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Anything but Help [Jul. 22nd, 2010|12:34 am]
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Ritual Disclaimer:  I'm a Texan, and I love Texas.  

But I don't love how Texas (the organization) treats Texans (the people of Texas, which is not just guys in corner offices in Austin, Dallas, and Houston.)   A week or so ago, the local news stations were describing how wonderful a new Texas program was...instead of giving the jobless unemployment, it paid employers...to put them to work!!!!

Well, you might think that was a great idea, until you noticed that, um, the one job they showed as having been created in this program was tamping down hot asphalts on cracks and potholes as they followed a machine that was dumping the hot asphalt in a linear pile.   And there was no mention of the money actually going to the people doing the work, just the money going to the company.  Granted that there are a lot of potholes and cracks in streets, so there's undoubtedly work in mending them...but that's not going to be terribly useful to someone who can't do that kind of work (like the amputee in the monthly bulletin from the Capital Area Food Bank) and there's no indication that it pays enough to, you know, support a family.   So while there are plenty of people looking for jobs (and yes, I know other places in the country have a higher unemployment rate), the creation of a few piddly jobs suitable for a very limited number of people--and using that as an excuse not to pay unemployment---amounts to fraud.

But it's so easy to just say the unemployed are lazy...if you have a job.  If you have a career, even.   It's easy to say "Why don't they just..." all sorts of hoops you think people should jump through to prove they're worthy of having food on the table and a roof over their heads.  That is, if you're a Texas governor or legislator, it's easy. 

The Texas governor has steadfastly and proudly (bragging on himself) refused federal funds for programs that actually help people...while eagerly grabbing for every dollar, half-dollar, quarter, dime, and penny for that thrice-damned Border Wall and anything that increases money for the military bases in the state or law enforcement.  He doesn't want, you see, to feed the unworthy, or house the unworthy, or educate their unworthy children by letting them learn real history and real science...he wants them to "take responsibility" and "be accountable," which in his mind means "Be a rich white guy like me."   He'd rather build prisons than schools (and we have a much larger prison population, in proportion, than when I was a kid.)   He'd rather build prisons than create jobs (except for prison guards.) 

Spending money on the poor is only acceptable (to him and his cronies) if it's money spent to prevent spending more money on the poor.  For instance, the SNAP program (used to be called food stamps, but now it's the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.)   The state of Texas spent $1.5 million last year on "finger imaging" to prevent fraud.   Four cases were found; only one was prosecuted, and no damages were recovered (the poor don't usually have much of worth.)  So even if you count all four cases, that's $375,000 dollars to turn up one case.  Think the food was worth that much?  Got any idea how many people could have been fed with that money?  So this year...$1.7 million, because everybody knows, if something's not working, you just do more of it. 

Since the idea of the program is that all poor people are untrustworthy and probably criminals as well, it's not surprising that the people who need the food sometimes quit the whole program.   It's demeaning, it's another barrier to getting the food they need, their lives are tough enough already.   So...they don't get the food.  And, with numbers down, the agencies that supply the food don't get funding either.   This stupid, expensive, nonfunctional program not only doesn't work--it actively hurts the people the SNAP program was supposed to help. 

What would help the unemployed most is, of course, jobs.  But the Bush years proved that lowering corporate taxes does not increase jobs or job security for people in this country.   Throwing tons of money at banks and the auto industry did not increase jobs or job security for people in this country...because no strings were attached that connected to creating and maintaining jobs.  Corporations went right on downsizing and sending work overseas, using the tax breaks to plump up the bennies in those corner offices.  There's work that needs doing (pothole fixing, among others, but that's only one: maintenance of parks and playgrounds and libraries and roads and bridges and public water supplies and repair and maintenance of housing and so on)--there's a lot of work that could be done, but the private sector isn't hiring.  So either the public sector creates those jobs or the public sector should extend unemployment benefits, and food security. 

Without thinking, or treating, poor people like bad people.  Because they aren't bad people--they're people in a bad situation. 

Texas has always had a lot of poor people, and some very rich people...and the rich people (despite endowing buildings at universities, museums, concert halls, and the occasional hospital) have not done well by the rest of Texas' population, the poor, the middle-class, and the not-quite-rich.   It's time to put the Governor and his cronies in the legislature out on the street...strip them of their perks and their power, their big cars and their fancy homes and big corner offices...and let them feel the heat of a Texas sidewalk in the summer...let them try to find room in a homeless shelter on a cold winter night...let them stand in line with their children for something to eat and have to prove that they deserve it.  Maybe, if they actually had to experience such a life, if we could somehow change their faces and take away their IDs and make them be average for even a year, they'd catch on.  Or maybe they'd freeze under a bridge, or have a heart attack or stroke in the hobo jungle in Dallas and nobody would care.  Like they don't care now.


[User Picture]From: kengr
2010-07-22 05:55 am (UTC)
There have been *many* studies done over the years that show that the measures taken to find/reduce "welfare cheats" cost *far* more than the money the cheats would have gotten.

Also those measures (and much of the "normal" stuff taken as part of signing up and staying on welfare or food stamps) is incredibly demeaning and easy for petty bureaucrat types to abuse.

About 10 years back, here in Oregon, if you were on welfare you weren't allowed more than $50 in "resources". So technically, you were in violation between the time your received your check and when you paid your rent, utilities and medical.

Also, if you actually tried to work, your *gross* pay was deducted from your check. And if your hours varied from check to check, they wouldn't cut the check for the current month until you had submitted pay stubs that covered *all* of the previous month. With the common biweekly pay, that meant you were a week to two weeks late in getting your check.

Which meant you were that late paying rent and utilities. Which could get you in trouble. As could the lower total money.

In essence, the anti-cheating measures *punish* you for trying to work.

Talking with fayanora earlier today, we thought that anybody working for state or federal government ought be taught what it's like to live under such programs.

For the first six months of the job, their pay goes into escrow, with bills for maintaining their residence and possessions taken out of it.

*They* get to live in public housing, with no car and draw food stamps and welfare. Subject to the rules of the programs.

At the end of the six months, they get the pay that was being held for them, minus the benefits they received.

Bet their attitudes towards the programs would change greatly.

Pity there's no way in hell of getting it set up.
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[User Picture]From: keristor
2010-07-22 09:11 am (UTC)
It's the same in Britain, and has been for the last 50 years at least. Oh, they are a little more generous -- they deduct the net pay rather than gross, and they allow you 5 pounds (about 7 US dollars) per week before they start deducting (that usually doesn't pay the bus fare), but if you dare to work even one day in the week then they will deduct it from that week immediately even though you haven't been paid yet, and then when you actually get paid they'll stop it again. Or sometimes they'll stop it altogether when you "get work" and you then have to re-apply the week after you are "unemployed" again.

If you have been prudent and saved, of course, they won't pay anything, you have to live off your retirement savings. If you spend everything and don't save then you'll get welfare. What message does that send? Yup, don't save...

Their solution? Try to force people into work by cutting 'benefits' (note that we've been forced to pay for those through 'National Insurance', which once was indeed earmarked for pension, sickness and unemployment but is now just another generic tax), when there aren't the jobs anyway. And if I took a job in Burger King, for instance, which wouldn't pay enough anyway, then I wouldn't be available to look for a real job. (Not that BK would have me, I'm "over-qualified", not to mention that I couldn't do the standing because my back would be in agony in under an hour.)

And have they caught any of the real frauds, the sort who are living high on the hog off welfare and claming for disabilities they don't have? No more than before, as usual the criminals can cover themselves and the honest people suffer. "When claiming support is against the law, only the outlaws get support" to co-opt a common saying...
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From: mouseferatu
2010-07-22 05:58 am (UTC)
I devoutly believe that the Constitution should have included a mandate that anyone running for public office must first spend one year living at the poverty line in the district/city/state/whatever they plan to represent. (No gifts, help, or anything allowed from rich friends; even the slightest violation causes the one-year period to reset.)

Of course, it'll never happen. But I truly believe our politicians might care a little more about people if it did.

And yes, as a fellow equally disgusted Texan, I'm right there with you. It's obscene how this state treats most of its citizens.
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From: mouseferatu
2010-07-22 05:59 am (UTC)
(Or whatever the equivalent concept of "poverty line" might've been back when the Constitution was written, of course.)
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[User Picture]From: scott_lynch
2010-07-22 06:25 am (UTC)
Someone cleverer than myself once said that the whole point of civilization was that it should be more forgiving than the wild and merciless alternative. I've always loved that sentiment, and it's why the rise of the noisy, smarmy, chest-thumping "Fuck you, I got mine!" movement really worries the hell out me.
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[User Picture]From: bunny_m
2010-07-22 10:36 am (UTC)
There's a term for those sorts thnat I came across back in my military days. "Jack bastards". (From "I'm all right Jack, fuck you!")

It was, and continues to be, quite literally, a deadly insult.

Gods help the soldier who has a deserved reputation for being a jack bastard, 'cause nobody else will.

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[User Picture]From: tkil
2010-07-22 06:48 am (UTC)

cross-pollenate with David Brin?

I very much enjoy both of you as authors and for your ongoing blog posts and commentary. Brin posted some of his essays and speeches that you might find interesting; perhaps the two of you might have the opportunity to work together some day.

His stuff is at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ and http://davidbrin.com/

I recently read through http://davidbrin.com/libertarian1.htm (et seq) and happily had my mind blown.

His recent dissection of Glenn Beck's misappropriation of Thomas Paine's legacy is particularly cogent to your post: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2009/05/why-obama-is-upping-border-patrol.html?showComment=1242457560000#c6897194684029455393 (it's really the first comment on that page; the permalinks don't seem to be working.)

Thanks again for helping us fight the good fight.

(And for writing excellent books! ;-> )
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[User Picture]From: keristor
2010-07-22 09:35 am (UTC)

Re: cross-pollenate with David Brin?

Whoo! I knew I liked him, thanks for pointing at that speech!

I remember what he said on a panel at Conspiracy, Worldcon 1988 (the first con I went to). He was talking then about the environment, and I paraphrase: "The optimist believes that everything will turn out fine, and so does nothing; the pessimist believes that we are all doomed, and so does nothing; I believe that they are both wrong, and that it could go either way depending on what we do." He was a pragmatist back then, and I was enjoyed to find someone who didn't accept the binary either/or which is so prevalent. And again now to find that in another context, one in which the Boolean logic of "if you are not for me you are against me" is taken to extremes.

Thank you!
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From: saoba
2010-07-22 07:43 am (UTC)
Years ago, in the course of one appointment I had a social worker

1) Complain that I had brought my children along- and remind me that getting pregnant again would be another example of poor planning on my part. Just in case I was wondering, you know. 'A lot of you girls do that.'

2) Inform me that there was no allowance for child care for appointments, job hunting or working

3) Ask me why I wasn't being more diligent in seeking work

4) Shrug off the fact I was limited to places I could get to by bus

5) Look surprised when I told her I couldn't get to appointments at her office before the bus ran in the morning or after it stopped in the afternoon

6) Tell me that I had to be more flexible about my availability to work (see previous remarks about child care)

7) Remind me that ANY wages or child support I recieved would be deducted from my allotment and don't even think about not reporting it promptly

8) Hint broadly that the agency would in fact be investigating to make sure I didn't have a boyfriend taking advantage of the state's bounty. When told I had no boyfriend she snorted. I told her if I HAD a boyfriend it would be news to me and a great boon to my soon-to-be-ex's divorce lawyer.

9) Tell me the average time waiting list for low income housing was over eight months

and *drum roll please*

Suggest to me it would be easier to go back to my estranged husband.

When I said 'Easier for who, exactly?' she rather frostily reminded me I got nothing from any program until she signed off on it.

That's a pretty big steaming pile of crap to eat for @$150 a week in food stamps and AFDC combined. Being able to make the 'the poor are unworthy/lazy/cheats' people have to deal with that kind of treatment was something I used to daydream about after those appointments.
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[User Picture]From: kengr
2010-07-22 08:31 am (UTC)
The one I had wasn't *that* bad. But not great.

4) Shrug off the fact I was limited to places I could get to by bus

5) Look surprised when I told her I couldn't get to appointments at her office before the bus ran in the morning or after it stopped in the afternoon

I guess she was like one employer I had. I think they assumed that I would *walk* after the switched me to a shift that started before the first bus.

she rather frostily reminded me I got nothing from any program until she signed off on it.

If I was dictator, any "social worker" making that sort of response in that context (ie, implying "be nice to me or else") would be in for *severe* disciplinary action.

Hmm. There's a thought for job. Have sessions with client "monitored for service quality" the way customer support calls are at many companies.

Then employ folks on welfare or with disabilities to review the tapes.
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[User Picture]From: bunny_m
2010-07-22 10:33 am (UTC)
He doesn't want, you see, to feed the unworthy, or house the unworthy, or educate their unworthy children

Such a 'Christian' attitude to have. *seethe*
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-07-22 12:56 pm (UTC)
They're not all Christians behind this, though the fronting politicians claim to be. (I dealt with some of this in my rant on what Jesus did not say, awhile back and I'm about ready to do another one of those. IMO, such people aren't Christians, no matter what they say, any more than I could claim to be a vegan while still eating meat.)

And as a citizen (rather than a church member) I don't care whether someone is Christian or not, as long as they share certain ethical principles (which weren't invented by Christians or exclusive to Christians.) As a citizen, I'm wary of any religion, including my own, because religions tend to encroach on the Constitutional guarantees that preserve a free society. I don't want Pat Robertson setting the rules for my life--or Sharia law, either--or an atheist group, for that matter (atheism when private is one thing; when it acts like another religion...no.)
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[User Picture]From: catsittingstill
2010-07-22 12:44 pm (UTC)
I have often wondered, if the Feds want to create jobs, wouldn't the most efficient way be, you know, creating jobs? By hiring people? To work for the government?

Like the WPA and the CCC during the depression. They could do all those things you list under work that needs doing.

If you hire business to do it you just create an extra layer of business trying to siphon off government money to make a bigger profit.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-07-22 12:50 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm for it, but Congress isn't.

The myth that the private sector is always more efficient is alive and well, unlike the unemployed, the uninsured, and the homeless.
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[User Picture]From: kk1raven
2010-07-22 02:52 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons I keep voting for my state senator is the fact that he comes from a background that gives him understanding of how real people live. He was raised by a single mother in the local housing projects then put himself through college and law school. He doesn't spout nonsense about poor people and understands the value of encouraging people to get an education. His office actually helps people when they call. I wish there were more politicians like him.
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[User Picture]From: ebeeman
2010-07-22 02:54 pm (UTC)
Elizabeth, I'm curious as to your thoughts on the maximum 99 weeks state+Federal unemployment insurance.


Edited at 2010-07-22 02:54 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-07-24 05:40 pm (UTC)
We don't have a viable alternative in situations where jobs do not exist. Either the government spends the money to supply the jobs (as in the '30s Depression) or it needs to pay the unemployed directly (not big corporations that continue to lay people off--Merck is about to dump 15,000) until there are jobs....or we have people starving and turning to criminal activity to try to survive.

What matters is that the people have food, housing, medical care, etc. to keep them and their families in good order until jobs return. The most sensible thing to do would be to employ them, instead of having them wear out shoe leather and hope going from place to place trying to find the nonexistent jobs. We'd get the benefit of their energy and expertise for the money spent.

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[User Picture]From: moon_ferret
2010-07-22 03:03 pm (UTC)
Speaking as someone who is dealing with two unemployed adults trying to raise three children on nothing but the State Unemployment checks, let me just say, the whole system is broken. We are both on unemployment but do not qualify for any state aid outside of the insurance we already had for the kids. Now we just don't have to pay the 60 a month in premiums, for which I am grateful. But not a whole lot. Our checks do not even cover rent and bills, but we somehow make too much for food stamps. I don't even know how. Oh, yes I do. The amounts set in place by the Federal departments were done during the Clinton administration. And have not changed since. When I once applied for child care supplements, they told me I made too much money and showed me the chart. I was STUNNED at the amount that was the cap. I would not have been able to pay HALF my rent on that salary a month. The case worker told me that the cap amount had not been changed since the 70's.

And now? I finally paid off my 2000 Dodge Caravan with 187k miles on it. That doesn't pass inspection. But that is now added to my list of "assets" and is valued at the Blue Book value under the assumption that I should sell it and get the money for food and rent. Never mind that I live in a city where the public transportation budget was just gutted AGAIN.

I think they should have to wait tables for 6 months. All the shifts. Find a sitter for it and then live on the money left over with no help. It would change a lot of minds, I tell you that.

*Sigh* Just been a bad week. The husband's unemployment funds ran out last week. I am scrambling to cover, but there just isn't the money or the jobs there. It just isn't happening.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-07-24 05:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is a bad week. And month. And year.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-07-23 03:35 am (UTC)
When you need to vent, you need to vent. You're in a very tough place, and I hope it gets better for you. It's a stinkin' shame.
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[User Picture]From: litch
2010-07-23 04:46 am (UTC)
I was denied SNaP (food stamps) because I don't work enough.

I am going back to college, they require I work at least 20 hours a week to qualify.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-07-23 02:28 pm (UTC)

And in Irving...

Everyone (in Texas, anyway) is talking about the mother who killed her two children, ages 3 and 6, because (according to report) they were autistic.

But it goes deeper than that. Because they were autistic...and her husband and died, and the house was foreclosed on, and she had to move into an apartment, and she was being investigated for allegations made at work (a major stressor whether or not she was guilty), and there is no indication that she had a support system (family, friends, faith community) offering help--financial or work with the kids.

So there's all this horror expressed at how unnatural and horrible she is and how she deserves to be killed as nastily as possible...and very little horror expressed at how this widow with two young autistic kids, in difficult circumstances, is being demonized. In fact, her being a widow isn't even mentioned in some news reports. Nor is the foreclosure. Nor are any of the other difficulties she faced. Nor is much made of the six years she did not kill her kids, that she clearly tried to take care of her kids, in spite of the known difficulties of parenting multiple autistic children. No, it's all about how awful she is and people are piling on with great self-righteous glee.

What she did was wrong. But how this state treats people who need help is wrong. How we the public treat people who need help is wrong. This state, through its laws and its court system and its attitudes, treats women who harm their children much more harshly than men (I've seen men who killed a baby charged with "injury to a child" not murder. Women...it's a murder charge.) This state, through its lack of support of social services, puts families (including widows, including other single parents) into situations of stress and hopelessness that make such tragedies more likely--and then blames the individual who cracks under enormous stress.

She was wrong. But does that make those who demonize her right? I don't think so.

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[User Picture]From: mobius74
2010-07-24 01:27 pm (UTC)


Amen. Perhaps there should just be a lottery devised where candidates for public office are selected at random from among those "who've been there at the bottom"... We could hardly do worse with a lottery than continuing to elect fat cats (or lightly thinner cats who are being supported by the fat cats). Semper Fi.
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