Tag Archives: Poverty

Concerned For The Poor? Vote Republican

Poverty stands right in front of you
Poverty stands right in front of you (Photo credit: torephoto)

A common reason, at least among my self-proclaimed liberal friends, for their supporting Democrats and liberals in government is that they think these political groups expend more effort caring for the poor, the “downtrodden”, the people who have slipped through the cracks of our system and who need help more than you or I.

This is a real issue that affects real people and it is good that we expend time and effort both thinking about the poor, and working to alleviate their condition.

However, the poor are better served by Republican and conservative political ideas than by others, and here’s why:

First, we must agree on what is a suitable goal for the majority of charitable programs and acts. Conservatives consider the best default goal of charity programs to be the alleviation of immediate and extreme need and the readying and encouragement of those poor to re-enter the productive and self-sufficient mainstream as contributing members of society. This is based on the idea that people are more than physical bodies with physical needs, but are also, at the very least, minds with mental needs, and, depending on your metaphysical persuasion, spiritual beings with spiritual needs. Feed the body and you have resolved that need for today, feed the mind and soul with accomplishment and self-sufficiency and you have brought a person out from the true pains of poverty.

The default goal, therefore, of charity should be not simply the repeated alleviation of physical need, but it should contain a restorative function as well, encouraging the people taking advantage of the resources to move on to where they themselves are contributing. There are people who are unable to, in any way, contribute. However, these cases are rare, and we are limiting ourselves to talking about the type of charity that is most beneficial to the majority of people. Suffice to say, there should be programs for those completely unable to enter the mainstream. There are hospitals, homes, services, programs, all designed for these people.

To keep all poor in the permanent underclass of poverty and welfare families is to rob them of crucial aspects of their humanity. Unfortunately, the majority of government charity programs, in being designed ostensibly for the poorest and least fortunate, have been designed to discourage the sorts of behaviors and societal structures that we know are most conducive to producing contributing members of society. That a single mother can receive more assistance if she is not supported by a husband, while well intentioned, has certainly done nothing to encourage stable nuclear families in our poorest neighborhoods. That many programs are offered with little or no accountability or verification or auditing means that the efficacy of the programs is not evaluated and thus programs are not adjusted or changed or scrapped and redone when it is necessary to do so.

Finally, what people want and what people need are sometimes not the same. For people who are making their own way, they are free to do as they please, even by engaging in damaging behaviors, within bounds of reason and the law, without infringing on others freedom to do the same. Smoking, gambling, excessive drinking, eating raw dairy (that’s a joke, raw dairy is illegal but it ought not be), watching Glee, reading the Twilight series, and the like. When people are living on other’s charity, their freedoms in this respect are curtailed at the desire and discretion of those whose charity they are living upon. The government has not right telling people what they can and cannot eat, how they should or should not go about seeking employment, and the like, so long as those people are living their lives within the moral law and paying for all their chosen vices themselves. The government, or the charity, has every right to request people conform to their desired standard of behavior if those people wish to receive from their beneficence. A private charity has greater leeway in this than does government though. A private charity can expect some basic moral living or other requirements of lifestyle, while government needs to limit its requirements to the very basic regarding good use of its funds for the purpose of accountability to those who provided the funds, namely, you and I.

But what’s all this got to do with voting Republican? We’re getting to it, we just had to lay a little groundwork to make sure we’re on the same page and talking about the same thing.

First, conservative policies are generally geared towards greater job creation. We’re not talking about seasonal jobs or jobs with the Census Bureau. A healthy business climate is a climate that grows businesses, and growing businesses hire more people. Sure, some people are hired in Bangalore and some in Peru, but there are also more jobs here, where we live and can work. When there are more jobs and more people are needed to fill those jobs, poor people can get those jobs more easily. Liberal policies are generally geared towards the perception of equality, which is more difficult to pin down, except to say that if you see somebody who has more than you and your first thought is that somebody ought to take that from them, you should just keep voting liberal.

Second, conservative policies regarding charity encourage the restorative function. Recently, President Obama used an executive order to gut many of the requirements of the Welfare to Work program enacted by President Clinton and the Republican Congress lead by Newt Gingrich. By allowing states to not have to try so hard to get people back into the workforce when they are drawing welfare checks and are able-bodied by removing the deadline requirements, the program has been effectively gutted. Now, people on welfare are allowed to remain wallowing in their poverty and welfare-fueled subsistence without the states administering that welfare being requires to verify the recipients are seeking employment or engaging in training. Conservatives support Welfare to Work requirements because they recognize first the need of every human to be productive, both for their mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and for the need for the government charity to be carried out in a effective and efficient manner.

Third, conservative policies regarding care for the poor seek to build up the poor into becoming something besides poor. A primary goal of every conservative person is to see others taking responsibility for their own lives. When everybody is taking responsibility for their own lives, less is required of society, government, and other potentially powerful entities we humans must deal with. A government that less is required of is a government that will have to shrink. And people who are not is need of a strong government are people who are more capable in and of themselves. This is a chicken or the egg sort of point. We conservatives like small government and we recognize a certain sort of general population is required to make that possible, and we like a responsible and self-capable general population and recognize that will result in a necessarily smaller government. Not quite a paradox, but the two are intrinsically linked. So because of this desire for people’s generally greater capability, we want to see the poor growing up out of their poverty, mostly by their own strength, but assisted as necessary by those who are strong themselves. In the same way a butterfly hatching from it’s chrysalis must be left to struggle on it’s own if it is to have any chance of developing the strength necessary to survive, people who have done most of the work necessary to lift themselves beyond where they were and into new horizons of ability are blessed both by the new horizons and by the strength to handle that horizon. This idea of earned capability was championed by the ex-slave Booker T. Washington, who argued, against the darling of social studies W. E. B. DuBois, that the best way to open the roads out of slavery the widest is to remove every hinderance possible, so that it is only the capability of the person themselves that will limit ow far they go. Which brings us to the final point.

Conservatives believe the best sort of government charity is where the government gives, and then gets out of the way. First, the hard part: this getting out of the way means you are giving people the freedom to fail again, to fail completely and totally. The other side of this coin is that without the freedom to fail, you also do not really have the freedom to succeed. Conservatives believe in minimal regulation, only that which is necessary to prevent the most egregious abuses and damage. Conservatives believe in the right to work, which means workers should have freedom to form a union if they please, but are not required to do so in order to gain employment in the field of their choice. Conservatives believe in cutting out corruption at any and all levels, as it unbalances the fields of law, access to services, and business opportunity, and it puts needless restrictions and higher costs on people affected by it. A person who is poor but wishes not to be is better served by a soup kitchen and an open and thriving field of employment than by a Link card and greedy and corrupt politicians in some of the biggest metropolises in American, which, ironically, are run primarily by Democrat-controlled political machines.

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Theory of Personal Responsibility

8-year-old boy with Down Syndrome
8-year-old boy with Down Syndrome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am responsible for me.

This means first that I must act in a way that is responsible for myself. Live out the consequences of my choices without needlessly burdening others.  Other have their own troubles and their own responsibilities. When we each who are capable live in this way we both free others to do the same and free ourselves to be more able to help those who truly are needy.

It is a paradox that those who are most self-sufficient are those most capable of helping those who are not.

Existing social structures are each responsible in turn: Family follows the self, then friends, then community and civic/social groups, then local government, then state government, then federal government. This does not mean the federal government is the ultimate authority. It means that the federal government is only authority when and in circumstances where all other levels have either failed, abdicated, or are incapable on sufficient scale to bear any given responsibility. This is the same for each succeeding layer of responsibility: Family is only responsible for that which the individual is not capable of being responsible for. An infant is capable of very little in themselves, so the family is responsible for them, but the family is also responsible for raising that infant to take responsibility to the utmost of it’s capability. When the family fails, or a situation gets beyond, or is beyond, the family’s capability, greater numbers of involved and invested and capable people, friends that is, then share in the responsibility. This does not have to be only in serious situations, it could be when children go off to play together at each others houses, friends share in responsibilities to the benefit of all. Then communities such as churches, clubs, social circles and the like, to which we have voluntarily joined ourselves, bear a certain level of responsibility.

You can see the graduating layers as each successive level bears some responsibility innately and then gains certain responsibility based on specific situations and circumstances. The way to visualize this is as a pyramid: The individual has ultimate responsibility, that is, first and last. While others may become responsible at different times and in different situations, the individual has first responsibility and will answer at the end for all that pertains to them whether others were involved or not. Each successive and broadening layer then goes down, not up, in authority over the individual and over each successive layer. This leaves federal government not as the ultimate responsible party but as the last responsible party. In some ways this last position equates with “least”. It is last in priority, and therefore has least priority in the layers that stand above it. It is not a foundational position either. The foundational responsibility can only belong to something outside, something not us. God does not form a layer below the federal government, God forms the all-encompassing framework inside which the entire pyramid exists.

The second outcome of self-responsibility is that each successive layer of responsibility ought to generally, as a matter of course, act in a way that is not-responsible towards those layers that are above it in priority. Family only takes responsibility for the individual when and where that individual is incapable of being self-responsible. Friends, only when and where the family is beyond it’s capability. And so on. The various layers of government ought only bear that responsibility for which all other layers are incapable or not suited. This does not mean that each successive layer out to act antagonistically to those layers above it in responsibility, but ought instead to build up each layer in order that those other layers are MORE capable, and so that responsibility only falls upon the lower layers when all else has failed. In other words, the family ought to build up the individual so that the family is less necessary, and less likely to be called upon to support that individual as it matures and takes on more responsibility for itself. The friends ought to build up the family and the individual in the same way, and the community ought to do the same for the friends and the family and the individual, and so on. This structure of reinforced and supported and encouraged responsibility results in the strongest communities, the strongest families, the strongest nations, because each individual and each successive layer of responsibility is invest in those that take priority above it, and as each successive layer is made as strong as it can, the entire structure can bear much weight and stress in times where responsibility increases or situations change for any given layer.

The federal government, then, ought to be primarily invested not in centralizing responsibility, authority, and power to itself, but instead in divesting authority. Not delegating, for that implies that it retains ultimate responsibility and is superior to those layers which are in fact superior to it. But divesting authority, actually giving it away (or, more realistically, having it taken away) to those layers which it ought to instead be supporting and reinforcing so that they are able and capable of bearing more and more responsibility and authority.

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Book Review: Same Kind Of Different As Me

Same Kind Of Different As Me

What do an affluent art dealer and man raised in what was essentially 20th-century slavery have in common?

I don’t know either.

But God did, and in this true story of two men for whom being from different sides of the railroad tracks didn’t begin to describe the gulf between them we see Him working His will to bring each of these men into the fullness of His goals for them.

Same Kind Of Different As Me tells the story of Denver Moore, a man raised in extreme poverty as a share-cropper in the American south, and Ron Hall, a man of self-made wealth who didn’t have a problem money couldn’t fix. Brought together by Ron’s wife and her work in a Dallas-area homeless shelter, what began as Ron’s begrudging and prideful helping out became a bond between these two that carried them through storms of life many of us have not faced.

I cried reading this book, which doesn’t happen often. But more than the emotional depth of the story was the truth that we are not as different as we may think. I see people on the trains riding to and from work and I think “what could I have in common with them?” Then memories of this book come to me and I think “if Denver and Ron were brought together, I should not doubt there may be some common purpose here as well”.

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