Please Stop Demeaning Poor People

I’m so sick of my middle class friends posting on Facebook about how all states should require mandatory drug testing for those collecting social welfare or sharing memes about if you can afford to buy booze, cigarettes, or such n’ such, that you don’t need food stamps. The worst is when basic bitch soccer moms in their North Face jackets scrutinize the purchases of shoppers paying for groceries with food stamps.

People, seriously. Get over yourselves.

welfare

Mandatory drug tests are a terrible idea because they are an added taxpayer expense that doesn’t really solve a problem. It’s no longer the 80’s people. Addiction is not the significant contributor to poverty it once was. Many welfare recipients are gainfully employed and the vast majority are sober. In fact, it’s estimated less than 2% of welfare goes to fraudulent cases and that only an average of $35 per tax payer is spent on social welfare annually anyway.

Most of the benefactors of social welfare are children. So ideas like this make children suffer even more because of their parents’ choices. Do you really want some children to go to bed hungry tonight because their mother tested positive for smoking a little dope? Don’t you think those kids have it hard enough? Or is your $35 a year so friggin’ precious?

The thing I hate most about these laws, suggestions, and memes is that it holds poor people to an unrealistic standard of excellence that nobody else is required to adhere to. Are all of your purchases perfectly sensible and disciplined? Have you no vices? Are only the most pure and sober of people worthy of your help?

As I write this today, 46.2 million Americans live in poverty. That is one in every six people in this country. Most of these are children. The average age of a homeless person is seven. Is this because Americans (particularly children) just woke up one day and decided to become lazy or drunk? No. It’s because we’re shipping good jobs overseas, replacing employees with computers, and not opening enough domestic jobs with new initiatives such as, oh I don’t know, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructures.

Most people now living in poverty aren’t just sitting around at home all day playing video games. Most have a job, even several jobs, bouncing between slave-wage gigs that cut them off at 30 hours a week to avoid paying benefits. The working poor spend their time balancing multiple jobs while raising their children. People who are thoroughly exhausted and defeated, and who pray every day that a minor car or medical issue doesn’t make them completely homeless. They’re becoming drained of long-term hope. The only pleasure they get in life are the very small things they can enjoy quickly. A drink. A cigarette. An Oreo cookie. But no, let’s be stingy and look down our noses at the less fortunate because we have it better.

Granted, I think everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions, we all need to be mindful of where we put our dollars and how we treat our bodies. I believe I deserve every dollar I have because I work very hard. But I also volunteer at homeless shelters, and I can tell you a lot of those people work a whole lot harder than I do and are more sober than I am. Most poor people I’ve met can do far more with a dollar than I’ve ever imagined.

Those in poverty have an extremely tough struggle. Every. Single. Day. Judging them does not make you superior to them, so maybe find ways to help.

And if you haven’t already, you should read this amazing essay: Poverty Thoughts

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