By Gus Gargle, Proboscis Rural Affairs Correspondent
CARP HOLE, AL—Jerry Burlap was raised on good, rural American values: Hard work and clean living. He was raised to believe that a man could provide for himself and his family, no matter what. That as long as a man had a strong back, good Christian Values, and a willingness to work hard, nothing could stop him from being successful. He was raised to believe that welfare was something for the lazy, shameless poors, inner city minorities who spit out dozens of children to mooch off of government benefits, who went generations without even considering finding a job.
But times are hard in Carp Hole. When the John Deere factory closed, Jerry found himself out of work, along with most of the rest of the town. The local Wal-mart wasn’t hiring, and no matter how hard Jerry pulled on his bootstraps, he couldn’t seem to find a way to support himself and his family. Faced with a large, systemic issue with deep social and economic underpinnings that prevented him from being able to find work—no matter how capable or willing he was—Jerry decided he needed help.
“I mean, I ain’t had nothin’ handed to me,” says Jerry, “My whole life, I worked hard to feed my family. And was it because of government handouts? No. It was because I worked hard. Also because a major employer made the decision to build a factory in my town, which then funded the schools that gave me an education and provided the tax base that made Carp Hole a decent place to live. Of course, John Deere got government subsidies and all, but you know what I mean.”
“They need something to help folks like me,” Jerry says, “I mean, it ain’t my fault I can’t find work. What we need is some kind of system, like a… what would we call it, like a net, for safety, provided by society. Some kind of . . . security. For society. To ensure people’s welfare. Or something like that. But the thing is, I want to make it real clear, that I don’t want welfare. Welfare is for those people, you know? Not honest, hard-workin’ country folk like myself. I ain’t some welfare queen, I just live someplace where there ain’t no work, and I can’t move, due to a combination of family obligations and socioeconomic factors, and them same social and economic factors prevent me from goin’ back to school, so’s I can compete in the modern economy. Completely different from them lazy folk in the city.”
Mindful of the acute shame felt by people in Jerry’s situation, the Alabama state government has begun issuing “Country Folk Welfare.”
Says state spokeswoman Myrna Flaggle, “We want to make sure that people know, this isn’t the same welfare that poor blacks and illegal immigrants mooch off of so that they can do drugs all day and have dozens of welfare babies when they’re not out committing rapes and crimes. This is welfare for good people. The honest, hard working salts of the earth, who are just having a hard time because of a lack of opportunity due to factors completely outside of their control. Good, normal, blameless folk. It’s completely different from that other kind of welfare.”
The benefits of the two welfare systems are entirely identical. However, while Country Folk Welfare is given out freely to hardworking, honest Americans who are down on their luck, and can be used to buy honest American products—like Budweiser, steak, and bullets, Urban Welfare is subject to a laundry list of restrictions, including proof of citizenship and drug testing. All Urban Welfare cards are equipped with a miniature drug test which must be passed at the point of sale before the card can be used to buy groceries. Also, the edges of the card have been modified so it cannot be used to chop up crack cocaine.
“Regular welfare makes me sick,” says Jerry. “It just enables folks in the big cities so they can do drugs all day and have a bunch of babies. I mean, why are we wasting money on them, when we need to help good folks who need help. Like my cousins that are all hooked on meth. I wish there was something we could for them. Or my sister LouAnne, because she’s pregnant again. I sure wish the government could help her out.”