When the United States was first founded, it was created to be a capitalist, free market society, where entrepreneurs could make a living without fearing government interference.
Over the course of history, America’s laissez-faire roots have undergone many changes, however the basic economic principles involved have remained largely the same; one of the biggest changes to America’s economic system has been the introduction of democratic socialism, a system where a large majority of businesses are owned by the private sector, but some public facilities are funded by the taxes of the people, such as libraries and schools. This does not mean that all libraries and schools must be publically funded, but that these services are made available to everyone because they are funded by taxes. In addition to publically funded facilities, democratic socialism also introduced a mandatory minimum wage, as well as government benefits to those who need them. These benefits are often referred to as “welfare,” however they span a large number of programs such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid (free healthcare), and even Financial Aid (loans and grants for college students). These programs are designed to help low income families meet their needs, while also encouraging them to find better employment so that they can afford to live without assistance, and these programs are more common than people may think.
Welfare Abuse and its Impact on Publicly Funded Programs
One of the biggest arguments against democratic socialism is that it will demand for extra taxes to be collected in order to fund more public programs, such as SNAP and Medicaid. While it would seem that any self-respecting person would have no issue spending a little extra a year in taxes in order to help feed the hungry, many are claiming that recipients of welfare simply use it to get out of having a job, stating that they “feed off of the system” and essentially steal the tax dollars of “hardworking Americans.” But how often of an occurrence is welfare abuse, and what are the consequences?
Unsurprisingly, reports of welfare abuse are at an all-time low, and those making claims that these programs are only used by the lazy have very clearly done little to no research. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that families who receive welfare benefits of any kind spend between 30 percent and 75 percent less than families without these benefits each year, with the kicker being that these numbers include the welfare benefits as well as their annual income. For example, an average family receiving no benefits will spend an average of just under $23,000 on housing over a twelve month period, while a family with assistance will pay just $11,000 each year. This number includes any housing assistance these families may have, indicating that there is no trend between high spending and welfare benefits.
While some may claim that these families spend less on housing to afford more luxuries, they are again — you guessed it — blatantly wrong. For example, a family not receiving public assistance will spend around $3,500 per year on entertainment, whereas families with assistance pay just $1,300 during the same timeframe (yes, including their yearly income and their benefits, this number does not exclude their benefits). This trend continues with food, apparel, transportation, healthcare, and even insurance.
Recipients of Welfare: Unemployed African Americans, or Fully Employed Caucasians?
Another misconception about welfare running rampant among the biased minds of conservative Americans is that the only families who receive them are 1) African-American and 2) unemployed. Much like the information discussed above, these ideas are founded in prejudice and racism, rather than researched information. Over 40 percent of welfare recipients are Caucasian, with just 25 percent of recipients being African-American. In addition, families are legally allowed just 3 months of welfare benefits during each three-year period if they are unemployed, making it nearly impossible for anyone to survive off of benefits alone if they do not have a job or another way of finding income. Nearly 60 percent of all welfare is given to families with at least one employed individual, with many workforces having nearly half of their staff receiving benefits. 52 percent of fast food workers are enrolled in some type of government assistance program, with 48 percent of home care workers getting benefits, and 25 percent of college faculty receiving welfare of some kind; you read that right, one quarter of the country’s college faculty members get welfare of some kind.
Welfare’s Impact on America
Simply put, welfare does the job it was designed to do; it feeds families who would otherwise go hungry, and ensures that they will have health insurance in the event of a serious accident. The system is not typically abused, and welfare fraud is considered to be a highly rare occurrence. People on welfare are not unemployed, nor are they leeching off of the system so that they do not have to work.
All in all, welfare is largely used as its intended, and the concept of welfare abuse is essentially nothing more than a poorly devised myth in order to keep low income families from receiving the help they truly need, and there is absolutely no substance to the rumors being thrown around. It’s true that welfare rates are high, but this could easily be resolved with a proper minimum wage. Until that day, families who need assistance will continue to receive and use it as needed, not abuse it and take advantage of the system.