Just about everyone is familiar with the adage that “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  When things are going well we tend to keep doing things the same old way we always have.  We won’t take risks.  When things are going badly (which means the old ways of doing things aren’t working well) we are forced to find new and better ways of doing things.  Even then, most people resist change, accepting only as much as they have to, and only for as long as they are forced to do so by circumstances.  This pattern is one of the major reasons that I oppose our welfare system and the culture that it has created.


            In times past individuals and families frequently suffered greatly because of poverty.  In extreme cases people starved to death, froze to death, suffered from sickness, disease and other problems.  Those circumstances were horrible, and no one wants to return to them.  However, those who suffered through those horrible experiences usually became highly motivated to never go through it again.  The pain became the “necessity” that motivated them to “invent” an alternative so that they wouldn’t have to experience the suffering again. 


            Our welfare system provides many of the basic needs for those who are on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.  Unfortunately, it provides enough that many recipients lose the motivation to “invent” their own solutions.  It is easier and safer to let the government provide those necessities for them.  The tragedy is that many recipients never break the cycle of government dependency.  I have heard individuals on Welfare and various government programs complain that they can’t “live” on what they get paid.  They have been deeply offended when I responded that they weren’t “supposed” to be able to live on those government programs.  Those programs were only intended as stopgaps, temporary assistance to help people get through a tough time.   Something is very wrong when individuals spend their entire lives on these programs, and never become self-supporting and independent.


            What was designed to serve as a temporary crutch, has evolved into a permanent trap for its recipients.  Unfortunately, the more generous that assistance becomes the more people get caught in the trap.  It becomes harder and harder for recipients to turn down the increasingly generous assistance provided by the Welfare system.  However, there is an unintended but tragic consequence to these policies.  As necessity diminishes, the need to find an alternative also diminishes, and is ultimately eliminated.  That explains why we now have entire families that have been on Welfare for two, three, or even four generations. 


            It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to help people to get off of public assistance, or Welfare, is to decrease the level of assistance and benefits.  If the programs fail to meet basic needs, most recipients will figure out that they need to do something different.  This probably sounds harsh, and perhaps it is.  However, it represents a level of wisdom and commonsense that seems to be increasingly uncommon in our society.  If the goal is to teach people how to become self-sufficient we must begin by breaking the dependency cycle. 


            I grew up in an inner-city ghetto and experienced poverty.  My family was eligible for government programs, but my parents never applied for or received them.  Part of it was undoubtedly pride, but a bigger part of it was their determination that their children become capable, independent, and self-supporting.  Three of their four children earned graduate degrees, and we all managed to escape from the ghetto.  Scripture teaches us that “discipline is never pleasant for the moment” and “whom the Lord loves He disciplines.”  Scripture also teaches us to show mercy.  Those at the lowest economic levels deserve better than they currently have.  They deserve to be independent and self-sufficient.  That’s why I believe welfare benefits should be reduced, not increased. 


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