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Letter: News article perpetuates negative stereotypes of poor

News article perpetuates negative stereotypes of poor

I was very demoralized to see the headline about welfare overpayments in prominent position on the front page above the fold. The piece reminded me of the derogatory stereotype of the Welfare Queen. As the article goes on to say, most recipients are honest. My work with seriously mentally ill individuals, who are mostly poor and dependent on benefits, has brought home to me that the poor are treated with disrespect by a welfare system which can be beyond their educational or cognitive abilities to navigate. People of greater means regard the poor with suspicion, seeing them as freeloaders who are somehow at fault for their circumstances. Yet I’ve observed that the poor are more likely to share a dollar with someone down and out than are those who are better off. Welfare is very meager. It can barely provide for personal hygiene products. I could go on and on.

I think the best solution is something that has been under study in various places around the world, and that is a universal basic income, which would provide enough money for housing, food, health insurance, and basic personal needs regardless of income. Some conservatives are in support of a universal basic income because it would do away with layers and layers of bureaucracy, including the need for fraud investigation. No more separate applications for food stamps, housing subsidies, HEAP, unemployment and disability benefits, and so on. It could help the poor have dignity. Studies so far have shown that people who get such an income work and do things to improve their lives and communities. Look up one such study in Kenya to put a smile on your face. Yes, your reporter did a wonderful job, but it is unfortunate that a story that gets at what is often mean-spirited treatment of the poor should appear so soon after Easter.

Marcelle Mostert, MD


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