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Theresa Funiciello

  • Except to poor people themselves, poverty is megabusiness.

    • Theresa Funiciello,
    • interview ()
  • There's a group of Americans who are fully employed. They aren't very well paid or they're not paid at all. They're called mothers; and I've never heard of a mother who wasn't a working mother. And that includes the mothers on welfare.

    • Theresa Funiciello,
    • speech ()
  • Most social welfare programs get their funding not for being good at what they do but for being politically connected to the sources of the money.

    • Theresa Funiciello,
    • speech ()
  • While motherhood is sometimes touted, mothers are accorded little common respect and no claim to the public purse absent the requisite and sometimes brutal indigities of charitable, judicial, or administrative scrutiny.

  • ... incompetence is a heavy contender with greed as prime motivator of the bureaucracy. ... any time there's money to be had, every manner of opportunist crawls out for a piece. Combined, these fundamentals form the basis of public policy.

  • It didn't take too much intelligence to figure out the idiocy of paying thousands of dollars a month to 'shelter' a homeless family instead of paying for a real apartment. Various layers of government blamed one another — but they were setting the rules, not Martians. Taxpayers were bilked and poor people were sacrificed as hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into the sinkholes of the social welfare establishment. Shelters. Soup kitchens. Name it. Nationwide, poverty is big business — as long as you are politically connected.

  • ... the poverty industry has become a veritable fifth estate. Acting as stand-ins for actual poor people, they mediate the politics of poverty with government officials. The fifth estate is a large and ever-growing power bloc that routinely and by whatever means necessary trades off the interests of poor people to advance its own parochial agenda. From the charities fleecing the state and the public, to the champagne fund-raisers charged off to Uncle Sam ... the fix is in.

  • The [inner-city] rioting was a total enigma to most people — in the wake of all the anti-poverty legislative gifts. But poor people were neither receiving the money directly nor truly influencing how it would be spent ... monies said to be for them ... for the most part were getting nowhere near actual poor people.

  • As the agencies that did cash in [on the welfare business] grew and reinvented themselves, it became apparent that they were in an inherent conflict of interest with poor people. Welfare mothers, for instance, wanted an adequate guaranteed income, which would have rendered many of the activities of the social welfare professionals meaningless. The agencies wanted a guaranteed income, too: for themselves. With the money and power to lobby effectively, they got it.

  • As the misery of poor people increased, so did the cacophony of private interests competing for government contracts, foundation grants, donations by individuals and corporations, and tax advantages for the donations to 'correct' their version of the problem. The only people who did not cash in, the only ones absent from the debate in any public way, as ever, were poor.

  • The national psyche purged itself from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s in the War on Poverty only to wage war on poor people.

  • Charities that purport to represent poor people abuse the public trust in an endless quest for larger budgets, career advancement, and political power ...

  • [On welfare:] It is a crude and irrational system of income distribution, usually capricious and often downright cruel.

  • ... poverty is the number-one killer of children in the United States. Doctors don't say so, at least not in so many words, because poverty isn't a medical affliction — it's an economic and social one. It kills all the same.

  • Think of the worst experience you've ever had with a clerk in some government service job — motor vehicles, hospital, whatever — and add the life-threatening condition of impending starvation or homelessness to the waiting line, multiply the anxiety by an exponent of ten, and you have some idea of what it's like in a welfare center.

  • [Social] workers have this attitude that the welfare is coming right out of their pockets — an outlook the hierarchy likes to cultivate.

  • ... the nonprofit service sector has never been richer (in terms of share of the gross national product and jobs), more powerful, or less accountable. It is the only significant power bloc that is essentially unregulated, in spite of the fact that most of its money comes from the government, through either direct service contracts or tax expenditures. ... Taxpayers foot the bill. Poor people suffer the consequences.

  • Ours is not a nation without food but one of vast, embarrassing abundance. The issue of individual families' poverty could not be solved by returning them to the stone age of breadlines. Establishing institutionalized begging sites was never a solution. It wasn't food that was missing. Poor people lacked the normal means of access: money.

  • It's expensive keeping people poor.

  • ... our social welfare system suspended common sense years ago.

  • You can't buy a loaf of bread with a social worker. After all, most social workers are not the merciful equivalent of rocket scientists, and Mother Teresa is neither the model nor the norm for the profession.

  • Some [charities] may have been started with truly beneficent intentions, but even these finally give way to a pragmatism that shifts focus away from 'helping the poor' and toward sustaining the institutions. These dual objectives come increasingly to be at odds ...

  • Welfare as we know it cannot be fixed. Tinkering with it for decades has accomplished little of value. Bureaucracies within bureaucracies have bloomed, mutations of a polluted society. Too many contradictory interests compete at the public trough in the name of poor people.

  • Every mother is a working mother.

Theresa Funiciello, U.S. welfare reform advocate

(1947)