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Family or Marriage Finances & Money Taxes

Is Welfare Unconstitutional AND Bad for Society?

In the book Does Your Bag Have Holes?, Cameron C. Taylor, in addition to financial and spiritual topics, highlights a number of points regarding the foundations of society, the intent of the Constitution and the role of government in the welfare of its people. I’d like to talk about the last point because Taylor opened my eyes to “the other side of the argument” about social welfare and who should take care of the poor and unfortunate.

The Intent of the Constitution

In the book, Taylor discusses about 2 dozen “myths” about personal finance and how God, government and our own free will play a big role in each. One of the myths reads:

Government has a responsibility to provide for the poor and needy

Well, that was always my assumption because why else would the government have instituted welfare programs, social security, or giving money to other countries to help in crisis situations? Who else would do it?

But that’s the author’s point. It’s NOT the role of the government to hand out money because it’s not the government’s money to give. It’s the taxpayer’s money and the money should be used to support the citizens’ basic rights like security and infrastructure.

The original authors of the Constitution and other major documents that formed our nation were quoted as saying that forcing taxpayers to give the government money, and then handing that money over to other citizens for free is hurtful to the country.

Why is Welfare Bad?

You often hear the following quote, and it applies perfectly to this argument against social welfare:

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

It’s quoted so many times because it’s true. How can you learn how to do something for yourself if someone is just providing for you for free? Better yet, why would someone bother to work for something when they know they can get it for free?

I know that not everyone is lazy. Before writing this article, I conversed with my coworker and she brought up about those many individuals who are very industrious, but perhaps misfortune seems to find them anyway. Shouldn’t people who work hard get rewarded by some sense of security? Sure they should, but it shouldn’t come from the government.

Where Should We Turn for Security?

My own idea (as I haven’t gotten this far in the book) is that we rely on 2 places for a sense of financial security when we run into some bad times:

  1. Your own savings
  2. The goodwill of others

Through proper planning you can achieve what the government is offering via welfare and social security, and probably a whole lot more. By creating an emergency fund, you’ll prepare yourself for short-term problems. And through retirement savings, you’ll prepare yourself for your golden years. And to protect your family, you can purchase life insurance. And to achieve all of this, you just need to set up and stick to a budget.

For bigger catastrophes, like natural disasters and disabling accidents that aren’t covered by insurance, then you can call upon the charity of your neighbors or society at large. The point is that government shouldn’t act as a charitable institution. It’s up to you to contribute to society so that when you need it, society can contribute back to you.

Summary

Although there are always gray areas in any argument (at least I think so), I’ve always felt that welfare was not good for the country, based on my own personal experience with fellow family members and how they abuse it. Sure, my grandma couldn’t support herself without social security since her stroke, but again, it’s not the role of the government to provide for her. It’s her family’s responsibility to support her and help her to help herself as much as she can.

Since I grew up with the idea of social security and welfare surrounding me, I’ve come to appreciate it, but not because it has enabled me to be a better citizen. Rather, social security and welfare have enabled me to care less about my fellow citizens and even my family. I take it for granted that it will always be there for them and I can go on my merry way, earning my own dollars and spending it for myself. However, my family is my responsibility, as well as all of society’s, not the government’s.

So you should look out for your own welfare by being an industrious citizen and charitable giver, while the government should look out for our security and protection. The government should enable us to be industrious, not support idleness.

My two cents.

About the author

Clever Dude

21 Comments

  • Sadly, I disagree. In the modern, industrial world we are so separated in our communities and our own families that you can no longer expect to be taken care of in your old age. Relying on the goodwill of others means changing our modern lives to engage with our communities in a way that we have deemed is inefficient and unnecessary, like face-to-face business transactions. You create goodwill by interaction and communication, but modern life is designed to minimize those things to create wealth value under capitalism. (Voicemail mazes and online transactions, etc.)

    Without social welfare programs, there’d be a lot more beggars in the street and probably crime as well. I’d rather give my tax money and alms to organizations that will distribute the money to others for me so that I am not always assessing a beggar on the street for his worthiness to receive my charity. I don’t keep my pulse on things enough, nor would I be objective enough the way a social work professional might be about the recipient of said money.

    I don’t want to sound like a Marxist here, because I’m not. I use those terms because that’s the economic language that I know from my college studies. I enjoy the fruits of capitalism and I try to take care of my own, but I think advocating smashing down an entire system is a bit extreme.

  • Oh and one more thing. The WPA was a way for the government to enable us to be industrious, but it was one large social welfare program. See how that line is blurred?

    What about educational loans from the Dept of Ed so that we can gain skills to become more industrious?

  • @Mapgirl, you’re mixing government handouts and private charity handouts. The intent of the article is to point out the governments role in enabling its citizens to be industrious. Handing out money to people isn’t the way to make people learn skills and be industrious.

    And how do you know that getting rid of the welfare and social security systems would be bad? (I think) You’re implying that Americans lack basic humanity and would disregard their neighbors’ and family’s needs. Yes, people would be homeless and turn to begging, but they’re doing it now in our current system. You’ll always have beggars, no matter how much you try to enable them to do more.

    The overall intent is to illustrate that the way to enable people is through education and hand-holding, not handouts. So in your second comment, government education loans are fine because you have to pay them back.It’s a loan, not a handout. Even scholarships require you to do some amount of work to “earn” the money, right?

    I can’t get into the whole discussion here because there’s so much more to say about it, but I hope I cleared up some of the intent of my statements. Again, I’m glad for SS because it’s helping my grandma, but I’m paying for it anyway through my taxes. And I’m paying to help everyone else’s grandma too (even if it’s counted in pennies, not dollars). It’s easy to just hand over money and assume the receiver understands how they should use it to make their life better, but that’s a poor assumption and may lead to the downfall of our economic and social structure.

  • Squeezer, hmm, I’m still pondering whether that comment is a racist joke or not. I guess I’ll leave it and hope you’ll come back and explain it some more.

  • The role of government is essentially whatever the people decide it is. I live in a country that has decided that one of the things that government does is provide a welfare safety net, so we have one. I’d infinitely rather that my tax money was spent on benefits for single parents than on yet another nuclear missile (it’s currently being spent on both).

    And naturally, there is absolutely no way that I’m going to vote for non-universal healthcare. But then, neither is anyone else over here. Government provide it because that’s what we have (since 1945) chosen to be part of the purpose of government.

    Other countries can and do choose differently. But it’s a choice, not a pre-defined thing.

  • There’s a really good book called “When Welfare Was White” by Ira Katznelson that talks about the New Deal, the GI Bill, the creation of FHA and the Social Security Administration.

    These programs were meant to stimulate the economy and provide more opportunities for families/individuals. Through time it has become something that is stigmatized. Interesting.

  • I feel that we have a moral responsibility to help people in need, but I don’t think the government should be in charge of it. I think a lot of people would be more willing and able to contribute to charities if the government weren’t already taking such a huge chunk out of our paychecks to distribute as they see fit.

  • I believe the government should lower the minimum wage to a suitable amount that translates to the relative amount of money given to people on welfare. That way, the work is availible because employers would hire someone for that low of an hourly wage, the poeple would still be contributing to society, and taxes could be decreased allowing for evermore economic stimulation. Remember, in society, the emplyers are supposed to be the demanders of labor and the employees the supplyers. If a job is unfavorable then leave and the employer will be forced to hire someone willing to take the job( someone who would be on welfare) or increase the wage to an amount where the job becomes favorable. Woot.

  • This argument is truly sad. This book seems to be a waste of paper. I do agree that our funds should be monitored better. It’s just a sad case of affairs that the poor always get the left overs are always blamed for the faults of society and ridiculed for what they are. They are still human beings withe potential to be just as well off as any other human being and it is soooooo sad how people come up with these ideas about policies because they don’t have more money to spend on their fancy purse or vacations. We are the society that creates these situations through our sexed up materialistic hateful protray through the media and even in the educational system. So I guess that this is the end product a bunch of souless money holders teasing the have nots with their authority. It is repulsive and all should be pointing the finger at the name in question.

  • Lower the minimum wage-are you serious? Riddle me this batman. How would you feel if you went to your job oops sorry “position” today and your boss said. Good morning, oh by the way unstead of paying you salary I’m going to pay you by the day-$10 a day to be exact because that my friend is what the average welfare receipt with one child receives up to the $300 pay day. Imagine that. Oh yeah they can take pay everyone that and expect them to pay: rent, food, daycare, transportation, soap(cause you know some welfare recipients do like to wash their body and those of their kid(s) Be realistic everything is going up,EVERYTHING! So use the brain your college education paid for. They need to raise minimum wage because that just means the employer holding someones livehood in the palm of his hand may become equal in capital as well as species.

  • You’re saying this stuff like it is amazingly original or something. What are you, nineteen? Sorry, that came off as insulting… well, so is presenting this stuff like it’s a brand new revelation.

    Do you really think that people who collect welfare never do any work at all? Do you? Let’s just look at the ones who are raising kids. Do you think that’s not work? Why? Have you ever raised children yourself? (I haven’t looked at the rest of your blog yet. I don’t think I want to.) Do you really think someone who does that much work deserves no compensation for it other than fuzzy happy feelings? If you think a mom (it’s usually a mom) should be “paid” by the babydaddy instead, hey, I’m right there with you on that one–but there’s just one problem. The babydaddy’s paycheck isn’t for his kids. It’s for the work *he’s* done. The mom’s work doesn’t even enter into it. Nor would it if she were married to him.

    Seriously. Hop on by your HR department sometime and ask them what part of your paycheck’s intended for your wife and kids, if you have any. Come back and tell us how high the laughter measured in decibels.

    And it’s not like the people who get welfare think it’s all sunshine and daisies, nor did they before the Clinton-era welfare “reform” took effect. It’s *not* a picnic. You’re *not* living high on the hog unless something went very, very wrong with your paperwork, or you committed fraud in some way. To make matters worse, it’s not like you can ease off of it by bettering yourself. The old welfare would go away if you got a big enough paycheck to squeak by, and the new isn’t any better. Food stamps to this day do not go to people with any kind of emergency savings. They have to be absolutely destitute before they can get help. Then there’s no way they can become anything *but* destitute without losing that help.

    Don’t even get me started about Medicaid. I’m pretty sure I’m running around with undiagnosed endocrine issues thanks to them.

    On top of that, we had a New Deal in the first place because the goodwill of others WAS NOT ENOUGH. To this day it IS NOT ENOUGH. If people’s goodwill were enough then there is NO reason ANY charity should have to go begging to the public for more and more money.

    Let me give you an example. Civil rights. OK, we have some laws in this country about civil rights. All the races and genders and stuff are supposed to be equal. There’s just one problem: The government doesn’t enforce it. The EEOC is consistently underfunded year after year, especially by Republican administrations but I’m not letting the Dems off the hook either.

    So we have some private charities that try to pick up some of the slack. Not just intimidating universities into admitting enough black and Native American kids, but providing legal counsel for the times people of color are all but lynched by white people–it still happens, folks!

    But because people think racism is no longer an issue in this country, the Southern Poverty Law Center is constantly going around with its hand out. If it were getting enough money to finance its operations year-round, if it were meeting all the need out there that the government was not fulfilling, it wouldn’t have to fundraise at all.

    Do you really think charities geared toward helping the poor have got all the money they need, or ever did? Do you really think the existence of government agencies prevents charities from doing work for the poor? Hell, it is set up so that the government DELIBERATELY does not do enough for poor people, because “charities and family connections are supposed to pick up the slack.” Whoops.

    I can’t tell you how many times in the last six years I’ve heard from my local food pantries that they’re short on food. Everybody gets to feeling charitable around Christmas time and drops off all their food junk and food garbage to soup kitchens and food pantries and then they’re out of luck for the rest of the year. Remember that food stamps are NOT supposed to cover all a poor person’s food needs even though you have to be destitute to get food stamps in the first place.

    And the idea that people are always poor because they are lazy. Oh, don’t get me started on you again. Your average high-earner who isn’t a maintenance contractor makes his money sitting behind a desk. Your average low-wage-earner is busting his butt doing manual labor. You tell me which one is lazy.

    As for it being “unconstitutional” for the government to help with these things, tell me something else. It’s the government’s job to provide national defense, isn’t it? What kills more people in the United States, war or illness? What kills more people here, war or poverty? Exactly what is our government defending, and from what?

    Open your eyes. Look around. At something besides Faux News and preferably involving real people, would be a good start.

  • Oh, and let me emphasize, just because you’re fishless doesn’t mean you don’t know how to fish. I’m so tired of people assuming that a poor person is stupid or lazy. You know, sometimes there just aren’t any damn fish to be caught. The other thing is, it’s all well and good to know how to fish but what if you can’t afford fishing gear?

    I’ve been poor for most of my adult life. It’s not been from lack of employment that entire time. I know how to write up a resume, I know how to interview, I know how to show up at work every day and shock of shocks, I even know how to do a good job at what I was hired to do. None of that takes a potential employer by the arm and twists it to make him hire me. If you have the least little thing wrong with your background, they don’t want you, especially now–and I have no college degree and went through a nasty divorce, which left me relocating frequently just trying to regain my feet. Employers don’t like that stuff. Not one bit.

    So in my case the fishing pole’s broken. And I’m trying to sort out how to make my own way; my attitude is that if nobody’s going to help me, guess I am just going to have to do it myself. But I want to make it very clear that the only reason I can do this with a child to worry about is because her father’s responsible enough to support her like he’s supposed to do. What if he weren’t around? It’s unconstitutional for the government to help poor people, unconstitutional for them to monitor and regulate daycares (never mind they do it for military daycares, and they do a very good job at it, too), unconstitutional for them to provide medical care… how the hell do you get all that on ten an hour or less when the child’s already here? Because you can’t go back in time and make the child not be here. And I’m not a breeder for sterile rich people, thanks anyway.

    You’ve got no answers, I know, just clichés. It’s all right. Like I said, I can figure it out myself. But do me a favor and save your advice and opinions for issues about which you know just a wee bit more than you do about this one.

  • Wow Dana, you know how to blame everyone except yourself. You say people won’t hire you because of some stuff in your background? Sounds like that’s not my fault, the government’s fault, or the general taxpayer’s fault.

    You think I didn’t start out earning minimum wage? I worked at McDonald’s, KFC, Kmart. I had paper routes (4 of them at once). I worked clearing logs from fields for the EPA. But the main difference I guess is that I didn’t get myself in trouble. I didn’t get some girl pregnant (I had to turn your comment around since I’m a guy). I did things that would be considered felonies (if I was a year older), but I didn’t get caught. I’m not a straight arrow; I just happened to know better.

    My parents still don’t even make enough to own their own house so they still live with my gram. And guess what, my sister is a single mother of two with a totally deadbeat dad (with 3 other kids to 3 other women). You think I don’t see “your story” first hand? And guess what, my sister is living with my parents who, if I need to remind you from 2 sentences back, are living with my grandmother!

    No, I don’t have answers, but I do have a pretty good understanding of right and wrong. I know I don’t want my tax dollars going to pay for my lazy relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins) who are too lazy to get up and get a job (ANY job). I know how much they make because I did their taxes. But yet I’m paying for them while I’ll never get to see any of it for myself.

    My parents taught me work ethics. I worked my way through college, but still ended up with debt afterwards. But that debt has more than paid itself back, even if it’s not paid off yet. My stupid decisions are no longer “I got a stranger pregnant” but instead “I screwed up my tax return”, but I still have memories when times were tough. So don’t you tell me what I know or who I am.

    Now go look in a mirror and throw your blame that way because I don’t want any more of it.

  • The point made by Dana is well put. Welfare is not some sort of incentive to not work. I don’t care how “lazy” anyone is, who wants to live below the poverty line? Sure, there are many people who are not motivated to find and maintain a job because they earn money through welfare (and, uh, probably by committing crimes) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the majority of people on assistance lack the resources necessary to be successful. There are people on welfare who are motivated and work hard but will never earn even a middle-class income simply because they weren’t born into a more affluent family. What really gets me is the fact that many people who are wealthy are incredibly lazy yet they don’t get stigmatized as negatively as those on welfare. Additionally, it’s not as if wealthy people don’t receive welfare – they just call it “subsidies.” The tax policy rewards corporations (and, thus, their high earning exec’s) for disinvestment.
    Clever dude, you don’t seem so clever to me. First you said that you think the government shouldn’t assist those in need and you expect “neighbors and society” to be charitable but then you stated that you don’t even want to help your own family.
    It’s just plain ignorant to blame the victim and that is exactly what this blog is doing.

  • I am reading the book “The 5,000 Year Leap” and is it ever so enlightening about our founding fathers, their 28 ideas that were placed into the constituion, and why they are. I suggest all read it!! As Clever Dude stated, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

    But to get back to the 5,000 year leap, the 7th principle noted in the book that the founding fathers used was that “The proper role of the gernment is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things.” Every person is entitled to protection of his life and property, these are some of his natural rights. Therefore it is perfectly legitimate to deligate to the government the task of setting up a police force to protect the lives and property of all people.

    But suppose a kind man saw one neighbor with two cars and another with no cars. Futher suppose he takes a vehicle from the man with two cars and gives it to the person with no cars. This man would then be tried for car theft, because it is a violation of the natural right of his prosperous neighbor. This government was built to protect all the natural rights of man, and that is the right to be as prosperous as I, as well as every single person in the world wants, regardless. It was never the governments responsibility to be responsible for your actions and your life, just your rights.

    But it goes on and states the founders were not totally against welfare, instead they said:
    1. Do not help the needy completly. Merely help them help themselves.
    2. Give the poor the satisfaction of “earned achievement” instead of rewarding them without achievement.
    3. Allow the poor to climb the “appreciation ladder” – from tent to cabins, cabins to cottages, cottages to comfortable homes.
    4. Where emergency help is provided, do not prolong it to the point where it becomes habitual.
    5. Strictly enforce the scale of “fixed responsibility.” Being first, personal responsibility, then family, then church/community, and finally country, and with disaster emergency, the state.
    Under no circumstances is the federal government to become involved in public welfare. The founders felt it would corrupt the government to be tyrannous and in to much control, and also corrupt the poor. Therefore, the founders made sure there is no provision in the constituion to delegate authority for the federal government to participate in charity or welfare. It simply gives them to much power over the natural rights of man. Instead it was more or less left up to ones own resolve and the charity work of others to help the poor, mostly ones own resolve.

    In the end, I implore everyone to read the 5,000 year leap. There is so much more to it than this, I could go on and on and on and on. Please, please, PLEASE! Read it!!

  • Im a year late on this…but I am doing a paper on welfare…and I was jus wanting to ask you….is welfare simply good or bad? And why?
    I also grew up on food stamps and i do appreciate the help from the government, but many people look at it from the wrong perspective.They don’t understand the difference between actually needing some help and people being lazy…so please email me back. and thank u for ur time.

  • I would like to add to this debate. I am from the uk where we have a welfare/social security system. I am currently in receipt of jobseekers’ allowance where you have to show that you are trying to find work. The trouble is, i do not drive, dont have many qualifications, lack experience, etc for quite a lot of jobs except minimum wage ones. Thats not anyone elses fault but the idea of keeping minimum wages down means that people have no incentive to get a low paid job. I was taking home about 220 for a 60 hour week and after paying rent/ electric/ food/ council tax/ transport to work etc i was a grand total of 10 better off. Why not raise minimum wages so that the people who would get a job if there was one would be paying taxes and their own way in society. Your thoughts please.

  • I think the unfortunate thing about stereotypes, is that they are so often true. It’s a stereotype that poor people are lazy, because a lot of them are. I wish it weren’t so, but my personal experience proves otherwise. When I call someone without a job and say, “I have work you could do, you wouldn’t make much, but it’s something,” and the response is, “I can’t get a job, I would lose my gov’t benefits.” I know there is something severely wrong with the system. It’s a black hole, and it’s wrong.

    http://whyimconservative.wordpress.com/category/why-taxes-and-welfare-are-bad/

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