“The lessons of history … show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”Two thoughts, if you're willing to put up with them long enough to read them:
These searing words about Depression-era welfare are from Franklin Roosevelt’s 1935 State of the Union Address. FDR feared this self-reliant people might come to depend permanently upon government for the necessities of their daily lives. Like narcotics, such a dependency would destroy the fiber and spirit of the nation.
What brings his words to mind is news that 41.8 million Americans are on food stamps, and the White House estimates 43 million will soon be getting food stamps every month. A seventh of the nation cannot even feed itself.
...a Food Stamp Act was signed into law by LBJ appropriating $75 million for 350,000 individuals in 40 counties and three U.S. cities.
Yet when Richard Nixon took office, 3 million Americans were receiving food stamps at a cost of $270 million.
By the time he left office in 1974, the food stamp program was feeding 16 million Americans at an annual cost of $4 billion.
Fast forward to 2009. The cost to taxpayers of the U.S. food stamp program hit $56 billion. The number of recipients and cost of the program exploded again last year.
Among the reasons is family disintegration. Forty percent of all children in America are now born out of wedlock. Among Hispanics, it is 51 percent. Among African-Americans, it is 71 percent.
Food stamps are feeding children abandoned by their own fathers. Taxpayers are taking up the slack for America’s deadbeat dads.
Obesity rates have soared. Forty percent of all the kids in city public schools from kindergarten through eighth grade are overweight or obese.
Among poor kids, whose families depend on food stamps, the percentages are far higher. Mothers of poor kids use food stamps to buy them sugar-heavy soda pop, candy and junk food.
The Department of Agriculture in 2004 denied a request by Minnesota that would have disallowed food stamp recipients from using them for junk food. To grant the request, said the department, would “perpetuate the myth” that food stamps users make poor shopping decisions.
But is that a myth or an inconvenient truth?
What we have accepted today is a vast permanent underclass of scores of millions who cannot cope and must be carried by the rest of society — fed, clothed, housed, tutored, medicated at taxpayer’s expense for their entire lives. We have a new division in America: those who pay a double fare, and those who forever ride free.
We Americans are not only not the people our parents were, we are not the people we were. FDR was right about what would happen to the country if we did not get off the narcotic of welfare.
1) FDR was indeed right. Personally, I don't think he really gave a rat's rear end; I am pretty sure that like most leftists, he thought that no price would be too high to pay for the expansion of government. But look at what's happened via the so-called "Great Society" programs, through our so-called "War on Poverty": bluntly, poverty won. The number of "poor" people has not diminished, it has increased. Part of this is because government keeps defining poverty in such a way as to continually guarantee that a lot of people will qualify for these government handouts. It's a good way to keep the serfs dependent, you know. Part of this is because, just as FDR and many others have noted, the availability of handouts is destructive to the work ethic. In economics, this is known as a "moral hazard." It is a real thing, not some chimera dreamed up by right-wing fanatics who want to see babies starve.
The upshot is that anti-poverty programs do little to alleviate or reduce poverty; instead, they escalate and exacerbate it.
2) Money is fungible. If you're not familiar with this concept, I will briefly explain: one dollar substitutes for any other dollar. A dollar you receive in food stamps is a dollar that you can now spend on gasoline, on internet service, on cigarettes, on beer, etc. It is because money is fungible that those of us who are not on food stamps--and I am not trying to be overly judgmental here, I am well aware that in this economy, people who never expected to be on food stamps are getting them--are constantly gobsmacked to see those who are talking on their cell phones in the Wal-Mart checkout line. "How the dickens can they be on food stamps and afford a cell phone?" people ask?
The answer is obvious: it is because they are on food stamps that they can still afford a cell phone, or cable tv, or soda pop, or beer, or cigarrettes.
One of the most indelible impressions I have received in my adult life forever reinforced the concept that money is fungible. At one church, I used to go out on visitation quite regularly. We went in teams, and one night, one of the members of my team was an elderly lady who happened to be in charge of the church's benevolence ministry. That night, she wanted to go visit a family who'd come to the pantry for food assistance, and to whom we'd given, of course, some food.
Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the home and found, to the best of my recollection, four men, all drunk out of their minds on beer. "How," you might ask, "did they afford beer when they were in such desperate straights as to go begging for food?" The answer is, again, obvious: it was not so much that they were desperate for food. They were desperate for beer, and did not want to spend their beer money on food for the family. So they went to the church, and the church, in essence, via the fungibility of money, bought their beer for them. Let me hammer that home for those who aren't getting it: one dollar substitutes for any other dollar. The dollars that household received in food became dollars spent on beer. We bought their beer, we just didn't know it.
Now, let me carry this into a wider context: because money is fungible, in a very real sense, when we give people food stamps, we are often not buying them food. We are buying them all the things that they would like to have but otherwise would not be able to afford. Because they have been freed from the burden of a realistic food budget, they can now buy other things.
How does it feel to be taxed for the sake of paying for other people's cell phones? Because that is exactly what's being done to you. And ironically, all that government taxing and spending is part of what's killing the job market!