LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Yarnell off the mark in convo criticism

I would like to respond to Mr. Yarnell’s remarks on the May 22nd convocation by William Julius Wilson.

First of all, Mr. Yarnell brings up the story of the woman on a $7 an hour salary, who could not afford health care for her children. He makes it clear that we should be wary of women who make the irresponsible decision to have children, of all things. It is silly to ask whether we should support this woman if she “decided to have four kids? Or six? Where do you draw the line between ‘victimized’ and ‘irresponsible’?”

The fact is that she had two kids, and let’s stick to that. Now, I understand, as a male, Mr. Yarnell’s oversight of the male role in this situation. However, the fact remains that this woman did not impregnate herself. There are many single mothers on welfare and very few single fathers; where is the father of these children? He is unlikely to be supporting these children, leaving him better able to support himself and stay off welfare. Is he a better citizen than the mother? The part of the story involving the fathers of children raised by single mothers is what is not being heard. Universal health care is an important goal, regardless of how many children anyone has.

Say there were legitimately born children to a conventionally married couple, making enough to support themselves and live comfortably. What happens when energy prices rise during an unusually cold winter; when at least one parent is laid off and out of work an extended period; or their rents go up due to gentrification? Are the parents irresponsible for not foreseeing a poor economy? What if the father dies, leaving the woman with several children and little income? The fact is, many factors cause poverty, most of them “legitimate” enough to satisfy Mr. Yarnell. It seems odd to classify people as being poor for the right reasons or not. I’m sure that none of them think there is a good reason. Are we to judge them, help some, and leave others to rot in poverty? As humans, our responsibility is to help them, we who do not have these worries.

As someone who has received state aid from the WIC program when my father was laid off and incapacitated with a back injury for several months, my view may be biased. But no more so than that of one who has never been in a similar situation—there are many at this school who could benefit by Mr. Wilson’s wake-up call. I am disappointed that Mr. Yarnell’s opinion reflects the trend noted by Mr. Wilson as an American phenomenon: welfare recipients are poor because they are individually flawed.

Lastly, I would like to point out that, while I support a variety of views on this campus, I think it is pointless to label this convocation “liberal”. As Mr. Wilson pointed out, there is a consensus among liberals and conservatives on the aforementioned view of welfare recipients, making not a political issue, but one of simple human decency which I would hate to see stamped out by political posturing and pointless debate.

–Doug Wilber

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