I was getting some car repairs done, and the TV was tuned to one of the morning news shows.  A crawler inched its way across the bottom of the screen, telling me that there had been a poll taken, asking how people saw the use of our welfare system.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the exact info on my good ol’ GOOGLE search, so I will use my memory as best I can ….

I didn’t mind the percentages of how many people thought how many welfare recipients were scamming the system…. I didn’t mind how many people felt how many welfare recipients were playing by the rules.  Those numbers are what they are.  What I minded – and what concerns me — is how many people thought that most welfare recipients should turn to their friends and families before they come to the government.

Yes, indeed, I see the point.  I would much rather have my kids come to me for help before they go to get help from some institution.  I would have been more comfortable turning to my parents had I need some kind of assistance.   That, in theory, is simple to do and reasonable to work out.  It seems like the idea should work.

But here’s my caveat.  That works when the family and friends you turn to CAN help.  I am most fortunate to be able to say I am surrounded by many who can and would help me out if I get in a welfare-type situation.  However, I cannot assume that is true for everyone.

I am middle class, at least statistically.  All those who surround me are pretty much in that same category.  In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to observe those who are definitely in the upper wealth categories… and they surround themselves with each other, just like us middle class folks do.  They can help each other also.

Why would we think any different of those of the lower-income echelon – and ergo, the   welfare qualifiers?  Are they surrounded by those of a lower-income?  Is that as reasonable to assume as it is that middle class folks associate mostly with middle class people and the upper income folks associate more with upper income folks?  Is it also reasonable to assume their circle of friends can help them?

Think about your own circle of family and friends.  Disregarding circumstances that ego would bring up, how many of them can you turn to for help if you needed it?  How many of them CAN help you?  All of them?  Half of them?  1 of 10?

You can bet that the ability to help is different from one circle of friends to the other.  Like I said, my middle class friends can and just very may well wish to help me out if I need it.  I imagine that those ‘upper income’ folks I’ve met lately surely have the capacity to help out.  As you consider the lower-income folks, I’m just not so sure that those at that level out there has the people around them who CAN help, no matter how much they may want to.

So, I DO take issue with the idea that we can automatically turn to our circle of friends and families when we’re in need.  It is an unfair generalization to assume, as much as we‘d like to, that it is possible in every case to turn to our friends and family for any kind of financial assistance.  Those friends and families may just not be ABLE to help.