by Glenn Mollette
Entitlement depends on who is receiving the benefit of the program.
I do not view Social Security as an entitlement program. If an American has spent 30 years paying into Social Security, then they should receive the benefit they were promised. If an American pays into Medicare then there should be Medicare help at the promised age.
Unemployment insurance should be a fair benefit if money has been paid into the system for the benefit. However, unemployment pay was never intended to take the place of a regular job but to help people out with a little bit of money each month until they could find a job. Often I hear stories of people who are stretching out their unemployment pay for almost a year and simply taking a year off to do nothing. This type of behavior is hurting us in our country. As soon as people are unemployed they need to begin looking for work and not wait until the week before their unemployment runs out to apply for a job.
Medicaid is not a dirty word unless it's being abused. When people become so sick that they are financially unable to care for themselves, Medicaid is appropriate.
There are different statistics on Welfare. I've read that about four million people in the United States are on Welfare. This is a changing number depending on who is citing the number. Welfare is not bad but there should be a limit on how long a person is allowed to be in the welfare system. No one should be able to milk the welfare system for years and years.
Approximately 45 million people in the United States use food stamps. The number is changing every day. If a family or a single person is unemployed or even in the working poor class I can understand the necessity of food stamps.
Millions of working Americans can barely afford to feed themselves. However, food stamps should be a Band-Aid and not a lifelong crutch. How long should people be allowed to have food stamps? Should it be a year, or two years or five years? The United States Government cannot have 45 million people on food stamps and eventually 50 or 60 million people. That figure could become a reality. There has to be an adjustment in the length of time that people can be on the food stamp program. Millions of Americans have been on food stamps all their lives.
I am for helping the poor of society. If we can why wouldn't we? However, there must be a time frame.
Every church that I served as a pastor always had a weekly stream of strangers asking for help. I seldom received a benevolent request from a church member. Almost all the requests came from people I had never met.
One case I remember vividly. A man started coming in almost every week asking for $10 or $20 or whatever I could give him for gasoline, food for his children or money to see the doctor. Occasionally, he would say he had a job interview and needed $10. He was good at having a different reason every time he requested assistance. This went on for about three months and finally I had to say no. I told him I had done all I could do and that was the truth. Our church did not have a very large benevolent budget. I was making a small salary and we had done all we could do. The guy became so irate that he verbally berated me before he left my study. It seemed like all the weeks that I had tried to help didn't mean anything to him.
I stood on the main street of Inez, Kentucky in 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson rode through our town. He came to our tiny county to declare his war on poverty in the United States. At that time we were considered the poorest county in the country. He visited Tom Fletcher down on Route 3, which is about two miles from our family home. His visit was going to start the process of making everything better in our region and country. However, we didn't know we were poor. We all thought we were doing okay. We didn't have food stamps, Medicare or Medicaid or government assistance, but we were managing to eat and had clothes and shelter.
We received a lot of publicity from Johnson's visit. It was told that Fletcher received a lot of donations and soon public assistance. I do not know if that is true, but it was the local rumor at the time. Rumors are usually greatly exaggerated and he probably did not receive as much as was told. Soon, we heard about people signing up for food stamps and monthly assistance checks.
Unfortunately today in Martin County many people are on food stamps and welfare as they are throughout the United States. We have raised a nation of welfare addicts. They grow up in welfare and are welfare crippled.
Martin county is better off today, but not because of President Johnson's visit. The coal mining industry boomed in the very early '70s. There is still some mining today in the county and throughout the region. However, coal production in the region has significantly declined compared to the '70s and '80s because the demand is less. The demand for natural gas has greatly increased.
Finally, there is a nice four-lane road that connects Inez to Route 23. This makes traveling to other towns for work easier. Unfortunately, there are not many employment opportunities in this region.
My dad drove two hours to Holden, West Virginia for many years to provide a coal miner's living for the seven of us in our family. It wasn't easy but he and my mother took care of and raised five children.
I am not opposed to people helping people or even the government helping people for a limited period of time. Everybody has moments when they need some help. However, I am opposed to career or lifelong welfare. People sitting home and collecting money from the Federal Government while not trying to improve their lives must stop.
We have to reverse the trend in this nation of people living on entitlement programs. Food stamps were meant as a source of relief. Today millions have made them a lifestyle. The programs were meant to help those in times of dire need and not to become a way of life.
Medicaid should be for those who have truly become so sick that they cannot do anything to help themselves. For this group we want to reach out as Americans and help. However, for the lazy people looking for a way to escape, free medical cards, food stamps and monthly handouts must end.
Millions of Americans are considered the working poor of America. They make less than $20,000 a year. Many of these people may be receiving food stamps because their income is not enough to live on. I believe most people are sympathetic to those who are truly disabled and need help as well as anyone who is trying to help themself with any type of job regardless of how low the pay.
In the '60s I remember people from our county going to Michigan and Ohio to work in the factories. Today very few people travel north for work. We hope the economy in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio and Detroit becomes strong once again. However they are hiring in other parts of the nation. We must be willing to go where jobs are available in order to care for ourselves and for our families.
Glenn Mollette is the author of American Issues: Every American Has An Opinion and nine other books.
He can be heard each Sunday night nationally on radio
XM 131 at 8:00 EST.
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123 Main Street, Awesomeville, MA