The most significant reason the rate of poverty is increasing in our country is because we’ve established a poverty culture, where generation after generation grows up expecting the government to support them.
Some will shake their heads and point out that welfare pays barely enough to get by on. That may be true but, to some people, regardless of how little it is, getting something for nothing is more attractive than working. And, if their standard of living is low, they resent the government for not giving them enough to support a higher standard of living. Many also subsidize their entitlements with “unreported income,” and feel justified in doing so because, if they reported it, the evil government would have the temerity to cut their benefits!
I’m not suggesting that this is true of all people receiving government aid. Some people use it the way it’s intended, as a short term safety net to get them through a catastrophic crisis (a role that has traditionally been filled by private charities). But many people make it a lifestlye. And the most insidious part of this culture of dependency is that they raise their children with the same expectations they have. As they have more children, and their children have more children, the number of people who live in a constant state of dependency grows greater with each successive generation. What’s more, the system actually rewards the poor for having more children. The more children you have, the more benefits you automatically get, whether you care properly for your children or not.
If we did not set people up with the expectation that, if they fail to provide for themselves, somebody else will always provide for them, a lot more people would figure out ways to provide for themselves. More significantly, they would be better off by doing so. And so would their children and their children’s children, because children learn by example from the people who raise them and the culture in which they grow up.
I agree with those who say our government is largely responsible for the rate of poverty in this country today. But it’s not because the government doesn’t redistribute enough wealth to the poor. It’s because the government sets up the expectation that people don’t have to take responsibility for their own lives or the welfare of their own families. And that is a great shame.