what do you think?

After talking with Jesse a bit, I wanted to do a more philosophic followup to my last post.

For the record: My brother, Jesse, and most of my family have made it clear to me that they will NOT be voting for American citizens to have access to things like Medical and Unemployment, etc. And, for the record, I am not offended if anyone says this. In all truth and fairness, I probably won’t vote that way either.

I know this may seem hypocritical, seeing as I am currently benefitting from two government funded programs. It’s not as crazy as it may sound, however. I see a system that’s broken and could use repair/revamp. If we are going to offer these government programs, there need to be more built in safeguards to keep people from abusing the system. The possibility of losing government funds should never be an excuse not to work or move up in one’s job, for instance. I know of people who have turned down job opportunities because it would cause them to lose their government aid. Or because they’d be bumped up a tax bracket, charged more taxes, and end up with the same amount in the end anyways.

But the facts remain: our government currently offers these things, even if I don’t agree with them on a political level. In our family’s current situation, these programs are helpful (but not necessary). Even if the system does get fixed, as I’d see fit, I believe that people like us could still qualify, under certain conditions. I don’t believe that we are abusing the system– if Jesse was offered a raise that caused us not to qualify for any of these things, we wouldn’t turn it down. We just don’t even have that option at this juncture, unless I choose to work full time (something I am not willing to do, and NOT because I’m lazy πŸ™‚ )

Long and short– my responsibility is to my family, not to some over-arching political ideal. I am going to do what’s best for my babies with the resources I am given. In our current situation, Jesse’s job doesn’t pay lots of money, and we’ve accepted that as a necessary sacrifice for him to do what he loves. How many people can say that they LOVE going to work every day? We decided that this was not a “selfish” move for him, but a beneficial move for our whole family. A happy, fulfilled career leads to an emotionally available father, in my opinion. I don’t think we were headed that direction with his mortgage job in Dallas, to be honest. I don’t want my kids to remember a dad who’s burnt out after a hard day– instead, I want them to see someone who walks through the door, bursting with “guess what!” and “let me tell you what we learned about courage and honesty today!” Those things mean more to me than any huge bonus, more than buying a vacation home, more than having hundreds of dollars in disposable income.

I think that Jesse needs to hear and remind himself of these things at times. I am happy that we made a career choice based on his calling and not on his paycheck. I would consider it a shame if he had to give this up for a 9-5 desk job, all because he “wasn’t providing enough” for us not to qualify for medical. If we didn’t have enough money to put a roof over our heads or put food on the table? That would be another story, as those things are essential to our well-being. Other things? I think that Americans are convinced we need a lot more than we think (for instance, every single person that I saw at the public health office last Friday had an expensive phone and drove a nice car. One older couple, dressed in designer golf gear, stormed out because they weren’t given a free tetanus shot through their Medicare, saying angrily, “We’re taking our business ELSEWHERE!” Um, kids, you have Medicare? And you’re at a public health center? It doesn’t get much free-er than this!).

I guess my current stance is this: there are many innocents in our society who will suffer greatly if we do not have government programs like these. I know that many Christians say things like “the church should be providing that, not the government”, and on an idealogical level, I agree. But when rubber meets the road, I think that lots of children will go hungry while the adults get their act together. I’m not ready to let my vote contribute to someone not being able to eat. So I am a fan of some programs.

But I also know that it’s a vicious cycle. Churches don’t step up because the government is there. And we all hate how much we’re getting taxed, so we feel that it’s only fair that the government “give back” a little.

Where do you stand on the issue? I am curious to hear what others think. I know that my perspective is limited to my own experience.

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6 thoughts on “what do you think?

  1. I know this is NOT a popular opinion in our circles (so I usually keep it to myself), but I was against public aid programs for a long time… until I needed them myself. And I was against them for all the reasons everyone always says – people abuse the system, they live permanently on programs that are meant to be stop-gap measures, the government is not a nanny etc.

    But once I NEEDED them, once I was in the middle of a high risk pregnancy with no access to health care (because of my pre-existing conditions, pregnancy being one of them), or once my husband was laid off, I was sick, and my baby was sick, I completely changed my mind. These kinds of programs are the #1 thing I want my tax money to go to after police officers, firemen, and fixed roads. I want my tax money to be used to feed children who are hungry. I want my tax dollars to make sure poor pregnant women have prenatal care and good nutrition so they can have healthy babies. I want my tax dollars to make sure sick people can see a doctor. Can the system be better? Of course it can. Do people take advantage of it? Of course they do. But to me that is a small cost compared to the great good of feeding the hungry and healing the sick who would starve or die without these programs.

    It might sound like I am exaggerating, but I am not: We are that family who was fed when they were hungry. I am the person who would have died without enrollment in the medical program. My enrollment in that program saved. my. life. and without the prenatal care I received, I would be dead, and James would be dead, and that’s all there is to it. I would have died in my bed before Nate even could have gotten me to a hospital. When Nate lost his job, there were months where the WIC checks were what our family lived on. They made sure we had food on the table so our children could eat. Nate’s unemployment checks were the only thing that kept us from being evicted from our home. So when people trash talk these programs, I take it personally, because “I” am the person you are talking about: a real, living, breathing beneficiary of government aid, not some sleazy lazy person trying to work the system for everything it’s got. I find it offensive that we even talk about the poor in the way, it is so lacking in human charity and dignity, and so absolutely opposite of how we are called to regard the poor as followers of Jesus Christ.

    But the biggest thing for me, for why I support government aid, is that it is the #1 thing that prevents abortions in America. Believe me, I’ve done the research and looked at the statistics. You want to know who get abortions in America? Poor, single moms who already have one or more children. They are moms, like you and me, who know what it is to feel a baby move inside of you, and what it is to love a child, and anguish over it, and sacrifice to provide for it, and they are doing it all alone, without a husband. And they get abortions, not because they want to, but because they feel like they have no alternative, because they cannot afford to provide for another child. That is the saddest, sickest thing, to think of women having abortions because they simply cannot afford to have another baby, even WITH the aid we now have. That is true poverty. How many more abortions per year do you think there would be if we eliminated aid for the poor altogether? An abortion costs $600 out of pocket. Prenatal care, a hospital birth, routine immunizations, well baby visits, food, clothing, daycare?

    I WANT my tax dollars to help these women and children and unborn babies. I want my tax dollars to make it possible for these women to choose life for their babies. I don’t WANT to go back to the days where we just let people starve to death, or where people died of preventable diseases because they couldn’t afford to see a doctor. I don’t want to go back to the days where poor children had rickets and scurvy, were abnormally small, or had deformed pelvic bones due to malnourishment (all those things used to happen routinely!)

    As a Christian, I am so glad that it’s so easy for me to follow Jesus’ command to be compassionate to the poor. All I have to do is pay my taxes and the government graciously does the work of identifying who those people are and providing the services they need most! And I do my part by supporting, and voting for, those programs. Sure, I can hand out sandwiches to the homeless people who walk by my front door (and I do), but really, that’s a small dent compared to what our collective dollars can do as a society to help those in need. I can’t exactly provide medical care to impoverished pregnant women, and they probably need that more than sandwiches, which is all I have to give. So don’t dither about feeling guilty because these programs are so not republican. You can’t be against aid for pregnant women and children… but then accept the aid when you need it. Because really, doesn’t that mean that you are indeed for the aid, and that it’s a good thing?

    • Becks, Thanks so much for sharing your story and your opinion. They are good points (especially the one about abortion– I think it’s spot on), and can only come from someone who’s been there and done that. I hope you realize that I was never intending to “bash” certain government programs (you said “you”, but that could’ve been a collective). I am conflicted, as I have always been with these programs and am seeing a different side to things now. I don’t have the benefit of knowing “first hand” the good it can do, so I asked. No bashing intended πŸ™‚ If anything, I felt defensive for defending them (seeing as my whole family, friends, etc. are all Republican to the max).

      I don’t feel that it’s contradictory to use programs I am not a fan of. I think that because Jesse’s school knows we could get Medical, they offer crappy crappy health insurance. One of the first things someone said to me was, “Well, don’t worry, you can always apply for Medical”. At least at Biola people get great benefits, even if they are only getting paid $8/hour. I wonder that if it’s because these programs currently exist that many companies/people lean on them when they shouldn’t. In general, our health care system NEEDS WORK and needs it now. I’m just lucky that I’m pregnant, or our salary wouldn’t qualify for any sort of aid. I did the no health insurance thing for a year, and it was, ironically, the year where I got the most sick, over and over, including a terrible brush with pneumonia that I should’ve been hospitalized/seen a dr. for (instead, I had to go to a different minute clinic and lie about the fact that I had wheezing so that they would let me buy antibiotics). I had to take a full load of graduate classes while I was pregnant, just so I could have health insurance (TX isn’t as generous about their government programs for pregnant women). There needs to be private health care out there that doesn’t cost half of one’s salary. I want Medical to be reserved for people who don’t have jobs, who are in dire need, but instead I’m having to use it because there is no other choice for me at this juncture, other than pay out of pocket for everything. And, because of the current health care crisis, that would be super duper expensive— about a third of our income. So I am not a fan of Medical for my situation, even though I am left with no other option.

      Long and short– I am collecting opinions other than mine because I want to revamp my thinking on this subject, instead of providing blanket statements that don’t deal at all in reality (what I think of politics, in a nutshell!). I definitely think that it is our calling to help the poor, and that if it is left up to the individual they will oftentimes make the wrong call about “who deserves it” or not, based on personal bias. That’s not how Jesus called us to love. It’s one of the huge reasons that most Orthodox Christians are Democrats, to be honest (something I only recently found out).

      So, all in all, thanks for giving your opinion, it’s helpful. A little hard for me because of the “tone”, to be honest (pregnant, “easily hurt feelings” over here πŸ™‚ ) but I can gather good points from it, despite that.

  2. Sorry for the tone πŸ™‚ I get all up in arms when talking about this issue because everyone I know (republican to the max!) thinks they shouldn’t exist, and I think they should! And of course, I wasn’t directing any wrath at you – more at people who are making you feel bad, ie: your last couple posts have been something to the effect of, “wow! this is so awesome! I have access to healthcare for myself, my unborn child, and son! I am so excited and thankful!” and then someone or other came along an made you feel really bad about it, like it was shameful or wrong.

    It sounds to me not like YOU are taking advantage of the system (what alternative do you have? Not see a doctor? Terminate your pregnancy? Not eat?), but that (to put it bluntly and I’m sorry) Jesse’s school is, by not providing adequate care for their employees, and just assuming they will enroll in medicare because they compensate their employees so they are living at the poverty level, AND don’t offer a comprehensive health benefits package to at least take care of their people! (sorry, I’m getting all up in arms again!) So it’s on them, not you πŸ™‚

    Please don’t cry, pregnant Kelly! I’m on your side πŸ™‚

  3. Well I’m a liberal independent, which means I usually vote like a democrat, and I agree that the systems are horrendously flawed. But for me it always comes down to this: for the hundreds of people abusing it (and I personally know many), there is 1 who really, truly needs it (Becks, for example). And that will ALWAYS be worth it to me.

    After Avery was born (we had to pay our Blue Shield out-of-pocket maximum deductible, and then it went to secondary MediCal) and spent 4 days in the NICU, and having had Jackson on Healthy Families ($15 a month instead of $150!) since he was born, Justin and I swore that we will never, EVER complain about our tax dollars going toward these programs, because they were essential for our young family. And they are essential for many. It certainly gets abused in gross ways, but we don’t abuse it. I agree that it needs much tighter regulations, and more accountability, but the heart behind these programs is right on.

    The health system – insurance especially – is a sore subject with us, because Justin has a chronic, life-long illness, that is being profited off of, even though we have no money to spare… Don’t get me started! πŸ™‚

    We’ve qualified for WIC for two and a half years now (based on our income), but we didn’t take advantage of it because, even though money was tight, we could make it work. But we’re signing up now (our thanks to you, Kelly, for bringing it to our consideration again) because we’d be fools to not take help that would make a huge difference in our day-to-day lives (sufficient heat!) and our outlook on life in general. With Justin going back to school, and hours being cut back, and a million other little things that make living month-to-month hard, it makes sense to take the help offered to us, and give back in whatever ways we can.

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