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Welfare warfare

Am I worth all that public money?

Joe: the commander, off-duty
Joe: the commander, off-duty

Evening neighbors’ conversation: 

“Why don’t they get off their fat asses and find a job?” Annie’s talking about the homeless people she passes every day on her way back from work. “We can’t afford them! I grew up drinking powdered milk. I survived, but I also worked. I have never not worked.”

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Across the fence, Joe cocks his head. Joseph Pope, who’s a commander in the Navy, chief staff officer of a heavy-lift helicopter squadron. He’s preparing a BBQ for his wife Jessica and their two kids. The perfect middle-class family. “Let me give you a different perspective,” he says. “If it wasn’t for government welfare, I would not be here. I would not be a naval officer. You don’t believe in public assistance?”

He comes over to the fence. “When I was about 10 years old, my father had a stroke, got sick, and couldn’t work any more. My stay-at-home mom had to go to night school, to learn to be an appraiser. But even with her working, the income in my house dropped to a third of what my father was making before his stroke. 

“And then my mother got sick, when I was thirteen years old. Lung cancer. And she was our sole breadwinner. 

“I was 14 when my mother passed away. So then we did receive social security for my mother’s passing because she was the breadwinner of our house. But we essentially lived on social security, and various forms of public assistance, children’s health insurance, different programs. And then my father became even sicker. He got some social security, but even that’s not very much. 

“The point is, we basically lived on all these forms of public assistance, and this enabled us to stay together, and in one of the best school districts in the country. I went to Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois. It’s a blue ribbon school, so we were able to get this excellent secondary education, and I was lucky enough to be accepted into multiple universities. And I applied for an ROTC scholarship, which paid for all the tuition and fees. But even that wasn’t enough, because I would still have to pay room and board at university, and my dad couldn’t afford that on social security, especially with two other mouths to feed. I can still remember my father saying to me, after my mother passed, ‘Your mother and I talked, and we’d really like you to get a scholarship to college.’ Yes, he was trying to motivate me, but also it was, ‘If you don’t get some sort of scholarship, you’re not going to college, kid. The math ain’t adding up.’ Luckily, I got a Pell Grant.  

“I mean, I admire Annie here, for her hard-working, honest attitude. But my lived experience is, sure, you could say public assistance makes people dependent. But I would look at it this way: public assistance allowed me to prosper, allowed me to flourish and become a member of society. Same circumstances for my cousin April, who became a practicing psychiatrist, and cousin Sara, who’s now a probation officer for duPage County. So the question you have to answer, is were they — was I — am I — worth all that public money?”

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Brenda Spencer used a .22

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Joe: the commander, off-duty
Joe: the commander, off-duty

Evening neighbors’ conversation: 

“Why don’t they get off their fat asses and find a job?” Annie’s talking about the homeless people she passes every day on her way back from work. “We can’t afford them! I grew up drinking powdered milk. I survived, but I also worked. I have never not worked.”

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Across the fence, Joe cocks his head. Joseph Pope, who’s a commander in the Navy, chief staff officer of a heavy-lift helicopter squadron. He’s preparing a BBQ for his wife Jessica and their two kids. The perfect middle-class family. “Let me give you a different perspective,” he says. “If it wasn’t for government welfare, I would not be here. I would not be a naval officer. You don’t believe in public assistance?”

He comes over to the fence. “When I was about 10 years old, my father had a stroke, got sick, and couldn’t work any more. My stay-at-home mom had to go to night school, to learn to be an appraiser. But even with her working, the income in my house dropped to a third of what my father was making before his stroke. 

“And then my mother got sick, when I was thirteen years old. Lung cancer. And she was our sole breadwinner. 

“I was 14 when my mother passed away. So then we did receive social security for my mother’s passing because she was the breadwinner of our house. But we essentially lived on social security, and various forms of public assistance, children’s health insurance, different programs. And then my father became even sicker. He got some social security, but even that’s not very much. 

“The point is, we basically lived on all these forms of public assistance, and this enabled us to stay together, and in one of the best school districts in the country. I went to Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois. It’s a blue ribbon school, so we were able to get this excellent secondary education, and I was lucky enough to be accepted into multiple universities. And I applied for an ROTC scholarship, which paid for all the tuition and fees. But even that wasn’t enough, because I would still have to pay room and board at university, and my dad couldn’t afford that on social security, especially with two other mouths to feed. I can still remember my father saying to me, after my mother passed, ‘Your mother and I talked, and we’d really like you to get a scholarship to college.’ Yes, he was trying to motivate me, but also it was, ‘If you don’t get some sort of scholarship, you’re not going to college, kid. The math ain’t adding up.’ Luckily, I got a Pell Grant.  

“I mean, I admire Annie here, for her hard-working, honest attitude. But my lived experience is, sure, you could say public assistance makes people dependent. But I would look at it this way: public assistance allowed me to prosper, allowed me to flourish and become a member of society. Same circumstances for my cousin April, who became a practicing psychiatrist, and cousin Sara, who’s now a probation officer for duPage County. So the question you have to answer, is were they — was I — am I — worth all that public money?”

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