I am strongly for personal responsibility. To be able to figure out how to fix your own problems and take care of your own needs is how I was raised.
We brag about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps as a nation. Most of us are blessed enough to have bootstraps to pull on when times are tough.
But as a nation we have also prided ourselves with our generosity to those who are not as fortunate as us. We have always strove to make sure we were not a country that was built on a caste system. That is why we implemented Social Security, Medicare and the public works projects back during the Depression era.
The country also has put in place a system designed to help the poor. As part of that there is Medicaid, Aid to Families with Dependent children, Food stamps and a variety of work training programs.
Many of us either know someone or who have heard of someone who seems to be milking that system and living high on the tax payers dole. In reality most struggle to get by, try to climb out but end up trapped by the way our system is designed to penalize the poor.
Lately we act like we need those who are struggling to wear a big scarlet "D" so we can identify them and make sure they are not living better that we are. This attitude lumps those who are desperately trying to get out of poverty with the small few who have found a way to settle in and use the system.
I was there once after a divorce that left me with a mountain of debt, two small children to raise and nothing more than a high school diploma and four years in the Navy to try and get a good job with. Because I had done well in school and had the military experience I was ahead of many as I searched the job market for something that would make ends meet.
Yet job after job I was given just more than minimum wages and a promise that something might develop to work into a higher paid position. That never happened. With exceptional budgeting, I could get everythingpaid. But I drove many beater car that didn't understand my budgeting system and repeatedly I was trying to deal with costly repairs or find something else to drive.
My car insurance rate was very high because of my credit rating, not because of my driving record. My cars got very low mileage and I bought oil by the case.
Yes I did get some school fees waives, but school supplies, especially as the kids hit junior high and above, were still there.
As hard as I tried to get everything paid on time, I ended up late on some bills when money was diverted to handle another crisis. Then you had to come up with more money to pay late fees and penalties.
Lucky for me is that I had the understanding about avoiding payday loans and rent to own places that prey on the poor. I had some great friends who were there at some critical times to give my a boost or a loan or buy groceries in some of my lowest moments. I was given many pairs of boots to help me along the way.
I was also the beneficiary of the Vocational Rehabilitation program that helped pay for me to go back and earn a degree. It was another bootstrap that I didn't have to start with.
With that help I was finally able to erase the mountain of debt and begin to give back to our society as I pay taxes and volunteer.
I was luckier than many to have more to start with, but my desire to improve my lot in life is definitely not the exception. I was close friends with many single moms trying to get out of the poverty cycle and they all were just as determined, but some had less to work with from the beginning and didn't make it.
Our "welfare" system may still need reforming, but we need to do it in a way to make it possible for it to be a temporary solution to a lifetime. As a nation we need to remember our commitment to human rights and dignity right here in our own back yard.