As an American, here is my experience with the welfare system:
A few years ago, when me and my now wife were early in our relationship my wife lost her job after 12 years. She worked full time and part of her pay goes into the system. Not long before i met her she had a baby girl (my now step-daughter). Her job was moved to Mexico so she was laid off.
So now she is a single mother with no job and no baby daddy to step in. By some calculations she should have went out and bougth a Lexus along with some 4-wheelers, but thats not how it works. She recieved a small amount of money each week from the government. Not enough to support her child. Right around this time is when i entered the picture. I knew her from work so she stayed with me. She proceeeded to take advantage of the government, not by buying cadillacs but by taking LNA classes. within 4 months she had a new job thanks to her newly learned skills and was now comnpletely off the system.
This is how the system is supposed to work. She payed into the system and got something from the system. She is now an Obama supporter, because help was there when she needed it. She didnt complain she just did what needed to be done.
I think that your Wife's story is that of the overwhelming majority of people who have used the system at some point in their life. Right wingers have been perpetuating the myth of the welfare queens for decades now, they trot out one example or another of someone taking advantage of the system and use them as a brush to paint anyone else using the system as abusers and freeloaders. Even though the the majority of people (68%) who are on some form of social assistance have recently paid into the system themselves are seniors or veterans. You may be asking, what is the welfare fraud estimate in the US? Most cities tracking fraud rates are reporting less than 2% (Philedelphia, which has reported on the high side, found that out of 95,000 recipients there were between 200 and 300 cases of fraud each year).
add to that the fact that most of the 'low income benifits' are not paid-in-cash…
Kind of dispels the myth of the Cadillac driving welfare queen when 10% of the portion of assistance allocated to low-income recipients (29%) is given in cash, with an estimated 2-3% fraud rate.
Look at what the house did recently with the food stamp debates. They used one unsubstantiated story of someone buying crab legs and steaks with food stamps and used that narrative to cut food stamp funding for the poor by 40 Billion over the next ten years, while recent statistics have the top one percent of the populations earning a greater share of income then at any time in human history. The irony is that some of the representatives cutting the food stamp program have taxpayer funded food allowances exceeding $200 PER DAY and they are cutting funding for people who have a maximum of $200 PER MONTH subsidy (most recipients don't even qualify for that). Which by the way, food stamps have proven to be one of the most stimulative forms of assistance because every dollar given is spent (unlike tax cuts for the wealthy who largely just save the additional income, probably in giant coin banks, see illustration below).