People in poverty, people with disabilities, and other marginalized populations have a lot on their minds. One support government can offer to decrease their mental burden is the social safety net, which doesn’t just include income support like welfare and employment insurance but also includes laws and regulations to combat discrimination.
Conservatives have pointed to abuses of the system—so-called welfare queens, people allegedly committing voter fraud, and so on—to justify rolling back the safety net or imposing tough restrictions, which only increase mental burden on those who already have a huge mental load.
On a recent episode of 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper ran a story about people suing businesses for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act in what the owners likened to a “shakedown,” giving the right more ammunition to gut critical programs that allow people with disabilities to live with dignity in a world designed by and for non-disabled people. Attorney and disability rights advocate David Bekhour responded with an article explaining why the ADA is needed. The argument is essentially the one I made in an earlier post about people with invisible disabilities—who have the mental burden of justifying their need for services—writ large.
Retailers routinely account for shrinkage—inventory loss through theft and damage—as a cost of doing business. Why would we expect government safety-net programs to be perfect? Although I agree that we should take some steps to mitigate abuse, we should also acknowledge that abuses will happen and accept it as a cost of providing services to people in need. It’s a delicate balance, but if we accept that our government’s job should be to minimize our mental load, we should ensure that what we do to try to prevent abuse doesn’t just replace one barrier—and mental burden—with another.