Friday, June 29, 2012

Standing up for What's Right Vis a Vis Welfare Abuse

I almost put the words "welfare fraud" into the title of this post, but I didn't.  I don't like opening cans of worms, you see.  Plus, technically it's not true.  To be completely fair, technically it's not welfare abuse either, but I guess this is where my bias becomes clear ;-)

Last week, New Hampshire media started reporting the story about a store clerk who refused to let a customer buy cigarettes with his welfare card (they're called "EBT Cards" here in New Hampshire, but I know that's not universal, so I'm calling them welfare cards).  

I guess the point was made that he could just walk over to the ATM, withdraw cash with his welfare card, and buy cigarettes with that.  He didn't think that was fair or right.  Anyway, the media got wind, so now it's out there.  

But interestingly, no one really wants to talk about it.  

So I figured I'd bring it up here, share my thoughts, and find out what you, my brilliant readers, think.

Oh, and for any non-American readers, a welfare card is basically set up to mirror a credit card so recipients don't have to count out food stamps (and cashiers don't have to count them ... or something). If you have an EBT card and you get a "food stamp" allotment, you can only buy "food items" with that money (which, by the way, does include soda, candy, lobster, and filet mignon).  If you receive financial assistance (which is usually tied to either having minor children at home or some sort of disability), you can use that money however you want.

Okay, I understand that people need assistance.  I have absolutely no problem with my taxes going toward families that are unable to find work for a short time.  There are people, lots of people, that receive welfare assistance for a period of time while they're finishing school or trying to find a job or overcome an illness or whatever, and I am totally okay with that.  

What drives me crazy is that those are in the minority.  A huge percentage of people that receive welfare benefits have figured out how to beat the system (continuing to have children so your benefits don't end even when you're then trying to raise nine kids, for example, or my personal nomination for the hall of shame, one of my former friends--he had a shitty little food stand, and he bought the food and drinks he sold with food stamps because he could make five or six times what the state had given him to keep his children fed, and turn it into cash...that is utterly deplorable, in my opinion).  

But back to the cigarette situation.  

I want to go shake that cashier's hand.  Seriously, if someone needs money to survive on, cigarettes should not be included in that package.  It is like flipping off the system that has kindly given you money, and furthermore it's adding to the increasing likelihood that this guy will end up with some long-term medical condition that will entitle him to stay on assistance forever.  

It really burns me up.

With that being said, though, technically the cashier was in the wrong.  I mean, it's not up to any of us that work long hours and sacrifice much so that some guy can go buy a pack of butts with money that he didn't earn.  

A besides, if the scrub can then just go to the ATM and take out the equivalent cash, the problem still exists.

So while I think it is so cool that the cashier stuck to her moral guns, we're dealing with a system that is not set up to be judged by the morals of others.  And so she was wrong in the sense that, Constitutionally speaking, the guy has the right to buy cigarettes with money that the State of New Hampshire opined was necessary to his (or, God forbid, his children's) survival.

But it still sucks.

Considering where I fall on the political spectrum, my vehement distaste for the welfare system and the need for it to be overhauled sooner rather than later is pretty funny for people that know me well.  In fact, when it comes up in conversations and I go all, "Welfare recipients should have to be drug-tested every week ... there should be required to have hysterectomies after six consecutive kids ... they should have to provide evidence on a weekly basis that they are legitimately seeking employment ... they should NOT be allowed to buy tobacco or alcohol (or lobster)", my friends nearly pee themselves.     

The problem is, this whole mess brings up the question of, "Who decides morality?"  And the answer is ... well, it's not really the government's business to say what is right or wrong in terms of morals.  And if I want to say that same sex marriage should be legal because who the hell am I to judge or that women should be able to choose whether or not to have an abortion because it's none of my business and so on, then I certainly don't have the right to get all bent out of shape over some dude scamming the system over a pack of butts.

Yet I find that I am, and I am incredibly proud of Jackie Whiton, a woman I have never met and probably never will as she was fired for her refusal to allow the loser to buy cigarettes with state-given money.

His response to the whole situation was, as stated to the media, "Clearly I was in the right, because she was fired" after he called the store's company and complained that he'd been discriminated against.  He then went on to say--and yes, I am serious--"I barely qualify for it, and for me to use the few dollars I get on cigarettes, that's considered a treat."

A treat.  

So, yeah, enjoy your treat, buddy.  I'll continue to work my butt off and eschew any treats so I can save up any remaining money after paying the monthly bills so that my daughter won't be buried in student loans when she graduates from college.  

Sounds like you're perfectly happy to sit around collecting, and since the government continues to entitle that mentality, go for it.  I'm sure a self-aggrandizing twit like you doesn't care about the impact your smug little actions might have for people that use the welfare system legitimately.