Bob Thomas: Here’s an idea that would help end the welfare cycle

Many years ago while occasionally writing for the Sierra Sage, I tackled the subject of genuine welfare reform. It fell on blind eyes. Since then, nothing has changed. Welfare only confirms the laws of unintended consequences. Let me try again.

The last thing society should ever give welfare recipients is money. If they knew how to handle money, they probably wouldn’t be on welfare. Society should, however, provide shelter, food, clothing and education. Giving people welfare money so they can live in neighborhoods with working people is a wasteful farce. Everybody in the neighborhood knows who is and who isn’t on welfare, so self-esteem is delusional.

I envision welfare communities with attractive one-bedroom (600 square feet), two-bedroom (800 square feet) and three-bedroom (1,000 square feet) low-cost, two-story, frame town houses without kitchens or appliances, on several acres of open land.

This land would incorporate a central building housing an office, a mess hall, a store, a recreation room, a clinic, a storage area, a laundry room, a workshop and a TV room. Also on the site would be a public school — grades K-8 with an athletic field. High school kids would be public school-bused to the closest public high school.

This would all be free, with no strings attached. Adults wanting spending money would earn it by maintaining the grounds, working in the laundry area and mess hall and doing school maintenance, home maintenance, janitorial, trash-removal, general repairs, painting and security work. Municipal fare buses would take residents downtown to a central drop-off location and back again.

Advantages of the welfare community: 1) Nutritional food every day for everybody. No more lousy diets of exceptionally fat food, sodas and sweets. 2) Home-like and social environment. 3) Education on par with that at public schools. 4) Clean clothes for all and uniforms for school kids. 5) Mandatory school attendance in conformance with state law. 6) Lots of room to play outside. 7) No booze on premises. Beer, sodas and snacks must be purchased with money earned working in the community. 8) No private autos. 9) High school kids living on the premises would be able to participate in athletic and extracurricular school activities in the high school they are attending. Coaches would love that. The community would operate its own bus to pick up high school kids detained because of athletic or academic pursuits.

It’s criminal that psychologists and psychiatrists who’ve recreated our welfare messes over many decades can’t bring themselves to admit that a welfare community as proposed here, with a first-class school on the premises, would be the best motivation for kids to eventually get away from welfare and join the productive world. At least in my welfare community they would have the chance to get prepared, which they are obviously failing to do now. What is currently happening is a sham, a blatant lie. Self-esteem can only come from being productive in some way.

Now, what about welfare community residents who would like to get a regular job and leave the community? All they have to do is look at the want ads and apply for any job that open to them. Yes, they will need telephone money and bus fare, which they will have if they’ve been doing community work. If they do get an outside job, they can stay in the community for two more months, giving them time to earn a couple of paychecks and have money for rent and transportation.

It’s time we as a society did something constructive for people on welfare while eliminating waste, and cutting administrative costs. Now, can’t you just see a committee of psychologists and psychiatrists working this proposal over? Common sense doesn’t justify their years of study. Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?

Bob Thomas is a retired high-tech industrialist. His website is confessionsof


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