Thursday, April 9, 2015

Welfare... an idea

I was recently commenting about limitations on food stamps. I have been thinking a lot about this topic and feel that I just needed to put pen to paper as it were.

The welfare system is broken. We are unfortunately left with trying to fix a symptom of the welfare system instead of correcting the problem. You see, the discussion is on limiting the items someone on food stamps can purchase. The problem is that there are people on food stamps wasting that money; junk food on one extreme; steak and lobsters on the other. Folks buying these types of items are either taking advantage of the situation or are in a mentally unwise state. So like all government solutions, more regulations is the only answer: Limit the things someone can buy on food stamps.

But that does not feel right. It’s just more government control.

As a good libertarian leaning right winger, I want government out of the process. The Christian in me agrees with the spirit of the left wanting to help people in need. At times, the right of center folks forget the realities of hurting people. It’s convenient to complain of government spending and ignore the very real needs of people when your job is solid and you can make ends meet. We get a bad rap on this topic because we tend to do so.

At the same time, the left will use this as an advantage saying that those who are against welfare don’t care about poor people who are hurting. This is simply not true. It’s good rhetoric, but it’s ultimately fallacious.

People are generally good and want to help others. There is a powerful force in most of us to do good for others. Depending on different world views, that is based on various items, but it does not matter. In spite of the ugly selfish side of humanity, there is a stronger side that cares for others. That side may not have the same way of drawing viewers to the 24 hour news cycle, but it is by far the majority of people. Just look at the outpouring of generosity in the face of disaster or tragedy. We all want to help people in need. The question is how best to accomplish that with as little waste and unhealthy enabling.

A good democratic friend said to me one time, welfare is just me helping you out when times get rough. My reply, “No, that’s charity.”

In fact, welfare is charity with a nice government cut taken off the top for “processing.” We have plenty of charitable organizations in this country that are already being funded by people who see the good work that a charitable organization does, and funds its mission.

So if I were president, this would be my solution.

Create a food bank fund type for existing non-profit organizations. Every person filing their taxes can donate some dollar amount (perhaps $100 for an individual or $150 for a family) into the food bank fund for a full tax credit. In other words, you are going to send that $100 to the government anyway. You can optionally redirect those funds to a fund managed by the non-profit organization of your choice. 100% of the funds donated must be used for feeding the poor in that community within 12 months. Anything left over goes to the government. There will be no preacher salaries paid out of the money. If you need funds to run your church or community center you raise them another way. Every dollar must be used directly to feed or clothe the poor.

The beauty of this solution is it respects both points of view. If you want government to manage those funds, you simply do nothing. If you want to get involved personally with your charitable giving, then you do so. Then we run some data analysis to see if the food banks are better stocked or if the homeless are able to get food in areas where people are donating. We can look at people on assistance and see if the needs are being met through the system. If 10% of the population takes advantage of it, then the plan is killed. If 50-75% of people take advantage of it, then I believe we would see food banks overflowing with food and necessities because there is no government overhead.

If it works it has the ability to wean our society off the government’s teat one social program at a time. It retrains our people to give regularly which is good for the human spirit.  It also leverages the large network of charitable non-profits this country has and allows us to ultimately get rid of another government program that is full of abuse. Most of all it allows for the human touch. When a welfare worker issues an EBT card that can be used anywhere for anything, there is no community built; there are no human souls impacted by that transaction outside of the important fulfillment of a real need. However, when a person admits they need help, and asks a local food bank or a church for food, they get a person coming along side of them. They get moral support as well as nutritional support. They often find a family able to connect them with work or training programs.

And more importantly, the people giving get to see people in need. They get to see the realities of the 
situations people are in. There is compassion instead of annoyance. There is humility instead of pride. There is gratitude for what we have and generosity toward those who have not. Every mouth that is fed is also feeding the soul of both the giver and receiver.

I’d like your vote…

I’m Dwayne Boulden and I approve this message.

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