The welfare system – help or hindrance

Published 11:10 am Friday, January 17, 2014

There are numerous programs in place to provide assistances to those in need. This is good as some of us sometimes find ourselves in a position that we need a helping hand. However, we must be careful that a helping hand does not devoid one of his own initiative. As I observe the Welfare Program I wonder if the original intent of the program is being realized or is the system being abused.

I am a Democrat because I believe democratic principles are more in line with the needs of the poor and working class. I also believe that at some point and time a person should be responsible for his own destiny regardless to how difficult it might be. It is understandable how the less fortunate may need a hand up, but the system should guard against creating a permanent underclass people with no incentive to go to work. Is this what has happened?

In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed legislation that reformed the Welfare System. One of the provisions was; that welfare recipients must find work and become self-sufficient within two years after being accepted into the program. At this time the program became state-controlled. States put into place different programs to conform to the two-year window in that reformation act. Virginia put in place a program that required recipients to attend training classes, find jobs and become self-sufficient within that time span. Some may question the definition of self-sufficient. Does it mean being completely free of any assistance, or does it mean finding employment that allows less dependency on government assistance? It is important to understand that some jobs alone will not pay enough for a recipient to financially manage a household. Because of this, some recipients with low self-esteem feel that they are better off financially by not seeking work. This type of thinking leads to a system that perpetuates no initiative, no drive and irresponsibility.

I feel that these reform programs were put in place with the best intention in mind. However, the question is, are they fulfilling the original intention? The red tape and bureaucracy of the system makes it difficult to achieve this end, thus perpetuating generations of irresponsible recipients. Is it the recipient’s fault that he does not take advantage of the programs put in place to free him from the system? Or is it the system’s fault for the red tape and bureaucracy that prohibits the effective administration of the program. The workers should have the authority to make it mandatory for the recipients to participate in the programmed activities designed to help free them from dependency and become more self-reliant. Does this authority exist, or are the workers’ hands tied by restraints built into the program? The recipients should have no options in this matter. It should be mandatory that they play by the rules or face consequences for their actions.

It goes without saying that the system provides comfortable jobs for the working class as it unintentionally drains others of their integrity, initiative, and drive. In a system such as this who benefits? Who loses? Or do both benefit and lose?

CLYDE JOHNSON of Franklin is a retired health physicist of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth. He can be contacted at 562-4402.