Plans are now being considered which may make the United States the world's foremost welfare state. Yet, the welfare problem won't be solved. Just what is the best way to help the poor?
NATIONS have always had their poor — the elderly, the sick, the unemployed, the incapacitated, the uneducated, the indolent. Government leaders, economists, social scientists today are faced with the same problem: "How can we PROVIDE for the poor?" "How can we be sure everyone will fare well in our land?" Some nations have disregarded their poor. In others, only the fit survived. One ancient nation had a special system — long since neglected — which provided for those who were in real need. Widows, orphans, crippled and poor were cared for in a unique manner that did not encourage indolence.
The Welfare States
Most modern nations of the Western World have chosen to assume the role of the welfare state. The road has been a rocky one — leading to spiraling taxes, inequities, loss of self-respect, and increased indolence. The present U. S. welfare system has been called a "scandal." But, though criticized, it is still not as "complete" or "classic" as those of three other nations — Sweden, Great Britain and Uruguay. In order to support a birth-to-burial welfare program, Sweden has instituted the world's highest taxation rate. Approximately 41 percent of all wages are taken in taxes to support the most advanced cradle-(free prenatal care and child delivery) to-the-grave (generous old-age pensions and funeral support) care. Sweden's womb-to-tomb welfare program offers an annual allowance for each child until he reaches 16, free tuition at college, home-furnishing loans for newlyweds, rent rebates for large families, special pensions for widows, orphans, and invalids. Every age group is under welfare's umbrella. Germany's Bismark passed the first modern welfare laws in 1883. Great Britain joined the welfare wagon in 1911, under the leadership of Prime Minister Lloyd George. Today, Britain's welfare state will provide anything from a pair of slippers to a house (one laborer bought two houses on national assistance!). On all the social services — health, pensions, education, unemployment, and housing — Britain spends over 9 billion pounds ($22 billion) per year. That's four times her defense budget, and nearly one fourth of her entire GNP! Britain's welfare system is much criticized for subsidizing indolence. Many thousands of Britons make more on national assistance than they could make working! But the British case, though the most familiar, is certainly not the most dramatic. The most striking example of a welfare state gone bankrupt is Uruguay.
Take Uruguay — Please!
Uruguay had everything going for it — arable farmland, more than 90 percent literacy, a thriving cattle industry, full employment, excellent ports, high per-capita earnings, and relative political stability in a politically unstable continent. Uruguayans were the best fed, best dressed, best paid, and best educated people in South America. Jose Baffley Ordoliez, who ruled or controlled Uruguay between 1903 and 1929, started the nation down the welfare road. By 1952, the welfare system began to collapse. Today it is bankrupt, and dying. Presently, fully 40 percent of the population is supported by the government. The UNEMPLOYMENT rate is about 30 percent of the work force. The inflation rate is above 100 percent a year. In Uruguay's employment-to-interment welfare program, about 40 percent of all workers work for the central government, and fully half of the population is over 50 years of age! Such combined statistics are unequalled in the world's nations. Why so many elderly? Because "advanced" welfare services provided retirement at full pay (or more) beginning somewhere between ages 48 and 55, or healthy unemployment benefits for those under 50 who were out of a job. The obvious conclusion: why work? Young workers and those in high tax brackets began leaving the country. By 1968 the stream increased to 2,000 emigrants per month — a brain and brawn drain. How did Uruguay meet all these welfare payments, while fewer tax-payers remained to produce the goods and services? The nation warmed up the printing presses. The amount of pesos — and the cost of living — doubled each year while production declined. In 1967, for instance, cost of living escalated 136 percent. Meanwhile, the "real" GNP declined! And the welfare "spiral" continued. To handle the governmental chores of dispensing more welfare, more employees were hired. In 1968, about 40 percent of all laborers "worked" (only 4 to 6 hours daily) for the government. By January of 1970, government workers actually outnumbered all other workers — 400,000 to 300,000, according to an Associated Press release — the reverse of the ratio of a year earlier. Why such a bureaucratic, bankrupt mess? For Uruguayans, the something-for-nothing syndrome became a way of life. "Our trouble is that we do not want to work," wrote the very newspaper founded by Uruguay's welfare champion Baffley Ordoilez. The lesser half of the people who worked had to support the greater half who were either on the dole or in the government. In spite of such obvious problems, other nations are on the road to becoming carbon copies of these welfare states. This road could lead to financial and social ruin if the mistakes others have made are repeated.
The Present Welfare System
Look at the U. S. for a moment. In 1969, federal, state, and local governments in the United States spent $125 billion on all social welfare programs. This huge sum represents one seventh of the Gross National Product. The amount is larger than the entire Federal budget was just five years ago. About one third of this massive total goes to old-age assistance. Another one third goes to public education and the remaining third to miscellaneous programs of medical, veteran, unemployment, disability, and dependent-children assistance. Only one tenth — $13 billion in fiscal 1970 — went directly to "public assistance" (the category most people associate with welfare, or the "dole"). Such spending has more than doubled since 1965 and now is doled out to over 12 million Americans. The largest program of public assistance — measured by either human lives or dollars spent — is the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). The number of families receiving such aid increased more between 1965 and 1968 than during the previous 17 years combined. Now, more than 1.5 million families, representing over 6 million people, receive AFDC aid. Their numbers increase about 15 percent annually. As the most extreme example, New York City alone has one million on welfare, the number having doubled between 1965 and 1968! This welfare crunch is causing problems. There are too many million people needing and requesting help, without enough billions of dollars to go around. That's the immediate problem. The longer-range problem is an archaic and unjust welfare system, amounting to a "welfare scandal." President Nixon himself called the present welfare system a "colossal failure," an "antiquated, wheezing, over loaded machine" that breaks up homes, often penalizes work and grows at a prodigious rate of 10 percent or more annually. The greatest inequity, of course, is that it doesn't really help many of the poor. One New York City welfare officer admitted, "Welfare is designed to save money, not people, and it ends up doing neither." To illustrate — there are over 25 million poor people in the United States. Less than half receive ANY help. Those who do receive help are neither helped out of their problem nor, in general, given enough to live decently in their poverty.
Nine Reasons Why Welfare MUST Change
Much has been written about the inequities of the present welfare system. Nine problems summarize the main reasons why officials have declared that the current system must be revamped. 1) Families are broken up. To receive AFDC relief, the father must be absent or disabled. In actual practice, three fourths of all welfare families are fatherless, and only one fifth have a father disabled. More than half the nation's poor urban blacks now live in fatherless families. 2) Illegitimacy is "encouraged" by granting more AFDC support for each child born while the husband is absent. Welfare workers are paid to keep an eagle eye out for the husband who lives with his AFDC wife. Often she tries clandestinely to support him in separate living quarters. 3) Work is "discouraged." In many areas, a welfare recipient can receive more on relief than he could by working at some of the dirty and distasteful jobs which pay only about $60 a week. "In such a case," some people reason, "why work?" Presently about 100,000 people earn more by working part-time and collecting welfare supplements than they would earn by working full time. 4) Work is sometimes prohibited in the case of blind, injured, disabled or otherwise handicapped people. Many are deprived of their welfare check if they work even part-time. Many jobs can be done well by the handicapped if welfare policy would encourage it. 5) Transportation, clothing and day care for children are some of the extra expenses encountered when one begins working. To work sometimes costs more money than not to work. But such expenses are not provided for welfare recipients wishing to work, especially AFDC mothers. For instance, a person receiving $3,000 welfare annually might easily "net" more money than if he or she worked for $4,000 annually. 6) Work and wage discrimination often causes AFDC mothers or unskilled minority workers to earn much less for hard physical work than a white-collar worker might earn for a less demanding job. 7) Regional inequities cause a poor family of four on AFDC to receive only $36 a month ($9 per person) in Mississippi, but $240 per month ($60 per person) by moving to New York City, Newark, or other Northern cities. This is a major cause of the stifling urban migration. 8) Welfare is personally degrading. A welfare check is supposedly given to help people live "with dignity." But such handouts are often accompanied by highly undignified snooping, questioning and checking up on the "means," morality and marital status of recipients. Some want to work, but jobs aren't available. All self-respect, dignity, and desire to escape the poverty syndrome are sabotaged. And worst of all: 9) Welfare is for LIFE. Over 40 percent of all AFDC welfare cases in some large cities are the sons or daughters of previous AFDC cases! Some are third-generation fatherless families! To live a life on welfare — or in poverty — is to live no life at all. And 25 million Americans are locked in this prison for life. Recently, some government leaders and economists have been proposing a drastic revision of our Welfare System.
The Nixon Plan
On August 8, 1969, on nationwide television, the President of the United States proposed a sweeping reform, a series of changes which, although more expensive initially than the present program, proposed to treat many of the causes of the welfare mess and take away some of its needlessly degrading factors. He called it the Family Assistance Plan. No unemployed person would earn more than an employed person — as often happens today. In short, it would annually provide $500 per adult and $300 per child for all families with children, if that family earns less than $720 per year. If the family earns between $720 and $3,920 annually (figured on a family-of-four basis), it would still receive 50? of welfare support for each dollar the family earns (above $720). An additional incentive to work would be a $30 monthly bonus for those attending job-training programs. A penalty for those who refuse job training and placement would also be instituted. The President would scrap the entire AFDC program and attempt to employ some of the AFDC mothers by providing day care for the children. Such practices as the "means test" and the personal intrusion by welfare workers would be eliminated. There would be no attempted separation of the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor, as is attempted today. Would the Nixon Plan work? The President himself said, "I don't know whether it's going to work. All I know is that the system we've got now is a social disaster, and I'm not going another step down that road." Congress counted the cost of the Nixon plan for over a year, then it was turned down recently by the Senate Finance Committee. The reason why is clear when we understand the cost involved.
Would It Work?
As an immediate effect, President Nixon's plan would more than double the welfare rolls, from about 10 million to nearly 25 million Americans. The immediate cost increase would be about $4 billion added to a Fiscal 1971 budget deficit that already is exceeding $10 billion. The long-range effect would be the most critical. The new welfare plan would officially make the United States a "welfare state." The standard definition of a welfare state would be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948. It states that "everyone has the right to social security" and "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family." The key word is everyone. At present less than half of America's poor receive welfare. Unemployment and other welfare programs cover only a portion of the nation. Neither the cradle, the grave, nor much of the in between is thoroughly covered — yet. President Nixon is opposed to most of the principles of "guaranteed income" or "negative income tax." His plan, nevertheless, guarantees $2,400 (including $800 of food stamps) per year to every family of four. The male head-of-family must submit to job training, but women heads-of-family need not. Would such programs work? Look at the record of past job-training programs. For eight years now, a program of job training, on both the national and state levels, has been under way. The programs have cost in excess of $6 billion. Critics on both sides agree that only a "small proportion" of the 6.4 million persons in the program were helped. Mr. Nixon called job programs heretofore "a terrible tangle of confusion and waste." Would future job programs do better? Training programs alone are not the answer. No job training programs can 1) guarantee jobs for those trained, 2) guarantee proper wages and working conditions for victims of job discrimination, 3) instill the desire to learn into a person dulled by years of poverty, malnutrition, or apathy, or 4) solve the primary welfare problem of non-white households headed by women.
Profile of the Poor
Most of the poor are NOT necessarily the lazy employables, but the working or deserted poor. Of the 4.5 million poor families (under the age of 65) eligible to receive some supplement to their income under the proposed Nixon plan, 3.3 million are already working, at wages below $60 per week. Another million families are headed by women or disabled men. Of the remaining 230,000, half are in school or otherwise occupied. According to the Nixon Plan less than one percent of today's poor would be candidates for job training. The rest are already employed or incapable of work in their present situation, or women who are heads of households. Job training does not attack the cause — or even the primary effect — of our poverty problem. The main cause of poverty becomes crystal clear when you examine the breakdown — both statistically and literally — of the families presently on the Public Assistance roles in America.
Father not married to mother 21.2% Father deserted 18.4% Father divorced or legally separated 14.3% Father deceased 7.7% Other 4.8% TOTAL 74.9%
Incapacitated 17.8% Unemployed 5.1% Other 2.2% TOTAL 25.1%
The true solution to the welfare problem is obvious. Eliminate the root cause of poverty — FAMILY BREAKDOWN — not mere unemployment. Job training has its part, the elimination of racial and wage discrimination have their parts. Many factors contribute to the involuntary cultural enslavement of poverty. But the root cause is family breakdown. What can be done about it? First of all, we must realize happy families are not bought. No amount of financial incentive can create binding love in the family. In fact, it is not even in the hand of governments to be able to bind families. Welfare reforms cannot succeed unless they are capable of binding families together. And families cannot succeed without a change in the human heart! With proper character training in the home, the cause of poverty — the cause of second-generation welfare cases — will be solved. To effect such programs there must be plans. The right type of welfare program is needed to get people back on their feet — to "prime the pump." But what are those programs and where can they be found?
Effective Welfare Programs
A welfare plan that works was proposed long ago. Not many people have heard of it. But it was practiced by an ancient nation. "If thy brother be waxen poor," said the Law-book of this ancient nation, called Israel, "and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve [strengthen] him" (Leviticus 25:35). This Law-book also provided special financial support for "the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates" that they "shall eat and be satisfied" (Deuteronomy 14:29). Further statutes and judgments prohibited any form of discrimination. These laws provided temporary help for those who had become poor through circumstances beyond their control, and also permanent help for those incapable of supporting themselves. Notice these people were not to be degraded with a pittance or a "dole" barely able to cover their needs. They were to "eat and be satisfied" by a welfare program which opened a "wide hand" to them. Further study of this law reveals a "social security" program for the aliens, orphans, and widows that cost less than 4.3% of the total personal income — not upwards of 10% to 40% which some nations spend today. What was the secret behind such success? The secret was the stress on family unity — family support. If any person did not provide for his own relatives and especially those of his immediate family, he was considered worse than an infidel. Think what a savings to any nation's budget it would be if each family looked after its own members, especially the elderly — their own parents and grandparents! But, more importantly, this kind of system made it possible for the elderly to take care of the grandchildren! This ancient set of Laws also attacked the root cause of poverty! And that cause results in the enslaving housing patterns we call ghettoes. In the Israel of 3,000 years ago, each head of household owned his own property. That land could not be taken away from him as long as he lived. And where there's land, there's food for those who will work that land. No property tax took the fruits of his labor on that land. For that matter, there was no sales tax, surtax, excise tax, or any of our other labyrinthine financial siphons. There was a straight income tax (non-graduated, ten percent across the board). This was no welfare state!
WORK-fare Programs Too
While this system of law provided personalized and loving "relief" to all who needed it, it also made it clear that everyone who was able to WORK was expected to work. The Book of Proverbs, written by Solomon, a king of ancient Israel, is replete with admonitions to work. Perhaps the most familiar — but least practiced — is "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?..." (Prov. 6:6-9) So a program of workfare — a combination of helping the helpless and providing work for the able — is the proper foundation for welfare systems. But the necessary tools are (1) a strong family unit which would teach (2) a willingness to work. The welfare programs of any nation can work only if the individuals in that nation are taught to respect these two simple principles.