Why Food Stamps and Free Tuition Don’t Have Anything to Do with Satan’s Plan

Now that the political campaigns are in full swing, American Mormons are having their quadrennial debate on whether or not social programs like Pell Grants, food stamps, and subsidized housing are tools of the devil. According to one common philosophy (which has been kind of dominant on my Facebook feed recently), this kind of income redistribution FORCES us to give to the poor, thus TAKING AWAY OUR AGENCY and denying us the blessings that would come if we CHOSE to give to the poor like God wants us to. You can use persuasion to convince people to be charitable, but don’t use compulsion, BECAUSE THAT’S SATAN’S PLAN!!!!!

This is poppycock and piffle! The argument assumes that the purpose of social programs is to benefit the soul of the giver—to compel us to do righteous things like feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. It is not. The purpose of food-assistance programs is to give people food; it has nothing to do with the condition of your soul.

If you live in a society where the majority of the people don’t want to see others starving to death in the streets—and have worked through the mechanisms of participatory government to create such a society—then you contribute to social programs because that’s how participatory government works. Nobody cares if you give righteously or unrighteously. Nobody cares whether you return to live with God. Nobody wants to compel you to do anything beyond taking part in a society with a functioning government, and the fact that you are obligated to pay taxes in such a society has nothing to do with your moral agency. This is simply not about you.

When it comes to publicly funded education, it is even less about you. Just about every country in the world has decided that some level of universal education should be treated as a public good—something that raises everybody’s quality of life. In the United States, guaranteed universal education currently extends through high school. At least one presidential candidate thinks that it should extend through college, as it does in most of the other developed countries. Maybe this is a good idea, and maybe it isn’t. It is a proposal that we can have legitimate debates and discussions about—none of which need ever involve Satan.

None of this means that our religious views have nothing to do with our political opinions. A democratic political process is simply a mechanism to turn millions of social visions into a single social reality. Religion informs many of these social visions, as it should. As Christians and as Latter-day Saints, we have some specific ideas about what makes a good society. If these views include feeding the hungry and educating the population as a society—and I strongly believe that they should—then we should use our political processes to advocate for that vision. That’s why we have political processes.

And lest anyone think me a mere shill for the liberal nanny state, let me point out that I pay for a whole lot of things through my tax dollars that I don’t like or agree with: an over-sized military that starts wars of economic conquest, an invasive worldwide intelligence network, a police force and court system that spends far too much money prosecuting victimless drug crimes—to name just a few. I don’t like paying for these things. I actively work and vote against them, as is my right. But I understand that I have to pay for them because the majority of the people in my society (or at least their elected representatives) support them.

Living in a democracy means that you don’t get to win every political battle. It means you will always have to pay for things that you don’t think you should have to pay for. It means that you will be always be required to help fund social visions not your own. For some people, this is true of food stamps and public education. For others, it is true of foreign wars and Daylight Savings Time.  If you want to blame someone for this plan, blame James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Or maybe the Greeks. It has nothing to do with Satan.

Comments

  1. I like responding to these complaints as follows: “Government programs do not remove agency; if people disagree they can just move to another country.” The typical LDS response is, “That’s true, but there’s a lot of cost to change countries and your family may be split.” To which I respond, “So why are you so eager to suggest that members ‘just leave’ when they have a disagreement with a church policy?”

    [Sorry for the derail; This is a good post]

  2. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    “poppycock and piffle”. Thank you, Michael, for finding much milder alternatives for the terms I would have used. I am amazed that, in so many of our LDS discussions about giving/helping/supporting, the focus seems to be on the person who is doing those things, and not the recipient. It’s not about YOU. In fact, Satan’s plan involves thinking it’s all about YOU!

  3. I’m pretty well persuaded by the argument that Satan’s plan was not to compel us to choose good, but rather to decouple consequences from choices, destroying responsibility for choices and making choices meaningless. If that’s right, it has even less to do with spending taxes on stuff I don’t like.

    Besides, Jesus’ teachings about going the second mile and giving your cloak in addition to your coat are all about emphasizing that laws that compel certain actions certainly do not take away our agency to choose to do those actions, even if we don’t like those laws. The ability to move to another country is not necessary as a defense against destruction of agency, because laws that compel action do not destroy agency to begin with. It takes a lot more than compelling action to destroy agency. You would have not not only compel action, but take away even the possibility of not complying–not just threaten consequences for not complying, but take away even the ability to even conceive of not complying. Using the force of law to compel actions raises the stakes, but it does not destroy choice and does not destroy agency. There may be really good reasons to oppose particular laws that compel particular things, but if the mere fact that law compels behavior equate to destroying agency, that’s not an argument against social programs; that’s an argument against the rule of law itself.

  4. I find nothing to disagree with. So why use a lawyer’s double negative instead of just “100% great!” Because I think this says everything right but avoids the issue. Which is that the debate is personal. When I say that my view of a good society is one that feeds the poor (and provides health care, and education) and I will advocate and vote that way, then they say that *I* am of the devil, that I am working for Satan’s plan. And to be fair, I am the whole time thinking “there’s no way *you* can be a disciple [of Christ] and argue against a society that feeds the poor.”
    Because it’s personal, these are all fighting words.

  5. Jack of Hearts says:

    Excellent! This is slightly off topic since your post is only dealing with the “Satan’s plan” argument, but how would you respond to the inevitable deployment against government welfare of Elder Renlund’s talk?

  6. I’ve often heard the same argument–social welfare programs are Satan’s way.

    One of my favorite talks is Oak’s on freedom and agency. He makes the point that the battle over agency was fought in the pre-existence resulting in agency becoming a facet of mortal life which cannot be taken away. On the other hand, our freedoms are greatly malleable in mortal life.

    First, one can choose not to pay taxes–but of course the consequence of that will be prison, fines etc. One can choose to support/vote for leaders who are against govt. welfare programs.
    One can choose to view them negatively or positively. But agency is not defined by whether or not we like the consequences of our choices.

  7. Naismith says:

    As a Relief Society president I spent so much time trying to find health care for people who had pressing needs. Researching plans that drug companies offer, checking on free clinics offered by other churches, encouraging people to ask the doctor about the possibility of a less-costly drug, and so on.

    I wondered what it would be like to be an RS president in Canada or Western Europe or Taiwan, where there would be more time to minister the gospel, less need for help with healthcare needs.

  8. I like this, but since reading Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom, I’ve started thinking about it in terms of trade offs–maybe you lose some agency* by being forced to pay for social programs, but being poor inherently means you have less agency to begin with. Fixing poverty means giving people more agency. So why is the agency of the non-impoverished more important than that of the impoverished agency?

  9. On the other hand, Ezra Taft Benson did teach/believe that our agency could be limited/taken away by restrictions in mortal life.

    But wouldn’t any laws and commandments which define consequences then limit our agency?

  10. Satan's Minion says:

    As a married Mormon grad student with small children and a stay at home wife, don’t you dare take away the welfare we use so my wife can honor the call of the Proclamation and stay at home with our children while I complete my degree. She can’t be expected to work, can she? And, why should we wait to have kids when there’s welfare?

    Otherwise, the OP is wrong. Welfare is Satan’s redistribution plan in all other circumstances.

  11. Somewhat echoing JKC’s comment – Agency isn’t impacted; just the potential consequences of our decisions is impacted. Most people (on either side) resist change because they want their agency and the consequences to remain unaltered.

  12. Michael says:

    I grew up way below the poverty line. Looking back, I thought everything was fine – all of our needs were met, but now I realize that “dumpster diving” behind the grocery store is a rather rare family activity.

    Most of my college was paid for with music scholarships and Pell Grants, plus work-study funds when available. I also put in a lot of 40-hour work weeks. I’ve got a successful job now, and when I filed my taxes back in February, I realized that my annual federal taxes now exceed the total value of my Pell grants. I hope that’s the way it works for more people than just me. A relative of mine was on “supplimental nutrition assistance” for a few years while she got her physical therapist training and license. I’d like to think that social welfare programs are intended to be a means to a better end, rather than an end in and of itself.

  13. I believe that what we are missing in all of this discussion is the intention with which we do offer our welfare to the poor: charity. In 1 Cor. 13:2, Paul says something rather interesting. He says, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” So even if I have freely of myself and I was not compelled to by the government and I did not have the intent of giving for the betterment of my brothers and sisters, that giving would not profit me anything since I did not do it with “real intent”. I feel the same way about government welfare, since yes, we are helping the poor and needy, but however, the government is missing the true intention behind the giving in the first place.

  14. Michael, thank you for stating what should be obvious and for tearing the thin veil of self-righteousness from the Republican argument for turning America into a Third World Country.

  15. One can choose to pay one’s taxes, which fund such social programs, with a charitable purpose, rather than hate. Then the taxes are a moral choice and a righteous exercise of agency!

  16. Yes, “it profiteth *me* nothing” to give without true intent. But it isn’t about me. Even though it doesn’t benefit the giver, insincere charity certainly benefits those people who get to eat because of it. In purely temporal terms, an insincere charitable contribution buys as much food and feeds as many people as a sincere one.

    Some see it as a choice between compelled giving and no giving or inadequate giving, and therefore favor compelled giving to some degree or another, because it is better than the alternative.

    Others see it as a zero-sum choice between sincere giving and compelled giving, and therefore oppose compelled giving because they think it prevents sincere giving. But that isn’t quite right, because the fact that something is compelled by law does not mean that it is insincere. Agency means that regardless of what we are compelled to do or not do, we still have the ability to choose our intent. That’s how the priest in Les Miserables turned a robbery into a gift. He was compelled by a blow to the head to relinquish the goods, but he exercised his agency to make that a gift rather than a theft.

    Really it’s a question of good, better, best, isn’t it? Feeding a few people is good, feeding a lot through compelled giving is better, and feeding a lot without compulsion would be even better, if it’s something that we could live up to. But until then, compelled giving is still better than inadequate voluntary giving. Agree or disagree, but this is an argument about which policy accomplishes the most good; it’s not an argument about agency.

  17. I don’t agree that we should refer to taxes and government social programs as “compelled giving.” This is democracy and there will always be a legislative minority on every issue, no matter how large or small — a minority that fervently believes with “every fiber of their being” that they are being compelled to do something. Some people, including Mormons, believe that road maintenance is Satan’s plan because, you know, some money is taken from you and given to the fund that maintains roads. “Socialism!” Those who point to a legislative minority that does not agree with a legislative majority’s spending decisions and use it as evidence that social welfare programs are Satan’s plan are part of a larger project against representative democracy (i.e. republican government) as a system.

  18. Mark B. says:

    If we are led to believe that our responsibility to care for the poor has been fulfilled because the government taxes us and spends some of its tax revenues on helping the poor, then that government action can indeed end up contributing to Satan’s plan. Whether the government’s action has that effect is completely up to us, though.

    After than, the only question is “Does it work?” Keep Satan out of that discussion. There’s plenty of room for arguing the ultimate futility of government “anti-poverty” programs (see how well we’ve done in lowering the poverty level after 50 years of the Great Society!) without bringing Satan into the mix. Besides, that’s one step beyond argumentum ad Hitlerum.

  19. I totally agree, John. That’s a good point. My comment used the language of compulsion just because that’s the way it is often framed, but that should be seen concession that such language is correct, rather it should be seen as “assuming for sake of argument” that such language is appropriate.

  20. Funding social programs through tax revenue is no more “compelled giving” than is funding the military or funding road improvements. Compelled giving would be something more like requiring people to pay a certain percentage of income to the charity of their choice. (Which ironically, I suspect would be slightly more palatable to folks who oppose social programs, because the gubmint wouldn’t be involved in deciding how money is spent.)

  21. That’s a great comment, Mark B.

  22. Mark
    ” There’s plenty of room for arguing the ultimate futility of government “anti-poverty” programs”

    Ah yes. We could delve into that and since you raised the issue I would just offer this–government programs have at least dramatically decreased poverty among the retired/elderly.

  23. As a married Mormon grad student with small children and a stay at home wife, don’t you dare take away the welfare we use so my wife can honor the call of the Proclamation and stay at home with our children while I complete my degree. She can’t be expected to work, can she? And, why should we wait to have kids when there’s welfare?

    If I were drinking coffee I’d have spat it on the screen. Nicely done! When my folks were living in the inner suburbs of Chicago in the late ’70s/early ’80s, their ward was full of dental students who had 4, 5, 6 kids and a stay-at-home wife. All of them were on welfare, both church and government. I’m sure most of those dentists, who would be in their late 50s and early 60s now, are ardent Republicans (as a profession, they lean that way).

    Recently, a Facebook commenter on This Week in Mormons, seeing that 17% of American Mormons declare themselves to be Democrats, said something along the lines of “17% of American Mormons have decided to follow Satan.” Now, it happens that this commenter lives in the service territory of the utility for which I work. I looked him up in our Customer Service System database and, sure enough, he’s on the state low-income rate program, which mandated by state law and is subsidized by other ratepayers. I privately messaged him and said, “You know, you might not want to be saying things like this, seeing that you’re ON WELFARE.”

  24. No hypocrisy there, APM, he’s just “bleeding the beast.”

  25. You know, I’d never thought I’d see something more infuriating than the way that the FLDS “bleed the beast” while leaving their houses “unfinished” (usually with one wall left as Tyvek and no siding) so they didn’t have to pay property taxes. Then I learned about the Hasidim in Orange County, NY who 1) got elected as a majority bloc to the local school board and proceeded to divert property taxes to yeshivas and 2) don’t actually pay property taxes because they claim that, as every Hasidic adult male is a rabbi, all houses are “temples” and therefore are tax-exempt religious structures.

    Also of note: the single greatest source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is the Amish in central Pennsylvania, who run factory farms (mostly chickens, both for eggs and poultry) and completely fail to comply with state and federal laws regarding the proper disposal of manure. Amish are also some of the most notorious operators of puppy mills.

    When minority religious groups gain control of an enclave, tyranny far too often ensues. But Latter-day Saints wouldn’t know anything about that, would we?

  26. it's a series of tubes says:

    Now, it happens that this commenter lives in the service territory of the utility for which I work. I looked him up in our Customer Service System database and, sure enough, he’s on the state low-income rate program, which mandated by state law and is subsidized by other ratepayers.

    Depending on the regulations applicable in your state, you may have just admitted to a significant violation of the utility’s policies and/or a crime. Might want to have the mods delete your post.

  27. Subpoena away, bro.

  28. Judy Center says:

    Why does everyone say America is a Democracy? Shows such a lack of knowledge and understanding. Can’t really take seriously someone who does not know what type of government we live under.

  29. Clark Goble says:

    Democracy is usually taken as a broad category in which the public can affect government by voting. The US political system is not a pure democracy but then neither are most governments. (One might make the case California comes close with its ballot measures – but then I think many would say that’s a bad thing)

    Anyway, getting pedantic on the use of the term “democracy” rarely illuminates much.

  30. Judy Center: by guaranteeing all Americans a republican government, the U.S. Constitution guarantees that we will live in a democracy. Representative, republican government is based on the principles of democratic elections. In other words, because the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all states will provide a republican form of government to their citizens, the Constitution also guarantees that we will always live in a democracy.

  31. Mike,

    I have known you for years and I love you man but your post reminded me of 2 Nephi 28: “to some he sayeth . . . I am no devil, for there is none.”

    It is Satan’s plan to force you to subsidize wars and draconian drug sentences you disapprove of. In a just society, you would not have to. That this is the result of democracy (two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner) does not make such theft moral, it just reveals how many thieves there are. If you don’t think you are compelled to support the military and the prison-industrial complex. Try withholding your share of their costs on your taxes and see what happens. It will be come clear to you what degree of bondage you are in.

    A free moral environment is the political condition prophets and scriptures advocate.

    Ezra Taft Benson taught, “The war that began in heaven over this issue is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments.”

    D&C 101:78-80 reads: “[constitutional government] . . should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
    That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
    Therefore it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

    But you are right that it is much more important to be concerned about the poor than what’s in it for ourselves. For this reason, should we avoid Satan’s plan policies all the more. Private charities give around 9/10 dollars directly to the needy. Government programs—3/10. Multiple studies have shown that government programs reduce charitable giving and foster an “it’s someone else’s job” attitude about service.

    Social welfare programs are weak sauce for alleviating poverty. Economic growth alleviates poverty. Overwhelming data from multiple countries over many years shows economic growth is achieved by free trade, rule of law, secure property rights, minimal predictable regulation, and small relatively non-corrupt government. This has helped more people by orders of magnitude than government redistribution. This has helped them with dignity affirming jobs, not dependency-fostering state handouts that breed shame and the sense of entitlement we were just warned about in conference. The policies outlined above move us away from Satan’s plan and help the poor by making them not poor anymore.

  32. Eric, a lot of stuff in that comment. But I need to respond to a couple of your assertions.

    First, I’m not entirely sure where you get your data on the percentage of money that private charities pay out to the needy, but it’s clearly wrong. Most private charities don’t give any money to the poor; rather, they provide goods and services.

    But maybe that’s parsing your point too closely; maybe you mean $9 out of every $10 they spend is on poverty alleviation. Or $9 out of every $10 in revenue they receive is spent on poverty alleviation. But I sincerely doubt that’s true, either, unless you have a super-broad definition of poverty alleviation. According to Giving USA, in 2013 (the most recent year I have data for), Americans gave about $335 billion to charities. Of the recipients, about $106 billion went to churches, and another ~$50 billion went to educational charities. Both do provide poverty-alleviating services, but neither spends anywhere near 90% of its revenues or expenditures on poverty-alleviation.

    It may also be worth pointing out that, unless you significantly define down helping the poor, the federal government spends much more than 30 percent of its budget on poverty alleviation. Per the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, ACA subsidies, and other safety net policies made up about 60% of federal expenditures.

    It’s also worth noting that, even if charities spent 100% of their revenues on poverty alleviation, that would amount to just over $300 billion. If the federal government only spent 30% of its revenues on poverty alleviation, that would amount to nearly $1 trillion, or three times as much as charities could spend.

    Sure, there are viable criticisms of US taxes and spending, but that they don’t help the poor as much as private charity is not one of them.

  33. “Overwhelming data from multiple countries over many years shows economic growth is achieved by free trade, rule of law, secure property rights, minimal predictable regulation, and small relatively non-corrupt government.”

    You just described all of the free-market democracies of Western Europe. They are social market economies, meaning they are free market societies with an appropriate level of regulation and taxation to ensure that people’s existential needs are met. In this sense, they are freer than we are in the U.S., because they can choose the education and occupations that they individually believe will be most meaningful for themselves, their lives, and beliefs. In the U.S., our choices are severely constrained by existential fear resulting from scarcity, debt, and lack of social safety net. Simply viewing the nation’s healthcare as part of the economic infrastructure, for example, goes a long way toward making them decent societies, one step closer to Zion than we are, that’s for sure.

    Nothing Cleon Skousen says can change any of that, Eric E.

  34. pconnornc says:

    100% agree that “forced giving” is not “of the devil”. Though, there are interesting arguments about food stamps and welfare and how they have undermined families. I support the food stamp/welfare programs (my family used them extensively growing up), but the argument is that access to welfare programs have lessened the need for a “breadwinner” in a household, making the decision to jettison a spouse less impacting. One unanticipated result is that over a couple of generations, primarily at lower economic levels, traditional families have been significantly reduced. If that doesn’t play into the adversary’s plan, I don’t know what does.

    This is not an indictment of those who have designed or benefited from the program. Nor is it a call to abandon or massively overhaul what is in place. But it would be great to have a charitable, long term vision for developing a solution that over a couple of generations can undo where we are now.

  35. pconnornc, I haven’t seen any significant amount of evidence that the availability of welfare benefits has been a causal factor in the decline of low-income families; in fact, the primary culprit seems to be changes to our economy. Where people (especially men) used to be able to get jobs that didn’t require a college education, but that allowed them to support—or help support—a family, they did, in fact, support a family. Changes in our economy has made those jobs far less available, though, and low-education women are finding that low-education men are more of a drain than a benefit financially.

    It’s also worth noting that welfare has changed substantially since the 1980s (which seems to be our tethering point for discussing it). Today, it’s almost always temporary, which doesn’t really make it part of a long-term plan.

  36. pconnornc says:

    Just to clarify, the connection I am suggesting is between availability of welfare and the increase of single parent homes. My post was driven by my recollections of previous reading, but google gave a link to some research: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/11/how-welfare-undermines-marriage-and-what-to-do-about-it

    I do recognize that Heritage has a strong bias, and I don’t validate everything in the paper.

  37. The decline in marriage among lower educated people is due to the increase in income inequality and economic changes that have made it harder for under educated males to find gainful employment. (Marriage is actually stronger now than in previous decades among the college educated.) The source of the decline of marriage among the lower educated is not society’s assistance to the poor to make sure that children don’t starve.

  38. pconnornc says:

    I am 100% on board that income inequality is the moral/political issue of our time.

    Just as a clear connection between welfare programs & single parents cannot be definitively mapped, I believe the same applies to mapping the blame to income inequality. I would imagine that it is attributable to both – among other things (anyone want to talk about mass incarcerations & the war on drugs!).

    I am confident that those things that undermine families and contribute to an increase in single parent homes play directly into the adversary’s plan.

  39. those things that undermine families and contribute to an increase in single parent homes play directly into the adversary’s plan

    Would that include the religious political right’s war against marriage equality, i.e. its campaign to prevent people who were born gay from forming families of their choosing?

  40. pconnornc says:

    For clarification, let me state that the family I am referring to is “THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”

    For brevity & focus, I will keep thoughts on wars I dislike and the need for charity to all for another thread.

  41. Ok, so stuff out in the world — like the American religious right’s totalitarian campaign against gay families — that undermines gay families and contributes to an increase in single parent homes for gay people does not play into the adversary’s plan?

  42. Clark Goble says:

    Trond, without taking a position on the political issue, wouldn’t a social conservative say both gay marriage and single parents are helping the adversary’s plan? That is to their eyes you are offering a false dichotomy. Whether right or wrong they’d say the appropriate way to have children, as best one is able, is to have a functioning two parent household. They’d recognize that for reasons outside of people’s control (certain types of divorce, for instance) single parenthood happens. But that it should be avoided as much as possible.

  43. Yes, very true.

  44. In the U.S., at least, the transfer payments are needed to keep the nationwide economy minimally functioning. There must be a constant flow between supply and demand, and a little welfare is just priming the pump between the two. There’s not much charity in this.

  45. John Mansfield says:

    John F., Charles Murray claimed that the social disintegration of lower-class whites over the last half century, including decline of marriage, is not due to economics. I haven’t read his argument at length, but I think it was that the marriage trend is decades-long and didn’t go up and down with the economy. There are counter-arguments, no doubt, but poorer people did routinely get married in 1975. Staying married was another thing, but poor white children for the most part were born to married parents.

  46. John Mansfield: I don’t know the truth of it all (but I do tend to agree with the analysis and considerations that John F. cites). But one important counter-argument (perhaps one of many) is that social change, including marriage patterns, if affected by economics is more likely related to lifetime earning expectations than to year-by-year fluctuations.

  47. Clark Goble says:

    The question is one of cause and effect, although I think many social scientists see a feedback loop. As low skilled (not just whites) workers face increased competition and decreased demand their attractiveness as mates decreases, especially with the associated destructive social practices males tend to engage in when not actively involved in responsibility. That increases crime, incarceration and single parent homes. That in turn makes it harder for the kids due to the environment (disruption, stress, food, and environmental toxicities such as lead). The kids are thus at a much higher chance of being low skilled workers or having poor work habits needed in the workplace. And the cycle worsens.

    While I think Murray’s reputation is mixed at best (especially after the Bell Curve) this seems like a conclusion many social scientists have come to.

    The issue of shorter term economic disruption is a bit trickier. A lot depends upon the resources of the pre-existing social networks (which tend to already be weaker for the poor) as well as the ability to leave a depressed area if it isn’t economically diverse. (Think the collapse of small towns in the rust belt or in places that once housed textile factories)

    Merely saying the poor should marry and follow middle class social habits avoids the central question of why they don’t do it.

  48. anon nona says:

    Social democracies do not work as well as everyone thinks. Communism does not work at all. Look at North Korea, Cuba, the former Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, China, Venezuela, Brazil, etc.

    If it’s communism some want then why are they not giving away all their wealth, like Sanders? He sure is not sharing his and his wife’s wealth. Communism takes away freedoms, which is already happening in this country. Communism makes people a slave to the state which controls every aspect of one’s life. Communism DOES take free agency away.

    Talk to someone who grew up in a communist country. I have. Talk to someone from a socialist country. I have. Full socialism and communism are something most know nothing about. Be careful what you wish for. If people want communism so bad then move to a communist country where they will be happier. I am sure North Korea, Cuba, etc.would be happy to starve another person, beat them, make them read and listen to only srate approved materials, etc.

    Why do you think most everyone wants to come, or does cone to the U.S.? Mainly for personal freedoms, and not having your whole paycheck taken away.

  49. Clark @7:31: Yes, and the cycle problem is very important in assessing the value of social welfare, whether church or small state or large state. There’s a persuasive argument (persuasive to me, anyway) that whatever the value or effect for current adults in difficult circumstances, community assistance (nutrition, education, opportunity, etc.) can do a lot to break the cycle you describe and benefit the next generation. At the very least, multi-generation effects ought to be counted (cost/benefit) and allowed for (assessing relative merit of different programs).

  50. Clark Goble says:

    I’m really skeptical that most fixes work in all circumstances. Honestly I think making it easier to move and incentivizing moving is an important policy that neither party is willing to embrace yet. That is if an area is depressed with not enough jobs government attempts to help people can actually prolong the cycle and thus make things worse. However when there are opportunities of course the government programs can help a lot although there are some very real problems on the margin where there are big incentives against improvement due to losing government assistance. i.e. think of having a job such that you still get medicaid but getting offered a raise that would make you loose that and food stamps assistance. Do you do it? Well only if the job pays sufficient to make up for what you lose.

  51. I have worked at a food bank for 5 years and recently walked away from the job. We distributed food to the hungry. We also at times had gas vouchers and bus tokens. In good times we had resources to pay a utility bill. I am all for helping those in need. I think everybody is. My only problem is what it does to people mentally and emotionally. I cannot tell you how many times I heard people say, “Why should I get a job when I can get food here for free, get my rent paid by the state and have my utilities paid for by the HEAT program.” I have come to realize that to just give something to someone only destroys their ability to learn and grow. I saw some of the same people every month for 5 years and the sad thing was, they were the SAME. They hadn’t changed in any way, Not in their thinking, not in their skills, and in some ways had stagnated. I think we should be giving to all in need, BUT we need to add an extra dimension of counseling and training, uplifting and love so they don’t just waste their lives. How many of you are the same person you were 5 years ago?!

  52. Clark Goble says:

    Jenny I was rather depressed when working at the Provo soup kitchen for similar reasons. (This was years ago) I remember finally deciding I couldn’t do it anymore when some people came offering jobs paying more than I was earning at the time and so many refused them.

  53. Sam, nice sidestep of the main thrust of Eric’s comment.