A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

January 10, 2014

Making Poverty More Acceptable

     You know, it would be easy to skip over this blip on the news radar, and just chalk it up to one more politician doing what they do best ... bloviating about some topic to ingratiate themselves to their constituents.  But the comment by House Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has much more profound ramifications than some random political speech.
     Earlier in the week, on the House Floor, Representative Lee made this statement in regards to what is commonly known as "welfare income":  Maybe the word "welfare" should be changed to something of a "transitional living fund". For that is what it is, for people to be able to live.
     During her comments, she extolled all the wonderful benefits that are extended to the nation's poor; namely the earned income tax credit, supplemental nutrition program, the huge job training and educational investment that President Johnson made on the War on Poverty, and Medicare and Medicaid.  She says these programs combine to afford the poor a huge safety net -- not a handout, mind you -- but a safety net; and one she admittedly calls "huge".
     So she seems to imply that calling it welfare is demeaning; we should call it by another name -- one that elevates the worthy receiver of this reputable "safety net".  But I have a couple of problems with this line of reasoning.  First of all, what she means by "safety net" is laws designed to safeguard or prevent the undesirable state of living in poverty.  These laws usually exist in the form of additional taxes levied against producing individuals, in order to support the non-producers.  
     And since when can you legislate away poverty?  Doesn't it stand to reason, that the easier you make it for the poor to stay in this state of poverty, the harder it is going to be to motivate them to take part in their own revitalization?  And what is the purpose in making welfare and poverty seem less unpleasant?  It is not in man's nature to desire poverty; yet during the last half century our government has lionized the poor and approved the continued state of indigence.  Indeed, those who have managed to avoid becoming poverty-stricken are made to feel guilty for not sharing the rewards of their labor.
     So one has to ask why those who are elected to champion our well-being, would seek to maintain and grow the levels of poverty.  The obvious answer is to maintain their power.  The more they can keep their constituents addicted to the so-called "safety net" (remember, it's not a handout!), the less these people desire to kick the habit.  They need that "fix", and the government is all too happy to be their "supplier".  
     And when you make the "junkie" feel like his condition is adequate, respectable, and normal then where is the incentive to improve upon that state?  True, the Bible says we will always have the poor with us, and when we can meet the needs of someone, we should do it, if it is within our ability to do so.  But Scripture also says, "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."  (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)
      So back to Sheila Jackson Lee's comment.  She states that this "transitional living fund" is necessary for people "to be able to live".  Is that really what they need?  More "assistance" from the government? Or do they need the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes from making their own way?  Can they even imagine what it feels like to possess the dignity and self-respect of knowing you are dependent on no one?  
     But that's a message of hope that Ms. Lee and her Congressional cohorts will never extend to the poor.  And whether you call it "welfare" or the "transitional living fund", it makes no difference.  The addiction remains the same, and the poor remain poor.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12     "And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."

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