Reflections on Welfare

- by Morgan Southwood

I don't understand why there's so much public outcry against welfare.

I myself come from a somewhat comfortable upper working-class background. I attend a public state University that is subsidized by taxes (federal welfare!). My undergraduate tuition is generously subsidized by my relatives (subsidized education!). I live in a little apartment that is owned by my uncle, and while I do have to pay rent monthly, if I'm a few weeks late I can call him and he will gracefully wait for the check without throwing my ass out (subsidized housing!).

Once or twice a month my mother gives me charity food subsidies in the form of a little ground beef, milk, juice, and vegetables to supplement my starving-student diet of pasta, peanut butter, and cheap beer (food stamps!). I paid for my twenty-year-old little beater car myself, but a relative fronted me the lump sum at the time of the car's purchase so that I could buy it and have a way to get to and from school and work (subsidized transportation!).

My income is so low that the phone company gives me the special "poor person's" lifeline phone rate (corporate charity!). I go to the University health clinic when I'm sick and need medicine for reduced-cost health coverage (Medicare and Medicaid!).

I don't hear my parents, the taxpayers, the federal government or the phone company complaining that I'm a greedy welfare queen, a lazy lobster-eating bum who expects to have everything handed to me without working for it. I accept all these handouts and charities gratefully and without shame, because they are all meant to sustain me and prepare me while I work to ensure that I will live a personally and socially productive and meaningful life once I am through with my academic education. I'll need these welfare handouts for another five or six years-I will go to grad school and will need scholarships, assistantships, internships, grants, etc (Workfare!).

The fact is that virtually everyone needs a little help to get by in this world. Truly "self-made men" are a genuine rarity. Like most of the students at my university, I happen to be lucky enough to have a little private welfare support system to get by without suffering too much. This is my good fortune, and good fortune is absolutely all that it is. I can't take credit for it.

There are tens of millions who, through no fault of their own, have no such good fortune and no such support systems. Tens of millions of Americans are literally two paychecks away from homelessness. The average person on welfare is a young unwed mother with two children and a tenth-grade education. She needs a little help to put nutritious food on the table for her children, a little subsidized daycare, a little help in getting the job training needed to get her out of the dead-end unskilled labor pool and into a job that will allow her to provide for herself and her children.

It really does take a village, folks. What right do the rest of us who have been born into more fortunate economic circumstances have to moralize about this? Both welfare and foreign aid make up less than 5% of all government spending. It's money well spent for the good of our society, and I give my contribution happily and with an open heart.

What about you? Morgan Southwood is a senior majoring in Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. She can be e-mailed at

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