President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “war on poverty” more than fifty years ago and promised that there would be poverty would be eliminated in America. Yet, today we have nearly the same poverty rate.
Genevieve Wood at The Daily Signal says that there are “80 different federal, state, and local welfare programs” that cost “a trillion dollars a year.” She says that if we divided that one trillion dollars among the forty million Americans on welfare that each family of four would reap $100,000 per year. That is a lot of money!
How many people in the working class do you know that make $100,000 per year? I certainly reared my family on much less money and did not rely on the American taxpayer to do it! Wood says that “welfare keeps the poor poor” because the system “discourages work” and “discourages families from staying together” while at the same time it “encourages dependence on government.” She says, “In many cases, welfare has harmed the very people it was supposed to help, especially children.” She then explains the reasons for this.
As welfare benefits grew over the years, they increasingly served as a substitute for a working parent.
As the taxpayer became the family breadwinner, that encouraged many men to stop upholding their responsibilities, leaving more and more women as heads of single-parent households.
On the other side of the coin, single mothers were discouraged from marrying the fathers of their children because that reduced their benefits.
The welfare regulations and laws in existence in our nation are the exact opposite of divine and proven principles. One of those divine principles is work. While Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, their food grew without much effort on their part, and they needed little more. Because they partook of the forbidden fruit, God “cursed” the ground “for thy sake” and told Adam that he would have food by “the sweat of thy face” (Genesis 3:17-19). We live in the same fallen world and are in the same condition as Adam and Eve found themselves: If we want food, we need to work for it. This was true until LBJ decided to wage the war on poverty.
Marriage between a man and a woman is another divine principle upended by government laws and policies. Fathers have a God-given responsibility to preside over their family, to provide the temporary needs of their family, and to protect their family. (See “The Family –A Proclamation to the World.) How can an absentee father fulfill this responsibility? Where did anyone get the idea that children are better off in a single-parent home? Study after study says that married couples are more likely to prosper financially and to offer better circumstances for rearing children. Why would our government discourage marriage?
Did you know that the proportion of men in the work force steadily decreased as the proportion of women in the work force increased over the past sixty years? Some men are out of the work force for health reasons, while other men stay home to run the family because the wife can earn more money. These two groups of men surely account for the minority of the men out of the work force. What are the other men doing? Are they on the welfare rolls? Maybe. Wood gives several suggestions for decreasing the numbers of people dependent on the government.
First, we have to understand that the problem with the current system is that it discourages work. Work is the fastest and most effective way to get out of poverty and become prosperous.
Welfare programs should be designed to offer temporary help while encouraging able-bodied recipients to find work and become self-reliant.
In states that have implemented time limits and welfare-to-work requirements, recipients have received job training, found jobs, and increased their incomes dramatically. They’ve also dropped off the welfare rolls.
Second, we must continue to create the jobs that help recipients transition to work.
As we’ve seen in just the past few years, cutting taxes on individuals and businesses and cutting regulations that hinder business growth are the keys to massive new job creation, high levels of employment, and increased wages for workers.
Wood says – and I agree – that “Americans want a social safety net” that will help those people who need help AND “they want to help the poor find meaningful work.” The Savior taught His followers, “For ye have the poor with you always” (Mark 14:7). This means that poverty will never be eliminated until the Savior returns to earth to reign. Therefore, we must have some way to care for the poor, sick, and elderly among us who cannot care for themselves. However, we do not need to encourage people to remain in poverty.
The only way to truly escape poverty – whether spiritually or physically – is to work. God commands us to work because He knows that work will bless us. He cursed the earth for our sake. We know that hard physical labor builds strong muscles and decreases the tendency to become fat and lazy. We know that meaningful work increases our self-esteem and self-confidence, makes us self-reliant, and brings many other blessings into our lives. It is only right that we allow the poor of our nation to experience the blessings of work in their lives. We must stop subsidizing slothfulness and encourage good work habits.