Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the welfare state

We're on welfare. We receive a link card for groceries from stores, a medical card for our insurance, and payments to our natural gas and electric company for our fossil fuel use. I am grateful for the assistance we receive, because it takes a lot of worry off my shoulders (while trying to seek independence, believe me, I see the irony).

We will be a week late getting August's food assistance funds, if we're lucky. Our state's end of the paperwork is running "at least" 30 days behind. Even though my paperwork was sent in before the deadline, we have to wait until we can be processed. I am glad we are into diy food. I know a lot of people just scrape by at the end of the month (it's scrounging time here). We still have a lot of beans in the pantry, a half gallon of maple syrup, food ripening in the garden, plus we have no shame in eating weeds. Although my daughter won't eat "real" food, we have enough money to afford a week of food for her from our limited cash.

Medical care is... ridiculous. We get free medical care from the medical card, but hardly anyone accepts the card. Sick as can be? It's a two-week wait for an appointment at the clinic. The ER has to accept you, though. Good thing we're rarely sick.

I called the clinic today to make dentist appointments for us all, but they only take appointments on Fridays. In fact, they don't take phone appointments, but only make appointments in person on Fridays. The receptionist told me they get about 200 phone calls per hour on Fridays, and they're too busy taking appointments for people who are in the office to answer the phone. I guess I will go back to not worrying too much about my professional dental care. I think there may be a need for dentists for low-income people--maybe we can convince Fidel's little brother to send some Cuban dentists to America.

This is just one of those frustrating and annoying things that start me complaining. Yes, I know, I can always just quit applying for welfare and my troubles will be over. Believe me, I'm counting on it, especially as the relying on the state becomes less and less a certainty. Sometimes I think welfare is about the only reason poor people en masse put up with this way of life, living in civilization, with its reinforcing feedback loops of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. Community, self-reliance, yeah, those sound much nicer than asshole bureaucracy at the brink of collapse.

2 comments:

a conscious life said...

yep... we get welfare, too... medical right now and some food soon (just need to get my ass going on filling out the paperwork where they ask you for your soul)... I may apply for electricity help, too.

I like having medical... just in case... I'm hoping to get into a good doctor here, have some friends there and I'm going to ask that they write me a letter of recommendation. And I called and got into a good OB/GYN, no prob, with my card.

We are working towards independence... but sometimes the help comes in handy.

Really, I'm just happy not to have to worry about medical emergencies anymore.

abby said...

wikipedia:
A social welfare provision refers to any program which seeks to provide a minimum level of income, service or other support for many marginalized groups such as the poor, elderly, and disabled people. Social welfare programs are undertaken by governments as well as non-governmental organizations (NGO's). Social welfare payments and services are typically provided at the expense of taxpayers generally, funded by benefactors, or by compulsory enrollment of the poor themselves. Welfare payments can take the form of in-kind transfers (e.g., health care services) or cash (e.g., earned income tax credit). Examples of social welfare services include the following:

* Compulsory superannuation savings programs.
* Compulsory social insurance programs, often based on income, to pay for the social welfare service being provided. These are often incorporated into the taxation system and may be inseparable from income tax.
* Pensions or other financial aid, including social security and tax relief, to those with low incomes or inability to meet basic living costs, especially those who are raising children, elderly, unemployed, injured, sick or disabled.
* Free or low cost nursing, medical and hospital care for those who are sick, injured or unable to care for themselves. This may also include free antenatal and postnatal care. Services may be provided in the community or a medical facility.
* Free or low cost public education for all children, and financial aid, sometimes as a scholarship or pension, sometimes in the form of a suspensory loan, to students attending academic institutions or undertaking vocational training.
* The state may also fund or operate social work and community based organizations that provide services that benefit disadvantaged people in the community.
* Welfare money paid to persons, from a government, who are in need of financial assistance but who are unable to work for pay.

Police, criminal courts, prisons, and other parts of the justice system are not generally considered part of the social welfare system, while child protection services are. There are close links between social welfare and justice systems as instruments of social control (see carrot and stick). Those involved in the social welfare system are generally treated much like those in the justice system. Assistance given to those in the justice system is more about allowing an individual to receive fair treatment rather than social welfare. While being involved in the justice system often excludes an individual from social welfare assistance, those exiting the justice system, such as released prisoners, and families of those involved in the justice system are often eligible for social welfare assistance because of increased needs and increased risk of recidivism if the assistance is not provided. In some countries, improvements in social welfare services have been justified by savings being made in the justice system, as well as personal healthcare and legal costs.

States or nations that provide social welfare programs are often identified as having a welfare state. In such countries, access to social welfare services is often considered a basic and inalienable right to those in need. In many cases these are considered natural rights, and indeed that position is borne out by the UN Convention on Social and Economic Rights and other treaty documents. Accordingly, many people refer to welfare within a context of social justice, making an analogy to rights of fair treatment or restraint in criminal justice.

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Are we a country made mostly of marginalized people? Who doesn't receive some sort of economic welfare?

Also, it occurs to me that even in the situations I experience among young people without money, without property, trying to achieve independence, there is still the question of medical insurance and the notion that health is somehow end of the road independence, that a paid-for doctor is more desirable than trying to gain an appropriate understanding of one's own body, physical, emotional, spiritual. This continually concerns me, considering well-being depends more on the clear and stable state of these three aspects than anything else. I suppose that's part of living in a society that pushes everyone into dependence, for the sake of social control and economic dominance.

That said, we have to drive two hours round-trip to the big city every month to spend our foodstamps at the coop there just to be able to buy plain yogurt, "local" eggs, unfiltered vinegar, nuts and seeds, etc., and in addition to the ability to purchase these things is the lower price of buying food in the city in general. What a fucking crock it's taken to get these mountain folks to let the big groceries, oil companies, and wal-mart in here. Folks used to carry wheat and corn to the mill over the ridge where I live which is thousands of feet, and in-roads were everywhere so that people could interact within the community, necessarily locally.

Anyway, one more thing, once the co-op charged me too much for oregon grape root on my foodstamp card, and they can only give you cash back, can't put the funds back on your card, so I got twenty eight bucks to buy microbrew around the corner. :D