Several years ago I attended a Sunday school lesson where we talked about having a giving heart, helping people in need, and not judging a book by it’s cover. The example used was the homeless man standing on the corner holding a “will work for food” sign. Do you stop and help, or do you drive on?
I’m a natural born skeptic. It is very hard for me to give money to someone when I don’t know if they are really in need. The Sunday school teacher asked me if it was my place to ask whether or not they were really in need. Who am I to judge? No one. That’s who.
The lesson struck a chord with me, and I’ve thought about it a lot since then. Today if I were to attend that same lesson I would want to ask the class if they felt the same way about people on food stamps. What about medicaid? Or those that receive welfare assistance? Would the members of that class be as ready to help the single mom standing in line at the grocery story trying to feed her kids as they were the guy on the corner?
I live in an extremely conservative area. While I may not know how they feel in their hearts, I can definitely see how they vote. I hear their sighs in the check out lanes. I read their status updates on Facebook, and the links and photos they share. Where’s the giving heart? What about helping people in need? More importantly, where’s the love?
There are a lot of myths about welfare recipients that continue to be perpetuated, regardless of the lack of evidence. Does welfare fraud exist? Of course it does, but the amount is estimated to be only about 2% (it is hard to do more than estimate because benefits are administered by state). Which brings me back to the question I asked myself when leaving that Sunday school lesson, “who am I to judge?”
Don’t get me wrong. I do not agree with criminals lying to steal from the government, whether it is an individual claiming a smaller income than received so that they can get food stamps or a doctor claiming he saw more patients than he did to increase his Medicare income. Criminals should be prosecuted.
My question is this, with safety net programs* making up only 13% of our national budget, why is it this is the first place they want to cut? I recently attended a training that stated 10% of contract and procurement is related to fraud. If we could cut fraud out of defense and medicare/medicaid spending we would save over 100 billion dollars a year. Why don’t I hear more people concerned about those people? Why do we always go after the poor people?
I have no answers, but I do have one more question, what will WE work for? As Congress meets to discuss the fiscal cliff and the upcoming budget, what do we want to see them do? Where do YOU think the cuts should be made? Or should they be made at all?
*These programs include: the refundable portion of the earned-income and child tax credits, which assist low- and moderate-income working families through the tax code; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income families and individuals, including food stamps, school meals, low-income housing assistance, child-care assistance, and assistance in meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused and neglected children.