I started this off yesterday with a link to Mr. Bauer’s comments. It seems that link brought a lot of people to the blog, but also brought a lot of anger. I love getting comments and seeing things go above 40, but this is too important a discussion to get off on the wrong foot. What was most interesting was to see many of us on the same side of the political fence argue with such ferocity. I think there are a number of reasons for that. The main reason is that this is an emotional issue because we are all affected by it in some way.
We are essentially talking about poverty. Poverty is an emotional issue by itself. Trace many of our families back far enough and we find poverty. The question is how our individual families dealt with the poverty. Beyond that, we come to the ever important question of how we best help adults break the cycle of dependence without having it affect children. Bauer seemed to suggest starving them. I think he was trying to say they would fend for themselves and learn to pick themselves by their bootstraps. If anyone honestly felt I think they should starve then I should call myself a conservative blogger.
My anger (and there is anger) stems from a couple of things. I have worked very hard for what I have. I’ve put up with a ton of crap, but I still keep going because I want to provide for my family. My wife does the same. We went without for awhile so she could go back to school. We did this so we could eventually provide a better life for our daughter. Some mention was made of some of the luxuries I afford. I afford them. I worked and saved up for them. They weren’t given to me. These facts do not make me unique at all. They make me normal and the day they don’t make me normal is the day we are in a lot of trouble.
Most of us exist in the middle ground of welfare. I don’t want people to suffer and yet I don’t want welfare to be a path to luxury either. Herein lies the problem. The government doesn’t pay enough to people for them to live in luxury, but some spend what little they have on luxury items. This makes them and their kids worse off. I am a big believer in statistics and yet I have to say should I believe that or my lying eyes? I see it everyday. I see people that buy those luxury items and yet can’t afford to take care of their children or their daily basis. It is one thing to criticize people for the luxury items they buy when they pay all their bills. When those basic needs aren’t being met in lieu of luxury items then we have a problem.
This brings us to the fundamental questions of poverty and welfare. First, how do we break people of a dependence on welfare? That was Bauer’s question even it was phrased in a very offensive way. This is a question we need to try to answer. As progressives we must always remain vigilant as opponents of poverty. Ultimately, what I want is people to earn their own money so they can live the life they want. When people struggle I want their to be support for them, but I don’t want it to be for a lifetime. I want there to be targeted help to get them back on their feet. Maybe that means job training. Maybe that means money for college. Maybe that means money for childcare until they can afford it on their own. Heck, maybe that means another look at the minimum wage.
The second question is how we are able to do this without negatively affecting kids. I think 95 percent of people agree that the kids shouldn’t suffer. However, we need to define what suffering is. What it all comes down to is the fact that many of us had to do without certain things when we grew up. Our parents probably did without more than we did when they grew up. A part of the American dream is to provide a better life for our kids than what we had. Somewhere along the way, we forgot a lot of the lessons they knew innately. Primarily, they didn’t buy anything until they had the cash to buy it. So, kids shouldn’t do without warm clothes, food, and school supplies. However, I’m not sure the Wii or Playstation is a necessary item. Maybe if we do what we can to make sure they get what they need and save for what they want then they will learn to do the same as adults.
Finally, we get to the question of time limits. Should there be any? Most of the people I know are capable of working and choose not to for whatever reason. This is where we need to find out why. Is it a point of them not finding childcare? Is it a point of minimum wage being less than what they are currently getting? Is it a point of lack of education? Is it being too lazy to get off the damn couch? I think all are correct. We need to fix all of these if we can and then empower people to earn their own way.