Welfare State

So, there’s been a lot of talk lately about welfare restrictions, with various states looking to limit the help people they can get, either by adding new requirements or capping the amount a single person can claim. On the surface, it sounds like a good idea–after all, if people are capable to working, then we shouldn’t make it easy for them to not work.

There’s about a hundred problems with that mindset, but most of them come down to ignoring why people are on welfare to begin with. For example, for people with chronic health problems, they may not be able to afford to go off welfare–the health care costs that will be incurred when they lose the included coverage can far outweigh any financial benefits to working in the first place. (For some, it can become a yo-yo effect–without health care, their health deteriorates until they can no longer work anyways.) People with children can face similar issues because of needing child-care.

The one that really burns me, though, is the conflation of ‘being able to work’ with ‘being able to find employment’. They are not the same thing, especially in the current economic climate. As above, health and children can negatively impact ones ability to find work, as those things can make one less desirable to have as an employee.  A good education, while normally an asset, can be seen as a liability if one is looking at jobs that don’t require it–employers may fear that you will jump ship at the first opportunity. But even something as simple as age can be a major hindrance, with employers preferring to hire people who will be around longer. And if there’s one thing none of us can prevent, it’s getting older.

American society is obsessed with the idea of self-sufficiency, but many people need a little support to get there. People with chronic health issues need consistent care to ensure that they stay healthy enough to support themselves (something that the climate of healthcare being tied to jobs contradicts). People with children need childcare services that are affordable, and employers that are willing (rather than forced) to accommodate them should trouble arise. People with unusual needs need employers who will accommodate them, whether it’s wheelchair access, a Braille computer, or just a bit of flexibility on the work schedule.

Sometimes the problem isn’t that society isn’t encouraging these people enough. Sometimes, the problem is that society is blocking their path.

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