Scale Back Public Aid Programs? Yes and No


Freedom From Want (1942, Norman Rockwell)
Freedom From Want (1942, Norman Rockwell)

A recent NY Times article (“Behind Trump’s Program to Overhaul the Government: Scaling Back the Safety Net“) describes how the current administration is seeking to restructure social welfare programs “in a way that would make them easier to cut, scale back or restructure.”

While I’m very much against “scaling back the safety net” that doesn’t mean that reshaping it is a bad idea.
The “safety net” in this country is a complex and confusing web of programs overseen by an often opaque and always byzantine bureaucracy that is frequently underpaid with high turnover.  (This doesn’t mean that the bureaucrats are unfeeling or callous people: you can only do so much when your hands are tied by a forest of overlapping, inconsistent, incomplete, and often outdated regulations and programs.)
In homeless shelters (where I served as a chaplain) I’ve seen people carrying around HUGE binders of information about their case.  They often contained hundreds of pages of letters, documentation, emails, flyers, and forms.

Such binders are necessary when you return to an office with the additional proof or documentation they requested last time, and are faced with a newly hired social worker who knows little or nothing about what transpired on your previous visit, and can’t find the documents and letters you’ve already given them.  Sadly, this is not rare occurance.
Getting public aid in this country requires persistence, patience, and often intransigence.  It’s hard enough for native born Americans to navigate the system.  I can’t imagine it’s any easier for refugees or those for whom English is not their native language.
So, why not reshape it? Why not rethink and restructure our Social Welfare programs such that people can get the help they need (and no more or no less than what they need) quickly and easily, with a minimum of fuss and bother?
 
The system can be made far more effective, efficient and responsive than it is.  We must reform it.  The problem is that the current Administration (and no thanks to the current Congress) has proven over and over again that it is incapable of making any reforms, let alone serious or well thought out ones; and that it is oblivious to the realities that people face in their everyday lives.

Copyright (c) 2018, Allen Vander Meulen III.

Author: Allen

A would be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is a father of two (ages 28 & 7). He and his wife enjoy life near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PastorAllenV/ or on Twitter @allenvm3.

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