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Welfare: Michigan’s Blessing or Curse?

By: Marion Webber

Where are we heading in our world today?  Are we moving forward or backward?  My question for today is, “why should I have to go to work when people I know sit back and get all their needs met for free?”  Free phone, free health insurance, free food.  I am NOT talking about people who really need this assistance, but people who are totally healthy. Do you know that Michigan is the fifth highest state in the U.S. for Bridge Card use, with nearly 20% of the state population receiving Food Assistance*?! And also, Michigan is the eighth highest state for property taxes in the country**! I have seen both sides of the coin and many are in dire need! Many of us have been there. Then again, many people today have let “free assistance” become their way of life!

Recently a store wanted to open in Washington Twp.  They couldn’t open on their anticipated Grand Opening Day because they couldn’t find enough help!  Can you blame people for not wanting to give up their freebies? Can they afford to go to work?  If you make minimum wage or even a little more, can you afford to lose all of your benefits, and if something happens to you, now you have no health care? Can you blame them?  No!  We have created a society that is really stuck in a rut!  You can’t afford to work! When I lived up north there was a family that had 3 generations on welfare. They made side money cutting logs and firewood, and were quite content in their life! Welfare was it!  Is the next generation continuing on the same path?

What would happen if healthy people getting assistance were made to work? Some people on assistance say, “that is discriminatory!”  Is it?  Is there a better way to solve these problems we face today? In the early 1930’s my uncle Jude worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps., under Franklin D. Roosevelt. The CCC started on March 4, 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt said,  “Our greatest task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously.  It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergence of war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our national resources.” President Roosevelt felt that this “tree army” would relieve the rural unemployed and keep youth “off the city street corners.”  Mothers loved it because it kept their sons busy and taught them work ethics, and brought in an income as well, in a time of depression.  By 1935 over 500,000 young men had lived and worked in CCC Camps. Most staying 6 months to a year.  The work focused on soil conservation and reforestation.  Most important, the men planted million of trees on land made barren from natural erosion or lumbering.  This is where my uncle worked, and his work still stands about 3 miles west of Gaylord, Michigan. In fact the CCC was responsible for over half the reforestation, public and private, done in the nations’s history.  Corpsmen also dug canals and ditches, and built over thirty thousand wildlife shelters, stocked rivers and lakes with nearly a billion fish, restored historic battlefields, and cleared beaches and campgrounds. Finally, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the country was more worried about the war effort than about domestic issues. On June 5, 1942, the funding finally ceased for the CCC, causing it to end its operations.

During the time Michigan was involved, they occupied 57 camps annually. Michigan enrollees planted 484 million trees – more than twice as many as any other state. They spent 140,000 days fighting forest fires, stocked 156 million fish and constructed 7,000 miles of truck trails, 504 bridges and 22 buildings. They revitalized the Michigan State Park system, established Isle Royale National Park and built campgrounds in Michigan’s national forest. Total CCC expenditures in Michigan reached $95 million and enrollees sent over $20 million to their dependents.

What is the answer to our problem at this time? How can we get off the “get it all free” mentality? Could some of our crime be minimized if people had constructive work?  Could we once again come together as a nation “undivided?” Or are we doomed to continue on this road?

Some people now are paying extravagant prices for their health insurance. Will they become the next people needing “free assistance?”  How long can they keep paying these high cost and not become the next ones in need?  People who are working spend much of their income paying insurance bills, not only for themselves, but for all of those who are not insured, the ones who pay nothing at all. How can this continue? Again I know that there are people who are really in need! I am happy they get assistance, and they should!

So where do we go from here?  Will President Trump change Obamacare?  Can we find a happy balance?  These are questions we face today!  What about Medicare?  After working for years to enjoy benefits at a time when we are ready to slow down, will we have to pay more and continue to work later into our “retirement” years?

Our times are very challenging. Unfortunately the more I try to answer these questions, the more questions I have. Maybe you have a solution. I would love to hear your opinion!

“And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  John Fitzgerald Kennedy

To learn more about the history of the CCC Camps go to Michigan History Center. Roosevelt’s Tree Army: Michigan’s Civilian Conservation Corps.

Primary sources used in preparing this article include *www.statisticbrain.com/food-stamp-statistics/; **http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2016/02/11/states-with-highest-property-taxes-nine-states-with-highest-burdens.html; http://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/the-10-worst-states-for-property-taxes.html/?a=viewall; https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/; the Congressional Record;  Fort Brady District and Camp Custer District Annuals (1937); Michigan Department of Conservation Biennial Reports; “Objectives and Results of the CCC Program,”  Secondary sources include We Can Do It:  A History of the CCC in Michigan, 1933-42 (1983), by Charles A. Symon; The Public Papers and Adresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, edited by Samuel 1. Roseman; and information sheets collected from CCC veterans by the Michigan Historical Museum.  The Reader’s Companion to American History.  Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors.  Copyright© 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.  All rights reserved.

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About the author

Marion Webber

Marion Webber, former owner and operator of Haskill's Greenhouses began the family owned business in 1986 in St. Clair, MI. Along with the retail site, she worked very closely with the community, supplying plants for fundraisers, churches, hospitals and schools. Bus tours were common in the spring, with hands on learning for children, garden clubs and seniors alike. Community service was the goal of Haskill's. As the children went off on their own, the business was sold in 2006. Marion now is sharing her love for plants and community service writing for Blue Water Healthy Living, a division of GBS Media.

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  • I hate to point out the obvious, but there are a few data-driven issues with this “article.” First of all, I’d like to point out that from 2011 to 2015, the number of people in Michigan receiving traditional welfare dropped by 70%. Furthermore, the lion’s share of food assistance recipients in Michigan are children and the elderly; nearly all of the non-senior adults who receive food aid are in fact working heads of household who have paid into the system they’re now using for at least a decade, and most of those use the food assistance for less than 6 months. Additionally, the state of Michigan has a four-year lifetime limit on cash assistance, so this “welfare way of life” is a myth; it cannot and does not happen in the real world. All of these stats and more are readily available at http://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-73970_61179—,00.html. Shaming people who require assistance is cruel, especially since so many of us are only a paycheck or two away from needing assistance ourselves. Please, before you engaging in stigmatizing an entire population of your fellow Michiganders, review the real-life data and draw factual, not opinion-based, conclusions. If any of the data is confusing (it can be sometimes), I’m happy to help.

    • I think the point of this article is mainly to get people opening their eyes about the misuse of welfare. Either that or they are trolling us and wanting us to turn against each other. I’m fine with either to be honest.

  • It seems like a lot more people are living on welfare but percentage wise they are not. USA’s population is now in the 340,000,000 millions. During my childhood yrs in the 40’s & 50’s, the population was about 100,000,000 million. Our culture has changed to such a mobile one, families are “scattered” across the USA. We no longer have gramma, grandpa, sick aunt, uncle, cousins, children, etc. living in our homes to be taken care of by us. They are in nursing homes, group homes, rehabs, housing projects, etc. Our government is paying for these facilities. Families have splintered into not being responsible for each other. Most want the American dream of cars, single family homes, vacation houses & trips, the lastest technology, the best clothes, etc. Because of this a significant percentage of people have been thrown by the wayside to fend for themselves. There will always be people whom are physically or mentally damaged to the point of not being productive citizens. Thus, the government has taken on housing, feeding, and their healthcare issues. So, who’s to blame in reality?

  • This isa very informative article and well covers our county’s welfare mess. This is prevelant in all states.

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