The Construction of Welfare Fraud

This blog looks at Mosher’s argument in regards to the construction of welfare fraud and compares it to Person A’s real life experience and views on the construction of welfare fraud.

Mosher states that the past decade has seen many changes made to the welfare program. These changes have transformed the system from one that provides relief to a contract-like agreement where it requires the recipient to be involved in work or other activities involving the want to work in order to maintain welfare. These changes have been very important in the making of the lean state. The lean state, according to Mosher, consists of employment, at the bottom end of the labor market , that is insecure. The lean state delivers part time work, low wages, barely any benefits, and can end at any time with short notice.  Mosher continues to explain that a change occured in the 1970s which was influenced by neoliberalism. This new change meant that now the province can set the rate of the amount of money needed per person. Previously, benefit levels would depend on basic requirements needed. However, the interpretation of the  basic requirements needed was now up to the government. Social programs were being cut to make room for the market as it was thought that people would make their needs met via the market and not through the state.  With neoliberalism comes ” the rule of the market, cutting public expenditure for social services, deregulation [ of government],  and eliminating the concept of the public good and community” [ Martinez & Garcia].  It only made sense to cut programs so people can turn into citizens that rely on themselves. However, it would not be that easy. Although, neoloberalism’s goal was to kill citizen’s feeling of entitlement to government support for basic needs it was not helpful to citizens.

Mosher argues that the governnment was fully aware of “welfare fraud” and had a goal to take action to eliminate it. By doing so, it “. . . successfully constructed welfare fraud as a social problem spinning out of control and requiring increasingly aggressive and punitive measures to address” [ Mosher, p 216]. Mosher explains the government would provide evidence of this social problem via official statistics. Mosher goes on to say that “the lack of definitional clarity and precision as to just what constitutes welfare fraud . . .” contributed to the problem of the construction of welfare fraud.

Similarly, Person A’s remarks reflect Mosher’s analysis on welfare fraud. Person A is asking where the government’s accountability is for the lack of protection given to its vulnerable citizens. Person A demonstrates that the system is set up for the failure of welfare being enough to cover the basic requirements of a family. Person A’s experiences, as they are listed in her own words, prove that the neoiliberal society the governement aimed to reach fails to provide welfare recipients, on purpose. Person A’s words show that there is little room to move before the government can claim you have “lied” and little money coming in before the government can claim it is your “income”.  She may be correct in saying that the government wants to make monsters out of people using welfare. Monsters, in the context Person A is stating , in which people are lying by not showing all their income for the month; in order to maximize what little they do receive.  Monsters, also in the context that other citizens look at them as monsters that are leeching on the system for money rather then going out and working for it. I think it is very easy to look at people on welfare as lazy or not wanting to work. Personally, I struggle with not stereotyping them as a group of people that are clogging the system. As we discussed in class, the system is set up in a way that it creates intra class conflict. Leaving another citizen thinking that welfare recipients are lazy or even possibly monsters.

In conclusion, I have to agree with Mosher and Person A that the system is set up to create welfare fraud as a detterent for people to use the system. Person A’s first hand experiences tell us that it is a struggle to maintain welfare without the fear of breaking a rule that may not even be known to you. Mosher’s explanation that the government shows eveidence that there are many people taking part in the fraud through official statistics show that only half the story is being told. Although, I agree with both Person A and Mosher in their arguements and explanation of welfare fraud i cannot help but think if we change the system by framing the following question if it will change anything. The question is: ” are you currently on any illegal drugs” and there should be a follow up with drug tests for potential recipients. Failure to pass a drug test would result in no welfare. The more I think of this, the more I realize there would still be conflict with the welfare system. Now, people may stereotype them as just plain lazy. Perhaps, there is no winning when it comes to the welfare system in many ways;including the fairness from the government and its people.

References

Martinez, E., & Garia A. Corp Watch: Holding corporations accountable: What is neoliberalism? . Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

Comack, E. (2006). Locating law: race,class,gender,sexuality connections(2nd ed.).Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing

Attached picture: the irony of hiring a lawyer when you are on welfare

Welfare Fraud

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One response to “The Construction of Welfare Fraud

  1. This is a great post. Your discussion of your own temptation to adopt and internalize the stereotyping of welfare recipients is illustrative of the power of social construction – and the importance of reflexive thinking.

    Note that the concept of a ‘lean state’ is closely tied to the concept of ‘precarity’ – a useful term that applies to processes, structures, and relationships that are highly contingent, temporary, and / or lacking protections. The (neoliberal) lean state reproduces precarious relations of labour.

    The question of mandatory drug testing for recipients of social assistance is interesting. It positions surveillance and regulation as potential solutions to perceived fraud. I wonder, though – does subjecting a group of people to a regime of biological surveillance not represent more of a problem than the prospect of occasional fraud?