TIM WILDMON: Federal welfare programs seen as buying votes


Do you know how many Americans will use food stamps provided by the federal government in October?If you guessed 43.3 million you are correct! As for me, I had no idea Uncle Sam was passing out food stamps like it was candy at a Christmas parade.
When I was growing up, food stamps were for the poorest of the poor. And there was a stigma associated with getting government handouts. Now that one in eight Americans are using food stamps, it is obvious that stigma has long since disappeared. Today we have an ever growing problem of abuse and fraud with all these government entitlement programs.
The first time this became clear to me was when I was working at a deli in Starkville during my higher education years. There was a woman about 21 who worked with me. She had three young children and was unmarried. Most evenings when we closed the store together, her boyfriend would stop by. It was obvious they were in love with one another. She told me the kids were his. I asked her why they did not get married. Then she told me that she received a certain amount of money for each child and that if she got married the federal government would stop sending her the check.
I was rather green in the ways of the federal government world and could not believe that our government would be rewarding people for having babies out of wedlock and punishing them if they got married, which would give the children a mother and a daddy in the home.
Many big government programs such as Social Security began under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. It was called “The New Deal.” There was an even greater expansion of federal government under Lyndon Johnson and his “War on Poverty.”
There are two motivations for creating all these federal government programs which – by the way, for which we we taxpayers pay.
One motivation would be to help people on the lower end of the economic scale by having the government provide services these citizens otherwise might not be able to provide for themselves due to a lack of money. In one sense that is a charitable attitude to have, and one could argue, a Christian attitude to have. I use for example here the unwed mother of three that I mentioned earlier. I certainly don’t want those children to go hungry, but at the same time, she had learned to exploit the system. So, my attitude became, “Hey, she is the one choosing to have babies out of wedlock, why should responsible taxpayers be forced to support her irresponsibility?” The other motivation for all these federal government programs would be to control the people and have enough voters become dependent on the politicians – and beholden to the political party – which promises to keep the government checks coming to the mailbox. In a way, it is a way to buy votes. You vote for me, I send you a government handout. This is a more cynical view and one I believe is more true than not today. I wish I didn’t believe this, but I do.

Back in the day
I wonder where we would be as a country today if we had never started all these entitlement programs. After all, we did not have them until the 1930s and 40s. What did Americans do before that? What happened is people took care of themselves and took care of their families. People, especially in a free country, generally rise to the occasion. They meet whatever expectation is made of them.
I am not saying some of these entitlement hand-out programs were not started with good intentions. I don’t know if they were or were not. I know that today we have millions and millions of Americans dependent on the federal government and in the next few years there won’t be enough money to meet all these demands. Let me put it to you this way – in the next 10 years or so we could have to decide between having an army to protect us or 43 million people getting food stamps.
Free government programs are not free. In order to get the money to send to the mailboxes, the lawmakers must tax Americans who work and are producing income. And you can see how people who pay into the federal government get more than a little peeved when they see their hard-earned tax dollars wasted. This is one of the main causes that gave rise to the Tea Party movement. Somehow, as Americans, we are going to have to wean ourselves off the federal government. We can’t afford it any longer. As rich and powerful a country as we are, even the United States does not have limitless money.

Tim Wildmon is a Baldwyn resident and writes as a community columnist. He is president of the American Family Association, but his opinions do not necessarily represent the views of AFA, unless noted. Contact him at twildmon@afa.net.

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