How to write an anecdote about welfare

Because she's black!

Because she’s black!

Let’s say it’s April 16th and you hate taxes, because 98% 12% of it goes to social safety net programs, better known as welfare. As everyone knows, most people on welfare don’t even need it. They just don’t want to work, and they probably make more money from lapping at the government teat than you do at your horrible job. The welfare queen has a storied history in American political discourse. We all know she’s out there, and most of us have a pretty good idea what she looks like. The problem is that the poor have so much power in America that specific welfare queens are carefully hidden. An actual person who picks up his food stamps in a limousine is almost impossible to find. So what do you do? Do you wait for the government to create a welfare queen for you? Of course not—you’re a hard-working American, so you make one up yourself.

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Friday links! Gloom, doom edition


Just in time for the weekend, the temperatures of both Missoula and Roger Ebert have dropped precipitously. Did you ever notice that catastrophes come in twos? I’m just exploiting your cognitive bias—really, did you ever notice that when something bad happens, you can always think of something else to complain about? Gloom and doom go together like tomorrow and your inevitable death. Today is Friday, and the week has been full of pointed injustices with which to prod our self-pity glands. The self-pity glad is located just behind the soft palate and in front of the uvulua. Keep poking with your toothbrush—you’ll find it. In the meantime, won’t you lament our collective lot with me?

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Friday links! Just sayin’ stuff edition

Billionaire grandpa Foster Friess, wearing his Santorum for President sweater vest

Every schoolchild knows the fundamental lesson of George Orwell’s novel 1984: language is a tool for convincing people or whatever. Since reasoning is conducted via language,* it therefore follows that reasoning is also a tool for convincing people or whatever. And since reason is a matter of opinion,** language is clearly a tool for doing whatever with whatever. It’s the great American tradition of Just Sayin’ Stuff, which as near as I can tell began in 1968. Regardless, it has reached its apotheosis in the present day. We all know what we think about everything now, so the use of language as a means to disseminate and preserve true propositions is kind of old-fashioned. This week’s link roundup is full of people who use words for something other than that. They’re Just Sayin’ Stuff, and don’t worry—they’re all billionaires or congressmen or law enforcement officials. Plus some jerkoff who likes books.

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Nebraska bill would make drug tests a condition of welfare

Alert reader Zach Sanderson sent me this article describing a proposal in the Nebraska legislature to tie welfare benefits to drug testing. Introduced by Senator Charlie Janssen of Fremont—population 26,000—the bill would require new applicants and current recipients of public assistance to submit to random tests, as authorized by the 1990 congressional overhaul of the federal welfare system. “When a taxpayer gives assistance to somebody, it’s assistance so they can get back up on their feet,” Janssen told ABC. “It’s kind of a slap in the face to the taxpayers when they say, ‘We’re going to get up on our feet while we’re doing drugs.'” Janssen makes a good point, whose incisiveness is dulled only slightly by its being echoed from every barstool in the country during tax season. In 2006, Nebraska spent just over $2 billion on welfare—which includes food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid, but not, somehow, Medicare, college scholarships or farm subsidies—to support 320,000 recipients.* Surely, some of those people are wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Unfortunately, administering drug tests to all of them—at an average rate of $42 per test, according to the Department of Education—would cost the state $13.4 million, and that’s just to do it once. Janssen himself admits that the costs of testing would, at least in the short term, make his plan unworkable. “This is part of our budget woes…paying people who aren’t truly trying to rehabilitate themselves and get off the state welfare system,” he said. “But the short-term cost right now is probably going to be overwhelming.” Which raises an interesting question: what, exactly, do we spend money on welfare for?

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