Friday, April 13, 2012

In the Best Interest of the Child

A few days ago, I read an article in the New York Times regarding how the recession has affected people receiving cash aid. As you may recall, in 1992 President Clinton had a plan to get people off welfare, and he reformed the welfare system.

In 1992, the economy was booming. In 2008, the United States was brought to its knees, and the recovery has been excruciatingly slow. In fact, the recovery might be not be a recovery. How is Clinton's much heralded, in 1992, welfare reform doing today?

Poverty is complicated. I've been poor; I know how it feels. But, I had several things working in my favor. I've got a brain that functions well. I've always been in good health. I'm white, and by most standards pleasing to the eye. And, I had a mother who taught me, through example, how to organize, think ahead and keep my nose to the grindstone.

I was an unwed mother, before the blow was softened to single parent, which was the major cause of my temporary poverty. In spite of that very difficult obstacle, I managed to work my way into a middle class income. However, without welfare, help from my family, student loans and bursaries, could I have made it? I don't know. Oh, and one final point, I'm Canadian. We have a much broader and deeper social safety net than does the United States. It was also the 1970s.

Okay, I've lived in poverty. I know it sucks. And, most of the time, I knew I would eventually be okay. But, what if I were African American, Native American, Latino or Asian? What if I didn't have a mother who was a salt of the earth type? What if my health wasn't very good? What if. . .what if. . .what if? Perhaps I would have been stuck.

According to the New York Times article, in the United States there are 4 million women with children who are jobless and without cash aid. In Canada, the poor receive a sales tax rebate, a family allowance cheque and a welfare cheque. My son, now forty years old, owns a courier business. One of his revenue streams is delivering alcohol, lottery tickets, cigarettes, pizza, and whatnot to people who lack the wherewithal to get these things for themselves. His busiest days are the days when the various cheques for the poor arrive. That's the downside of social assistance. Taxpayers end up perpetuating degenerative lifestyles that go nowhere.

What about the children? Today, only one in five poor children living in the United States receives cash aid. That's the lowest it has been since the 1950s. There are households in the United States living on less than $2 per day. Worldwide, the average wage is $2.50 per day. Ten percent of all US households that are headed by women are living on less than $9,000 per year. That's the highest it’s been in eighteen years. Families are selling food stamps in order to pay for rent, and are selling them at 50 cents to the dollar. There are children living in the United States dumpster diving, depending on school lunch programs and soup kitchens to eat.

Poverty is complicated, and it perpetuates itself. It is depressing. It sucks. And to break the cycle requires getting very, very tough. It requires young women with children ensure they will have no more children. Ever. The truth is, one child was one child too many. If you can't take care of yourself, you certainly can't take care of anyone else. If you are living in $2 a day, and have children, it is time to get real. You can't take care of those children. Make them wards of the state. Its cruel, its tough, its reality.

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