The Destructive Consequences of a Crushing Welfare State
The modern welfare state has created a class of lazy people who feel they are entitled to government benefits even though they add no productive value to society.
The longer a person leeches onto social programs, the more idle they become. Being paid for idleness is habit-forming. Eventually, such people begin to feel as if the government “owes them.” They refuse jobs because they are “below them.” And why work for low wages and be inconvenienced, they say, when they can collect a decent sum from the government for doing nothing?
Committing Crime to Do Good
Modern conservatives (i.e., “neocons”) are no slouches when it comes to redistributing wealth, but the liberals seem to do it even better. Their MO seems to be to expand existing social programs and create new ones as fast as possible. They fund these social programs by forcibly taking money from hard-working people and giving it to people who are not working at all.
If a business operated this way, it is a numeric certainty that it would be bankrupt within a few months, probably less. But neither politicians nor American voters know much about running businesses or doing basic math. Indeed, nearly all of politics is fairy tales and unicorns — and reality be damned!
Now, the self-identified Democrats and liberals will attempt to defend their position. They will say things like this: “I’m liberal because I care about people…” as if non-liberals are more callous and cold-hearted than the average person.
In my experience, most people care about their fellow man regardless of party affiliation. And nearly all agree that we should help those who are less fortunate than we are. Where people differ is not in the outcome, but rather in the methods used.
Private vs. Public Charity
Traditionally, conservatives have argued that the less-fortunate ought to be cared for by private charity. American history shows that private charity was quite good at caring for the poor and the down-and-out. And it was positive for the beneficiaries as well because there was a greater level of accountability. Often they were required to do certain things to continue receiving aid.
Helping a neighbor directly is perhaps the best form of charity because it creates accountability and activates the law of reciprocity. Any normal person who accepts financial help from a neighbor will do everything in his power to earn a wage again so that he may repay his neighbor for his good deed.
Unfortunately, private charity took a big hit with the advent of the income tax. People had less disposable money to give to charity. As social programs grew through the confiscation of wealth, private charity naturally declined.
The Fruit of Liberal Robin Hoods
On the other side of the political spectrum, liberals believe that money should be stolen from productive hard-working people and given to people who are not working at all. This is their idea of “charity.”
Of course, they will not volunteer their own money to fund the social programs they imagine will improve society, but they will happily volunteer the money of “rich people.” And so today we have a bunch of Robin Hoods whose primary weapon is the voting booth.
For liberals, the ends justifies the means. They rob hard-working Peter to pay for couldn’t-be-bothered Paul. Somehow they believe this is a good thing, even though Paul becomes a lazy and unproductive member of society who can no longer take care of himself.
Speaking of Paul… here is a real man named Paul who called into a British radio program. The U.K. is similar to the U.S. in that both have enormous social programs that encourage long-term idleness at the expense of taxpayers. Paul has been unemployed for six or seven years and was recently offered a job. But he turned it down because he felt it was unfair that he’d have to be at work by 8 a.m. See for yourself:
As you can see, a public charity is inefficient and extremely susceptible to fraud. This is because “The Government” is a faceless entity, so welfare recipients have no qualms about taking money from it or bending the rules to increase their take. In truth, welfare recipients are stealing from individual taxpayers.
What’s more, public charity does not help people get back on their feet. Rather, it keeps them lying on their backs in relative ease.
The Government Safety Net Has Become a Hammock
Giacomo Knox, commenting on this article — The Poor in America Before the Welfare State — made this observation:
How did we get along without all these gov’mint programs before 1900? We did just fine, thank you. Now we’ve turned a government safety net into a hammock, and it’s straining under the weight of too many “sleepers”.
In the U.S. there are now a record 47.7 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called “Food Stamps” for short. In 1970, just one person in 50 was enrolled in the program. Today that number has ballooned to one person out of every 6.5. The average benefit is $278.89 monthly per household.
Here’s how it works:
On the first of each month, people enrolled in the program get money from the government deposited directly into their EBT account. EBT stands for “Electronic Benefit Transfer.” They can then spend the money using their EBT card and it looks just like they are shopping with a debit card.
The EBT card has eliminated the shame that used to be experienced when paying with paper food stamps at the cash register. In fact, many people actually seem proud they’re living on the government dole. After Obama was reelected in November 2012, you could witness the welfare junkies rejoicing on Twitter that they’d get to keep their food stamps. “Yep bitches Obama won we get to keep our foodstamps,” was but one example of many.
Shockingly, EBT money can be spent on far more than mere “necessities.” Due to the popularity of the EBT program, a growing number of stores are accepting them. Fast food chains like Sonic and clothing stores like Ross now accept EBT cards and advertise this on the front of their stores. And EBT-enabled ATMs are being used to take out cash inside liquor stores, strip clubs, and X-rated shops.
Recipients of public charity are no longer content with mere basic necessities — they expect the government to also pay for luxuries and vices that most working people don’t even enjoy! My friend and mentor shares the following story:
I remember when S. and I were newly married, we agreed to go pick up a poor woman from her home and bring her to church. We did that for several weeks. I don’t know if we stopped after this particular incident, but I recall one week, as we were driving her home, she made a comment that left our jaws dropped. Here she was, about 50 years old, hadn’t worked for pay a day in her life, her husband hadn’t worked “forever,” her grown children had never worked . . . -the entire family was on the dole . . . and she complained to us: “I couldn’t get no pork chops this week! They didn’t give me enough so I could buy me my pork chops!”
And S. and I looked at each other — I don’t recall whether and/or what we said to our passenger, but — I know we thought (and expressed to each other afterward): “The gall! We have never had pork chops . . . because we couldn’t afford them. I didn’t/we didn’t make enough money to buy pork chops. . . . But here’s this woman, who doesn’t even work, complaining because — in essence — we people who were working, we taxpayers, were so greedy, we wouldn’t give her the pork chops that she [thought she] should have.”
This entitlement attitude has spread through the U.S. like a virus. Ayn Rand predicted as much in her classic novel Atlas Shrugged.
People generally do as little work as possible for as much money as possible. So when government social programs offer money for nothing, it tends to suck in more and more people every year.
Those who are struggling to make ends meet may see that they can earn more by not working. And so the labor pool shrinks while the tab to support idle non-workers grows. Those still working must pay an increasing share of their income each year to pick up the tab.
As I mentioned earlier, being paid for idleness is habit-forming. Or, as New Deal architect Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, government relief is a “narcotic.” And what do narcotics do? They take away pain and discomfort, which has the unfortunate effect of removing the motivation a person needs to do anything about his problems.
Maybe this is why Ben Franklin said, “the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”
And America’s fourth president, James Madison, said, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”
I’m quite sure that both Franklin and Madison would be appalled by the modern American welfare state. I doubt they could have imagined how far we’ve departed from the ideas and principles that were widespread at the time of the country’s founding.
Just as more government money is not the answer to our nation’s education problems, more government money is not the answer to our nation’s poverty problems. The answer is in eliminating government charity and replacing it with voluntary private charity that provides greater accountability and more face-to-face interaction between the givers and the recipients.
-Ryan M. Healy