Sunday, November 15, 2009

Evils of the dole

There are some weeks when I am incredibly grateful to not have to teach Sunday school. Not that there's really any probability of me ever teaching in church--my one RS lesson was a bit of a mess. Anyway, this week I'm rather glad I didn't have to find a way to teach the SS lesson. Welfare is a thorny subject to begin with and trying to figure out how to teach a lesson when most of the quotes talk about the "evils of the dole" would be more of a challenge than I'd want to tackle, especially in a ward full of people utilizing government programs to make their and their children's lives better.

Here's the problem: I don't think welfare, or going on welfare, is evil. I don't think it's a bad decision for most people who make it. I don't think those who go on welfare for a period of time are in any way taking from the rest of us. Most people who utilize government assistance are women with children, typically divorced or widowed (though most often divorced). Most women who go onto welfare are off within 4 years, many far earlier. Basically, welfare acts as a bridge during a period of financial distress, allowing recipients to enjoy a reasonable standard of living while they retrain, find a new/better paying job, or get remarried. Because the main benefit of welfare goes to women and to the children they care for, the anti-welfare rhetoric, both from the church and from the republican party, feels very anti-woman and very anti-family to me.

I realize most of the quotes for the lesson came from the depression, but again, I find it terribly anti-family to speak so ill of programs that literally kept families from starving to death. It's one thing to tell people to stay off the dole in a farming community, where there is a possibility of a community coming together to keep people fed and sheltered at least during times of financial stress; it's quite another when your communities are urban and the best, most efficient way of taking care of people is to pay for it.

I think the "evils of the dole" rhetoric stems from a lack of trust and respect for those utilizing those resources. An idea that if you are utilizing welfare it's because you're lazy and if you just worked harder at a worthy job you wouldn't need to be on the dole. It's a belief that "I'll never need this" and a lack of recognition that those who do need welfare could be those close to us (or even us, given the wrong circumstances).

I for one am glad welfare exists and blesses the lives of those who are in need of it. I'm happy that small percentage of the tax money I pay to my government goes to keeping people from falling into destitution. As I'm sure I've said before, I'm glad my country takes care of its less fortunate citizens, recognizing those who are less fortunate today may very well become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow, if they just have a chance.

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