Assisting the Poor and Needy

Poverty

We often hear stories about programs for assisting the poor and needy. Some of those stories show the success of such plans. Others show how the system fails and is even abused.

An internet search for “solving the welfare problem in America” produces lots of information on this topic. Here’s one: http://solutions.heritage.org/entitlements/welfare/

When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty, he said that it was intended to strike “at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.” He added, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”

Five decades and $24 trillion later, the welfare system has failed the poor. Poverty rates remain stagnant, and self-sufficiency languishes.

Today the federal government operates roughly 80 means-tested welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans. Total federal, state, and local government spending on these programs now reaches over $1 trillion annually.

The cost of welfare is unsustainable, and pouring dollars into an ever-increasing number of welfare programs has failed to improve rates of self-sufficiency. It is time to get welfare spending under control and to reform welfare to encourage self-reliance and human thriving in the context of community.

In addition, in one of my computer files I found these statements on this topic, written by an unknown author from an obviously conservative perspective:

  1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
  2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
  3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
  4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
  5. When half the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

These statements may seem a bit harsh and surely do not tell the whole story of human need and how it can be met. Yet governmental, religious, and other public or private agencies need to assist the poor responsibly to avoid harming both givers and receivers.

The Bible says: “There will always be some in the land who are poor…Share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” (Deut. 15:11 – NLT)

The Bible also says: “If any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10 – KJV)

If a poor person is truly unable to work, we who have been abundantly blessed have a duty to assist. If a poor person is truly able to work, to rely on external assistance is hard to justify.

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Baltimore

Credit:  Newsweek

Credit: Newsweek

My December 11, 2014 Perspectives article was titled “Ferguson.” The article reflected on the protests, demonstrations and looting in Ferguson, Missouri, following the decision of a grand jury not to indict the policeman who shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.

Those protests, demonstrations and looting spread from Ferguson to places as far away as Oakland, Cal. and New York City. Stores were burned, valuable items were looted, bridges were blocked and mayhem was unleashed.

Sound familiar? The same things happened this week in Baltimore. Violent activity, riots, fires and looting resulted in charred cars, burned buildings, hospitalized police officers, looted and damaged businesses. One activist vowed to “shut this city down.”

A state of emergency was declared and National Guard troops were brought in. Parts of Baltimore looked more like a war zone than a place where people live, work and play. The damage and destruction were inflicted by, among others, gangs and high school students.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan appealed for peace and declared that further lawlessness and violence would be neither condoned nor tolerated. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said: “Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who, in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for.”

The catalyst for this scenario of senseless, dastardly, destructive, lawless and violent behavior in Baltimore was similar to that which precipitated the same kinds of raucous demonstrations that devastated the city of Ferguson several months ago. In each case a young African American man died in the wake of police response to what appeared to them to be unlawful activity.

In Ferguson it was Michael Brown, who was shot and killed. In Baltimore it was Freddie Gray. The only details of the cause of his death available at the time this article was written are that he was not buckled into the police van in which he was riding after being apprehended and that he did not receive timely medical attention. More details will surely be uncovered in the future.

In the meantime, I’m convinced that, along with original sin and satanic influence, there are several significant root causes of the behavior manifested in Ferguson and now Baltimore:

  • High rates of unemployment in poverty stricken areas, especially among young males.
  • Breakdown of the family and thus the absence of spiritual, moral and ethical values.
  • Difficulty faced by police officers in making split-second life and death decisions.
  • A growing spirit of distrust contributing to greater interracial division in America.
  • Disrespect and disregard in some circles for law and law enforcement officers.
  • Lack of personal responsibility and respect for authority, law and order.
  • Three out of four homes in certain areas have no father in the home.

My December 11 article concluded with these words: “It will take a miracle for what happened in Ferguson never to happen again!” We still await that miracle.

Lord, have mercy!