A Christian Nation

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-12-51-21-amDecember is the time of year when those of us in the U.S. get to soul-search, really think about the difference between “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays,” and listen to talking heads pontificate about America’s identity as “a Christian nation.”

Which, hey, look, I’m a Christian. I believe in Christ as my savior, and I have faith that the New Testament and the Book of Mormon reflect His teachings.  

But that’s why, constitutional issues aside, I find it weird that people and politicians can push to un-decouple religion and government and argue that America is a Christian nation, while at the same time strenuously resisting the kinds of policies that institutionalized Christianity would fundamentally, necessary embrace.

Examples are everywhere. Just today we got a gem from the Twitter feed of Fox News, the main pusher of both the “Christian nation” and “War on Christmas” narratives. Food stamp fraud is at “an all-time high: is it time to end the program?”

Misleading headline aside (food stamp fraud is at an all-time high—less than 0.1%), the conversation about food stamps is definitely one worth having. It’s a program that puts food on the tables of old people and families with children, in particular. Which means in the War on Christmas, Fox News is apparently playing the role of Scrooge.  

FWIW, I’m not convinced “Christian nation” is a worthy goal for a country like the United States. Whether or not we wear the label, we can push to enact Christian policies, thereby acting in accordance with Christ’s teachings, instead of doing the opposite: Call ourselves a Christian nation while opposing the types of policies that we as Christians should be fighting for. 

But that raises the question: What kinds of policies should Christians be pushing for? In my mind, if we’re Christians, we’ve accepted and adopted Christ’s teachings against greed and selfishness, and we give up everything to care for the sick, needy, and poor among us. (That’s a high bar, but it’s His bar, I didn’t make it up.)

We forgive those who trespass against us, and we refuse to live by the sword, lest we die by the sword.

We exercise empathy in how we treat our neighbors and we love them as we love ourselves. (And “who is our neighbor?” Another good topic for discussion.)

We acknowledge that Christ is more concerned with how we care for our poor than He is about our personal finances. From an American, Book of Mormon perspective, how we care for the poor as a society will determine our fate on this promised land. 

That’s how I see it. What would a Christian nation look like to you? And should we be advocating for those types of policies? Does Christianity even work at scale, on a national level? On an economic level? It’s a conversation worth having. 

Comments

  1. I imagine one response to the collectivist Christianization of America would be to raise a finger and exclaim: “Halt! I must be free to choose to be Christian on an individual level or it doesn’t count and we all go to Hell!”

    Personally, I’d rather rely on programs with sufficient, assured and predictable funding in times of need, and would be happy to continue supporting such programs with the sweat of my brow, but I acknowledge that there are those who view Christianity as an essentially individual endeavor between them and God, and no way are they signing up for some coercive government regime.

  2. Public education is now the state religion, where all are forced to give offerings and devotion, and none are allowed the freedom to not believe its doctrines.

  3. Peter, excellent comment. After hearing “but it’s evil for the government to force me to be charitable” for 45 years, I’ve been asking my LDS friends two questions:
    1) Why do we believe convincing 50+ percent of voters to agree with us one moral issue (marriage) is a correct use of a divinely inspired system, yet when 50+ percent believe our requirement to be charitable (a moral issue) can be partially satisfied by supporting government programs, it is proof of a corrupt system?
    2) Since no one is really removing your choice to participate in these programs (there are consequences for breaking both laws and commandments) which is worse – temporary jail here or eternal damnation? In other words, why fight laws that mandate what God has already commanded? No one balks at laws forbidding murder; why fight laws that bid charity? It is already mandated by a higher law.

    I never get answers.

  4. I hear “Christian nation” as having little or nothing to do with Christian thought or principles, but as a government for the benefit of “Christians” who, in various permutations, are some combination of straight white property-owning Protestant men. Christian preference rather than Christian principle.
    Care for the poor is on a different scale, running not on a yes-no axis but a private-public or free will–collective (mandated/coerced) axis. With an overlap that private free-will charity tends to be appealing to “Christians” as so defined.
    When I look for Christian principles rather than Christian preference in government action, in 21st century terminology I think “social democrat” (and wish I had a chance to vote that way).

  5. The Food Stamp program (SNAP) is unlikely to be ended. It is part of an ongoing deal between urban and rural congressmen. The urban congressmen agree to support the farm bill, and the rural congressmen agree to support food stamps. As a side benefit, the poor, urban and rural, get a measure of food security. This is one of the achievements of our democracy.

  6. Chad, I will answer your questions.
    1) I think it comes down to what has traditionally been the role of government. The government has had a hand in registering and recognizing marriages in some fashion for centuries. On the other hand, the government’s role of giving out food stamps, for example, is relatively new, within our lifetimes. One is long standing and mostly uncontroversial… the other is new and not proven.
    2) For me, my resistance to programs like food stamps comes down to the government’s inefficiency in administering charity and that it lessens dependence on each other in favor of increased dependence on one central authority.

    I don’t think Christian Charity works on a national policy scale. To be a true Christian nation, in my mind, doesn’t mean having programs like food stamps but that the poor and the needy are cared for by the community.

  7. You also conveniently forget the fact that if we’re a Christian nation, then we do not sacrifice unborn children and we obey the law of chastity. Which, hey, a lot of Christians push for such policies.

  8. I don’t think Christian Charity works on a national policy scale. To be a true Christian nation, in my mind, doesn’t mean having programs like food stamps but that the poor and the needy are cared for by the community.

    The problem with leaving charity to the community–aside from defining the community and who is a member–is that the mismatch between needs and resources would be virtually guaranteed. And in response I imagine you would start seeing a revival of something the US hasn’t seen since the Dust Bowl exodus.

  9. How does a community of 300 million people care for the needy without a program?

  10. Left Field says:

    “Programs like food stamps” IS the community caring for the poor and the needy.

  11. I didn’t forget those, Kevin.

  12. I find myself reverting to “what peterllc said,” but to continue the conversation . . .
    in light of the less than 0.1% fraud rate (quoting the OP; no independent verification) claims of government inefficiency–which do have a theoretical air of confidence–always sound like selective caring, as in “I would give aid to the righteous poor but not those sinners, so everything that goes to sinners scores as waste.” I find that “righteous poor” position so common and so troubling that I now insist that anyone making an inefficiency argument answer to the “righteous poor” argument as well. Do you own it? Or not?

  13. Is there a difference between “Christian Charity” and charity? We don’t know if it works on a public-policy scale having never tried it. We do know that leaving it to private individual initiative leaves holes in the safety net, through which whole segments of society fall through.

    Every charitable program – even church welfare – has a degree of admin inefficiency. Should we not try? What’s an acceptable level of inefficiency? Everything included in the “traditional role of government” – really, we, the people – started at some point by reflecting the will of the people.

    But my question is this: before we merit living in a one heart/mind Zion society, we have to move in that direction. We have extol the ballot box (on moral issues) as one way. If Mormons comprised 50+ percent of voters, would we vote to institutionalize/mandate some charitable programs? (We have in our history – check out the fate of those unwilling to consecrate or donate to storehouses). Or make them more efficient? The response I get is that, even though they may help satisfy the requirement to care for the less fortunate, government programs are to be opposed because “force.”

    Seems like a promise to give everything would look for opportunities everywhere – public or private, individual or group, efficient or inefficient, free-will or mandated, since, in this case, the mandate agrees with the commandment.

  14. I don’t care very much about the personal worthiness of welfare recipients, except in perhaps very extreme scenarios. My concerns are about inefficiency and power. In my dealings with government welfare programs the waste, churn and cost was evident. Not to mention a faceless agency’s inability to empathize or truly assist a person in need beyond cutting a check. Most people need more than money, especially long term.

    And by outsourcing our charitable obligations to the government we allow a small number of people to control even more money and accumulate even more power. In the days of Trump, we should be weary about centralizing decision making in this way.

    And PeterLLC, yeah, there are risks with leaving it primarily to the community, with government only supporting, but I think it would make us a better people.

  15. I think there is room to acknowledge legitimate points on both sides. I think most people, and mormons in this case since you are citing the book of mormon, have no problems being charitable. And yes, we should be charitable as Christ commanded. No argument there.

    I am not Mormon myself, but have lived in Utah and know probably way too many of them. And therefore I have also learned a lot about the church so I can talk a little about the community with some authority. They pay generous tithes and fast offerings to help the poor. Mormons have substantially higher percentage of volunteering hours then the rest of the country. Having lived in Utah i saw their welfare program and mormons are very active in providing for the poor not only locally but nationally and internationally. So I definitely wouldn’t call them greedy scrooges with no love for the poor as you seem to imply. Heck, just look at the homeless population in SLC. In economics you get what you pay for and only an extremely charitable people would attract and retain such a huge amount on homeless people who literally are every 5 feet or so now.

    But I don’t think pairing fox news talking points and mormon feelings is a fair discussion and is a lazy, unjustified way to make your argument. Just like MSNBC doesn’t speak for all liberals and their personal politics or preferences. I do think the idea of how the money is managed and spent is what gets most people grumpy in mormondom and conservatives in general. The church seems to run a very clean and needs based welfare system with emphasis on helping people help themselves and if government was run as well as their church, most LDS members would probably have no problem with the welfare system.

    But having worked for the government in 4 different federal agencies (State dept, USDA, FDA, and DoD), I can attest to the waste in creating, tracking, and implementing government programs on a variety of levels. And I mean billions of dollars in obvious almost fraudulent waste. The government definitely has room for improvement in many spaces and in not the savior some would like it to be. Yes, people need to be helped, but I don’t think our current government does it all that well in many cases.

    And I think it is ok to be anti government with some of these programs. There are things that yes should be done, like helping poor people, but the government isn’t always the best way to do it. What about non profits, churchs or more local forms of government which could much better, and with a lower overhead (fed employees are super expensive), address the needs of people? Just because you don’t like a government program or how it is run doesn’t mean you hate poor people or Jesus. There are probably just other better ways you would like to see your money spent of you would like to help people. Gov isn’t the only answer as some people in previous posts seem to imply. And just to be fair, Christ never advocated for Cesear or big government providing for everyone either. There are other and maybe better ways, you just need to think outside the box a little.

    Me personally, I really admire how the mormon church handles its welfare and its members are honestly some of the most charitable and christlike people I know, even if they don’t like the food stamp program.

  16. It’s always seemed strange to me that some people seem to think that government is getting in the way of charities taking care of the poor. I’m pretty sure that if there were enough charities to actually do all the good we wanted, government work could then cease. It’d be like the Salvation Army complaining that they’d get more work done if the Mormons stopped helping people.

    Nobody -wants- the government helping, but there is more than enough need to go around. If you want less government, make them unnecessary.

  17. On “making us a better people”: Long ago I accepted the goodness of government welfare when I realized that the ones arguing against it already have a warm bed and food to eat. It won’t make us a better people to burn down the systems that ensure a basic level of subsistence and dignity for others. These programs don’t have to be perfect to be good.

  18. Decentralized charity almost never comes close to covering the whole of society, and in times of mass crisis (e.g. depressions) it collapses under the strain. Food banks, charitable hospitals, etc. closed in droves in 1930-32, just as they had in previous depressions like 1906 and 1873. It’s human nature to give less when we have less available for ourselves–precisely at the time that others have the greatest need.

    If we were to give charities the borrowing capabilities that we give governments–and the federal government in particular–that’d make them much more able to get through times of mass crisis. However, it’d be staggeringly complicated to implement such a policy, to say nothing of the unbelievable opportunities for abuse such a system would present.

    BTW, a food stamp system with a 0.1% fraud rate is pretty remarkable.

  19. In my mind it comes down to scale—volunteering and soup kitchens and financial donations simply aren’t capable of addressing the scale of the problem. I agree with Sarah that Utahns are among the most charitable people anywhere, but there are a still a quarter-million people in Utah on food stamps, half of them children.

    The other efficiency problem is consolidation of effort/resources, which gov’t is decent at and private sector is REALLY bad at. Look at the massive inefficiencies in the military veteran space, where we have a “sea of goodwill”…a whole bunch of organizations trying to solve similar problems, competing for funding and duplicating instead of consolidating resources and effort. The waste is enormous. The cheaper option would be to fund and fix our gov’t veterans programs.

  20. 2 rich 2 eat says:

    Actually, food stamp fraud isn’t high enough. Have you ever tried to get food stamps? It’s extremely difficult. You have to have basically 0 income and 0 money in the bank and a car worth 0 (asset tests differ from state to state, but most states have them). If you’re earning anything, even with a large family, the benefits decrease rapidly. If you’re earning nothing, but get help from your family, your benefits decrease rapidly. If you don’t have a steady job, but earn some money on a temp or contract job, your benefits decrease. And then you have to prove you have 0 again. The program is far too stingy, too concerned about fraud, to do much good for millions of precarious families. Just loosen up the restrictions, ignore a little bit of fraud, and let the people eat some damn food. A 0.1% fraud rate is so ridiculously low that every Fortune 500 company in the country would wish to be so efficient.

  21. By the way, I couldn’t find anything in the link that said the fraud rate is 0.1%… where is it referenced? Fraud itself is an interesting concept. I knew more than a few families from my college days that used food stamps because they could not because they needed to. Is that bad?

    For me we should always be cautious about government programs, even charities, because of the force and power they ultimately wield. The more that people depend on government for their basic needs they more easily they can be controlled or manipulated.

  22. 2 rich 2 eat, you highlight a serious problem: many states really do want to grind the faces of the poor, especially when the poor are perceived to be non-white and particularly when they are perceived to be black. Never mind that in most of these states, there are substantial numbers of poor whites who suffer considerably from hostility to the welfare state driven by racial enmity. (Insert well-known Lyndon Johnson quote here.)

    Alabama and Mississippi are by far the worst, but you’ll note that there are many, many states–virtually all with Republican control of both legislature and executive, of course–that behave similarly.

  23. It’s here, ABM, page two: https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/FY14%20State%20Activity%20Report.pdf

    45K disqualifications out of 46M recipients.

  24. yes, APM is correct — it is a travesty.

  25. Frank Pellett, to your comment, “If you want less government, make them unnecessary.”

    Just because something is unnecessary doesn’t mean the government won’t do it anyways for a few more votes from a certain city or county. I hate to tell you, but your representatives love to waste your money, regardless of their political party. I have worked on drafting legislation before with Capitol Hill and seen it first hand. Tons of unnecessary programs are done every year to the tunes of trillions of dollars. Just look at the DoD, which most liberals have not trouble tearing apart. How many aircraft carriers, Abraham tanks, and jets do we build every year just to say we did and keep a few jobs even though we don’t need them? We send tons of brand new equipment into storage, sell them to dictators, or just leave them in foreign countries because we have no use for them.

    Tons of things the gov does are unnecessary, and if you think only the DoD has that problem you are fooling yourself. There are plenty of social programs with the same issue, they are needed to buy votes, all costing billions of dollars. Maybe we could get rid of a lot of other programs; and non-profits or churchs could do a better job and pick up the slack if the politicians weren’t so concerned with buying votes by giving away your money?

    Why would someone go to the mormon church which would give you the healthy food you need and pay the bills you have but require receipts, and then require you to help in their cannery or clean the church, if the federal government would just give you the money to buy whatever you want to? Just being real here. It is hard for churchs and non profits to compete and be impactfull if they want to be accountable for their money when the federal government requires very little accountability and in many cases does a horrible job and tracking the money they spend

    Again, all I am saying is that the government isn’t this amazingly effective, vitreous organization that can solve all of our problems which some people like to think it is. I know, I work here! Government is really good at some things, and does have incredible importance and value if you use it to do the job it was meant to do, which is why I stay. But it is not so good at others, which again, is why some people don’t like using it for certain programs. And that is where the disagreement comes in, some people would prefer to do the same job of helping the poor but just in a different way. And it is possible, again just look at the mormon church, they do an amazing job.

  26. Kyle M.

    I fully admit I may be wrong, but I read that table as saying that of the 641,000 state investigations, 45,000 were determined to be fraud. Which would put the fraud rate at about 7% based on those cases actually investigated. Besides, I am not sure that total persons is the best metric either… there might be 46 million individuals but only 23 million households. Wouldn’t you measure fraud by household and not individual since many of those individuals might be minors or dependents?

  27. ABM, I don’t think the state investigations were purely random samples–there’s some selection going on in the decision even to investigate in the first place.

    But, let’s say that the real fraud rate is in the low single digits. That’s still an awfully large ratio of genuine beneficiaries to scammers.

  28. You can also look at the $60M in fraud claims established against $70B in issuance. Which lines up about where you’d expect it to.

  29. Government welfare programs save lives. That’s a big deal, and it’s not something that we can casually dispense with, even temporarily. It won’t do to get rid of food stamps while we cast about for better ways to do the job.

    Government welfare is really hard to replace because its huge scale makes it possible to do things that can’t otherwise be done. That scale is also the source of some problems, as people have pointed out in this thread. But that is in the nature of modern government. Getting rid of government welfare programs so that churches and charities can do the same job is like getting rid of the Defense Department so that police forces and local militias can protect us instead. If we want the job done, we have to be realistic about what it takes. None of this prevents us from constantly trying to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs. That’s what we should be doing. We need to do that hard work instead of indulging in the fantasy that we can make everything better by blowing up what we have.

  30. Another way that government programs crowd out private solutions is by taxing more. More money to the government means less money to private organizations. Also, as Sarah says, government is very good at solving nonexistent problems (I can provide examples if needed but Sarah did a good job already). But once a government program exists, it is virtually impossible to eliminate. You have tons of bureaucrats intent on defending their little kingdom who are much better organized than the general public from whom the money is taken. Private organizations on the other hand can’t take money forcibly from people so once a program becomes unnecessary, it is much more likely for it to be eliminated in a private organization. Much more efficiency. Conservatives tend to donate a lot more to charity than liberals so they put their money where their mouth is too.

  31. the government isn’t this amazingly effective, virtuous organization that can solve all of our problems which some people like to think it is. I know, I work here!

    Pointing out that American politicians deal in pork isn’t an indictment of the social welfare state per se. What it shows is that American politicians have other priorities than the general welfare of all Americans (which I believe is due mostly to the obscene amounts of money required to become a representative of the people, but I digress). It also shows that scarcity isn’t the problem–allocation is. There’s a lot of vested interest in keeping things just the way they are so I’m not optimistic about anything changing, but America’s failure to better provide for its own doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion.

  32. None of this prevents us from constantly trying to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs. That’s what we should be doing. We need to do that hard work instead of indulging in the fantasy that we can make everything better by blowing up what we have.

    Hear, hear! The Canadian government, for example, is forever going on about the need to apply results-based management to international organizations, mostly because it has done so with good results at home.

    The “get the government out of the business of governing” business that I hear so often from my compatriots seems like a drastic solution to an admittedly difficult problem. Kind of like deciding you’d rather walk because troubleshooting your poorly performing car is hard.

  33. I wonder how many bands out of Washington, DC have been named Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.

  34. “The ‘get the government out of the business of governing’ business that I hear so often from my compatriots seems like a drastic solution to an admittedly difficult problem. Kind of like deciding you’d rather walk because troubleshooting your poorly performing car is hard.”

    Very succinctly and well put, Peter. I totally agree with this.

  35. Peter and Loursat — such good observations. They are true! Thank you for articulating them so succinctly. Aid of this kind pretty much has to be administered centrally by the government using tax proceeds because that is the only way that the funding for it and the management of it can be reliable over time so that families don’t starve while new private initiatives scramble to get themselves organized in response to a particular need. Here in the US, we can learn a lot from social democracy and how it indicates a decent society willing to take care of its own and in which the citizens are less covetous of their own money — essentially more Christlike, even if they happen not to profess a particular sectarian religious belief. They put their money where loudly self-proclaimed American Christians’ mouths are.

  36. I’d like to push back that government assistance is some new-fangled thing and thereby a sign of how decadent and not self-sufficient-y enough American has become. In medieval Europe the care for the poor was a Christian imperative to be handled by a centralized organization (usually the church, but since it wasn’t all that separate from secular power, the state as well). In the Anglo-American tradition, centralized and secular systems to care for the poor began in the 1500s (after Henry VIII dissolved monasteries and convents that provided poor relief) and continued in various forms in Britain and the early American colonies. Again, it was seen that a Christian nation had an obligation to provide some system of centralized poor relief. In the late 18th and early 19th century the attitude of punishing the poor began to overtake the notion of Christian obligation, but in Britain they didn’t dismantle their burgeoning poor-relief efforts and in fact made it more clearly a function of the state in the 1830s. All of these efforts were imperfect, all of them still emphasized the “worthy” poor, all of them had gaps of coverage, but together they show that Anglo-American efforts and government welfare (to use our terminology) are half a millennium old – meaning food stamps are not some sign of 21st century decadence and decline. They are merely the latest effort to address what is a very old problem.

  37. I thought that was the case, HH9, thanks for the comment. Even tyrants knew it was bad policy to let peasants and their children starve—bread riots can be so annoyingly destabilizing!

    (At least until Stalin came on the scene and was like “eh just starve em all.”)

  38. Sarah, it’s not clear that government spending crowds out private charity; there is, in fact, literature that suggests that government welfare spending has a crowd-in effect.

    And it is absolutely true that charities—including the church—do a good job at providing for individuals’ needs. But their mandate, and thus their charity, is constrained. The church provides necessary temporary aid for members, and some others, in need, but it’s not clear to me that—as laudable as they legitimately are—could scale. (Not to mention that the church encourages members to take advantage of social safety net programs in addition to church welfare.)

    It’s easy enough on a local level, where the bishop and the Relief Society president know individuals and their circumstances personally. But if suddenly the church were responsible to support people who aren’t members, well, maybe that could work in Utah, where a significant portion of the population is Mormon. But no way it works in Chicago. We don’t have the kind of presence and coverage here.

    In 2014, individuals gave about $258.5 billion to charity (and another $46.5 billion came from non-individuals). [Source.] That giving represents not only food, but donations to universities and museums and orchestras. But let’s pretend all of it was welfare-oriented giving. And let’s imagine that government welfare crowded out half of the charitable giving that would have otherwise happened. So if we double 2014’s amount, we get up to $610 billion to give to the poor for their support.

    The problem: according to the Senate, the government pays over $1 trillion a year in means-tested welfare benefits.

    Now, there are issues with this number. It includes a number of programs that probably aren’t strictly welfare programs, while it excludes some (like Social Security) that clearly should count. In any event, though, I don’t see any evidence that government spending crowds out 67% (or more) of private welfare.

  39. Perhaps my comment isn’t inline with the theme of charity, but I get frustrated when we call this a Christian nation yet we don’t celebrate as a nation the Easter season. Good Friday is a bank holiday in both India and Hong Kong (places I’ve worked) yet in the US, nothing. How does that makes sense that a Christian nation neglects honoring this holiday in some way?

  40. One could argue, Sam, that programs like the LDS welfare program–intensely local, and based on the decision-makers having personal and often intimate knowledge of the recipients–could take the place of top-down bureaucracies.

    There’s no way most people would tolerate that kind of intrusion in their lives, though. I think we tend to forget that Mormonism is a very high-commitment religion; church welfare recipients submit themselves to what is often fairly humiliating and intrusive questioning because they accept the ecclesiastical authority of the bishop and the RSP. You might be able to get away with this among Catholics–but what about non-denominational, church-hopping evangelicals? Jews? Muslims? Non-believers?

    And you’d still have the question of funding sources. In the aggregate, wealthy stakes in the US transfer tens and possibly even hundreds of millions of dollars per year in Fast Offering funds to less-wealthy stakes. That looks an awful lot like redistributive taxation!

  41. Response to comment above: I am a believing member of the LDS church and in no way would I want to change the government to look more like the church administration. As wonderful as the church is, it is also overwhelmingly white, male, straight, and completely opaque in its decision making process and financial dealings. And it is also a really, really good thing that the government can’t choose to kick someone and their kids out of government assistance because they are gay.

    I get that the government is inefficient and wasteful. But it is the only thing in this country capable of organizing a centralized transportation, defense, and welfare system.

  42. Alpineglow says:

    Church welfare decisions are generally based on personal relationships and perspectives. There are benefits to that closeness and insight, as well as costs (such as opacity, inconsistent decisions, leadership roulette). The point of a bureaucracy is to make things rule-bound and not up to individual discretion. There are costs to that, but also benefits.

  43. Two comments:

    First, America is not a Christian nation. The Founders were very careful to ensure that it is a secular nation.

    Second, it seems to me that those who insist the loudest that America is a Christian nation are generally the most un-Christian in their actual behavior, as evidenced by the efforts they expend to further disadvantage the already disadvantaged.

  44. I believe as a community and nation we have a obligation to assist and help the poor. however that is not the current reality. I work and serve in the inner cities. I have seen and know of all the abuse. The people who need the help get minimal assistance like 2 Rich 2 Eat states, and the people who know how to take advantage really do take advantage and lie. The first week of the month, some food stamp recipients go to the store and live high on the hog. They buy crab legs, and high end cuts of meat. They eat better than most upper class families. They have nice cell phones, clothes and spend their cash on other priorities. Then at the end of the month, they have no food or money and claim poverty. If the government is giving food, it should work like WIC and precipitants can only use the stamps for basic food products: fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. THERE IS SO MUCH ABUSE!!! People turn away for fear of being called racist, or uncaring, or labeling. This is legal robbery in front of our eyes. These programs in theory can be good, but they are not working as designed. The welfare state is out of control. Wanting to clean up the Food stamp program is not being uncharitable or unchristian. Those of us who work in the inner cities, really know what is happening. It is time for reform. In my area, those who are truly hungry can go to local grocery stores at the end of the night and they will donate food that is going to be discarded but still edible. We have created an entitled group that no longer works for the own support. Although I am not a Republican, and I hate to use names but the LDS community will recall…..Romney was right when he spoke about the 47%….it was not politically palatable at the time. Hope Washington D.C. cleans up the system before it collapses on its self. We need to help the poor have a dignified life and diet…..but filter out the abusers much better.

  45. It’s heartwarming in a way that both sides of this debate buy into the idea that social welfare programs are primarily charitable in nature. These programs are minimal necessary conditions to support the capitalist structure, which itself always requires a strong underlying government to exist in the first place. They do this both by subsidizing consumption and by neutralizing threats to the stability of the system. The benefits of these programs accrue to society broadly, not just the front line recipients, so we are all partakers and therefore need to be more humble about attacking the system.

    And goodness the federal government doesn’t need your pathetic taxes to “fund” the programs. It has access to all of the dollars it will ever need. It taxes you to avoid precisely the crowding out problem that libertarians so vividly imagine for us – to destroy your dollars instead of to obtain them.