Paul Jacob

Many of us have been poor at one time or another. But those truly stuck in poverty are usually suffering from a lack of character, something no government can provide.

Except perhaps by tough love. What's that? It's the love that dares not reward or excuse bad behavior, that does not blame productive people for the poverty of those who refuse to produce, and that steps back and lets human nature do its work. People have survived on the planet a long time, even before government programs to battle poverty.

One of America's biggest causes of poverty is fatherlessness. It is a problem that our society can discourage, but government can do little to solve. A government check certainly doesn't create a father.

Even conservatives have some trouble with this logic. Rich Lowry wrote an otherwise cogent column for National Review Online that concluded with hopes for action from the federal government, suggesting "a grand right-left bargain that includes greater attention to out-of-wedlock births from the Left in exchange for the Right's support for more urban spending" because "anything is worth addressing the problem of fatherlessness."

Two problems: I can't afford more "urban spending" — nor rural, nor suburban spending, come to think of it — and government may "address" fatherlessness and Leftists can even pay "attention" to it, but only individual fathers and mothers can stop it.

These are personal choices. People's actions can be subsidized or taxed, they can preached at or ignored, but these choices cannot be legislated and the consequences of poor choices — namely poverty — cannot be solved by bureaucrats or politicians.

Government can defend the country and even clean up after hurricanes . . . with varying results. But it cannot be our minister, our parents, our friend. That's what the rest of us are here for.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.