“I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving poor: that’s what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he’s up agen middle class morality all the time. . . . I don’t need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don’t eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more.” —Alfred P. Doolittle, My Fair Lady
I received many positive responses to my last blog post. But one was negative. A dear old friend tried to set me straight. She stated categorically: “Welfare done by the government promotes dependency. A hand up not hand out.”
I replied with a single sentence: “How do you give a hand up to one who has no arms?”
The Bible-laden response I got was as heartless as it was racist. (My friend is white.) Welfare is destroying the black community. Blacks were poorer but better off before welfare. Blah, blah, blah. Even though she threw the word “love” into her email for good measure, I wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes tough love isn’t love. It’s just tough. My friend’s anti-government-welfare rant repeated the myth that social welfare promotes dependency, popularized by the racist stereotype of the Welfare Queen.
The myth that social welfare causes dependency has been repeatedly debunked, as it was in this excellent Washington Post article (please read it before you respond):
According to the former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, cutting social welfare is not only bad for the poor; it’s bad for the economy:
It’s easy to criticize the poor if you have a roof over your head, food on the table, and money in the bank. But what if the shoe were on other foot? Or what if you had no shoes at all?