Welfare should end, but not for the usual reasons. The Right has long held, and the Left is coming reluctantly to agree, that welfare creates a culture of dependency, sapping the initiative of its recipients. In the slums right now a generation of illegitimate children raised fatherless on Aid to Families with Dependent Children is being encouraged by welfare to produce the next generation.
Welfare no doubt has this effect, but what is wrong with welfare is not that it harms its recipients—lack of ambition is no burden if ambition is not needed for survival—but its moral outrageousness.
Let us try, for once, to see welfare not from the perspective of its recipients, but from the perspective of those who finance it. By what right can someone who works for a living, who has his own family to worry about, be required to support somebody else, or, what is worse, somebody else’s illegitimate child? And forced the taxpayer is. Should he deduct from his tax payment the proportion the government will use for welfare, he is given a jail sentence, not a lecture on charity.
I am willing to grant that everyone is obliged to help the unfortunate, and that indifference to this obligation is a character defect. But compassion and charity are not the issue. The issue is forcible fulfillment of the duty of charity, or someone’s idea of what this duty entails. Let those who feel obligated to support the abandoned illegitimate children of strangers do so. But leave others to wrestle with their consciences as they see fit.
This is a democracy, and the majority, which evidently does feel this obligation, has acted on it by passing the laws that created welfare entitlements. But that does not make the laws right. Forcing someone to support the illegitimate children of strangers is wrong even when the forcing is done by a majority.
As soon as anyone voices a wish to eliminate welfare, a sort of hostage situation is created, wherein welfare advocates raise the prospect of illegitimate children born to poor women. It is asked what will happen to these misbegotten children if “we” do not care for them—with the implication that it will be “our” fault if they starve.
First of all, no one seriously doubts that there would be fewer illegitimate babies than there are now if it were made clear well in advance that on a certain date welfare—AFDC, food stamps, subsidized housing, the lot—was going to end.
But let us imagine an unmarried woman so uninformed and improvident that, without giving thought to how she might be supported were she to become pregnant, consents to intercourse, and does bear a child. If the conservative’s deus ex machina, “charity,” does not arrive on schedule, the child starves. But responsibility for assuring that the child does not starve presumably resides with whoever is responsible for the child itself. The mother is responsible, and so is the father; by all means let us make the father support his offspring. But I am not responsible. I didn’t impregnate the woman, or force her to have sex. Why then should I be forced to take care of it?
“How can you be so concerned with `responsibility’ and laying blame when a child is starving?” The answer is that I have to be concerned, or else I’m going to continue to help support that child as well as my own.
When “welfare reform” is undertaken for the wrong reasons, the reforms inevitably go in the wrong direction. The most appalling revelation about the plan submitted by Bill Clinton to “end welfare as we know it” is that its cost exceeds that of the welfare we know! The Clintonites make no bones of their enthusiasm for job training, childcare, and other new entitlements to encourage “independence.” In practice, this means that instead of merely having to support the illegitimate child of a stranger, the taxpayer will have to support daycare and the stranger’s vocational training as well.
We Are Individuals
Welfare rests on a fallacy and a myth. The fallacy is what logicians call Composition, reasoning from properties of the parts of a whole to properties of the whole. I am responsible for my children, you for yours; in this sense we are all responsible for our children. But then this “we” is surreptitiously interpreted to mean all of us collectively, so that “our” children become all children taken together. Suddenly “America” must take care of “its” children, and then, only a little less suddenly, everyone who can pay is paying for everybody’s children.
Reinforcing this fallacy is the myth that We Are All In This Together, that we all share each other’s fate. We don’t. We are separate persons, families, clans, and groups, pursuing our various ends. We can and should cooperate, and—sometimes, not always—offer help in adversity. But we are all individually responsible for our fates, a responsibility that cannot be undone by forcing some people to pay for the heedlessness of others.
Description:From across the political and ideological spectrum, there is now almost universal acknowledgement that the American social welfare system has been a failure.
Since the start of the “war on poverty” in 1965, the United States has spent more than $5 trillion trying to ease the plight of the poor. What we have received for this massive investment is — primarily — more poverty.
Our welfare system is unfair to everyone: to taxpayers who must pick up the bill for failed programs; to society, whose mediating institutions of community, church and family are increasingly pushed aside; and most of all to the poor themselves, who are trapped in a system that destroys opportunity for themselves and hope for their children.
I believe it is time for a new approach to fighting poverty. It is a program based on opportunity, work, and individual responsibility.
1. End Welfare
None of the proposals currently being advanced by either conservatives or liberals is likely to fix the fundamental problems with our welfare system. Current proposals for welfare reform, including block grants, job training, and “workfare” represent mere tinkering with a failed system.
It is time to recognize that welfare cannot be reformed: it should be ended.
We should eliminate the entire social welfare system. This includes eliminating AFDC, food stamps, subsidized housing, and all the rest. Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must, once again, learn to rely on supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap.
2. Establish a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to private charity
If the federal government’s attempt at charity has been a dismal failure, private efforts have been much more successful. America is the most generous nation on earth. We already contribute more than $125 billion annually to charity. However, as we phase out inefficient government welfare, private charities must be able to step up and fill the void.
To help facilitate this transfer of responsibility from government welfare to private charity, the federal government should offer a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to private charities that provide social-welfare services. That is to say, if an individual gives a dollar to charity, he should be able to reduce his tax liability by a dollar.
3. Tear down barriers to entrepreneurism and economic growth
Almost everyone agrees that a job is better than any welfare program. Yet for years this country has pursued tax and regulatory policies that seem perversely designed to discourage economic growth and reduce entrepreneurial opportunities. Someone starting a business today needs a battery of lawyers just to comply with the myriad of government regulations from a virtual alphabet soup of government agencies: OSHA, EPA, FTC, CPSC, etc. Zoning and occupational licensing laws are particularly damaging to the type of small businesses that may help people work their way out of poverty.
In addition, government regulations such as minimum wage laws and mandated benefits drive up the cost of employing additional workers. We call for the repeal of government regulations and taxes that are steadily cutting the bottom rungs off the economic ladder.
4. Reform education
There can be no serious attempt to solve the problem of poverty in America without addressing our failed government-run school system. Nearly forty years after Brown vs. Board of Education, America’s schools are becoming increasingly segregated, not on the basis of race, but on income. Wealthy and middle class parents are able to send their children to private schools, or at least move to a district with better public schools. Poor families are trapped — forced to send their children to a public school system that fails to educate.
It is time to break up the public education monopoly and give all parents the right to decide what school their children will attend. It is essential to restore choice and the discipline of the marketplace to education. Only a free market in education will provide the improvement in education necessary to enable millions of Americans to escape poverty.
We should not pretend that reforming our welfare system will be easy or painless. In particular it will be difficult for those people who currently use welfare the way it was intended — as a temporary support mechanism during hard times. However, these people remain on welfare for short periods of time. A compassionate society will find other ways to help people who need temporary assistance. But our current government-run welfare system is costly to taxpayers and cruel to the children born into a cycle of welfare dependency and hopelessness.
This approach offers a positive alternative to the failed welfare state. I offer a vision of a society based on work, individual responsibility, and private charity. It is a society based on opportunity and genuine compassion It is a society built on liberty.
Source (Libertarian Party) Modified by Daniel Brummitt
What is there about humanity that permits many to walk in silence as others are targeted for death and destruction only to scream out for justice when the winds turn in their direction. Is the life of your child of greater value than mine?