Friday, October 26, 2012

The Welfare Myth

The most pernicious lie in American political discourse is that we have a welfare system. While it technically exists, it's more in the way the ARVN existed - on paper and in the dreams of suckers.

Let's look at Virginia, which as an "at will" state is a good example of how the system screws people. First, if you want to claim unemployment benefits - which you have every legal right to - you first have to register with the Virginia Employment Commission. This can be done on their website or at your local VEC office on their website. That's the extent of personal assistance you can expect, "Internet's that way! Quit botherin' me!" finding the link to their registration page will take longer than the actual registration but if you wanted to report unemployment fraud, there's a big fat banner ad dominating every page.

Once registered, you'll have to file an initial claim of unemployment. This involves answering the same questions over and over again, each time reading through some long-winded warning about how even the slightest mistake on your part will constitute fraud - which means no benefits and the Commonwealth of Virginia will sue the shit out of you.

But once all that registering and filing is complete... you have to wait a week and do it all over again. See, that first week is a probationary period. The reasoning behind this isn't explained on the VEC site or in official documents - at all - but remember this isn't about serving citizens. And you'll have to re-do your registration because the McDonnell administration can't be bothered to hire competent developers for the Virginia Jobs site.

"Why? Because fuck you, that's why!"

That racist goober also supports George Allen, as if you needed another reason to hate ol' macaca. But that's a rant for next week...

So you're registered and finally you get to file your continuing claim and maybe get some help from the state you've been paying taxes to while gainfully employed. If you have your PIN number. That's delivered through snail mail, ostensibly for security purposes, and it will arrive after the deadline for your weekly filing.

You have to file weekly too. I forgot to mention that and if you forget tough shit.

Now assuming you've managed all of that, you'll start collecting the unemployment benefits you've earned - for a couple weeks. This is the intentionally ambiguous part of the process, where the VEC determines how much tax money a dirty moocher like you are allowed. It comes down to what you used to make, who your dependents are if any, and the mood of the VEC auditor at any given moment. And God help you if you lost your job through anything other than a layoff, 'cause the Commonwealth of Virginia sure won't.

This infuriating system is technically welfare in the sense that Dick Cheney is technically human. It has all the material trappings without any of the spirit because there is no political will in this country to support workers. Rather the entire process is geared to be complicated, demoralizing, and forever reinforcing the popular judgement that people are poor only because they deserve to be. And that's not a new development - as a Christian nation, America has always held firm to the Good Book's declaration that, "For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him." [Matthew 13:12]

Quit begging for austerity, kids. It's been here all along.

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