The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a formal statement indicating that the public is misled when people with mental illness are iniquitously presumed culpable in the national conversation on gun violence everytime we experience a mass shooting tragedy
According to NAMI (2019), the national discourse on gun violence is contrary to research findings and only “serves to perpetuate stigma and distract from the real issues.”
NAMI further advocates gun violence restraining orders, or “Red Flag” laws for ending gun violence to remove guns from anyone who poses a real, evidence-based risk of violence, and to prevent erroneously targeting people with mental health conditions.
Evidence-based criteria on the relationship between gun violence and mental health
There are certain conditions that increase the risks of violence among a small portion (only about 4%) of the mentally ill.
Determinant factors that increase risk of violence:
According to NAMI, although treatment is the most comprehensive way to reduce risk of mental illness escalating to gun violence. less than 1/3 of adults and 1/5 of children diagnosed with mental illness are treated in a given year.
Still, research suggests that most people with mental illness are not violent and are most likely to harm themselves or fall victim to violence rather than become perpetrators.
The hypocrisy, deflection, and rhetoric that undermine appropriate gun laws
It is important to point out that the current Administration immediately revoked the Obama-era legislation preventing the mentally-ill from buying or owning guns.
The very group touted as a root cause of the gun violence epidemic.
On February 28, 2017, President Trump signed the H.J. Res. 40 (Public Law No. 115-8) into law which reversed Obama’s Executive Order to add the names of approximately 75,000 recipients of Social Security for mental illness to the national background database (NICS).
Spokesmen for the Trump Administration claimed that the Obama bill was rolled back because it included all disabled persons who were capable of responsible gun ownership.
This is untrue.
The Obama rule would have, however, made it difficult for persons with mental illness to purchase or possess guns.
The NRA suggests that the Obama regulation infringed on Second Amendment Rights to buy guns when, in fact, the rule specifically targeted people receiving social security checks with a clinical mental health diagnosis.
In recent statements, the GOP blamed mental illness and video games for the rise in gun violence and mass shootings.
But critics indict Trump and the GOP as complicit in the crisis along with those who have the propensity, capability, and access to exact mayhem on the public by avoiding the real issues like banning military-style assault weapons and racism.
National Disparities in Access to Mental Health Care
NAMI reports, of the one in five Americans who suffer with mental health conditions, only 43% accessed care in 2018.
The lack of mental health professionals throughout the country is a significant factor in the mental health treatment disparity.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 60% of U.S. counties do not have a single psychiatrist causing long waits in accessing care for victims, survivors, and first responders impacted by gun violence tragedies.
NAMI calls for a national priority for access to mental health care by Congress and the Administration to assist those who are traumatized and protect communities especially during times of senseless violence.
It is recommended that policies and programs are available which provide access to:
Federal and state policy and program recommendations are based on removing barriers for people who are willing to seek treatment when they need it and improving access to treatment as a solution to gun violence associated with mental illness.
Links are provided below for more recommendations for federal standards to remedy gun violence associated with mental health.
Mental Health Care Disparities in Michigan
Southwest Solutions released a report of unmet mental health and substance abuse treatment needs in Michigan according to a study by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund (July 2019).
According to the report, one in six Michiganders experience mental illness, yet approximately 38% are not receiving treatment. That is nearly 660,000 individuals with mental health conditions are going untreated.
About 50% of untreated mental health cases are in the Detroit area.
Likewise, an estimated 80% of the 638,000 Michigan residents with substance use disorders (SUD) are also untreated.
Related factors in untreated mental health care:
Across payor types, Medicaid recipients are most likely to remain untreated for mental illness.
Mental health disparities for people with specific disorders who lack appropriate care or do not receive treatment are also highlighted in the report:
Additionally, 41% of male children and more than 1/3 of female children (ages 0 -17) with mental illness are not receiving care in Michigan.
The study cites a combination of factors for the mental health care crisis in Michigan, such as a shortage in mental health professionals including psychiatrists and other behavioral health providers which limits access to treatment.
According to the report, the availability of mental health services fall short of national ratio standards particularly in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula.
Michigan has 11 child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 residents far below the recommended 47 to 100,000 ratio.
Mental health residential treatment facilities are also in short supply in Michigan. With only 17 facilities over-populated with 590,000 consumers per facility far beyond the U.S. average of 240,000 per residential facility is also an indicator for the gap in services.
Former Republican Governor, Rick Snyder considered red flag legislation in 2018 that is currently supported by Democratic Governor-elect, Gretchen Whitmer.
The proposal allows for family or law enforcement to obtain an “extreme risk protection order” on an individual who poses a valid threat of danger to themselves or others to be banned from buying or owning a firearm for a specified amount of time.
But due to partisan divides and Republican control of both chambers it is not likely in the foreseeable future that legislative reforms to purchase or carry in Michigan will change.
Michigan GOP leaders posit that “red flag laws would violate an individual’s rights to due process and ignore the underlying issue of the country’s mental health crisis”, according to Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain),
The problem with this assertion is that studies by reputable mental health organizations suggest that mental illness, the most pervasive public health crisis in America is rarely associated with the rise and extent of mass shootings we’ve experienced in recent years.
While some argue that mental health is the fundamental problem, others cite the growing deterioration of race relations (racism) as the real issue.
And, in fact, young, male, white nationalists have tended to be the recurring theme as culprits in the majority of these “hate crime” massacres as of late.
What is President Trump doing to address gun violence?
In the press conference held in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, President Trump addressed with his proposed plans to address both the gun violence and mental health crisis.
The president persisted in the rhetorical dialogue that culture, video games, and mental illness underpin domestic terrorism.
In an attempt to condemn racist acts of violence, President Trump states, “culture must be shifted from one that celebrates violence to one that celebrates the inherent dignity and worth of every human life.”
He further quotes, “Mental health and illness pulls the trigger not the guns.”
Some of the steps he promises to take to end and prevent gun violence include:
There was no mention of reversing the H.J. Res. 40 to add the names of individuals with mental health diagnoses to the national database system.
A common denominator in the two studies presented here indicate disparities in the treatment of mental illness as adequate and efficacious access to care.
But the erroneous assumption that mass shootings are inextricably related to mental illness is an impediment to empirical research evidence.
The narrative must be reframed in national dialogue if legislators and society-at-large are serious about the intervention and prevention of senseless killings whether its mass shootings, hate crimes, or other forms of gun violence.
It is a complicated issue that requires legislative urgency but also must involve comprehensive public policy reforms related to the primary issue.
For example, occupational licensing reform may be necessary so as to expand the scope of practice for paraprofessionals to fully leverage the reach of providers in meeting mental healthcare needs.
Gun violence laws must be approached in much the same common-sense way so as to target individuals who pose a real threat to public health and safety.
For example, the 41% of young males (not race specified) identified in the Michigan study as a mental health disparity due to the lack of access to treatment. This would be an appropriate demographic that should be considered when constructing and proposing gun laws.
Consequently, young males were also identified in the national study.
Mental illness, however, can be a factor in relationship with mass shootings and other gun violence but under very specific and extremely rare conditions that should not be generalized to the entire mental health population.
Unfortunately, while President Trump fell short in declaring war on racism it also became clear that the president and his cohorts will continue on course to scapegoat mental illness as the priority target.
The real positive takeaway from the President’s response is the change in language. Due to the NRA’s zero-tolerance approach to gun rights, reframing the problem as domestic terrorism just may ignite political action or, at least, a public outcry for action.
But the public overall has been transient on the issue of gun laws and reform mainly because of cultural wars where some individuals and communities resist the idea of government infringement not only on their rights but also on their social norms.
But casting mass shootings in the framework of terrorism changes the level of the threat and provides some opportunity for change.
Consult the articles below for more information on proposed gun law legislation in Michigan and the potentiality of gun restrictions that may inadvertently target African-Americans.
Michigan’s Health Report: Chronic Disease and Life Expectancy
Community Resources: Mental Health and Drug Treatment Services
NAMI Statement on Mass Shootings in Texas and Ohio
NAMI: Violence and Gun Reporting Laws
Trump made it easier for the mentally ill to get guns when he rolled back Obama regulation
H.J. Res. 40 – 115th Congress (2017 -2018)
Southwest Solutions: Study Details Growing Crisis of Untreated Mental Illness in Michigan
Massacres revive calls to strengthen Michigan’s middling gun laws
Actually, gun restrictions will target the black community
He has since been arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct, a Class 4 felony carrying a potential sentence of 1 - 3 years and fines up to $25,00, if convicted.
It also helps if the lies are promoted via multiple channels (Hint: In Jussie’s case, the LA concert, social media and the Robin Roberts, GMA interview).
Why? Because the presumption is that the more that we hear a lie, especially coming from multiple sources the more it becomes credible.
In other words, the more familiar we are with the lie the less likely we are to question it.
It’s important to note here that the concept of “fire-hosing” is theorized as a demonstration of power rather than a means of persuasion.
That’s right. The perpetrator is not trying to convince anyone that they’re telling the truth, they are asserting their authority over the restraints of reality.
The powerplay is to degrade the fact-checker by forcing them to argue the obvious. So, the public is essentially strong-armed into working for the truth.
In sum, the use of fire-hosing is to usurp the power of truth and reduce it to just a position – a perspective, - a version of reality, - a simple matter of opinion.
Remember Rudy Guiliani, “Truth isn’t truth?” Enough said.
Bing Images - Jussie Smollett (The Robin Roberts, GMA Interview)
Jussie Smollett’s Case
Based on this theory, we can see elements of the “firehose” method in Jussie’s account of events, here are just a few:
Now, while Jussie is innocent until proven guilty – it looks really bad for him at this point. With all these discrepancies, it’s hard to point out just one.
But, first, what is the likelihood that he would even be recognized. There were subzero temperatures in Chicago that night. Wouldn’t he have been bundled up with a hat, coat, and scarf to be out in that weather?
The most telling, in my opinion is when he made the point of telling Robin Roberts (the Good Morning America interview) that the noose was tied around his neck. Then doubles-down by saying he left it on because he wanted the police to see it.
The rope could’ve been tested for DNA, there was no reason to leave it on.
Also, did anybody notice how much he smiled during that interview or when he said the attackers “…would never be found?”
Just an observation but, I digress.
The evidentiary question here is: What Black (person) would leave a noose on after being lucky enough to get away?
I was easily reminded of Trump’s “…just stick with us, don’t believe what you hear from the fake news…” statement than when Jussie repeated over and over again, “…it’s truth, you just don’t want to believe…”
Still again, Jussie has the presumption of innocence until and if there is a conviction.
The Political Environment
So, how did this case become a right versus left campaign?
On the cusp of the 2020 election year, the accusations and mud-slinging had already begun but the Jussie Smollett case added just the right fuel to the fire.
Jussie, himself, injected political overtones with “…red hat wearing, white attackers shouting “MAGA country…” and “…going hard against 45…” assertions.
We can also consider the (unconfirmed) statistic that nearly 85% of news media outlets are liberal and employ journalists who are registered Democrats.
If so, it stands to reason why the right readily purports the culpability of the so-called liberal media to be “virtue-signaling” its base with politically correct sentiments such as ‘always believe the victim’ #METOO.
On the other hand, the left never misses an opportunity to indict the right with accusations of “dog-whistling” its base to incite violence and exacerbate the country’s racial divide #MAGA.
(Gone are the days of traditional party politics – “identity politics,” in other words, race-baiting is the order of the day.)
Then, the rallying of support from Hollywood celebrities, presidential hopefuls, veteran Congress members, and the like, certainly seemed to confirm suspicions giving the necessary ammunition to solidify the right’s position.
The end result is that all hate crimes have come into question and “white privilege” is now challenged by the latest induction to the dogma “Victimhood Chic.”
That is, playing the role of victim as a form of status.
‘Victimhood Chic’ posits that prominent minorities are accruing critical acclaim, prestige and, even, financial gain (i.e. Colin Kaepernick) if they can successfully garner enough public sympathy around a noble cause.
It’s a stretch, but that’s where this is going.
And, in the view of revisionists, Jussie Smollett fits the bill.
The Jussie Smollett Case: Motivations and Consequences
So, why should we be concerned with Jussie’s guilt or innocence?
There is much speculation about his motivations for this alleged crime, such as:
But we haven’t heard from Jussie since his arrest, so who really knows?
In the words of Charlemagne the God (Breakfast Club), “…we cannot become what we claim to hate.”
The problem is that in the era of fake news, alternative facts, dog-whistling, and virtue-signaling, why is there a need to adapt the tactics of a spectacle-driven culture to accomplish a goal?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if his reasons were personal, political, or professional.
Besides this and most importantly, is the fear of a chilling effect this may have on future victims of hate crimes.
Conservative media outlets are already using the case as a symbol of false claims. And, with this ammunition the misfortune would be that there are more incidents…without remedy.
It’s going to be interesting to see how defense attorneys are able to spin this story.
But, rest assured, with the high-potential of undermining the critical cause of social justice and civil rights, there is no room for error.
The Racial Wealth Gap Explained
Poverty & Welfare, Human Behavior, and the Trump Election
Jussie Smollett Story Shows Rise of Victimhood Culture
The Culture of Victimhood
The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model
Why Obvious Lies Make Great Propaganda
Category: Social Topics
The Bible reads, "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore, I command you saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land." Deuteronomy 15:11 NAS.
That lets us know that there will always be poor and that we are to always generously help them. Note that it mentions poor and needy. They are two different things…I'll let you think about that for another time, since it is not our topic today.
We see from just this one reference that we are to help those in need.
The Bible says more…it tells us that we are not to judge. In the world that we live in it has become popular to say, " Don't judge me" or "I'm not judging." To me, these are code for "I know I should be judged" and "I said I'm not judging you so you won't think that I'm not, but I am alright." But a genuine heart of giving should be doing it without judging. There are consequences to judging that we can avoid.
The Bible says, "Judge not that you be not judged." Matthew 7:1 KJV. For the sake of this article we are going to subscribe a definition to judge as: “To form an opinion based on what you think you know, draw a conclusion and deliver a verdict.”
It is so simple to see someone or even know many details of their situation and form an opinion of why it is how it is and what they should have done to be out of it. The danger in that is that you set yourself up to be judged too. If not by God, certainly by other humans. (We know how awful that can be).
Someone’s judgement of you can affect a number of areas of your life:
We can say we don't care, and that can be true, but it doesn't stop others judgement of you from affecting things that you have little control over. So, when we are helping someone up, be careful not to pull yourself down by judging yourself as better than them, it has consequences.
Lastly, the Bible says," He that hath pity on the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and, that which he hath given will he repay him again." Proverbs 19:17.
I've read a few things about how God gives. A recurring theme that I found is that he multiples. (I'll take that). The Bible says he does exceedingly above all that we could ask or think. I can ask a lot and I can think a lot and I want him to write my paychecks!
The Bible says, "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." I want everything I do to honor God…I don't want to show contempt…I don't want to judge…I don't want to be stingy.
I was going to say that I don't want to be selfish, but I realized that in some ways giving is selfish. It makes you feel so good that the act of giving and helping is sometimes as much for you as it is for others. Jesus said it is better to give than to receive. That has meant many things - but one is that it makes you feel good It can bring you joy, make you feel like you made a difference...if just for the moment, it can make you feel better about yourself.
So, in a sense this is one time it is okay to be selfish. I say be selfish and generous at the same time. God bless you and I hope something of my beliefs has helped you.
Redefining Social Welfare...Again
Category: Social Topics
In social work practice, theories of human behavior scientifically explain how people interact and react to their social environment (external stimuli).
One study of human behavior published in the Science Advances Journal classified 90% of the human population into four (4) basic personality types: optimistic, pessimistic, trusting, and envious. Identifying envy as the most common. This is important in the consideration of economic and political motivations during the 2016 Presidential Election.
As we continue our dialogue on the various facets of poverty, welfare and inequality there will be a series of articles discussing their realities in an affluent country like the United States.
By most standards we are the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world, yet millions lack basic resources and opportunities for advancement. So, our political choices can drastically improve or damage these already extreme conditions.
Inquiring Minds Want to Know
First, many wondered (after the initial shock and, then again, after seeing the exit polls): “Why would so many women and Hispanics vote for Trump?’ Others asked, “Are evangelicals really powerful enough to pull this off?” Not to mention the strong convictions evangelicals carry about homosexuality, no less, gay rights. A critical position lost on Obama’s part with this demographic. Still, why would these morality-lifestyle preaching, family-values connoisseurs cast their lot with a crotch-grabbing, three-time married, shady business-dealing, confirmed philanderer.
But, more relevant to the point, the next looming question was this: “Why would so many of the nation’s poor vote for Donald Trump? Everybody knows he’s representing the rich, so why would poor people no matter the race or ethnicity vote against their own interests?” Well…there may be answers to this question most never fathomed.
Let’s review some of the possible social, political, and economic factors based on what we know about each of these demographics that may have influenced the outcome of the 2016 election.
While sharing many of the same Christian-beliefs it was assumed that even right-leaning Latino/Hispanics would reject the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump campaign. Yet, a significant amount of Hispanic men opted for the Republican ticket.
So, who were the “Hispanics for Trump” voters?
It could be rationalized that Hispanics have a cultural concept known as ‘machismo’. That is, male machoism. Could it be that Trump’s concerted effort to brandish himself as a man of strength hold captive an audience of men in this community? If so, then we can see how it may be possible that our Hispanic citizens (particularly the men) would rather vote for Trump than to elect a woman. But, that’s just one social context.
(Machismo is a sociocultural fact, by the way).
Besides male machoism, things like respect, dignity, and family values also rank high in interpersonal values with this group. As it relates to respect and dignity, concepts of hard work such as “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” or self-reliance may have forged an emotional climate with the overall conservative agenda, even if Trump felt a little different.
On the economic front, Hispanics experienced a pecuniary surge in 2013 that surpassed African-Americans in real median household income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At last reporting in July 2017, Income and Poverty Reports show a $59,039 median household income in 2016 for all Americans (individuals and families). Real median income for white households was $61,858 and $65,041 for whites (non-Hispanic). The median household income was $39,490 for black households and $47,675 for Hispanic households.
This is a considerable increase in social and economic status for Hispanics whose median household income was just $27,588 in 1995.
Politically, this demographic also experienced an uptick in their share of the electorate at about 11%, up from 10% in 2012. However, voter participation of this group likely increased due to their population growth which may have also complicated the vote.
According to Latino/Hispanic community leaders, a combination of party loyalty and religion won out with this group as many opposed the skew toward gay rights and religious liberties of the Obama era. In addition, the majority of the population felt hopeful regarding Trump’s campaign promise to “give them a voice.”
Finally, we have to distinguish between the terms Latino and Hispanic and how each segment of this group identify. Yes, there are general cultural concepts within this demographic. But, the broad cultural diversity of Spanish-speaking groups and the countries they migrate from including Puerta Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans, Dominicans, Central Americans, and South Americans have differences and identify ethnically in different ways.
So, when Trump and his supporters chant, “Build the Wall…!”, maybe Cubans and Puerta Ricans, for example, didn’t take it personal and felt that it didn’t apply to them.
The social construct of gender is the most basic and pervasive unit of diversity. Meta-analysis studies on gender differences in cognitive abilities, personality traits, and social behavior between men and women generally show no more than a 5% variance. More specifically, research findings reveal greater differences within genders than between genders. That is, women differ more from other women than they do from men.
As such, let’s examine potential motivations and socioeconomic factors that may explain female political behavior during the Trump election.
We will focus on the white female vote since Hillary carried the minority vote with black and Hispanic women at 94% - she also (technically) outshined Trump with college-educated white women. Still, a great number of white female voters were underestimated.
Cambridge University Press cited party affiliation, sexism, and racial resentment – similar to white men on these biases in explanation of the voting preferences of white females in 2016. Hillary Clinton cited pressure from dominant white men, whether a spouse, boss, or a son for the reason why this demographic tapped the Trump-Pence ticket.
The assumption is that married white women support their husband’s choices because they earn less money and have less power making them financially-dependent on their men. According to an article in the Washington Post, it is within the interests of (married) white women to support political platforms and policies that protect their husbands and improve their status.
Hillary Clinton’s assertion deeply offended many women because she seemed to unilaterally draw on the psychology of female oppression alone. In fact, hierarchies of domination are experienced simultaneously but also differently by different types of women. Modern psychology also suggests familial and cultural influences weigh heavily on the development of gender identity and sense of self. So, contrary to popular belief, millions of educated, professional, independent women who voted for Trump at a rate of 40% were not under the direst of spousal or some other male-dominated pressure at the polls.
While the real median income of white households declined 1.7% between 2013 and 2014, the incomes of women (not race specified) increased by $1.6 million compared to men at $1.2 million during the same period. That is, despite economic disparities in the household and workforce, women began out-earning men by a whopping $400,000 in the years leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
So, men may not necessarily be the breadwinners in the household these days where women are coerced to act based on their husband’s wishes to secure their future. And if that is the case, then nearly half of this demographic voted for Trump despite his rollback on female reproductive rights and unabashed agenda to restore a patriarchal structure in society.
This was problematic when feminists tried to galvanize female solidarity against his presidency just a month later for the Women’s March. But, women rallied together, once again, for a nationally successful protest that solidified the #MeToo Movement. Still, why not vote the candidate who would have broken the ultimate glass ceiling then we wouldn’t have this battle to fight.
So, maybe we have to look at gender dynamics between women to better understand the outcome of the election. Did a large proportion of the female demographic simply distrust Hillary?
It remains a source of contention and mystery how Christians could reconcile religious adherence to Jesus with Trump’s immorality, immigration policies, blatant disregard for the poor, and the like. But, in order to elucidate the meaning of political behavior amongst this group we have to understand the historical context of religion in this country. Next, we must understand the cultural transformations taking place during the 70s and 80s that resurrected religious movements to combat social policies believed to take God out of American life.
It is important to note how strongly U.S. social welfare history has been influenced by Christianity than any other world religion but also the major historical trends that have shaped religion in the United States.
But, first, here are a few examples of religion’s current influence on American politics:
He is the founder of Andrew Wommack Ministries which sponsors his national and internationally-syndicated radio and television program “The Gospel Truth” where he is also host. He is founder and president of the Charis Bible College and the Association of Related Ministries International (A.R.M.I.). Pastor Wommack has established the Practical Government School, the first of its kind, within the Charis Bible College to train future political leaders. It is through these platforms, that Pastor Wommack and his cohorts decry the compartmentalization of secular issues from biblical values in politics.
The common thread between all three examples of interjecting Christian morality into politics are centered on four major issues: abortion, sexual orientation, marriage, and religious freedom. But the issues of poverty and inequality are rarely, if ever, mentioned. It is, therefore, questionable to many how Christians can summarily prioritize matters of personal choice over the needs of the poor in the course of doing “God’s work”.
Well, there’s a couple things at play here. On one end, because of constitutional changes such as abortion and gay rights religious leaders have become embattled with government over statutory regulations which are in violation of biblical principles. That is, because these issues have become “legalized”, when pastors preach against certain things, even from their own pulpits, churches are at worst, subject to legal action; or, at least, threatened by the loss of their non-profit status which protects them from taxation.
On the other hand, the United States is one of the most highly religious countries in the world. According to a study at University in Michigan about 46% of American adults attend church at least once per week. The vast majority of Americans also want their leaders to be religious. Despite the constitutional mandate to separate church and state, a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that 72% of American adults agreed that U.S. President’s should have strong religious beliefs (Karger & Stoesz, 2014). A similar study was conducted in the UK where 74% of citizens stated that religion should be a private matter and not have special influence on public policy.
But, let’s look at the historical context. Although the roots of social welfare are rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition which emphasized communitarianism, the philosophy of European Protestants prevailed during colonial times known as the Protestant Reformation. Christian forefathers such as Martin Luther viewed work as a responsibility to God. He preached that work conferred dignity and was a “calling” by God. In Luther’s view, man served God by doing the work of his vocation and persons who are able-bodied and unemployed were sinners.
John Calvin, another ecclesiastical theologian and statesman went further claiming that work carried out the will of God, and, as such, would ultimately help establish God’s kingdom on earth. Both Luther and Calvin believed that God-fearing people must work regardless of wage or type of employment. It was their belief that God commanded work, therefore the country was tasked with providing opportunity, and economic success became a sign of divine favor.
It is these sentiments that predominate religious circles today where poverty is viewed as “ungodly” and prosperity is distinguished not just as a sign of God’s blessing but His divine approval. Hence, the prosperity movement prevalent in current evangelical Christianity.
Herein lies the social context. This worldview references the concept in social sciences known as “material determinism.” It is the ideology that a culture’s material elements determine its values and beliefs, which in turn serve to maintain and perpetuate the material culture.
Karl Marx, 19th century philosopher, touted material determinism as a rationale for exploitative capitalism practiced by most industrial societies. He asserts that industry engendered low self-esteem among workers, and workers passively accepted the notion that competition and free enterprise were virtuous as well as their societies’ idealized vision of work. In Christendom, it is called the “Protestant work ethic” and it became the moral basis for capitalism.
Capitalism depends on the exploitative labor of the poor. For this reason, there is an express interest in poverty in order to have a system of winners and losers…haves and have nots. Understand that wealth is derived or accumulated through the poor - owners live off renters, and in biblical vernacular, “…the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). So, capitalistic societies will never rid itself of poverty because it is the basis of wealth. As the upper echelon decries the dependency of the poor (on government welfare), no one talks about the hidden reliance of the rich on the poor to build wealth.
Three times Jesus said, “…the poor will be with you always…” (Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8). It is no doubt He knew that poverty is not only socially engineered. That is, poverty is an inevitable evil wrought and maintained by the greed of man.
Then to seal the deal, democracy itself set forth a form of egalitarianism (equal rights, equal citizenship) but closely related was individualism which denied guarantee of the right to equal resources. As life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was left to the idea of individual effort and motivation. Individual responsibility exonerated society from liability of personal failures for individuals who cannot not reach or achieve success on their own.
When we deal with poverty and welfare in the contemporary Christian context, there should also be a consideration of social policies that influence political behavior. We’ve already discussed hot-button political issues such as abortion and gay rights and how churches may be adversely impacted with legal and economic sanctions. Now, lets review an economic benefit of social policy for the Christian church.
President Bill Clinton established the Charitable Choice provision (Section 104) under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) also known as the Welfare Reform Act. It was during this time that evangelicals began to redress social services as a duty of the church circling back to origins of social welfare during the 18th century which were handled by traveling missionaries.
The Charitable Choice provision grants federal-funding to churches or faith-based organizations (FBOs), administered by the States, and opened the door to the faith-based social services usually for emergency food and shelter programs.
President George Bush was a fan of Charitable Choice and established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives with units in five (5) federal departments:
Are faith-based organizations functioning as Political Action Committees (PACS) structured under religion? PACs are political organizations that raise money privately to influence elections, ballot initiatives, or legislation especially at the federal level. PACs are not lobbyists, but they certainly may finance them.
The Feminization of Poverty and Welfare Reform
The racial divide at the exit polls showed whites favoring Trump in every age group and at a higher percentage with age. The same is true for minority voters who were in favor of Hillary. Voters also split across lines on the education level as it revealed non-college educated white women preferred Trump over Hillary.
While Trump carried an estimated 40 – 45% of college-educated white women, Hillary maintained the majority vote of this demographic as well.
But. let's examine the socioeconomic history of women and femininity in this country.
A theory known as the feminization of poverty purports that traditional gender roles keep women poor because it impinges on their ability to secure and accumulate economic resources and reinforces her dependency in the family. Statistics show that divorced women, teen mothers, and women over the age of 65 are more likely to live in poverty. Women also traditionally earn less than men. This is stratified by both gender and ethnicity making Hispanic and African-American women the most vulnerable.
The expansion of the welfare state began its decline during the 80s and gained traction with conservatives “Contract with America” spearheaded by House speaker Newt Gingrich. President Bill Clinton closed the gap with the advent of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) which made welfare both transitional and temporary stripping the entitlement structure from benefits. In effect, decreasing the federal government’s role in social programs.
The GOP strategy of retrenching or eliminating elements of the welfare state launched in the 1980s had four main purposes:
The strategy also began the trend of businesses pushing to lower the cost of production and depressing American wages. This was accomplished in two (2) ways:
This benefitted companies in other ways besides a reduction in production costs although the quality of products and services was also lowered but corporate taxes were nearly non-existent. It also began the elimination of the American middle class.
Although many politicians and citizens alike refuse to recognize legislative strategies that adversely affect the lives of people, government policies are the blame for the feminization of poverty. Poor women, like other minority groups, are blamed for their personal failures citing things like ethnic deficiencies and feminism (as a moral failure) for their poverty conditions. In the 1980s, illegitimacy and welfare became the purported hallmarks of the nation’s biggest social problems when in reality, the majority of single mothers were widows.
But political approaches can and usually do influence changes in the family structure. In fact, the marriage rate has long been on the decline while divorce and single motherhood continue to rise. Women were then forced into a gender-segregated labor market often in contingency jobs without health and childcare, and little financial security.
The conservative approach has and continues to perpetuate the idea that welfare encourages dependency by rewarding laziness, family breakups, and illegitimate pregnancies. That is, women are even blamed when men simply walk away or abdicate their familial responsibilities, even to children. Thus, began the long fight to control female reproduction, marital status, childrearing, and even job choices that is sexism.
Here a few of the policies that reinforced female poverty:
So, when it comes to economics, it is not as clear how any impoverished group, even whites, would “vote against their own interests” and elect to resurrect archaic ideologies of racial superiority (hence, the rant “Make America Great Again”) over matters of self-preservation and well-being like healthcare and income safety nets that is clearly needed.
Although the white population has the lowest rate of poverty, they also have the largest percentage of beneficiaries who rely on most major anti-poverty programs than any other racial group or population. Still, there is a growing trend of “welfare backlash” (whites opposing welfare) that fuels the GOPs latest outcry for welfare reform.
The assumption, here, is that the loss of income has become a perceived threat to white status due to minorities, particularly those on welfare who are believed to be draining the country’s resources. Political propaganda, in large part, can be blamed for this when false and misleading information is unscrupulously fed to the public. Unfortunately, this is common practice on the left and right sides of the aisle leaving a great deal of the public fallen prey to political agendas rather than making educated decisions about policy issues and voting preferences.
Let’s review some of the actual statistical data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Income and Poverty Report (2014), income and poverty estimates did not include noncash benefits but was based solely on gross income. However, for the first time, a synonymous report was released on the same day using the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) was developed by the Obama administration in 2011 as an alternative to the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), our current poverty measurement system since 1964.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is intended to present more accurate poverty estimates by including in-kind (noncash) benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, and other welfare benefits and counting them as income.
It should be noted that poverty measures such as the FPL and SPM are important because they provide the public and federal government information about the economic well-being of American citizens. They also provide useful information about how those living in poverty are affected by federal policies. Additionally, the use of annual poverty measures may be useful in providing general information regarding labor force participation, income sources, and amounts but fail to yield substantial information about economic mobility. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is estimated that poverty measures based on longer time frames (e.g. 4 years) rather than shorter periods (e.g. 1 year) would yield, on average, lower overall poverty rates.
Data from the Income and Poverty report suggests that real median income of white households (non-Hispanic) declined 1.7% between 2013 and 2014 but were not statistically significant from black, Asian, and Hispanic households. Women’s income increased $1.6 million between 2013 and 2014 compared to the earnings increase of men by $1.2 million.
The median household income for all Americans was $53,657 in 2014 slightly lower from $54,462 in 2013 but not statistically significant. The Income and Poverty report states that the year 2014 marked the third consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant after two (2) consecutive years of decline in median household income.
Household Median Income by Race 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau)
White $56,866 White (non-Hispanic) $60,256 Black $35,398 Hispanic $42,491
Household incomes for non-Hispanic White households declined 1.7% in 2013 from $61,317 to $60,256 but were not statistically significant for black, Asian, and Hispanic households. The last increase in median household incomes for black and non-Hispanic White households was in 2007, Asians in 1999, and Hispanics experienced the last median household increase in 2013. Comparing the 2014 income of non-Hispanic White households to other households, change in the ratio to black households has not been statistically significant from 1972 – 2014. Over the same period, comparing the Hispanic to non-Hispanic White household income ratio declined from 0.74 to 0.71. That is, the income and wealth gap between whites and Hispanics are closing at a faster rate than between whites and African-Americans.
The official poverty rate on the national level in 2014 was 14.8%. That is, 46.7 million people were poor in 2014 and was not statistically significant from the previous year. The 2014 poverty rate was 2.3 percentage points higher than 2007 (one year before the last recession) but was also not statistically significantly between racial demographics from the previous year.
More specifically, the national poverty rate for non-Hispanic White households was 10.1%, lower than the poverty rates for minority racial groups. Non-Hispanic Whites accounted for 61.8% of the population and 42.1% of the people in poverty (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014).
The black poverty rate in 2014 was 26.2% with 10.8 million living in poverty. This is significant because African-Americans only represent 13% of the total U.S. population. The Hispanic poverty rate was 23.6% with 13.1 million people in poverty. Poverty estimates for 2014 were not statistically significant from the previous year.
It should be noted that 13.5% of working-age adults (aged 18 to 64) were in poverty compared to the 10% poverty rate for seniors (aged 65 or older).
Poverty Statistics by Characteristics 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau)
White 12.7% White (non-Hispanic) 10.1% Black 26.2% Hispanic 23.6%
Notice that total numbers and percentages of any measurement may or may not be statistically significant. That is, measurements of the number and percentage of people living in poverty, for example, may rise or fall in any given year to the next without change to its statistical result, interpretation, or percentage rate.
A link has been provided to the 2016 poverty statistics for review.
Values have always underpinned human behavior - they also permeate our political system and direct social welfare policy. Whatever culture, perspective, or period in time, values tell us what we ought to provide and how we ought to deal with deviants (those who stray from the norms).
Values and attitudes are typically cloaked in religious, moral, or patriotic terms so much so that we accept them as facts rather than beliefs. When a worldview, political orientation, or behavioral response is value-laden rather than based in fact we can never be truly objective. For this reason, it is important not to draw conclusions, base judgments, and certainly make political decisions on value systems alone. Even what is known should always be tested.
Was this post helpful? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. If you are in need of case management services or assistance, please contact us by completing the confidential Contact Form. Also, consider donating to continue this important work and expand our reach to the broader community.
The Racial Wealth Gap Explained…A Sociopolitical Perspective
Redefining Social Welfare…Again
Stoesz, D. (2014). American Social Welfare Policy (7th Edition), Pearson Education, Inc., Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ
Eitzen, D.S. (2010). Solutions to Social Problems: Lessons from Other Societies (5th Edition), Allyn/Bacon, MA
Like it or Not, Studies Suggest that Clinton May Not Be Wrong on White Women Voting Like Their Husbands
Millions of Women Voted for Trump, and Didn’t Need A Man To Do It
What Gender Gap? Exit Polls Show White Women Voters Actually Preferred Trump to Clinton
“Why Evangelicals Support President Trump, Despite His Immorality”
“Christian Politics” – The Gospel Truth, Pastor Andrew Wommack Television Broadcast
“Understanding the Poor Will Always Be with You”
Attendance at Religious Services (Pew Forum Research Center)
Pro-Trump Pastor: ‘Trump is the most pro-Black’ President I’ve Ever Seen
Why More White Americans Are Opposing Government Welfare Programs
Resident Population of the United States by Race 2000 to 2016
Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity 2014
Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014
U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts (2016 Statistics, published July 2017)
Income and Poverty in the United States 2016
Category: Social Topics
The racial wealth gap is an important distinction as it is a compound disparity over and above breaches in income and wealth - something we refer to in social work as intersectionality. All three idiosyncratic and divisive in their own right, yet, collaborative in creating the cohesive synergistic effect that is economic inequality.
Intersectionality is a theoretical framework which asserts that people can and most often are disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression (i.e. race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation and other identity markers).
Synergistic effect suggests a change in the result as a consequence of an action or other cause which arises out of the interaction between two or more agents, entities, or factors and produces an effect (result or product) that is greater than the sum of their individual weight or forces.
The wealth gap refers to the accumulative assets (net worth) including income, real and personal property, etc. which define the upper and lower classes.
Examples of the wealth gap (Eitzen, 2010):
The definition of the racial wealth gap is dynamic in that it is inclusive on all these related dimensions and sets forth inequities regarding social mobility denoting significant differences in the social, political, and economic functioning between ethnic groups in the form of opportunities, ownership, quality of life, and so on.
The U.S. racial wealth gap has implications of enormous consequences as the pervasive trend endures beyond pushing people to the economic margins of society. Social disparities continue to escalate including homelessness, hunger, family disruption, crime rates, civil unrest, deteriorating mental and physical health, drug abuse, and democracy itself. According to D.S. Eitzen (2010), political author and Emeritus at Colorado State University, inequality erodes the social contract when the promise for a higher standard of living is limited to a few weakening the sense of community and common purpose essential to a democracy.
The Racial Wealth Gap by Design
Barriers to the adoption of more generous social welfare policies and equitable distribution of resources that would, in effect, close the racial wealth gap are two-fold: the first is political; and, secondly, America’s fundamental belief in competitive individualism.
Social policy is not an arbitrary activity but is deliberate in its intent and means to accomplish a goal. Political conservatives in both federal and state legislatures seek to reduce various dimensions of the welfare state. As such, social policies are crafted to accomplish that end within the context of historical events, budgetary constraints, and the like.
The goal of eliminating income safety net programs has strong implications for social spending:
The high value placed on competitive meritocracy has strong implications for economic inequality:
Causes of the Racial Wealth Gap – Systemic Factors
Disparities in homeownership, a key factor in creating wealth, implicates housing discrimination dating back to the 1930s which either locked minorities out of legitimate loan eligibility and equity-building. Furthermore, minority families are less likely to benefit from intergenerational transfers (family inheritance) due to the lack of ownership and depressed home values which persist to this day in predominately black or Hispanic neighborhoods.
While graduating from college lends to higher earnings in the future, wages for college drop-outs and those who never attend college have deeply declined over the years. Studies show decreased college completion rates for blacks and Hispanics with only 30% of all working age adults (age 25 to 64) holding a bachelors degree or higher.
Student loan debt is another major factor in the racial wealth gap. While whites are more likely to hold bachelor degrees, blacks are more likely to have student loan debt and at larger amounts, according to the Urban Institute. College dropout rates and student loan debt translates into lower future earnings and net worth which disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics contributing to the racial wealth gap.
Education was once said to be the single-most effective means of escaping poverty. But that sentiment has become nothing more than an idiom when we look at another economic domain – employment, the purported path to self-sufficiency and financial security. The reality is that black unemployment is two times the white unemployment rate at every level of education. Therefore, education has failed to equalize economic outcomes as it relates to financial stability and building wealth.
Income and Poverty statistics also show the median net worth of black households below white households with less than a high school education. At last reporting in July 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau shows a $59,039 median household income in 2016 for all Americans (individuals and families). More specifically, real median income for white households was $61,858 and $65,041 for whites (non-Hispanic). The median household income was $39,490 for black households and $47,675 for Hispanic households.
Was this post helpful? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. If you are in need of case management services or assistance, please contact us by completing the confidential Contact Form. Also, consider donating to continue this important work and expand our reach to the broader community.
Redefining Social Welfare…Again
Eitzen, D.S. (2010). Solutions to Social Problems: Lessons from Other Societies (5th Edition), Allyn/Bacon, MA
African-American Wealth May Fall to Zero By 2053
Black families have 10 times less wealth than whites and the gap is widening—here's why
America’s Yawning Racial Wealth Gap, Explained in 9 Charts
Income and Poverty Report 2016 (U.S. Census Bureau)
Category: Social Topics
The death of my brother in the past week has led to a decision to explore a little more about health and how we can learn more about living longer and healthier lives. I’ve seen reports on the leading causes of death in Michigan, lifestyle and economic effects on health, even, life expectancy by zip code. It has been very interesting and enlightening to peruse through the vast amounts of data available. But, then, I had to wonder how many of us, actually, are aware and take advantage of the information available to enhance our longevity and quality of life.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the leading causes of disability and death in our state are chronic diseases. Chronic diseases are health conditions that, generally, cannot be cured or get better over time. More specifically, the top ten suspects affecting over 60% of Michigan’s adult population leading to seven out of ten deaths are:
In addition, the state ranks over 95% of its adult population with high-risk behaviors that lead to disabling or chronic disease including alcohol and tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity. The MDHHS Chronic Disease Epidemiology Section was established to gather data, develop evidence-based public health programs, improve outcomes, and reduce health disparities in our state.
The key areas of focus for the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Section include:
You can access the Michigan Chronic Disease Geographic Information System (GIS) Maps publication for studies on hospital, mortality, and hypertensive emergency rates for cardiovascular disease; chronic alcohol-attributable diseases due to proximity of alcohol outlets; maternal child health; breast and cervical cancer; and more.
GIS Publication Link:
In brief, chronic illnesses are long-term and do not go away on their own such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, cancer, kidney disease, stroke, arthritis, and HIV. Injuries are caused by accidents (i.e. car crashes, falls, sports injuries), or violence (i.e. gunshots, suicide, assaults). Genetics, lifestyle, environment, and other factors combine to determine one’s predisposition to chronic illness and the extent to which it can or cannot manifest. So, be aware of your risk factors including family history, high-risk behaviors, and other socioeconomic conditions which contribute to disease and death.
While heart disease ranks as the number one cause of death in Michigan, it also ranks highest in the nation as a whole. But, heart disease is a broad term referring to a disease of the heart and blood vessels. But, according to the McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital (2015), a condition called atherosclerosis is the number one killer of Michiganders. That is, hardened arteries due to the buildup of fatty, fibrous plague which attaches to artery walls and restricts blood flow.
So, how long do we live in Michigan? Studies estimate the average life expectancy at 77.89 years in Michigan. On average, men live 75.32 years, and, despite female healthcare disparities, women live about 80.037 years in Michigan, according to World Life Expectancy (2015). Poor life expectancy, of course, can be attributed to access and quality of healthcare and socioeconomic conditions such as costs for treatment and medicine that affect health outcomes. In terms of longevity, Oakland County ranks highest in health and life expectancy and white women have the lowest mortality rate in Michigan.
Death, Burial, and Crime Victim Compensation
Community Resources Section - Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority (DMWHA)
Life Expectancy at Birth by Sex, Michigan and United States (1901 – 2016)
Poverty Solutions Data Map (University of Michigan)
Heart Disease Leading Cause of Death in Michigan
Michigan Life Expectancy
Why Life Expectancy is Shorter in Michigan
Life Span for Detroit’s Poor Among Shortest in the Nation
Life Expectancy at Birth and Age 65
Preventing Chronic Disease and Promoting Health in Michigan: How Well Are We Doing As A State?
State of Michigan Chronic Disease and Injury Control
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)
Chronic Disease Epidemiology Section
Life Course Epidemiology Genomic Division
P.O. Box 30195
333 S. Grand Avenue
Lansing, MI 48909-30195
Category: Social Topics
The ‘major programs' referenced as being measured in the U.S. Census Bureau report include cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, SSI, and WIC.
Census Bureau stats show that number of participants ballooned to approximately 110 million welfare recipients by the fourth quarter of 2012.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported approximately 106 million full-time workers for 2013 but not all of them worked the full year.
From this view alone, some may conclude that the problem is welfare recipients and how they out-number the working people who has to subsidize them. But, let’s examine the numbers a little closer so that we have an accurate depiction of what they really mean.
It’s always better to know the real answers so that we can address the real problem and attempt to resolve the problem with real solutions.
First, the reports cited do not take into consideration the estimated three-quarters (3/4) of workers who are employed but still rely on anti-poverty programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
These are the “working poor” a new and rising economic class that’s often overlooked.
According to a study by the Berkley Center for Labor Research and Education cited by the New York Times (2015), “taxpayers not only support the poor but also pay a huge subsidy for employers with low-wage workers…this is the hidden cost of low-wage work.”
The cost of subsidies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Medicaid when workers are denied living wages and health insurance also fall into the pockets of other taxpayers.
The University of California – Berkley further estimates a $150 billion annual expense for state and federal governments for workers who also rely on welfare to make ends meet.
Politicians, generally, like to spew out stats that appear to show that hard working people are being overtaken by the shiftless to justify the need to end welfare.
Of course, without giving the full picture of who receives these benefits, why, and for how long.
They also do not tell us how the studies were conducted, things like what is being measured, how it was measured, or what portion was taken from a small sample and generalized to an entire demographic.
Believe it or not, these factors and others make a significant impact on the outcomes
Instead, stereotypes are created like ‘welfare queens’ and ‘the makers versus the takers’ rather than deal in reality about real social problems that have attainable solutions.
It is important to note that when analyzing studies on welfare to understand that in every case the measurements (in terms of what is being measured) were different.
For example, if you look at studies that is supposed to measure the number of people on welfare, some some may only include recipients of TANF (cash assistance), food stamps, and Medicaid. Other studies may include SSI, WIC, and housing subsidies.
Some are longitudinal studies which follow a large sample of people over time while others simply counted the number of people on welfare rolls, and so on.
But, the common thread is that few studies, rarely if ever, discuss or offset the numbers by workers on welfare or how many workers held their job an entire year, etc.
This is important because it gives us a skewed sense of reality about the economy and the human condition.
So, in the world of fake news and alternative facts we search for the truth - things we need to consider in our political debates and certainly when developing public policy.
Was this post helpful? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. If you’re in need of case management services or assistance please Contact Us by completing the confidential contact form. Also, consider donating to continue this important work and expand our reach to the broader community.
Redefining Social Welfare...Again
Wraparound Services Section
Free Tax Preparation – Earned Income Tax Credit Panel
Category: Social Topics
Historically, social welfare was synonymous with the human condition of well-being characterized by socioeconomic security against major life risks, contentment in meeting one’s basic needs, and the ability to manage problems and achieve goals. But thanks to revisionists, the term has been reduced to the services provided to the poor by public welfare departments and charity organizations. When members of society have a fundamental, tangible model of social welfare they experience a reasonable standard of health, extended life expectancy, quality housing, higher incomes, and minimal social problems. A society with poor social welfare is marked by poverty, low living standards, and high rates of violence.
The historical context of social welfare also includes self-preservation as a matter of personal diligence. Inasmuch as society accepted social responsibility for the needy, well-being was also thought of as a matter of individual effort and family support. The involvement of external agents such as government and charitable organizations was considered a “safety net” that was operationalized when individuals and families lacked the ability to manage their life challenges. But, it was understood that life, oftentimes, presents an array of unexpected, complex events beyond the individual’s control.
Unemployment, for example, resulting from the lack of economic growth directly affects the welfare of individuals and their families in the form of decreased employment opportunities and income. The death of a spouse or debilitating medical condition of a person who is the primary provider of the household will cause a family to be economically vulnerable and at-risk for poverty. Any number of problems can arise that affects an individual or family’s ability to cope with their problems and has grave consequences for social welfare.
Because we live in a market society, social welfare programs were meant to protect individuals, spouses, and dependent children from poverty because of the loss of income due to unemployment, injury, disability, retirement, and death. How a country responds to the needs of its people answers questions about its values and social goals regarding equity, efficiency, and assumptions about social norms such as gender roles and family responsibility. It is these kinds of factors that interact to shape and form Public Policy which determines the size, structure, generosity, and administration of a nation’s social welfare system.
Societies that provide universal welfare gives us an idea about their values for the collective good of their citizenry. In American society, a target approach to program delivery supposedly intended to fish-out the poor and specifically direct benefits to those who need it most is the standard. But with our skewed sense of equity, the idea of the deserving poor has a deleterious effect and neglects many groups of people who have legitimate needs.
The process of targeting benefits also impedes system efficacy and imposes stigma on recipients. Administrative costs associated with means-tested programs for fact-finding purposes regarding assets and income creates enormous, and, oftentimes, exploitative financial burdens on the system by service providers. Income-testing also may deter potential recipients from pursuing benefits and causes adverse work incentives. Because the system requires a reduction in benefits when earnings rise even slightly above the so-called “poverty line”, individuals and families are conversely incentivized to keep their earnings low or work “under-the-table.” Not considering the inadequacy of federal standards of poverty, costs associated with new employment, or deteriorating living wages creates the “poverty trap” that affects the efficiency of the system and lowers the well-being of recipients.
In sum, as we briefly review the original purpose and design of welfare it is time to put aside assumptions about its goals and the people who need it. We do that when we consider all the ineffective variables of the system and the systemic forces that promote and maintain poverty which are too many to name here. The beginning of that process is to understand that people are not always poor because they are inherent social derelicts, make bad choices, live high-risk lifestyles, and the like. More often, than not, people are victims of market forces and life circumstances beyond their control. But, as times are changing, and new social values emerge we should, at least, maintain a basic decency and dignity toward the less fortunate.
Welcome to The Community Advocate Network. My name is Deborah Mitchell, I am a graduate in Social Work and Registered Social Work Technician. My human service background began in 2007 which includes medical case management and service navigation for the indigent population, outpatient mental health counseling with substance use and abuse disorders, supportive employment and job development for mental health consumers, and structured living domicile management.