Recruitment for Government Programs is Crux of the Problem: Efforts Should Also Focus on Those “helping” Applicants

April 19, 2012
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For far too long, the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) has been the Christmas card that has given year round.

The move last week by State Legislators from a broad range of communities – both rich and poor – to reform the welfare program that encompasses programs such as cash benefits and food stamps (now called SNAP for some reason) is a refreshing new direction, but one that comes about 10 years too late.

House Speaker Bob DeLeo has bravely led the fight – which in a Democratic state like Massachusetts is tantamount to walking the plank on a pirate ship.

You might end up all alone and in a place that’s impossible to escape.

However, even representatives from Boston’s inner city have backed DeLeo initially, as have Republicans from the suburbs.

Honestly, that part is refreshing.

However, the endless abuses all of us have seen with our own eyes and read about in news reports will be tough lumber to saw through.

Many have struggled as they watch others in the grocery store, at the convenience store or in department stores as they pull out their EBT card and purchase all kinds of things that aren’t exactly essential.

I watched with disdain one time a few years ago as a woman ahead of me at the supermarket – who wore a badge identifying her as a nurse at a nearby hospital – purchased lobsters, scallops and a couple of birthday cakes with a state card. She tossed in a tabloid magazine to the order at the last minute for good measure.

Then, for the rest of her order, she pulled out a thick roll of cash and paid the difference.

As I looked in my own cart, I had only the essentials, and I was going to have to put some of it back because I had exceeded my budget.

Such things are infuriating for the blue-collar crowd and the middle class families who are relegated to and intent to pay their own way. It’s outrageous when one works very hard and still struggles to make ends meet, while another person on state assistance appears to be living an easier life. That is particularly true at tax time, when the bill comes to those paying their own way, and not to those who only take.

Therein lies the outrage that has stoked the recent appetite for reform.

That outrage doesn’t come from the rich, as they support such programs.

Nor does it come from the poorer communities, as they benefit from such programs.

It comes from those directly in the middle, but those who are there in the middle and the reformers ought to consider where to focus their attention.

After several years of contemplation, I believe the key here is that lawmakers and the public cannot simply set out against those who abuse the system. That situation is terrible, but it’s about a mindset that was set in stone more than a generation ago – and it will not be changed.

The fight has to be focused on the source.

This won’t be a popular opinion, but a good deal of the problem lies in the human services industry – the “non-profit community” and the government workers who administer these programs and aggressively recruit people to go on the dole.

In my opinion, they are frequently the problem.

I have seen so many individuals who set out to work hard, to carve out their own slice of freedom and pay their own way, only to have someone whisper in their ear that they don’t have to work so hard.

“You can get all that for free; it’s easy, just fill out this paper,” many are told.

Innovation and hard work are quickly extinguished, and I believe people are frequently led to fill out forms incorrectly so that they can qualify for a benefit or for the largest benefit.

I would like to know how many people have indicated that they were in and “emergency” situation; probably thousands upon thousands.

I have personally watched multiple people be coerced by government workers into saying they weren’t married so that they would qualify for certain welfare programs. The rationale was that the office needed to sign up as many people as possible so they could increase their budget for the next year, and that no one really checked any of the paperwork anyway.

Recruitment is a problem. There’s even an advertising budget at the state level to produce ads encouraging people to apply for welfare. We’ve all heard those ads.

Get the information out there, sure, but don’t actively recruit people who otherwise might not be interested or for whom such help is not essential. This is supposed to be a safety net system for those on the edge.

What many don’t realize is that being paid and supported by the government is to give up one’s freedom, and that’s just the way some would like it. It has been said that when people are scared of the government and what it can do to them, then that’s tyranny; but when the government is scared of the people and what they can do, then that’s freedom.

No one is free when the government feeds them, clothes them and shelters them for years on end.