Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Charity, Morality, and Welfare

Shown: Not Goofing Off on the Clock
Working for a Living
 I live in one of the richer American republics (actually, it's a constitutional monarchy, but it functions as a republic would in everything but name). As it happens I'm actually not pro-republic, I'm pro-democracy, but my rantings and ravings about electoral math are both, by now, well-known, and overdone.

However, living in one of the richer American states, I live in a country with a disproportionate amount of pseudo-socialistic thought, and at some point way before I was born, Welfare became a thing.

Now, I should begin by saying that up here Canada we have a variety of different welfare programs, not all of which are welfare, and all of which need to be considered on their own merits and not the merits of their esteemed confreres. For the purposes of this discussion, it's enough to know that there's basically Welfare, Disability, and Employment Insurance. I'm going to try to talk briefly about all of them, but I also have to get some obligatory disclosure out of the way first, so that you can spot my confirmation bias and point it out to me. Remember, dissenting opinions feed developing intelligence.

I'm a Christian. What particular denomination you attached to that statement is ultimately meaningless because I don't recognize denominational boundaries as legitimate for any purpose other than sociology. My developing understanding of Christian morality comes from direct reading of the bible and also pursuit of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.I consider mine a faith of charity in all senses of the word. Looking out for the less fortunate is probably the most noble thing a person can do, whatever the context.
Shown: How I cook when I'm working-poor.

Let's talk, though, about our welfare programs. We'll start with the one actually called Welfare. This is a program that anyone who is not presently employed may collect from, if they meet certain, rather low criteria, and can produce paperwork reliably to prove they are actively looking for work. Welfare is funded from the general taxation revenue in my country, which means that anyone who pays any tax of any kind pays for welfare, though obviously not proportionally.

Welfare is not available to anyone who's working over a certain wage, either, and the line for the welfare cutoff is well below the poverty line. What's more, provisions are made in the welfare system for certain conditions, like being a single parent, or having children. Additional children mean additional money is paid out by the system to help keep you afloat. It's a way for the state to enforce charitable ideals upon even the most bitter-hearted of us.

I used to like welfare. Now I know I live in an area with a lot of claimants. I know enough about how the business world works to recognize that many claimants, who come to my area looking to get their "I applied here" paperwork signed, have no interest in getting an interview. They're failing first impressions deliberately, and doing it in a way that is painfully honest. The system is gamed, with parents who live together but are unmarried listing separate addresses and one or the other collecting single parent benefits while the other collects an ordinary welfare cheque.

The people who abuse this program spoil it for everyone else. It gets to the point where refusing to be on welfare becomes a matter of pride for people who have a genuine need of it, and where people who are otherwise charitable want the program abolished on principle.

Shown: How I eat when unemployed.
Employment Insurance is even better on principle. This is a system everyone who works pays into. It's deducted from your pay on top of your taxes, and then it's matched-and-then-some by your employer. It's intended as an insurance policy against loss of work due to layoffs. If you quit, or were fired for cause, you're not entitled. If you don't have a certain number of hours logged, you're not entitled. And the payouts only last for so long, no matter how hard you're looking for work. But hey, it's something, and I have no problem paying for it.

I often complain about it, of course. I've been unable to draw upon it when I really needed it in the past, wuch as two months, recently, where I was unable to find work. This was before I decided to go back to college for my second bite at the post-secondary-education apple, so there was no savings to draw on, and precious little work to find. I hadn't been fired for cause. The business I worked for was doing poorly, and the owner basically decided to drop all staff that wasn't family. I was laid off.

I still couldn't claim it, because too long of a period had elapsed between that job and the previous, which had been a summer practicum I was released from at the end of the summer work term. Such things don't count for EI claims so I was no better than the person who gets fired for throwing a knife down the line during a heated argument with a holier-than-thou server during a breakfast service where everything that can go wrong did.

Well, let's be honest, I really am no better than that, but you would think a program you pay for - directly - would actually pay out. Particularly where other seasonal workers can, or at least, could (there's reform in the tubes) draw on EI benefits during their off season.

So I'm against Welfare and on the Fence about Ei. This is the part where I look like a crypto-fascist and argue against disability, right? Wrong. Disability payments serve a legitimate purpose. People have a right to the necessities of life in this country. Those who are unable to work to earn those necessities should have an expectation for the government to provide for them within reason, because there is simply no other alternative.

These positions aren't going to be very popular. If I ever ran for office with any of the parties that I actually liked, or indeed ever ran for any office of any kind in the area I live in now, all it would take to sink my career would be for someone to dig up this post or another like it. But it needs to be said, becauser enforced charity is no charity at all.  Instead of encouraging people to work less, we should be helping them find ways to work more. I've known plenty of people on any of these programs who made more money than I did while working, being paid, in essense, to sit around all day and be online, railing against the unfairness of a political system that forces people to work, fails to raise the assistance payments to the level they think is necessary, or else-wise simply play their favourite facebook, pogo, or miniclip games.

The legitimate users of these programs deserve every penny they get, and the illegitimate ones deserve to work off every penny they stole.

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