Daniel Payne | Bring Back The Welfare Stigma

The public schools in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, are not known for superb quality—one of them had so pandemic a rodent infestation that it was subsequently overrun by snakes—but give the incompetent buffoons some credit. They know a good handout when they see it: Richmond Public Schools (RPS) recently signed on to a federal program that “encourages school districts to feed everyone by eliminating many of the restrictions in the National School Lunch Program.”

It’s bad enough that we’ll have more students belly up to the government food trough (if you’ve never had a taste of “free” government lunch, consider yourself lucky); instead, consider RPS Superintendent Dana Bedden’s positive gushing about the new program: “I like it for the health and nutrition aspect, but this also removes the stigma of free lunch. Everyone can eat.”

Ah, “stigma:” one of the last great impediments to full-blown government dependency. With all due respect to Bedden, he and the rest of Richmond Public Schools are doing a grave disservice by attempting to remove the “stigma” associated with free government handouts. While the city’s busy filling its school buildings with vermin and serpents, it might consider inculcating a modicum of self-reliance within its studentry.

Not to tread too heavily on too many sensitive progressive ideals, but there should be a stigma surrounding government dependency; that’s not to say we should adopt a campaign of aggressive public shaming for anyone who goes on the dole, only that we shouldn’t create an atmosphere—especially amongst children—in which “free lunch” is a no-big-deal kind of thing.

That’s easier said than done. The Left wishes to make it a no-big-deal kind of thing because the Left wants the citizenry as dependent upon government as possible. “Once Stigmatized,” the New York Times reported a few years ago, “Food Stamps Find New Acceptance.” One food bank employee told a gainfully-employed young man to sign up for the program because “there was enough aid to go around and that use would demonstrate continuing need.” Eight years into Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral tenure, the number of residents on food stamps had hit over one-and-a-half million people; a stunning 20 percent of households nationwide were enrolled in SNAP. Over half of illegal and legal immigrants from Central America are on some form of welfare; both the Mexican and United States governments encourage illegal aliens to sign up for food stamps. In the mid-90s, Republicans passed and President Clinton signed a “workfare” reform law, which established significant work standards for welfare recipients and reduced welfare rolls significantly—which is presumably why the Obama administration moved to gut these requirements a couple of years ago: if there’s one thing at which the Left truly bristles, it’s an independent citizenry that can provide for itself without the Left’s benevolent help.

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