Welfare, Computers, and Asshats

I was whiling away my drive time listening to NPR this morning. Colorado is apparently having problems with its welfare programs. The new computer system doesn’t work quite as well as it should. So what’s the immediate and obvious solution? Sue the state of Colorado, of course.

There are a couple of different threads running through this that disturb me. The first is the role of the professional activist class in this country. Honestly, what are you accomplishing by suing the state? The relief sought is a judicial order requiring the state to fix the problems in the system. I could be wrong here, but given that some of the problems are causing Colorado to be in non-compliance with the appropriate Federal statutes, don’t you think they’re already trying to fix things? What, a judicial order is going to magically make things happen faster? I could also note that the people who have to actually administer the system are wasting time dealing with a court case. Given that the state has a finite amount of money, people, and time, wouldn’t a better response be to let the state use those resources to fix the problem instead of going to court? Of course, that won’t pay the fees the perennially indignant folks at the Center for Law and Policy will get for doing the “people’s work”.

The next part of this story that blew my mind is the absolute sense of entitlement some of these people have. The state won’t give me my money! Yeah, that’s it. Because you deserve that money for what, exactly? Being too screwed up to provide for your self? One woman interviewed on NPR was embarrassed to be taking food from the Food Bank because she hadn’t gotten her welfare money yet. Umm, one is any more embarrassing than the other is? I’d much rather take charity from people who gave it voluntarily than force someone to pay for my poor life choices through the heavy hand of the government. Either option sucks, and I’d be embarrassed. I’d be a lot more embarrassed to admit that I fucked up my life so badly that I had to rely on the state for subsistence. I also note she wasn’t so embarrassed that she didn’t give her name and appear on the radio.

I’m not against the idea of charity. I also realize that unfortunate events happen, and people sometimes need help. However, the state, as usual, is a crappy mechanism for providing a social safety net. I also think, morally speaking, that coerced charity is worse than no charity at all. I’m not bright enough to offer a universal solution, but the current system is broken. Suing to improve the way the current system works is a failure to address the root cause, which is the government being the provider of services. But what the hell, maybe the judge can take over Colorado's welfare system. After all, that approach worked so freakin' well for the Texas prison system.


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