Recently, The Advocate published a story highlighting my concerns about threats to TOPS funding as a father of 11 children. To summarize responding comments on The Advocate and other online forums, I should consider myself a quite irresponsible welfare recipient.
One commenter from Lakeview objected to even a single student receiving TOPS at his expense. I wonder if this fellow took tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve his home at taxpayer expense to compensate for his free choice to live below sea level. If not, I suspect he would still refrain from characterizing his neighbors as welfare abusers.
Several other commenters touted their responsibility in having 0 to 2 children while condemning my (and my wife’s) reproductive choice and the idea of contributing anything to another person’s education.
By the same concepts of responsibility and welfare abuse, I would ask these people just whom they expect to fund their retirement benefits. The mathematical facts are that most people outlive their FICA contributions by far, and a public retirement system cannot continue to exist in a population where everyone chooses to have 0 to 2 children.
To be clear, I am not judging anyone else for their reproductive choices, but I would ask the commenters who condemned my choice to reconsider if they plan to collect a government retirement check at my children’s expense.
As a blind person, I could have begun receiving a full retirement-equivalent Social Security benefit (not SSI) before I had a family and well before age 30 with collateral benefits and Pell grants added for any children along the way. Many times, it seemed Social Security would be the only option as I have faced the same odds as other blind people (70 percent exclusion from the workforce or 30 percent lower wages). Despite seven years of college with honors-level achievement, I’ve had to deal with unemployment, temporary employment, employment below my skill level, and being asked to leave a job because clients might feel uncomfortable interacting with a blind person. But through perseverance, the grace of God, and the one person who consented to hire me into a decent job, I have been able to continue working and providing for my family.
Welfare seeker in the ugly sense intended by the Internet commenters? No.
Young adults today face a considerable and growing challenge to complete their education and find employment that matches their potential. I hope the Legislature keeps this in mind when considering changes to TOPS.
One commenter suggested that I, like Othello, have loved too well but not wisely. Perhaps, but remember that the wisdom of men is foolishness with God … and to public retirement systems.