Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor? Or Just Throw Them Overboard?

With the recent barrage of anti-welfare legislation being proposed, enacted and touted around the country, I’m left wondering, what’s fueling this hatred of poor people, especially in such tough economic times? With Indiana enacting strict time restrictions on welfare benefits and various other states proposing mandatory drug testing as a tenant of receiving welfare benefits, I’m left to wonder, when did Americans become so hateful and vindictive towards poor people? Are we now a country that operates via Schadenfreude?

Something doesn’t sit right with kicking people when they’re down.

Does anyone ever actually consider the human component involved here? And who will suffer? The poor, the left behind, the children and broken families who need this help the most. The mob mentality behind this type of legislation, and its punitive nature is really rather disgusting. How low are people willing to go, how uncivilized has this country become? Saying “we don’t care about you” to children of parents with a drug problem, having them starve or become homeless, all to show that drugs are bad? These are real people and real lives that will be destroyed. These people need help not your scorn and judgment.

We hear so much during this hyper-political season about budget cuts, out of control spending, but also that America is on the wrong track. Are we really going to stand for the richest American’s crying about a possible tax increase, and a Custer’s last stand from oil companies making billions of dollars in profits not willing to consider losing a tax break? Millionaires and billionaires willing to stop at nothing to increase their wealth and on the backs of the poor and destitute no less. I’ve heard the tired, old arguments before, that too many welfare recipients are lazy, just looking for a hand-out and that if they don’t want to be drug tested, then don’t apply.

Do any of these misanthropes actually know anyone who’s been on welfare? Do they actually know a poor person, or someone who’s had to ask for help? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, except it’s not that long a limb. The welfare system in this country should be about making the American dream possible, even when things go wrong, when times are tough, when we fail.A system in place to see that we won’t let our friends, families, neighbors and even strangers go hungry or suffer, we are a nation that’s better than that, or at least we were.

There is no back-up plan, no alternative, no drug treatment plan, no work skills or education plan, only a plan to stop welfare checks in the event of a positive drug test; which is why I question the motives behind these kind of laws, and again ask, what happens next? There is no next. And what will these people turn to when there’s no food, no money to pay the bills? A sudden epiphany and realization that they just haven’t figured out the American dream that’s been there all along? Not quite, higher crime rates, more people in prison, children neglected and abandoned and more poverty and suffering. This is not a solution, just more of the same problem.

I think perhaps we should reflect on the words of Emma Lazarus and think about what’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We need to come together as Americans, we need to help those in need, not push them down and kick them. We’ve been through difficult economic times, we’ve endured, prospered and even fell back down again; it’s time to remember who we are as a country, and what kind of people we wish to be.

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  • matarij

    Very good article – similar measures against the poor are creeping in over here in the UK.  I had a conversation with a family member about the cuts, and was told that if people ‘can’t be bothered to get a job, then they should starve’. When I pointed out that a) there were no jobs and b) this would mean people would die on the streets, I was told ‘it would serve them right’.  Serve them right for what?  Being born poor?  Not being able to get a job because there aren’t any?  For not being lucky?  Are people serious?  Or do they lack the imagination to actually see that taking welfare away from people will mean that a lot of them, including children, may actually die?  Or, to stop dying, they will steal or kill to stay alive?  How does that help society exactly?  So, I suppose my answer is the same as yours –  it’s time to remember who we are as a country, and what kind of people we wish to be. At the moment I feel that we are turning into a despicable country with no compassion for those who can’t – or won’t – get onto the capitalist band wagon. Very depressing.

  • jayn

    Do any of these misanthropes actually know anyone who’s been on welfare? Do they actually know a poor person, or someone who’s had to ask for help?


    The other possibility, and one I suspect is true for many of these people, is that they’ve known one person who has been, and they were the ‘not really looking for work because I get welfare’ type. I doubt there’s reallly all that many of them out there, but the ones that are out there are more likely to be vocal about it.


    This whole thing kind of burns me.  The other day the local morning show was talking about how you shouldn’t be on welfare if you’re able to work–but being able to work and being able to find a job are two completely seperate things. Especially in the current economy.

  • freetobe

    Eradication of the poor the sick the weak and old it is the New World Order at its begginnings.

    The GOP has been planning this for many years. They are only concerned with their rich corporate buddies and the rich people in general. Their is a definite pattern-no more regulations to protect the public and the most vunerable among us many women and children. Firing teachers-to end education keep the people stupid so they cannot get ahead. Ending birth control and abortion to get women out of the workforce and back in the home to be subservient to a man or should I say property of the man once again. Ending collective bargaining,eliminateing the minimum wage,putting children back to slave labor,making black people slaves again and ousting all the immigrants who are illegal.

    It is treason and there must be a way we good and true Americans and or christians (real )christians can get these people out of the Congress,Senate and out of the state governments starting now and getting out to vote in droves. This is not the GOP of the past these people are tyrants they willl stop at nothing!

  • crowepps

    Been there before, read Dickens.  Check out what passed for ‘morality’ under the Victorians.  We’ve already got the child prostitution.

    People adjust by learning to ignore ‘the poor’ the way those in big cities have learned to ignore ‘the crazies’.  Won’t be any time at all before people are once again abandoning kids on the street, and it will be necessary to wade through a crowd of child beggars to get into Starbucks.

  • crowepps

    I have known one person, perhaps 30 years ago, who was well able to work and who stayed on welfare.  It was the only way that she could afford the expensive medical care necessary for her son’s serious inherited disease, because employer’s insurance policies disallowed it as “pre-existing”.

    The other people I have known who ‘chose’ to stay on welfare weren’t able to organize themselves to work and weren’t capable of work because they were affected by cognitive disabilities like ADD or mental illnesses like depression or bipolar.

    There were many, MANY people who couldn’t find jobs, who couldn’t find jobs that paid decently (so that working would result in LESS money available for their children), found a job that paid enough money but not more money after daycare was deducted (especially in the summer), couldn’t get transportation to the job, got endless grief from a husband/boyfriend about working because of jealous paranoia, or weren’t willing to have sex with the job interviewed/boss/supervisor to get a job.

    Anybody who is just sure ‘the poor’ are all lazy cheats should read “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich about some of the STRUCTURAL problems that keep people from getting ahead.  Or for that matter, ANY of her books.

  • freetobe

    I am glad you mentioned mental illness even depression which causes lack of motivation in most people with the disease, even some who are being treated with expensive anti-depressants.

    Also the part about the women trying to help their children any way they can.

    I really think these rich unfeeling jerks need to go spend some time with the poor. They would see the poor in a whole new light. Unfortunately none of the GOP has any conscience so it probably would not effect them.

    Sad that the most evil always are the ones running things.

  • annalisab

    I want to thank you for writing something that draws attention to the real issue, that these people are struggling with various factors, and that forcing new restrictions like drug tests won’t solve the issue of using drugs. I am a social worker, and I’ve done quite a bit of research on welfare and I am surprised how uninformed others sometimes are about what restrictions already are in place. It’s refreshing to read something that shares my perspective, when so often I hear people bash on a system I care about.