Someone on xanga whose name I will not mention as I do not want to give them any more attention, did a blog (perhaps deliberately inflammatory to get hits) in which they suggested something I’ve heard now and then from conservatives – that if someone is on food stamps or public housing (or in that blog even medicaid) then they should be picking up litter on the side of the highway or sweeping the streets or performing some other public service in exchange for what they get. On the surface this seems logical, but if you think about it for two seconds, a few problems emerge.
Not the least of which is that this has actually been tried before and while it was popular for many many years a similar policy was eventually repealed… by the emancipation proclamation. Making people work for just food and shelter is called slavery. If you want to offer people on welfare an actual fucking job doing any of these things and pay them actual money so they have some control over their life then that’s great, but trapping someone in a system of “if you stop working for your benefits for a week you will starve to death” where they have no way to earn money or savings to get out of that cycle is literally just owning slaves. And those slaves would be… guess what, mostly minorities. I’ve even heard proponents of this plan suggest that rather than paying for the cost of an actual home or apartment welfare recipients should be made to live in cheaper dormitories…
These few conservatives are, whether they realize it or not, suggesting we bring back slavery. And that’s sadly not the only problem with this – another problem is that a lot of people on public assistance already work, many of them full-time. If you want to get people off of the public teat the best way seems to be to promote general prosperity so most people don’t need it anymore. Raise the minimum wage more than once a decade so poor peoples’ wages aren’t gradually shrinking. And not deregulating the financial sector so the ultra-rich can fuck the economy up the ass and then do a few lines of coke afterward might also be a good idea. Because creating an economic system with 10% unemployment and around 20% underemployment where the bottom 50% of wage earners control only 2.5% of the wealth is not exactly a great strategy for getting people off of welfare.
Republican politicians sneer at the thought of welfare as though it were some annoyance. It’s not. In reality, it’s the only thing stopping the poor who have been and will continue to be fucked worse than anyone in this country from cutting off their heads.