Dan Popp
Safety nets and other snares, Part 5
By Dan Popp
August 10, 2012

I heard one of those commercials again this morning. "One in five American children goes to bed hungry." If your common sense is calling shenanigans on this statistic, you're right. The real number of children facing chronic hunger in this country is something like 4%of those children in poverty. In other words, less than "one in a hundred" from the whole population. These false Public Service Announcements tell us at least two things: Some people will lie about the poor for their own ends; and the massive War on Poverty, now encompassing more than 70 programs and trillions of dollars, is a failure. If they're asking you to give to the hungry, then all of their taking has not ended hunger, as they promised.

In this series I've said that government "safety net" programs supplant the religion of Christ. That covered Parts 1, 2 and 3. Then in Part 4 I argued that a federal dole violates the human law that all our national officeholders swear to uphold: the Constitution. I'll conclude now by trying to show that so-called welfare programs never accomplish their stated purposes; they are in conflict with reality.

Now, I acknowledge that government aid programs do help some people, in some sense of the word "help." If they didn't, they'd have no constituencies, and that is the name of the game, as we'll see. But that's a tiny bit of bait on a very large hook. The positive effects of these transfers are few and temporary, while the negative consequences are enormous, widespread and nearly everlasting.

Let's do a little thought experiment. If the Bible were correct — if charity belongs to the realm of religion and not to government — what would happen when we used government to help people, rather than to hurt people? I would expect the results to reflect the true nature of government; I would expect people to be hurt. You can use a sword as a spoon if you like, but you may soon wonder why everything tastes like blood and the room is spinning around.

I've documented the dismal record of America's utopian socialist programs in another article, so I'll try not to repeat much of that material. Suffice it to say that, by the government's definition of poverty, both the absolute number of poor, and the destitute as a percentage of the US population have grown since we collectively decided to "end poverty." But we're not unique. Government anti-poverty programs have never raised significant numbers of people out of poverty anywhere in the world.

If we care about helping the poor, the universal failure of government benevolence should be definitive. It should stop all welfare programs overnight. The fact that it doesn't, compels us to look for other reasons for perpetuating one of the most expensive, blatant and horrific blunders in human history. We might find one clue in the Obama administration's recent edict that welfare recipients no longer have to look for employment in order to be eligible. Real, biblical charity proclaims, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." (See 2 Thess. 3:10) What we're doing is not biblical, it is not charity, and it is not real.

So if government almsgiving isn't about helping the poor, what is it about? Well, what does redistribution actually accomplish?

It destroys wealth. It dissuades individuals of all income levels to provide for their own households. It disintegrates families. It discourages private (that is, real) charity. It distorts the market, thus lowering the standard of living of everyone, including the poor. It detours money, and thus power, to Washington. It invites, then facilitates, then institutionalizes corruption. It enables politicians to buy votes from some citizens with money taken from their neighbors. It allows one neighbor to vote himself some other person's property. It makes injustice the law, breeds dependency, punishes productivity, and rewards sloth and dishonesty — as the Founders and many others predicted it would.

It's an axiom that you get more of what you subsidize, and less of what you tax. We're subsidizing the breaking of human beings and all their earthly support systems — and talking about doing more of it!

Conservatives who believe that we can "fix" redistribution programs are either deceived or deceivers. Another undeniable characteristic of these programs is that they expand themselves exponentially. Social Security in particular could never work, because in any Ponzi scheme you eventually run out of new investors to pay those already vested. But if we would delay the retirement age, reduce the benefits and increase the taxes so that the equation balanced, that balance would last only until some Congressman wanted to curry favor with the AARP. Cutting giveaway programs once people believe they're "entitled" to "their share" is nearly impossible (see Greece, et al); adding new goodies to the goodie basket, or padding the COLA, is all too easy.

This is a lesson that should have been learned already. During the First Great Depression, FDR's Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, wrote: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. ... After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... and an enormous debt to boot!"

Failed socialist experiments in America date back to its colonization. The pilgrims almost starved themselves to death before they repented of their folly.
    All this whille no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expecte any. So they begane to thinke how they might raise as much torne as they could, and obtaine a beter crope then they had done, that they might not still thus languish in miserie. At length, after much debate of things, the Govr (with the advise of the cheefest amongest them) gave way that they should set corve every man for his owne perticuler, and in that regard trust to them selves; in all other things to goe on in the generall way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcell of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end, only for present use (but made no devission for inheritance), and ranged all boys and youth under some familie. This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more torne was planted then other waise would have bene by any means the Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente. The women now wente willingly into the feild, and tooke their litle-ons with them to set torne, which before would aledg weaknes, and inabilitie; whom to have compelled would have bene thought great tiranie and oppression.

    The experience that was had in this commone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Platos and other ancients, applauded by some of later times; — that the taking away of propertie, and bringing in communitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser then God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For the yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour and servise did repine that they should spend their time and streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, with out any recompence. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails and cloaths, then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter the other could; this was thought injuestice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalised in labours, and victails, cloaths, etc., with the meaner and yonger sorte, thought it some indignite and disrespect unto them. And for mens wives to be commanded to doe servise for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemd it a kind of slaverie, neither could many husbands well brooke it. Upon the poynte all being to have alike, and all to doe alike, they thought them selves in the like condition, and ove as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongest men, yet it did at least much diminish and take of the mutuall respects that should be preserved amongst them. — William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, 1647
That is what Christians should expect to happen. That is what does happen. That is what always happens. Government benevolence is a self-contradiction. It should not be done, it may not be done, and by all accounts it cannot be done. If not stopped, the conclusion of socialist experiments is inevitably "people dying in the streets" — the very thing the socialists say they want to prevent with their godless, lawless madness.

Some people say, "We need a little socialism along with our capitalism — you know, to help people out." But socialism doesn't help people out. Marxist sub-economies are just small Marxist economies: they don't produce anything; they act as parasites on the productivity of the free market. Socialism is a cancer. No one says, "My problem is that I have too many normal, healthy cells; I need some cancer cells to balance my body out."

At least, no sane person says that.

© Dan Popp


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