Among the discussions I have with my other political friends (and those who aren't), frequently the conversation steers to social services. And recently, I think I actually lost a friend who disagrees with me (man, I hope that's not true). But there are some things that don't have a "right" or "wrong" answer, just different philosophies. Allow me to share mine.
I realize that our experiences largely shape our political opinions. So it's no surprise that my friend, whose mom has repeatedly "abused" the system by taking everything the government was willing to give her, has the opinion that "welfare" is a system we cannot afford, and should do away with.
My experiences are with people who, by almost no fault of their own, do not have access to healthcare or income, or have served their country and are dealing with some kind of disability. Do I know people who take advantage of "the system?" Sure. But they are less in number than those I know who legitimately need the help of the government. Some examples:
A man who worked his whole life by the rules, paid income, property, and sales tax. Now is sick and cannot work.
A woman whose husband works three part-time jobs, none of which offers health insurance to their employees. One of her children has chronic illness and needs care.
A man who has lost his job because of outsourcing, and his children are hungry more often than they're not.
My philosophy is this: A government should have a vested interest in the welfare of its citizens. A nation of educated and healthy children will be stronger and more prosperous.
The argument is that we can't afford it. My question: Can we afford not to?
The argument is that we won't help people by giving handouts. My argument is that its hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you haven't boots to begin with.
The argument is that its not the government's job to take care of people. My question: Then whose? (Please do not say The Church. Or The Community. If those were effective, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.)
I learned recently that Michigan has a great program for kids who are uninsured or underinsured. You can purchase a plan through the State for a nominal fee that covers treatments that your normal plan might not. People can take advantage of this plan so that their kids get the medications and treatments they need to be well, and takes so much stress of families who are dealing the stress of having a sick kid. Brilliant. This, my friends, is what is basically a public option, and something I have long supported as a federal solution to a very serious health insurance industry issue. How great would it be if my little friend Kendall's parents didn't have to struggle and fight with their insurance company for a medication that Kendall needed to be healthy. See that story here. How wonderful it would be if families didn't have to go bankrupt just because they were given a child with chronic illness? I wish we all had that option.
There is no right or wrong here, just philosophical differences. And watching people suffer brings me so much sadness, that I feel compelled to share mine with you. We can care for our people. We must.