The Heritage Foundation posted a graph on its Facebook site, showing purported growth in government spending on welfare between 1964 and 2011:
Predictably, the post has received 1,600+ “Likes” and 200 or so comments, most of them on the order of my “zoo” comments of Friday. But while it’s easy to say that the poor are being given too much, I’ll admit it’s hard to pinpoint where or how to cut back without punishing the people who most deserve help: the infants and children who cannot help themselves.
It’s interesting to read the talkback from liberals who say it’s “lunacy” to try to compare 1964 spending to today. ‘Our population is several times greater, cost of living is higher, average wage is higher, etc’…which is true, but beside the point. The graph, if I understand it correctly, is an ironic picture of several generations’ worth of “war on welfare” intending to cut spending on benefits to the poor. We can see how well that has worked out. But I’m not so much concerned with the big picture from the last 50 years. We can argue all day about “inflation-adjusted dollars” and what that really means.
No, the alarm bells went off for me when I went to the U.S. Government Spending website and found that spending on welfare to families and children (mainly nutrition supplements like food stamps, WIC and school lunch programs, as far as I can tell) has more than DOUBLED in the past four years, from $60.7 billion to 113.5 billion. How is that possible? Does that mean that the cost of food has doubled? That the number of people receiving assistance has doubled? More likely, it’s safe to say that more people are needing help and food costs more…
Still, the mind boggles at the thought of further increases in welfare spending. Looking at this chart, I wonder: how many people begin to receive assistance and simply never stop? And why is that? Could it have anything to do with the fact that 41% of babies born in 2009 were to unmarried women? How about this statistic: “In 2010, 9.9 million single moms were living with kids under 18 in the United States, up from 3.4 million in 1970.”
I could rant predictably about the decline in morals, and the cultural climate which has made it normal to have a baby if you want to, regardless of whether there are two parents committed to raising it to adulthood. But the fact is self-evident that while the population of our country has doubled since 1970, the number of single moms has tripled. What once was embarrassing at best, severely stigmatized at worst, is now common and acceptable, and–more significantly–practical. The government’s willingness to support single mothers and their children has made it possible for any woman who feels like it to have a baby and raise it without the necessity of a partner who supports or helps to support her. Instead of rewarding stable family units who are self-sufficient, and who raise statistically healthier, happier and less troubled kids, it seems that the prize goes to the unambitious young high school drop-out who has learned to bilk the system and is content to live from hand to mouth indefinitely.
Of course we do not want to live in a society which does not show care and concern for innocent children. And since the moral pendulum has swung so wildly to the left…I fear it will require more that Solomon’s wisdom to find a solution to our skyrocketing welfare costs which rewards responsibility and hard work, without penalizing infants and children who had no say in the matter.
I don’t think I can criticize the failed welfare reforms unless I have a better idea of how to cut such spending without endangering children. It seems to me that this is a matter for prayer.