The old Chinese proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” There is often a kernel of truth in these old sayings.
This week the news reported the number of people on food stamps increasing by 32% over the last four years. Depending on your political belief this can be either a drain on the treasury or a compassionate step any advanced society would require. During the discussions there was a lot of talk about both sides of this argument, but very little talk about the impact it has on the individual.
In the not too distant past, we were an agriculture society and a lot of families were migrant farm workers. Being a migrant farm worker is not something you wake up to one day and say, “What a great career opportunity, my family will benefit from this path.” Being a farm worker is something you became because you lacked an education or your life choices prevented you from moving out of current family circumstances and starting a business or attending a trade school.
Most of us read the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck published in 1939. In this book Steinbeck wrote knowingly about the migration into California. Reading the book, one comes to understand migrant farm workers were a hardy breed who toiled daily trying to scratch out a living for their families. Everybody in the family worked hard from sunup to sundown. The workers involved every member of the family with youngsters picking up a bucket to help pick produce from a very early age. What you don’t read in this or other books about the time period is the demand by people for government assistance. Actually, a good many of these hard working Americans distrusted the government. Bottom line, these individuals had a strong sense of self, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to family.
The question we should ask ourselves is: What is the difference between the people in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the people today? It is worth exploring the idea of expectations. In the 20’s people did not expect help. Neighbors, members of the same congregation or local charities were there and would step in to help, but the people receiving help were anxious to avoid getting help for any longer than necessary. The aid affected these people’s self-image.
Today, there is a sense of entitlement. People who are accepting aid assume it comes from the government and they are getting exactly what they deserve. Somewhere along the line people receiving help forgot that the government has no money. Any money the government spends to help one family must be taken from another family. Not thinking about where the money comes from while accepting the modern media’s title of victim, the individual’s self-identification, does not require independence or a strong sense of self-worth.
For those jumping out of their chairs and yelling that we are in a recession—relax, I understand. But if we drop the term victim and start talking about the benefits of independence, we can start getting to the problem.
There are jobs available. There are more skilled jobs available than there are skilled workers ready to take the jobs. A major step in that direction was the work requirement which came from entitlement reform during the Bill Clinton
presidency. There is controversy over what President Obama did or didn’t do with this program, but the fact remains real unemployment is around 14% and 32% more people are on food stamps.
I am suggesting any benefits given to a family should come with strings attached. To get fed, get educated. Want money for housing? Attend trade classes developed to fill the type of jobs available today. Private industry would be willing to set up training classes if they could see a return for their invested dollars. This would require changing the tax code to allow for training of skilled craftsmen in areas of need.
Business will not invest on promises; they have to see where the return will come from before investing the money. If a manufacturer could make the numbers work out, they would train the skilled labor needed to make a profit. There will be large numbers of exceptions to include those with severe disabilities, the aged and the injured. Common sense still exists in this country; we can make a program work.
The first step to solving this problem is to really care about those receiving aid.
To solve the problem we must want the best for this generation. The generations to follow need to see their parents getting up and going to work. Initially there will be problems and issues which need to be worked out. But they need to be worked out with the best long-term interest of the people.
People are not victims of society; they are victims of their decisions. People are not entitled to anything but love and help overcoming a temporary situation. This government has no right to take money from one working family and give it to a family which is unwilling to work.
The government does have the responsibility to facilitate the transition from an entitlement mentality to individual responsibility and well-earned self-esteem.
What do you think?