In the midst of the whole “Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life” kerfuffle, a cute little ditty of a video was dug up by the Up with Chris show on MSNBC. Filmed at a January campaign stop, it shows Mitt Romney insisting that people on welfare need to experience “the dignity of work” in order to receive public assistance.
As I watch this video, I am angry beyond words. I believe Romney was talking about TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) recipients, not people who are on SSI or Medicaid like me, but it doesn’t really matter. There is an unbelievably pervasive prejudice against people who receive any form of public assistance, whether it is TANF, unemployment benefits, food stamps, SSI, Medicaid or any other “entitlement”. People on welfare are looked down on. They need to learn the “dignity of work”. They are lazy.
Image: Political cartoon depicting two elephants. Mom is reading bedtime story to her daughter: “Once upon a time there was a wicked Welfare Queen who had the power to destroy entire economies with one AFDC check…” (Image via Autographed Letter Signed)
Yes, “lazy”. The construction worker who has been out of work for nine months and is collecting unemployment benefits so he can pay the mortgage on his family’s home is lazy. The single mom who can barely make ends meet working two low-wage jobs and depends on food-stamps to help feed her kids is lazy. The millions of kids who, for whatever reason, qualify for Medicaid are lazy. And of course, people like me, who have catastrophic illnesses or injuries and aren’t able to work, are lazy.
I’m not sure why, but there is a general anger towards anyone who receives public assistance. Sometimes I think it is jealousy. The Ugly Green Monster makes the haves (those who are able to work and support themselves) envy the have-nots (those who can’t), insisting the latter group is somehow getting a bigger or better piece of the piece than anyone else. The Ugly Green Monster couldn’t be more wrong. Think about it: would you prefer to have the satisfaction of doing meaningful work, earning a comfortable salary, paying your own rent/mortgage/groceries/clothing/tuition/extras and putting money away for retirement, OR would you rather be forced to live on approximately $700/month in SSI benefits?
Even though it is impossible to live high off the fat of everyone else’s labor on an income of approximately $8400 per year, there is widespread resentment towards modern-day welfare queens (and kings) like me. This anger can’t be chalked up to misplaced envy alone. We should have a culture of goodwill in this country, where everyone understands the importance of caring for the general welfare because none of us know when we’re going to need the public safety net. Instead, way too many people are infuriated by the notion that part of their paycheck goes to support people like me (or hungry families on food stamps or pregnant moms on Medicaid, etc). They don’t see themselves contributing financially to the common good but rather “sacrificing” some of their income for other peoples’ benefit.
Rather than a culture of goodwill, we have a culture of animosity towards anyone who receives public assistance. This hatred leads us to believe that people on “welfare” are “lazy” and don’t deserve help. But that’s just not true. The social safety net is there for all of us. We are all just a pink slip, medical catastrophe or financial disaster away from needing it.
Who will the “lazy” one be then?