trade agreement schemes being folded neatly into the welfare system, but it makes perfect sense in a nation whose biggest industry is trickle.

"You Americans are so stupid". If I had a dime for every time I heard that, my piggy bank would floweth over. Looking back over the last half of the 20th century, I'd say we earned the label but I sure didn't see that along the way.


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