A girl named Maria
Maria Gonzales, last that I heard, lives in Los Angeles. She
is a real person, a young woman in her early twenties, and is not a fictional
character. Maria has several children, all by different men, but is unmarried.
She is living with a man right now, but he is father to none of them. Maria,
and I have never met, and are unlikely ever to meet, yet I know all about
her, even to some of the most personal details of her life. I know all
of these things, because Maria's life was explored, in great detail, on
a NPR radio broadcast. Why she submitted to this, I could not say. She
was not paid for this, but was studied, much as wild animals are studied
in PBS nature shows. No help was given to her, by NPR, and no detail, no
matter how shameful, was neglected. It may be that I am making too big
a deal about the possible taint associated with with the revealing of Maria's
life. It seems that people today have no shame. This may be related to
the fact that we are now discouraged from having any standards, the breaching
of which might generate shame, but I digress.
Maria was the subject of a NPR radio broadcast,
sometime in 2001 or 2002, concerned with welfare reform. The story was
really quite compelling, made all the more so, by the knowledge that Maria
is a real person, with real problems, which will continue on, long after
the microphones, interviewers, and our attention, have left her. We are
given a bit of her history, are told what welfare has done for her, and
how she has lived her life within it's shadows, and boundaries. We are
then shown the changes which have occurred within welfare reform, how they
have affected her, and what her reaction is to them. We are finally given
several possible glimpses into what her future might be. There are some
glimmers of hope, but overall it is not a future with much to look forward
The broadcast begins with sixteen year old Maria
dropping out of school to have her second child. Her mother can not support
her and her two babies. The boy who contributed so eagerly to her pregnancy
is not so eager to take on the responsibilities of fatherhood. Maria must
go on welfare. Welfare, despite the grumbling of so many taxpayers, is
not exactly a gravy train, and Maria must live poorly, in a poor neighborhood.
She is not unusual in this, as many of her neighbors are in the same situation.
Maria is lonely, and bored, so she seeks companionship. She has boyfriends.
Most of them are functionally illiterate, as is Maria herself. Sometimes
they steal from her. The boyfriends are generally poor, out of work, and
often on drugs, or habitual drinkers. Maria is not shocked by this; it
is common where she lives. Most of her current peers, either dropped out
of school, or paid so little attention, that they learned next to nothing.
They were then unable to find meaningful work, and turned to petty crime,
drug dealing, odd jobs, or took to the streets. Maria's situation is little
different, from that of the men, except that, as a mother, she is entitled
to more generous government benefits.
At around 20 years of age, Maria becomes pregnant
again. The man leaves her; he wants nothing to do with caring for a child,
or supporting a wife. Feeling trapped, Maria tries to find a way out, and
is given one. Day care is provided for her children, and she is put in
a program which will ready her for college. Maria had left school early,
and was no star pupil, even while she had been attending. She has much
to learn, and the studies are hard. Her math skills are almost non existent,
and she is functionally illiterate. This is true illiteracy, and is not
due to her hispanic heritage. Maria does not speak Spanish well, and can
not read it at all. Her English is little better. She needs to be tutored,
in certain areas, and works hard in school. She often spends hours studying
at home. Through months of determination, and hard work, Maria is pronounced
ready for college.
College, was the goal worked for, but upon entry,
Maria realizes that gaining entrance to college was only the beginning.
College is even more difficult than the remedial classes which prepared
her for entry. Once again, Maria must be tutored, and once more, she must
study for hours, at home, to be able to keep up with the rest of the students.
It is not easy, and is not made any easier, by her new boyfriend, who doesn't
work, but does eat her food, and sleep in her house. While attending school,
Maria is told that her situation will need to be reassessed, because new
regulations have taken effect. Her case worker tells her that she is in
good health, and that the new welfare regulations require her to be actively
seeking employment. She is directed to a Job Service office, and a position
is found for her. It is a low paying, menial job, the only kind she is
really qualified for, and Maria can refuse it, if she wishes. Refusal will
mean a cut in her benefits. Benefits can not be cut off entirely, because
she has minor children, but money for school, and for day care can be taken
away. There is also always the specter of Child Welfare Services, and foster
homes. Maria must work.
Maria does not like her job, and is finding it difficult
to work while still being able to devote enough time to her studies. Her
boyfriend offers encouragement, but will not help with the children at
night, or with much of anything else. He does not work, except at odd jobs,
which never last. Maria continues to do well at school, though it is only
with great effort. She is told that funding for her day care may be cut,
so she may have to seek other arrangements for her children. Maria's mother
still has some children of her own to watch, and has no desire to look
after Maria's. Her boyfriend expresses a willingness to have them at home,
but he occasionally finds work during the day, and Maria is not certain
she trusts him to look after them properly. The story leaves us with Maria
trying to decide which compromises she will have to make, in order to continue
with her studies. We are also informed that the couple is considering marriage,
though the boyfriend is uneducated, illiterate, and unable to find steady
employment. Marriage will probably mean another assessment of Maria' s
situation, and a possible cut in her benefits. Of course, being caught
supporting a man, with the money paid her to support her children with,
would endanger her eligibility to receive any benefits at all. Maria has
some difficult decisions to make.
The Real Message
As the glimpse into Maria Gonzales' life ends, we are
given over to a commentator, who interviews a social worker. The social
worker informs us that Maria's story is typical in almost every detail.
Everything from an early pregnancy, and poor education, to a series of
deadbeat boyfriends. It's all there. It is interesting to note that Maria
had been raised by her mother, who was herself on welfare. This, too, is
typical. The only non typical thing about the story is, that Maria actually
sought a way out; most don't. The typical welfare "client" will spend a
lifetime on welfare, raising children who are more likely than not, to
go on welfare themselves.
Hearing of the disadvantaged circumstances, of Maria
Gonzales, and of her eventual attempt to improve her station, was very
compelling. Her slow progress, and her continued efforts proved to be admirable.
There was then the slow withdrawal of support, and the repeated sympathy,
of the various agencies as her benefits were whittled away. Maria would
likely be required to work, to make her own arrangements for the care of
her children, and still have to make time for her studies. It became very
clear, by the end of the broadcast, that Maria was falling back into her
old habits, and would very likely not finish school. This would seem to
be a story of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. The story is almost
enough to turn a good conservative into a liberal. Almost! Pondering these
thoughts, it occurred to me that I had been manipulated, and in a not very
subtle way. The broadcast seemed to linger on the effects that the reduction
in benefits would have on her Maria's future. This was done while glossing
over the various mistakes, indulgences, immorality, and laziness, which
had featured so prominently in Maria's life, and defined her lifestyle.
The blame for her possible descent back to her old life, was placed squarely
on the shoulders of the tax payers who desire to keep a bit more of the
money that they earn, rather than on Maria herself.
What the broadcast so easily ignored was the fact
that Maria, along with the other people in her situation, have spent years
carefully constructing their ruined lives. Maria, and the countless others
like her, are not victims of some force beyond their control, nor are they
being subjected to some punishment doled out by those who disapprove of
their lifestyle, or have tired of bearing the burden of paying for it.
The vast majority of the poor, in this country, are living poor lives because
they have led poor lives. The fact that there are getting to be such large
numbers of the poor, is a pretty good indication that this style of life
has been encouraged, and supported. This too, is ignored in the broadcast,
because it sends a message, and forces a conclusion at odds with those
the broadcast was so carefully crafted to send.
The message being sent here, is that we have a woman
attempting to make a better life for herself. She is being prevented from
doing so, by a government unconcerned with the plight of the poor. It is
also suggested that this same government is hostile to minorities, and
that this hostility is the true reason for the reform of welfare. The ultimate
message, is that welfare reform is bad, and is motivated, at least in part,
by racism. This would seem to imply that the old system of welfare was
good, or at any rate better than that which the welfare reformers would
propose to take it's place. This is the message being sent by the broadcast,
but it is not the story being told by a close examination of the facts.
Spreading the misery
None of us are immune to hardship, nor are
any of us complete strangers to bad judgment. It seems, though, that some
of us are exempt from the consequences of our life styles, while others
are expected to bear the brunt of these failures. There are large numbers
of people in this country, who lead responsible, moral, decent lives. These
people work hard to make a living, and to provide for their families. It
is disgraceful that people who make the effort to conduct their lives responsibly,
and properly, are now expected to bear the burdens generated by those who
The various welfare, and aid programs in this country
are all socialist in nature. They are socialist in that their purpose is
to redistribute wealth taken from those who produce it, and transfer it
to those who do not. More important than the transfer, though, is the presumption
that such a transfer is rightfully within the scope of the duties of our
government. Though many of their supporters claim that these programs "empower"
the poor, it seems as if the real empowerment is going to those government
agencies which are permitted to take money from productive citizens and
use it as a lever to oversee the lives of non productive citizens. In so
doing, both types of citizens are diminished, while government employees
are well paid and empowered. Socialist nations, whatever liberal college
professors and left leaning members of the media claim, are not happy places.
In general, it takes dictatorial, even repressive, regimes to keep them
Many of those who favor the continuance of the current
flawed social welfare programs like to characterize the rest of us as heartless
selfish types. We are told that we are punishing people by cutting these
programs. The truth is almost the complete opposite. There are natural
consequences to everything that is done in life. In some cases these are
good, and desirable, in others they are unpleasant. Still, these things
occur as a result of actions that we take. Social programs, despite the
claims of their supporters, and employees, do not remove the consequences
of our actions. At best, they transfer them to others; at worst, they encourage,
and expand the behaviors which cause them.
So while Maria is living a marginal, insecure lifestyle,
beholding and subject to the orders of her social worker, and to the whims
of politicians who decide how these programs are to be financed, she is
not alone in her sufferings. Also suffering the consequences for her lifestyle,
are large numbers of people who have never indulged in such immoral behavior.
They suffer when they have to pay a third or more of their income in taxes,
and then pay even more for goods and services provided by companies which
are also required to pay high taxes. They suffer when both parents need
to work in order to make ends meet, or when the father needs to work overtime.
They also suffer the insecurity of having huge numbers of people who have
been transformed by government programs into useless, even criminal elements,
when they may otherwise have had a chance to do something with their lives.
So why should Maria and her children be allowed to suffer, for her mistakes,
irresponsibility, and immorality? A better question to ask might be why
the working people of this country, the ones who pay the taxes, and do
the work, should, along with their children, be made to suffer? This is
a question which never seems to come up.
We are also expected to accept, at face value, the
assumption that these programs actually do lessen the hardship of the poor.
This is by no means a given. Many of the facts seem to support quite a
different conclusion. Winston Churchill said about socialist systems that
"though they may not be very good at spreading the wealth, they do an excellent
job of spreading the misery." Certainly, it can not be said with any conviction,
that the life of Maria is a happy one.
The Poorhouse of Cards
Maria's life could not have happened 40 years ago, and would have
been a disgrace, even, 30 years ago. This is something that is not often
mentioned by the social progressives, except as an indication of how narrow
minded the nation was supposed to have been, and how much more enlightened
we have become. In the fifties, and into the sixties, we had codes of conduct,
some of them written into law, which would not have permitted teen age
girls, or teen age boys to have sex. Funny though, how in these enlightened
days, even with all of our help and education programs, these problems
are worse than ever.
Conditions should make it obvious that the current
crop of social welfare programs do nothing to help those they claim to
serve. On the contrary, comparing conditions of today, with the conditions
that existed several decades ago, before the bulk of today's social programs
were implemented back in the sixties, shows that conditions have worsened
considerably. yet these programs are still strongly supported by the left.
Some likely reasons are:
At one time, I had generally thought of social welfare programs
as simply vote generating mechanisms for the democratic party. It seemed
to be little more than an elaborate form of legally condoned bribery. While
I have not changed my mind about this, it now seems that there is something
else at work here. People on social programs are routinely rounded up by
"activists" and trundled out to the voting booths. They overwhelmingly
vote democratic, primarily because of the huge democratic support for various
programs that these people are indentured to. They are often told the horrible
consequences that would befall them, were enough Republicans in office
to have their programs canceled. One very interesting thing that was brought
out after the Gore/Bush election, was that Bush made an effort to get the
military vote out, while gore had his staff out registering people in the
prisons. It seems that they both knew where to find their supporters.
They are a vote generating machine for democrats.
They increase the reach and power of government, intruding it into our
They penalize those who actually work, for the benefit of those who will
As they drain more resources, more people find they are drawn into dependency
They are used to cover up the failure of liberal policies in general.
As government programs expand, they take in more
of what had formerly been our private lives. This is particularly obvious
in the case of people who are on the dole. Their powerlessness is well
known. Their caseworkers are in possession of nearly every important detail
of their personal lives, from how much they spend on food and rent, to
who they are dating. These people are, in a real sense, not too far off
from the indentured servitude of a couple hundred years ago. It is not
so much that you are expected to work for your masters, though they certainly
would not object to such a thing, but more a matter of your comings, goings,
lifestyle, property, and personal business being under a constant watchful,
almost possessive, scrutiny. This is generally defended on one (or both)
of two assertions:
One of the biggest complaints against these programs
is that they take tremendous amounts of money away from working people
who need it and might even use it to improve their lives, and throw down
a huge black hole. It raises prices by taxing companies as well as those
who work at companies, thus harming the economy by taking money out of
the pockets of those who would spend it, and putting it into government
coffers. While all of these unwelcome things are happening, these programs
also act as the great enablers of social irresponsibility, carelessness,
and laziness. Thus while one segment of the population learns that there
is little improvement to be hoped for, no matter how hard they work, another
is taught that there is little to worry about no matter how little they
do. Both segments are also taught that they are in no way the true masters
of their lives or in secure possession of what they own.
The first, and most often used, is that you are,
if not property, some sort of ward of the state, and as such, are bound
by the superior judgment of your betters. To their minds, you have proven
yourself unable to run your own life, and thus, any decisions made on your
behalf are for your own good, and should not be subject to argument. Think
of this as a lifetime spent in childhood, under the care of condescending,
and slightly disapproving parents. There is a certain smugness, the idea
that "We know what is good for you."
The second, is the idea that you are beholding,
and thus obligated. Where would you be, after all, without the benefits
which are so kindly being granted you? All that is asked in return is that
you do as you are told, live as you ought, and prove your worthiness to
receive further aid. This is little enough to ask, certainly, and how could
you be so ungrateful as to object? Like an abusive husband, they profess
affection, and claim to be looking after you, and looking out for your
best interests. They will take responsibly for you, and support you, as
long as you do as you are told, don't show too much independence, and allow
yourself to be knocked around from time to time. Oh yes, and don't forget
to vote every couple of years, when van comes around to take you to the
One of the more insidious and fearful consequences
of government programs is that they are ever expanding and seem to be worming
their way into our lives at every level. We all expect to go on a form
of welfare when we retire to go on Social Security, that pyramid scheme
designed to garner votes for FDR, and Medicare, another pyramid scheme
for which we have the kennedys to thank. Then there are the many programs
set up in the schools, everything form lunch and breakfast, through medical
care, to afternoon sporting events. Doubtless, in the near future, parents
who have to work two jobs each in order to pay their ever increasing taxes,
will be able to take advantage of 24 hour day care, with their children
sleeping in public school dormitories. Really, as taxes, overhead, and
expenses go up, in order to handle the ever increasing number of social
programs, more and more people are finding themselves in need. A $30k or
$40k income, which should be enough to live very comfortably on, is not
enough after taxes. This money is whittled away further by sales tax, and
by the unseen taxes paid by industry and passed on to us. Something like
half of our incomes goes to the government, and over half of this goes
to social engineering programs. I hate to sound unsympathetic, but frankly,
it's not worth it.
Huge welfare entitlement
programs create a lifestyle for entire families and neighborhoods, which
is becoming a legacy to be passed on from generation to generation. Like
gun control, abortion, the revamping of education, and the ever increasing
regulation of nearly everything we do, this is a drastic, unpleasant, and
burdensome policy, the only function of which is to address problems created
by previous liberal policies. This, to me, is the real crux of the matter,
and the reason why so many senseless, and destructive policies continue
to be implemented, and maintained. Without the huge welfare entitlement
programs, many other liberal policies put into place would have to be changed.
In particular, we would have to revamp our schools, put something like
family values and morals back into our lawbooks, hold people accountable
for their lifestyles, and allow them their rewards for living decent lives.
We would have to stop worshipping at the frivolous alter of social progress,
and decreed fairness, and get back to the serious business of living the
best lives we are capable of living. If this were to happen, liberalism,
and the democratic party would become part of one of the darker chapters
in the history books, to be looked upon as an abject lesson and never repeated.
"The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that
they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left
concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to
survive." - Thomas Sowell
"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand
by itself." - Thomas Jefferson
"A man should be upright, not be kept upright." - Marcus Aurelius
"Dependance is slavery" - Though I am sure that it has been said before,
I am going to credit myself with this one.