I think the controversy started because the original pinterest post noted that the welfare recipient had an iphone and a mani/pedi. Obviously the iphone could have been from before the need for assistance and they couldn't have gotten out of the contract or needed a smart phone to aid in their job search. The mani/pedi is another story - unless that also is related to the job search. Who knows.
I've said before - and I'll repeat - "welfare" is NOT easy to get, nor is it very much money. Real "welfare" (actually TANF - temporary assistance to needy families) is only about $300 or $400 a month - hardly enough to live on. In many states it is much, much lower. And there are many requirements associated with obtaining welfare including drug testing in some states and, in all states, attendance at job search programs. In some states, there is also a lifetime limit as to how long you can collect benefits. For instance, in Idaho the limit is two years - total for your whole adult lifetime.
Other assistance programs, namely food stamps (SNAP) and Medicaid, have a lower threshold for qualification but they are just as burdensome as far as requirements such as the job search provision and the lifetime limit. The threshold is determined by the poverty rate in your area for your family size.
Medicaid is the easiest to qualify for but that is because mostly it is just children and some pregnant women who get it. Adults without children DO NOT qualify for any of these benefits (unless you're a refugee and other minor exceptions; immigrants legal or illegal don't qualify). If you don't have children, you're SOL. Medicaid also doesn't usually cover dental care. If you see a childless adult with state provided medical coverage they are almost always on disability. Thank the Social Security system for that program.
Food stamps is probably the most lucrative program but it is awarded on a sliding scale depending on your income - verified independently not just based on what the person reports. Food stamps can be up to $125 a week per person in the household. Again, the household has to have children to qualify. An elderly husband and wife wouldn't qualify. Often the food stamp award is less. Since hubby was receiving unemployment, we got far less than the maximum. If I remember we got something like $275 for the month - for a family of three. They'll tell you up front that with the food stamp program you ARE expected to supplement the food budget so even people on disability are expected to kick in some toward their own food. Food stamps is designed to keep you from starving. It isn't there to keep you healthy. It isn't meant to even provide a nutritionally complete source of food.
Other programs, one that always appalls me, is housing assistance. Some people get nice - really, really nice - apartments for almost nothing. I know a woman who had two kids and she got a three bedroom, two-story townhouse for only $48 a month. Housing assistance is probably the most abused government benefit but it is still very difficult to get because you have to find your own apartment, then get the assistance.
Other than that, there are all the "free-bees" that come with being very poor. There are clothing assistance programs, especially for kids at back-to-school. There are food banks which provide the basics which means people can go out to the grocery store and just buy meat and other refrigerator items with their food stamp money. There are all sorts of ways to get lower cost utilities and even free furniture. Mississippi has a low-cost cellphone program for poor families and most land-line phone companies have a "lifeline" rate (about $12 a month).
The one policy that makes all this very tough is, with the sudden downturn in the economy where people who used to be doing very well are now out of work for a long period of time, the Health & Welfare Dept lifted some of the financial thresholds. For instance, it used to be you couldn't own a house or a car that was worth over a certain amount of money. However, the government soon realized that one of the reasons people still had these items (a nice house, a nice car) was because they couldn't sell them for what they were really worth. I know people who would try to sell valuable items to make ends meet - a nice leather couch, for instance - and people would make ridiculously low offers because they knew the people needed money. Besides, with so many people falling on hard time, who was going to buy? On top of that, if most of your house or car was financed, you might not even be able to sell it and pay off the loan. Many people were underwater on their debts. So yes, someone could be driving their brand new Hummer to the welfare office but little do we know that the vehicle is about to be repossessed.
Anyway, my point is that welfare (TANF, food assistance, Medicaid and housing assistance) really isn't that easy to get and even if you get it, it really isn't a luxurious lifestyle. If you know people who are living "high on the hog" while getting these benefits, they are either lying to you or they are cheating the system. For instance, you can't be a college student and collect welfare / food stamps - even if you're a grad student trying to get your law degree. When people are doing those things, they're lying somewhere to someone.