By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
Bells ring, hearts swell and donations to the needy soar during the Christmas season. But could this kind of giving ever replace welfare? Private charity would be “more efficient, more personal, more loving and, ultimately, more effective,” according to a report issued this month by the Independent Women’s Forum that reveals how the nation’s $900 billion a year welfare system harms Americans of every income bracket.
Despite more than 70 federal means-tested welfare programs, as of last year some 49 million Americans — 16 percent of the nation — remain in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The IWF analysis “Welfare and Charity: Two Different Things” shows how many programs create counter-productive incentives, reduce economic growth and actually serve to keep poor people poor rather than helping them move beyond their financial crisis.
“Instead of offering poor Americans the basic choice between productive hard work and nonproductive hardship, the welfare state rewards nonproductive behavior and makes it a more attractive option than it should be,” writes policy analyst Hadley Heath. For example research shows that extended unemployment benefits are linked with longer periods of non-employment. This is not surprising when, in some cases, government assistance programs provide more money than a worker could earn in a low-skilled, entry level job.
Is it any wonder that such a system produces dependency and allows people to not only forgo employment opportunities but also to refuse to adjust their lifestyles to a reduced budget? A recent blog post on The College Conservative by 20-year-old Providence College student Christine Rousselle illustrates the problem and has garnered more than 600,000 views, an indication of how angry working Americans are about welfare abuses.
Rousselle, who spent the past two summers as a Wal-Mart cashier in Maine, described people busily chatting on their $200 iPhones while the state (i.e. taxpayers) paid for their food; others using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to buy such “necessities” as earrings, beer and slip-and-slides; and food stamp money spent on steaks, lobsters, and giant birthday cakes. She even revealed the creative business plan of a hotdog stand operator who used his food stamp funds to bankroll his business.
“Spending on welfare has increased dramatically, but there has been no reduction of the poverty rate. Something is going terribly wrong, and the things I saw at work were indicators of a much larger problem,” Rousselle wrote of her home state, where nearly 30 percent of the population is on some form of welfare.
One aspect of that “much larger problem” discussed in the IWF report is the fact the welfare system’s biggest cost to taxpayers isn’t even the aid handed out, but the ever growing bureaucracy that administers the programs. The report points out that the $950 billion spent on welfare equals almost $19,400 per impoverished person, roughly $77,600 for a family of four, almost three and a half times the federal poverty level. But paying bureaucrats to administer the programs eats up much of the resources. Further, handouts that teach poor people that they are incapable of supporting themselves rob them of dignity and pave the way for self-destructive behavior.
In contrast to government programs, which have no incentive to efficiently use resources, private charities have to compete for donations and show that they are using them responsibly. Further, the IWF report shows that charities have more interaction with recipients and can better address ways they can permanently improve their lives.
Most importantly, private charities remind Americans that it is our role, not the government’s, to love our neighbors and help those in need.
“In fact, the Scriptures do not authorize the government to be involved in these areas of life at all,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The Christian ideal is a government committed to procuring justice by protecting the life, liberty and property of all. Could there be a ‘worse case scenario’ than that of taking money out of the hands of private citizens, most of whom know how to invest it wisely, and giving it instead to the government to pour down a bureaucratic rat hole?”
“To put it bluntly, just because someone is hungry or sick that doesn’t give me the right to go to my neighbor and force by gun or other means he give to relieve that hunger or illness,” he added. “The state has no such right either. The Eighth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not steal applies to governments, as well as to individuals.’”
Dr. Creech said today our government has essentially become the “opiate of the people.”
“We look to it to solve all our problems, but in doing so we preempt the genius of private enterprise, the power of private charity, and the profound influence of the church,” he added. “All of these serve to make us a better people — to increase the national character — to serve the public more effectively. But if we continue to look to the government as a panacea for all our woes, then we are typically left with the same problems in a new form and in a larger way.”
The Independent Women’s Forum report said welfare reform should focus on restoring programs to their original intent, that of helping “the most vulnerable in society: the disabled, widows, orphans, or families who experience unexpected hardship and need temporary aid.” Not only would reform lower government spending, but it would boost the economy and restore the social safety net — programs that are temporary and help people through crises and back to self-sufficiency, the report says.
“The United States is among the wealthiest countries in the world. The best way to share or spread that wealth isn’t welfare, or even charity. It is the many opportunities for free exchange and wealth creation that the free market provides,” Heath concludes.
To learn more, log on to http://www.iwf.org/publications/2436012/Welfare-and-Charity:-Two-Different-Things.