The American Welfare Myth: Who Gets It and Why (You’ll Be Surprised)


Courtesy of

See video here

Here is a short documentary made by a professor at the University of California-Berkley about welfare and poverty. The idea for it came after the professor heard her students discussing welfare and government’s role in society. She was shocked to learn that these college-educated students, some of whom were on welfare themselves, harbored deep-seated, negative stereotypical attitudes and beliefs about welfare recipients. It was then that she realized that today’s young people have inherited the harsh Reagan-era ideology of how society should deal with the poor- mainly that welfare programs, like food stamps (now called SNAP), actually reinforce poverty by creating dependence on government assistance. After all, these programs are supposed to be temporary aid, so why should the poor get to live off them, right? Why can’t they just get up and work, right?

This film quite effectively sets the record straight. Some points the film discusses:

  • Walmart workers make up a gigantic portion of welfare recipients- their low wages alone are not enough to live off of.
  • Wealthier people get subsidies, too, by way of substantial tax breaks. Food stamps aren’t the only subsidies.
  • Poverty doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of modern life- poverty is created and reinforced by laws and economic policies that create economic and social inequality.

I share this with you because in order to solve the problem of poverty, we need to put our heads together and find solutions, as well as discuss some already proposed solutions made by this film, as well as by bloggers, activists, academics, etc. Furthermore, we need to stop accepting the way things are and fight for something new, better, and more fair.

17 thoughts on “The American Welfare Myth: Who Gets It and Why (You’ll Be Surprised)

  1. This video is brilliant!

    I love how Prof. Roy explains the paradox. “My students enjoy a host of hidden government subsidies that buttress opportunity and mobility. But they do not think that such subsidies should be available to the poor.” She then illustrates how tax deductions on mortgages, for example, are a form of government welfare.

  2. Yes. And it’s very interesting what she says about the new social contract in the global south and the ongoing debate over the need for a guaranteed income.

    Regarding guaranteed income, I’ve seen other thinkers suggest everyone may need it in the not too far future. The technology is already here to replace even highly-skilled and highly-educated workers with robots. Check out the video ‘Humans Need Not Apply’ on YouTube.

  3. Hi Tanya. What a great summary. I am going to watch the video, though it’s late right now. We do have to stop accepting the way things are and do something! I recently read how Thich Naht hanh during the Vietnam war had to decide to sit back and be in their monastery or to go out and help rebuild the bombed out villages – in the end they did both, and thus began “engaged Buddhism”. Maybe we need to go back to our roots and do something, like Martin Luther king who have us do. Engaged Christianity, with less preaching and more action of justice and peace for all. I do look forward to the video. It’s wonderful to hear from you. Best regards as always – Bruce

    • Thanks for your comment! The idea of engaged Buddhism sounds interesting. I’m hoping that people will be inspired to act- that’s the only way things will change.

  4. Tanya,,, this is an absolutely fascinating video production about the Corporate Welfare State. I was encouraged on how emerging economies are beginning to embrace a new social contract with a minimum level of livelihood. I was suprised to hear Arundhati Roy as narrator. I didn’t realize she was a professor at Berkle. She is such a great novelist too – author of God of Small Things…. She says, “another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can here her breathing.” Thank you so much for sharing this. Please stay well and keep up the good journalistic you are doing. As always, peace and best regards … bruce

    • I’ll have to look into that book, God of Small Things. Peace to you, too, Bruce!! I always like hearing from you! It’s great to know that there are others who care about these things.

  5. Tanya – I have to humbly apologize… in my zeal and enthusiasm, I made an error – the professor narrating the video is Ananya Roy, not Arundhati Roy. I was delving into the Global POV project @ Berkley, who helped produce the video, and then I realized my mistake. As a student of journalism, I’m sure you realize how fact checks are so important. Opps… Anyways, Arundhati also has a similar perspective, and I’m certain you would still enjoy her writings and philosophy. By the way – I plan to re-blog this post and the video, most likely on the weekend.Thanks again for sharing it.

    • Very cool that you looked into the Global POV Project! I’m planning on doing more research to learn more about them, too. And thanks for the correction. Thanks in advance for the reblog!

  6. Reblogged this on through the luminary lens and commented:
    Tanya over on ‘Illuminate’, brings us this excellent 13.33 minute “must see” video that exposes the truth about the American Welfare system. It concludes with details of the arising movement in the emerging economies of the global south for a Guaranteed Minimum Income, a modern day New Deal. This creative analysis is produced by Evolve Video and the Global POV Project at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, University of Berkley. All sources are cited.

    Tanya is studying journalism in New York and she wants us to remember, “knowledge is truly power… my goal is to empower people to create change in society.” Thank you, Tanya.

  7. Ms. Roy who sermonizes the whole world fails to talk about her own personal discretion. How she grabbed the land belonging to poor tribal people to build a luxurious home for themselves. She fails to talk about her own family connection with left wing politics and corrupt media houses. Get a glimpse from the other side of her carefully cultivated image here

    It pays to be a detractor, and handsomely well if you are willing to be a puppet in denouncing your own country and the majority religion – no risk also in doing so when the country & religion are harmless is India and Hinduism, respectively.

    By the way, it is important to note that Ms. Roy behind her excellent command over English language facade (which we poor hindi speaking type people can never match) also supports terrorism across India.

  8. I can’t watch the video due to my data limitations 😦 but I am still sharing this on my FB page. I’m afraid most who will pay attention will be “the choir”, those who most need to hear this message will refuse to even consider it.

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