One constant during the GOP primary is the misrepresentation of welfare and how it works.
Rick Santorum said the following:
It doesn’t matter if he said “black” people or “blah” people. He still presented the notion that welfare amounts to taking money from hard-working people and giving it to non-working people.
However, tax dollars fund social programs. Everyone pays taxes. Even those so poor that they pay no federal taxes still pay payroll and sales tax. Unemployment is funded through payroll taxes, but yet many Americans incorrectly view that as a “hand-out,” as well. Do we think that executives who leave companies with million-dollar payouts are living on “hand-outs”?
The goal of this misinformation is to convince Americans that there is a permanent underclass that is constantly siphoning resources from the permanent overclass. Imagine the poor as not just a minority group but a slightly sinister, parasitic one, as well. Sort of like the Morlocks from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.
The reality is that anyone could wind up in need of assistance. Poverty is like what foolish people wanted to consider AIDS back in the 1980s — an affliction only certain people suffered from who lived a certain type of lifestyle. It was easier to judge than to help. Our biggest shame is that we had to realize that wasn’t the case before we started taking the matter seriously. Although GOP candidates like to invoke Ronald Reagan with awe, we should not forget the thousands who died because of his inaction.
It’s more accurate to view welfare as a form of insurance. I have paid thousands of dollars for health insurance over the course of my working life. I have been fortunate that I’ve never had a serious injury or illness. I don’t begrudge those who aren’t so fortunate. I also know that the system only works because healthy people participate and help spread the risk. Welfare is not a “hand-out.” It does not promote laziness anymore than health insurance promotes a poor diet.
It astounds me that we would even ascribe sloth to the people who collectively enjoy the least amount of leisure in the country. These are more often the people who stand on their feet all day, who work out in the elements, who risk life and limb either to protect us or to construct the things we need. If these people are Morlocks, then we are the Eloi, who live easy thanks to their efforts.
If you’ve read The Time Machine, you know that the Eloi become a dissolute race over time, so dependent upon the Morlocks that their relationship has evolved into a symbiotic one: The Eloi are fatted cattle, and the Morlocks are the farmers. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, as I taste terrible without a good vinegar dry rub.