Government waste/Societal need

When I worked at the homeless shelter, the knowledge that our budget depended on the government’s generosity never could truly leave our minds.  Most of our donations were won through tax incentives that we needed to continue to be passed, and others came from community development grants and other charitable contributions that all seemed to lead a trail back to capitol hill.  While the churches that housed our guests and the people that fed them every night did so out of charity, my paycheck and the paycheck of those I worked for, the money that kept the lights on and put gas in the van, all traced back to the government.

This is even more true at the residential treatment facility I worked for, where huge portions of the funding were directly tied to social security and medicaid.  Without those programs, we would have had no one to treat and our patients would have been homeless, fully symptomatic, and dangerous to society.

In both places I can say with absolute certainly that the work we did improved our communities, kept them safer, and filled vital needs.

In both places I can say that I am worried what the future holds.

When people talk about the Government’s “wasteful spending” I am horrified that the things most people point at are tax incentive community development programs, medicaid, and welfare.  The argument usually goes like this, “these benefit programs create a dependency that deepens the problem they are meant to address.”  Let’s look at that for a moment.  The first assumption of that argument is that if people didn’t have government incentive programs to develop their communities, they’d be equally able to do it on their own.  It also assumes that people who receive welfare and medicaid are capable of providing for their own needs if they didn’t receive help from the government.  To further that logic, the assumption deepens into a belief that we are wasting our money by giving to people who are capable of, and should be, caring for their own problems.  I will concede that such programs are self-feeding.  (That is, that by giving the benefit they often weaken resolve to move beyond the need for it, or in worst case scenarios the program actively works to keep people in it.)  What I don’t understand is the logic behind the assumptions being made.

Why were these programs created in the first place?  If we believe that people are both capable of providing for these needs on their own and would do so if the government didn’t have them a check, then why would the government have ever handed them the check in the first place?  These programs address real, persistent problems that people can’t fix on their own.  Poverty has always been endemic to our society.  Sociologists will say things like that it fills a societal need by creating the impetus for people to work jobs that are necessarily low paying, or by saying that since there is a conflict over necessarily limited resources it is inevitable that there are people who end up without insufficient resources for survival.  The debate as to the reason extreme poverty exists is ongoing, but what I can say with absolute certainty is that even God himself is quoted as having said “the poor will always be among you.”

It’s a fact of life- the need exists, whether or not a program is created to address it.

The reason the government took on the burden is because it is demonstrated that by raising the basement and making even the poorest in society capable of achieving more,  everyone benefits.  It is beneficial to all of us that the children of the very poor have healthcare.  It is beneficial to all of us that children do not starve or have the meal they eat at school as their only meal of the day.  It is beneficial to all of us that community development programs offer tax incentives that drive community members to donate more to food banks, homeless shelters, and beautification programs that remodel the homes and apartment complexes that the very poor live in and cannot care for by themselves.

Do these programs create a self-feeding cycle?  Perhaps they do.  But even so the money is not wasted, the more the programs are cut the more people end up starving, or homeless, or literally insane and on the streets.

It isn’t safe to cut them without a backup plan, and I’ve yet to hear any backup plan other than social darwinism.

And do you know what social darwinism leads to?  Dead babies.

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17 thoughts on “Government waste/Societal need

  1. “Why were these programs created in the first place?” LBJ needed votes.

    “These programs address real, persistent problems that people can’t fix on their own.” You, yourself, conceded “(That is, that by giving the benefit they often weaken resolve to move beyond the need for it, or in worst case scenarios the program actively works to keep people in it.)”! So, the issue should be, at what point should an individual (receiving assistance) be held to a higher accountability? I (almost) hate to use this annology but have you ever fed a stray cat? They just keep coming back and back and back. If you stop feeding them they will stop coming around.

    Unless an individual is physically or mentaly handicapped they should be required to contribute something towards their self sufficiency. Period.

    I also believe that (generally speaking) far to many churches are more interested in a big, comfortable building in which to *do church* than they are in caring for the widows and orphans. And Holy Scripture requires only to care for those two class of people. Yes, I know, if your brother asks your for a shirt give him also your cloak. But you don’t keep giving him your pants and underwear too. At some point my brother needs to figure out why God gave him a fully functioning mind and body.

    • I’ve found way too many stray cats dead in my yard to feel that stopping feeding them is the right thing.

      Yes, people should be expected to contribute to their self-sufficiency. I don’t know of ANY government program that pays enough for someone to not have to work or sacrifice something, unemployment may do so, to an extent, but people don’t qualify for that if they’ve never worked and wouldn’t be on it if they hadn’t involuntarily lost their jobs. I know NO ONE who lives solely off of the government other than the patients at the residential treatment facility, some of whom couldn’t even consistently tell you who they are.

    • “Holy Scripture requires only . . . [et, oh God, cetera]”?

      SMH

      I have lots of things to say about your exegesis and the general quality of your comment, but none of it’s nice, so, after about a dozen attempts, I’m thinking it’s better that I refrain.

    • Also:

      “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 23:21)

      If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

      Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
      but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. (Proverbs 28:27)

      The righteous care about justice for the poor,
      but the wicked have no such concern. (Proverbs 29:7)

      “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

      Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:20)

      Please, Mssc54, explain to me how you can read all those verses and believe God doesn’t care about the poor.

    • I am actually pretty fiscally conservative but I do want to point out that, when it comes to social programs, you usually pay one way or the other…like a law of conservation of monetary reaction.

      When Margaret Thatcher shut down all the mental health institutions in Britain, it ended up costing more in policing, etc. to deal with the fallout.

      Frankly, it just seems more efficient and humane to deal with the problems up front instead of their symptoms.

      • Thank you. I don’t think society would want to pay the price of cutting social programs, civility is barely holding on by a thread as it.

  2. I’m not going to get into the quoting Scripture back and forth. I can take the time to look up the, “if you don’t work you don’t eat” or the “slothful,” etc, etc. etc..

    But I will comment on these.
    Leviticus 23:21 & Proverbs 28:27 – I actually give food out of my garden to people and more often than not, either give money to needy persons or buy them food.

    Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – Our home is on a corner. Four different school busses pick up students here. I put up a basketball goal and supply a ball for the students to play while waiting on the bus. I’ve bandaged skin knees, etc.

    Proverbs 29:7 – What is righteous? Too keep an individual dependant on outside sources or to help them achieve. I had an employe at one time that could not read. I paid him his hourly rate to go to the Literacy school so he could learn to read.

    Luke 12:32-34 – I don’t want to be specific but I am very benevelant with my cash and business. In fact I have provided services (at no charge) for an adult home.

    Mark 10:20 – This parable is about a man who’s heart was selfish and greedy. This parable does not apply to my heart.

    Not to mention that when our youngest (biological) daughter was about to graduate high school, my wife and I adopted a two year old boy and a four year old girl. I know you know about the adoption. Just giving other readers a more complete picture.

    I try to be as sensative to the leadings of the Holy Spirit as I can. I am not perfect but I believe that I am on a good path.

    I never said that God does not care about the poor.

    • You said the only groups we are commanded to give to are the orphans and widows. That is not true. Generosity with the poor is a constant thread throughout the Bible and something that God indisputably demands of Christians. Christ demanded it of his own disciples multiple times, to the extent that at the Last Supper when he spoke to Judas and Judas left, the disciples assumed it was about alms for the poor.

      That God wants his Children to care about the plight of the poor IS indisputable. I know your life history, I know that you are a righteous person. But your original comment did taste heavily of judgment and contempt. Poor people are not stray cats. Nor are they all lazy, like your second comment implies. Sure, if I wanted to spend ten minutes with my concordance right now I could find many many verses about laziness and sin. Sure. But that doesn’t change the fact that poverty and laziness are not interchangeable concepts- not every lazy person is poor, and not every poor person is lazy. The attitude we are commanded to have with ALL fellow men is one of grace and love, and I’m not sure where the grace and love are in cutting government programs that people depend on.

      Let me say again: If the community development grants were sheared, homeless shelters would be some of the first to feel the pinch. Cutting welfare and medicaid and social security would inevitably lead to mentally disabled people who, when symptomatic, are dangers to themselves and others ending up on the street. I continue to fail to see any benefit to society from doing away with those programs. I’ve lived it, Michael: while I know some people might be judged as undeserving and some certainly had a hand in their own plight, God’s grace demands that we express love and grace, not judgment. I’ve seen what the touch of grace and aid can do to changing a person’s heart and life. Saying, “sorry sucker you’re on your own” helps no one.

      • Regarding love and grace, I think one of our biggest differences is how we choose to apply love in action. I am a more of a teach them to fish. If they don’t want to get their hands dirty with the bait then fine. Sit back until you are hungry enough to get what is available with some personal effort.

        With regards to caring for the poor (as stated in the Bible). I think Jesus speaks more to our heart’s condition (selfish/greed) rather than always giving to the poor. The poor we will have with us always.

        Teach them all to fish.

      • @ Mssc54: I also believe in teaching people to fish. Unfortunately I don’t see any nationwide programs doing that, and in the meantime there are people hungry and underhoused. I don’t believe we should abandon those people or their families as a nation.

        And, also, you’re really taking the “the poor will always be with you” line way out of context. Jesus said that as a reprimand to the pharisee’s lack of faith and understanding of Jesus’s purpose and sacrifice, and the pharisees valuing measurable acts of sacrifice over the intangible worship of Christ’s nature as Messiah. It has nothing to do with an excuse not to care for the poor, and throughout the NT you see that Jesus commands the disciples to care for the poor and demands that people who want to follow him sell their possessions to give to the poor. That such was God’s intent is completely inarguable. Even in Acts you see that when the early disciples are praising the efforts of the first Christians, caring for the poor is always high on the list of virtues.

        Yes, we should teach people to care for themselves. That doesn’t absolve our country from the ethical burden to ensure that children and families are not left cold and hungry, regardless of the behavior of the people that are supposed to provide for them.

      • Hm. School didn’t teach me very much that has given me an edge in the workplace, my parents are responsible for that. I know a lot of people who go to school and barely learn enough to get passing grades. Perhaps school SHOULD teach those skills, but it would require completely re-envisioning the educational process.

      • Maybe I am biased since my Mrs. is a high school Mathematics Department Chairman.

        Schools teach. It’d up to the students and parents to determine which classes to take, too learn (become educated) and then apply that knowledge.

        Yes I know there are lots of unemployed, educated people. But then again there are wealthy landscapers who never went to college.

      • @ Mssc54: I’m biased, too, because I’ve worked with people who had high school diplomas and none of the social skills necessary to get a job. Yes, it is up to the parents, but since the government can’t control the quality of the parent what can we do to ensure that the cycle of poverty doesn’t continue? There is *hard science* that demonstrates that people in poverty by and large don’t have the social skills or awareness of middles class mores necessary to break out of poverty, and merely growing up in the conditions of poverty is akin to a guarantee the cycle will continue. Schools don’t teach social skills. They punish abberant behavior, but there’s no point where they say “when you are interviewing for a job do this” or “you have to relate to your boss in this way to be successful.” They don’t teach you how not to fly into a rage when threatened. They don’t teach you how to mind money so as to be able to save. They don’t teach you how to not be poor. And kids learn all the opposite at home.

  3. Hi Lindsey,

    I would only point out that the bible does not apply to our government. We do not live in a “Christian Nation.” It pains me that the Church is not more involved in my own community and I would be surprised if others did not feel the same. Michael said something that I really connected with, “I also believe that (generally speaking) far to many churches are more interested in a big, comfortable building in which to *do church* than they are in caring for the widows and orphans.” I would replace widows and orphans with “the poor,” but the idea is the same.

    From my own experience, where I live now (Mishawaka IN) has some neighborhoods that are full of poverty. Less than 20% graduate 8th grade and there is high unemployment. There is a group of Bethel College Students who live in these communities during school and provide safe places to do homework, talk, play games, eat and be Jesus to hurting Kids and parents. Since they started this 2 or 3 years ago there have been at least two graduates who lived there while attending that have purchased homes in the community to continue their mission to these families. There are still people in the world that care. At times, I wonder, but God is still good. He gives us nothing we are not capable of handling. (My grandma Yoder says this all the time since my Grandfather died in January and I believe it to be true although sometimes he really must think I’m incredibly capable.)

    Oh what to do. Government scares me. I have to be able to make ends meet every month myself. If I can’t, I get behind. You can only be behind for so long. Why doesn’t the government have to live within their means. I believe it is a tenancy of people to look to government for all the answers. I think that government is most of the problem. I am not saying that cutting these vital programs is right but somewhere along the line, something has to change or the United States will no longer be in our near future. What should be cut? How to we pay off the almost 16 Trillion dollar US debt? I don’t even begin to comprehend where to start on this issue.

    All in all I believe that the Church needs to step up to the plate in a bigger way than ever before.

    • I agree, we don’t live in a Christian nation. I believe that our faith can still inform the decisions that we make with regard to our governments, and at time Christian morality can inform secular ethics rather well. I know plenty of people who don’t believe in God who still believe that a healthy society depends on extreme poverty being relieved and all children having the equal ability to receive adequate healthcare, housing, and education.

      I love what you said about your church, and the ministry you have with poor kids in your community. That is so incredible, and so precisely what churches should be in the business of doing. I think if more churches gladly carried the burden to care for the poor and outcasts of society, preached the Gospel with conviction and helped people achieve all that God calls them too, the government would find a lot less people seeking it’s aid.

      Until then, we still have the issue of what we should do as a nation. I don’t believe the answer is leaving homeless shelters and mental health clinics absent funding, and that’s what I see a lot of conservative and Christian friends demanding.

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