Removing the Chains

Recently, the Detroit News reported that Michigan governor Rick Snyder will sign legislation that will cap welfare benefits at 48 months.  This GOP led initiative is retroactive and begins October 1st of this year.  Welfare, which usually refers to the federal government’s program to assist the unemployed or underemployed through a variety of programs including Medicaid, WIC, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children, was created to be a safety net during tough times for individuals and their families.  This news of creating a shorter shelf life on reliance of these programs is not shocking to those familiar with Republicans wanting to cap welfare for years.  What’s surprising is that I, and many like me, agree with it.

Admittedly, I was on the other side of this debate for many years.  I viewed those that wanted to take anything away from those in need as selfish, greedy, and even racist.  Years later, my eyes opened to the unforeseen harm that many of these well meaning programs brought to many in our communities.  I began to notice a form of dependency, a reliance on a system that for many did not allow for creative ways to move away from public assistance.  Instead, that creativity came in the form of doing what it took to stay on these programs.   Generations later this dependency has many individuals and families chained to a dependent way of life.

I think most of us will agree that such programs have worked for scores of people for decades.  The issue many like myself have is that welfare has for far too many fostered a sense of dependency.  This reliance on government has perpetuated itself throughout one’s life and from generation to generation.  Although this dependency has spread across gender, race, religion, and various other groups, for me, the spot light shown brightest on communities of color much like the predominately African American community I grew up in.  As a child there was a period that my family had to make ends meet using federal assistance.  The difference between families like mine and many others was we only used it as a temporary measure until we were able to right our ship and no longer needed assistance.  There was a refusal in my household to staying linked to a system when able bodied family members could go out and get a job, even if one had to create their own.  The problem then, as it is today, was that too many families viewed welfare as a way of life.  There appeared to be a lack of desire or motivation to move from assistance to self sufficiency.  All too often I watched as this mind set was passed down from parent to child.  Over time you had whole communities who learned to survive this way.  As a child I never understood that way of thinking.  As an adult, I have a better understanding of the psychological underpinnings of why the way things are. I just could not come to grips with accepting this as a way of life.  It’s this dependency that I want to see eradicated from communities like mine.

Many are up in arms about the legislation winding it’s way to Governor Snyder’s desk.  Political and community leaders are banging the drums to derail this effort.  I must admit that on this issue I root against them as I personally believe four years is enough time to turn things around and head down the road of independence.  Would it be easy, not necessarily. Would it be worth it, yes.  Having said that, I don’t believe that families should be forced off assistance without making sure they have the tools needed i.e. education, job training, addressing child care, transportation, etc. to be successful.  Those applying for aid would have to understand that gone are the days of welfare being a way of life.

I know that there will be special circumstances such as unfavorable economic conditions, children with special needs, physical/mental challenges, etc. that will have to be addressed.  There must be a plan to deal with that.  Welfare should always be there for those of in society who need it.  I just believe that when one signs on for assistance they do so with the understanding that the clock is ticking.  I hope that it prompts them to put in place the type of mind set that does not breed a lifetime of dependency.  I want to see them walk away from welfare to successfully contribute to society.  I for one will be pulling for them to remove the chains of dependency.

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