welfareThis blog post was inspired by two of my dear friends. They are infuriating and disagree with me on everything but I love them. One of them forwarded me a story about a woman who makes her living by having babies. She has the baby, tells the state she can’t take care of them, the grandma steps in to foster, and the state gives her money every month to raise them. Repeat! In other words, she is taking advantage of the system. My friends blame people like me (liberals) for allowing this to happen. Situations like this make them angry. What they don’t realize is that stories like this make liberals angry too! This is not what anyone wants. We just have very different ideas of how to fix the problem. By the way, I am no expert. I am just someone who seems to have a ton of opinions. Here is what I believe we need:

1. Regulation/Reform

2. Education (academics)

3. Education (behavioral)

4. Social Programs

5. High paying jobs

Regulation: I think we can all agree that these services should be regulated a little better (okay, a lot better). We need safety nets, but they shouldn’t be permanent regardless of behavior. One example is, after you are ‘in the system’ for having a child you cannot support on your own, the benefits should decrease dramatically for subsequent off-spring. This will prevent the people who have 8 babies all with public aide. (This may already exist by the way. I am NOT an expert). But, along with these rules, we need support to the women. If this happens without education, there is no point (see below). We need to get rid of the loop holes that allow people to work for 2 months a year so that they can collect unemployment the other 10 months. The catch- this costs money to do properly. And it’s the kind of money republicans hate the most- Up front money. We need to invest more money into these programs on the front end to save us money on the back end.

Education (academics): The best way to keep women from getting pregnant too early and falling into the system is education! The more likely a girl is to graduate highschool, college, trade school, etc, the less likely she is to get pregnant. We have to identify our high risk individuals and INVEST in them. Are schools are failing them, the parents are failing them, and we expect them to some how pull themselves up by their boot straps and make something of themselves. I agree as much as anyone that the parents have accountability here, but the parents themselves aren’t educated and don’t know what to do, aren’t able to, don’t speak english, or sadly don’t care. We need to break this cycle before these kids have babies and start the process all over again. “Invest and grow”. If we (tax payers) don’t invest in prevention/education, we pay with public aide down the road. Bad schools, bad neighborhoods, affect everyone! Educating women changes communities, changes generations. Educated women have fewer babies, they have babies older, and they can typically pay for them.

Education (behavioral): What I mean by this is sex ed, education on contraception, and education on sexual assault/date rape/rape/incest. Many of these women in the system are having their first babies after some type of assault. These crimes go un-reported, un-punished, and even un-realized. The women have a lot of shame and have no support system. Or, they falsely believe that a baby will make everything better. If you are sitting there judging these women or not believing me when I say that they don’t know any better, you need to talk to some of the social workers that work with these women. There are so many sad stories that never get told. If you grow up without a loving parent, and everything you were exposed to was negative, violent, and insecure, where do you expect them to learn other wise?

Social Programs: This has almost become a dirty word in politics. So has planned parenthood. When I think about the problem of too many children in the system, the logical answer that pops into my head is- let’s have less children. The more pregnancies we can prevent the better. If we, as a country, can increase the average age of a woman getting pregnant with her first baby, we can save billions of dollars (not just with welfare, but health care). Planned Parenthood does this. They provide contraception and education as well as pre-natal and general wellness care (also saves us money). If we keep cut pre-natal care, we have more expensive emergency deliveries that no one can pay for and expensive special needs children that will be in the system. Again, back to money on the front end, saves money on the back end. $1 in prevention, saves $3 in treatment. Fact.

Higher Paying Jobs: This is a big one! If under-educated individuals could actually get jobs that paid a decent wage and got insurance from their employers, maybe they would be more inclined to work. It gets pretty discouraging when you can’t earn enough to support your family because you earn minimum wage. And, sadly, it’s getting worse. Companies are cutting hours to avoid having give their employees health care. (Actually, companies have been doing this for years, now they can conveniently blame Obama care.) What do you think happens now? The employees have to supplement with public aide. Wal-Mart is one of the biggest contributors to this problem. They don’t pay their employees enough money, or give them enough hours to earn benefits, so they qualify for aide. Meanwhile, what happens to the CEO? When you have a business, you have a responsibility to your employees. All this fuss with Papa Johns and claiming they can’t afford insurance for their employees? I get that the individual shop owners aren’t rich like ‘the papa’ but there are other options besides lay offs. 1. Their corporate office could allow for a .5% decrease from the franchise owners, or 2. They could charge 10 cents more per pizza! I’m fine with paying 10 more cents if it means that people can support their families because now they have insurance. If we pay people more money, less of them are getting ‘free’  money.

If a woman can make more money having babies than she can make working for a living, something is wrong with our system. I think we can all agree on that. I am open to any and all suggestions, but I really don’t think blind cuts are the answer.

By the way, if you are wondering how much federal welfare spending goes to the ‘non-working’ poor, it’s about 10%. I bet you thought it was more.