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.