Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fighting Poverty

                    President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on September 8, 2011, and called for new federal spending in the amount of $477 billion.  He said that this federal spending would give low-income people "ladders out of poverty."  The U.S. Census released its annual poverty report on September 13, 2011, and declared that 46.2 million people were poor in 2010 (up from 43.6 million the previous year).  This amounts to one in seven Americans being poor or 15.1 percent of Americans.  The Census Bureau has described at least 35 million people as poor in most years in the past two decades.

                    When I hear the word "poverty," I see people living without sufficient shelter, clothing, and nutritious food.  Apparently, the Census Bureau and other government agencies use different means to determine when people are poor or living in poverty.

                    Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield of The Heritage Foundation recently released a new report on poverty, which used the U.S. government's own figures to describe what it means to be poor in the United States.  The report is entitled, "Understanding Poverty in the United States" and can be found here .

                    The report gave the following facts about people the Census Bureau defined as being "poor."  One-third of poor households have a wide-screen plasma or LCD television, and one-fourth have a digital video recorder system (such as TiVo).  Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning, and forty-three percent have Internet access.  More than fifty percent of poor families with children have a video game system (such as Xbox or PlayStation).  Fifty percent of poor households have a personal computer, and one in seven has two or more computers.  Nearly two-thirds of the poor households have cable or satellite television.  Two-thirds of poor families have at least one DVD player, and seventy percent have a VCR.  Nearly seventy-five percent of poor households have a car or truck, and thirty-one percent have two or more vehicles.

                    Rector and Sheffield reported the following 2009 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about hunger and homelessness:  Eighty-three percent of poor families reported that they had enough to eat.  Ninety-six percent of poor parents said that during the year their children were never hungry at any time because the parents could not afford food.  Forty-two percent of poor households own their own homes, and only four percent of poor people were homeless over the entire year.  There was an interesting comparison made in the report:  the average poor American has more living space than the average Swede or German.

                    Poverty is a serious problem that requires serious solutions; however, exaggerating the symptoms of poverty will not solve the problem.  Rector and Sheffield reported the following:  "Among families with children, the collapse of marriage and the erosion of work ethic are the principal long-term causes of poverty."  This means that to be truly effective in reducing poverty, any welfare program must encourage marriage and require the recipients to put forth effort to work or prepare to work before receiving help. 

                    Dan Mitchell wrote an article about the dramatic increase in the poverty rate on .  He included a chart that showed the rate of poverty falling dramatically - until President Lyndon B. Johnson instituted the War on Poverty in the late 1960s.  After he declared war on poverty, the rate of poverty stopped falling and started climbing.  Since war was declared on poverty the federal government has squandered trillions of dollars on dozens of programs that have simply made the problem much worse.  Mitchell claims that the government is "considering a terrible plan to re-define poverty in order to justify ever-larger amounts of redistribution." 

                  I believe that many of our national leaders prefer that Americans rely on the government because people who are dependent on the government will vote for those politicians who will continue the programs under which they are receiving benefits.  The war on poverty has proven that people will not exert effort to obtain anything that they can get for free from the government.  Being on the dole destroys the self-esteem and self-confidence of people who then consider themselves unable to provide for their own needs.  It also causes people to be unsatisfied with what they have and demand that the government give them more.

If the government is serious about decreasing the numbers of Americans living in poverty, our leaders must understand that prosperity comes when we follow the principles that lead to better times.    Some of these principles are:  honesty, concern for our fellowmen, a sense of responsibility for self and family, choice and accountability, work and enjoyment of honest work, etc.  In other words, we need to teach and learn the principles known and practiced by our Founding Fathers.

In New Testament times, a woman brought an alabaster box containing "ointment of spikenard" and poured it on the head of Jesus.  Some people murmured against her for wasting the "very precious" ointment instead of selling it for "more than three hundred pence" and giving the money to the poor.  Jesus told the people to "let her alone … she hath wrought a good work on me.  For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good:  but me ye have not always" (Mark 14:3-7).

Jesus said that they would have the poor with them always, but His gospel contains principles that eliminate poverty.  His prophets followed in his footsteps and taught the same principles.  The prophet Enoch taught these principles to his people, and his followers learned the principles so well that their city was taken into heaven.  "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them" (Moses 7:18).

The city of Enoch was not the only place where poverty was eliminated.  After Jesus Christ was resurrected and ascended to heaven, the Church in New Testament times was under the direction of Peter, James and John and the other Apostles.  The Christians of that day were similar to the people of Enoch.  "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul:  neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
"And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus:  and great grace was upon them all.
"Neither was there any among them that lacked:  for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
"And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need" (The Acts 4:32-35).

The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Christ tells us that Jesus Christ visited the Nephites after His resurrection.  He spent several days with them sharing His teachings and bestowing His priesthood upon twelve disciples there.  The people were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and lived in an atmosphere similar to the City of Enoch and there was peace in the land for two hundred years.  "… the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
"And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift" (4 Nephi 1:2-3).

The gospel of Jesus Christ has the answer to poverty.  Socialism and communism are counterfeits of God's plan for His people.  Christians give of their personal means voluntarily to help those who are in need.  This is much different than the government taking money and goods from the "haves" and redistributing to the "have nots."  Socialism nor communism nor any other man-made program will eliminate poverty.  When all property and money is taken from the rich in a society, the entire society becomes poor.  In a society directed by Christ, the rich give of their means and pull the poor up to their level.  The gospel of Jesus Christ changes the hearts and minds of men and women so they no longer "love" earthly belongings.  The gospel teaches them that earthly belongings are temporary and the best rewards are those we are storing up in heaven through righteousness.

We will never solve the problem of poverty among us until Americans turn to Jesus Christ and repent of our evil ways.  Pouring more and more money into the war on poverty will simply make the matter worse.

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