I left the States many years ago and ended up having a child abroad, as one does. A few years back, after an ill-fated attempt to live in the US with my kid in the middle of a bitter custody battle, I returned to my adopted EU member state to exercise my visitation rights. Though I’d been a working resident alien here for years, the litigation’s aftermath left me without my child and extremely depressed—and thus disinclined to continue to bust ass for the state. Since then, I’ve been on and off the dole—with help from family at home and friends here.
Now, I’m happy to report, my kid lives with me again. But I see no fantastic job in my near future, or at least not one that would allow me to hang out with, listen to, cook for, and watch films with her. It feels so important to finally be able to do all those things together.
Not that I’m lazy! I’m very active in the local social-justice scene. But I also feel a need to be involved at home. So, Liza, my question to you is: Would it be appropriate for me to divert some of my European welfare benefits to the Bernie Sanders campaign? I can spare a few euros thanks to my social and family network.
—Bernie Broad Abroad
How wonderful that your kid lives with you again, and that you are spending real time together.
You’re right to think seriously about how you use these benefits; social democracy works best when people can trust each other to make sound use of public funds. I would not, for example, condone diverting your government checks into a criminal enterprise or investments in ExxonMobil.
But welfare should help people not only to survive, but to be full citizens, which includes engaging in the political process. Contributing money to candidates is (unfortunately) critical to genuine participation in the US electoral system. Jobless people in the United States receive such meager benefits that few enjoy the luxury of a dilemma like yours. If Americans ever do achieve a more generous welfare state, however, allowing recipients enough money to shape the political process, and encouraging them to do so, would be fair and sensible policy. The rich certainly aren’t shy about using their vast resources to do the same.
I also love that you’d be sending your European benefits to the only presidential candidate who favors inclusive, European-style public programs. It’s a fitting and thoughtful gesture toward a future in which more Americans share your freedoms.