It would seem that everyone - or at least those paying taxes - wants serious reforms of our welfare system. In fact, it would seem a large percentage of taxpayers would like to just end it completely.
Their problems with welfare seem to be that in their opinion, welfare is far too easy to get, has way too many benefits and pays much too much in actual cash. And of course, I'd be remiss in not mentioning that everyone on welfare is milking the system and lazy.
Is that about it? It might not be all, but I think I've hit the most salient points of the opposition.
I'll start by saying I agree that cell phones, computer hook-ups and the like should not be provided at taxpayer expense. I'll also begin by saying I have no objections to providing food, clothing and shelter for anyone truly in need, especially when there are children involved. I don't know how often it happens, but I'd never grant it to a healthy single adult and never to an adult who is "disabled" by lifestyle choices, drinking or drugs (I would provide treatment though, far cheaper in the long run).
The poor did not create a system that provides all of the above and did not create a system where going to work at even a minimum-wage job could cost you benefits; benefits like insurance and such for them or their children. If you're going to advocate that welfare recipients have to work, than at least concede that any cuts will be dollar for dollar. Also, since we all know that jobs are tough to find already, and many of the jobs that welfare recipients would be qualified for are the same jobs that all of our young people are fighting for, somebody has to address that.
The people who hate welfare hate government expenditures of all kinds, but to me the real issue is the government spending money without any positive results for those paying for that spending - taxpayers.
How about the government spending money for specific jobs identified as a need by localities, and supervised by those localities? We have miles of beaches in Western New York. They all need care.
How about a few hundred men and women with rakes to clean those beaches? At least you couldn't say the government was paying healthy people to stay home. I'd have to say that in many cases, if a person had to do that sort of work, it just might motivate them to search for a better paying job somewhere else. Their children would grow up watching their parents go to work, a positive image right there, I'd assume, with long-term positive results.
There are also lots of sidewalks to be shoveled in the winter, and perhaps even work crews to repair, clean up or even take down old and decrepit housing, all positives that we currently can't seem to afford. I might add that some job skills could be taught to these people, as well, and with proper certification, could be transformed into marketable talent.
Insurance, of course, is perhaps the largest expense involved with welfare and unfortunately, in our own state, Medicaid is a bankrupting force, not only to the state as a whole but more so to localities who have nothing to say about how the program is run or how expansive it is. Unfortunately, the large percentages of people against welfare of any kind are just as adamant about not providing any sort of governmentally supplied health coverage for anyone, or any attempts to rein in costs.
"Obamacare" has a few good things in it but a lot of bad things, as well. Unfortunately, partisan politics is the norm these days; no compromise, no negotiating, so nothing in "Obamacare" will be fixed (They could be, easily). Remember when the Medicare Drug Coverage was passed? It was a total mess. What happened? Negotiations and bipartisan efforts fixed most of it. Of course, I must point out that that particular program was passed by a Republican, so "the party of NO" had self-serving reasons to negotiate, and the Democrats obliged. Ah, if only
I'm not sure how many immigrants to this country wind up on welfare, but if there are any, they shouldn't be. I don't understand why we'd allow anyone to come here without a job skill and the probability of a job soon after.
Job training and education should be part of the package. Anyone receiving welfare should face mandatory job training and/or education to increase the likelihood of finding work. Children receiving welfare should be required to be in school and to actually pass their courses, not just show up or be placed in some program with standards so low they can't spell when they're through.
Hot lunches and breakfast for the poor should not be supplied in schools. There should be a place for bagged lunches and a system that checks to make sure the children coming to school are being supplied with them. The same things should apply with breakfast. The breakfasts supplied aren't much anyway, so a couple of apples, bananas or other light fare should suffice. Any child not being supplied with food will have a visit at home from a caseworker and if the issue continues, then food could be supplied at school, but the money for it coming from a deduction to the parent's welfare benefits.
Drug testing for those on welfare has been tried and it's not the big savings people thought it would be. In fact, in Florida, it cost more for the testing than the few people they managed to remove from welfare for failing the tests had saved them. However, that testing only addressed illegal drugs. If they'd included nicotine and alcohol, as well, I think more money would have been saved. Yes, it bothers me to supply food and money to smokers, especially in New York.
Do people in this country have a Constitutional right to have pets? No, they don't, and nobody on welfare can afford to care for a dog or cat. I also object to providing free inoculations for pets; if you can't afford the expense associated with pets, than you shouldn't have one. I certainly object to my tax dollars paying for someone else's cat or dog.
Will any of the above suggestions ever be implemented? I'd have to say, "no," to that question for many reasons; too many to list here. But it was worth the thought, anyway.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident.