Part 3: Caution, Compassion and Wisdom in Policy

“We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added. The so-called war is not over and welfare programs are just not working.”

Last week I made the claim that we should be careful how we choose to assist those in need. This was based on four “principles” that I derived from an anecdote from my life:  Just because you think what you are doing is helping somebody, does not mean it is; Helping people requires an effort on both parts; People you help will take more than you give them and they may not stop taking; and, Temporary solutions may offer no long-term resolve.

The purpose of this week’s blog is that you do not think of me as a heartless beast. I recognize that people have needs they cannot meet. I also realize that not everyone has been given the opportunities I have. However, supporting the needs of the needy must be done with caution, compassion and wisdom. As I stated last week, our good intentions are not good enough for the societal implications.

There are now at least 77 federally funded programs for poor and low-income Americans, and their need has not gone away. These programs range from giving food aid to those in need to giving medical care to children–all of which are ‘goods’ in and of themselves. LBJ’s declaration of war on poverty produced these programs (partnered with FDR’s programs in the 30’s), which offered some temporary resolve for the basic needs of the “others” of American society.  (I think that counts as a declared war that will see no end…) But just as in all ethical deliberation, we must look at the consequences of the action, and then assess the value of the act.

While the mid-90s reform of Welfare has offered some progress and growth, the reality is partakers are not being weaned off the system. It is a benevolent service that creates a co-dependecy and not necessarily to the fault of the recipients. For a quick look into what Welfare offers those who partake, go here. Additionally, “Researchers at the Dartmouth Atlas Project and elsewhere estimate that about 30 percent of Medicare spending does nothing to make patients healthier or happier… and Medicare grew at an average annual rate of 9.3 percent over the past decade!”

Above Welfare and Medicare, Medicaid costs have grown substantially. “Spending jumped from $118 billion in 2000 to $275 billion by 2010. And even before the 2010 Health Act was passed, spending on the program was expected to double in cost to $487 billion by 2020.The 2010 law will boost Medicaid’s cost by about $100 billion a year by 2020.”

The heart of my concern is that there is a frightful similarity in the way my college roommates chose to help a homeless man and the way our society is helping those in need, without cautious consideration for the consequences on the individuals who are receiving these so-called benefits and, ultimately, on the society in which we live.

 

 

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