Now, I'm not here to say that I know who to blame, I'm sure there is a lot to go around (especially in Washington). But I would like to share my point of view when I hear the blame being put on everyone who's "draining" the government by using government assistance.
It seems to me that everyone likes to lay as much blame as possible at the feet of the lazy poor. Those who are able to work, but don't. Those who are working just barely and then taking as much government assistance as they can.
Let me try to share my story so maybe someone will see just how offensive this is. Especially in light of the CEO's and high ranking company officials, especially at banks, who get millions in "bonuses" at the same time as their companies are taking massive government bailouts.
We are teachers.We chose this profession because we felt called to it. We knew going in that it would NEVER make us rich. We don't do it for the money. And that right there seems to be the key to teachers. If we did it for the money everyone would say we were awful and evil. Yet, many many teachers consider changing professions and many of them work second jobs in the summer or weekends just.to.make.ends.meet. I don't know any doctors or lawyers or any other highly trained professionals who have to take extra jobs just to get by while working in their main profession. And would you like teachers to teach the next generation who are only there for the money and don't really care about the students? (not to mention that we are required by law to have continuing education degrees on our own dime to even keep our job - I can't think of any other industry that requires that without paying for it, or at least subsidizing it)
I saw a political cartoon the other day that so perfectly makes my point. Reporters and politicians storming into a classroom asking a teacher what she was doing wrong when on the front of every desk in the room were the situations of her students. Teenage parent, abused child, had no breakfast, bullied, etc. And we wonder why teachers have a hard time teaching students who are not fully present in the classroom? We do it because we truly care about these students and we want them to succeed not just academically, but as a whole person. It is a calling and no amount of money can make it different. But it would be nice to have enough to live on.
Right now, I am a stay at home mother. I have four small children, only one of whom is just this year school age. Even with one child in daycare full time it would be half of a teacher's salary. When we only had one child we could get by on only my husband's salary. So I stayed home. When we had two children it became a stretch. Having four means that if I were to work full time I would be spending more on child care than I would take home every month. How does that work in any economy?
So, I stay home for now, and we tighten our belts as much as we can. It's funny because every time I see one of those articles about "10 Quick Ways to Save Each Month" I click because I wonder if there's something I'm missing. But every single thing on those lists we already do. We don't drink coffee, and maybe once a month get a "fancy" drink from a coffee stand. We have one cell phone (and not a smart one) between the two of us. We don't have cable, we have Netflix that costs us $8.50 a month and the kids watch it for an hour a day so I can get a shower. We don't eat out. Last week we went out for ice cream. That's the extent of what we can afford. We don't have date nights or go to movies because we can't afford that, let alone a babysitter (yes, Mom, we totally appreciate you watching the boys so we can have a break!)
We live out in a "poor" area in a small house because our parents' paid the down payment for us. Now our mortgage is the same as the rent was on our 2 bedroom apartment. If they hadn't done it we'd still have 4 kids in a teeny tiny 2 bedroom apartment. But our house is enough and I'm not complaining about it.
All of these things are choices we have made.
However, every time I hear someone talking about the way people on government assistance are lazy it makes my blood boil.
When is it enough? When am I being frugal enough to qualify for government assistance? If I let you come over and scrutinize my finances with a fine tooth comb would you still think there were things I wasn't doing well enough? Where is the line that says even if you are poor you still deserve the dignity of being treated as a real human being instead of a leech on society?
Would you say that we are unworthy because we spend more on food than you deem necessary? Never mind that we need to eat gluten free, which is very expensive. Never mind that I don't buy highly processed chemical filled sugary substitutes for food that actually cost less than real whole food. Never mind that I basically cook my family a healthy meal from scratch every night. And yes, we do eat rice and beans too.
What about the body products that I use? Are those too expensive because I refuse to put petroleum based chemicals that have proven to cause cancer in lab animals on my children? Because I probably still spend less in a month than most people do on personal care products.
Where is the line?Is it okay for you to make me feel like a worthless stupid mother because I get WIC checks? To threaten me when I have a different opinion on how to care for my children? Is it okay for you to treat me like I couldn't possibly know anything just because my children get some state medical insurance? Does the fact that I am poor mean my college education was a waste and I couldn't possibly have learned anything since I am not a contributing member of society (and here contributing only seems to mean making money)?
I have faced each of these scenarios multiple times. I am by nature, not a confrontational person so usually I say as little as necessary to get my point across (because I will NOT back down when it comes to my children) and walk away. But just because I don't react doesn't mean it doesn't still hurt.
I am hurt.I am hurt every time someone makes a blanket statement about how anyone on welfare is lazy. How we are "gaming" the system by taking every advantage we possibly can - implying that it is at their expense. Last time I checked we all benefit from some form of government services.
I am hurt when it is implied that you MUST take a second job before you dare take any form of assistance, never mind the hurt that it would cause to your family, effectively making you a one parent household at all times. How does this improve the stability of the family and the future of our country?
We are poor by profession.There is very little we can do to change this (no merit based raises for teachers) except to simply change our profession. Maybe some would say that's what you should do, but when is the almighty dollar the end goal of life? Our life as we live it is not bad. We have food, shelter, friends, and family. We don't need much assistance to get by and have actually turned down some that we qualify for. We love teaching and don't want to change professions and lose the chance to help our students.
Is it too much to ask you to respect our choices and refrain from being mean and judgmental without knowing the whole story?