On Being A Small Blue Dot In A Dark Red, Theocratic State

Just for fun, since I am doing some long-overdue digital housekeeping, here’s an article from 2007. This is, you’ll note, before Barack Obama was elected President. You may want to keep that part in mind when you read (that, and this is dated; I don’t get newspapers dumped on my lawn anymore–if you stop paying them, they do eventually cut it out–and those unwanted Pennysaver rags can’t be stopped by anything short of a very, VERY high wall).

HERE’S THE OLD STUFF:

I’ve also been catching up on the massive pile of newspapers–the newspapers I didn’t want and which rarely arrive (or which get swiped before I go fetch them from the puddles in the driveway, where they always end up)–and which are 90% adverts. Somehow a WTOC “news” paper ended up in the reading spot instead of being pitched, unread, into a bin. Each time I have attempted to read it, it makes me develop frown wrinkles.

WTOC 11 is one of a handful of local “news” channels, and, I’m 99% sure, they are responsible for the advert I groused about previously, which involved a rich white guy standing behind a White Baby Jesus nativity scene and reading ponderously from The Bible, which started airing in October, thus earning two frownie marks at once. October is for Hallowe’en (and my birthday), but not for pushing Christmas down my throat before I’m out of overpriced, undersized Tootsie Pops. Also, not everyone down here is Christian, though it sometimes sure seems like it. Maybe I’m grumpy, but it seems foolish for a supposedly unbiased news channel to air religious propaganda. Since they are FOX NEWS-lite, though, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

To my surprise and delight, though I couldn’t find the original article online (their website is terrible), I did find a comment from someone at Fort Stewart (military, of course) who grumped about another article Bill Cathcart (the article writer, and The Highest Muckity Muck at the station) penned wherein Cathcart misinterpreted Dennis Kucinich’s recent nay vote (unrelated to the article I’m grumping about, but intended to spark discussion about the “real” reasons behind the Iraq war and 9/11 and so on, from what I gathered) and wound up talking about Christianity for the last 2/3 or the article, which had fuck all to do with anything. The military guy patiently posted the more accurate details about the Kucinich vote and then complained that the pro-GOP and pro-Jesus stuff was really unnecessary. Word. And all the more “word” because, lo and behold, it proves that at least one of the many military d00dz in Jesusland is capable of having a lick of sense, and thinking for himself. (Imagine how popular he must be among his peers. Poor guy.)

Enjoy the article, which I have transcribed for your pleasure, and which would otherwise be lost to the mists of time (even the Wayback Machine failed me):

“Like the continual drip of a rusted faucet, ridiculous actions never cease. Two more servings of compost scooped from the heap. Several high school students in ever-progressive Boulder, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms to protest the daily recitation of the Pledge Of Allegiance, which includes, of course, our much-cherished tribute to God’s guidance. These left-ward youngsters chose to recite, instead, their own secular version, claiming that ours violates the Constitution’s “separation” clause, which, as you well know, does not exist.”

ZOMG! Two teenagers not wanting to pray at school! The horror! How “ridiculous”! What “compost”!

Shall we take bets on where Cathcart stands on the Creationism v. Evolution battlelines? No?

And when did “progressive” become a BAD thing? Honestly?

“Look, you want to write your own wedding vows, have at it. But you do not edit the American citizen’s pledge of loyalty to suit your own Mother Earth needs. Chalk up another one to social studies replacing history classes, and our trendy micro-focus on self. Forget our country; it’s me that counts. And, oh, by the way, God, thanks for the earth and stuff, but we’ve got it handled, so we’re cutting you loose.” 

First, let us applaud Cathcart’s generous offer to allow people to write their own vows without his disapproval. What a great guy!

Whereas I do agree that “micro-focus on self” is a problem a lot of kids seem to be afflicted with these days, and it is something I might fuss about in the future, I disagree that it runs hand in hand with Gaea worship (or that this might be wrong, as religion is a personal thing, thanks). I also resent the constant reminder, by fundies, that they take the whole Genesis thing really, really literally.

“Colorado requires its schools to read the Pledge daily over the PA. Students may either recite or stand quietly. So, with their Constitutional objection bogus, kids opting out, or even refusing to simply listen to our Pledge, must either be confused about where they are, or prefer to commit their allegiance to some other nation or galaxy. Ah, the sweet arrogance of youth.”

You can bet that if the school recited a “Gaea pledge” every morning that Cathcart would be railing against this just as strenuously as he is railing against the students who are trying to find a middle ground where they can still pledge allegiance to America without bringing someone else’s religious beliefs into it. Because they don’t want to pledge allegiance to someone else’s God, they are automatically bad kids. I don’t agree.

Some “other nation or galaxy”? What the eff?

“And speaking of professing allegiance to a nation other than America, according to a just-released Opinion Dynamics voter poll, 5% of Republicans, 7% of Independents and 19% of Democrats feel that the world would be better off if the United States lost the war in Iraq! Incredible and despicable. Talk about being self-possessed, or more likely, just plain possessed. While they have a right to that opinion, they should be absolutely ashamed to have it, given that this foolishness is just all about punishing President Bush. Our country and its future be damned.”

Note the TINY percentage of people who disagree with Cathcart’s point of view, here, and it is STILL pissing him off, though he graciously allows that they have the right to disagree. Even so, he just knows that they feel this way because they are out to punish Bush. There could be no other reason for their opinion. Furthermore, since they are so wrong-headed, they should be ashamed! SHAME on them for holding a different opinion, because clearly that also means they don’t give a crap about Amurika and where it is going.

Or, conversely, maybe they care A LOT, and didn’t like seeing tens of thousands of people dying for a trumped-up war that has produced no WMDs and where the trigger point was ostensibly 9-11, something NO Iraqis have been tied to, ever. (But the Saudis are our political buddies, you know.)

He can NOT stand it that even a small handful of people, of all political persuasions, disagree with him (and Bush). How can they not see the WISDOM and RIGHTNESS of the war? How can they say it would be okay to LOSE? How HORRIBLE and un-American!

GAH! People like this drive me crazy.

“By the way, those ex-patriots might want to remember that wish when the center of their city is in ruins, since a loss in Iraq clearly beckons further attacks here.”

Oh, CLEARLY. Because Iraqis flew planes into buildings, you know. And killing as many of them you can get your hands on will stop the random handful of nutburgers who embarrass their less-crazed neighbors by kamikazi-ing into stuff for the promise of seventy virgins and a mess of figs and honey in the afterlife.

Maybe losing the war would be unpleasant, but since we foolishly got into that mess on false pretenses in the first place, I don’t know that sticking it out is going to magically make things all better.

“Beyond un-American and pro-terrorist, defeat-at-any-price is imbecilic. Our loss there would be catastrophic, for Iraq, for the Middle East, for Europe, for the United States. To actually embrace defeat, people have to be out of their minds. Oh, wait, that’s it. They are! And they don’t belong in this country.”

ARGH ARGH ARGH!

Translation: “You disagree with me? You are crazy, and you need to leave the country.” Sir, if you will pay for my relocation, I will gladly take you up on your kind non-offer.

Now, let’s discuss.

Separation of church and state is a political and legal idea usually identified with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The phrase building a wall of separation between church and state was written by Thomas Jeffersonin a January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. (Wikipedia)

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (Thomas Jefferson)

… no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. (James Madison)

What Cathcart is saying (which is actually true) is that the exact phrase “separation of church and state” itself does not appear in the Constitution, but, on the other hand, he’s a bit wrong-headed as well, as it has been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.

The phrase “separation of church and state” became a definitive part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), a case which dealt with a state law that allowed the use of government funds for transportation to religious schools.

While the ruling upheld that the state law (allowing federal funding of religious schools) as constitutional, Everson was also the first case to hold the Establishment Clause applicable to the state legislatures as well as Congress, based upon the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1962, the Supreme Court extended this analysis to the issue of prayer and religious readings in public schools. In Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the Court determined it unconstitutional by a vote of 6-1 for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools, even when it is non-denominational and students may excuse themselves from participation.

As such, any teacher, faculty, or student can pray in school, in accordance with their own religion. However, they may not lead such prayers in class, or in other “official” school settings such as assemblies or programs, including even “non-sectarian” teacher-led prayers. […]

The court noted that it “is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America.”

In short, Cathcart is both right, in that the exact phrase does not appear in the particular document he cites, and wrong, in that he seems to be wilfully ignoring what our Founding Fathers intended and what more enlightened laws have underscored since.

What always boggles me is how Righty Whitey Christian Americans, generally speaking, are not in favour of other theocracies world-wide, but are all in favour of having one here. When Kennedy was running for office, a vicious tide of anti-Papist / anti-Catholic rhetoric spewed forth like sewage from a leaky pipe. Guess what? Since the majority of rich white people in charge of things at the time were not Catholic, suddenly they became more amenable to the idea of separation of Church and State, because they genuinely feared that Kennedy’s religious beliefs would interfere with his Presidential duties. They were more amenable, because their idea of religion was not shared by, arguably, the then most powerful man in the country.

Now that the arguably currently most powerful man in this country is a Born Again ex-cokehead Righty Whitey idjit who feels the need to inflict his religion on the country as a whole, the rich white dudes in power think separation of Church and State is now a BAD idea. Wonder why.

My prediction: we are going to be hearing how separation of Church and State “doesn’t really exist” or it is a bad idea UNTIL, by a miracle, some non-Protestant person is elected as President. And with the level of political corruption in this country, do you really think that will happen any time soon? Honestly? Right now, generally speaking, it supposedly “looks pretty good” for Democrats. This, I am telling you, will bring out some of the most vicious, underhanded, pro-Jesus flagwaving xenophobic mutts you ever saw during the next Presidential campaign.

What I’d love is a President who gets into office (without help from governor brothers, denying African Americans their vote, or friendship with the guy who OWNS Diebold) as a WASP-acceptable candidate and then converts to Judaism, which is a religion most of my sane friends practice, or something else that would make the rich white Jesus freaks go bananas. We might even get some “no backsies” laws that might actually stick that make it crystal clear that the State has no damn business dabbling about with religion of any stripe or type.

Last time the issue went before the Supreme Court, they punted, all the better to avoid truly clarifying the damn policy once and for all.

Sadly, I can not predict with certainty that we’ll have a Dem in office next go ’round, because the frontrunners, last I checked, are either female or black, and there are enough folks out there who are uncomfortable with both or either to potentially jigger the election for whoever the Repubz decide to nominate.

Do I personally think Jesus is “bad”? No, actually. I also know plenty of people who are devout and not hypocritical about it, and they don’t see the need to convert everyone else to their point of view, because they have the sense to understand that religious belief is deeply personal and private.

Some websites you may find interesting:


Americans, generally speaking, do not like or want to try to understand other theocracies, often nattering on about how wrong-headed and foolish those beliefs are, and comparing their own flavour of (usually) Christianity favorably to those other beliefs. As has been done for centuries, a particular type of Christian is really not into “live and let live” when it comes to competing religious beliefs. Not satisfied with their own personal salvation and religious beliefs, they feel the need to force everyone else to think and feel the same exact way, and to accept the same view of God as they have. I never understood that.

I especially don’t understand it when it involves two earnest, buzzcut-sporting, zitty teens in neckties (riding bikes) who insist on waking me up on the weekend.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that condemns the entire Muslim religion based on the actions of a handful of fanatical Muslim assrods, while conveniently neglecting to recall offenses a handful of fanatical Christian assrods have perpetrated throughout the ages.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that is so xenophobic and jingoistic as to say things like “America! Love it or leave it!” while forgetting that America is about preserving personal freedoms and rights, as long as those do not infringe upon other people’s freedoms and rights. Technically. Officially. Well, that’s what they keep telling us.

And meanwhile they are also forgetting that a lot of other countries sincerely hate our American guts, and don’t want any of the average American personality types to soil their country. Given that I don’t like the average American and average American interests (including political ignorance, dislike of reading, spelling and grammar, choices in mostly crap entertainment, their mostly crap musical preferences, their mostly crap etiquette, especially their crap dating behavior, overly indulgent or completely hands-off parenting, pro-tanorexic fashion, anti-intellectualism, false piety combind with judgmental behavior when faced with anyone who falls into the “other” category, materialism, use of animals / babies as accessories, and so on and so on) much myself, I can’t really blame them.


I guess I am incredibly angry that, say, Paris Hilton merits even one line of press, whereas actual NEWS news is considered too “unsexy” to bother with at all. (Example: I’m irritated that I even know “New York” is a person as well as a place, though what she does or contributes to the world, well, THAT I do not know.) And we’re infecting the rest of the world with the same crap values (though, to be fair, the UK has us beat where it comes to the “build ’em up then tear ’em down” trivial non-news “reporting” and publishing).

I guess if you say “we’re the best country on Earth” often enough, some folks really start to believe it. I’d say the truth somewhere in the middle: that we do a lot of things right and our intentions are generally good, but we mess up in a lot of areas, too, and you can’t acknowledge one side, the side where we do something really right, without also admitting to the other side, the one where…hoo boy!…have we ever got some work to do.

I think I need some caffeine and a lie down.

END OF OLD STUFF.

Okay.

Did you catch that bit about how it would be hilarious if we got a President in office who announced he wasn’t Christian? Well, instead we got a Christian that the conservative nutbags among us keep swearing is really a Secret Muslim.

It is probably best that we didn’t enrage the crazy people by having him announce he was giving up bacon permanently and converting to Judaism, after all.

 

 

 

Who’s That Shrub?

Why do some people seem to actually miss this guy?

Some low-lights:

  • The first president in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.
  • In his first two years in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs.
  • Shattered record for biggest annual deficit in history.
  • Set all-time record for biggest drop in the history of the stock market.
  • Cut the taxes of the wealthiest people in America (those making over $200, 000 a year).
  • Members of Bush Administration were the richest administration in history.
  • First year in office set the all-time record for most days on vacation by any president in U.S. history.
  • Cut unemployment benefits for more out-of-work Americans than any president in U.S. history.
  • Dissolved more international treaties than any president in U.S. history.
  • Set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases.
  • First president in U.S. history to attack a sovereign nation against the will of the United Nations and the world community.
  • Took the biggest world sympathy for the U.S. after 9/11, and in less than a year, made the U.S. the most resented country in the world.
  • First U.S. president in history to have a majority of people in Europe (over 70 percent view his presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.
  • In the 18 months following the 9/11 attacks, he has successfully prevented any public investigation into the biggest security failure in the history of the United States.

WHO is it?

Time’s up.

Now, tell me again, WHY do some people actually pine for the “good ol’ days” of the Bush administration? I lived through them, and they weren’t all that swell.

Attack Of The Glurgemonster

Everyone has received some weird e-mail spam at least once. The worst of the lot are so-called “inspirational” or “heart-warming” tales. If I want inspirational, I’ll read a biography about Gandhi or Helen Keller. If I want heart-warming, I’ll get take-out from Taco Bell and add lots of hot sauce.

My cousin S. is one of the worst offenders, frequently sending me Jesus-related spam. Jesus apparently doesn’t mind being misquoted and used to back the Conservative Christian political agenda. Who knew? I thought he was a long-haired, bearded Jewish hippie carpenter who liked feeding people, supporting being kind to your neighbors and offering free healthcare, and who wasn’t keen on money-changers, the rich, or government.

A cute little rant called “If I Were The Devil” (often falsely attributed to Paul Harvey) started circulating the Internet in 1999. Eventually a new rant from an opposing viewpoint was penned and circulated in response. So what would happen if we put both rants side by side, line by line? We’d have a SPAM FIGHT!

And it begins….now. (Remember, each point of view is saying what he or she would do IF The Devil actually existed, and IF s/he was The Devil. If you forget that part, the following makes little sense.)

CONSERVATIVE and LIBERAL, in unison: If I were the devil, I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would delude their minds into thinking that they had come from man’s effort, instead of God’s blessings;
LIBERAL: …I would delude their minds into thinking that a 3000-year-old collection of superstition and mythology called the ‘Bible’ was a more valid guide to the modern world than reason and science;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people, instead of the other way around;
LIBERAL: …I would promote an attitude of valuing economic expansion and personal wealth over people and the environment, instead of the other way around;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue;
LIBERAL: …I would dupe an entire population into placing the greatest tax burden on their poorest citizens;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to leadership;
LIBERAL: …I would convince people that image rather than achievement was the most important issue when it comes to leadership;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would make it legal to take the life of unborn babies;
LIBERAL: …I would ensure that men maintained control over women’s bodies and sexuality;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would make it socially acceptable to take one’s own life, and invent machines to make it convenient;
LIBERAL: …I would make it socially acceptable to deny terminally ill patients the right to end their own lives with dignity, and instead force them to spend their final days in continual pain and suffering;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would cheapen human life as much as possible so that the life of animals are valued more than human beings;
LIBERAL: …I would promote the exploitation and suffering of animals as much as possible, so that business profits would be valued more than treating living things humanely;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would take God out of the schools, where even the mention of His name was grounds for a lawsuit;
LIBERAL: …I would coerce schoolchildren into worshiping my god and call it “freedom of religion”;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the young, and I would get sports heroes to advertise them;
LIBERAL: …I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the old, and I would get B-list celebrities to advertise them and I would criminalize marijuana;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would get control of the media, so that every night I could pollute the mind of every family member for my agenda;
LIBERAL: …I would get control of the government by stealing elections and leading the country into unnecessary wars, so that I could twist the laws of the nation to suit my agenda;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation.
LIBERAL: …I would attack minorities, foreigners, women, homosexuals, and every other powerless group, the backbone of any nation;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable. If the family crumbles, so does the nation;
LIBERAL: …I would force couples to remain in unworkable marriages. Unhappy people are easier to control;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and movie screens, and I would call it art;
LIBERAL: …I would suppress freedom of speech and expression, and I would call it protecting society;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would convince the world that people are born homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be accepted and marveled;
LIBERAL: …I would convince the world that people choose to be homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be reviled and demonized;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few who call themselves authorities and refer to their agenda as politically correct;
LIBERAL: …I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few bigoted religious zealots who refer to their agenda as Christian;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date, and the Bible is for the naive and I would dull the minds of Christians, and make them believe that prayer is not important, and that faithfulness and obedience are optional;
LIBERAL: …I would persuade people that the Bible, a book that condones xenophobia, slavery, subordination of women, and stoning people to death, is a relevant guide to modern life;

CONSERVATIVE and LIBERAL, in unison: I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are.

Sorry, But I Don’t Care What The GOP Thinks Anymore

After Biden kicked ass in the Veep Debate, some conservatives were posting stuff like, “Sorry to burst your bubble, but Republicans see it differently.” Well, the GOP see a lot of things differently, and it doesn’t make them right.

It’s members of the GOP who think it is OK to parse “kinds” of rape, making up nonsense phrases like “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape,” and to use their definitions as an excuse to deny someone medical care or legal recourse.

It’s members of the GOP who think stealing electionsvoter disenfranchisement and voter ID laws, voter registration fraud, and True The Vote vigilante groups are all a good thing, and not Jim Crow 2.0.

It’s members of the GOP who hate science, denying evolution and Climate Change.

It’s members of the GOP who insist that the NAACP is “racist“…they probably do not understand what racism actually is.

It’s the GOP who have politicians saying “let Detroit go Bankrupt” and then taking credit for the revival of the auto industry, when not denying that there has been a revival.

It’s the GOP who have politicians creating a popular healthcare program and then turning around and hating it when it becomes “Obamacare.”

It’s the GOP who have politicians suggesting that the failing housing market needs to hit rock bottom, and blaming the poor for accepting fraudulent loans, then pretending it is to their credit when things get better.

It is the GOP pretending that Obama “promised” to lower unemployment statistics to under 8%, and using that as a cudgel to slam POTUS with for 43 straight months, and then who claim that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is making its numbers up when the unemployment rate dips to 7.8%.

It’s supporters of the GOP threatening to fire workers if they don’t vote for Romney.

It’s members of the GOP who fail to see the value of PBS, NPR, Pell Grants, museums, national parks, the Arts and other life-enhancing programs that supplement a decent education (which they aren’t keen on spending much money on, either).

It’s members of the GOP who think it is OK to erode the separation of Church and State (as long as you erode it in favor of Christians).

It’s the GOP who support things like Citizens United, calling corporations “people” and money “free speech.”

It’s the GOP who don’t care that FOX News viewers are the most misinformed about current events and politics.

It’s the GOP who think that Bush’s crappy policies and wild spending are irrelevant now that he has left office, but refer back to Lincoln and other historical political figures and try to claim their policies ARE relevant.

It’s the GOP who has members praising the idea of slavery as “not being so bad.”

It’s the GOP who hate the idea of Affirmative Action and civil rights, or who deny that discrimination even exists, and who think it should be okay for a businessperson to refuse to serve gay people or people of color if s/he chooses to.

It’s the GOP who claim that “white women voting for Obama is just like black people voting for the KKK.”

It’s the GOP who claim that people vote for Obama just because they “want “more free crap.”

It’s the GOP who think that millionaires and corporations need government money and hand-outs, but the poor and needy do not.

It’s the GOP who has nut factions like Birthers and Tea Partiers.

It’s the GOP who insists on supporting outdated fossil fuel-based energy sources while sneering at alternative ideas.

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It’s the GOP who tried to legislate that rising sea levels be an off-limit topic.

It’s the GOP who opposed the Lily Ledbetter fair pay law, and who try to meddle in women‘s private medical decisions or oppose covering contraceptives with insurance while not blinking an eye that erectile dysfunction medication is covered.

It’s the GOP who keep trying to place Bible-based signs and displays in public (taxpayer-funded) or government buildings.

It’s the GOP who insist POTUS is a Kenyan Marxist Muslim Socialist Communist Atheist Manchurian Candidate Usurper-in-chief.

It’s the GOP who try to base their policies on both Ayn Rand and Jesus, despite the two having mutually exclusive values and ideas.

It’s the GOP who based their entire RNC theme on a comment from POTUS which was taken out of context, and who are airing similarly edited adverts that do not accurately reflect what was said or meant.

It’s the GOP who say things like “some girls rape easy.”

It’s the GOP who rally to deny gay people equal rights.

It’s the GOP who have some weird problem with feminists and think that treating women as equals makes your penis shrink.

It’s the GOP who has mouthpieces calling women “sluts.”

It’s the GOP who scoff at the idea that there is some kind of Republican War On Women.

It’s the GOP, especially the Tea Party wing, which is freaking out some of our staunchest allies world-wide.

It’s the GOP who caused the United States to suffer a revised (lower) credit rating from Standard and Poor’s.

It’s the GOP pushing abstinence-only sex ed, which is a failure.

It’s the GOP raising hell and blaming Obama whenever gas prices go up, while remaining oddly silent when they fall…even though speculation has a lot more to do with gas prices than anything any president does or doesn’t do.

It’s the GOP signing pledges written by and listening to advice from un-elected nutjobs like Grover Norquist.

It’s the GOP protesting social safety net programs, while Red States consume the bulk of all social safety net programs.

It’s the GOP running “shadow Democrat” puppet candidates to split votes or rig elections.

It’s the GOP who keep getting caught saying racist shit, or posting racist signs, or damaging or stealing yard signs.

It’s the GOP who insist humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

It’s the GOP who think Obama went on an “apology tour” that never existed, while ignoring Romney’s “insult and offend tour.”

It’s the GOP who are proposing policies that have been examined by, among others, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, and pronounced “mathematically impossible” and unworkable.

It’s the GOP who refuse to pay attention to fact checkers.

It’s the GOP who have been gunning for Medicare since day one.

It’s the GOP who have been caught calling Obama a Socialist who wants to take away Medicare, the same program they seek to gut or destroy.

It’s the GOP who wants to privatize Social Security, ignoring that it is doing just fine as is, and that privatization of Social Security prior to the 2008 bank collapse would have ruined anyone relying on Social Security to survive.

It’s the GOP who resist raising the payroll tax ceiling (FICA) that funds Social Security, locking it at 97k/year (I’m told that this has been raised to a little over $1o6k/year, which is still nowhere near the proposed minimum of $200k/year that Dubya resisted adopting), instead of raising or eliminating it, because they feel it is unfair to the rich, who should pay the same into Social Security even if they earn millions a year as someone earning 97k a year (or, now, a hair more than $106k a year).

It’s the GOP blocking jobs bills, including veteransjobs bills.

It’s the GOP who ignore legitimate polls conducted by professional polling organizations when they don’t go their way, while clinging to opinion polls hosted by conservative websites.

It’s the GOP who think ketchup and pizza are vegetables.

It’s the GOP who cry out for already-provided birth certificates (that no candidate has ever had to provide before) while ignoring that their candidate is hiding his tax returns (that every candidate since George Romney has traditionally provided), and who think college transcripts (that no candidate has ever had to provide before, and which cannot be shared freely with third parties due to federal law) are equal to tax returns.

It’s the GOP who think it is OK when their candidate is aggressive and lies, but cry foul when the Dem’s candidate is assertive, laughs, and tells the truth.

It’s the GOP who can’t figure out why it is wrong to impose your personal religious beliefs on everyone by making those beliefs into legislation.

It’s the GOP who do not understand HOW BABBY IS FORMED.

It’s the GOP who pretend that the media has a “liberal bias.”

It’s the GOP who espouse trickle-down / horse & sparrow economics and coddle the rich while sneering at the poor.

It’s the GOP who think “papers please” laws are OK.

It’s the GOP who think privatizing prisons is a great idea.

It’s the GOP who think listening to our allies on any subject is weak.

It’s the GOP who think we care about what a bunch of chickenhawks have to say about starting new wars.

It’s the GOP who think we have too many police officers, fire-fighters, and teachers.

It’s the GOP who have tried privatizing social services like firefighting and policing, with devastating results (like burned-down homes).

It’s the GOP pushing the Welfare Queen myth and announcing that they don’t give a crap about 47% of the population.

It’s the GOP going on witch hunts for Muslims and Communists.

It’s the GOP fighting unions and increasing the minimum wage.

It’s the GOP who encourage going after peaceful protesters with live ammunition and pepper spray.

It’s the GOP who support ALEC-backed laws like Stand Your Ground and who try to portray victims like Trayvon Martin as thugs.

It’s the GOP suggesting that we raise the retirement age.

It’s the GOP fighting healthcare.

It’s the GOP who believe in “ex-gay” therapy, which denies science and has been proven to be a failure.

It’s the GOP being obstructionist and filibustering and vowing to make Obama a “one-term president” from day one.

It’s the GOP Photoshopping Obama into “witchdoctor” images and worse.

It’s the GOP who go around all butt-hurt and try to report websites, Facebook groups and individuals they disagree with.

It’s the GOP who propose we build a bigger wall between the US and Mexico and oppose the DREAM Act.

It’s the GOP who oppose even talking about gun ownership restrictions, and, in fact, recommend that every citizen be issued a Glock.

It’s the GOP who are forming groups specifically designed to harass people at polling sites.

It’s the GOP who attack fictional characters like Spongebob, The Lorax, Tinky-Winky, Dora the Explorer and Big Bird for “brainwashing” children.

It’s the GOP promoting the most clownish buffoons possible and pretending they are serious candidates for higher office.

It’s the GOP accusing non-partisan groups like the Tax Policy Center, NASA (and scientists in general), the Bureau of Labor  Statistics and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities of being partisan when facts do not concur with Republican talking points.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that I do not care one iota if the conservative world view once again fails to reflect reality or promotes bad ideas, or disagrees with my own worldview. They have a right to believe as they wish, but when they are wrong, as they often are, then I have a right to reject their nonsense. I am appalled every day to hear the amount of utter crap coming out of the mouths of some Republicans. They make the conservatives I know personally–who are good people–look bad by association, and I am utterly sick of it.

Sad but true: reality has a liberal bias.


Lorelei welcomes you to visit Liberal Lore on FacebookTwitter, her blog, or at Addicting Info.

‘…But The Political Parties Are Both The Same So I Am Not Voting!’

‎”I’m not going to vote. What’s the difference between Romney and Obama, anyway?”

Ignoring, for a moment, how unintelligent people sound when they say stupid shit like that, let’s pause for a second and think of some differences between the candidates.

Why vote? Well, I don’t know about YOU, but I’m going to vote for the candidate who isn’t trying to shove a vaginal probe up my private parts, has not vowed to kill Planned Parenthood, is less likely to start a war in Iran, doesn’t want to kill healthcare for the needy, does not hate on the gays, does not oppose equal rights, won’t protect the wealthiest 1% from paying their fair share of taxes, doesn’t support Citizens United, won’t ignore infrastructure problems, won’t sell off our national parks and forests to the highest bidder, who won’t protect polluters, who won’t deny federal aid for communities affected by natural disasters, who won’t deny students a chance at a college education because they are not independently wealthy, who won’t give free reign to religious bigots trying to erode Separation of Church and State, who doesn’t believe that corporations are people, who doesn’t believe that money is the same as free speech, who is not actively trying to disenfranchise voters, who supports the DREAM act, who won’t screw the poorest and most helpless in our society, and who won’t gut social services and education. I’m going to vote for the guy who has released his tax returns. I’m going to go for the guy who does not take quotes from his opponent and edit them out of context to tell lies in his adverts.

I will vote for the guy (Obama, to be clear) who is responsible for:

  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
  • The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010
  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare, or the ACA)
  • The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
  • The Budget Control Act of 2011
  • Ending the war in Iraq
  • A new START arms control treaty with Russia
  • Capturing / killing Osama Bin Laden

What about Romney?

  • A member of the same political party that endorses all that crap I already said I was not in favor of
  • Worked at Bain, but tells conflicting stories about when he actually left a position of responsibility. It looks like he was there for three years after he claimed he was.
  • Worked for the Salt Lake City Olympics, but all correspondence related to his tenure there has been destroyed.
  • Was Governor of Massachussetts, but all correspondence related to his tenure there has been destroyed and all the computer hard drives wiped.
  • Panders to ignorant Birthers and the hyper-religious
  • Has not, as far as I can tell, ever taken even one stand on an issue that he has not flip-flopped on later for political expediency
  • Lies his ass off constantly (oh, wait, that’s not an accomplishment; my bad)

Also, I am going to vote for the guy that the Koch brothers are not actively trying to purchase the White House for.

Check out the big brain on Brad!

So, no…I’m not going to use laziness or disinterest in doing my civic duty keep me from getting informed about how the two front runners are NOT the same and then using my self-imposed ignorance of the candidates and issues as an excuse not to vote. Neither should you.

Another take on this, from “Diamond Rain” on Facebook:

“To all the people who insist all the candidates are the same, there is no difference between them — which is clearly not true… the proof is in seeing how they vote, in the case of a legislator or a judge, and the huge differences between the policies they enact in the case of a president — but if you think there is no difference, then what do you suggest we do to preserve and better the Republic? Not vote?

Someone is going to be the next president. Saying there is no difference between [Romney] and Obama is not only wrong, but it is worse than a useless contribution because it suggests that the democracy is ineffective and there is no point participating. As far as I am concerned, those who take the position that there is no difference between the parties and/or the candidates are:

1. Wrong.

2. Doing the country a disservice and

3. Are either:

a: On the losing side and trying to convince others to stay home and not vote because they are desperate to find a way to win or;

b. Too lazy to educate themselves in the vast differences between parties and candidates and would rather get a few cheap applause from others who are also too lazy and want to use that as an excuse to do nothing and take no position.

Ignorance is easy. Learning is not.”

So don’t be an asshole. Educate yourself. Pick a candidate. Do your civic duty. Vote.

Republicans Think Unemployed Women Need Ladylike Manners and Charm School Lessons

New York State Senator Marty Golden wants unemployed women to take “Posture, Deportment and the Feminine Presence” classes. Yes, he is a Republican. This is what he is promoting, rather than “equal pay for equal work” or job-creating legislation. I am guessing that this is because he is a big misogynistic idiot, but maybe I am just not in touch enough with my Feminine Presence to understand his manly wisdom and brilliance.

 

 So. Is this the new Republican “thing”? Thinking that ladies need to know how to walk around with books on their heads more than they need equal pay for equal work, the right as adults to make their own healthcare and reproductive choices, or not to be deemed a “pre-existing medical condition” because they have vaginas?

As a PROTIP, Republicans, I WAS brought up with “deportment classes” because I was supposed to be a debutante. I never mastered the “book on head” thing, but I know how to properly comport myself at a formal dinner and which arcane bit of silverware to use when, how to introduce two dignitaries to each other properly, how to cross my ankles and get into and out of cars in a lady-like fashion, ballroom dancing, all those old fashioned rules about what not to wear when, how to curtsey, when to remove your white gloves and when not to, and all those so-called “lady skills”. I own several etiquette books and I read them all. Guess what? THIS STUFF DOES NOT GET YOU A JOB, and, in fact, will often make your bosses and co-workers uncomfortable if you behave like an old-fashioned, mannerly, etiquette-knowledgeable lady these days.

Look, guys, “Lady Skills”–much like insisting upon speaking correctly and using proper spelling and grammar–often make your bosses and co-workers feel uncomfortable. It is sad but true. Consider these skills to be nice “cherry on top” life skills, but don’t pretend that people are going to understand or appreciate your new “Proper Lady Graces”, because they are going to think you are fucking weird. Trust me on this. I have gotten more shit from my peers for behaving properly and with respect towards others and following etiquette and deportment rules than I have doing anything else in life. THEY DO NOT GET IT. THEY THINK YOU ARE A NUTBAR. THEY DO NOT APPRECIATE IT. Sometimes it even makes them feel bad about themselves. How does this help you get a job, really? Do you think balancing a textbook on your head is a life skill someone is willing to pay for? It isn’t.

About the debutante thing: I told the Cotillion / “debutante mill” people to go fuck themselves and refused to make my debut because they did not allow non-white or non-Christian debutantes. If my friends weren’t allowed the same privileges and Society didn’t deem them presentable or want to meet them, then I had no time to waste on being presented to that Society. It was and is not a Society I want to be a part of. Fuck them.

Look. It is an accident of birth that I qualify to belong to Colonial Dames or Daughters of the American Revolution, and I don’t meant to disparage those groups at all. Truly, I am not. I’m just saying that it doesn’t make me “better” than anyone that my ancestors got here earlier than someone else’s, or that they did so as wealthy landowners or businesspeople and not as someone’s “property.” It is an accident of birth that my ancestors made a mark on history (for instance, my nieces are going to grow up knowing they are related to Meriwether Lewis and John and Abigail Adams and people that several counties in Arkansas and Georgia were named after, just as a small sampling, and maybe it will inspire them to be excited by history, as a bonus), and I am proud of them too, but I can’t take credit for their accomplishments, if you know what I mean.

I do not consider it my greatest accomplishment in life to have the accidental fortune to be born white and upper-middle class. I can take no credit for those things.

Anyway, fuck these people and their Feminine Presence classes bullshit. I’m living proof that it is just a distraction and something that will NOT help you get employed, especially if there are NO JOBS. It won’t help women get fair pay. It won’t do anything but annoy and insult a bunch of unemployed women and teach them skills of dubious value in this day and age who would be better served using that time applying to more jobs instead.

Thus endeth my rant.

 

Welfare Programs Are Not The Cause Of America’s Financial Problems

The one thing I am learning, both first-hand (as a person receiving SNAP benefits) and second-hand (as someone interested in the subject who is researching it), is that welfare is a complicated topic. It is so complicated that two different people can both be right while apparently supporting diametrically-opposed statements, but still be talking at cross-purposes and misunderstanding each other. They are probably using different statistics (or no statistics at all, just personal anecdotes or assumptions or “friend of a friend” stories). They may have different ideas about what is and is not “welfare.” (Do you think Social Security is welfare? Was the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program (the “bank bailouts”, or TARP; which, while we’re mentioning it, was passed under the Bush administration) welfare? Are Pell Grants welfare?) The people fighting about “welfare” topics may or may not understand how certain programs are funded (not all “welfare” is paid for with income taxes). And so on.

Just to stave off the inevitable flood of “but I have totally for realz seen people abusing welfare with my own eyes!” anecdotes that welfare-related articles tend to encourage, here is where I urge anyone who has actually seen abuse of welfare programs to report that abuse. There are a few reasons I can think of why you would choose not to report hypothetical abuse:

  1. You have not actually witnessed any “welfare fraud” or assistance program abuse first-hand. You may have seen a stranger out and about in public and made some assumptions about that person, but you have no actual information about his or her finances, what (if any) government assistance he or she is receiving, or how he or she is using it.
  2. You are parroting an anecdote based on hard-to-kill cultural stereotypes about welfare recipients, including the infamous Welfare Queen persona (which has some problematic racist undertones), and assuming that the stereotype is true and that “everyone knows” the stereotype is true.
  3. Since most people who are on some form of welfare are ashamed of it and do not discuss it (much like most of us do not talk openly about our finances in general), you would probably be shocked to know how many of your friends, family members and neighbors are currently receiving some form of assistance. They may not fit your preconceived notion of what a “welfare recipient” is supposed to look like.
  4. Yes, you have witnessed some actual abuse or fraud. You chose not to report it, but — oddly enough — you still complain about abuse and fraud anyway. I have to wonder how complaining about the problem benefits you more than doing something proactive about a problem, since it is clearly an issue about which you have strong feelings and opinions.

So, please, report any actual fraud you see. I have helpfully provided you a link to help you out with that: report that abuse! If you fail to report that abuse, and instead choose to just talk smack about Those People, then you are part of the problem, and other people are pretty sick of hearing your noise.

But I digress, as we’re talking about Welfare and not People Who Are Nasty About People Relying Upon Welfare, and Welfare is a topic that gets nearly everyone upset. It is also (unfortunately) more and more relevant as more and more of our neighbors (and maybe even our own friends and families!) experience financial or un(der)employment-related struggles, fall through the cracks, or experience hard times. It becomes more relevant as the “face” of welfare (in this case, I mean “food assistance” and Medicaid when I say “welfare”) changes and starts to include predominately Caucasian middle-class graduate students and people who have earned Ph.Ds and who are actually working full-time.

Just because your neighbor isn’t talking about it–and most people who experience financial distress are ashamed and do not trumpet that information around–it does not mean that he or she is (or isn’t) relying on a government assistance program (or two) to make ends meet.

What do you mean when you say “welfare”?

What I learned is that I have to be very, very careful to clearly define my terms, and I did not do that as well as I should have. For that lapse, I apologize. To clarify, when I have talked about welfare in the past, I have mostly been referring to SNAP, WIC, TANF and SSI:

  1. Food benefits like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is “financial assistance for food purchasing for low- and no-income people…also known as the Food Stamp Program…[t]o be eligible for food stamps, the recipients must have incomes below 130 percent of the poverty line, and also own few assets” and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which is “a child nutrition program for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five; [t]he eligibility requirement is a family income below 185% of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines“.
  2. General welfare programs like the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which “provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled” and “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which “provides cash assistance to indigent American families with dependent children”.

There are some problems with defining the poverty line, as the methodology “was created in 1963 by food and nutrition economist Mollie Orshansky and hasn’t been updated since“, but that is the standard used to determine if a family or individual is “poor enough” to qualify for government assistance. As Salon puts it:

“[Orshansky’s] method [for determining the poverty line], though arguably appropriate at the time, is incredibly crude by modern standards. Her idea was to calculate the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet for a given-size family. Then she used the early-‘60s rule of thumb that food was about one-third the typical family’s budget. So calculate the income needed to prevent malnutrition, triple it, and there’s your poverty line. Needless to say, this has only a hazy relationship with modern living standards. Worse, because at the time there were few government programs designed to help the poor, it refers to income before taxes and cash transfer payments. The formula also neglects to include the value of in-kind public services such as food stamps and Medicaid, and smaller programs like housing vouchers.”

Unfortunately, I have also said “welfare” on occasion when I intended to refer to all goverment-distributed social assistance programs, which do include the aforementioned programs but also can refer to:

  1. Social insurance (Social Security)
  2. Healthcare (Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), TRICARE, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services Block Grant (ADMS Block Grant), Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPaACA or “Obamacare” and more)
  3. Public education (which includes training, employment, and social services function: elementary, secondary, and vocational education; higher education; and research and general educational aids; see also programs like Head Start, PELL grants, school lunches, government subsidies for private charitable and social outreach programs like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and more)
  4. Housing assistance (specifically Section 8)
  5. Food assistance for groups not covered by SNAP or WIC, such as elderly or mentally- or physically-impaired adults in non-residential day-care settings who benefit from the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
  6. Benefits for federal retirees and veterans
  7. Transportation
  8. Scientific and medical research (NASA falls under this category, which includes general science, space, technology, and health research, and more)
  9. Miscellaneous expenditures, which include corporate subsidies and handouts, bailouts like TARP, government grants for education and the arts, infrastructure expenditures we all benefit from, and so on. This category is the most problematic, as some people bundle bailouts under the “welfare” umbrella, and others include education, public properties like parks and museums, infrastructure and/or national security expenses (which doesn’t just include the military, but also law enforcement officers, firefighters, 911 services, and so on…for our purposes, we are going to assume those expenses are not welfare).

As Wikipedia puts it: “Social programs in the United States are welfare subsidies designed to aid the needs of the U.S. population. Proposals for federal programs began with Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism and expanded with Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. The programs vary in eligibility requirements and are provided by various organizations on a federal, state, local and private level. They help to provide food, shelter, education, healthcare and money to U.S. citizens through primary and secondary education, subsidies of college education, unemployment disability insurance, subsidies for eligible low-wage workers, subsidies for housing, food stamps, pensions for eligible persons and health insurance programs that cover public employees.”

What I may have thought was self-evident (“I am talking about helping hungry, needy people”) turns out to be a lot more confusing, and part of the onus for that misunderstanding is on me for being foolish enough to assume I had a pretty good handle on the topic just because I am living what it is like, daily, as a SNAP beneficiary (but I am not a statistician nor an economist, so what was I thinking?!), and part of that is due to the incredibly confusing way that different statistics are presented, how both partisan and non-partisan groups which focused on taxes and welfare programs and social issues often (deliberately?) cloud the most pertinent and relevant issues, and when even the government itself vomits reams and reams of enormous and dense .PDF and .XLS files full of endless columns of numbers at you, which all makes it very difficult to figure out where all the money is actually going and how much, on average, we are each paying in taxes.

Whatever it is, it is always TOO MUCH, amirite?

 

What do I, personally, pay for with my taxes?

According to John W. Schoen, a Senior Producer at MSNBC, there are no simple answers to that question. In a 2008 article, Schoen explained why it is difficult for the average taxpayer to comprehend where his or her dollars end up.

  1. Citizens pay taxes every calendar year on April 15th, while the government spends based on a fiscal year, which begins October 1st. The two calendars don’t match up. This makes understanding what dollars do where a little trickier, because the calendars do not synch up.
  2. According to Gerald Prante, a senior economist at the Tax Foundation, the “average tax bite” on individuals has remained flat–that means it has not changed dramatically–since 1970. That indicates that money is being allocated and de-allocated and shifted around, because the budget bite for different agencies and programs has not been static. That means that looking at last year’s data may demonstrate a very different picture from looking at the year before’s data, especially when you’re trying to determine if a particular program is using funds responsibly, and if people are actually being helped.
  3. According to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, about two-thirds of your taxes go to the Feds (roughly speaking, anyway), while the remaining third went to your state, county or local government. This also clouds the picture, because different areas have different needs, and the breakdown shifts accordingly. If you live in a so-called “red state,” your fellow citizens consume more funds for tax-supported social service and social safety net programs than they pay for, and so-called “blue states” pay more of their taxes for the same public benefit programs than their citizens consume. In those same states, however, there may be local governments (say, a large city’s) where more services are consumed than paid for, or vice versa. Paul Krugman calls this paradox (where conservative states rely most on government assistance while also supporting conservative politicians who seek to gut social safety nets) “Moochers Against Welfare.”

It is confusing, and when you say “where did my money go?” you probably mean “how much of my money is going to someone other than me?” and this is a question that is only best answered once we figure out where you live (Red States are Welfare Queens), what “invisible” services and programs you yourself might be benefiting from that you don’t believe are “welfare” (or government-funded, citizen-supported) programs or which are government-provided benefits you don’t think about too often (such as small business loans, tax breaks for your marital status or number of kids or your charitable giving, a well-maintained infrastructure, arts funding, Pell grants for students, police officers and fire fighters and the 911 emergency assistance service, free public television and radio broadcasts, weather forecasts and disaster preparedness and relief, clean and safe air and water and medicine, well-maintained national parks and museums, technological and scientific research and space exploration, and so on), and how much you personally paid in taxes (and how many, if any, of your assets were socked away in tax shelters or otherwise hidden or protected with other tax-avoiding maneuvers).

John Schoen breaks down how your taxes are spent (or to be precise, how they were spent in 2007), but, oddly, he bundles certain things together (such as Social Security (which is funded through our paychecks), Medicare (which is collected through specific contributions and not income tax), and “income security” programs (which are mostly but not entirely funded by tax dollars, and which do include government assistance for the disadvantaged) that are usually separated when “how the government spends our money” is discussed. When one combines Social Security, Medicare / Health and Income Security, these bundled expenses appear to cost more than all the expenses that fall under the general category of National Defense, which is actually the largest governmental expense.

Even more confusingly, when the same guy did another analysis, he broke things down into different categories. He’s not wrong, mind you, but it is difficult to walk away from either article feeling as if you have a truly good handle on the “where’s my money go?” question, and that is not Mr. Schoen’s fault. He does a masterful job putting it into understandable “average person budget” and plain English terms, but the simplicity he achieves still requires that some lines get blurred between several government program categories. (For instance, would school lunches be counted by the average taxpayer as food benefits, which are typically included in “income security” programs, or would the lunches be counted as one of many branches of the bundled “education”-related social programs?)

My Esoteric at HubPages (a cost-benefit analyst) believes that the answer to “How much per tax dollar I spend goes towards welfare programs?” is about six cents (or nine cents, if you don’t consider a refund for the TARP bailouts to be repaid welfare expenditures):

“I took a look at the 2012 Federal Budget actuals for 2010 to calculate what percentage of your taxes go toward what part of the budgets. The table below presents my findings [that] show how many cents [per] tax dollar go [towards which] expenditure area.”

REVENUE SOURCE OREXPENDITURE AREA NUMBER OF CENTS FROMYOUR TAX DOLLARUSED FOR THIS PURPOSE
Income Tax
-$1.00
Interest on the Debt
$ .06
Security Programs
$ .24
non-Welfare Related Social Secuity
$ .20
non-Welfare Related Medicare
$ .13
TARP (returned funds)
-$ .03
non-Security Programs
$ .24
Mandatory Welfare Related Programs      
$ .09
You Should Be Able To See The Obvious… but I have some remarks anyway.
  1. If you consider TARP being considered a form of welfare…then only 6 cents out of every tax dollars goes toward providing welfare services to those who can’t provide for themselves. If you don’t, the figure increases all the way up to 9 cents.
  2. The other $ .91 or 91% of your taxes go support the operations of the government or defense. (You ultimately get the Social Security and Medicare back.)
  3. Individual income taxes only provided 26 cents of the revenue dollar needed to fund the 2010 expenditures. 37 cents came for other revenue sources and the last 37 cents was borrowed.

You remember the old phrase, “Hey, mister, can you spare a dime?” Well, after 100 years of inflation the best that can be mustered today is, “Hey mister, can you spare six cents?” Says something about American society, doesn’t it?”

Well, six cents per dollar isn’t bad. The sales tax in my area is higher than that! Even nine cents per dollar isn’t so bad. Is this really what everyone is fussing about? And, of that (let’s say) nine cents, what welfare programs are included? Looking at his data, he appears to be bundling together all social assistance programs which focus on the financially disadvantaged (while excluding Social Security and Medicare, et cetera, which, as we already discussed above, are not funded directly from “our tax dollars”).
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) says only about 13% of our annual budget goes to fund social safety-net programs (and they also exclude Social Security and health insurance-related programs) and state that they “based [their] estimates of spending in fiscal year 2011 on the most recent historical data released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)”: “About 13 percent of the federal budget in 2011, or $466 billion, went to support programs that provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship. […] 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.  Such programs keep millions of people out of poverty each year.”
So, nine cents per tax dollar — and about 13% of the government’s total annual budget — go toward social safety net programs that benefit the poorest, the most disadvantaged, and the least powerful among us. Should we really begrudge that?

Who, exactly, is receiving the most welfare?

When I noted that “more whites” are on welfare in a previous article, I promptly received confirmation of that statement when many readers commented and hastened to point out that, statistically, there are more white folks overall in the United States. Yes, exactly. The fact that there are more white people on welfare because there are more white people overall makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? My point was that it seems odd that we define the “face” of welfare by imagining a person of color (usually as a “Welfare Queen”) when the higher percentage of people receiving a form of welfare are white. It is also problematic when certain (usually Republican) politicians knowingly perpetuate racial welfare-related stereotypes to score points with a traditionally discriminatory and under-informed block of the electorate.

Pig Newton

 from Huffington Post says, citing census data, “The figures are well known. More whites  are on welfare, use food stamps, and public health services numerically than blacks and Latinos. More whites rely on social security, Medicare, and farm supports statistically and proportionally than blacks or Latinos. In Mississippi and Alabama the poverty and unemployment rate among whites is among the highest in the nation.”

The point of confusion is that–within racially-separated groups–more non-whites are struggling in poverty than are whites. I’m going to make up some numbers for illustration purposes, but don’t let it freak you out. Just bear with me. Let’s imagine that we have a population of 500 whites, 300 people of color who identify as “black” and 100 people of color who identify as being “other,” meaning neither white nor black. Out of those 500 whites, let’s say 200 are on welfare, and there are 225 blacks (out of 300) on welfare and 10 “others”  (out of 100) on welfare. That means (a) that there are more whites numerically, in total, on welfare than blacks or “others,” (b) that there are more blacks and “others” combined than whites and (c) that there are a greater percentage of  blacks on welfare, when compared to the total number of blacks in the population, than there are whites on welfare when compared to the total number of whites in the population. (Now forget those made-up numbers, because there is no correlation to real stats, and they were just used to make the math and comparisons easier.)
The thing is, no one is saying any of this is untrue. The problem is that there has been a confusion between apples and oranges, where ‘apples’ means “the total number of people who happen to identify as white who are using social safety net programs” and where ‘oranges’ means getting into examining how many people (within a certain racial group, i.e., black people) are on assistance overall as compared to the percentage of white people overall.
Some non-made-up numbers:
  • 29 million people are on welfare
    • White: 11,661,000 (39%) ← This number is larger.
    • Black: 11,362,000 (38%)

Wikipedia says:

  • [Total] US population — 313,544,041
    • White: 227,005,885 (72.4%) ← This number is also larger.
    • Black: 39,506,549 (12.6%)
Whites: 11.661,000 / 227,005,885 * 100 = 5.13%
Blacks: 11,362,000 / 39,506,549 * 100 = 28.75% ← Now this number is larger.
“That means the total percentage of all white people in america on welfare is 5.13%, while the total percentage of all black people in America on welfare is: 28.75%.”
And that is correct, too! That’s just it — saying there are “more white people on welfare” was not intended to ignore the fact that a higher percentage of non-white individuals and families are struggling in poverty when compared to white individuals and families. It was just stating a fact.
Unfortunately, I failed to be very, very clear, and, when talking about welfare issues, one must be very, very clear indeed.
We could write–and indeed there have already been written–many articles on why it is problematic to compare racial groups to each other rather than looking strictly at total numbers, but two analogies may help get that conversation rolling:
First analogy: Some people start life on third base, while other people can’t even get selected to swing the bat. Some aren’t even allowed inside the ballpark. If a successful businessman starts off in life on third base due to having the good fortune to be born in good health and with sound mind to financially comfortable WASP parents in a safe neighborhood with access to good schools, is he truly a “self-made” man? Is he really self-made when he can rely on networking with and trading favors with his parents’ successful friends, or his frat brothers, or his fellow Lions or Shriners or Moose or Masons, or his church, or any of a number of “white welfare” programs? Is he really “self-made” when he got business loans and relied on the same social framework all our tax money collectively helped build and maintain? The short answer is “No, not entirely, because no one is entirely self-made and achieving success in a vacuum”, and that is just a hard truth, and not intended to disparage anyone’s good ideas, smarts, initiative, or hard work.
Melissa Harris-Perry recently confronted the (smug) myth that the rich “risk more” than the poor, and made some good points: “What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously, what in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it’ll be a good school and maybe it won’t. I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No! There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch you and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people. And when we won’t, because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness! We cannot do that!”
What is more risky than being poor?
Second analogy: “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is”. John Scalzi wrote this article of the same title (later re-posted at Kotaku) that explained this concept beautifully: if you are lucky enough to be born into a privileged group (for example, if you are male, straight, able-bodied, middle-class, and White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), you play the Game of Existence on the “easy” setting. Most people of color, or poor people, or non-male people, or non-straight people, or members of minority faiths, or people with disabilities or chronic illnesses (et cetera) are forced to play on the “expert” setting, they aren’t given the standard rules book, and they do not get to use any cheat codes.
Given that an average group of white people are generally going to be more privileged by default than an average group of non-white people (here’s where investigating socioeconomic status (SES) factors might be very enlightening), I find it significant that more white people in total are now relying on welfare programs. That seems significant to me, and, again, it makes the pernicious “duplicitous Person of Color scamming the system” stereotype all the more offensive. The color of the average “face of welfare” is changing.

It is time for the “Welfare Queen” myth to die.

What is most obnoxious about the Welfare Queen myth is that it can be traced back to Ronald Reagan indulging in hyperbole to outrage his conservative Republican base. Stupid Uncle Bonzo.
What Reagan actually said, according to Wikipedia: “During his 1976 presidential campaign, Reagan would tell the story of a woman from Chicago’s South Side who was arrested for welfare fraud: “She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”
The closest known real life example, according to Wikipedia: “In 1976, the New York Times reported that a woman from Chicago, Linda Taylor, was charged with using four aliases and of cheating the government out of $8,000. She appeared again in the newspaper while the Illinois Attorney General continued investigating her case. The woman was ultimately found guilty of “welfare fraud and perjury” in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.”
So one woman scammed the government out of a total of eight thousand dollars and went to jail for it and from that, Reagan invented multiple imaginary dead husbands, a six-figure “salary” and multiple Social Security cards…in short, he created the Welfare Queen stereotype by wildly exaggerating information about a real, if rather minor and swiftly punished, criminal act.
Compare and contrast, my friends. That one fairy tale The Gipper told us has led to a lot of misery, and most of it has been directed at the weakest members of our society: those who are the least capable of defending themselves. Are we a country of unkind assholes who lack compassion for our neighbors, now?
Some studies have shown that the “Welfare Queen” story incites racial animosity.
O.K. Kai (of the 40 Acres And A Cubicle blog) comments: “The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Havard University published a study entitled “The Welfare Queen Experiment” in which Black and White participants watched news clips about a lazy welfare recipient named Rhonda.  Separate test groups watched news stories that showed a photo of either a black Rhonda or white Rhonda for a few seconds. Each group was also given a survey to measure attitudes toward race, gender and welfare.  White participants showed a 10% increase in anti-black sentiments when Rhonda was Black and surprisingly, an increase of 12% when Rhonda was White.  This suggests that the Welfare Queen archetype and the distorted view of Black Americans on welfare is well entrenched in the White American psyche. The majority of welfare recipients are non-urban and White.  The majority of food stamp recipients have jobs or are children, so comparing paychecks to food stamps makes no sense.”

Left: Welfare recipient. Right: A leech on society’s “job-creators”

Let’s get this one thing straight: there are no Welfare Queens out there driving Cadillacs, having five kids specifically to get extra financial benefits from the government (or successfully scamming the government to pay for some non-standard expensive medical treatments or procedures). You’re perhaps thinking of Ann Romney with her multiple Cadillacs, her five tax deductions sons (who have undoubtedly benefited from generous and un(der)-taxed loans and financial gifts from their parents), and her $77,000 tax deduction for her so-called “therapy horse” … and we know we haven’t even seen all the tax shelters and tax havens the Romneys have benefited from.

Do you know what’s true (and what’s not) when it comes to welfare topics?

There are a lot of myths about welfare. Here are four of the most persistent:
MYTH #1: Welfare benefits go to minority women who never leave the dole (the “Welfare Queen”).
  • More whites than blacks or Hispanics receive aid (again, we’ve discussed this; see above if you’re still confused by the word “more” and feel the need to nerd out over stats that wind up helpfully proving the actual point being made).
  • Two out of three welfare recipients are children, not adults.
  • Three out of four women on aid get off welfare within two years.
  • TANF benefits are limited to five years (60 months) total. TANF benefits are not renewed or extended if you have additional children. “You can only get TANF for 5 years. This limit applies to all adults and heads of households. […] Adults who reach the 5 year limit cannot collect TANF for themselves or their children. If you get any benefits from TANF during a month, even if you only receive $1, that month will count as one month against your 5 year limit. Periods of receipt need not be consecutive to count towards the 5 year limit.”
  • Alternet says: “Aside from the fact that [the welfare stereotype is] racist, it’s just not true. According to the U.S. government, the majority of welfare recipients are white, live in the suburbs, have two kids, want to work, and stay on welfare an average of only two years. […] While conservatives talk about welfare recipients being a burden on the public, many don’t realize how little we spend on public assistance. The attack on social spending is based on myth. In 1996, all spending on “welfare” programs, including food stamps, free school lunches, unemployment checks, housing assistance, legal defense and the rest came to somewhere around $130 billion. Only counting direct assistance programs like AFDC, however, it was about $50 billion — approximately 4% of the $1.23 trillion budget. When compared to the whole federal budget, the money spent on welfare is trifling, especially when you look at other, truly wasteful federal budget items. Waste and fraud in military spending cost an estimated of $172 billion, while a host of business subsidies — no-strings federal gifts to profitable corporations — cost another estimated $170 billion in taxes. Then there are capital gains and other tax loopholes benefiting the wealthy that cost over $130 billion a year. It looks like the “burdened taxpayers” have bigger things to worry about besides welfare.”
  • The real “Welfare Queens” are corporations. We spend $59 billion on human welfare programs, “and $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare. This is about 5 percent of the federal budget. To clarify what is and isn’t corporate welfare, a “no-bid” Iraq contract for the prestigious Halliburton, would not be considered corporate welfare because the government technically directly receives some good or service in exchange for this expenditure. Based on the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) findings of $1.4 billion of overcharging and fraud, I suppose the primary service they provide could be considered to be repeatedly violating the American taxpayer. On the other hand, the $15 billion in subsidies contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, to the oil, gas, and coal industries, would be considered corporate welfare because no goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures”.

MYTH #2: Welfare encourages teen pregnancy and large, dependent-upon-the-government families.
  • States with the highest benefits have the lowest rates of additional births, and the states with the lowest benefits have the highest.
  • “In the median state, which adds $57 in monthly Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)benefits for an additional child, each newborn brings a minimum $88.50 a month in new expenses, according to estimates by Catholic Charities USA [this means that each additional child costs approximately $30 more a month after any benefit increased are factored in; more children mean less money overall to survive on].
  • Contrary to the myth, AFDC families also are slightly smaller than the U.S. average. The typical AFDC family consists of 2.9 people, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, compared to the average 3.16 nationwide. Some 42 percent of AFDC mothers have just one child, and 30 percent have two kids. Just 10 percent of AFDC families include four or more youngsters.”

MYTH #3: People on welfare live pretty well.
  • Here are the guidelines for TANF (and here are the names TANF may go by in your state, if “TANF” is unfamiliar to you): Be poor, have infant(s) or children under 18, be ready to work (there is no “free ride”), benefits are limited to a total of five years. Be prepared to give up most if not all of your current assets (if any). The government may provide a cheap mobile phone with pre-paid minutes if the TANF recipient is too poor to afford a land-line or mobile phone of his or her own. This is done so the poor person can communicate with potential employers and with the government employees handling his or her files. (Judgmental people will actually covet these “free” phones and make many nasty comments about how “unfair” it is that a person on welfare “has an iPhone”…but do not kid yourself. You know that not one of them would trade places with the poor person, even if they did get a real iPhone out of the deal.) You can not receive TANF if you have no children, if you are unwilling to work, and if you are not destitute.
  • Here are the guidelines for SNAP: Be poor and hungry. You can only buy food, and only specific kinds of approved food items. (No toiletries, like toilet paper or shampoo or soap. No pet food items or baby care items like diapers, or feminine hygiene items like tampons or pads. No “hot” or deli foods, no pre-prepared or frozen foods (in some areas). No tobacco or alcohol.) Average cost per person per meal is about $1.60, if  s/he can qualify for the maximum food stamp benefits available. There are no actual paper scrip / coupon-like “food stamps” anymore; SNAP benefits are distributed via plastic Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT) cards that look a lot like standard debit cards.
  • Here are the guidelines for WIC: Be poor and hungry, have infant(s) or very young child(ren). There are nutrition “classes” available, and the focus is on providing lots of dairy products for small children. Otherwise, WIC has very similar guidelines as SNAP.
  • Find your local “Section 8” low-income housing area. What kind of neighborhood is it in? Is it safe? Would you feel comfortable driving through or walking around the neighborhood at night? Is it attractive and conveniently situated near good schools, public transportation, grocery stores and businesses? Would you want to live there, even for free? Do you still begrudge those folks a “free” apartment? (Did you know that people can wait up to a decade or more to be placed in this housing?)
MYTH #4: Welfare is a huge drain on the federal budget.
  • It’s true that with state and federal expenditures, welfare programs cost a total of $24 billion annually. And yet welfare payments affect only 1 percent of the federal budget.
  • Affluent Americans enjoy far greater benefits in the form of tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes, capital gains exclusions, and farm subsidies. The higher the household income, under current tax law, the greater the tax advantages. Mortgage interest, which is excluded from taxation on loans up to $1 million, will cost the federal government $53.5 billion in 1995, according to a House Joint Committee on Taxation report—more than twice the payments to poor families.
  • Families earning $50,000 or more enjoyed 88 percent of the total tax benefit, and families earning more than $100,000 annually collected 44 percent, according to the same report. “People with million-dollar mortgages do not need a federal subsidy,” says Henry Rose, director of the Community Law Center at Loyola University Law School in Chicago. “You can own two homes and benefit from mortgage interest deductions on both. The government is subsidizing you to own two homes. Is that really where we want our taxes to go? Contributions to Social Security decline as a percentage of income for persons earning more than $60,000. Thus, a worker who earns $20,000 pays 6 percent of earnings into Social Security while another person who earns $200,000 contributes only 2 percent.
  • Unlike federal assistance to the poor, government payments to Social Security recipients are adjusted annually to ease the bite of inflation.
  • Via ThinkByNumbers.org: “In 1996, Congress passed a bill enacting limited welfare reform, replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the new Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program. One key aspect of this reform required recipients to engage in job searches, on the job training, community service work, or other constructive behaviors as a condition for receiving aid. [T]he success of this reform was pretty dramatic. Caseloads were cut nearly in half. Once individuals were required to work or undertake constructive activities as a condition of receiving aid they left welfare rapidly. Another surprising result was a drop in the child poverty rate. Employment of single mothers increased substantially and the child poverty rate fell sharply from 20.8 percent in 1995 to 16.3 percent in 2000.”
  • The poor unfairly bear the brunt of our political and economic anger and are without powerful defenders. “The typical reaction I hear is, ‘We’re the taxpayers who carry the weight of society. Why are you critical of our meager benefits?'” Rose says. “I can understand that. But when we talk about replacing the welfare state, let’s at least recognize all the forms of benefits and look at who really needs subsidy.”

We don’t think purely logically when it comes to finding solutions to poverty.

One problem we have to deal with is separating what is financially most logical and feasible with what offends the sensibilities when it comes to helping the disadvantaged, be they welfare recipients or the homeless. Whereas I am not taking a side one way or the other on this particular issue, there are hard numbers which demonstrate that actually giving chronically homeless people a cheap apartment is financially less onerous than dealing with keeping the homeless away from tourists and from hassling passers-by, and with paying for their health problems, ER visits and medical bills.
Cracked‘s Chris Zeigler explains it with a humorous twist: “The homeless will always be with us. No one wants to hire them, and there’s no way society can afford to just give them a place to live. When a dude is sleeping in a box he found in the alleyway and eating rats cooked over a cigarette lighter, it’s sad, but he’s not costing us anything — at most, he costs whatever spare change he collects in his hat every day. But has anyone gone ahead and calculated the actual cost of keeping someone alive and homeless? Someone did! And it’s around a million dollars.

Wait, what?

First of all, as a society we’re not cool with just letting poor people die in the streets. So while we don’t provide housing, we do provide emergency room care. It’s counterintuitive, but this begrudging little bit of help actually winds up costing society way more than if we just went the whole way. Why? Well, it should come as a surprise to nobody that living on the street is kind of unhealthy, and that’s before the depression and its accompanying substance abuse come into play. […] In Washington in 2002, 198 [homeless] individuals generated 9,000 emergency room visits, or a little under one a week. At a minimum of $1,000 a visit, that’s a heck of a medical bill that those hospitals are trying to collect from a homeless person. Unless they have a really good day panhandling, that money is coming out of your pocket.
Add in the annual cost of $24,000 if they take advantage of a shelter, plus the cost of the police to arrest and process those who misbehave (plus the round-the-clock housing, feeding and guarding they get once they’re in jail), and it all adds up to a tidy sum for taxpayers to handle. Experts say it really would be cheaper just to house them and treat them. […] The general public, of course, would never go for this idea, on principle alone. But it turns out principle is expensive as hell.”
Power-law solutions focus exclusively on the numbers and ask what would be the most financially feasible solution: What is the bottom-line? It turns out that the solution to many issues that involve the poor which would cost the least amount of money would inevitably be the least popular solution, because certain people would be outraged that the very poor were “getting a free handout” — probably the same people who are outraged about the not-so-free assistance the poor are begrudged now. The fact is, although these people talk a lot about the costs and “I don’t want my tax dollars spent on that!”, if you showed them that it would actually save them money to be more charitable, even to the “undeserving,” those people would not want to try any proposal that appears to “reward” the struggling in any way.
That is because, deep down, a lot of the fighting over welfare is not about what it costs, but who we perceive it to be helping the most. This is why it behooves certain groups (and politicians especially) to perpetuate the Welfare Queen fable: It’s a modern-day Southern Strategy and, unfortunately, it still resonates with resentful white people in particular.
Power-law solutions, even in all their cold, logical glory and demonstrably improved bottom line, do not stand a chance against deep-seated resentment, especially racially-tinged resentment for The Poors that is perpetuated by politicians who know darn well what they are doing. But lefty liberals don’t like power-law solutions either, because they seem too cold and impersonal. Both sides are dead wrong about rejecting power-law solutions if the goal is really to help the poor while also making the smartest financial decisions.
As The New Yorker says: “”Power-law solutions have little appeal to the right, because they involve special treatment for people who do not deserve special treatment; and they have little appeal to the left, because their emphasis on efficiency over fairness suggests the cold number-crunching of Chicago-school cost-benefit analysis. Even the promise of millions of dollars in savings or cleaner air or better police departments cannot entirely compensate for such discomfort.
In Denver, John Hickenlooper, the city’s enormously popular mayor, has worked on the homelessness issue tirelessly during the past couple of years. He spent more time on the subject in his annual State of the City address this past summer than on any other topic. He gave the speech, with deliberate symbolism, in the city’s downtown Civic Center Park, where homeless people gather every day with their shopping carts and garbage bags. He has gone on local talk radio on many occasions to discuss what the city is doing about the issue. He has commissioned studies to show what a drain on the city’s resources the homeless population has become. But, he says, “there are still people who stop me going into the supermarket and say, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to help those homeless people, those bums.'””
A more recent case where power-law solutions should have been applied was the failed welfare recipient drug testing experiment in Florida. Not only did the testing fail to save taxpayers any welfare money (because the few people who took the test and failed were able to assign other adults to apply for benefits for their families, and those adults passed) but there was no thought to what would happen if a family was denied welfare because the adult applying for benefits was tested and popped positive on a drug screen. One thing that would definitely have happened is that dependent children or elderly family members would be punished due to the irresponsibility of their adult caretaker. Few people mentioned that automatically assuming that welfare applicants would also, naturally, be drug users was insulting, had suspiciously racist undertones, and, as it turns out, was grossly inaccurate (only 2% of the welfare applicants tested positive for drugs, which, when compared to self-reported percentages of up to 9% in the general population as a whole, implies that welfare applicants are actually less likely to do drugs). There was, notably, no discussion about getting those people who tested positive into a rehab or addiction counseling program. There was also no discussion educating the general public that TANF benefits are not “freebies” but part of a “workfare” program.
It was also kept pretty quiet that Governor Rick Scott benefited financially from the drug testing, and that taxpayer money went to line his pocket.
As a result, you had a lot of ignorant people posting things such as “If I have to pee in a cup to work, you have to pee in a cup for workfare assistance.” Translation: Because I was humiliated and had to submit to a probably unnecessary and expensive pee test to get my probably grossly-underpaid crappy job, then you, too, should submit to an arguably unconstitutional procedure so you can participate in a Welfare To Work program which actually does not provide anywhere near a living wage.”
Considering strict profit-law solutions would have nipped the “test the welfare recipients” idea in the bud. The whole debacle wasted far more taxpayer money than it saved in welfare payments.

We must remember there are suffering human beings involved when we discuss welfare.

There is no dearth of anecdotal evidence that details how miserable life on welfare can be. Here’s Cynthia’s story:
From Claretian Publications: “Cynthia Barnett bears no resemblance to the Cadillac-driving “Welfare Queen” that President Ronald Reagan made famous as an example of fraud and excess in programs to aid the poor. […]  Her monthly income consists of $128 in AFDC benefits that she receives for her youngest child, the only one still under 17 years old, and $236 in federal food-stamp assistance.
Barnett aspires to an apartment in “a relatively safe neighborhood,” but has no real hope she will ever make it out of Dearborn Homes, a Chicago public-housing development in one of the poorest, most crime-infested pockets of the nation. “People think we live the life of Reilly, with all the luxuries,” Barnett says. “I don’t have a telephone…color TV…CD player. I sure don’t eat sirloin. When we get our grant at the beginning of the month we go shopping for what’s needed, not what’s wanted. I look for the nicest things at the cheapest prices. I buy a roll of bus tokens for myself and a roll for my daughter. If we run out of tokens, we just don’t go anywhere.”
Barnett wants to work. […] Barnett now volunteers at Women for Economic Security, a program of the Chicago Area Project that offers job and leadership training for women attempting to make it off welfare. As president-elect of Women for Economic Security, one of Barnett’s tasks is educating potential donors about what it’s like to be on welfare.

We should ask why corporations like Wal*Mart get to pay their workers a pittance far below a living wage, forcing taxpayers to subsidize their food and other needs, while Wal*Mart gets tax breaks from the government.

What is it like? AFDC grants and food stamps barely cover the necessities and leave families below the federal poverty line in almost every state. The AFDC grant for a mother and two children in the median state was $366 per month—or $4,392 annually—in January 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The same family would qualify for a food stamp allotment of $295 per month, or $3,540 per year. Together, AFDC and SNAP [food stamp] assistance for the family totals $661 per month, and $7,932 per year. That’s just 64 percent of the federal poverty line for a family of three, which stands at a grim $12,320. Just one in five AFDC families receive housing assistance.
Most wearing for families without resources is the fear that disaster is around the corner—sometimes in the form of an unexpected bill that would be insignificant to others.”
There is no “free ride” welfare any more — if there ever really was — and there has not been since the Clinton administration.
“On August 22, 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law his now infamous Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act thereby “end[ing] welfare as we have come to know it.” The Act replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
TANF establishes a lifetime limit of 60 months (5 years) for federal assistance, mandates that single parents participate in work activities for an average of 30 hours per week, and caps federal block grant contributions to states at $16.6 billion per year. (As a result of inflation the real value of the TANF block grant has already fallen by 28%.)
[D]espite few fluctuations in the poverty rate since TANF supplanted AFCD, the participation rate among eligible families has plummeted by 52%  since 1995. Over the same time period—and despite flat to declining crime rates— the U.S. prison and jail population has increased by 44% . Perhaps a quickly expanding prison population is precisely the unspoken foundation upon which “welfare to workfare” rests. We haven’t “ended welfare;” instead we’ve invisiblized it by shifting its beneficiaries from the public square to the prison yard.”

The bottom line is that social assistance programs actually work!

If you are concerned at all about the very poor (unlike Mitt Romney), government safety net programs work.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says: “A Center analysis shows that government safety net programs kept some 25 million people out of poverty in 2010. Without any government income assistance, either from safety net programs or other income supports like Social Security, the poverty rate would have been nearly double in 2010 (28.6 rather than 15.5 percent).” Despite the acknowledged flaws in our social safety net programs, they do work if your definition of success includes “lifting families out of poverty”.
Salon says: “[P]overty fell substantially over the past several decades before rising a bit during the Great Recession. Neither liberals nor conservatives have been eager to embrace this idea—the former to bolster support for new programs and the latter to dismiss the efficacy of what’s already been done. […] The impact of the recession aside, we’re clearly winning the decades-long war on poverty. We’re doing so in part because the economy is evolving in ways that are favorable to the poor, and in part because our government programs are effective. In particular, the not-very-complicated strategy of giving money to the poor through tax credits and Social Security has steadily pushed the poverty rate down over decades, while safety net programs help shelter people from recessions. It’s understandable that advocates like to underscore the severity of social problems. But at a time when many voters seem skeptical about the efficacy of government programs it’s worth saying that these programs work. Long-term investment in anti-poverty spending has done exactly what it is supposed to do.”
Welfare–here, government assistance programs for the impoverished and needy–has never been a major cost to taxpayers in this country. Less than 1% of the average paycheck goes for this non-medical welfare.
Welfare programs are not at the root of our country’s financial problems, and they never really were.