There has been a lot of talk lately about the imminent reduction in the funding of our social welfare programs. Is that a bad thing? Yes. Can we do anything about it? Not really. Could it be a good thing? Maybe, but only if it means the rest of government is reduced, and it learns to live on a balanced budget. In our personal lives, we can’t spend more than we bring home. Yes, we have credit, but if the credit payment fits into your budget, then you’re ok. The government has credit, too. The problem with their credit is that the payments cannot currently fit into a balanced budget. It makes the payments, pays the rest of its bills, and then borrows more today to cover what it overspent yesterday. That’s what a deficit is. The amount of money our government has to borrow to cover the funding of everything it says it will fund.
How does the government get its funding? Our government gets the bulk of its money from the taxes we pay. That is its “paycheck”. If that money is not enough to cover what they have planned, they borrow money. This is done by selling pieces of the government in the form of Treasury bonds, notes, etc. You can even buy one! You buy a bond for $50 and, in ten years, the government will pay you back $100. For those ten years, you are letting the government borrow your $50. These bonds are sold to individuals (you and me), corporations, associations, public and private organizations, and other governments. Yep, other governments. In 2014, (the most recent data I could find) China owned 7.2% of our nation’s debt. 27.2% was owned by a mix of other countries to include, but not limited to, Ecuador, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, and Libya. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/
mikepatton/2014/10/28/who-owns-the-most-u-s-debt/#30cfb365819c.) I think I would prefer cutbacks and the security of a balanced budget to owing countries that are cool to us at best.
For some reason, apparently known only to politicians, the first place the government always makes cutbacks is to our social welfare systems, i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), and Social Security. (The irony here is that Social Security is not only one of the programs slated for cutbacks, it is also the biggest holder of our government’s debt! That’s right. They borrow our funds that are deposited from our paychecks and matched by our employers and then issue bonds to say they will pay it back later.) These are our programs designed to help those Americans struggling the most. Not you and your family, you say? That’s great. It’s not you today, but what about tomorrow? Oh, you even have a couple hundred thousand dollars in the bank for your retirement? Awesome! Did you know that a breast cancer diagnosis will cost a person about $300,000 for diagnosis and treatment, $130,000 for follow up care, and another $50,000 for reconstructive surgery? With a normal health insurance package of 80/20, you end up paying $96,000 just for the costs of the disease itself. Now throw in lost wages, gas and parking expenses during visits to appointments, lodging during treatment on the road, meals while away from home, child care costs, special nutritional supplements, and special equipment or clothing. There went your entire savings. Many, many families in America are just one medical crisis away from being in need of a social welfare program. (http://health.costhelper.com/breast-cancer.html.)
As a country, we need to take care of our people, our families. It would be wonderful if we fought to keep these programs simply because there are others that need them rather than from the standpoint of we, ourselves, might need them someday. But, people are people, and will almost always concern themselves with their own first. We are all guilty of this occasionally. We can all tend to look inward and not notice the lives of others around us. We need to start looking out more. If the government is not going to meet the needs of our most vulnerable, then we must.
A few years ago, I worked for a state Welfare to Work program. Anyone deemed by the state to be able to work had to participate in our program to continue to receive their benefits. We provided GED prep classes, life skills learning, job search assistance, and additional financial assistance in a variety of areas. I could pay to have someone’s hair done, fix a car, buy interview clothes, etc. What I couldn’t pay for was the greatest need. I could not help with childcare. The cost of reliable, safe, dependable childcare is the biggest issue that holds people back from improving their lives and ending their reliance on government funded social welfare. In some states, there is limited funding to assist with childcare, but there can be waiting lists and the income threshold to qualify for and remain in the programs is ridiculously low. You make $10.00 per hour, 40 hours a week? You are off the program. Now you have $385 a week to pay for childcare that costs $200 per week. You have to pay for food, health insurance for you and your children, housing, and transportation. You can’t do it. You and your children were better off when you didn’t work.
How can we as a community help? Start a safe, reliable, no or low cost daycare in your home. Be someone’s ride to work or to their college class. Join your local Buy Nothing Group and help those who ask. Don’t have one? Start one. Sometimes a person just needs a gallon of milk until payday or a pack of diapers. Advocate for expanded social welfare programs that encourage and are designed to lift people up rather than keep them trapped in a system that just doesn’t work. Stop looking inward and look around you. You could make all the difference in someone’s life.