This evening, as I was trying to distract myself from the mundaneness of folding laundry and prepping dinner, I ran into some Facebook drama. I don’t think any of us intends to get into trouble on Facebook, it just happens. Tonight, in the sea of emotions—errr—comments, I felt like I had to represent the facts and of course the topic had to be public aid.
My first thought was, in a country that is supposed to stand for freedom, opportunity, and security for all, why would a human being want to see another human being starve? Why? I am very familiar with the SNAP program (food stamps). It runs at 98 percent efficiency. That means there is nearly no waste, no fraud, and almost total accountability. It is one of the most efficient government programs there is. And that level of efficiency tells us all one thing: The people using the program all need the program because they all qualify for the program. Think about that for a moment.
One of the most noticeable things about the comments I encountered in that Facebook exchange was that people felt that anyone using a form of public aid was using their money. I found it interesting, from a sociological perspective, how possessive these people were of tax dollars that go into the general coffers when used towards social programs such as SNAP, Social Security, Medicare, etc. When referring to those programs I started reading things like: "I don't want MY MONEY..." even though all money goes into one giant funnel. Personally, I don't like working to support what I think are illegal wars that cost an estimated six trillion dollars. I would much rather pay taxes for healthcare and college or trade school for every one of my fellow citizens, but somehow public sentiment has changed to the point where that has a negative connotation, which flies in the face of the very foundation our Founding Fathers established for this country.
"All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it."
~ Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, American diplomat, statesman, and scientist; letter to Robert Morris, December 25, 1783
Something we should all consider is that a significant portion of people working full-time for Wal-Mart—the largest private employer in our country—don't make enough money to afford today's cost of living and actually qualify for food stamps. In fact, Wal-Mart is the largest food stamp "recipient" for this reason. Now why would Wal-Mart ever pay employees more money if they can get away with paying them less and get taxpayers like us to pay the difference? What is the incentive? We need to stop blaming hard working folks and stop fighting each other and start fighting the privileged few who are greedy and choose to keep some Americans impoverished for their personal gain.
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.”
~ John Adams, Founding Father and 2nd President; Thoughts on Government, 1776
I think the animosity is really misdirected here. Instead of being concerned about private citizens utilizing a social program with a 98 percent efficiency rate that provides up to a few hundred bucks a month in food benefits and TANF cash assistance (which means they need those benefits, remember), why aren't we outraged at companies like GE, who in 2011 earned a 14 billion dollar profit worldwide, 5 billion dollars of which came from the U.S., paid zero taxes on that 5 billion profit and had the audacity to claim a tax benefit of 3.2 billion dollars?
You know who else had billions of dollars in profits on their books and paid zero dollars to help cover the cost of the infrastructure and resources that allowed them to make those kinds of profits? Bank of America—the same company that engaged in predatory lending and intentionally put our neighbors into bad loans. BOA actually claimed a tax benefit of 1 billion dollars in 2010!
But wait, there's more. BP, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil received 2 billion dollars in subsidies in 2011, yet yielded lower oil production than in 2010, and still the five companies combined earned a record high $137 billion profit. That is 75 percent more than 2010. Did they really need the $2 billion in subsidies the way hungry people need food on their tables and roofs over their heads? NO! Of course NOT! Do any of us truly believe that any of our fellow neighbors, family, and friends in America on public aid are living the proverbial good life? I can assure you these citizens who are recipients of aid such as housing assistance, especially in urban areas like Chicago where I am from, are not living on Easy Street.
In case you haven't seen the news lately, parts of the southside and the westside of Chicago are war zones. Children are getting shot and dying every single day. Kids cannot go outside and play. Kids cannot safely walk to school. These are families just like yours and mine and no one deserves to live like this. And I am willing to bet no one wants to live like this.
Yet these are the people who we are are outraged at? The parents just trying to get by? The parents just trying to make ends meet, keep a roof over their kids' heads, some food on the table? Why aren't we outraged at the big oil companies who got a $2 billion dollar handout from our government and then made record profits while keeping prices at the pump at a record high and oil production lower than the previous year? Where is the public outcry? Individual recipients of these program benefits are held accountable for receiving them by virtue of the fact that they have to continually prove to the government that they are actually qualified for them. What proof do oil companies provide to "prove eligibility"? None, of course—they just get them because they've lobbied congress to give them that money ... as a gift.
And this is the problem when we put ideology above actual human beings. Not only does our entire country and its economy suffer, but we suffer as individuals when we're manipulated into putting the interests of corporations above the dire needs of our fellow man.
Isn’t America supposed to be the land of opportunity for all? I submit that it is not the everyday Americans who are receiving a few hundred dollars a month as a lifeline who should be scapegoated, but those corporate welfare kings. That is who needs to be admonished. Corporate greed, not our fellow citizens, is ravaging and destroying our country.
There are some secrets about America, the land of freedom, that the people in charge don’t want you to know. I’m going to tell you because I was inspired tonight and I believe we have an opportunity to make America better. First, our freedom of the press is a fallacy. We do not have the freest press. We were ranked 47th in the world for a free press in 2012! Niger, a country in Africa—a dictatorship no less—is ranked 29th.
For as hard as we work, we are the only industrialized country without mandated, paid vacation time. For as much as we preach family values we do not have any required paid maternity leave for women and children. All other industrialized countries have mandated paid maternity leave. Even Pakistan requires women receive 12 paid weeks off after giving birth. Pakistan.
Health facilities in Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and even parts of Singapore and Thailand are better than ours. Businesses and taxes pay for healthcare there so no one worries about how they're going to afford to see a doctor when they get sick. In fact, even Mexico has public healthcare for all. It is written into their Constitution.
Long wait lists for care in those countries are a myth. We do not have the best healthcare in the world, although we pay almost the highest amount per capita for what we get. Furthermore, the United States is ranked 174th out of 222 for infant mortality—Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea are just a few countries with better rates than the U.S. The average lifespan for Americans is 78.49 years. Forty-nine other countries have a longer lifespan, some of which include Greece, Malta, Singapore, Jordan, South Korea, and Bosnia. America is rated the top for something, but it doesn't exactly bring bragging rights—the U.S. is ranked 1st in the world for obesity.
Finland has the best education system in the world. We aren't even close. The university system in almost all other countries is free, otherwise heavily subsidized (and used to be here, too). Our Founding Fathers would be appalled at the state of our education system and attacks against it today. America ranks number 11 of best countries to live in—that means we are not even in the top 10! For the record, Finland is rated the best country to live in. Yet of all these countries we are in the worst debt and have the highest unemployment rate (to be fair Germany is close and only 2 percent behind us but they have a much more stable economy).
I'm not "bashing" America and I am not one of the so-called "hate America first" people. I love our country. And it is because of how much I love this country that I'm saying we can DO BETTER and we all DESERVE better! We need to end the division. We need to come together and unite as neighbors, as friends, as families. There should not be a debate about "personal responsibility." There should be a discussion about our government improving the quality of life for the citizens of the nation it serves like the rest of the industrialized world because we do not deserve any less. I want our beautiful country, this land of freedom, of opportunity and security for all, to be what our founding fathers intended, and to be the best she can be.
You know what else we need to realize? Government Is 'Us'! »