Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 10, 2013

How many of America’s “poor” are like this lady and her husband?


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The way that many welfare recipients think was revealed in a call to a radio talk show on KLBJ-AM in Austin, Texas. Lucy, a 32 year-old married mother of three, whose parents also had been on welfare, said this about her situation:

“I just wanted to say while workers out there and people like you that are preaching morality at people like me that are living on welfare, can you really blame us? I mean, I get to sit home, I get to go visit my friends all day, I even get to smoke weed, and people that I know that are illegal immigrants, that don’t contribute to society, we still going to get paid. Our check’s going to come in the mail every month and it’s going to be on time. And we get subsidized housing, we even get presents delivered for our kids at Christmas. Why should I work?

“So you know what? You all get the benefit of saying, ‘Oh, look at me. I’m a better person,’ because you all are going to work. We’re the ones getting paid. So can you really blame us?”

Asked if her husband works, she said he does sometimes, but “he doesn’t really see the need for it.” Has she ever worked? “A couple of times.” Does she ever feel guilty about gaming the system and taking money other people have earned? “But you know, if someone offers you a million dollars, would you walk away from it? It’s easy to preach morality, and that’s the only reason why I called. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, yeah, you know, you’re making your living off of other people’s backs.’ But, you know, if somebody gave you a million dollars, and said that, here, you don’t got to work for it, no strings attached. Here, just take it, you can do whatever you want to do with it. You would take it, too.”

The host asked if she was calling in on an “Obamaphone” (a cell phone provided by the federal government) and she answered that she was. Then, when asked how much she received each month, she said she only pays $50 a month for rent that should be $600, so that’s $550, $425 in food stamps, $150 for her electric bill, and $100 on her water bill from the city of Austin. That comes to $1,225 a month, $14,700 a year, just less than the current federal minimum wage. Plus the cell phone.

She also said that when you are in government programs, “they are always coming to you and offering more programs,” and will even pay you to go to find out about where you can get more money. “They encourage you to stay on the programs.”

Asked if her money was cut off, would she get up every day and go to work, she said, “yes, I’d have to.”

This situation makes perfect sense to people like Lucy and her husband, who never learned the lesson that mature, responsible human beings make their own way in life, and who now live a relatively comfortable life without having to do anything to help themselves. They are a product of the failed War on Poverty for which we can thank President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), the namesake of the radio station Lucy called. They are among a large and growing number of Americans being taught that the government will take care of them, and they don’t have to do well in school, or learn a trade, or look for a job, or do much more than draw breath.

Last year the Census Bureau reported that 46 million Americans were in “poverty.”  But how many of those are really poor and need some help, and how many are like Lucy and her hubby; playing a system that allows those eager for a free ride to get one?

Census Bureau data reveals the following about people classified as “poor”: 80 percent of poor households enjoy air conditioning; nearly three-fourths own a car or truck, and 31 percent own two or more cars or trucks, nearly two-thirds subscribe to cable or satellite television, 50 percent own a personal computer, and one in seven owns two or more computers; 43 percent subscribe to Internet access; one-third own a wide-screen plasma or LCD television; one-fourth own a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo; more than half of poor families with children own a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

Poverty ain’t what it used to be.

It isn’t government’s job to help individuals who are down on their luck, and as the War on Poverty has demonstrated, it does a lousy job of it. And it surely isn’t government’s job to give taxpayer’s money to people who don’t really need it, or to actively recruit people who don’t need welfare onto welfare roles. That is the epitome of government disservice, and elected official’s self-service.

George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote has been used a lot recently, but it has never been truer than today: “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.