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Unread 09-15-2014, 01:35 AM   #1
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Welfare

I'm not sure how to phrase my question, so hopefully my point gets understood.

My wife and I are currently living below the poverty line. We are both enrolled in a university and working part time jobs. We have been living by extremely modest standards, but in no way do I feel as though we are uncomfortable.

My wife has been considering various state or federal assistance programs.

Am I foolish or arrogant for being against such a move? I've always considered assistance programs to be for those that are truly in need, and, quite frankly, after living on borderline ZERO funds on the missions field, don't feel like we are really that bad off in our current situation. I know a few families that are "better off" than we are financially (though budgeting is a whole 'nother issue) that are on various forms of assistance. Though I don't necessarily look down on them for it, I am always scrutinizing their spending habits and considering how they could make it without assistance.

Sorry for the lack of details and borderline offensive comments towards government financial assistance recipients.

Some advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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Unread 09-15-2014, 05:28 AM   #2
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Just think of it as a loan on the taxes you will pay later when you are earning more.
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Unread 09-15-2014, 07:54 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Almost Enough View Post
Am I foolish or arrogant for being against such a move? I've always considered assistance programs to be for those that are truly in need, and, quite frankly, after living on borderline ZERO funds on the missions field, don't feel like we are really that bad off in our current situation. I know a few families that are "better off" than we are financially (though budgeting is a whole 'nother issue) that are on various forms of assistance. Though I don't necessarily look down on them for it, I am always scrutinizing their spending habits and considering how they could make it without assistance.
It's not pride or foolishness unless you're being prideful or foolish about it. If you truly won't receive help when your family is freezing and starving because of pride, or if you're clueless to your actual level of poverty and lack of comfort, that's a problem.

But given the other things you've said, that doesn't seem to be the case. The mission field tends to be a place which shows people just how privileged they really are. So if you're not starving, you have reasonable climate control and health, it doesn't sound like pride or foolishness.


For me, I would have a very hard time accepting government assistance if I didn't perceive of myself as having a true need. On a principled level I believe these programs are to meet NEEDS not help with WANTS. The pool of money comes from either taxes or borrowed government money. I would have a big problem knowing other peoples money was being taken from them so I could just be a bit more comfortable.

Anything which feels less like meeting needs and more like redistributing wealth, I have personal issues with. I would feel like someone who was abusing a broken system which needs to be reformed.


Quote:
Sorry for the lack of details and borderline offensive comments towards government financial assistance recipients.
[rant]
I don't think your comments are offensive, just frank. The fact of the matter is there are hard working people that need help at times, and there are lazy people who milk a broken system. And there's all kinds of things in the middle.

I'm personally fairly cyclical about many of these programs because I've seen so much abuse. Whether hearing stories from my church, seeing the poverty on the Navajo nation, or even in my own neighborhood, I keep seeing the same theme: People need help to meet their needs, because they spend their money on wants. This is not everyone. I have no idea what percentage it is, but it's far too common.

A couple in our church are on food stamps and assistance, but they bought a Playstation 4 the first month it came out. On the Navajo Nation I worked at a house which was falling apart, and saw the family go to the food pantry for food, but they had a 70 inch HD TV (and it was literally the 2nd largest TV I had ever seen in a home) in their living room. 40% of the households in my neighborhood are labelled food insecure homes by the school district (I helped start a program which sends kids home with a backpack filled with food for the weekend). But if you drive through my neighborhood you will see countless Dodge Chargers, Texas-size trucks, satellite dishes, and other luxuries.


There are people who have needs because they are in need, and there are people who are in need because they use their money on wants. It's very frustrating as someone who wants to help meet needs, but doesn't want to enable selfishness. [/rant]
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Unread 09-15-2014, 08:42 AM   #4
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A couple in our church are on food stamps and assistance, but they bought a Playstation 4 the first month it came out. On the Navajo Nation I worked at a house which was falling apart, and saw the family go to the food pantry for food, but they had a 70 inch HD TV (and it was literally the 2nd largest TV I had ever seen in a home) in their living room. 40% of the households in my neighborhood are labelled food insecure homes by the school district (I helped start a program which sends kids home with a backpack filled with food for the weekend). But if you drive through my neighborhood you will see countless Dodge Chargers, Texas-size trucks, satellite dishes, and other luxuries.
I don't want to derail this thread... but there are unfathomable amounts of money being spent to convince the American (and worldwide) public that Playstations, TVs, massive trucks, and satellite dishes are things you are just supposed to have as a citizen of the 21st century. And in America especially, conspicuous consumption makes almost any amount of wealth less than being a multi-millionaire seem like poverty by comparison.

I recognize, intellectually, that by global standards I am fabulously wealthy and that even by American standards, I'm doing pretty well, but it certainly doesn't it feel like it when I have to decide whether or not I can afford something which is presented as normal in American society, like going out to eat or buying a smartphone.

I don't blame people for feeling like "everyone else seems to have this, why can't I?" Because I feel that way myself sometimes, and the only government assistance I've received is some tuition assistance years ago when I was in school.

Think about it this way, if you are a responsible spender and likely to earn more later in life than you earn now, there is no one the government would rather give money to. You are quite literally a high ROI investment for the government.

Finally, this idea of I'm-going-to-do-it-myself is, I think, a particularly American way of viewing things. I don't think people try to find ways to pay for their health care in the UK because they don't want to draw from public resources. These programs were set up by popular vote (sometimes indirectly for sure) for exactly this purpose, to help people with low incomes. I don't see any reason to feel guilty for accepting help that your fellow citizens voted for specifically to help.
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Unread 09-15-2014, 08:59 AM   #5
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I think it's really a conscience call. On the one hand, if you can make life work without it, then kudos.

On the other hand, the money is there and you qualify, so you really aren't abusing the system. Being able to function below the poverty line doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't get assistance if available, even if all you're doing with it is saving whatever extra money you get or saving whatever expenditure that food stamps would create.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 12:04 AM   #6
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Just think of it as a loan on the taxes you will pay later when you are earning more.
I honestly have never thought about it this way. You've kind of brought the whole philosophy behind financial aide into a new light for me. Lots of stuff to think about.

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I think it's really a conscience call. On the one hand, if you can make life work without it, then kudos.

On the other hand, the money is there and you qualify, so you really aren't abusing the system. Being able to function below the poverty line doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't get assistance if available, even if all you're doing with it is saving whatever extra money you get or saving whatever expenditure that food stamps would create.
This is how I've always considered it, but bobthecockroach's response has brought up some ideas I've never really considered.

We are weighing our options, currently, but not too seriously yet. We have about one more year of school, and I feel like we are 90% on track to being flat broke (in the good way...no unhealthy debt) minus our school loans. That said, if history repeats itself, the second I pay off the last of my unhealthy debts I will either need to replace an engine or a transmission on a vehicle, or we will have some major medical emergency (and we do not have health insurance). THIS is the main reason why I am weighing the options. I feel that it would be foolish of me to allow my wife to be hurt in any sort of way because I was too prideful to accept assistance that I qualified for.

Does anybody who is actually on some sort of federal aide want to chime in?
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Unread 09-16-2014, 02:03 AM   #7
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i'm not on federal aid anymore, but i was on foodstamps when i was an americorps volunteer.

my grandfather grew up in a shack (literally. i'm not kidding.) in the woods in southwest missouri. his teacher would take him and his brothers home for lunch because chances were that was the only real food they'd get that day. half the time they didn't even have shoes, which i didn't know until after he passed, and his teacher (who lived to be 102) started reliving her younger years and crying over roy's lack of shoes. he was dirt poor, and dropped out of high school to work and support his family. my mom's life started out in extreme poverty as well. my grandparents both worked multiple jobs and my mom grew up in a trailer in the woods without running water or electricity. through all of that, my grandfather refused to take a penny of assistance. through hard work and perseverance, he and my grandma slowly were able to pull themselves up out of poverty, and by the time i was born were extremely comfortable middle-class americans themselves.

so, with that background in mind, my dad flipped when he found out i was going to accept foodstamps. it was part of my americorps benefits/compensation, and honestly, i wouldn't have been able to get by without it. they gave us just enough to pay for housing and utilities, and i had student loans to cover, and a car payment which i had to get a second job to pay for, and there is no way i would have also been able to pay for groceries without assistance.

to be honest, coming from the background i do, with both parents raised in poverty by parents who were raised in poverty, who then worked their way up into solid middle class america, there was a lot of opposition to accepting aid. i felt weird, and i felt judged when i used my EBT card at the grocery store. however, i got used to it, and the whole idea behind it is that you truly experience what it is like to live below the poverty line. it could be a very enlightening experience for you in terms of living with government assistance in the states. there IS a lot of entitlement that goes on, and walking into that HHS office to pick up my EBT card was the single most uncomfortable moment of my life. but it stretched me and grew me.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 06:10 AM   #8
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I have been on financial assistance before. My children received health coverage and we received monthly food benefits.

I worked 50 hours a week at the time and my wife was a full time college student. We were trying to live off $21,000 (before taxes) a year and were not able to do do. We didn't have internet or cable TV or cell phones. We were both driving vehicles that were at least ten years old (still do).

We had no problem accepting it. We also had no problem letting go of it when we got better jobs and our situation changed.

Now...our kids still qualify for reduced lunches at school and I have no problem with it. We both work and we live modestly (for the most part). I don't feel we are taking advantage of or abusing system. I always thought that was who this system was for: folks who are busting their butts and still having difficulties.

But...that's just my take.

Everything said in this thread thus far has been reasonable.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 08:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
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We are weighing our options, currently, but not too seriously yet. We have about one more year of school, and I feel like we are 90% on track to being flat broke (in the good way...no unhealthy debt) minus our school loans. That said, if history repeats itself, the second I pay off the last of my unhealthy debts I will either need to replace an engine or a transmission on a vehicle, or we will have some major medical emergency (and we do not have health insurance). THIS is the main reason why I am weighing the options. I feel that it would be foolish of me to allow my wife to be hurt in any sort of way because I was too prideful to accept assistance that I qualified for.
I think this is a key difference. This isn't about increasing your standard of living. This is about protecting your family from catastrophe. That is a good use for these programs.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 11:07 AM   #10
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Think about it this way, if you are a responsible spender and likely to earn more later in life than you earn now, there is no one the government would rather give money to. You are quite literally a high ROI investment for the government.
I heard an interesting interview with J.K. Rowling where she talked about this. She was on welfare benefits when she first wrote Harry Potter, and one of the primary reasons she's chosen to continue living in the UK (when she could easily have relocated to a country with a lighter tax burden) is that she feels indebted to the British government for helping to sustain her during that time.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 03:00 PM   #11
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This may be a tangent but I would wonder, why not take the money even if you don't need it (I'm not talking about fraud)? Would the government do better with it than you?
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Unread 09-16-2014, 03:17 PM   #12
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This may be a tangent but I would wonder, why not take the money even if you don't need it (I'm not talking about fraud)? Would the government do better with it than you?
I've always viewed it as I would a company or a product. If I don't support how it is made/managed/practiced, I don't take part in it. Again, I'm currently reconsidering my whole outlook on the matter just for these reasons that have been brought up.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 03:34 PM   #13
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I've always viewed it as I would a company or a product. If I don't support how it is made/managed/practiced, I don't take part in it. Again, I'm currently reconsidering my whole outlook on the matter just for these reasons that have been brought up.
The way I look at it is that the government gives away money all the time for all sorts of things. If you meet the criteria and think you could use the money, seems like a good deal. Being in abject poverty is not a criterion—either in a technical sense or a moral sense (so far as I can tell).

Anyway, I wouldn't advise you to violate your conscience. But I reckon you all will get some welcome relief if you took government assistance.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 08:18 PM   #14
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I pay a lot in taxes. A lot. I don't really mind, as long as the money is going to people who need it and are trying to put themselves in a better position financially so they don't have to be on assistance forever. If you need it, take it. That's what it's there for.
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Unread 09-16-2014, 09:07 PM   #15
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This may be a tangent but I would wonder, why not take the money even if you don't need it (I'm not talking about fraud)? Would the government do better with it than you?
I'm not exactly pro-welfare in just about any way, but I think this is a good point. If your able to manage a small amount of money so well that you don't quite need anymore, your probably a good manager of it. You will use it more efficiently than the government will.
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