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I still listen to Rush Limbaugh.  In the past, I faithfully listened to the entire program. Now, I turn him off when he goes on some ridiculous rant or goes on at length about some point my real-life experience has taught me he is wrong about. Lately, he's been lamenting the fact that so many Americans are not working, even though they are still able to eat. He sees this as a bad because it does not encourage people to look for work. Like many Conservative commentators, he drones on about the poor labor force participation rate. Limbaugh never says that these people are too lazy to look for jobs, although this is the unspoken assumption. The truth is far more complicated.

The decreasing unemployment numbers do have to do with the number of Americans who have given up or who are no longer on unemployment or similar programs. Someone who falls off of the unemployment rolls because they have given up longer for work does not count against the statistics. Some, perhaps, have given up because they are lazy and do not want to work. Most people simply cannot find a job. Republican legislators, including the Republican governor of Indiana, seem to think that forcing people into job search programs will increase the labor force participation rate, or that involuntary self-directed job search programs will give the people they skills they need to maintain employment.

These are popular talking points among the Republican-controlled legislature of the Hoosier State, but they ignore the reality. The talking points reinforce the stereotypes that poor people are lazy and morally deficient. Their constituency loves this message and continues to vote them into office. Meantime, the actual statistics are ignored. Indiana has 20 counties that have unusually high rates of poverty, and Vigo County has the third highest poverty rate in the state. (This is something I learned from members of the Vigo County School board.)

As even the Deseret News pointed out, if someone wants the workfare programs to be useful, they need to provide incentives to both the participants and the companies who run these programs to find people jobs. Otherwise, the only thing that will change is forcing people off of the SNAP program. If that and reinforcing the image of the state as being hard-working is the only thing that matters, then the welfare reform programs in the United States have succeeded in their goal. If their goal is to get fewer people to eat or to depend more on food pantries, Pence is succeeding in his goal.

Pence thinks the IMPACT program targets able-bodied adults without dependents. It even says it in the program description. Political paperwork, however, seldom matches reality. People with severe depression, suffering from other mental illnesses, or people using canes or crutches frequently find their way into this program. The people in the program are expected to get notes from their doctors, which they may not be able to get if they do not have health insurance.Pence wants Hoosiers to have skin in the game. Neither he nor the people who use this phrase have any idea what this phrase means. If he means having a stake in it, I already do. I paid sales taxes and Indiana state income taxes this year.

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 I've written about IMPACT in several places.  I think in a very specific case it is unfair. I've been referred to such programs in the past. Usually my attitude towards work was the problem. I may not have the greatest work ethic, but this was not the case this time. Someone just saw that I had been checked into the able-bodied box and made a referral. So far my doctors have been uncooperative in signing the medical exemption paperwork.   I get that my ailments may not be that bad from a medical standpoint, but it doesn't mean that an employer wants to hire me because of them.

I went into the office today to drop off some paperwork. I made it very clear that I only had an hour before I had to go to a physical therapist appointment.  I have tried, many times, to contain my anger and resentment. I know it's not the fault of the staff and their just doing their job, but they ought to be a little more concerned about how unfair it all seems to people in my situation. I called the staff worker back trying to see what questions she has, and tried to get her to move on to questions that I thought were relevant.

I started yelling at her. I've tried for so long to keep my anger against these people contained, but it always comes out eventually. I always feel guilty for doing it.  I'll have to end up apologizing, but the anger is not going to go away as long as I must continue this. The job search makes me feel worse, and you can't put down that you were sick or in too much pain to search for a job that day.  

I'm only doing it because the benefits are needed in the house right now. Money is tight right now and even the housemate is having problems.

At least new shoes are on the way. That's something...

sinisterporpoise: (Default)
 I have learned that there is a word for the type of program I and others have been forced into. It’s called workfare, and the idea started, as many of these terrible ideas do, in the United States. It started the idea that people on welfare are caught in a cycle of dependency caused by moral deficiency, and the only way to correct this is to enforce ethical behavior upon them. Of course, no one in the United States is all that concerned about workfare programs or their effectiveness or lack thereof, but similar programs have been tried in the United Kingdom. The most recent example resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.  The ministry responsible for administering these programs denied it at first, but since had to admit that some of their overreaching policies had caused these deaths.

If similar statistics occurred in the United States, no one has tracked them. I do know plenty of people who are as bas or worse than I am who have been force into these programs because it’s the client’s responsibility to report the changes to the state agency that administers these programs.   They are not forced into work assessment tests, unlike what seems to be happening in Great Britain. However, I did see one article that said that these programs count success by the number of people who go off of the welfare rolls, not by how many people who actually find work through these programs.  Many of the cities that tried these programs saw an increase in homelessness. The only exception to this rule was, oddly enough, Indianapolis. Indianapolis’s program had one key difference from the IMPACT program that later replaced it, the contract the workfare agencies had with the city paid the agency based on its successes, and success was defined by placing people into a job that met certain wage requirements.  When the state replaced Indy’s program with IMPACT, the statistics became comparable to other cities of its size.

No one in the United States seems to be concerned about people with disabilities who are forced into the program.  The Puritan work ethic, which continues to damage this country in so many ways continues. If a person cannot get out of the program, most people assume that they are faking a disability.   Sometimes even if a person can get out of the program, people assume they are still faking and just looking for a way to game the system.

I once subscribed to the attitudes held above. I might still resent being forced into a workfare program, but I would acknowledge that they are trying to help me and get me to the point where I want to be. If I’m honest, I will say that I’d still like to be there. My reality, however, is different. I know what my limits are.  Almost every single entry-level job requires me to stand for long periods of time. I cannot do that right now.   I’ve even been told to lay off driving, but I cannot do that as long as I have to stay in a workfare program, look for work and go to interviews. No one seems to think that the requirements of these programs make certain illnesses or conditions worse.  Even if the people who run them do realize this, they seldom care.

At this point, I cannot help but think that Workfare programs exist to give middle class people who could finish college government jobs and to give politicians something to point to and say, “Look at how many people this program got off of welfare.” The fact that the need for food pantries has gone up, that an increased number of people are homeless, and that -- at least in Great Britain – there are documented deaths caused by these programs has not caused any politician to rethink the idea of workfare.

Workfare Death List UK


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