Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Blaming of the Poor for Being Poor


This quote really touched me deeply. I have always bee taken aback by the unfair ways in which society stereotypes those in need. 

A lot of people seem to view welfare as a "handout", but legitimately poor people do exist in this country. Nobody wants to be poor or aspires to live in poverty. 

Do some people abuse the welfare programs? Sure they do. There's always abuse in any program. But that doesn't mean the people who legitimately need it should be punished because of the actions of those who abuse the system. If we did that, we would have no system for anything, since every system is abused by some people. 

Anyone can be befallen by hard times and be forced to rely on food stamps/welfare for a while until they get back on their feet. People are befallen by catastrophic illnesses that bankrupt them, layoffs, downsizing, natural disasters, etc. 

Any of us could be closer to being in this situation than we'd like to admit. It's sad to me that we lump all welfare recipients together. Those who abuse the system constitute the vast minority of recipients. 

The true measure of a nation is how that nation treats those in need.

Do you think we unfairly judge those who are poor and in need of social welfare programs? 

150 comments:

  1. I think we unfairly judge those at both ends.
    Yes, there are those who abuse the system. And they teach their kids to do the same. It's sad, because there are people who legitimately need help.

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  2. I think so. Although I'm not a fan of people who abuse the system, I think a system should be in place because there are a lot of legitimately poor people. I have a few handicapped friends and they rely on government assistance. I know they struggle and they were born with their conditions; no one asks to be handicapped either. I know people who have fallen on hard times; either by losing their job or other forms of bad luck, the assistance until they get back on their feet have been helpful.

    However, wealthy people can abuse the system too. Look at all the bailouts in 2009 of wealthy corporations. I have noticed it's usually those corporations that call out poor people for abusing the system. Pot calling the kettle black. Abuses happen everywhere, but we don't point our fingers at the wealthy because I think we automatically judge poor people as lazy.

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  3. Yes, I agree. These days there are many people who live paycheck to paycheck at a level that doesn't allow savings of any kind, such as a cushion or retirement. A job loss or serious illness is almost a straight shot to poverty or homelessness for many. The decades long wage suppression in the US has left many at risk.

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  4. I was a single Mom with Adam for 8 years and for 5 of those years, I received no child support from his Dad (ok ... well more like 7 years now...lol!!) ... so I had to reach out for help and get food stamps .. I had (still have) a full time job, but feeding a toddler/young child is not easy on your own .... I have/had been given a very hard time about being on food stamps back then ... people never understanding why I needed help when I had a full time job. Well, not all full time jobs are $100k+ a year ... enough said :)

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  5. I don't think we should judge anyone... I live paycheck to paycheck and I make a fairly decent living for Nova Scotia... I understand that hard times can befall anyone. I can tell you this much, what is given to someone on welfare is next to nothing... I honestly don't know how they find affordable shelter, it is beyond me. Instead of judging them, I think we need to help educate them...

    I had assistance when I had my oldest daughter and back in the day (she is 33 now)... they helped me by paying for courses for me and for daycare so that I could attend them. I rarely sat home, I took many courses, worked part time... eventually I had to work two jobs to look after myself and even though I would not want to work two jobs again, I would do it again if I had to live...

    Judging anyone never helped them...

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  6. Hello Keith,

    We agree wholeheartedly. A turn of circumstances can render even the best of us into situations that we would not choose, poverty being just one of them. And, it is a great indictment on a society which does not provide for the least fortunate, especially at times of greatest need.

    So, we accept that there may be abuse of the welfare systems since this happens in all walks of life and at all state in society but, a safety net is vital in all civilised communities.

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  7. The legitimately poor deserve all the help they can possibly get. However, I feel that the vast majority of people on welfare are not the legitimately poor. They are simply able-bodied people who have made a career out of abusing the welfare system.

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  8. Oh the bums who lie around and abuse it need a swift kick upside the head. But people who actually need it should not be judged as it can happen to anyone, anywhere.

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  9. I agree with you 100 percent. the rich abuse more than the poor do and they steal from the poor to be rich. Not all the rich just like not all the poor. yes there are abusers that don't want to work, but there are many who are working 3 jobs at 8.25 per hour, Florida min wage, and her 50 hous is 412.00 a week. she has 3 children.. i would like to see the rich live on 412 per week and feed their kids without help. our rent here starts at 700 for the worst place in town. i say to those who judge, walk in her shoes for a month.

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  10. I think we judge and complain about those who milk the system and abuse it because they are stealing from those who most need a helping hand. Stealing from the rich is a crime, stealing from the poor is abominable.

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  11. You are right on the money Keith. It's easy to point to the outliers who abuse the system and clump everyone in need as a bum, but that's simply not the case.
    In the job I now have, I talk to people every day who worked great jobs, but then the work they did got shipped off shore leaving them with families, mortgages, and a light bill that comes monthly whether you have a job or not.
    We live in a strange an wonder land. If only more people had your view.

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  12. Oh I grow weary of hearing this. The working poor are the ones that get forgotten in all this I know moms working two sometimes three minimum wage jobs trying to feed there kids. People need help and programs should always be there no excuses.Not everyone rips these systems off. We all need help sometimes.No one chooses to be poor and most people I know work very hard getting no where. B

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  13. I couldn't agree more. I grew up in a working class poor family and lived in a community full of working class poor people. And although you'd find the occasional misfit, the vast majority of the people I knew were honest and very hardworking individuals. I've lived surrounded by them and have a good understanding of what it feels like to have very little. And I can't tell you how many times in my life I've heard derogatory comments about the poor. Most of it is ridiculous, but also disturbing. Sometimes I'll make a statement when I'm tired of the nonsense; other times I shake my head at the sheer ignorance. Yes, there are people that abuse the system. That applies to all sides: rich, poor, middle.

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  14. I'd like to come back to your last post here: Judging is always wrong! Always! We are not in any other person's shoes than our own so we should never judge another being for we can never know the full extent of what they're going through. Our society needs to learn a lot about compassion here. I agree that there are many rich people out there that got their money with not so fair or right methods and the few that abuse the system make the ones in need look bad. Isn't it incredible what kind of power those people have that abuse the system? Or should I say: what kind of power we let them have?...

    An extremely thought-provoking post, honey. I've always been in awe of your positive, warm and gentle attitude towards the people in need and it just became even more. I love you for the wonderful man you are!

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  15. Yes, all women/men are both are equal. Yes, we need a welfare state.

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  16. Interesting topic, I am all for welfare, despite the abuse.

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  17. I think an interesting question is "who benefits"? We don't issue "food cards" and other government benefits because we are a caring, generous people. Who cries harder when benefits are reduced? Walmart, Target, the milk industry. Many "working poor" receive government benefits and that is a failure to our capitalist system.

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  18. Those who blame the poor for poverty have never walked a mile in their shoes. If they had, they'd know better.

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  19. While we lived in NYC, I had regular association with many people who lived on government assistance. In fact, I met one little boy who told me his mom was having child #11 so they could get more money. Yikes! The biggest lesson I learned from that circumstance was that there is actually a culture of poverty, and those born into it have no idea there's a world beyond. How could they? I adore associations that help people get on their feet after a temporary knock down, but I do frown on government institutions that empower people to live on tax dollars. A hand out can become addicting.

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  20. I heard it said on many occasions that the average person is 1-2 paychecks from being on the street. So it could really happen to anyone of us that we fall on hard times. I have to say in my younger years I would have judge a bit more harshly if I saw someone paying with food stamps, but with some of the volunteer work I've done with homeless people, I have learned that they have indeed just fallen on hard times and most would like to get back on their feet and off the street.

    betty

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  21. My daughter is one example. Had a job, a car, a place to live one minute and the next they were gone. A uninsured motorist hit her and she had the least insurance she could afford. Her car is gone, she can't work for months ahead, cannot stay alone, cannot walk but she has to be disabled for a year before they help. Since she is in our home our income counts for her, even though she's temporarily here, no assistance available.

    It is a sad world. I know there are many couples where both work two jobs and just enough to be over that line of starvation. They still do not have enough to pay for all the food.

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  22. I think it's kind of like the legal system idea of 'better to let some guilty go free than to punish one free man, or something on that order. Better to feed a few freeloaders than risk one truly needy person starving or freezing to death. And where would that leave those lacking enough education to get a job? Surely it is not their fault alone that they slipped through the cracks of education. How could it be, when they would have been children? But what's to become of those children when they attempt to be self-supportive as an adult in a world where 'may the best man/woman be hired' is the logical way to run a human resources department?

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  23. It's hard to be human and not judge. I have seen misuse of charity and seen where it is needed and appreciated. I have seen both cruelty and kindness from the wealthy. It is not my place to judge (I keep telling myself that).

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  24. I absolutely think we unfairly judge those who need help. Unfortunately, that's due in large part to the slack-asses who do abuse it. However, nobody in need should be tarred with the epithet "useless," "feckless," or "worthless." I'd rather assume you need help rather than assume you are one of the aforementioned slack-asses.

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  25. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I feel so alone in my neck of the woods with my feelings expressed by Norman Mailer and you. I wonder if I can post that poster on FB. Yes, the working people pay for the non-working people, but the typical person on "welfare" are NOT getting rich. Thank you for posting this. I knew you were a good guy. :)

    Teresa

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  26. Yes, there are those who judge too quickly but I have also seen people who are comfortable in life who have compassion for those who are less fortunate and do something about it.

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  27. Things are very different in the U.K., and the Great Scot got quite a shock when he moved here when we got married.
    When my daughter was 1, after a year when I'd had 1 scheduled and 2 surprise surgeries I finally gave up and applied for food stamps when the bone in my ankle was ripped apart and I had to choose between staying off it for 3 months after the bone was set, in hopes it would grow back together, or have several surgeries which might or might not work.

    That was the most humiliating experience of my life, and even with obvious surgical scars/cast/wheelchair I was, at best, treated with contempt when using the foodstamps (which were still stamps in booklets back then). At worst? I was accused of faking injury, milking the system, and was subject to speculation about when I was going to 'pop out another kid'.
    Exactly 3.5 months after getting food stamps I stopped taking them because I was able to return to work.

    I've also worked with foodstamp and welfare recipients; with only one exception in over 20 years, every one of them got off benefits just as soon as they were able.

    My philosophy is, basically, I AM my brother's keeper. Oh, and since most benefits go to families, why should children go homeless and hungry just because I don't approve of their parents?

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  28. Keith you are really pulling some heart strings lately...is marriage making you sentimental I hope???!!!. I am so glad to live in a country that takes care of it's citizens. In my family there are five children...we have all been poor, never in need of government services that I know of and never would be because the other siblings would step up to the plate before that would happen. I grew up blessed, but when I got a divorce 20 years ago, I lived on &982.00 a month....for a year...and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got my butt to work and started painting garage sale furniture, tripled my income and started a new career. You are so right on...all programs get abused by the rich and the poor...it is not for us to judge because you just never know why.

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  29. Having watched this very near most of my working life I so remember those that would tell me they would never work. They don't have to because the government takes care of them. I so remember those people. Then their kids were on welfare and then their grand-kids were on welfare. It became generational. There are those in need, but to live ones entire life on social programs speaks volumes about their lack of character.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  30. I agree with Jon. Also, I believe many people end up in these circumstances because they have not properly prepared for life. Education is the way to avoid a life of poverty. Yet, how many people do not even take advantage of the free education afforded by our government. It is hard to have sympathy for anyone who has made little effort to prepare. I am all for helping those in true need in spite of their best efforts. The problem is in the sorting of those. The children are always the losers.

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  31. I had a debate about this with a few friends and they definitely had a stereotype of poor people. It bothered me to no end. I think it's easy for people to say "well, they should this or that" to get out of poverty or "if i was them, i would study really hard and get a scholarship." it's really easy to judge and think that we would do better in their circumstance but sometimes things happen - forces out of our control - the system already in place - that really make it hard for people to come out of poverty. i wish i was could vocalize this a bit better for my privileged friends who think otherwise but often times i get so angry in the process.

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  32. I'm sure we do pre-judge those who truly need a lending hand. But I must also state that I know for sure there are some who'd rather do the panhandling/hand-outs on a corner of a busy street that to really work for their pay. For instance, this I will never EVER forget. When we lived in Tucson, on a busy intersection I stopped to offer a job to one who was panhandling for 'free money"...his sign he held said "Work for Food". I offered him pay AND food for him to do some work for us. He refused. Then, some others of the same instance came to actually have the story printed in our local newspaper...one on the staff of the newspaper interviewed the same man...he confessed he didn't need to work when there was 'free' money to be handed out to him. Some just don't deserve a kind act when they refuse to work for a living.

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  33. Hi O. E., I am really, really, enjoying your blog. I stopped by a few days ago on your previous post about absolute right and wrong. I ended up taking so much time to think about a reply that I was called out by my micro manager to tend to other tasks. :-) Not only do I find your questions, and the way you frame them, fascinating, but also there are many well-stated comments worthy of consideration. (By the way, I see some who address you as Keith, so I will go with that in the future if you don’t mind.) Now, as for today’s post, I absolutely agree that “we”, aka “the silent majority,” stereotype most welfare recipients as cheaters. Your quote from Norman Mailer is right-on-target. Also, in the way you framed the question, you explained exactly why so many think the way they do. After reading this post, my very first thought was, How do I get Keith to attend my next family reunion … as Guest of Honor. I would love for some of them (aka “right wingers”) to chat with you! :-) Thanks for sharing your blog and for your kind comments on mine. John

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  34. I definitely think we wrongly judge the poor. Last year was a terrible time for me. While I wasn't on welfare, I admit that I did get help from the government. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have had money to keep my electric on or money to buy food. Being in a situation like that really puts things into perspective for you. Anything can happen that just creates a spiraling motion that plunges you into poverty. Sometimes you can't control it or even see it coming.

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  35. I definitely think we wrongly judge the poor. Last year was a terrible time for me. While I wasn't on welfare, I admit that I did get help from the government. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have had money to keep my electric on or money to buy food. Being in a situation like that really puts things into perspective for you. Anything can happen that just creates a spiraling motion that plunges you into poverty. Sometimes you can't control it or even see it coming.

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  36. Hello Keith!:) I think that anyone who has a low paid job, or even two low paid part time jobs, and genuinly still can't make ends meet should be able to ask for welfare assistence. Someone who through no fault of their own who has lost a job, should also qualify, and thank goodness benefit exists for these people who would have serious problems without it. The cheats and idolent who abuse the system, don't deserve it ofcourse, but better a system in place to help the really poor and deserving, than not.
    Warm Regards.

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  37. I don't think we judge them as much as we fear them. As they embody a fear most us of have, that of losing it all, having nothing.

    You can determine the wealth of a nation by how they treat their elderly and the poor - someone said that, don't know who, and I believe that.

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  38. You nailed it again, Keith!
    My father and I were discussing this very topic, when I said almost those exact words that you just wrote: The true measure of a nation is how that nation treats those in need.
    After that, the conversation came to an abrupt halt and we went our separate ways. (He is 93) They get bitter and angry at the world by the time they reach their nineties, I think.
    Thank you for this post. This VERY important post. Wise words. Let's pass it on.

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  39. I do feel the poor are badly stereotyped.I taught for many years in an extremely poor neighborhood, and I didn't meet any parents who found it a desirable alternative to have a better life.

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  40. I find it's usually those who have never fallen on hard times that misjudge the poor but there are also legitimate reasons to make judgements about some who receive welfare too.

    I think the system of food stamp and welfare should be revamped to include drug testing and perhaps volunteer work for those who are able who are receiving benefits, if people who work have to be drug tested, then those getting free benefits should also. those on welfare even if they can't get a job or unable to find one could volunteer to help in their neighborhood or neighbors, much like the CCC worked during the depression. This might become a network for those out of work and might lead to opportunities that might not otherwise be found.

    when I lived in florida there were folks working under the table as landscapers and pool cleaners and housekeepers and collecting welfare and they always had plenty of cash and fancy clothes and cars and cell phones for everyone in the family. My husband was looking for a job and couldn't find or get one, he ran into a woman at a pool supply place he and the sales person were discussing folks working under the table, the woman said she had a housekeeper, pool guy and lawn maintenance person all working in her home under the table and when my husband said it wasn't right, she said "well who will clean my house, do my lawn or clean my pool" and my husband said he would gladly do it but then she said she'd have to take taxes out and didn't want to do that.

    it was the same in California where we lived for years, many of the folks collecting benefits even bragged about how easy it was to get all the free stuff and then work under the table.

    there is much more abuse than many people realize.

    In any system there is always room for improvement and the striving for that improvement shouldn't be abandoned

    Once when I was in college I tried to get food stamps for just three months till I got my student loan and I was turned down; I practically begged to get them but to no avail, so got help from my firends, I babysat and worked as a waitress and went to school at the same time. At the same time I knew several people at my college collecting food stamps under three different names and others collecting benefits that didn't need them. Many knew and know how to work the system, I didn't.

    all this being said I could be on the other side of the coin in one fell swoop if an accident or illness befell either one of us, but at the same time I probably wouldn't quality for any help as my assets would be judged too new (I had a friend who was on disability and she couldn't have a car valued any greater than $4000 and couldn't have very much money in the bank) or too much to get help, so the system is designed for those who have no (visible) assets, that's another area where the revamping needs to start, a person shouldn't have to spend all their savings or sell their home to get help and then when their car breaks down they cant' fix it or get to work or look for work, a catch 22 and a spiraling down to even greater poverty.

    no you can't judge a person by looking but you can't ignore reality either just to be politically correct.

    the status quo isn't always a good way to go - I see the middle class slowly eroding away with the systems we have currently in place, many things do need to change a lot

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  41. oh brother I didn't realize I wrote so much. ha

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  42. The trouble with judgment is that you can never come up with a rubber stamp that fits every situation. There's abuse, there genuine need. I don't think we'll ever resolve world need completely nor end abuse of the system.

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  43. This reminds of that quote that says we see the world not as it is but as we are. When we learn to stop judging and start helping each other, I think everything we collaborate on will get better. People need to feel productive to feel good about themselves, to want to contribute. Maybe assistance when needed, can be based on what the individual is able to do, instead of what they aren't able to do. There is abundance and enough for everybody if we shift out of our scarcity mentality. This is another good post, hugs to you Keith!

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  44. We need to get rid of tax evasion by the wealthy, that's where most of the fraud goes on. Most people on welfare or benefits need them, though as you say there are people who abuse the system,

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  45. quite true on the opposite end of the spectrum - so many tax loopholes and the like to keep the wealthy with as much $$ as they can.

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  46. Yes, I do think there are some who judge the poor, because like you said, nobody wants to be in this situation if they could help it. You are a spokesperson on this subject, and I thank you for that, my friend. Your compassionate voice is much needed in the world.

    Have an awesome day.

    ~Sheri

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  47. There are abuses at both ends of the spectrum and in between. That is human nature, just as it is human nature to judge--everything and everybody!

    Big hugs, honey...

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  48. It happens everywhere... and there are people who are not physically able, so if there aren't schemes like those people will suffer more.

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  49. You are right on to start this discussion. There's a lot of questions with how to handle all of this and no right answers. I think we all need to be a little more compassionate.

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  50. I feel so strongly about this, mainly because my husband and I almost found ourselves in an inescapable situation. When we first moved to Kentucky, the hubby worked for his dad. The pay was horrible and didn't offer any benefits. We had no health insurance, so I couldn't afford drugs to keep my migraines away and ended up getting 3-4 severe migraines a month. I was in bed for 4-5 days with each migraine. There was no way I could have worked in the condition I was in, but I needed health insurance to get the drugs I needed to be able to go back to work. But I had to have a job to get insurance. It was a no-win for me. It was up to the hubby to work for his dad while trying to find a better job. The market offered very few job opportunities, most didn't pay enough to live on or offer benefits. We blew through our savings, and started running up the credit cards. It seemed like a situation we couldn't get out of. I suddenly saw the hole that people go down that they CANNOT get out of. Not all people that go down that hole are lazy and looking for handouts. Thankfully, my husband got a good job and things turned around, but there were 75 people competing for that one job. 75 people, and only one of them came out with enough money to live on and health insurance. The point of ALL that is there are absolutely people that need assistance, WE might have if our situation had continued. And my husband is the last person you would call lazy, unproductive, or the kind to take charity. Because I've experienced all of it, I have compassion and I try never to judge. Granted, there will always be exceptions to the rule.

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  51. I don't believe welfare should be part of the role of government, but I do believe we as individuals, churches, and communities should help the less fortunate.

    Life can be genuinely difficult at times. Sometimes its our own fault, sometimes the fault of others or of the economy, and sometimes just bad fortune. My ancestors fell on some bad times in the late 20s, 30s, and 40s, but as far as I know they never took free government assistance. They suffered, worked hard, and stretched pennies until they were back on their feet again.

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    1. (And I will add, they were thankful for the kind individuals who helped). Little kindnesses can make a big difference.

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  52. I think that we allow the few to determine the identity of the many...I have been on public assistance prior...it was for a short period of time but I often tell people that when they start complaining...it is easy when you can not or do not have to put a face to the issue...it is an individual evaluation...

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  53. I work w/the public and I see those who are needing it and grateful for it- and then I see those who don't work, living on welfare, on their smartphones and buying cigarettes. I work and I can't afford a smartphone!! Depressing... But regardless, judging less and being kind should always apply, and I do try! Though some days are harder than others. =)

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  54. I like this quote. I do not judge the poor or anyone else. It is tough being poor and some people need to walk in their shoes before they judge. I am all for welfare and any other help we can give them. The bible tells us to take care of these people.

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  55. There are definitely circumstances which occur in everyone's lives beyond their control. Of course, there are things within our control and we all have responsibilities in life. Someone being poor does not automatically make them irresponsible. As being rich does not automatically make someone responsible. And vice versa. I don't feel qualified to judge either one. I do think helping someone in need is a blessing to the giver as well as the recipient. Although some people do take advantage...all I can do is control me.

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  56. I only wish that with food stamps they would push people to get healthier things. I've seen articles where they have to get crap food with the stamps. Maybe I'm wrong. I've never had to get food on food stamps. It's kind of a roller coaster going down hill instead of up.

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  57. Yes we often unfairly judge those who are poor and in need of social welfare programs.
    And as you said "The true measure of a nation is how that nation treats those in need.". Therefore, it is our obligation as a Nation and as a Government to take care of the poor.

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  58. The poor are already in a harsh condition. Being judged is the last thing they would need. No person deserves to be judged. Each one has his or her own story. A more privileged person reaching out to help one in need makes a huge difference.

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  59. I think you're absolutely right Keith. we do make mistakes, it might not be so evident for you there but here in India, when you see strands of helplessness and extreme poverty, it breaks your heart. I wish they find a way out.

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  60. I'm a bleeding heart who would feed everyone if I could. I'm not adverse to those seeking help who need it. I don't understand why those who need it sometimes don't (I'm thinking of homeless people). I suppose there is a lot of red tape that would make it frustrating/hard/impossible for a homeless person to get them. As for your question, I do think everyone judges everyone unfairly (speaking generally in terms of socioeconomic classes). I just saw a headline today about Paris Hilton's brother throwing a fit on a plane and I attributed his attitude instantly to being too privileged. Shame on me, I'm certain there are tons of wonderful people who also happen to have money.

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  61. I do believe folks are too quick to lump everyone into one pot. Those in need must have the same traits as the abusers. That would be like saying that all who are prosperous are evil, back stabbing users. As far as I am concerned, I am happy to give part of my prosperity (which isn't a whole lot but better than many) to someone who just didn't have my breaks.

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  62. Ah, this is hard one for me. We can't judge each other, everyone has their conditions they were pampered in/or not at all. I believe this is dictates, forms the personality.

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  63. I KNOW we unfairly judge people in need. In a previous manifestation I worked for the Government assessing need, and providing income support. Yes there were some who rorted the system but they were in the minority. A very small minority.

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  64. Oh, I think many are willing to stereotype, put a whole group of people into the same pot. I am sure some abuse welfare & other government programs; but then there are also those who abuse their jobs by taking fake sick days or using time to search the internet for their own purposes or taking work supplies home, etc. It is easier to point fingers. Let the one who is perfect cast the first stone.

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  65. So very true. Yes, there will always be those who abuse it, but by and large, I think most of those living in poverty would welcome a way to work out of it.

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  66. Every situation is different, and people from all different economic backgrounds could fall on hard times. Some could be related to illness, bad investments, losing their jobs, or all of the above.

    Julie

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  67. I think a lot of the negativity toward those in need is out of fear and guilt. Fear because we all know it could happen to anyone (if we excuse it by "laziness," we can say it won't happen to us) and guilt because we know we should be helping. So dismissing those people makes it easier to drive past them or walk past them on the street.

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  68. This is what i really like in Scandinavian societies: here we take care of each other. In nowadays world it takes huge talent, lot of luck and a good sense for social climbing and luck to get rich from 0 or even from coming from the middle class.

    It is easier to be rich when one is born rich and can go to good schools, study languages and is even smart on the top of it all.

    Some of us are born more privileged than others, it is no one`s fault, but to build a society where the chances are at least a bit more equal can benefit to everyone in that society. It is a much better feeling to live in a country where you know that everyone gets at least the basics: food, a place to live and access to public health care. There is less poverty and social aggression on average and it gives one hope for the future.

    Just as in real life the people who care for others not just for themselves are much happier, also on the level of the society it really pays off to care for each other and not just wanting to collect as much money as possible for ourselves.

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  69. Okay, I'm not reading through the 70 previous comments to see if this has already been said ;)

    Unfortunately, those who abuse the system give those who legitimately need help a bad name. This is how stereotypes are formed, and stereotypes are useful as we try to make sense of the world. (Not saying it's fair, so don't shoot the 'messenger')

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  70. A stigma that was created by those who abuse it

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  71. The Bible tells us to take care of the poor and the widows...our country is failing miserably. So sad...True we are all closer to poverty than we think. The one thing I notice is when a rich people lose their wealth many commit suicide...i notice many poor people still can enjoy a sun rise and a sunset and hug their children even when the last penny is spent.

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  72. I have read thru all of the previous comments and have two questions:
    What is "wealthy"?
    What are all of those "loopholes" the wealthy keep taking advantage of?
    I'm serious.

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  73. I do agree with you. I've raised my son to be a giver. And he has always played a part of choosing who or what organizations we donate to.

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  74. We live in a world of stereotypes. Unfortunately, many people do not realize how judgmental they are until they, themselves have fallen on hard times. Until you walk in another person's shoes.....
    I love the last line of your post - 'The true measure of a nation....' We cannot rise as a nation unless we elevate the least of those who inhabit it. How can we call ourselves a great nation when we have failed our poor? Almost 20% of American children live in poverty and consistently exceeds all wealthy nations. Extreme poverty is 1.5 million households with almost 3 million of those children who don't know where their next meal will come from. Do we turn our backs or do we willingly pay taxes to supplement these innocents? One in five Millennials live in poverty. Job programs, affordable health care and housing, supplemental food vouchers and access to higher education are things I am willing to pay taxes for. There is so much waste of government spending.......Obviously this is a subject that is close to my heart. I think it should be mandatory education for every student to study poverty. If we took care of our poor, crime would go down, productivity would rise and we could actually call ourselves a great nation. Instead, we give tax breaks to big business who take their industry to third world countries and exploit the desperately poor there. It is a humanity issue, not a political issue and as long as big business runs our government, we will never resolve it.

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  75. I do believe there are people really in need of help and then there are some that are just plain cheaters.. I wish they could put a stop to just the cheaters. Or somehow put a time limit on how long they collect..On the other end, I would like to see all the tax breaks stopped, kickbacks, bribes and other greedy acts of our government officials..

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  76. We may need to change our perspective. Often success is evaluated from an external perspective---the acquiring of things and how expensive these items are, be it a house, clothing or jewelry. As someone has said, abundance is not in how much we have, but in how much we enjoy.

    I have known many wealthy people who are utterly poor where it counts: character. They were judgmental, unloving and insensitive.

    I have also seen those who may have been judged as poor who were incredibly wealthy. They may not have had money to buy a gift for a loved one, but they used a pencil to write them a poem or picked up a guitar and composed a song for the person for that individual's birthday.

    So, who are really the poor? I think it is those who cannot connect with others, those who are bitter or arrogant. And the rich? Those, who no matter how little they have materially, they bless others with their kindness and love.

    This was my roundabout answer to your question. I don't automatically judge a person by the car, job or money he has or doesn't have. All people can offer beauty and wealth, if we just get to know them beyond their title, looks, ethnicity, name or what part of town they come from.

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  77. We never know the circumstances of an individual or how they got in that situation, so we should never judge. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that if you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. Unfortunately, with the way the government programs work, they are actually a disincentive to work, because the more you make, the less help you get. Even though the little bit being made isn't enough to support a family in times of need. It's a shame it works out like that.

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  78. Agreed, Keith. I never thought I'd be on welfare but that's exactly what happened to myself and my boys when I was only 27 and their daddy died in an accident. I needed help to get back on my feet so I put the boys on Medicaid, got food stamps and went back to school and took out a ton of loans to get myself back off the ground. It was tough, but I did it. And, I think to judge people simply on face value is a terrible thing to do - poor or rich.

    Elsie

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  79. I am totally in agreement with Mailer on this one, Keith. No one needs to hear my childhood story. The important thing is that I found a way to climb out of it, plus my father kept looking for a way to escape his current situation - and he finally did!

    Elsie's is the only comment I have glanced over, and I heartily applaud her for what she accomplished!

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  80. Society completely misjudges people in need. If you can't make ends meet, it's always "get a better job" or "go to school for a better degree", as if those things can be done with the snap of your finger. And there are so few people who do abuse the system, but those are the only ones people seem to care about.

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  81. You've raised a point I hadn't considered. I think the reason we look down on the poor and not the rich is that outwardly, it doesn't seem like the poor are doing anything to change their situation. Of course that's not the case, it's just the perception.

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  82. I am a credit counsellor and see this on a daily basis. I have seen people on assistance and people on ODSP. I have had people with high incomes from teachers to people who work for the banks. I have seen people who have abused the system (in the end they usually get caught-it may take a few years but they get caught) but I majority of the people are on it for a reason. people can not help it if they become ill, separate from their spouse or lose their job. I have seen women who were so abused by their husband that it took all their worth to leave even though they had no income at all. Yesterday I saw a beautiful young lady who cares for her mom. Her mom is on assistance because she can't work and she can't get Disability because the Dr's do not believe her pain is real(she broke her leg in 3 places trying to stop her son from running into traffic). This young lady suffered the suicide of her friend and brother. The friend and brother fell in love but the parents would not agree to their union. Distraught her friend killed herself and her brother, after trying to run into traffic and taking 200 tylenol and still not succeeding finally succeeded by hanging himself (his sister found him). She had to look at getting help by paying some of her debt off by a Consumer Proposal as she did not want to claim bankruptcy, she felt it was unfair to the creditors. She is noble, strong and resilient even though she is on Disability and her mom is on Assistance. I find that it is easier to say one is a revering alcoholic than to say one has financial problems or is on assistance because of judgements we place on them. I have seen all walks on financial life pass through my office and all have heart and all have their own story that brought them to the place they are at now. I have seen so many call me happy they are finally off assistance and are now working. We should not generalize or judge because of the few who abuse the system because there are so many more who use it as it is meant to be used and it helps them at a most difficult time

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  83. Some "poor" people have challenges we can't possibly imagined and I don't judge them for needing and wanting help ~ What I don't want is abuse and too much reliance on the support system that they don't want to help themselves and take the hard way, that is work and work for a living ~ Good topic Keith ~

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  84. Some people judge unfairly. We fail to understand that many on welfare are incapable of working and gaining an income. there are many reasons why people can not work. We have to be ready and responsible to help those in need. Obviously this topic is important as many people have commented. I've enjoyed the comments.

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  85. I think we're quick to make blanket judgements. They never work.

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  86. I love the people who insist that the government has no role in helping it's own citizens. Churches and individuals would help the less fortunate? Don't they try/pretend to do that already?

    Real translation "I'm not paying more taxes"

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  87. Keith your paragraphs 3 & 4 sum it up very well and very accurately.
    I was responsible for the management and distribution of state and federal funds for both users of the system and 'genuine' people in need. It was called Emergency Relief Funding.
    However, the lines can become very blurry between the two - users v genuine. It's a complex subject. I could be here forever.
    A last word though, there's another group of people - the ones who will suffer unnecessarily and will not ask for help during times of financial crisis because of pride, as some people see that that is all they have left.

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  88. That in a rich country people can be sent into poverty by paying for treatment of a serious illness is extraordinary to most western countries.

    Far better to have a good medical system to look after the poor and stop people becoming poor by illness.

    Of course I think we should look after the poor through our taxes, especially in very rich countries.

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  89. Hi There, Yes --there will always be the 'poor' among us. I worked for a church for over 25 years and we helped those in need constantly. People find themselves in all kinds of circumstances beyond their control. Those are the people we ALL need to help.

    What bothers me these days (the past few years) are the ones who ABUSE the system and take money that really should go to the people truly in need. Those abusers just grow and grow and grow. These are the people who could work but would rather let the Govt. take care of them.

    What has happened to pride in our country? My parent's generation worked hard ---sometimes several jobs--to make ends meet to take care of their families. They would never have taken money from the Government -since to them, that money should go to the ones REALLY in need.

    I wonder now if the 'abusers' are really in the majority now (just the past few years) and the ones in 'real need' are not getting the necessary help they need... I'm afraid this problem is just going to get worse. Instead of throwing more and more money at these abusers thinking that they are helping them, this Govt. of ours needs to take that money and help encourage these people (abusers) to get out and work for a living. There are so many things the Govt. could do to help these abusers get on their feet and be able to stand tall and get on their own. But--as long as the Govt. continues to throw money at these abusers along with free phones, etc... they have no interest or desire to work...

    This entire problem is about the ones in real need VS. the abusers of the system... Can we fix that problem???? (Many people think it's a problem of the rich VS the poor--but I don't see it that way at all.)

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  90. You said it, Keith. I always think, there but for the grace of God, go I. I have lived in some very poor areas and seen many good people struggle. In any human situation you have people responding along a continuum, many toward the center and outliers at the end. I don't belief in punishing those who truly need assistance because of the minority who abuse it. So many bad things happen that people have no control over. People forget that our society lifts all of us up, even the fortunate who too often claim that they did everything on their own. Thanks for always bringing up such excellent questions.

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  91. Well, I'll tell you, I'm on the system, and the hate here is so extreme and it is hard every day. I had no choice in any of it, put on the system of disability in my early 30's, and into the mental system, stuffed into a low income hotel, drugged to beat the band by the shrinks. If I wasn't crazy before, then I was, with all those psyche drugs. I got abused further in the disgusting system, beaten on a psyche ward by staff, discharged without shoes or coat into a snow and ice storm two days before Christmas. After that I left the mental system, as it was brutal and ineffective. I almost died from the beating but it was difficult to get surgery to save me, since I was judged mental and we "mentals" don't really feel physical pain (apparently). Anyhow, I left it, still poor on SSI, old now, a good and honest person. I delved into volunteer work after my real life began in 2001, the year I left the mental system, trapped and transported over 10,000 local cats to be fixed, which was a boost to the people who count, the taxpayers. I've never been able to shake the feelings of worthlessness, however, that come from child abuse and being dubbed the scum of society.

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  92. I am quite admirative of the Scandinavian systems where the state tries to give its citizens something that is as close to equal chance as possible. Besides I'd rather something was given to someone who did not need it than know we have not helped someone in dire straits.

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  93. It's not the poor who waste the government's money by abusing the system but greed and over indulgence and unfair pricing of essential services that are allowed to go on. My grand daughter needs her 4 wisdom teeth pulled. It cost $113.00 for having the dentist take x-rays and refer her to a specialist who wants $1700.00 up-front before he operates.
    Something is not right here. When one is in unbearable pain, they need to have their wisdom teeth removed weather they can afford it or not.

    It makes my blood boil.

    Hugs,
    JB

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  94. Well said. We certainly have our problems in this country when it comes to taking care of those in need. And it goes well beyond welfare recipients.

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  95. Many are judged unfairly. I have known people on welfare who had just fallen on bad times and just need a helping hand for a while. One of my friends had always worked 2 or 3 jobs at a time to provide for her 3 children. She definitely was not lazy! But then she became quite ill and suffered a serious back problem. She could not work 2-3 jobs anymore, and working one became a challenge. I believe the conditions she was diagnosed with were due to a home she lived in. Unknown to her, it had bad mold and bats living in the attic and walls! I think that exposure was horrific on her! She needs assistance now but would rather not. She would rather be healthy and work her jobs!
    Then there are abusers who make all those receiving assistance look bad. Once met a girl who was 23 and had 5 children, all by different fathers! She got assistance money for each child and her reason for getting pregnant again, she needs more money per month!
    Each person and situation should be looked at individually! Frankly the girl with all the babies is not providing for the children and they would be better off with someone else! They are learning from her how NOT to live! Maybe she needs to be "fixed" as well!!

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  96. I love you more and more (platonically, of course. You and Beate make for a precious couple) with each post. =) I could start in on this one, but I've been a social worker and "bleeding heart liberal" (I think this only means that I have compassion, which seems to be viewed as a deficit nowadays) for about 20 years, so I'll say no more.

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  97. Social welfare programs are very important and are great help for people in
    need, I agree with you :)

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  98. Poverty is a pressing issue in almost all the nations. Groups that work for social welfare really do a great job in supporting the poor.

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  99. Not one to shy away from the tough topics. Well done, Keith.

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  100. Sometimes the economy is humane, sometimes not. When it isn't, and jobs just aren't, a civilized society needs a safety net.

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  101. Nobody should take advantage of any system or person but yet some do. I don't think that the people who do NOT abuse systems or people should be punished for those who don't. I love that quote, Keith. Very powerful.

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  102. I hear a lot of unfair political judgments of people looking for help...I also see abuse of the systems that provide welfare. It's a heartbreaker. I also like the Scandinavian systems for equal treatment...they are heavily taxed in order to make that happen.

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  103. Nobody wants to be poor
    or aspires to live in poverty

    Perfect truth Keith! Lack of education contributes to people's poverty.They cannot change much but with education their off-springs can make a difference for the better. So there are poor people but they may comprise different families at the next generation. The poor of the previous generation will endeavor to have a better off generation following them.

    Hank

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  104. I know some people who abuse the welfare system, and I know people who are very deserving of help. Everyone should be seen as an individual and treated according to circumstance. Like you say, it only takes one or two events to turn an employed man with his own house into a homeless person on the street.

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  105. OK, so I seriously had a HUGE comment ready to go on this.....and I decided against it! Deleted it all before hitting publish! I could do a whole blog post on situations that have happened to me and people I know. Yes, I think we do judge. I know there are people that abuse the system, and I know there are people that need help. I think what has happened, is that we have too many people that know how to Live off of the system now, and it has made us biased. My Shug and I have worked for everything. I do help the less fortunate, but I help them, help themselves. No more handouts. When someone says they will work for money, I let them WORK for money, just like I had to do.

    Cindy Bee

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    1. PS. That quote is so true. And honestly, I never thought about it that way but having worked for the county government, and having worked for a Community Garden program, I should have been the one to say it!

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  106. We DO judge - we group people together under a label, like "welfare recipient" - and then we judge the whole group, usually on the basis of a couple of anecdotes. It's wrong.

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  107. Yes, I think we probably do. Those who are working hard just to make ends meet probably do feel aggrieved when they see some people living much better lives on benefits than they could ever afford to.
    It is a sad truth that there will always be a minority that abuse the system, causing distrust of all those who genuinely need help.
    The latter are the ones I really feel for.

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  108. there's a lot to think about in your post...

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  109. Unfortunately, because of the abuse of the system, all recipients are looked on unfairly. It's too bad the true poor can't be weeded out from the abusers.

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  110. Yes.

    Love that quote. I think I'll copy it for my Facebook page (if that's all right?)

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  111. I think we do sometimes judge unfairly. As the saying goes, we shouldn't judge till we've walked a mile in someone's shoes. You don't know what someone might be up against. I guess the hard thing is to figure out how to manage the system and weed out the abusers.

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  112. I don't know how things and people react in your Country.
    Even in mine it varies according to the involvement (or lack of) one has with people in such situation.
    As you know Europe - I'm from Portugal, did I ever mentioned it?! well, I am - is going through an appalling Economic Crisis. And people that never thought they would had to live situations that made them... well, for lack of better word - poor. They lost their jobs, or their incomes were cut, or they thought the European non-ending funds would allow them to keep their life' standards and suddenly they found themselves drowned in credit and life costs that skyrocketed.
    Since I belong to a church who has a social network of help, we went from helping the poor (but that kind of poor that you could see that has been always poor and you can't foresee better future for the next generations) to start having people that were middle class and now need bags with food supplies to have food on the table. So my vision is - and we're Latin so Proud is our middle name - no one would go through that if they didn't really need it.
    Society might not be as clearsighted if they're not so involved. So, many times I listen to unfairness. Even by our governments that know that by throwing people against people they rule as they wish and people are distracted bashing each other and not paying real attention to their jobs. Or lack of ;).
    I prefer to think that the system is abused by a few than non-existant for all. I like to believe that the abusers are such a minority that won't harm the system and battling it and trying to figure it out distracts us and even discourages to help those in need.
    Take Care,
    Teresa

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  113. I say BRAVO to you for this post!
    I agree totally . . .

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  114. It is very demoralising to have to take handouts - I don't think most people would do it lightly. But there are scroungers out there who don't want to work and think it is their right to be given money regardless.

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  115. I loved your post. As someone on the frontline working with families, many of which are in need, I echo your feelings. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  116. wow....the last sentence struck me..you are right..

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  117. Yes, I think so. I very much agree with your post. Well said.

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  118. In India, I blame the poor only for their poverty... Any kind of help you give them be it blankets in winter or water or food, they would deny it and instead ask for cash!!! And what do they do with cash? Buy cigarettes and alcohol for themselves, not a penny is spent on their food or kid's education!!! With so many government plans and policies aimed at their betterment, there are still millions of people living under poverty! How is this possible? Either the government is so inefficient and corrupt or these people are just lazy bastards who just want everything for free and wouldn't work a muscle to get a decent job! They would drink, abuse their kids and rape their wives at night and in the morning they would blame the government for not helping them get a good life!!! I know people who were penniless but by hard work, they have now managed to get a decent home and live a decent life!
    In between all this, us middle class suffers, who have to pay more taxes year by year so that the vicious cycle of poverty can end! But we forget that as long as poor people don't honestly want to uplift themselves, we can't do anything about them! But why would they want this? They are happy doing nothing and eating off of others money and their sex entertainment in night! The situation has reached to such a level that even the government does not want to do anything more, except use these 'poor people' as vote banks! Which is what currently is happening!!!
    So yes, I do believe that only the person is responsible for where he is and no one else! Because if someone wants some thing really bad, then the whole universe conspires to let him achieve that!
    :-)

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  119. if poor don't need welfare programs,middle class don't need tax standard deductions or any kinda deductions in the name of insurance etc etc,politicians don't need funds from corporates for election campaign and corporates don't need favours from politicians.the economic inequality is resultant of characterless people in our society.so now we should define,who is the person with right character.most of them distort this definition too to please themselves. we should blame our society or its people for allowing inequalities in all aspects of life.

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  120. Yes it is a problem. The minority of abusers do give the legitimate welfare recipients a bad image. We shouldn't be hasty to label people.However, it is so annoying to hear of people that cheat the system.

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  121. People always deserve a second chance. I could only imagine that having no where to go and no income would be devastating. Even if most people abuse welfare, it's worth continuing if a few good people who need salvation have something to fall back on.

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  122. Interesting food for thought comments above as well! ^

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  123. What I find most interesting is that when someone suggests a revamping of the system to further minimize abuse, those people are automatically labeled as being too harsh, unsympathetic, and just 'don't get' that people sometimes need help. I don't recall reading or hearing anything suggesting that we shouldn't assist those single moms, disabled, etc. who need assistance. The issue isn't with the legitimately needy, but with the abusers. Just as the issue isn't with the top 1% of the wealthy, but with those that don't see their wealth as a tool to make a difference.

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  124. I tend to remember "There, but for the grace of God, go I," and I try not to judge how others live their lives.

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  125. i believe the "working class" moddle class does most of the work for the least reward. the rich & the poor could stand for improvement. in my hardworking opinion, theyre both the "laziest"

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  126. ps sorry ive been so lame on the blogging!

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  127. The greatest abusers of the system are the tax dodgers, the rich who play and manipulate any system, the capitalists who exploit the poor who work for a pittance, etc. Multinationals who take their businesses anywhere where they pay the lowest wages, etc. etc.

    Sure there are some at the bottom end of the scale who abuse the system but penny for penny it’s the rich who cause the greatest harm.

    Is a society not morally obliged to look after its poor and helpless.

    This subject makes me mad.

    Good look with the German. Deutsche Sprache schwere Sprache.

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  128. *The true measure of a nation is how that nation treats those in need.*
    Amen to that ...

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  129. Welcome back from Germany :) Hope your trip was magical. I see you are back to posting the kind of questions that make us all think - yay! Seriously who would choose to be poor? And let's even take it further, define poor. Some say the people with the most money are the most poor, because they just don't get it. Money is man-made, fake, you can't eat it, fill your heart with it, or take it with you.

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  130. Yes. End of story. So many wealthy people mistake their own good luck for virtue, and suspect those less fortunate of being less worthy. And there are a whole load of institutions who seem to propagate this idea.

    There, I got that off my chest!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  131. This is an interesting - and important - topic. I Think it comes down to one's view of other people. In my little world, we need solidarity and we need to look out for each other. It really is as simple as that.

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  132. It's easier to see the poor people that are poor because they don't want to work. It's also easier to see the rich people who are lazy and get all their money from the parents.
    A few bad examples make it so much harder to see the people who work hard for their wealth, as well as the people who need a helping hand in a bad situation.

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  133. I used to work in a school and there were an awful lot of deprived children who could have used a lot more help than we were able to provide - I wish people could see it from the other side.

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  134. A very important post Keith, I couldn't agree more with you. I've in situations where I've had a lot and the not a lot, because money is always changing hands and as you say any number of situations can cause you to lose that - thank you for blogging about this! - Tasha

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  135. I think if you've been poor and in need of help you can understand a lot better. But some people were born into wealth and have never known what it's like to go without a meal all day long or to be without. They are just not capable of understanding what that is like.

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  136. I agree with Mr.Mailor.
    Meaning of life? To help others while helping ourselves.

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  137. LOVED THIS POST!!! Thank you so much :') <3 Shine on and on and ON!

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  138. A lot of people blame the poor for being poor, and they do it for all sorts of reasons that basically come down to, if we didn't have to give money and aid to the poor, there would be more for me. People in the middle class think this way, and billionaires (strangely enough) think this way.

    This question would probably not be asked if the number of poor were not so large. The question will be asked more often as the number of poor increases. There have always been rich and poor, and a large middle class has been okay with that. But with a smaller number of rich getting richer and a larger number of poor getting poorer, the poor will be blamed.

    At some point, the rich will be blamed for the poor; rightly so, because money doesn't go anywhere on its own. It's like ice cream. If someone eats a whole gallon of ice cream, you don't blame the person who didn't get any for his fate. You blame the person who ate it all. People who take all the money and eat all the ice cream should read up on the French Revolution.

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  139. Thank you! Great post, I totally agree with you and yes I do think that we unfairly judge others. That's the problem... we judge too much. We need to live and let live.

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  140. My mom was a single mom to 4 kids. She wasn't a drug addict, or one who was lazy and wanted to mooch off the system. She worked 2 jobs to provide for us, and as much as she hated it, she had to get on welfare/food stamps several times during my childhood. Now, I think there are some who make a way of life off the system, and I am NOT ok with that. In the town next to ours, if you get on welfare/food stamps and do not have a job, then you are required to do x amount of community service or go back to school x amount of hours per week. I really wish they would implement this policy everywhere. It shows that those who work sometimes just don't make enough to get by (meaning they are not lazy bums looking for a handout) and those who don't have a job are willing to put in work for the benefits they are receiving. I fully support this plan, with the exception of the elderly and disabled having to do community service/schooling for the benefits.

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  141. Yes, it is unfair. But people who have narrow minds must find simple reasons for everything so they play the blame game.

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  142. Hmmm.Time to pause and think again. Thank you for sharing.

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  143. When we stop using the singular, we might get close to the meaning of life! :-)

    Greetings from London.

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  144. We probably do. We have a terrible homeless problem in Hawaii and people are really trying to understand their fear/sympathy towards them.

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  145. I agree. It wouldn't even be happening in societies where the government/system nurtures their people's ambitions, abilities, potentials and life-plans.

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