Friday, October 25, 2013

Where All Our Money Has Gone

Two headlines today explain how government is failing as we reach the point of unsustainable welfare levels (click to enlarge):

Under President Obama, the country has been run without a budget, and nearly five times as much has been spent on welfare than together on education, transportation and NASA.

And what have we got to show for all this largesse? Just this:

Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the Census Bureau.

They also out-numbered the total population of the Philippines.
There were 108,592,000 people in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2011 who were recipients of one or more means-tested government benefit programs, the Census Bureau said in data released this week. Meanwhile, according to the Census Bureau, there were 101,716,000 people who worked full-time year round in 2011. That included both private-sector and government workers.
Read the rest of the story at CNS News.

With more people on the dole than there are working to pay taxes, our country has reached the point that President Grover Cleveland foresaw so long ago, when in a message vetoing a welfare bill from Congress he posed the classic rhetorical question:

"If the government supports the people, who will support the government?"


  1. Sounds like a typical Republican opposition to the Gospel to the Poor.

    1. Part 1:

      Does the "Gospel to the Poor" mean making the poor poorer and breaking them spiritually so that they are no longer merely poor (which is no shame or judgement against them, as Jesus shows us) but that they give up and let later generations become hopeless and deviant?

      I live and work in Mississippi, which ranks at the bottom of almost every national statistic (though I expect parts of the old Rust Belt will join us soon). If you take one region out of Mississippi, the Mississippi Delta, the state ranks about in the middle nationally in most categories.

      I'm not from that region of the state, but my wife comes from a small city just on the edge of it, and I know Episcopal ministries that work there. The Delta is a place that is (except a few islands in a sea of dependence) almost totally hooked on federal aid. I haven't seen the most recent numbers, but it is probably around 95%. That would be close to the normal numbers I've seen previously.

      What happened to the Delta? Well, that's a complicated answer that I can't do total justice to here, but here is a brief commentary:

      The Delta is very fertile farm land (rich black soil) and its adjacent proximity to the Mississippi River makes it easy (and cheap!) to ship farm products on barges down the river to the port of New Orleans where it can be transported anywhere.

      For maybe 150 years, the Delta (like much of the south) was a one-crop economy...cotton. Indeed, the Delta stayed that way long after much of the Deep South had moved on to a more diverse agriculture.

      As we should know from history, cotton (unlike wheat, corn, etc) is a very labor-intensive crop and requires a lot of attention and care both to grow it and prepare it for market. (That's the reason why slavery appeared in places like the Deep South and West had nothing to do with the moral superiority of the people living in Northern States prior to 1860.)

      For generations, that's how most of the population of the Delta (mostly African-American) made their living: there was a need for low-skilled agriculture laborers, and there was plenty of work to go around.

      Well, that has all changed. One reason is automation: machines do much (though not all) of the work that was once done by hundreds of hands. Second reason is that the Delta is no longer a single-crop economy: cattle, catfish, soy, corn, and other products are as important as cotton (much of which is bought in Egypt and India where it is cheaper).

      This was not a new change. King Cotton has been retired since the 1960s, and so the economic/labor crisis in the Delta has been a long-existing one.

    2. Part 2:

      I am not anti-government per se. What needed to happen in the Delta once the economy changed was that the labor in the region needed to change with it. We should have encouraged people to move to the cities (there is no major city in the region that anchors it, so this could have changed that). We should have encouraged the people to be retrained, and then we needed to lobby for new industries to come to the region that produce the types of things the new agro-economy needed.

      Government could have (and should have, if it is the panacea that the Brotherhood of Obama claim it to be) played a part in such a transformation, partnering with local governments, businesses, farmers, charities, and religious institutions to make this come about.

      As we all know, this did not happen. What did happen was almost Egyptian...the mummification of the Mississippi Delta. In effect, what the federal government has actually done is hold in place a way of life that has been dead for 50 years. These people need new skills, training, and education so that they can make a living for themselves and raise their children out of poverty and into new opportunities like our parents and grandparents did for us.

      Sadly, people seem to live a life in stasis in the Delta, and I don't think that poverty (as the progressive chorus in academia, activist circles, and on MSNBC would have us believe) is the only reason.

      Labor is one thing God intended men to tend the garden, etc. Now I don't fault anyone for taking government assistance who needs it, but generational dependency is quite another thing. As far as I can tell, whether we're talking about the Delta or the USSR, the results are always negative.

      In the Delta, the damage has been multi-generational as children and grandchildren who have never seen a parent leave and come home from a job now place no value on work or fact, it becomes something to sneer it and treat with contempt.

      My brother is a police officer, and he worked in a Delta community for awhile, and some of the stories he told me would shock anyone. Indeed, no one would think that rural communities and small towns could be the places where all sorts of gangs and criminal activity could be happening, but the murder rates in some of these tiny Delta communities is higher than Chicago, and crime and disrespect for the law or private property (with the exception of a few islands or eddies that I previously discussed) is common.

      It seems to me that our government assistance programs where thought out by middle-class Ivy League types for people like myself (skilled, professional, third generation university educated, etc) who might fall on hard times but could eventually find a job within at least 6 months, etc. However, federal assistance seems ill-equipped to work out the problems I described that plague the Mississippi Delta...indeed, the problems of the Delta in 2013 are far, far, far, far different than the problems of 1963, and I think poorly thought out federal policy played a big part in transforming the Delta into what it is today.

      Frankly, I don't see how the service the federal government did to the citizens of the Mississippi Delta squares with any "Gospel to the Poor."

      I'd love to hear you explain that one.

  2. kiwianglo, I hardly equate carrying the Gospel to the Poor as described in the scriptures with the forcible taking and redistribution (unaccompanied by any gospel message) by the government.

    1. Also, I'd love for kiwianglo to explain where in the real Gospels does Jesus endorse large-scaled distributionist schemes that are expensive and load the generations that come after us with large amounts of debt that will encumber them. Also, where did 'distributionism' become an end to itself? When Chesterton and other Christian Socialists proposed this concept in its infancy, they seemed to see it as a means that would do all sorts of good for poor people that (as I showed in my example of the Mississippi Delta) it has utterly failed to do. But alas we need distribution of wealth not because it actually helps to lift people out of poverty and leads to a better life for them and their children, but because we have to satisfy the Marxist ravenous and neverending dreams of wish fulfillment of the Occupiers and the Sandinista branch of the Anglican church for social "justice". Cheers.

  3. Allan,
    At first I thought you were asking where the money of Anglican Churchgoers (ACNA in particular) had gone, to which my reply would be to lawyers and to support an overpaid and bloated episcopate. But I see what you meant now. Long before immigrating to the US from Toronto we knew that the Dole/Public Assistance/Welfare were doomed to failure. My parents saw the erection of Regent Park which was Canada's first Public Housing estate modeled on the horrible Public Housing estates built in England after the War. They now house Fourth and Fifth generation occupants. I see the same thing here in Mississippi. People should have listened to the sound advice given by men like Enoch Powell. If you would like to see a picture of where this is all headed watch Michael Caine's film "Harry Brown" and you will understand what I mean.

  4. This all seems like the dependence of Washington's plantation. And it's still breaking up families. The masters of "progress" bring nothing new under the sun.