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(45) The Culture of Poverty

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The Culture of Poverty

In 2012, The New York Times ran a feature article titled “Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy,” in which it described the impact of welfare policy on low-income families living along the Appalachian Mountains in the Eastern United States.

The feature described how many impoverished families gave up sending their children to school in order to qualify for aid: “Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.” [12]

“Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way—and those checks continue until the child turns 18.”

This aid program was begun about 40 years ago with the goal of helping families raising physically or mentally challenged children. By the time The New York Times reported on the subject, over 55 percent of qualifying children were categorized as mentally challenged, but did not have any defined condition. Across the United States, there are now a total of around 1.2 million “mentally challenged” children for whose care taxpayers provide $9 billion annually. [13]

Here, welfare and the flaws of human nature feed each other in a vicious cycle. Despite the good intentions of those who advocate and formulate welfare policy, it indirectly aided the communist specter in its goal of bringing down and destroying humanity.

Over a century ago, Tocqueville made the observation that welfare programs do not discriminate among individuals, only poverty thresholds. This makes it hard to allocate aid efficiently since it is impossible to know whether the qualified individuals are actually suffering from circumstances beyond their control or if their misfortune is of their own making. [14]

Welfare abuse doesn’t just tie down public finances; it also affects the futures of children who grow up under its system. Research conducted in 2009 found that two-thirds of people who received welfare as children continued to receive it into adulthood, and will possibly remain on welfare for the rest of their lives. [15]

As a matter of election strategy, the term “disability” is being continually refined to include an ever-expanding part of the population in the ranks of those eligible for welfare. The criteria determining who is entitled to welfare creates an atmosphere of negative reinforcement that encourages the misuse of these benefits. The resultant regression in social morality and economic malaise help the communist specter achieve its aims.

Welfare is an emergency measure to assist those in genuine need, effective in circumstances such as those involving occupational accidents, epidemics, natural disasters, and so on. It shouldn’t become the default form of subsistence, as it is incapable of resolving the dilemma of poverty. As of 2014, in the 50 years since President Johnson launched his war on poverty, American taxpayers spent 2.2 trillion dollars to pay for welfare. [16] Yet, as statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show, the poverty rate has remained steady for the last 40 years. [17]

According to American economist William Arthur Niskanen, the welfare system spawned a culture of poverty, which in turn feeds into a vicious cycle of dependence on government aid, extramarital children, violent crime, unemployment, and abortion. His analysis of U.S.-wide data for the year 1992 produced estimates on the effects that could be expected from increasing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits by 1 percent of the average per capita income: AFDC recipients would increase by about 3 percent; the number of people in poverty would increase by about 0.8 percent; births to single mothers would increase by about 2.1 percent; and the number of unemployed adults would increase by about 0.5 percent. Abortions and violent crime would become more common as well. [18] Niskanen’s findings suggest that a robust welfare system fosters dependence on the system and discourages personal responsibility.

The disintegration of families is a chief ingredient in the culture of poverty. In a study of historical and contemporary poverty among blacks, economist Walter E. Williams found that 85 percent of impoverished black children lived with teenage single mothers. The welfare system promotes this phenomenon, as it encourages single mothers to live without taking responsibility for their actions. They can get subsidies, housing subsidies, food stamps, and the like from government welfare. Welfare has been instrumental in pushing single parenthood, causing more poverty. [19]

Despite the fact that welfare has been expanding in the last few decades, the gap between rich and poor has been continuously increasing as well: The average wage, adjusted for inflation, increases at a snail’s pace while wealth flows to the most wealthy. A class of working poor has emerged. Armed with these societal issues, the left wing pushes for a bigger government, higher taxation, and more welfare to combat poverty by exacerbating it further.

The Left’s Use of Welfare Policy to Gain Votes

Left-wing politicians often promote more welfare and higher taxes. Using a variety of election slogans to convince voters of their noble intent, they portray themselves as possessing the moral high ground, even though these politicians are not the ones who will be providing the welfare. Their method is merely to seize the wealth of the upper and middle classes and distribute it among the poor. Since the system conceals the relationship between donor and recipient, the politicians nevertheless claim to have played a crucial role in the process. They receive the recipients’ gratitude in the form of votes.

State Intervention

At present, governments in the free world are already practicing heavy interventionism in their national economic systems. One cause of this was the welfare politics, developed under the socialist influence, which expanded the state’s role in wealth distribution. Another impulse for this trend was the Great Depression of the 1930s. Following the crisis, Western society was deeply influenced by the theories of Keynesian economics, which advocates active state intervention and regulation of the economy by using finance.

In a normal society, the government’s role is limited. Only in exceptional situations should the state interfere in the economy, such as during times of natural disaster or some other crisis. But today, Keynesian theory has taken hold around the world. Governments of all countries are racing to take greater control over their respective economies.

When the government plays an active role in the economy, each action has a massive ripple effect on the market. New policies and laws can make or break entire industries, making many businesses and investors reliant on the government’s decisions. The state, which traditionally only passed and enforced laws, has now become a leading participant in the economic arena. Like a referee joining a soccer match, the state has become responsible for controlling and regulating capital in what used to be the privately owned economy, replacing the “invisible hand” with its “visible hand.”

Active financial control combined with high-welfare policies has caused many governments to incur huge debts. According to data from the OECD, more than half of its member states have government debts near or over 100 percent of GDP. Some countries’ debt exceeded 200 percent of their economic output. [20] This presents a major vulnerability for the social and economic future of many countries.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase wrote multiple research papers on the impact of government intervention. In his work, Coase found that interventionist policy almost always produces negative results. He believes that the crisis of intervention has reached the point of “diminishing marginal returns.” [21]

Despite this, the governments of all countries have only become more active in their manipulation of the economy, bringing it more and more under the control of the state.

The Consequences and Reality of Interventionism

There are at least two major consequences of extensive state intervention. First, the power of the state expands in terms of its role and scale. Government officials develop increasing hubris about their ability to interfere with the economy and have the state play the role of savior. After handling a crisis, the government is wont to retain its expanded powers and functions.

Second, interventionism creates more reliance on the government. When the people encounter challenges, or when the free market cannot provide the benefits they desire, they will lobby in favor of more state intervention to satisfy their demands.

As the power of the state increases, private enterprise weakens, and the free market has less space in which to function. People who have benefited from and grown dependent on politicians will increasingly demand that the government take responsibility for allocating wealth and enact laws to enforce this.

In the West, there is a strong political current pushing society toward the Left. This includes followers of the original left wing, including socialist and communists, as well as those not traditionally associated with the left wing, but who have been co-opted by them. The convergence of these disparate forces encourages the government to take greater measures to intervene in the economy and interfere with the functioning of private enterprises. This erosion of normal economic activity appears to be caused by various social movements, but in fact, it is the specter of communism that pulls the strings. [To be continued]
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