NCFM Adviser Richard Doyle, Our Devastating Welfare System
Menken described the U.S. federal government as a “milch cow with one hundred twenty-five teats.” We devote far more resources than many other countries to social spending. This essay addresses the twenty-one and a third percent of Americans on the dole. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation claims federal and state spending on means-tested programs will rise to $1.2 trillion per year (probably understated because of nominally non-welfare programs such as Social Security. Then there is state spending, earned Income and Child Tax Credits, etc., etc., amounting to $257 billion annually. Over 30 separate handouts commenced in the 1960’s. The Grace Commission identified 963 federal programs that redistributed wealth. Over $60,000 is spent annually per household on “Entitlement” programs constituting 60 percent of federal government spending. The “War on Poverty” ($5.4 trillion) cost more than the U.S. spent fighting World War II. Since LBJ’s Great Society’s beginning, the government has spent $15.9 trillion, in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars, on all means-tested welfare, more than twice the cost of fighting all major wars in U.S. history. Now we have a national debt of $21.6 trillion, driven largely by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and growing numbers of illegal aliens. The deficit is almost $205 billion. Yet the government is in almost hopeless and mounting debt (The best laid plans of mice and men…). The liberal solution is to raise taxes and cut needed military spending.
National data show that $31.7 billion in TANF (“Temporary” Assistance for Needy Families and MOE (Maintenance of Effort) funds were budgeted in fiscal year 2015. Some states are by-passing time limits by moving recipients who have used up their eligibility from the federally funded program to state-funded programs. The U.S. spends more on food assistance, over $81 billion a year, than at any time in its history. One in five households, many being single mothers, are on food stamps. As of July 7, (2017) 42.6 million Americans were receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, costing taxpayers $76 billion in 2013 and $70.9 billion in fiscal year 2016. Payments are now made by EBT cards useable in restaurants. Some sell them for 50 cents on the dollar to buy alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. A recent report declared that 20 percent is spent junk food like sweetened beverages, desserts, snacks, candy and sugar; from the looks of many, they are obviously not starving; our obesity rate is at an all-time high.
Why work? Luke 10:7 says, “Those who work deserve their pay.” However, nowadays there are more benefit takers than full-time workers. A Cato study showed that welfare benefits often pay more than many important and minimum wage jobs. Obama Administration officials had insisted that states be flexible in letting welfare recipients spend more time studying for high-school equivalency diplomas―that activities, like bed rest, massage, motivational reading or going to weight-loss programs should qualify as “work.” Robert Rector opined, figures “clearly show that the impact of welfare reform is now virtually zero.” As of early 2017, only 15 states had passed legislation enabling drug testing of welfare applicants or recipients. Thirteen Alabama counties saw an 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements restarted. Further reform could relieve pressure on businesses to hire illegal aliens.
Divorce: The combination of easy availability of welfare benefits and the “no-fault” divorce criteria sent the divorce rate skyrocketing. Given these bribes, in effect, girls and women no longer need husbands to support them and children. They can marry Uncle Sam, which encourages and subsidizes illegitimacy. For every 100 U.S. marriages, 49 are aborted by divorce. The U.S. census bureau reports that single-adult households have now replaced nuclear family households.
Fatherlessness: Divorce is the number one reason for father-deprivation. Breeding children out-of-wedlock number two. The Washington Post reports fewer than half of kids are in traditional families. Social observer Herbert London said the percentage of children living at home with two married parents in their first marriage went from seventy-three in 1960 to forty-six in 2014. Oakland California psychiatrist Mark I. Klein says, “Soon, less than 20 % of American children will be raised in two parent households.”
The foregoing is simply child abuse. A 1990 survey from the National Center for Health Statistics found an ‘alarmingly high’ prevalence of emotional and behavioral problems among children, with rates two to three times higher for single parent and step parent families than for intact families. Every relevant study indicates that children raised in single parent homes are more likely to exhibit pathological behavior than those who are not. Many social aberrations—namely higher levels of youth suicides, low intellectual and educational performance, greater mental illness, juvenile delinquency, violence and drug abuse—are associated with father-deprived children. More than one in three children of broken families quit school.
Crime: juvenile and adult: Female-headed households are a minority of households, but they generate over seventy percent of the criminal class. The distinctive criminality of teens from broken homes stands out clearly in a criminological study sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD), based on data collected from a nationally representative sample of more than 20,000 adolescents. Seventy-five percent of delinquents and most adult criminals are from broken homes, mostly female headed. A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that 72 percent of incarcerated juvenile delinquents grew up in broken homes. Baltimore, Maryland authorities found 60 percent of their juvenile criminals are from broken homes. More than two-thirds of the criminal minors handled by the Florida Division of Youth Services are from broken homes. Doctors Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck; (Harvard University) found the delinquency ratio of children living with mother only compared to living with father only to be about 3 to 1.
Fatherlessness and crime are linked not only due to a boys’ lack of dads but also due to growing up in a neighborhood in which marriage is no longer the norm. On Fathers’ Day 2008 Barak ObamaObama declared “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.” And criminal kids become criminal adults. Up to 70 percent of adolescents charged with murder and of long-term prison inmates grew up in fatherless homes. The list is almost endless. Most young people who join gangs come from homes without fathers or any significant role models to enforce discipline. There is a pattern here. It is imperative to recognize the stability that fathers can and should bring to families and society. Millions of fathers can prevent crime more effectively than lesser numbers of cops and welfare “workers.”
Besides providing an alternative to work, welfare gives lawbreakers leisure to commit crime and to promote numerous anti-American cults and philosophies mentioned in David Kupelian’s marvelous book “The Snapping of the American Mind.” The best solution to crime and cults would be to cut off their financing ― welfare.
Realistic observations: Thomas Sowell said, “No society ever thrived because it has a large and growing class of parasites living off those who produce.” Taxpaying residents of states with generous benefits, like New York, California and Illinois are moving out (shades of “Atlas Shrugged.”) Welfare has a just and noble place in society ― feeding the aged, infirm and kids is fine, but call these programs what they are: charity. Advocates of indiscriminate handouts wrongly blame poverty and lack of education funding for social problems. These two straw men are associated with the problems, but do not cause them. Father-deprivation and institutional chivalry are much more important causes, occurring in two major, often overlapping communities—divorced households and never-married households. Once family status is controlled for, neither race nor income has effect on social problems. Half of America’s seven million poor families are so because of divorce, separation or out-of-wedlock births. In contrast, of America’s 50.4 million intact families, only 7% are poor. Almost 75% of children in single-parent families will experience poverty before the age of eleven, contrasted with 20% in two-parent families.
We should connect the dots between welfare and its many results, between cause and effect. Long ago President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.” Working people create livable communities, but welfare creates ghettos. Entering them is like crossing the river Styx. To paraphrase former Senator Jim DeMint: attacking recipients for accepting welfare’s largess is like criticizing a 4-year-old for eating ice cream for breakfast. Proper targets are enablers acquiescing to their wants: obliging politicians, administrators and divorce court judges. Moynihan said, “The issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it.”
About the Author
Richard Doyle, a retired military and civilian air traffic controller and commercial pilot, is President of the Men’s Defense Association and author of Doyle’s War, Save the Males. He has a unique perspective on the subject; its easy availability, combined with misguided institutional chivalry, destroyed his erstwhile family ― and, he insists, many thousands of others.