Understand, please, that I have also witnessed the "Welfare Queen (King)" phenomena that you kind folks have pointed out to me since my last column. The horror stories I have been told (both real and imagined) seem to be the underpinnings of the resentment towards anyone who qualifies for and receives AFDC.
I 've been personally acquainted with people for whom Welfare was truly the only and last resource available to allow them to feed their children while they worked towards improving their lives and futures. One such local lady, along with her two daughters, (names withheld for obvious reasons) left her chronically unemployed and abusive husband. By qualifying for AFDC she was able to attend college, attain a Bachelor's Degree and teaching credential, and is now a fully employed and taxpaying citizen.
These are the people that Welfare should be geared towards and improved for. This lady and her children didn't live in luxury while she worked in school. In fact, they had to do without many of the day to day necessities most of us take for granted; decent clothes, a dependable car, money to put aside for emergencies were all way out of reach for her and her children. Nevertheless, she muscled her way through and achieved independence with the help we, as a country, provided through Welfare.
The most important point is this: While there will always be those for whom Welfare is a way of life and the system will always have the cheats and lazy individuals who seem to so infuriate the voting public, destroying Welfare, as the Republican's "Contract with America" essentially advocates, is insane and counterproductive. What must be done, instead, is to change the rules for qualifying and retaining Welfare for the truly needy while improving the opportunities for an education and gainful employment. These are my humble suggestions:
1) Encourage recipients of AFDC to either enroll in a specific course of education or, if they don't qualify, vocational training. Approve whatever monies are necessary to make this financially feasible. Grants, loans, private money could all be made available, as well as tax deductible, for those contributions from the private and business sectors.
2) Make affordable and safe child care a priority. This could be done through the already established, but endangered, Head Start programs along with tax incentives to and subsidies for strictly regulated private, business and school-based care facilities.
3) Encourage business and government to reverse the last fifteen years' trend of down-sizing employment and benefits. For instance, keep the capital gains tax high, but .allow strong tax relief for those businesses that provide a living wage and benefit package. In other words, make it attractive to leave welfare for the working world.
4) Institute a two year maximum on Welfare for those who refuse the educational or employment opportunities the system must offer. Should the parents be physically and mentally capable of taking advantage of the system's offerings, but choose not to, then, and only then, should the children's removal from the home be considered. Refusing to provide the best possible care for your children is one of many forms of child abuse.
This is only a short, and certainly not a comprehensive, version of possibilities to cure what ails our current system. Many of you will have better or, at least, different views on the subject. If you have such opinions and they improve our country and our world without tearing down individuals, stop just complaining and please write letters to this paper and/or your political representatives to tell them. Get involved. Express yourself. Take the time to be a part of the solution because, if you don't, you're part of the problem.
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