By John Eidson
Their living conditions could only be described as tragic. Of the seven adults who shared the badly dilapidated rental unit in a rundown area of southwest Atlanta, not one held a job. They eked out a dead-end existence for themselves and the two children who lived with them by pooling government benefits, including an $852 monthly Section 8 housing subsidy. When I described their heartbreaking living conditions to a liberal friend, she replied in all seriousness, “That’s what you conservatives want, isn’t it?”
My brother in law is also a liberal. Last August, I forwarded to him an email I received earlier in the year about the interracial double murders that had just occurred in Knoxville. Using Wikipedia, he found that the press had since backed off initial reports that the white victims had been horribly mutilated by the black defendants. Without checking to see if I was aware that the reports had changed (I wasn’t), and apparently convinced I was a willing participant in a sick attempt to promote racial animosity, he sent a terse reply that I should “stay off the neo-Klan blogs”.
Here is where I stand on race and poverty:
* For the last twenty years, I worked as an executive recruiter in the graphic arts industry. When I saw that managerial positions at most printing plants were filled almost exclusively by whites, I actively sought minority candidates to present to my clients. Some of the highly qualified individuals I found jobs for were the first African-Americans to ever hold positions of responsibility at their new employers.
* A few years ago, I risked my personal safety to chase down a robber who stole the purse of an elderly black woman in a crime-ridden area of downtown Atlanta. When I returned the purse to its tearful owner, she told me it contained her just-cashed Social Security check, all the money she had to her name. It never entered my mind to not help her because she was black and poor.
* I do not have an iota of hostility towards black people, poor people, or anyone else. Although I was not enlightened enough at the time to take part in the civil rights movement, I recognized long ago that Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of our country’s greatest heroes. In short, I have nothing but best wishes for a people subjected to the terrible injustices of slavery and segregation, just as I do for all people who have yet to lift themselves from poverty.
The absurd insinuations about me from a friend of forty years and a man I have been related to for an equal time were not intended as personal attacks. They were merely a profound reflection of the twisted way two people I have known for decades have been indoctrinated to view conservatives: when it comes to race and poverty, conservatives are downright evil, even when they are long-time friends or close relatives.
My friend and my brother-in-law are not alone. For the last four decades, the Democratic Party has conducted a campaign to stereotype conservatives as mean-spirited racists who couldn’t care less about the suffering of others. Legions of rank-and-file liberals have been brainwashed into believing that their political opposites are morally-defective bigots who have a sadistic desire to starve children, kick old people out of nursing homes and disenfranchise minorities of their hard-won rights. Such charges are patently false.
Bumper stickers that express open contempt for the charitable instincts of conservatives are common in many blue-state areas of the country: “Better A Bleeding Heart Than No Heart At All”, “The Moral High Ground Is Built With Compassion”, The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans, “Republicans Are People, Too – Mean, Greedy, Selfish People”.
Given the realities of charitable giving by party affiliation – as a group, conservatives are demonstrably more generous than liberals -- it’s beyond ironic that so many liberals cast their ballots with an unfounded air of moral superiority. The right is routinely portrayed as greedy and uncaring, yet liberals do exactly the same as conservatives when it comes to personal charity: give a small fraction of what they have to the poor, while selfishly hoarding the lion’s share for themselves.
Neither liberals nor conservatives give until it hurts, but not because no one cares about human suffering. People of all political stripes have simply observed that continually giving money to people whose hands are always up does little to help them turn their lives around. That makes it hard to understand why anyone would support giving them an endless stream of government money.
Over the last four decades, the burden of caring for the poor has been politically shifted from the private sector to government. In doing so, we have created a weakened society where millions of citizens who ought to be working instead rely on public assistance. By giving the poor benefits they have not earned, the federal government has become a giant enabler that doles out just enough to extinguish the willingness of many recipients to make it on their own. As Bill Cosby accurately observed, welfare kills the human spirit.
Liberals are due full credit for being the first to recognize that something should be done about poverty. No conservative can argue that the war on poverty initiated by LBJ and a Democratic Congress was not well-intended. But, after forty years of massive welfare programs, the number of destitute citizens in the world’s greatest country remains appallingly high, particularly in urban areas. Our misguided compassion has contributed to the virtual disintegration of the black family, with generations of innocent children born into lives of hopelessness.
The tragic plight of the nine African-Americans in the Section 8 duplex is all the evidence I need that on-going welfare is a cruel hoax to inflict on anyone but the severely disabled. Burgeoning welfare programs may attract votes, but they also cause grievous harm to millions of the very people they are intended to help. Open-border advocates claim that illegal immigrants do the work Americans won’t do. Many of the unemployed poor don’t do such work because welfare provides a far less strenuous alternative.
The way out of poverty is self-reliance, a lifestyle that welfare does little to encourage. From food stamps and Section 8 housing to WIC payments and Medicaid, government programs for the poor discourage work, reward idleness and make it easy for children to be thoughtlessly born into desperate conditions. Some of the chronically poor are where they are due to circumstances beyond their control. Many more have simply forfeited the chance to succeed in the greatest land of opportunity on earth, thanks in no small part to the initiative-destroying assistance of an enabling government.
No, we cannot declare cold turkey on the welfare-addicted, but we should do far more to actively encourage them in the other direction, not for our benefit, but for theirs. For too long, our national answer has effectively been to consign them to a dead-end existence while the rest of us live in comfort as far from the projects as we can get. In the process, we are robbing them of the only thing of value they have -- the chance for a better life.