Conservatives are proposing work requirements for Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients — an unnecessary and cruel act that would actually result in the government spending more to administer these programs.
Conservatives are attempting to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. To be fair, Republicans do not want to fix these programs, they want to eliminate them. Don’t believe me? Ask Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who bragged that he has been dreaming about defunding government healthcare spending since his college days. I should note that his college days were paid for by Social Security benefits (another program Ryan wants to defund) that his family received after his father died, but I digress.
Medicaid and SNAP recipients already work at roughly the same rate as everyone else. The costly bureaucracy the laws would put in place would make it harder for those with real needs to qualify for Medicaid or SNAP. Not only will that make it harder for people who are too sick or too hungry to work, but hungry people without Medicaid will once again rely on the emergency room for health care, driving up health care costs for all of us.
The majority of those who participate in these programs are one of the following: children, elderly, disabled or able-bodied adults who are already working. Many are low-wage workers who are holding down multiple jobs.
There are already work requirements in place for able-bodied adults receiving SNAP. For those too sick to work and too poor to purchase health insurance, is it moral to force them into the labor force? At what point does requiring work in return for basic life necessities equate to a form of slavery?
Safety nets are in place to help those in need. I should know.
When I was 12, my father lost his job through no fault of his own. A high-level company executive decided he didn’t like traveling to Shamokin, and so my father’s plant permanently closed. This was during the recession of the 1980s when folks didn’t ask, “Where are you working?” They asked, “Are you working?” Subsequently, my dad was out of work for two years.
With five kids at home, he and my mom were forced to rely on food stamps and other forms of government assistance. My mom was unable to go to work since she was needed at home to care for our severely autistic brother. It wasn’t easy for my parents to go on food stamps, and it wasn’t their choice. But they did what they had to do to provide for their family.
Too often, conservatives attempt to publicly shame people, like my parents, who were just trying to get by. They utilize “we versus they” tactics in an attempt to turn the public against those who require government support. For example, they’ll ask, “Why should we have to work and support ourselves while they receive something for nothing?”
There are several problems with this thinking. First of all, anyone who has worked has paid something into the system, and these safety nets are designed for those who fall on hard times. But more importantly, none of us knows when “we” might become a “they.” Our circumstances can change in an instance. We could lose our job, get injured or be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Anyone of us could, some day, need government assistance.
I remember having a conversation with a woman who was criticizing people on government assistance. I told her my family’s story of how we ended up on food stamps. Her response was “Well, that’s different.” I told her it wasn’t. My family’s story is not any different than the majority of those seeking support through disability, food stamps or Medicaid. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people. Unfortunately, some politicians exploit elements of human nature to push their political agenda.
House Speaker Ryan and I are a lot alike. We both benefited from public assistance. We both know what it is like to be in need. Unlike Ryan, I believe these programs should be available if YOU need them. Please call your state senator to oppose measures that create more red tape for those in need.