I’ve asked myself this question. A lot. Just as I’m sure anyone who has ever received government assistance has asked themselves this question. And if you’re on some kind of government assistance (and even if you’re not…) and haven’t asked yourself this question lately, maybe you should. Because it’s a good question to not only ask yourself, but to wrestle with, and to come to some sort of conclusion on.
I’ve wrestled with it. And I’ve concluded that no, I am not and should not be ashamed to be on government assistance.
I’ve got to admit, even writing that feels just a little wrong because of how I was raised. But I think I’ve finally come to the place where I can be on things like SNAP without being ashamed.
But why not? Shouldn’t I hang my head down low for not being able to make ends meet without resorting to digging my hands into other peoples’ pockets? Shouldn’t I be ashamed of myself for not looking for another job that’s more regular and pays better than what I currently do (substitute teach), or for not demanding that my husband get a part-time job on top of his full-time work? Shouldn’t I do everything I can to stay off of government assistance, especially since I’m so critical of the programs and think that our society would be better off if the government left these sorts of things to churches and local non-profits?
No, I’m not ashamed that I’m on SNAP, or that I used to be on WIC, even though I could tell my husband to get another job (which would mean he would never be there for me or the kids). Even though I could get a better paying, more demanding job for myself (which would mean the kids would need to go to childcare, and that I wouldn’t be able to home school them). Even though I benefit from government assistance when I could get by without it, and even though I bite the hand that feeds me.
Regarding this last point, I’ve mentioned many times before how everyone benefits from the government from tax payer dollars. Some get tax credits. Others got stimulus checks. Those who could afford new cars (aka “rich” people) got cash for clunkers. And a whole lot of people send their kids to public school.
Public education is not free education. It costs tax payers over $10,000 per year for each student to attend public school. I receive far less than this via SNAP and the EITC, which supplement our income enough so that I can stay at home with my kids and give them an education there. So I’m actually saving tax payers money by what I’m doing.
I’m certainly not saying I’m content to remain on SNAP forever. Even every other month or so, we reevaluate our situation to see if we still need assistance. And if we think we can manage for awhile without it, we get off, even if we still qualify. But I also wouldn’t fault others for continuing to remain on it, even if they can squeeze by without it. I’m assuming each person has wrestled with whether or not it’s morally acceptable for themselves to receive these benefits. So unless I intimately know their situation, I have very little right to judge anyone for abusing the system.
I’m sure they’re out there. I’m sure there are tons of lazy, greedy people on WIC and SNAP, and I think I’ve met quite a few. And they ought to be ashamed of themselves. But I don’t think they represent a majority of people on these programs, and I’m certainly not ashamed of my participation in them. Are you?