Welfare, weather and the havoc they wreak
September 21, 2005
Last week I had the good fortune to receive a visit from one of my former fly-fishing guides, who now lives in Tennessee. He brought his new wife, who is a psychologist with a degree in nursing and nutrition.She’s a very sharp young lady who looks a lot like Gwynneth Paltrow, except prettier, so it’s true that fly-fishing guides can get the girls. Joe spent two years working as an organic farmer before being offered a job distributing organic and natural foods. Like any young couple, they’re trying to get their feet on the ground and plan for their future.While Sue is getting her private practice going, she spends two days a week at a state-run mental health clinic, seeing as many as 30 clients a day. Interestingly, most of her work at the state clinic revolves around disability claims. It seems that there are literally legions of people who are trying to get a monthly check for doing nothing. I don’t imagine that it’s much different in Tennessee.Sue’s typical patient, as she describes them, is a third-generation welfare recipient who is morbidly obese, takes up to a dozen or more different medications a day, spends most of his or her waking hours watching television, and eats fast food three meals a day.She may be a big success in private practice, but she’s not popular at the state clinic.”I hear voices,” is a common complaint.Sue’s response: “Well, how much television do you watch?””It’s on all the time.””Try turning off the TV. If I was hearing a television nonstop every minute of every day, I’d hear voices, too.””I can’t do that! I need the TV on!””What if you go out and get a job? You can’t have the TV on while you’re working, so that would give you a break from the television, make some money for the household, and your self-esteem would climb because you’d be doing something productive.””But if I go out and work, I’d make minimum wage, and I’d lose my $800-a-month check from the government, and I’d end up making less than I do now.””That’s called life. You start at the bottom and work your way up.””But I’d miss ‘WWF Smackdown.'””How can you afford that? That’s expensive pay-per-view, isn’t it? What’s your monthly cable bill.””I get the premium package. It’s only $140 a month.””Are you kidding? You’re on welfare making $800 a month and you spend $140 a month on TV?””You’re making my blood pressure go up. I don’t have to take this. I’m gonna sue you. I demand to see another psychologist.””Well, now that you brought it up, let’s talk about your medication. Let’s see … you’re on six different blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications, and then you have three different anti-psychotics, plus a sleeping pill and then there are your diabetes monitoring kits. The state will only pay for five medications at a time. Which ones are you going to choose? I would strongly suggest that you modify your diet and lower the cholesterol on your own, and then you could keep the anti-psychotics. You definitely need those.””No, I need the cholesterol drugs and the diabetes kit. You wouldn’t want me to have a heart attack, would you?””Well, the cholesterol drugs are running the state $2,500 a month, and through a change in lifestyle, you could help eliminate that cost, take your anti-psychotics, and stay sane.””Whose side are you on, anyway? Look, I’m just here to get certified as disabled.””What’s your disability?””I can’t get along with people.””That’s not a disability. Get out of the house, turn off the TV, and get a job.””I’m gonna sue you! I need another doctor!” And with that, the patient storms out the door, finds a doctor interested in collecting fees for referrals, and another person is added to the disability rolls. Arby’s and Pizza Hut and Doritos and Pepsi and Dr. Pepper and Coke are happy with the continued patronage of one of their finest customers, and the rest of us foot the bill.Which brings us to Hurricane Katrina. What a house of cards. You have the most obese population in the country living 8 feet below sea level in substandard housing with little or no building codes, and governed by corrupt officials. The dikes and levees that are supposed to protect the city are straining against the natural flow of a mighty river, neglected in their maintenance by a federal government seeking to cut funds anywhere it can to sustain an unpopular war.Combine that with a large welfare population as described above, and the situation defies logic. Now, as government officials proudly proclaim their commitment to rebuilding New Orleans, another Category 4 hurricane bears down on the city. It’s almost like God is trying to tell us something, isn’t it?Gary Hubbell and his wife, Doris, own OutWest Guides, LLC, in Marble, CO, where they outfit summer horseback rides and autumn elk and deer hunts. Gary is a freelance writer and photographer and a native of Carbondale.