This morning on the way to an appointment, I was listening to Bill O’Reilly‘s Radio Factor podcast from 7/18 (I’m a little behind), and the topic of the second hour was welfare and the 10th anniversary of the 1996 welfare reform. This legislation was proposed by President Clinton, and passed overwhelmingly by congress. Only the most committed liberals voted against it, some of whose names you would recongnize as they’re still in congress today — Boxer, Finestein, Kennedy, etc.
Bill’s stated purpose was to talk about the success of the legislation. He cited some fascinating statistics, and of course made all kinds of interesting and provactive comments. Check this out…
In August 1996 (the year the reform was passed), 4.5 million families were on welfare. In December 2005, 1.9 million families were on welfare. That’s a drop of 57.6%. Wow!
Bill also cited a USA Today article which tracked 3 families from 1996 to 2006, which was really interesting as well. Article clearly leans conservative, but still pretty stark. Here’s are the three families (their state in ’96):
- 2 children, 3rd on the way, neither had a job, no education
- 25, 3 children under 8 by three different guys, never married, no education
- 32, cut from welfare after being on for 15 years, 5 children, 4 fathers, no education
I’ll let you read the article to get more details, but the summary is that they are all much more successful now that they’ve been forced to actually work for what they have. What I found really poignant in Bill’s comments was that he pulled no punches about the fact that these 3 women all had two things in common: 1) no education, and 2) kids, too many, too early, too un-married, too irresponsible.
So, three things… First, an analysis of the two sides of the debate and a few definitions. Second, my opinion. And third, my opinion…
Liberal / Socialist
The government has an obligation to generally provide for citizens. Citizens have a right to have what they want. “The government takes care of me.”
High taxes. Safety nets. Government attempts to provide guarantees to people. Income is redistributed. A person’s motivation is drained from them. Even if I don’t work hard, I have the right to have. Appears fair to whoever’s on the bottom, and weak/permissive/destructive by whoever’s on top — it’s about “the little guy”. Focus is on society; my life is the government’s responsibility. Ultimiately, government ultimately controls the economy. Believes that the economy is driven by the worker (the poor).
Conservative / Capitalist
The government has an obligation to provide opportunity and security only for citizens. Citizens have a right to opportunity, and a responsibility to work hard and help provide that opportunity for others. “I take care of myself.”
Lower taxes. Few safety nets. Few guarantees, except for opportunity. I keep what I earn. Motivation is the key. The harder I work, the more I have; if I don’t work, I have nothing. Appears fair to whoever’s on top, and cruel/unfair to whoever’s on bottom — it’s about “the man”. Focus is on self; my life is my responsibility. Ultimiately, private industry ultimately controls the economy. Believes that the economy is driven by investment (the rich).
“Ameria is the land of opportunity. If you seize the opportunity, you will succeed. Honest, work hard, get educated, you’ll succeed…. If you’ve got 3 kids by the time you’re 21, and there’s nobody there supporting you — no husband, no boyfriend — then you’re gonna be poor. That should be in bold letters in every school in America.”
I can’t disagree with Bill at all on this one. He’s right, and so is the conservative perspective. If we create a society that depends on the government … that depends on other people giving me stuff … then we cannot success. At best, we’ll be like Europe (socialistic and weak). At worst, we’ll be overrun by the Islamic fascists. We are in the middle of World War III, and we simply can’t afford this kind of weakening from the inside.
America is a wealthy nation. We absolutely have the responsibility as a society to help those among us who are less fortunate. But that responsibility is to help them to succeed and get out of any kind of dependence, not to help them be continually dependent. Self-reliance is the key, not hand-outs … and you can teach people to value either. The liberal mindset, predominantly, is to teach dependence. The conservative mindset, predominantly, is to teach independence.
Should those who have be generous and share with those who have much less? Absolutely. Should the government be given the power to force people to do so? No. If they are given that power, how will we be any different than the USSR? And for those of us who remember, the whole communism thing doesn’t really work out all that well.