A while back I wrote an article,”12 Things That Only The Working Poor Truly Understand,” in which I listed the struggles that poor families (especially those with kids) are forced to deal with on a daily basis.
The response to the article was overwhelmingly positive for the most part, but there were plenty of negative comments from conservatives, too. The two most common comments were either asking why poor people would choose to have kids if they can’t take care of them, or contained some version of the obligatory conservative “lazy welfare, moocher” lie.
To put this lazy moocher myth to bed once and for all, I reached out to readers and asked them to tell me their stories.
So here they are, the real “welfare moochers”:
In the early 2000s my husband and I had two small children and both worked 40 hours a week in Texas. We still struggled to pay bills with both of us employed. I worked at a Daycare and benefited from the childcare discount, but the state picked up the remainder. My children received Medicaid, but my husband and I were uninsured. We received $200/mo in food stamps and $100 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It covered food, but we were still living paycheck to paycheck and were never able to get out of debt.
That’s when my husband decided to join the Army and suddenly the state cut my childcare funding because they said he made too much and I was forced to quit my job. I tried to explain that they pay him x amount but then take out x amount for food and lodging so we never get that money, yet the state wouldn’t listen. My husband served 15 months in Iraq; when he came home he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
I am now a widow.
Although I receive SSI and VA for myself and his children, I don’t feel like I am using the system. This was his money he paid into. When we both were working and needed assistance I still didn’t feel we were misusing the system because if two adults can’t make enough money to support a family of four something is wrong in this country.
I was an administrative assistant to the COO of a Fortune 500 company here in Colorado Springs. It wasn’t my dream job, or even what I went to school for, but an English major with a minor in journalism doesn’t go far when you have kids to support. In March of 2008, I went to work and was greeted by locked doors. After two days of phone calls, I got a letter from the company stating that my job had been terminated. My final paycheck was enclosed, along with a statement of my retirement/401k. Both were empty. I received no severance pay, my savings was gone (over $56,000) and I had no recourse.
So, I scrambled to find a new job. Shouldn’t be hard right? I had 15 years experience in my field, so confidence was high. Six months later I was waiting tables at [a] Waffle House. I had to apply for food stamps. I was mortified! Nowhere could I find work that paid half of what I was making before, and my landlord wanted rent and kids wanted power and food. I was so embarrassed the first few times I had to use that card. I went to the grocery store across town at midnight so no one I knew would see me. The entire process had been bad enough, these workers looking at me like I was scum, wanting every penny I spent accounted for. Giving me side eye when I put my phone bill under expenses.
I got a letter from my youngest kid’s school, saying that she now qualified for free lunch. Nope! I sent her to school every damn day with lunch money! I also got a check from the school at the end of the year for the full amount I had paid.
We shop at thrift stores for clothes/shoes/purses etc. And I’m really good at finding the barely used name brand stuff, like last seasons [sic] Steve Madden boots for $4 or a Kate Spade bag for $1.50. I do my own nails, and I will not apologize for having a current model phone (not an iPhone) and not being ashamed to by [sic] healthy food with a snap card.
I am disabled now because of an auto accident 18 yrs ago. A van ran a light in 1996 and t-boned my driver’s door. It left me with a severe brain injury and epilepsy. I have a double BA in Social Science and Psych and had intended to teach Special Ed at an elementary school. That is impossible now.
The doctors weren’t sure I’d live and, if I did, weren’t sure if I’d ever survive alone or work again. Within a year I was living alone and working full-time and had returned to school in the evening. I achieved a Paralegal Certificate with Honors while working full time at a job where I couldn’t study.
I’m no longer able to work and I have had seven brain surgeries since the accident. Were it not for Social Security Disability, I’d never be able to pay my bills.
I am a certified Trauma and Loss Specialist. I worked for a domestic violence shelter in Northeast, Michigan. In 2008, due to federal and state budget cuts, the organization I worked for was forced to eliminate all ‘non-essential’ staff.
Around the same time my fiance began to experience serious health issues. Although he went into the Air Force strong and healthy, a few years after serving, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – an autoimmune disease that effects the pancreas. He was stationed at Oscoda-Wurtsmith Air Force base, which is now closed and has been designated a Superfund site. At the time he began to get really sick, he had been working for the same company for nearly 20 years. When it came time for him to file a claim with the insurance that he’d paid religiously, he was denied, because they said it was a ‘preexisting condition.’ After two major strokes that left him blind in one eye and partially blind in the other eye, he lost his job.
I found a part time job working with MSU Extension, but it wasn’t long before the anti-tax, anti-public programs yet again set their sites on eliminating my ‘lucrative government job’. My fiance’s medications alone cost more than $2,000 a month. Since his insurance refused to help pay for them, every penny had to come from our pockets. We had three children to feed, plus utility bills and a mortgage to pay somehow. Even though I was working three jobs at that time I had to ask the government for help. It was devastating. I am no longer on government assistance because I was fortunate enough to be hired by an evil liberal who pays his employees well, but I’ll never forget the shame of having to ask for help.
I lost my job and I was I was homeless for about three months. My children had to go live with their father, my ex-husband and for the first time in my life I had to ask for government assistance. I never thought in a million years that I would subject myself to food stamps, but I had to do whatever it took to survive.
I was a server since I turned 19 and always worked 40+ hours a week, but basically lived paycheck to paycheck. Now, back in 2011 before the ACA kicked in I hurt my lower back outside of work. I couldn’t get Workers’ Compensation. I couldn’t get unemployment right away, because they saw it as quitting my job and ever since the recession Gov. Jan Brewer had outlawed collecting food stamps or healthcare for childless adults. I sorely needed to be seen for my back but I had no savings.
I tried to get disability, but you have to go to a doctor first to prove your disability. Finally after an investigation and like four months of not having a dime to my name, I was able to get unemployment. I had to lie to keep it, because I couldn’t work. I could barely walk or move at the time because of my back.
Finally I found a pain management clinic that was cheap enough to do cash pay, but they didn’t solve my problem. I went thousands of dollars into debt from unpaid hospital bills. I finally got a job with healthcare insurance, but unfortunately the preexisting condition clause kept me from getting treatment until Obamacare kicked in. So I went a full two years struggling and in pain because of laws Brewer passed. We ended up losing our house, because I was supposed to pay half the mortgage. My boyfriend had to take a job getting paid under the table just so we could get food stamps, because he had a daughter. The whole nasty situation could have been avoided had Republicans not made laws against childless people like me.
In 2008 my husband lost his job. When the stock market crashed we lost over three hundred thousand dollars in savings and we had to give up our house. Fortunately for us, he turned 62 that year and we were able to collect Social Security. No, we aren’t lazy moochers and always worked hard, did things by the book, and still lost everything.
In 2004 my husband I had a son. We live in Florida and the housing market was booming so my husband made enough money to support us. When my son was old enough, I went to work as a store manager at a grocery store and everything was great.
Then in 2008, the housing market collapsed and my husband was suddenly out of work. At the same time, I lost my job at the grocery store and I was forced to apply for government assistance.
We didn’t have a child while we were poor, we had a child when everything was good and through no fault of our own lost everything. It was a horrible experience.
Every single person who told me their story has been through a devastating ordeal. All of them had to receive some sort of assistance from a government program that Republicans are working diligently to destroy.
In 1976, when Ronald Reagan was running for president he told people a story about a “welfare queen” who was living the high life on the taxpayers’ dime. In reality the women who he claimed stole $150,000 a year from the government really only stole roughly $8,000, but that didn’t matter to Reagan; as we now know, telling the truth isn’t something Republicans do well.
Over the years, the story of the “welfare queen” has not died, and the GOP loves to talk about the lazy moochers living the high life on their
measly ginormous welfare budget, gorging on steak and lobste while the decent workers in the county are stuck eating Ramen Noodles. This is total bull, of course, but that doesn’t stop Republicans from spewing this garbage and bashing the needy.