Blame is NOT the Answer

September 07, 2005

Over at "The Intellectual Activist" there's this story: Unnatural Disaster: A Hurricane Exposes the Manmade Disaster of the Welfare State, purporting to explain the "real" reason behind the disaster that has become the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Here is my response:

One of the great problems with welfare as it is carried out in this country is the aspect of learned helplessness. Michele has worked more than once in her career in 'welfare delivery' roles. She no longer does this kind of work because she has a fundamental issue with how the welfare agencies deliver their product.

While working for the Oregon Services for Children and Families agency as a foster care case worker she repeatedly ran into issues when she wanted to hold her client responsible for taking care of themselves, rather than doing the work for them. For example: Clients who needed to appear in court or attend counseling would call her for a ride. She provided them with bus passes and a schedule and told them they were responsible for making their commitments. Her bosses actually called her on the carpet for not going and picking them up and ferrying them around. And these were people trying to meet court ordered conditions to regain custody of their biologic children!

Are there people in the world today who need a leg up? Most certainly.

Should we as a society help them? Yes.

Should that help come in the form it currently does? No way.

The agencies have an entirely different goal than emancipating their wards. The agency wants head-count so they can get increased funding and ensure their survival. Michele's approach, which taught self-reliance and personal responsibility, would ultimately result in lowered head-count and thereby reduced budgets. As long as the agency dispensing aid is measured by head-count, the goal of actually helping people and removing them from the welfare rolls, will never happen.

Michele was part of a team who drafted into law in Florida, requirements that forced domestic violence treatment programs to treat both the victim and the abuser. Treating only one aspect of the problem only prolongs it, and it adds to the victimization of the untreated party. Our welfare systems currently throws money at a problem that can't be solved solely by money. Until we establish programs that truly teach self-reliance and responsibility, we will have "welfare moms" who are twice victimized. Once by the tipping-point incident that led them to welfare initially, and again by a system that ensures its survival by promoting learned helplessness.

Are all the problems in New Orleans the result of bad planning on the governments part? Of course not. But neither is the situation entirely the fault of people who are already down and out. Blaming them as a group for the troubles in the aftermath is much like blaming the rape victim for getting raped. Like any stress filled situation, Katrina has exposed the weak underbelly of our society. A frightening number of people in this country are only one paycheck away from homelessness. Those who have already sipped beneath the water line of minimum survival are desperate, and, as the hurricane aftermath has shown us, willing to take desperate measures. I would hate to see the resources available to assist people in true need be curtailed because there are some problems with the overall system. I would like to see change happen, fundamental change that forces people to grow. For if we continue to ignore the growing problems created by the increasing gap between those that have and those that have not, there will be revolution and class warfare the likes of which will make New Orleans seem like a walk in the park

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.