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What do social services have to do with the environment?  From my personal neighbors to ubiquitous neighborhood trends, the answer seems to be A LOT. 

Having bought a new house, we received various utilities bills with estimates based on previous usage for the property.  Over the last couple years, one thing became certain: Overall, we use LESS THAN HALF the electricity, natural gas, and even water, compared to the previous occupants.  The household size was the same (two adults) and the only difference was a number of efficiency upgrades, such as energy efficient bulbs and appliances.  Actually, I’m not telling the whole story.  The other difference is that the people living here were living off their parent’s estate, the one in charge on disability and not even bothering to pay the bills.  When visiting our potential future home, we found ourselves in the company of a man glued to the television, in shorts and t-shirt, with the thermostat being turned up to 85°F.

If this were not enough, every week since then we are reminded of the disparity of neighborhood carbon footprints on garbage day.  We use so little and reuse and recycle so much that we need only put out our bins one or two times a MONTH.  The rest of our neighbors — mostly home-owners — do so weekly, and most of them use the recycle bins.  However, those renters we know to be on social services not only rarely if ever use the recycle bins, but their garbage cans are overflowing every week with rare exception.

The undeniable point that will still be denied by the defenders of unfettered social services is that people do not attempt thrift if the money is simply there, especially if they feel they are owed it.  In fact, the inability to budget seems to go hand-in-hand with poverty, another educative issue that we refuse to address.  While mountains of (pre-packaged) food are purchased on or around the first of each month at discount supermarkets, there is never a shortage of cigarettes or beer.  If someone on welfare can smoke and drink to a value more than what I pay for my mortgage, there is something seriously wrong.   And yes, this is not a rare case, as anyone who lives in such neighborhoods or works with the poor can attest, ideological scotomization aside.

But apart from bad choices being an evil in themselves, the amount of waste is immense.  Current benefits are clearly not in line with actual needs, especially in areas where the cost of living is quite reasonable.  And it is to the benefit of those receiving, just like a business or government department, to use as much as possible to justify further increases rather than decreases when evaluation time comes.

And it DOES come, but not the way you think.  A few years back, a young mother was cast off social services for alleged fraud.  The reason?  She had a refrigerator full of nutritious food late in the month.  There was supposedly no way she could afford it on what they gave her.  It didn’t matter that she clipped coupons, waited for sales, and compared per unit pricing.  It made the burden on the system by the other 99% of recipients seem ludicrous.

This is not urban legend or rare anecdote.  Years ago, my wife and I experienced the system first hand.  At a time of desperation, we requested a mere $30-$40 a week in food stamps.  This was not acceptable — we either had to get ALL available benefits or nothing at all.  We could have lived comparatively like kings had we swept our scruples under the carpet.  And there would have been only negative incentive to ever get back on our feet.

I do not blame the poor.  I blame the unthinking do-gooders who consequentially condone the enslaving of as much as 49% of our society with varying degrees of government dependence.  A band-aid doesn’t mend a broken bone, and a band-aid is nearly always all that the system offers. 

THANKS TO GENERATIONS OF SOCIAL SERVICES SOLUTIONS, THERE IS NO FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN THE STATUS OF THE POOR.  In fact, it has gotten worse, and the most anyone can do is look the other way and blame corporate greed.  Really?  Even if true, that is only half the equation.

Because of the good intentions (or bought votes rather) of politicians thinking they can legislate charity and social justice, all we are doing is pushing the poor to squander the resources they are given — and produce more garbage per dollar than the rest of us.  They are still least likely to know how to actually prepare, can, freeze, or even grow their own food.  They are least likely to invest in energy improvements or make better utility choices, between the perceived lack of responsibility from renting and having someone else subsidize utilities.  And from a glance at the garbage, Christmastime and all year round, unrecycled boxes and Styrofoam galore tell me that unbridled consumerism is easier on the conscience for those who do not work.

You can teach such people home economics and life skills that other families use to survive on what they make — if they are willing to learn or are required to.  And this ought to be done.  The only question should be if you can teach self-responsibility in an environment that constantly rewards the opposite.  And sometimes the only way to get people to make better choices is by allowing the consequences of such things as limited resources, which demand some effort at thrift and craft. 

But some would rather keep people poor, knowingly or unknowingly, under the intimation that the above solutions are cruel.  I say that is far more cruel to stay the current path.  Some of us were raised right and know of what I speak.  When the line is drawn between helping an enabling — a hand up versus a hand out — there was a powerful word that described the inevitable result: Character.  And I suggest other words as well: True Social Justice and True Compassion.