The Welfare Lie

Photo by Getty
Wait…read on to see how this picture fits into the title. 

U.S. News


Single Mothers Are Not America’s Real Welfare Queens

Conservatives like to claim that single women use subsidized handouts as a substitute for a husband—but they aren’t the ones who benefit most from government spending.
In the past couple of years, conservative media has developed a narrative to marry social conservative angst about women’s greater freedom to economic conservative desires to slash government programs to relieve poverty: Argue that single women, single mothers especially, are using government generosity so they can rebelliously refuse to get married.Back in December, Ann Coulter claimed on Fox & Friends that, “single women look to the government as their husbands. Please provide for me, please take care of me.” Andrea Tantaros echoed the claim later on Fox, saying that the Obama administration is deliberately trying to keep single mothers “dependent on the government.” Rush Limbaugh is a big fan of painting single women as government-dependent, whining back in November that “unmarried women are looking at government for everything.”The obsession with claiming that single women are a product of government largesse hit the big time during the 2012 election, when conservative media obsessed over an Obama campaign ad showing how a female constituent is affected by government throughout her life. James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal denounced social spending as an “insidious attack on the institution of the family” because apparently the only way to hold the family together is to impoverish women so they are forced to stay in unhappy marriages based on financial dependency.The argument depends on a number of risible and obviously untrue assumptions. It is neither true that single mothers are largely unemployed people who subsist solely on government payouts, nor that married women are generally housewives who depend on their husbands to take care of all their financial needs. Conservatives may wish to believe that there are two kinds of women, those who depend on “government” and those who depend on husbands, but in the real world, most women, regardless of marital status, actually have paid employment that is for more than just pin money.

It is also asinine to assume that marriage is an institution that women resist and have to be forced into by making it impossible for them to feed themselves or their children without a man to provide. Most women want to get married, and single women are usually single not because they are taking some kind of government-subsidized stand against being with a man, but because they don’t have a good man right now to be married to. The fantasy of widespread female rejection of monogamous commitment is pure right-wing paranoia that has nothing to do with women’s real lives.

If you incorporate tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction into your view of social spending, it turns out the real “welfare queens” are America’s wealthiest citizens.

But what is particularly insidious about this conservative claim about single women making government their “husband” is that it paints a wholly incorrect image of who, exactly, is the beneficiary of government spending. Conservatives would dearly love to stigmatize social spending by linking it to single motherhood—and therefore to a host of nasty stereotypes they have of single mothers—but in reality, there is no reason whatsoever to believe single mothers are the main beneficiaries of social spending.

If you actually drill into who is getting what benefits from the government, a much different picture emerges. Indeed, the first thing you realize is there is no “typical” recipient of government aid. If you want to see who in this country is on the government dole, it turns out that the answer is “everyone.” It’s just that some of us get our government assistance in ways that allow us to lie to ourselves and pretend that we’re not getting that assistance. But, the ugly truth is that if you want to see an image of a “welfare queen,” the quickest place to look is in the bathroom mirror.

Taking a broader view, there’s no reason whatsoever to think that single mothers, particularly single mothers living in poverty, are the biggest beneficiaries of government spending. As Brad Plumer of the Washington Post explained in September 2012, by far the largest group of recipients, with money sent to them directly by checks, is not, as conservatives assume, single mothers. No, 53 percent of direct cash entitlements go to people over 65 years old. Another 20 percent goes to disabled people and another 18 percent to working people, leaving only 9 percent for non-disabled, non-working people that conservatives like to pretend make up the bulk of recipients of social spending.

Of course, direct cash payments are hardly the only way the government helps people out. Tax expenditures are also a government benefit that should be considered no different than direct cash payments, because, at the end of the day, whether the government mails you a check or gives you a tax break, the result is the same: More money to you, less money in the government coffers. As Plumer demonstrated, if you incorporate tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction into your view of social spending, it turns out the real “welfare queens” are America’s wealthiest citizens. The top 20 percent of Americans receive a whopping 66 percent of tax expenditures, while the bottom 20 percent—the people who to scrape for every bite of food they get—only get three percent of this government bonanza.

Because of the myriad ways that the government gives money to people with tax breaks, one of the quickest ways to set yourself up to receive a whole host of government-funded benefits is to get married. There are over 1,000 government rights and benefits given to married couples, many of which take money out of the government piggy bank and put it right back into your pocket. Do you get extremely affordable health care coverage through your spouse’s employee? Thank the government who paid for it by giving their employer a tax break for doing so. Have a spouse who’s died? Expect to be getting their Social Security benefits paid to you, and, if they have a retirement account, you get to transfer their savings to your own retirement account, avoiding taxes on it. Selling a house? You can double the amount you get to keep without taxes if you’re married. Government benefits paid out to veterans and other government workers are also paid quite frequently to their spouses. If you’re rich, being married especially means you get a massive government windfall if your spouse dies, because your inheritance from your spouse will not be taxed as if it were an inheritance from any other relative who left you a fortune.

The attacks on single mothers are about peddling a paranoid fantasy to conservative audiences in order to keep them from thinking in any depth about the role that taxation and spending play in our nation’s economic wellbeing. As long as Fox News audiences are sitting around boiling with anger at imaginary women who supposedly rejected the traditional role of a housewife to be a sexually rebellious single mother living on the government dime, they aren’t thinking about how devastating to this country it really would be if we started slashing social spending so that our already outrageously wealthy elites could be even wealthier. As long as Fox is pitting men against women and married women against single women, their audience is not thinking about how the real problem is that most of us in the working or middle class are watching our economic opportunities disappear while the richest one percent continue to hoard most of the nation’s wealth. Misogynist vitriol against single women is a perfect way to keep conservative audiences from really thinking about the problems facing this country, and that’s why we can expect conservative media to keep churning it out.

This story further emphasizes how the government has no idea what is really going on.  They sit in their offices, smoke their pipes, drink their scotch, and determine what is really going on with us peons by listening to whatever jabber is popular at the time. 

Take the story which I referred to in this post regarding a woman in Georgia who had 14 friggin’ kids.  Yes, she looks like what all people think of when welfare is discussed.  The truth is that many people are on some sort of assistance from the State of Federal Government.  Like the article states, many are elderly and disabled.  I would like to add that some are even veterans, but the Federal Government just decided they were not worthy of any help with Food Stamps, so they were thrown under the bus. 

My personal story, which I have shared a few times, is one I think many single people have.  I am disabled, this said, I am not able to work, yet I am still waiting for Disability to give me their blessing.  This causes a myriad of problems for me: I have no income, and cannot gain one while waiting for the Disability decision; I haven’t had any healthcare since I started this disability journey; no spouse’s insurance; no work insurance; no Medicaid; no money for housing; and no money for food.  I really didn’t want to apply for aide, as I seriously felt there were mothers and elderly people who needed far more than I did.  Living with my mum, depending only on her monthly Social Security, I finally applied for aide.  Given my circumstances, the people in charge of all the formulas of need determined I only needed food stamps.  This was cool, as I was staying with mum, and she was already in a 2 bedroom apartment.  It is a tad cramped, and I do have a storage unit which she pays for monthly.  I have to consider many others who don’t have the situation I do though.  They are not single mothers with tons of kids.  They are veterans and the elderly, just like the article states. 

I guess what I am getting at here is the man-gods are making decision based and stupid people and big mouths (which are sometimes the same person).  Again, these man-gods need to get in touch with the real world.  For God’s sake, and all those who need assistance, send your damn aides and lobbyists down to those who have just been cut from programs.  Let them do a report on who these people really are.  I know for certainty they will find disabled, veterans, elderly, and the working poor, not a bunch of welfare moms.  Seriously, they need to really look at the real numbers who are currently on some sort of assistance.  Quit taking dicknoses’ word for what is going on: they have no friggin’ clue. 

Peace & Love


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