Your Daily Mindjob
This is my personal blog where I'll offer up some political straight talk as well as thoughts on technology and pop culture. That should give me plenty to talk about. The world can give you one heck of a mindjob. Think like me and get your daily dose.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How Do We Combat The Handout Myth?

How do we, as Liberals, combat what I am now calling the "Handout Myth" that Conservatives spew out on forums all across the net? Not familiar with it? Let me explain.

The post will usually start out calling Liberals a bunch of socialists and move into discussing why social programs are a financial drain on our society. At some point, they will try to make the case that millions of Americans are mooching off of the government instead of getting off their butts and getting jobs. They make the case that millions are lazy and we are giving them handouts. They try to make it seem like millions are not willing to work.

Let me shed some light on this subject by giving you a sample of my own personal experiences. I work in medicine. I get to see patients day in and day out who are struggling to make ends meet. Doctors are twisting and turning in search of options for these patients, especially with regard to affordable medications. I assume you cannot object to this reality and you are following along with me so far. Most of them, regardless of race or gender, are generally apathetic about their options. They don't see a way out. They feel stuck and they are stuck.

The next thing that I notice is that these same people are very often receiving some sort of government benefit or "handout" if you will. Pick any "handout" you like and these people are getting it. Now let me introduce you to an interesting twist. Quite often, these same people vote Republican. Before you accuse me of making a sweeping broad statement, let me explain why I know how they vote. These people openly volunteer this sort of information to us in the midst of taking a history as some form of casual conversation. Sometimes they are rather rude in presenting themselves as staunch Republicans. Where does that put them in this grand scheme of handouts and laziness? Spend any amount of time in the inpatient Psych department and you will see numerous examples. These particular psych patients are very often obese white males and females with disheveled appearances. Are these the lazy folks the handouts are given to? It seems to me, they have very legitimate reasons for needing assistance. It seems to me the men and women I meet in Family Practice clinics across this country often have trouble making ends meet and have no options for upward mobility at this stage in their lives. Without assistance, they would be doomed.

Let me now read between the lines. The ones bitching about government handouts are typically hard working conservative white people. They are often simply blue collar workers, but the sentiment extends into the upper income brackets as well. What they won't openly say online is that the so called lazy impoverished moochers they speak of are blacks and hispanics and that their comments are racially motivated. Their frame of reference is rooted in stereotypes passed on by their friends and coworkers around the water cooler. I would wager large sums of money that they are not close friends with anyone who even could be mooching off of government handouts. Their evidence only goes as far as a story a buddy told them or maybe even as far as something they have seen on television. Where do you meet these handout seekers? Do you even understand the concept of upward mobility?

So how do we combat this myth? How is it that so many people can say the government is giving handouts to lazy people unwilling to work hard without any form of rebuke? Their concept of goverment handouts is often justification for their entire take on society and in turn motivates them to vote a certain way.

I'm not going to sit here and say there are not lots of bad apples scamming the welfare system, but to use the few to justify the condemnation of many is deplorable. What is equally deplorable is using examples of people not on welfare to support your argument against welfare recipients. Your argument is that people don't need or deserve handouts. If I can present the case that they do in fact need assistance, would you change your tune? Let's try, shall we? You'll probably come up with something like this. People are living beyond their means and mooching off of your hard earned money. They are living on welfare, but at the same time somehow miraculously also have cable television, cell phones, and internet access. No, as a matter of fact, they do not. People living in the vast middle class live that way. People who are not on welfare live that way. If you live below them and on welfare, the money is usually spent on children, food, and other necessities. Again, there are a few bad eggs and some welfare checks go towards substance abuse, alcoholism, and other vices. Then again, you don't know anyone on welfare, do you? You might know lazy white rednecks or lazy (apathetic & lacking upward mobility mind you) blacks and hispanics, but they are middle class and blue collar. Yep. Employed. Just like you as a matter of fact. You are criticizing your own kind and not the down and out who may or may not hold not one, but two or even three jobs. The fact still remains. You are talking about the wrong people to justify your take on taxes and Liberal policy decisions.

Let's talk about your hard earned money for a moment. I assume you mean the money that you feel was taken from you, "redistributed," and wasted in your opinion. Your first mistake is assuming a Democrat will raise your taxes. What tax bracket are you in again? If you are making less than $200k roughly speaking, you will get a tax cut under a Liberal administration, Federally speaking. State level taxes are confounded by a mess of multiple administrations battling it out. Hold your state officials responsible for state taxes, not Washington. If you vote in a Republican, the wealthy folks get tax cuts and you will not. Your hard earned money is going to people who need it. Period. Your hard earned money does not go to a lower middle class bum living beyond their means. They aren't drawing off of welfare or unemployment. Your money goes towards paying cops, education, and maintaining infrastructure. Heaven forbid we privatize those agencies. People who are on welfare need a leg up. It is not a handout, but a quick shot in the arm.

I would extend this argument to ask if because you are so hard working, does that grant you permission to be lazy? Are you exempt from the same level of criticism? Isn't laziness a growing problem in American culture at every level of socioeconomic status? Yes. Lazy behavior spans across all social levels.

Upward mobility is a concept you should research. It depends heavily on education, race, and gender. The ones that make it out of poverty are rare exceptions, but they are rewarded for their perseverance through adversity. Please understand that we are not generations away from slavery. The African Americans struggling in this world have parents and grandparents who lived during inequality. It will take decades before their offspring acquire the education and financial upward mobility to succeed in a world where racism is all but dead. Understanding the social aspects of upward mobility will open your mind to the reality we face in this nation.

Upward Mobility & Opportunity
The Claim: Everyone has an opportunity
-Had you received an education in the inner city at a school with substandard facilities, teachers, books, and other supplies, the doors of success would have been slammed in your face.
-Had you been born into poverty, at some point, you would have been faced with a decision to drop out of school to help support the family. This is true regardless of race.

-Hand me down educational inequality
Blacks living during the Civil Rights movement did not receive the same quality of education as whites. They could not sit down with their children and help with homework for subjects they themselves were never taught. Financially speaking, their starting point is well below any white child of the same age. Only now do we see young black college graduates in any significant numbers. Only until recently have we started to shift the balance of educational equality. The effects of slavery are far reaching and still have an impact on the lives of Americans today.

-Non-white immigrants did not endure racial inequality in their home country. They came to this country with a little bit of a head start. The dynamic is much different. The argument that Asians and other immigrants were able to succeed after coming to this country has no place in the debate over welfare because they have a different starting point.

Unless you have been personally exposed to the hardships these people face, you really have no idea what good a welfare check can provide. Understanding disparities in education, race, gender, and family support systems will open your eyes to the reality that justifies welfare. Until you attempt to understand that dynamic, consider yourself out of touch.

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