Saturday, November 19, 2005


This post is in response to Anonymous' comment from the previous post.

He wrote: " Some of those program cuts are a good thing. Some of those that have the least have become much too comfortable with living off of those programs.

Yeah, some things even disgust the most staunch Republican, but not everything has been bad.

And I for one sleep just fine at night.

I wondered how well Anon knows his subject. I started thinking about Ronald Reagan's "Welfare Queen." I wonder if Anon is old enough to remember this story. While campaigning for President in 1976, a staple of his campaign speech was that there was a "Welfare Queen" in Chicago: "She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names."

There was no such woman.

Anon--care do dispute this fact? How many people do you know--not know of, who are on some sort of public assistance? How many do you deal with on a daily basis? How many of them are the parents of the kids your children play with?

How many of their stories can you tell?

I can tell a story.

My wife's. Almost wife. Soon-To-Be-Ex-Wife. Hence, STBEW, the title of this post.

One of the reasons I go by the moniker of Balloon Pirate is to preserve anonymity. Because it is an important part of recovery.

My wife is a recovering drug and alcohol addict. And she's on welfare.

Now, Anon (and any other of the right wing ilk who may be reading this), don't get all huff-and-puffy about how she's getting what she deserves and she brought it on herself. Need I remind you that the only difference between her and the President of the United States is she doesn't have a billionaire family to support her, and she has a slightly more realistic world-view.

And I can't support her.

A year ago August, she voluntarily checked herself in to a drug rehabilitation program. This was no "Betty Ford" clinic. This was the place where people who have nothing but the desire to get better go, along with the people who had to choose between treatment and prison. It was as no-frills as you can get. It was, essentially, a jail without jailors. She could leave, but if she did, she couldn't go back.

And the reason she was there, as opposed to any other treatment center, was because we were broke. Bankrupt. House foreclosed, paycheck-to-paycheck. I have two degrees and have been with the same company for more than 15 years, but it's hard to survive when huge amounts of money disappear into a crack pipe.

While she was there, we had to decide what to do. I certainly could not afford to pay for her treatment. So, we have separated, and will soon be divorced. It may sound callous, but it's not. The marraige was over. We bruised each other way too much to ever be whole as a couple again. The financial issues just hurried the process along.

But I digress.

She's on welfare. And it ain't pretty.

Are there some people who are on welfare who shouldn't be? Perhaps. I'll even give you 'probably.' What the hell: Yes, yes there are. But there are many, many more who need these programs to get by, who are using these programs not as a replacement for, but assistance with, living their lives.

And without these programs, where will these people be? What will they do? Who will help them?

What will they do to survive?

Despite all the harrumphing I hear from the right, I have yet to see a government report that says there is rampant abuse in the world of public assistance. That's because there isn't. It would be too much work, to get too little. Financially speaking, it's easier to rob. Saying that welfare should be abolished because people abusethe system is the same as saying accounting should be abolished because of embezzling.

So the right wing harrumphs, and cuts funding from those who need it most. Shortly after giving tax breaks to those who need it least. And in the big picture, what they cut from these programs is about what is spend in Iraq in a week.

Sleep well tonight, Anon.



Anonymous peter said...

we all have stories, balloon.

how many people are on welfare that are not able-bodied people? someone like your ex wife would fall into that category, for now...

but i also know people, those in certain communities, healthy of mind and body who abuse the system. think someone owes them something.

and i am a person that believes in the welfare system for people who fall through the cracks.

but balloon, you can't honestly think that the welfare system should be used by people for years and years, do you?

let's both reseach this, something polanco would love to hear me say, and try and discover the closest numbers of those on welfare. then, lets look at how long the average person suffers on welfare. then we can probably discuss whether the cuts are logical or not.

but just because you know someone who needs welfare doesn't discount the fact there are people who kick the system in the teeth...

4:57 PM, November 19, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

ex-clinton advisor dick morris:

"And so Clinton was Reagan’s ratifier."

"What was most unique about Ronald Reagan was his inner compass, his internalized sense of himself. Most politicians are narcissists. They lack a sure grasp of who they are and seek not only ratification but also self-definition in the eyes of others."

"Had it not been for Reagan, the goal of independence for a generation of welfare children would not have been the political objective of a political generation. It fell to Bill Clinton to secure the adoption of the Reagan vision."

"Bill Clinton supported the death penalty, pledged an end to "welfare as we know it," and promised a tax cut for the middle class. So Bush(I) could not use crime, welfare, or taxes as issues, the three staples of the GOP."

5:17 PM, November 19, 2005  
Blogger United We Lay said...

I have a friend who is on welfare so that she can get health care. She works two jobs, pays all her bills, and takes care of her kid. There are a lot of stories like that, too.

7:08 PM, November 19, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

PC--thanks for your input.

There are many people who try to put Clinton in the same boat as Reagan when it comes to Welfare Reform. A lot of people think that Clinton's signing of the bill somehow validated Reagan's legacy. But Clinton's plan for reform offered both carrots and sticks, including work requirements, training, sanctions and community service jobs for those unable to find work. None of those provisions made it into the bill he signed. It was a case of doing something to try and cut federal spending, while at the same time doing his best to help those who need help.

Too bad he had an obstructionist Congress to work with. Yet, he still managed to get things done.

Of course now, those block grants that are supposed to take the place of the aid aren't keeping up with inflation, and then are cut. And as the value of the block grant declines, states are finding it necessary to eliminate many work incentives.

That being said, I really have no problem with reforming the system--IF a well-thought-out replacement can be found. There ARE too many disincentives to work in the current system. However:

1) Fraud and abuse are not rampant in the system.
2) In FY 05, TANF block grants totalled less than $17 billion dollars. Compare that to the more than 400 billion in discretionary spending that the DoD got last year.

I guess what bothers me the most is the myopic, 'we all have stories' view that many on the right have when it comes to welfare reform. So many of them have that attitude.

Yet, while they applaud the cuts, and deride those who need them because a few abuse the system, they don't realize that they could very well need the services that they've applauded the elimination of if there is a major downturn in the economy.

Which could happen very quickly with the way this administration is throwing money away in corporate welfare. To say nothing of the huge amount of money being spent in a needless, counterproductive war in Iraq.So selfish. So self-centered. So very, very pathetic.


8:36 PM, November 19, 2005  
Blogger boni said...

Wow, it sounds like you and your family have certainly been through a tough time. I think that there are a lot more middle class people who are now on some sort of assistance than have ever been. I hope your stbew can kick the took some guts to go through the program she did. And I hope you and your family are doing ok.

8:37 PM, November 19, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

She celebrated one year clean and sober on November 7. thanks for your thoughts.


9:30 PM, November 19, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

bp: thanks for such honesty. congratulations to your stbew as well. My dear friend from college was lost to drugs these last four years and was on the verge of losing house and home when he went into rehab and has come out sober, but only after a life threatening heart failure put him in the hospital first. Fingers crossed for him and yours as well. These issues are endemic, cross cultural and cross economic. These are American problems, not an aspect of America, or a sub class. One would think those elected to serve the people would keep this in mind.

10:48 PM, November 19, 2005  
Blogger Big Bank Hank said...

I'm almost always an observer, rarely do I comment. BP deserves a medal (though I'm sure he would refuse) for both his honesty and fortitude. Good luck.

The problem with social programs as a whole, is that it requires one to consider that there are other people living at different levels of economic strata. It's just easier to assume that they are all on welfare because it's such a sweet deal, and that the only thing they lack is the gumption to get an application from mcdonalds. I don't care that my tax dollars might get misused by someone trying to get right, because i know that the bulk of it is being used by those who didn't have a boat launch at kennebunkport, and just want to be able to buy anything that might help them get by.

11:46 PM, November 19, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

"There are many people who try to put Clinton in the same boat as Reagan when it comes to Welfare Reform."

this isn't just some person, this was Clinton's ex-advisor.

"I guess what bothers me the most is the myopic, 'we all have stories' view that many on the right have when it comes to welfare reform."

so dismiss the "stories" people could tell that disagree with your point of view, yet a "story" like polanco's suddenly isn't myopic.

also balloon, this is a very tragic story you have shared. however, this is your experiece and does not give you the licence, nor the oversight to make the sweeping accusation that:

"Fraud and abuse are not rampant in the system."

Now, what if i told you that i work with many bright and gifted inner city kids in a major metropolis in America and that many of these kids parents are on welfare? There are tragic tales like yours, most definitely. but there are others who certainly could work, who do not. that at 2.30 in the afternoon they're dealing or they're pimping. What if i told you this, of first hand accounts? i know you would scoff, call my "stories" myopic and all of you would feel better. And that is fine. However, even loaded with first hand tragedies, one can't say with certainty there is abuse or there is not abuse.

i instead suggested we get some numbers on the table and make educated comments based on these findings. i can see from the comments and dissmisal of my "myopic" stories that this isn't going to take place.

polanco, i hope you can see that this is another example of the hypocritical nature of your friends on the left.

4:54 AM, November 20, 2005  
Blogger United We Lay said...

I did a post about drugs last week. We've had a hell of a time lately as well, though thankfully, it hasn't been as close to home as BP's experience.

I taught in Center City Phila., so I know the kind of people you;re talking abotu. Welfare is certainly in need of reform, but to remove it completely would be detrimental to our entie society. As a teacher, I've gotten unemployment checks during some summers. And I REALLY needed them. And I really, really hope you didn't teach English. You're using myopic incorrectly.

2:47 PM, November 20, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

i just like that word myopic, myopic. my, my, polanco, your comment to me was so myopic! the guy beside me in the urinal looks down and says, "my you've got a myopic little thing, don't you!" myopic, short sighted, just rolls off the tongue so well, i don't really care if it makes sense! myopic!

plus, i was trying to use it with as much frequency as balloon does.

it just hurts me so that you're supposed to lead by example and you're picking on me! i'm republican! remember, we're all illiterates, so i'm pretty much an easy target. the most literature i've ever ploughed through came from excerpts in playboy, and even then, i was just looking at the pictures...

and, if you read what i said with a little more care, you would see that i said nothing about abolishing welfare.

people slip thru the cracks, they need help to be lifted. life is so unpredictable, anything could happen at any time and it's our responsibility to help our fellow citizens.

however, people have used and abused the system. it's impossible, just because some of us have had personal experience in the matter, to say that very little fraud is going on. it's also impossible to say that the system is mainly used by those commiting fraud.

i was just asking for some converse in this polanco, and you have to kick me in my myopic areas instead (that's both the upstairs and the downstairs areas). oh well... ho-hum... back to reading playboy...

3:22 PM, November 20, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

p.s. polanco:

you didn't respond to my accusation that the attacks made on my original comments are typical leftist hypocrisy...

polanco, on a serious note, i answered all of your oh-so-interesting, world-shaking questions to the best of my abilities (which i admit, i don't have alot of), yet you ignore 99% of what i said, and instead choose to inform me that i somehow used the word myopic incorrectly.

on a continued serious note, polanco, after hounding me all day to answer some really, really, really important unanswered questions, i expected more from you. i am, seriously, disappointed. indeed, it is my fault, but i thought you were above this kind of bullying...

why did you post a comment? just so you could ignore some of the issues i had brought up from dick morris to my own experience, to questioning, to insinuating this is the perfect time for some non-partisan study into welfare?

i myself have already started some very important research on this topic, but does it really matter anymore? afterall, it's obvious from the comments i've read that no one actually wants to work for answers, to think about solutions and to actually have a voice that is backed up by some educated numbers.

instead, lets all grovel together and say... i don't know polanco, from someone who said i never take a stand on an issue, i'm having a hard time reading yours. what is it you want to say...?

polanco, shame...

3:44 PM, November 20, 2005  
Blogger Cranky Yankee said...

The "welfare" programs are by and large helpful successful low cost programs that have been/are being abused by a small number. Abuse is by exception, the vast majority of recipients are temporary and legitimately eligible. in 1991 less than 5% of those who received aid were not eligible, this included error by the agencies giving the money.

When I was in the military most of my married with children friends were on food stamps. Before I went into the military, in the depths of the Reagan recession of the mid-80s I was on unemployment for 2 months. That is my experience with government programs. I don't currently know anyone on public assistance.

Who receives federal welfare benefits?
* The 1992 welfare caseload consisted of 9.2 million children and 4.4 million adults (most of them mothers). About half the children in welfare families are under 6; one-quarter under 3.
* There is no federal welfare program to provide income to able-bodied adults without children.

Does welfare make people have huge families to get more benefits? No.
* In 72.7% of families on AFDC, there are 2 or fewer children. The average AFDC family size has decreased from 4.0 to 2.9 persons since 1969.

Are welfare families “loading up” on benefits? No.
* The maximum food stamp benefit, received by only 23% of all recipients, amounts to about \$1.06 per meal per person. The maximum food stamp allotment for a family of three (the average size AFDC family) is $295/month.
(special note to non-welfare recipients: did you know that you can’t use food stamps to buy toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, tampons, or anything else that isn’t food that is vitally necessary? see the “Food Only” article for more on that.)

Are welfare recipients “addicted” to welfare? No. Does welfare create a dependency on a welfare “way of life” that people get stuck in? No.
* The data show a very dynamic welfare population, with many different people entering and leaving.
* 50% of recipients exit AFDC in the first year of welfare.
* 75% of recipients exit AFDC in the first two years of welfare.
* 30% of welfare recipients leave welfare permanently in less than two years.

MYTH: Supporting welfare is a burden causing financial hardship to working class Americans.

FACT: Together, AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and Food Stamps are by far the largest items of the welfare budget. Yet in 1992, AFDC formed only 1 percent of the combined state and federal budgets. Food stamps also took up 1 percent

So it does not cost us very much and most people pass through it when they need it and leave. Welfare is working as it was designed. Welfare should be there temporarily as a safety net. What is the point of society if it doesn't provide a safety net. Fraud and abuse should be actively pursued and prosecuted.

The myth of the welfare queen has been widely debunked. The facts are that most of the people on welfare are rural whites, not inner city blacks, Hispanics or illegal. If there was a welfare queen she would be at Golden Chorale getting seconds on grits.


5:06 PM, November 20, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

cranky, i'll read your post soon...

but first, it's interesting to note that balloon mentions congress in his comment: "Too bad he (Clinton) had an obstructionist Congress to work with."

That is too bad, balloon, considering the following quote from the '96 reforms:

a certain dem said that the bill would "put one million more children into poverty." He declared, "They're coming for the children. They're coming for the poor. They're coming for the sick, the elderly, and the disabled."

-this the hysterical john lewis D-Ga.

so, apart from ignoring dicky morris in my comment, he also tends to ignore the fact that clinton had to battle with his own ilk to try and push ahead welfare reform...

6:04 PM, November 20, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Here's an interesting word:


It's an adjective, meaning professing feelings or virtues one does not have.

Looking over what I had written in the post, which included this phrase:

Are there some people who are on welfare who shouldn't be? Perhaps. I'll even give you 'probably.' What the hell: Yes, yes there are. But there are many, many more who need these programs to get by, who are using these programs not as a replacement for, but assistance with, living their lives.

...and then, in my comments, to write:

"Fraud and abuse are not rampant in the system."

...would seem to me to be a consistent viewpoint. There are no feelings or virtues professed, but there is a consistency there. I would think that someone who says they are a teacher would know that.

Then I looked up the definition of the word 'myopic.' The first definition was, of course, related to actual vision. However, that's not the important usage. In this case, it's:
Lack of discernment or long-range perspective in thinking or planning.

And someone who praises his students who come from destitute situations, yet applauds the reductions of those services used to give them even the basic needs, to me sounds myopic.

So I would think that 'hypocritical' and 'myopic' would apply to that person.

What a sad, bitter, spiteful person that would be.

I wonder if that sort of person would counter with exactly the same claims about me? That's typical of lots of Republican bottom-feeders.

Oh, I really wonder what goes through their heads in their dingy bachelor apartments.


8:02 PM, November 20, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

oh well... i guess balloon's still reeling from a perspective i have on him. yes, i think you're bitter and angry man. so?

this post was stating that because you have had a very tragic experience in your life, that does not give you the absolute knowledge of knowing that:

"Fraud and abuse are not rampant in the system."

just as polanco, or anyone else with experience of frauds of the system can calim:

"the welfare system is run amok with abuse and fraud."

and let me ask you balloon: what was the point of your comment to me?

and yes balloon, you caught me: i live in a dingy bachelor. my only source of literature and the word myopic to be found in the stack of playboy magazines i have stashed under my dirty matress.

2:12 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger United We Lay said...

The comment was meant to be tongue in cheek. Sorry you didn't pick up on it. Actually, I've stopped responding to you, Peter, because I've become bored with you.


I did point out, about your original comments, that any type of attack, no matter who is doing the attacking, stunts growth and pulls the discussion away from what it important.

7:10 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

why are you here, peter?

what are you hoping to accomplish?

are you looking to change our minds?

you won't.

are you looking to defend this presidency?

you can't.

or, are you just trolling liberal blogs, trying to stir up trouble, sad and frustrated because all of the things we liberals have said are being proven true, and all the promises that you bought into turned out to be empty?

Lots of people have gotten rich off this president, peter. Unfortunately, they were rich to begin with.

The poor get poorer, and the middle class is breaking down, and you want to blame someone. But the people who are to blame are the ones you called heroes. So you look to your left and strike out in frustration.

Is that what drives you, peter?

how sad.

what are you going to do now, peter? are you going to try to hurt me?

you are a bore, peter.

go away.

7:39 AM, November 21, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

1. no

2. hoping to pick up a few friends

3. no

4. no

5. no

6. no, i can't even drive

7. are you so easily hurt that a bottom dweller such as myself can do it?

8. i've been told ad nauseaum how open dems are. you and polanco prove exactly the opposite...

polanco, it's so easy to say, after hounding me, accusing me of running from issues, to now say "i've stopped responding to you." it's because you have no answers or fresh ideas.

i can't believe that you two are so riled up. i'm just a stupid, moronic, bottom dwelling republican that reads playboy. i mean really, guys, are you saying that your egos are that fragile? i'm the fragile one! i'm the weak one!

on a serious note though, look at cranky. i probably don't agree with half of what he says, but man, he doesn't come at me with personal attacks until AFTER he's backed up his points. it's educational for me, really, to chat with cranky.

you two are nothing more than a boring experiment in the weak-minded, joining forces and using the power of mob mentality to bully the puny republican who happened upon your oh-so-sacred blog. when i get home to my dingy bachelor, i'm going to crawl into a fetal position and rock myself to sleep! i'm not even gonna look at my playboy magazines! and i'm gonna hold my breath!

i'm sorry balloon that my quotes, my suggestions broke down your image of me. see, i think what frustrates you and polanco about me is that i can't be easily pigeon-holed into your comfortable definition of the big bad republican. it's reflected in your misguided anger at me and in the hopeless investigative questions polanco shot my way.

9:16 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...


i could spend hours looking up facts and figures to continue this argument, or i could just state the obvious:

this president sucks.

he's taken us into a ruinous war. his legislation favors the rich. his response to criticism is bully and bluster

go ahead and do research. go ahead and think your proving a point by quoting dick morris.

if that's what you feel you need to to do make friends, who am I to stop you?

I will control what I can, and that's me.

i've stated before that i would no longer respond to you because i don't like the way i react to you.

you called me, i believe, pathetic.

and you want to make friends.

yes, you annoy me, peter. not because you've made any points that would change my mind, but because you're annoying.

so, i will do my best in the future to continue to ingore you. call me names taunt me, it's fine. if that's what you need to do, go ahead. i don't want to spend any more time on you.


10:42 AM, November 21, 2005  
Anonymous peter said...

i'm really not sure what "argument" we're having balloon. i was talking welfare, you were talking about my dumb ass...

but, that's fine... as i understand it, thru history, the left likes to silence any one who dissents. this is no different...

and i apologoze for being such an annoyance, but i suspect, it doesn't take a lot to make you explode like the ill tempered volcanic person you've represented yourself as being... let's just put it this way: i wouldn't sell you a hand gun...

i just don't understand how a pee-on, such as myself could have riled you up so... and i don't think i called you pathetic, just your aggressive reactions to me...

anyhow, i guess no matter how hard i try, you continue to try and ram me in that pigeon hole where you file all of the people away who have ever disagreed with you. like i said, i've learned from cranky. i've only from you that the left can be a hell of a psychologically frightening place to set roots, which is a shame since it truly sounds as if you've had a rich life, so far. tragedies, yes, but that which hasn't killed us only makes us stronger. instead, you choose to show another side. this was your chance to really show what the dems are supposed to be. you blew it...

oh well, back to playboy...

10:58 AM, November 21, 2005  
Blogger Cranky Yankee said...

"7. are you so easily hurt that a bottom dweller such as myself can do it?"

This is an improper use of the reflexive or intensive pronoun myself. It should be objective.

4:22 AM, November 22, 2005  

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