|Woonsocket City Hall|
I received the latest letter from a Rhode Island reader named Sam D, commenting on my editorial in the Providence Journal about Woonsocket, RI's Welfare City:
In any city across Rhode Island, rates of use and abuse of governmental assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program will invariably be higher than in otherwise affluent communities. Californian columnist Arthur Schaper wrote a piece for the Providence Journal and detested what he perceived from across the country as widespread, pervasive dependence on governmental assistance by citizens of Woonsocket. In doing so, he also called for the complete removal of what he perceives as and is comfortable labeling as a ‘nationalized welfare mentality’. The brash, headstrong proposal is wholly unproductive.
Schaper makes it clear from the beginning that he does not think highly of individuals who live at or below the poverty line; in fact, he describes Woonsocket stores as ‘brazenly advertising’ they take EBT, or describing the ‘enabling of dependence’ as ‘unconscionable’. If I were to speak with Schaper, I would ask if he spent as much time craftily disguising his hateful and discriminatory rhetoric with sneaky, innocent-sounding synonyms as he did researching Woonsocket, visiting it, or talking to policy makers or even citizens from there. I would ask if he honestly believes that this ‘gimme-EBT mentality’, as he put it, that has ‘infected’ his fairly affluent California community of Torrance, can even be comparable with that of Woonsocket. I would lastly ask if he truly believes that homeless, hungry, impoverished individuals in Woonsocket scraping to get by simply aren’t looking ‘forward to something better in their lives than barely getting by on someone else’s dollar’. I would encourage Mr. Schaper to visit Woonsocket, because ‘affirmations’ from others from the area that have similar views as are being endorsed, doesn’t do much.
Arthur Schaper is a self-proclaimed conservative from California who has spoken to Woonsocket residents who have affirmed what he has read and chooses to support. While Schaper regards the fact that ‘American cities are sinking into a cycle of subsidy and servility’, as sad, I would ask him how he regards the fact that is a systemic flaw leaving one in three individuals needing government assistance to get by. In describing Californians utilizing EBT as ‘arrogantly resentful’ and ‘using EBT at grocery stores without any shame’, it is painfully clear Schaper lacks the sensitivity (or incentive, even) to examine why or how there are such high numbers in terms of people needing assistance and perspective to assess the situation and nature of Woonsocket. What matters to him is that there are too many homeless, hungry and impoverished adults and children not only in Woonsocket, but also in ‘many American cities’. According to Schaper, that’s their problem, not ours. And that’s the real problem.
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