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Welfare and the like. Thoughts?
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Strange Famous Forum > Social stuff. Political stuff. KNOWMORE

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Joined: 07 Jul 2005
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Limbs wrote:
I was thinking more how it specifically affects our psyche. Does it breed too much irresponsibility and dependency?

but irresponsibility and dependency are already the heart of western civilisation! (maybe it's more accurate to say they're the blood vessels?) they keep fuelled our cars and planes that transport us to places where we load up as much capital as our ant exoskeletons will carry and then back to the hive for king and queen ant to buy a decoration bookshelf so they don't seem like dilettantes to their other royal ant friends. a society of oil junkies bitching about dependency on WELFARE. its nonsense. I've drank too much jamesons and hope this was coherent / pertinent.
Post Sun Oct 09, 2011 5:49 pm
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Sage Francis
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Well...if nothing else, thanks for the explanation at the end.
Post Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:01 pm
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blocks of text^2

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I'm in psych class, so I kinda treated this as a quasi-academic mental exercise.

Also, before you read anything I write, I think you should read this:

If you can't make it through that then I don't think you're worth talking to about the subject.

Cognitive Bias and Opinions About Welfare

In discussing welfare programs there is an inevitable point where someone will mention welfare fraud and the opinion that welfare programs remove incentives to find alternative, stable work. These opinions are often reinforced with anecdotes, whether real, straw men, or unverifiable second-hand accounts. The goal of this article is to examine the biases betrayed by these opinions.

We must take a look at some information about the welfare system before we can evaluate how biases affect our ability to reason with the realities involved. An important aspect to remember when discussing welfare is that there is no single system known as welfare, instead this refers to several government programs that run independently and may be used concurrently or consecutively. There are state agencies that can help potential recipients tie these programs together and receive appropriate assistance, but the disparate nature of these programs makes tracking statistics of abuse and legitimate use very difficult.

Making matters worse, welfare agencies operate mostly on a state level, meaning that this patchwork of assistance programs exists separately in each state with different administrations, regulations, and levels of funding. While some national statistics and information exists, individual states can have vastly different levels of performance and fraud. This creates an excellent opportunity for cherry-picking information to support one side of the argument or another. To make the case against welfare fraud one might select a state with a particularly poor performing program, or a state with a relatively high instance of fraud. Likewise, those arguing in favor may choose a state with a better economy and successful fraud prevention programs.

Life on welfare programs is glorified in multiple ways. Each program targets different segments of the population with different specific problems. Often these segments overlap, for instance a person requiring unemployment insurance may also need WIC assistance to help pay for necessities for their children. However, these programs individually are available to a wide range of the populace. A person may live comfortably until they lose their job and then require food stamp assistance after spending all of their unemployment insurance covering existing bills. Others may need long term assistance for a variety of living expenses including housing, food, and childcare. While these programs primarily target those in the lowest income brackets there is no typical recipient of these assistance programs. The characterization that these programs allow most recipients to live comfortably is equally as untrue as the characterization that these programs only benefit the extremely poor or are never abused.

Another factor that contributes to the mischaracterization of assistance programs is that the people on these programs are not necessarily proud to be on them. This means that there is likely a shortage of testimonials for the proper use of the programs. Our culture highly values self-sustainability and heaps shame on those who are unable to maintain this ideal. This disconnect is exacerbated by modern media, which strongly favors those who have enough money to purchase products. This demographic often does not want to be reminded about the population living below the poverty line. When a reminder of living conditions for those in poverty is aired it often attempts to demonize those who live in these conditions, focusing more on crime than on living conditions, conditions of schools, and opportunity for betterment. You might ask yourself, “What would I rather watch: a scathing expose´ on fraud or a program that shows a single mom riding the bus to day care and then her job at a fast food restaurant?”

If so little definitive information is available, how does the layman come to such strong conclusions about welfare? The answer is that we consume information from a variety of poorly informed and biased sources. We apply our own biases to the information that we are able to obtain, and that allows us to form what seems to be an informed and complete opinion. This is true for both sides of the argument; for the purposes of this article I will focus primarily on the arguments against the status quo, those that say that welfare is bad for society.

Argument: “I know someone who commits welfare fraud, it is rampant!”

Analysis: This argument is a classic example of availability bias. We are working off anecdotal evidence when we make this argument. The anecdote could very well be true, you may know someone who has committed welfare fraud, or you may know of someone who has committed the fraud. Certainly if a person seriously defrauds the system and is caught it will be newsworthy enough to call attention to the problem. However, there is no evidence in this statement that shows that this problem is widespread, nor representative of the population. Thus, the person making this argument exemplifies an availability bias. The argument is made because the image of a person defrauding the system is readily available, not due to any dearth of evidence.

Argument: “Any program that can be defrauded should be ended.”

Analysis: This argument suffers from fairness bias. Everyone has a sense of what is right, wrong, fair and unfair. When most of society has to spend a large portion of their waking lives working the idea that anyone is getting a free ride is upsetting. This is made worse by the thought that some portion of your own money is contributing to this. The idea seems to be very unfair. However, this ignores any good that comes from the programs, and it is not based on an analysis of whether the benefits to society in welfare outweigh the detriment done by the fraud.

Argument: “Welfare programs remove incentive to work.”

Analysis: There is not inherent bias in this statement, however it is severely lacking in information and that lack of information may be a sign of confirmation bias. Welfare programs, aside from short-term benefits such as unemployment insurance, are not designed to provide a comfortable life. Many benefits expire after certain periods; others have hard caps for income and other factors that prevent their combination from achieving a high standard of living. Some welfare beneficiaries are unable to work without the assistance they receive, such as single parents. Others are unable to work at all due to disabilities. While there may be people who judge that it is more beneficial to remain reliant on assistance rather than work, it is likely that these people are not highly skilled and are not highly employable, or may be structurally unemployed. This argument ignores that minimum wage jobs, often the only choice for unskilled workers, do not pay well enough to provide basic needs. In regards to unemployment insurance, the argument ignores that this assistance pays significantly less than the previous wages, meaning that while it may prevent one’s finances from being completely ruined, it is all but impossible to collect this benefit for a long term while maintaining a constant quality of life.

Argument: “This benefit helped me, but today it is being abused.”

Analysis: This is a clear example of hindsight bias and cognitive dissonance. The person making this argument believes that their situation was somehow special and that at that time these programs were somehow less susceptible to fraud or demotivational factors. Their hindsight bias skews their ability to compare their own experiences with those of current recipients. This creates a state of cognitive dissonance in which assistance programs are acceptable for their use, but not for others. Many arguments against welfare programs rely on hindsight bias and the thought that some particular point in time had a higher standard of living than exists in the current one.

Argument: “Drug users should not be able to collect welfare.”

Analysis: This is another example of both fairness bias and confirmation bias. This argument ignores the data showing that simply removing money from drug users will not cure them. Instead, it favors the idea that drug abusers are criminals and criminals do not deserve any benefits. It also ignores that many benefits programs are aimed specifically at families and that punishing drug users by removing food also punishes their families, who are likely not abusing drugs. There is also strong evidence that this assistance is cheaper than imprisoning the drug users and entering their children into the foster care system.


The topic of welfare is a highly partisan topic, however most people do not know what they’re talking about. When discussing this topic we should be aware of the reasons for the arguments made. The person making the argument and their method of reasoning should be considered whenever we judge the validity of their arguments. Finally, we must also consider our own biases, experiences, and knowledge when making counter arguments. It’s best to rely on aggregate data, but also individual testimonials can add context this data but should be more carefully sourced.
Post Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:35 pm
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Alan Hague

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Icarus, Futur, and Redball have brought some science in this thread!

"In FY 2009, the following Federal funding is available for TANF:

TANF Block Grant - $16.5 billion is available to States, Territories, and Tribes through the TANF block grant.
Supplemental Grants - $319 million is available to 17 States that experienced increases in their populations and/or had low levels of welfare spending per capita. A state qualified for a grant in years after FY 1998 only if it qualified in FY 1998.
TANF Contingency Fund - $1.3 billion is available to States that have increased unemployment or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) caseloads as defined in the Social Security Act.
TANF Emergency Fund - $5 billion is available States, Territories, and Tribes in fiscal year (FY) 2009 and FY 2010 that have an increase in assistance caseloads and basic assistance expenditures, or in expenditures related to short-term benefits or subsidized employment."

In short, for 2009, TANF funding totalled $23.1 billion.

Now this:

"As author Paul Buchheit explained recently on, the largest 100 U.S. companies...with $5.67 trillion in 2010 revenue and almost $600 billion in pre-tax earnings, paid $57 billion, or 9.7 percent, in federal incomes taxes. If these 100 companies had paid the 35 percent tax designated by U.S. tax law, an additional $150 billion would have been collected in federal taxes in just one year. This is approximately equal to the total budget deficits for all 50 states."

So, the top 100 wealthiest U.S. corporations skipped out on paying $150 billion in taxes in 2010 alone. That money in and of itself could fund TANF more than 6 times over.

To reiterate Futur's point, let's focus on the real abusers of the system here.
Post Sun Oct 09, 2011 8:41 pm
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Plum Puddin'

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Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:08 pm
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first you get the jobs, then you get the khakis, then you get the chicks!
Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:15 pm
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Plum Puddin'

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But when will I get MY SHOT AT THE TITLE?
Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:33 pm
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First do the truffle shuffle!

Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:02 pm
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Plum Puddin'

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Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:14 pm
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Post Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:21 pm
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Plum Puddin'

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Man.. look at Chunk now.

What a let down. Is there a word for being disappointed in someones betterment of their health?


Motherfucking Jonah Hill.


Chris Farley.

John Candy.

You could have joined them.

The circus would have mourned you.

You know, unless Bill Gates died on the same day too or something.

Bet Jonah Hill dont give a shit about welfare either.
Post Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:15 am
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I guess I am on a form of welfare- food stamps.

Around the first time I applied, while in school, I was in class one day discussing the American approach to welfare: discourage people from using it by making it difficult and humiliating to get on them, then put restrictions like "welfare to work" style reform (on the heels of Reagan-era "welfare queen" discourse) to discourage people from staying on.

I head down to my welfare appt. and am told that I am "choosing to be poor," and denied.

A year later, unemployed and living at home, I apply again, sort of an experiment to see what would happen and as an effort to take control of my bleak situation. My family are "middle class" liberal types who think that welfare is OK for other people, but when they found out their son was on it, it was turmoil. The truth is, that it really came in handy. I either faced the indignity of living with folks, unemployed, unable to contribute to the household when in my culture, to be able to help out your parents is a rite of passage. Or, on the other hand, divulge my personal information to the government, to bring some groceries home to at least feel some sense of independence. After all, I can't ignore dad (retired, fixed income) worrying out loud about finances.

Ventura County, CA is a conservative area, and the republican newspaper released a few articles this year or last as part of a Food Stamp PR campaign to sign up more people. This was around the time when food stamp applications were going up. A lot of latino families are way too proud to sign up. They changed their name from food stamps to "cal fresh," and did outreach and community fairs and back to school nights. I think that's a good thing.

I have been on it for a year, and while the food helps a little, the most important thing about it for me is that it qualifies me for a student loan economic hardship deferment. Being unemployed and underemployed for the last few years and done with being a full time student, I would be unable to make student loan payments and would be acquiring the cruelest of financial penalties were it not for these deferments.

I know people who qualify but don't sign up because they've internalized the scapegoating of poor women of color and think it is for people that "really need it."

My caseworkers are pretty good for the most part. Motherly types. I have been in a similar position to them and I know they don't have the best work conditions. In fact, I need to give them a ring today.

And yes, I eat good. Arizona Ice teas and Perrier waters, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, Avocados, Oysters when in stock, and DiGiorno pizzas. Maybe I'll go to Trader Joe's tomorrow.

If things go well in the next few weeks, I will be closer to being back on my feet.
Post Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:51 am
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Exactly why jabs are all that is needed in the thread.

I put some math in the thread and people are like...uh...i didn't know there would be math...uh...anyway...uh...what can we do about the problem? I dunno, follow the math?

I propose we maybe...look at the statistics state by state...maybe start like...with some easy aggregator of data like...i dunno:

and then maybe compare some of those by state to maybe i dunno, child poverty rates or poverty rates...

maybe contemplate your states public policy towards children...

and then maybe put the face of a poor little white kid on poverty, connect the dots to public policy lapses, show that red states are the ones with the highest concentration of fucked populations, and then shove this up everyone's ass in an easily digestible format on facebook, twitter, the dinner table and the like and state that policies are fucked and that republicans are actively creating MORE poverty and thus, more welfare recipients in their states, and that maybe all that "the liberals...." shit is misguided and blatantly wrong. then i would say, next, maybe we can have lazy but reasonably intelligent people on this forum understand that their perceptions are pretty hazy and they can spread that education around a little. then we can stop with the voting doesn't matter and why vote convos and instead look at tangible action items to decide who to vote for.

of if all that shit seems too hard,support cradles to crayons in boston or philly, drop a dime at and get with some of these:

each of those have a number of state agencies in danger of losing funding that could use a voice, local orgs that could use some legs on the ground, or general joints to drop some coin on.

if you are in the philly area, i would be happy to coordinate cradle to crayons with you. really amazing place.

past that, fuck man, the first line of change is some personal education in this piece. reread the redball post and the icarus post.

And for Limbs, nah. I don't think welfare breeds apathy. I think that is some fictional mythology pushed by republicans that people believed in. i, in fact, think something that wasn't given enough attention in this thread was icarus' quick hit on homes and education as tools of mobility and that those two avenues are effectively destroyed.
Post Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:29 pm
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Plum Puddin' wrote:

I have nothing constructive to say. But, is it just me or does jonah hill look completely unhealthy in this picture? Like he has been living off of mashed potato smoothies or something. he looks like he doesn't poop regularly?
Post Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:40 pm
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Icarus and Laurapalmer are killing it in this thread...

For those that seem to be overlooking the well thought out responses, re-read this post from Raoul...

Raoul DeGroot wrote:
Welfare is a dumb substitute for living wages and a healthy social structure and it probably is pretty demoralizing...

But worrying about it too much is like worrying about people who overuse bandaids because they keep getting stabbed/stabbing themselves in the finger.
Once people are more frequently avoiding stabs to the finger is the time to worry about how many band aids are getting used up. And whether they are generic band-aids or spongebob deluxe bandaids.

Don't worry your pretty head about it.
Post Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:46 pm
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