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WELFARE September 3, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment, US Politics.

Admission: I am the recipient of social welfare. I live in reasonably peaceable society. I have access to medical assistance. The roads are reasonably safe.  The food I eat and the water I drink is reliable. I have confidence in the fairness and integrity of the justice system. I have confidence in my neighbours.  The list goes on.

My self-sufficiency or lack of it, did not contribute to these features of my life that I take for granted, yet they are and were created and maintained by others. I did not build any of it. We are all socially formed and dependent, equally as billionaires and no-hopers.  I am not denying that the survivalists do not have a point, but I think we would be better to look to local and social resources. I do not deny the uniqueness of each individual, but rather that is expressed as part of the richness of human society.

The idea of welfare, particularly in the United States, but we follow the fads, has taken on the propaganda of “bludger” or sponger. In the American context it specifies a racial profile.  The “welfare queen” was to be imagined as a stereotype, and as the other to the intended voters. In retrospect the noble Ronald Reagan, whose hologram was sadly missed from the RNC in Tampa, used the social networks he had developed, as those that can do, with government agencies.

The Huffington Post had “Melissa Harris-Perry Erupts at Guest”. I don’t see this way. I thought she was fantastic. She spoke eloquently and truly:

Financial expert Monica Mehta, who was a guest on Harris-Perry’s show, interjected that class mobility is “enabled by taking risk.”

Harris-Perry immediately interrupted her and demanded, “What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously?” After slamming her hand on the table, she continued:

What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t. I’m sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No, there’s a huge safety net, that whenever you fail, we’ll catch you, and catch you, and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people and when we won’t because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness. We cannot do that.

As often happens there was cross purposes in this discussion. The risk is less if the person has means and is well prepared. Some risks are to be avoided, and some risky behavior positively dangerous.

Here is Melissa Harris-Perry speaking at a Wellesley College commencement:


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