From Jeff Jacoby at The Boston Globe, Is this any way to help the poor?
At the end of 2012, a record47.8 million people were on food stamps. Of the 115 million households in the United States, 23 million — one in five — are on the food dole.
It wasn’t so long ago that such a degree of dependency would have been inconceivable. In 2001, according to federal data, 17.3 million people were receiving food aid. In little more than a decade, the food stamp rolls have almost tripled.
Is this any way to help the poor? FDR didn’t think so. In his annual message to Congress in 1935, President Roosevelt warned that “continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.” The father of the New Deal knew that “to dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of a sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.”
It is a mark of how far we have declined that a political figure who dared to say such a thing today would be denounced as heartless, a hater of the poor, even a racist — as Newt Gingrich found out when he tried to make an issue of soaring food stamp rates during the presidential campaign. When Massachusetts lawmakers last year tried to prevent electronic benefit cards from being used to pay for tattoos, guns, or jewelry, Governor Deval Patrick vetoed the measure, saying he would not be a part of “humiliating poor people” or making them “beg for their benefits.”
FDR feared the effect of long-term dependence on government. Political leaders today enable it.
Welfare corrupts in so many ways. What it does to taxpayers is bad, and what it does to welfare recipients is worse. But what it is doing to our nation’s character and deepest values may well be worst of all.
Rationalizations for entitlements have turned into justifications for theft. What was once a benefit for short term displacement has expanded into a lifestyle. This should be expected when a federal bureaucracy is created to help the disadvantaged: maintaining and growing the disadvantaged becomes the means to secure the existence of the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy does not serve us; we serve the bureaucracy.