Opinion | $2 more a month for Michigan’s poor isn’t help. It’s an insult.

State Sen. Coleman A. Young II, D-Detroit, represents residents of Detroit City, Ecorse City, Gibraltar City, Grosse Ile Township, River Rouge City, Riverview City, Trenton City, Woodhaven City, Wyandotte City, and Brownstown Township. He is also a candidate to succeed U.S. Rep. John Conyers in Congress.

Welfare queen. It’s an oxymoron with racial undertones introduced by President Ronald Reagan to disparage and vilify families who were left behind by his failed system of trickle-down economics. But it didn’t end with Reagan.

When Gov. Rick Snyder took office, his first mission was to remove the poor from his thoughts -- and pray they never ask for help. He enacted a lifetime limit of 48 months for government cash assistance and immediately cut off benefits to families who had reached the cap. The results? They plummeted further into poverty.

It’s been more than 40 years of greedy politicians using the fictitious welfare queen to push their agenda, and it’s time to set the record straight.

Back in 2007, during my first year as a lawmaker in the state House of Representatives, young constituents from my district would come meet with me. We always began our conversations with the usual icebreaker topics about sports, music and their career ambitions. Unfortunately, it was also not uncommon for me to hear from young mother about their struggle of having to choose between working for minimum wage and neglecting their children, or applying for government assistance so they could earn an education.

Many chose the latter route of assistance, which provided the opportunity to maintain a basic quality of life while obtaining a degree. Government assistance certainly didn’t offer them a middle-class lifestyle; meals were scant, heat was only used during the coldest winter nights and “new” clothes for the kids were hand-me-downs from older siblings.

None of them enjoyed being on government assistance, but they couldn’t have been more thankful. It kept them off the streets, and provided a path to a better life that didn’t rely on food stamps and cash assistance.

And yet, here we are 11 years later, and I am still hearing similar stories from my constituents. Except this time, it’s about students who can’t make it out because the system that once gave them hopes and dreams is failing them.

Michigan has a long history of neglecting those in poverty, and Snyder’s tenure has been a far cry from the help that the poorest of our communities need. Under his budget proposal for 2018, families who receive cash assistance from the Family Independence Program, or FIP, would receive an increase of just $2 each month. While I appreciate this investment, it’s barely enough to purchase a gallon of milk, and certainly not enough to even put one gallon of gas in the car.

If families don’t have enough money to get their car down the road, how can we honestly push them to reach for the stars?

So, the next time you hear a politician refuse to help the next generation of children while using the mythical welfare queen excuse, remember that the only welfare queens they’ve ever helped are wealthy CEOs and donors who line their pockets with tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks — that you’re paying for.

Our children are an investment in the future — regardless of whether they come from the rural north or urban south. Just like any business, they need capital to grow, learn and thrive. Snyder’s proposed cash assistance increase of just $2 per month isn’t an investment, it’s an insult.

It’s these insults that keep impoverished families stuck in the endless cycle of government assistance. I don’t want people to have to rely on government assistance as much as the next person, but we have to achieve that goal by setting people up for success — and not just giving them the bare minimum to survive.

We might actually be able to pull up our bootstraps if we could afford them in the first place.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

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Comments

sam melvin
Tue, 04/10/2018 - 9:21am

17 Countries in our world pay there families a Basic Living Allowance.that CANADA,SWISS Finland and Africa State of Nambia and even when the find work THEY get to KEEP the Basic allowance, Which make much more Cents...then the monthly=daily adjusting ,paper work in the DHS...the cost of keeping citizen ; Mothers Jones over $ 6 billion too states, for persons in jail, shelter, food ,medical and dental care, when a very simple solution would be A living wages so citizen can have a better live and homes for there children also brings IN more revenue for the state :like putting fertilizer on field of corn!

Bridge
Tue, 04/10/2018 - 9:42am

This article's argument: everyone is a racist, give me more free money for making poor life choices. Democrats are the ones creating an "endless cycle of government assistance". Third generation "welfare queens" means that something isn't working.

David Waymire
Tue, 04/10/2018 - 4:53pm

Actually, the poverty rate tends to be higher, year after year after year, in red states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Kentucky. And lower in blue states, like Connecticutt, Maryland, New Jersey and, in the Midwest, Minnesota. You could Google it pretty easily and check wikipedia or the Census Department data the wikipedia entry is based on.

Mary Fox
Fri, 04/20/2018 - 3:34pm

That argument is insane. We GIVE a thousand times more to the rich than goes to the poor. 9.6 BILLION yearly to corporations. 5.6 vs 9.0+ for total taxes for the rich vs the other 4 quintiles. I ve had my pension taxed and my taxes raised to help the rich. Sickening.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 04/10/2018 - 2:17pm

No, Sen. Young, what IS insulting is the mindset that was proposed and promoted throughout the last century that the government is now somehow required to take from one class of citizens and give to another.

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" immediately come to mind whenever I hear people who parrot this mistaken belief.

It has gotten so bad that "But, it's for the CHILDREN" is now included as a justification to deflect any arguments against this compulsory charity.

Before going any further, I would ask him this one simple question that I have asked other politicians from BOTH political parties in the past: Where does the government derive the authority to steal the labor from someone and given what they have stolen to another?

This should be a simple question for those who have made a career out of being an elected official should be able answer without even pausing or even breaking a sweat.

Sens. Stabenow, Levin & Peters were all unable to answer it. Rep. Levin was unable to answer it.

Perhaps Sen. Young can do what his colleagues were unable?

Greg
Sun, 06/03/2018 - 11:44pm

You may not see this as my response is late but I feel your worldview is limited to your personal life. You argue that government steals from one class to help another. That's a false premise. You see government steals nothing from you. You give to the government as it's the agreement you make upon your birth to a nation. Should you choose to leave your nation and denounce your citizenship your money would technically mean nothing as money is just as strong as what it can buy you. You couldn't simply start your own nation as another nation stronger than you would simply take you over. That said your argument then is not that your being stolen from. Your argument is that you don't think the government should be responsible for those that are poor. My question to you is why tf do you care? I highly doubt your up in arms about corporate welfare. I highly doubt your up in arms about the scam system which is insurance in this country that costs tax payers around 25 billion dollars a year reimbursing insurance agencies. I don't see you complaining about our military installations around the world. You don't complain about the country spending millions on new weapons research as if we don't have good enough weapons to kill people as it is. Yet your gripe about government expenditures is the 5% they use of the budget to help those that aren't making it. Kings of ages before us used to spend around 20% of their budget taking care of their peasants. Yet you complain about 5%. I honestly hate people like you do.

Matt
Tue, 04/10/2018 - 3:01pm

So how do we rate in relative benefits as opposed to other states? Sorry I don't care what the Swiss do. If we're that skimpy, I'd be all in favor of helping recipients access these greener pastures. Can't remember any Bridge stories documenting starvation in MI, I'm sure there would have been some if so, please supply if they were missed. So maybe that is the point, welfare is supposed to be uncomfortable, so you don't want to remain there or do what puts you there in the first place?

duane
Wed, 04/11/2018 - 7:20pm

Why is the Senator more concerned with living in poverty being more comfortable than developing ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty?
Why is $2 a month such a political rallying call when we can learn from those who have succeeded in lifting themselves out of poverty? Whether it is $2, $500, $1000, or more, if a person hasn’t learned the knowledge and skills to earn the money, and to manage the money for today and tomorrow, as we have seen it will disappear and leaving people in the dire situations they were in before the money.
If the Senator had spent time in private industry he might have learned how they succeed. Private industry have been looking to those who succeed, learning how they achieved that success so they can apply those lessons in achieving their own success. Rather than belittle those whose money the Senator wants to give to others, he could help more by looking to those who have lifted themselves out of poverty and learn how they did it. He could take those lessons to those in poverty so they could see a path out of poverty and use that path to make their way out of poverty rather than trying to make living in poverty more comfortable as the Senator seems to want to do today.
Each of us needs to learn the necessary knowledge and skills for today and tomorrow so we can achieve our own successes. The Senator could better serve those in poverty by helping them to access the needed knowledge and skills so they can take control of their lives and not rely on the whims of politicians.

Books
Sun, 04/15/2018 - 12:47am

I agree with the senator. There is a war on poor people. I am not poor, but I know that being at rock bottom does not necessarily result in people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. They are too busy just trying to survive, which doesn't leave time or money to invest in themselves or plan for a future. Poor Americans are our fellow citizens, and poor children are our future; we need to be sure our society begins to be fair. Helping the poorest is a civilized thing to do. The ugliest remarks and holier-than-thou attitudes is
revolting. I am a 68 year old white person, and I am ashamed of how stingy our country has become.

duane
Sun, 04/15/2018 - 10:57pm

Which 'poor' are you talking about, the Michigan 'poor', European 'poor', the South American 'poor' or Asian 'poor' or African 'poor'? The 'poor' is relative within the society and across societies. If you doubt that then do a bit of read on the 'poor' around the world.
As for Michigan 'poor', if you are 68 then you remember how food, shelter, and clothing were the every day struggle for the 'poor' in your youth . You will remember how in the 1950s the likely only green vegetables in the grocery stores was iceberg lettuce during the winter, the people were canning their own home grow vegetables so they would have them year round, my mother's main cooking utensil was a pressure cooker because the meat we could afford was so tough that was the only way to make it chewable. The housing had no insulation, were coal heat and got so cold at night that the windows frosted over, and the clothes were thin and shoes worn with holes in the soles. The medical care was so archaic X-ray machines [without radiation protection] were one of the few diagnostic tools, the hospital beds were in wards of 20s and 50s patients, and medications were almost home remedies [no treatment for type II diabetes as an example]. If there is a 'war on the poor' today do you want us to revert to the 1950s?
If there is a war going on around the 'poor' it is for the federal and state dollars spent on the 'poor.'

The reality is that being 'poor' [relative to society] is a difficult lifestyle. It has to be extremely difficult for parent [the kids will adapt], it is emotionally burdensome because they have lost control of living while they see those out of poverty having control. The society has changed from your youth, when it was hard work that could lift you out of poverty and having enough money to stabilize your families living was a major step in getting a job to work hard at. Today it is about working smarter and simply have enough for your families subsistence will not make it possible to lift yourself up from poverty. Today people need to learn the knowledge and skills to work smarter to lift themselves up from poverty. There isn't a war on the 'poor', the conditions and means to rise from poverty have changed and it takes more from the person to lift themselves up from poverty. And what it takes is no different than what it is for those who are starting outside of poverty, it takes learning, knowledge and skills, persistence, desire, sacrifice.
The choice is do we spend the money on making poverty more comfortable or on programs that help people find the belief/desire they can lift themselves out of poverty, help them to learn [best don't in K-12, it is easier] how to learn, to learn the necessary knowledge and skills, and the what it is necessary to manage themselves and their moneys.
There is no war, the threshold has simply risen with the change in our society,

Gerry
Mon, 04/16/2018 - 4:55pm

I think 4 years on public assistance is a long amount of time for any person. The idea of public assistance was to create a safety net for those who were going through a hard time. It was not designed to be a way of life for an extended period of years.

Greg
Sun, 06/03/2018 - 11:48pm

How is 4 years enough? It took me 7 years to get my life in order, thank God I never had to rely on public assistance, but who are you to arbitrarily decide how long it should take someone to get their life together. Are you God? Are you a great economic philosopher? Or are you just an entitled moron who thinks they know what's it like to really grind for what you need in life

Carl
Mon, 06/04/2018 - 8:36pm

Greg is right. There should be no cap on the years it takes for someone else to get their life in order. 20 years. 30 years. Whatever it takes to live off the sweat and labor of others until you get your life together. That is why I work, by the way, so others can get their life together. Its why I have student loans and worked my way through college ... so others could figure things out. In fact, that is the lesson I will teach my kids someday ... others lives are not together, so you have to work to support them until they figure things out.