Posts tagged ‘opposing viewpoints’

Doing Away with Welfare Rodents – perspective

This article was originally published July 6th of 2011 and is being republished as a foundation for an upcoming article. The illustration is a recent addition, a stock photo image combining photography and clip art to which I added the words then blended the coloring. Enjoy the article. Please share your opinions and be a part of the solution…

Have you heard that term, “welfare rodents”? It’s the most derogatory term I’ve heard to describe those, especially children, reliant on welfare. I heard someone mumble it as I walked with the two foster kids, for whom I help care, to our seats for the fireworks display last night. It implies such people are like rats – dirty, sneaky, robbing food, spreading disease, worthy of nothing more than laboratory experiments. Some express the same sentiment more subtly like 1996 Kansas House guest minister Rev. Joe Wright, who in the prayer to open the session (since referred to as The Prayer of Repentance and actually written by Rev. Bob Russel), stated  “We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.” I do empathize to a degree with the prayer’s sentiment; I agree there are people who abuse the welfare system. However, as stated, his words imply that all on welfare are lazy. This is not a new or infrequently held attitude. In fact, as the numbers on welfare rise due to our recent financial crisis, this espoused opinion reverberates far and wide. The foster kids are of course on welfare, but I won’t discuss them any further here. I, too, currently am on welfare. I can’t be sure whether the person who mumbled the term was referring to any of us, but it has given rise to things I’ve been wanting to say and haven’t yet. I am disabled, but I am not my disability. I am unemployed, but I am not lazy. I have tried repeatedly to work, even since first being on disability, and not only failed, but endangered my health even more by trying to do so. Some are forgiving of the disabled or displaced children on welfare, but reject the notion that others need it. In general, I disagree with this perspective. I could sit back and quietly accept that at least they’re not picking on me, but it’s just not in my nature.

I once had a personal care attendant who assisted me for over a year and also relied on welfare to a degree. She was an honest, hard-working, God-loving woman with three very sweet boys, aged 11, 7 and 3. Her first husband abandoned her and her first son, providing no support. Her second husband worked a 36 hour split-shift in Dietary at a hospital. I won’t give you a full run-down of their expenses, but they were not frivolous in their spending. They simply could not make ends meet. She was only able to get 15 hours per week of work at just above minimum wage. She had been able to get more hours before her car broke down. Then, at one point, when she tried to fix a sliding closet door, she accidentally deeply cut and broke her foot. Can you believe she was forced to wait four hours for a couple friends to assist her home because she had no money to pay for crutches and the hospital would not loan them to her. When she informed her welfare case worker by phone that she would be off work by order of the doctor for at least three weeks, her worker’s response was only that she needed to provide a copy of a doctor’s note when she was released to work again and written verification of her wage and hours upon return. Two weeks later, due to receive her foodstamps for her kids, she got a letter that not only had her benefits not been increased (as one might have reasonably expected they would), but all assistance of any kind (including her kids’, one of whom has a heart condition, medical coverage) was cancelled because she had not provided written verification of her change in work status. It took 6 weeks for benefits to be reestablished, during which time she accrued an emergency room bill for her son and one for herself due to diabetic complications from an infection of her wounded foot.

Recently, she made the difficult decision to use money she saved up to go back to school for training in a related field she hopes will require less travel and give her better employment opportunity. However she had to limit the days she was available to work because she couldn’t handle working on the four days she went to school and needed to do homework. Now, her agency has told her they can’t accommodate her restricted time available and she has been without any hours for 3 weeks. She is diabetic but now can’t afford even emergency medication she does not qualify for medical coverage except as related to a pregnancy. After having to move due to her landlord’s failures to address poor living conditions resulted in her home being “condemned”, her kids’ new public schools were “fining” her daily because she couldn’t afford their required uniforms for the last month of school. She is being hounded by the hospital for payment on her bills, washes the family’s clothes in the bathtub, sold her furniture except for her kids’ beds, and is now without any phone line (despite hers nd her son’s medical conditions). She survives on will-power, grace, faith, and a strong commitment to the future of her children. Yes, she’s still alive, but can we call this “living”?

As for myself, even with the assistance of welfare, not all of my medications or medical treatments are covered and after paying shelter costs, I have only $250 per month for all other expenses combined. If I did not have federally and state-funded medical coverage at all, just my medications alone would cost over $2000/month. Unable to afford that, my conditions would deteriorate quickly, bringing me to a pre-mature death, perhaps first briefly forcing me into an institution if such were publicly funded. Is there another way? Sure; if we could all count on each other to support the weakest and most in need members of society without the need for a regulated system, we could indeed do away with welfare. However, we do have this system currently and when I did work, I paid into the system that now supports me and have moved past my initial shame in having to rely upon it. I’m sure I have by now drawn from it more than I put in, but believe me, if I could earn a wage, I would. Even of my meager income, I give charitably. Yet, I wish I could give more. And I contribute to society as best I can, helping to raise foster kids, for example and sharing my experience, strength and hope for the benefit of others. So, I wish people would quit trying to eliminate the system or bash people using it, but instead, listen to the people who know how it works first hand (those who administer it and those using it). We need to address the gaps and barriers in the system for the welfare of individuals and our society as a whole. It is a shame that those most in need of advocacy are often least able for health or financial reasons to advocate for themselves. So, I ask you, my readers who are capable, will you please be someone I can count on to support my wanting to be and do the best I can? Will you please join me in  promoting cooperative efforts and a positive outlook? Will you please quit looking for who or what to blame — or simply looking the other way — and look, instead for solutions?!


Debate: Washington D.C., Its Origin And Bid for Statehood

Animated map showing territorial progression o...

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Several months ago the Army National Guard Facebook page presented a trivia challenge. “When did Washington D.C. become our nation’s capital?” I thought I knew, but wasn’t sure. I thought it would be a matter of minutes before I verified the answer via the internet. Well, when I came across conflicting answers, my curiosity was peeked and true to my inquisitive nature, I delved into the history of the District of Columbia, which is far more interesting than I had imagined. History was never my “thing” in school, but with an increasing understanding of politics over the years, I’m finding it ever more pertinent to my interests in relationships and justice. So below is an outline of some noteworthy events in the District of Columbia, but none of this is the most important thing I learned from this experience. You see, the question to me still remains unanswered because it is a matter of interpretation and rests upon the shifty ground of semantics and etymology, another of my great loves. I’d be ever so interested to know, given the information below, what do you my readers think the answer is and why? Furthermore, what do you think of the District’s statehood initiative in light of the original intent of Congress, as well as the rights of those living inside the area, the postulated concerns of those living outside of the area but who work within it, and the effect on the nation as a whole.
1751 (May 15) – Commissioners appointed by the Maryland Assembly purchase 60 acres above the mouth of Rock Creek on the Potomac River from George Gordon and George Beall to establish a town. The settlement becomes known as Georgetown.
1752 (February 27) – The survey and plat of Georgetown into 80 lots is completed.
1787( September 15) – United States Constitution Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 authorized establishment of a federal district as the seat of national government not to exceed 10 miles square and to be legislated by the authority of Congress alone
1787 (September 17) – All members of the Constitutional Convention sign the Constitution of the United States of America.
1788 (June 21) – The US Constitution is ratified.
1789 – Public record notes the area later known as the District of Columbia (including Alexandria ’til 1846) had already been designated for its future purpose.
1790 – Northern and Southern states rivaled for the capital’s location until Jefferson’s followers agreed to Hamilton’s proposed federal assumption of state debts in exchange for Hamilton’s supporters agreeing to situate the national capital on the banks of the Potomac River.
1790 (July 16th) – Residency Act of 1790 approved by Congress authorizes President Washington to choose a site near a specific 70 mile stretch of the Potomac River for establishment of a permanent national capital.

1790-1802 – A three-member commission (Pierre L’Enfant, Benjamin Banneker and Andrew Ellicott) governs the area. Pierre L’Enfant designs and Andrew Ellicott lays out the “Federal City”.
1791 (January 22) – President Washington commissions Thomas Johnson and Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek, representing Maryland and Dr. David Stuart, to represent Virginia to survey the land for its intended purpose
1791 (January 24) -George Washington makes a proclamation, designating the site for the federal district, which includes parts of both Maryland and Virginia.
1792 – Construction begins on the “White House”.
1793 – Congress decrees the city to be separate from any state and construction begins on the Capitol Building.
1800 (December 1) – Government operations move from Philadelphia to the new capital, the “City of Washington” in the “Territory of Columbia”. The census for the year shows a population of 14,103 (10,066 whites, 793 free Negroes and 3,244 slaves) in the new capital.
1801 (February 27) -Congress establishes the district counties of Washington and Alexandria.

1802 (May 3) – Washington, the “Federal City” is incorporated under its first charter as having the same limits, boundaries and scope as the District of Columbia. Voters (white males who pay taxes and have lived in the city for at least a year) received the right to elect a 12-member council. The mayor is appointed by the president.

1812 (May 4) – Congress amends the charter of the City of Washington to provide for an eight-member board of aldermen and a 12-member common council. The aldermen and the common council elect the mayor.
1814 – British forces, ordered and commanded by Admiral Alexander Cochrane, sought to punish and humiliate America and its government for the perceived plundering and rummaging of British settlements in Canada by capturing and burning Washington, D.C. They find little to destroy except the White House and Capitol. However, President Madison is forced to flee.
1815 – War of 1812 ends and reconstruction in D.C. begins

1820 (March 15) – Under the Act of 1820, Congress amends the Charter of the City of Washington for the direct election of the mayor by resident voters. The City residents also vote for the city council. Such elections continue until 1871.
1835 – Washington D. C. is reached by the Baltimore and Ohio Rivers
1846 (July 9) – Congress passes a law returning the city of Alexandria and Alexandria County to the state of Virginia.
1848 (May 17) – Congress adopts a new charter for the City of Washington and expands the number of elected offices to include a board of assessors, a surveyor, a collector and a registrar.
1862 (April 16) – Congress abolishes slavery in the federal district (the City of Washington, Washington County, and Georgetown). This action predates both the Emancipation Proclamation and the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
1862 and 1863 – The Army of Northern Virginia threatens the city during its invasions of the North.
1864 – General Jubal Early enters the District before being repulsed at Fort Stevens.
1867 (January 8 ) – Congress grants black males the right to vote in local elections.

1871 (June 1) – Congress combines the jurisdictions of Washington City, Washington County, and Georgetown and establishes a territorial government of the form used by aspiring states. A single governor and council appointed by the president replace the elected mayor and council of Washington City and Georgetown, and the County Levy Court. Congress also creates an elected House of Delegates and an elected non-voting delegate to Congress. In this act, the jurisdiction and territorial government came to be called the District of Columbia. The Congress and District’s government adopt a seal and motto, “Justitia Omnibus” (Justice for All), for the District of Columbia.

1874 (June 20) – Congress abolishes the territorial government of the District of Columbia, including the non-voting delegate to Congress. Three temporary commissioners and a subordinate military engineer are appointed by the president.

1878 (June 11) – Congress passes The Organic Act of 1878, which established government of the District of Columbia as a municipal corporation governed by three commissioners appointed by the president – an Army Corps of Engineers officer, a governor, and a civilian to a two-house legislature (one appointed and the other elected). This form of government lasted until August 1967.
1878 – Georgetown officially became a part of Washington D.C.
1906 (July 4) – The District Building, on 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, becomes the official City Hall.
1952 (July 1) – The Reorganization Plan of 1952 transfers to the three commissioners the functions of more than 50 boards.
1957 – District of Columbia Stadium Act of 1957 establishes ownership and control of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium by the federal government
1961 (March 29) – The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution gives District residents the right to vote for president.

1967 – Then-President Lyndon B. Johnson reorganizes the District government and creates the positions of an appointed mayor/commissioner and an appointed nine-member council.
1967 (February 20) – A compact between the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia creates The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
1968 (April 22) – District residents receive the right to elect a Board of Education.
1970 – Congress once again allows election of a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives.

1973 (December 24) – Congress approves a bill, the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, P.L. 93-198, that provides District residents with an elected form of government with limited home rule authority
1974 (May 7) – Voters of the District of Columbia approve by referendum vote the District Charter and the establishment of advisory neighborhood commissions. Congress delegates to the District government the authority, functions and powers of a state, with a very important exception: Congress retains control over the District’s revenue and expenditures by annually reviewing the entire District government budget. Such restriction continue to this day. In addition, Congress has repeatedly prohibited the District from imposing a non-resident income tax.
1974 (November 5) – The District holds general elections the first time in more than 100 years for mayor and a 13-member council.
1975 (January 2) – The newly elected Mayor Walter Washington and first elected council take office.
1976 (February 3) – The District holds its first election for advisory neighborhood commissioners.
1978 (March 29) – The first segment of the Metrorail Red Line opens.
1978 (August 22) – Congress approves the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, which would give District residents voting representation in the House and the Senate. However, the proposed constitutional amendment is not ratified by the necessary number of states (38) within the allotted seven years.
1979 (January 2) – The Mayor Marion Barry takes office.
1980 (November 4) – District voters approve by a majority of 60 percent the District of Columbia Statehood Constitutional Convention of 1979, which became D.C. Law 3-171, calling for the convening of a state constitutional convention as part of a statehood initiative.
1981 – Elected delegates attend the first statehood constitutional convention
1982 (November 2) – After the constitutional convention, a Constitution for the State of New Columbia is ratified by District voters.
1983 – The second statehood constitutional convention results in the introduction in Congress of a bill for the admission of the state of New Columbia. It has since been reintroduced for consideration in each congressional session. Most of the land area of the District of Columbia would become the state of New Columbia and the District of Columbia would still exist, but would be limited to the areas including the Capitol, the White House, the Mall and the federal monuments and government buildings adjacent to it, and the Supreme Court.  The city is the center of a metropolitan area (1990 pop. 3,923,574) extending into Maryland and Virginia.
1984 (October 1) – The District enters the municipal bond market.
1986 (October 29) – Congress approves an amendment to the District of Columbia Stadium Act of 1957, which authorizes the transfer of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium from the federal government to the District of Columbia government.
1987 (February 20) – The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is created to acquire Washington National and Washington-Dulles International airports from the federal government, pursuant to P.L. 99-151, The Metropolitan Washington Airports Act of 1986.
1987 (June 7) – The authority begins operating the airports.
1987 (October 1) – Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital is transferred to the District of Columbia government pursuant to P.L. 98-621, The St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and the D.C. Mental Health Services Act of 1984.
1992 (January 2) – Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon, the first woman mayor, takes office.
1995 (January 2) – Marion Barry takes office for an unprecedented fourth term as Mayor of the District of Columbia.
1995 (April 17) – President Clinton signs the law creating a District of Columbia Financial Control Board appointed by the president and Chief Financial Officer appointed by the mayor.
1995 (July 13) – The newly appointed financial control board holds its first public meeting. It is composed of Dr. Andrew Brimmer, chair; and members: Joyce A. Ladner, Constance B. Newman, Stephen D. Harlan and Edward A. Singletary. John Hill is the Executive Director and Daniel Rezneck is the General Counsel.
1996 (February 14) – Mayor Barry announces a transformation plan to reduce the size of government and increase its efficiency.
2000 – Census population of Washington D.C. is 572,059.