Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Childhood Memories of Growing Up On and Before Welfare from the 1950s to the 1970s and Drug Testing for Public Aid Today

Every time I see a face book posting or hear in the news about a politician advocating testing welfare recipients for drug use, it makes my skin crawl and my hackles get up. The people that propose this crock of crack for the most part are those that oppose abortion. Now if I had my way there would be a license required to breed or reproduce a kid, proof that the parents were both financially and mentally stable to bring up their offspring without governmental assistance or no breeding allowed. But then I don‘t make the rules. I have no kids and get no welfare, but there was a time on occasion as a kid that I was one of the involuntary recipients of public aid.

I am the oldest of 4, originally 5 living kids of parents that were loving but semi irresponsible bohemian individuals. They didn’t do drugs, other than cigarettes and coffee. They, my mother in particular had mental health issues, plus they were free spirits. I was the oldest and 6 years older than my second sibling, a brother, who now lives on a mental health disability in Illinois. He wants to work but would lose all benefits if he did. Now what is right about that? He makes a little money under the table from time to time doing yard work and hauling, but there is not one person that purposes drug testing for benefits that would envy his lifestyle. He is a 30 year member of AA, does drink coffee and been known to smoke a cigar from time. His wife, who is also mentally fragile and challenged, had one child in 1977. Her only vice is sugar. She is a diabetic.

My youngest sister, 13 years my junior, died from a brain tumor at age 49 on Christmas Eve 2010. I never lived with her but she had a tough life. She did not complete high school and worked in a health food store until her brain tumor made it impossible. The tumor robbed her of her sanity at the end of her life. She left behind two teenage children, one autistic. Her husband receives disability from problems stemming from serving in Vietnam. Isn’t war glorious? It is questionable whether he really needs it or just knows how to play the system. Regardless I don’t envy him, nor did I her or know one person who would. Was she a druggie? No. Is he? No, just booze. He doesn’t even own a car or drive!

Then I have another sister and brother. My middle sister, 10 years younger than myself that lived with me and my first Oklahoma oil company descendant husband of 7 years while she was in high school in the 1970s. She married well, got a good job working as an accountant for another small Oklahoma oil company and finished her degree in Accounting after I moved to Alaska in 1978. She and her husband adopted our grandniece at age one out of foster care in Rhode Island in 2005. Within the last 7 years she has struggled with a neurological disease that makes life a challenge for all those she loves, especially for the adopted child who is now 8. Life is not fair! She is well heeled financially, but I sure don’t envy her, plus she lives in a place I consider Hades (at least at times), Oklahoma. She loves it there because it is her home.

Finally there is my brother who is 11 years younger than myself that has made a lifestyle of living off the system. He is married to a Black woman and they live in Washington state. My brother, Abe’s wife had 5 kids before meeting him by two different men and then they had 2 more together. He had 3 kids prior to her with his first wife. So between the two of them they have 11 kids and neither work. So what is wrong with this picture? Why don’t we require people to work for the state in some auspices to draw their government checks if they are physically able? Why do we penalize or make it impossible for those who want to work that are receiving marginal survival living benefits? What I am told is it would take too much over site. What about the 1930s and the TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority, or the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, or back in my day, the 1960s with the college work study programs?

The question should be clear and simple to one in need: You want welfare or a government survival lifestyle check? you are required to come into work where you are sent, bottom line. Got kids? Required to send them to school and work cleaning school bathrooms and/or work in a lunch room, clean the play ground, etc. etc.! Or send them to the local dog park to pick up missed dog poop. Did I forget to mention my brother Abe with the 11 kids has mental health issues also, as in Borderline personality and receives a disability check? All his offspring with the exception of one have mental health issues. Dear Abe served time in the prison that is in the town where the God forsaken president Ronald Reagan was from in Illinois. The president who with his staff cut mental health services to the minimum in the early 1980s? We continue to suffer from these cutbacks today. Incidentally my brother Abe is a right wing Republican Bible thumper that does NOT do drugs. I told you he has Borderline Personality disorder, he is brain dead and no doubt lazy. He also refused to send his kids to school for many years saying he was home schooling them when in fact he was staying up all night and sleeping till late afternoon, creating another generation in need.

None of these people I mentioned ever did a drug other than perhaps alcohol, cigarettes or coffee. But if they did and failed a drug test what would happen to their children? Do all the anti Abortionists not really give a crap what happens after a kid is born? I grew up off and on welfare and have never had to turn back to it for help since a child! I didn’t breed, because I was going to help save the planet, by starting with adoption. Plus I knew there are already too many people on earth without me adding to the problem. What a colossal mistake that was. But I can tell you the shame of having to need something to eat or wear and feeling the pangs of hunger before welfare was instituted in ‘64 (I was 16 then) and those memories I will never forget! There by the Grace of the Creator go all of the self righteous wanta be drug testing enforcers. You want drug tests? How about for politicians first and foremost. One congressman’s salary is more than equal to 20 welfare recipients aid. There are required drug tests to work at McDonalds, but none to be president! Instead of drug tests, how about licensing for reproduction? You have to have a license to own a dog, catch a fish, drive a vehicle and isn’t bringing a kid into the world just as important? Repeated government misplaced priorities!

Before the government issued checks and food stamps established during the Johnson administration in 1964 with the questionable “War on Poverty” my parents received commodities (food) in Tulsa . The commodities included stacks of beans, flour and rice, peanut butter and huge blocks of “government cheese“. Unfortunately no one cooked, unless my grandparents came around to do it when they were alive. The cheese and peanut butter always got eaten first, but not much else except maybe the spam. When Grandma was alive she would get the spam from my parents and put brown sugar on it and bake it, then slice and fry it for making sandwiches. It was tasty enough to have been eaten at the late great Anchorage Whitekey’s Fly by Night Club with the spam glorification menu back in the 1980s .

In conclusion, I recently asked my oldest brother Matt and my sister Angie what they remembered about growing up on welfare. Matt said, “the question you asked about growing up on public aid. It is not something I would have preferred, but it was better than what would have been the case if we hadn’t had that going for us. I suspect we may see a lot of people humbled in our society in the future. If that’s the case, we may see a lot of people eat crow for insults they gave people like us.” My well heeled ill sister, Angie, never replied but as I said before she is ill, has lost the ability to talk but still can text. I think she would prefer to forget she ever lived with that shame. She did have a severe case of rickets as a toddler, born in 1957, before welfare and caused by malnutrition. Eventually her situation improved, but today what’s up with her rare neurological disease? One specialist implied that rickets should have been rare growing up in sunny L.A. as she did, perhaps, but not when you consider the early malnutrition.

We are talking incompetence and dysfunction folks and hungry kids. What good will drug testing do for this? Are we assuming the food stamps and public aid are used for heroin and other drugs? How many heroin dealers do you know that accept food stamps? Just another way to humiliate those in need, not to mention the unnecessary cost to institute needless testing because the majority of welfare recipients do Not do drugs, they simply reproduce needlessly!

Mary Alta Buckingham -
 Childhood Memories of Growing Up on and Before Welfare and Drug Testing for Public Aid Today -  Feb. 11, 2013

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