Friday, July 1, 2011

Wiederaenders: Assistance should come with conditions

Honestly, sometimes when I'm reading the Courier op-ed page I feel like I'm back at my high-school paper trying to edit some sense into the fevered punditry of all-knowing sixteen-year-olds. Tim's column today makes my Page Two team at the Creston Echo look like Washington Post material.

In it he quotes approvingly from a viral Email advocating adding various punitive costs to government assistance, carrying a clearly moralistic tone and descending into dog-whistle racism, sexism and classism. It's awful enough to make a thinking person blanch, and Tim claims he thinks it's funny. This is the same guy who proudly claims to be a Christian.

There are two reasons why we as a society organize to help those who need it: it's the right thing to do morally, and it's the right thing to do economically for all of us.

You don't have to be a Xtian to understand the moral value of helping your neighbors. It's who we are as social animals. But with relentless propaganda and social isolation it's relatively easy to create the idea that poor or unlucky or uneducated people are not our neighbors, and so are unworthy of our consideration. That's what's happening here, and the editor is a dupe for the hateful misanthrope he allows to publish anonymously in his column. Show me where Jesus said, "If a man be poor and without work, bind him into slavery for his bread." What I remember is "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Economically, it's bad for all of us if some of us are homeless and hungry. The costs of welfare programs are a pittance compared to the costs of not having them. That's why we have them in the first place. It's only because we've generally forgotten how bad the bad old days were that the editor is able to get away with his facile 'jokes.' Read some Dickens, Tim, or some Sinclair Lewis.

Better yet, come to my neighborhood and talk to a few real people who are struggling to make ends meet. Failing that, at least make an attempt to avoid sleeping through the Sunday sermon at your church. I imagine what Jesus said might come up there on occasion.

Are there abuses of these systems? Sure. Show me a system that is free of abuse. If that's a reason to eliminate them, let's go after the most expensive abused systems first: Defense Department contracting, for example. But we don't punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty, remember?

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