The single biggest difference between conservatives and liberals is this: Liberals believe we can create a perfect society through government. Conservatives believe a perfect society is impossible this side of heaven and government should be limited to the few necessaries like national defense, a justice system, and relations between states. Societal improvement isn’t government’s business and is better left to private charities and churches.
“That government is best that governs least,” said Henry David Thoreau about a century and a half ago and history since has not contradicted him. It’s an interesting sentiment given that Thoreau was considered a guru when the liberal “counterculture” was emerging back in the sixties and seventies. He was all about living simply that others many simply live, and other ideas that you still see on bumper stickers right next to Obama/Biden stickers. The irony is that Obama Administration is the all-time champion of big government.
People who consider themselves “progressives” look to government whenever they perceive a problem to be fixed but it’s the last place conservatives look. They see government creating many more problems than it solves, especially at the federal level.
Most of our federal tax money is spent on social programs and only half of Americans pay federal income taxes. The other half that doesn’t pay them instead collects most of the benefits. It all began during the Roosevelt Administration, but it really took off during the Johnson Administration’s “War on Poverty” in the 1960s. Since then, the federal government has spent more than $20 trillion “fighting” poverty and we’re $17 trillion in debt - mostly because of that spending.
How’s that war going you might ask? We’re losing, big-time, but we’re still pumping more and more money into it. Why? Because we’re subsidizing the main causes of poverty, that’s why. Take AFDC - that’s “Aid for Families with Dependent Children,” now called TANF, or “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.” Both allow men who father children to avoid responsibility for them and thereby encourage further irresponsible behavior. After three generations, fatherless families - the biggest cause of poverty - have multiplied to where they’ve become the norm, especially for minorities. How about if the federal government stopped trying to administer social programs altogether? Welfare isn’t a civil right to be enforced by the federal government. How about we leave it to the states instead? Maybe they could do it better. They couldn’t do any worse than the feds have, could they?
Better still, how about we leave it to private charities? As it is now, the federal government takes our money and gives it to many people whom we, as individuals, would never choose to give it to. While most of us wouldn’t begrudge help for the truly needy, we all know people who game the system. Many of us are related to people who continually scam for unneeded benefits. From the ordinary taxpayer’s perspective, scammers are multiplying.
Consider one small example. Driving through Portland, Maine my wife and I pass many panhandlers. They stand on median strips near traffic lights holding signs on pieces of cardboard with pleas for money like: “Need cat food”; “Sober and homeless. Anything helps”; “Homeless vet”; and many others. One sign a woman was holding up said, “Don’t text and drive.” I didn’t choose to give her anything for that advice. All the panhandlers look well nourished and wear adequate clothing, and I never give them money directly. Instead, my wife and I contribute to the Preble Street Resource Center where most of the city’s homeless find food, clothing, shelter during the day, as well as dental and medical care. They don’t provide cat food.
We know the Preble Street Center does good work. We feel good about contributing money there because we believe it’s being spent effectively. Do we feel that way about federal programs? Certainly not. We don’t feel that way about many of Maine’s programs either, but Governor LePage is doing much to reform those. When government takes our money and spends it on the undeserving, it damages community spirit. If instead we could choose who we our money to, it would go a long way toward strengthening that feeling of community.
|Preble Street Resource Center|
A new book by Jason Riley called “Please Stop Helping Us” takes a long view of how all that extremely expensive federal government “help” is working for minorities. Not well, according to Riley, who is black. In this election season, candidates proposing to gradually dismantle the bureaucratic social boondoggle our federal government has become, and gradually turn things over to states and private charities, would probably earn wide public support. I’m listening for them, but aside from Maine Governor LePage in his campaign for reelection, I’m not hearing much.
Labels: government, liberal pieties, Maine, politics, war on poverty