Government provision of food stamps has become the second-largest welfare program in the country and is expanding rapidly. Rich Lowry shares the latest statistics, and they are troubling to say the least. Through the combined efforts of Presidents Bush and Obama, the number of people on food stamps has almost tripled in the last 12 years, growing from 17 million in 2000 to 46 million today! When the program began in the 1970s, only 1 in 50 Americans participated—now the number is 1 in 7.
As a society, we have an obligation to reach out and help the poor and needy. At the same time, it is important to strike the right balance—we should provide for those in need without blunting their initiative to provide for themselves. Government programs—however well intended—should not foster a culture of dependence.
Additionally, we should never forget that the power of taxation is the power of confiscation. Therefore, particular care should be taken when crafting government’s role in providing for the poor. We should not allow government to become an agent for the redistribution of the nation’s wealth—for the rich or the poor—and we should never allow policy makers to use the power to tax and spend as a means of cultivating constituencies designed to perpetuate their power.
The default answer for the poor should not be government aid. The needy who can work, should. If they refuse to do so, they should suffer the natural consequences of their indolence. As the Scriptures say, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." The natural consequence of hunger will lead the lazy man to work to satisfy his need. Too often, however, social welfare programs interrupt the cycle of natural consequences.
Forced "charity" that takes from the successful and merely redirects it to the unsuccessful provides the wrong kind of incentives. Our tax and welfare systems should reward thrift, entrepreneurship, and industry, not indolence, timidity, and profligacy.