Should people collecting unemployment and/or social assistance be permitted to volunteer instead of looking for work?

Let’s throw a stone at a bee hive or poke those sleeping alligators . . .

In a previous post I wrote the following:

Looking at life during my father’s time, and then looking at the world today I am shocked by the number of people who claim to be having a tough time of it . . .

. . . there is the couple in their 40s in which the man is on disability for depression but somehow has the will to putter around the house fixing electronic devices, while the wife – who can’t seem to keep a job – miraculously finds the time to be actively involved as a member in a local Non-Profit Organization including running as its President?

This leads to a simple question, should we be funding people who are unemployed but instead of looking for work volunteer and even run for an executive position on a volunteer basis for a local association or non-charitable organization?

When a member of our research team contacted the government office that oversees social assistance the response was somewhat surprising in that while they do not condone this practice, they cannot intervene as it would be considered a violation of the recipients civil rights.

In other words I can be able minded and able bodied and chose not to seek gainful employment but instead choose to pursue a hobby without having to worry about being held accountable for the money I receive from social assistance!?!

I cannot help but recall a scene from the movie Cinderella Man which is based on the true life story of champion boxer James J. Braddock, who after making a successful return to the ring, took his winnings and paid back every cent of the social assistance he had received during the bleak periods of being unemployed during the Great Depression.

The fact that he resisted taking assistance in the first place until it became absolutely necessary, is a testimony to an attitude of self-reliance and taking ownership or responsibility for one’s own life.  Sadly, this is an attitude that seems to be woefully absent from today’s collective societal conscience.

It also prompts me to ask what kind of a message is this couple sending to their children or those who operate on a similar principle of entitlement while resenting the success of those who actually work and succeed?

I remember meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer who during our conversation lamented the fact that an increasing number of young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 are going bankrupt after running up credit card debt in the thousands of dollars.  When I asked him how a 19 year old could get that far in the hole at such a young age, he said that many go out and purchase things like high definition entertainment systems, bikes etc. etc.  I then asked the obvious question . . . how do they feel about having to claim bankruptcy.  His response was chilling.  Basically their attitude is one of I still have most of the stuff I purchased, and I will be discharged within a year so what’s the big deal!

To demonstrate just how widespread the problem is, here is the data from a Demos-USA report titled “Generation Broke, The Growth of Debt Among Young Americans,” by Tama Draut and Javier Silva:

  • Average credit card debt among indebted young adults increased by 55% between 1992-2001 to $4,088 (based on the value of the dollar in 2001).  One can only imagine where we stand today in 2010.
  • Young Americans now have the second highest rate of bankruptcy, just after those aged 25 to 44. The rate among 25-34 year olds increased between 1991 and 2001, indicating that Gen-Xers were more likely to file bankruptcy as young adults than were young Boomers at the same age.
  • Among the youngest adult household with incomes below $50,000 (2/3 of younger households [18-24 years old]), nearly one in seven with credit card debt is in debt hardship.
  • The average indebted young adult spends nearly 25 cents of every dollar of income on debt payments.
  • Of all college seniors, 96% have credit cards.
  • Nearly one out of every five 18- to 24-year-olds reported being late or missing payments on a loan within the last year.

The irony according to a June 4th, 2010 New York Times article by Ron Lieber “Student Debt and a Push for Fairness” is that if a young person runs up “big credit card bills buying a new home theater system and can’t pay it off after a few years, bankruptcy judges can get rid of the debt.”  In fact according to Lieber, “They may even erase  loans from a casino.”   However, when it comes to a student loan re borrowing money to get an education, “it’s nearly impossible to get rid of the debt in bankruptcy court!”

In the context of the student loan situation, the couple receiving social assistance who chooses not to pursue gainful employment now makes perfect sense, as it would appear that the government and corresponding laws of the land are focused more on rewarding an attitude of entitlement and immaturity than championing self-reliance and ambition.

Suddenly the economic crisis isn’t all that surprising.


5 Responses to “Should people collecting unemployment and/or social assistance be permitted to volunteer instead of looking for work?”
  1. fielding dent says:

    Here! Here! 🙂

  2. fielding dent says:

    It’s insane and ridiculous. Keeping in mind that there are those that truly need assistance. And as you’ve revealed some have had the presence of mind to repay the system that provided for them during hardship. I am not saying it necessarily has to come from the collective juggernaut…i.e. government. Perhaps we need to redefine the role of government and how we promote the general welfare as this could be interpreted to mean many things. Additionally, I do believe if one likes to be “lazy” there are many creative ways to make a legitimate living from this as well. Ha ha ha! The photo chosen to augment this piece is hilarious.

    • You make a very good point Fielding as there are people who are truly in need of financial assistance . . . good people. It is unfortunate that the proverbial social assistance waters get muddied by those who operate under a mindset of entitlement.

      As always, thank you for sharing.

  3. Paul says:

    I always laugh when people say how tough they are doing now. Sure, there are many who are struggling, but amongst my friends I hear nothing but complaints about how they are struggling, how they pay too much taxes, how it is a struggle to pay school fees, etc, etc, oh, and by the way have you seen our new TV and we are planning a holiday overseas next year.

    The simple fact is we are greedy and expect a lot for nothing. You can’t keep lowering taxes and expect the pothole in your street to be fixed, let alone hospitals to be built and schools to have good facilities. And the same goes for those who take benefits for no return. There should be a docrtine of mutual obligation whereby the state will look after you in need but in return you do what you can to assist the state to get you back to a self supporting life.

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