To Promote the General Welfare

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By Scott Simonds and Megan Simonds

SSimonds_1In my previous article, “The Freedom Society: Headwing Thought or Tea Party Politics?”, I said I would next take up the issue of government spending on human services.

megan-simondsThe political right advocates for smaller government, addressing domestic issues of poverty and healthcare through private enterprise.

The left advocates for government agencies and programs to provide healthcare, a safety net for people temporarily in need and ongoing support for citizens who cannot “enjoy the blessings of liberty” independently as social responsibilities.

The right claims that government power should be limited to the common defense, brick and mortar infrastructure, law-making and law enforcement. For them, government’s basic purpose is to protect individual rights and freedoms and should keep its hands off the free market system.

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this worldview, it is not complete. The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution includes the phrase:

…[To] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty…

The right argues that protecting the free market system is promoting the general welfare. But is there such a thing as equal opportunity in a purely capitalist society? Do the values derived from capitalist principles, such as independence, self-reliance and faith, apply in every circumstance?

In fact, values such as “justice” and “compassion” (for those who cannot survive independently in civilized society) often conflict. Success and failure, right and wrong, are not as clear cut as some would have us believe.

Reverend Moon frequently uses the metaphor “vertical” and “horizontal” to describe dual aspects of human nature. The vertical dimension refers to absolute obedience to the will and conformity to the unchanging attributes of God. Rev. Moon associates the vertical dimension of human nature with “faith.”

The horizontal axis refers to the immediate present, which does not meet standards of perfection. God is a God of justice and perfection, but God is also a God of mercy and forgiveness. The horizontal axis represents accepting reality without casting moral judgments. Self-sufficiency, good health, supportive families, and access to capital are ideals that everyone should enjoy. But they are currently out of reach for many individuals and families.

In the debate over handling controversial issues with moral implications, upholding strong family standards must be balanced with compassion for those who made regrettable mistakes as well as for their victims, a common theme with families in faith communities.

There must be a balance between self-sufficiency and social responsibility.

First, let’s have a look at federal spending on human services. The U.S. budget for FY 2014 is $3.65 trillion, where:

  • Healthcare represents 27% of the budget, $969.8 billion. Of that amount, $519 billion goes to Medicare for seniors. $308 billion goes to the states for Medicaid and the remainder to Medicare recipients on Social Security Disability.
  • Social Security consumes 25% of the federal budget. This includes payments for people with disabilities as well as seniors.
  • The 2014 defense budget makes up 22% of the federal budget.
  • Welfare makes up 11% of the budget. Roughly half of the welfare budget goes to direct payments to families. The rest goes to supplemental food programs, unemployment and housing assistance.

There is a perception among many Americans that direct welfare payments to people who don’t deserve it make up a significant portion of the national budget. In fact, about 5% goes directly to families. The amount increases during recessions and high unemployment, and decreases during economic recovery and low unemployment.

social-services

An increasing percentage of funds allocated for human services do not go to direct payments to families. They fund programs to assist people to be as independent as possible. Two examples of federally funded social service programs are programs for people with disabilities and the foster care system.

Care for People with Cognitive Disabilities

The ratio of the population with disabilities (all inclusive) is 1:5. More accurately, 56.7 million people or 19% of the population are disabled. More than half report the disability as severe. Of people with cognitive disabilities, only 41% are employed. Many of the remaining 60% are capable of working, but not without supported employment.

Cognitive disabilities include developmentally delayed (e.g., 12 year-old minds in 32 year-old bodies), people with mental disorders including those on the Autism spectrum, ADHD, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and Down syndrome. It includes people with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, depression, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and fetal alcohol or substance abuse syndrome. Many people who had led normal lives fell into this category as a result of brain injuries. Behaviors that impede social interaction are associated with cognitive disabilities including Asperger syndrome.

From the 1980s, the policy for caring for people with disabilities has been to provide support for them to be as independent as possible in communities. Government and public agencies provide residential, independent living, community inclusion and employment services.

The first wave of people to enter the system came out of institutions. Imagine the culture shock: coming from an institution, sleeping dormitory style, sometimes in restraints, on drugs to dull the mind, with no contact with the outside world, then finding yourself sharing a home with two or three housemates, discovering and pursuing interests in the community, and getting paid to work.

Over the course of time, it became evident that the most effective way to mainstream people in the community is through employment. Early jobs were in sheltered work facilities. Workers did piece work and were paid very little based on their production. They sold their widgets and crafts to agency partners, often businesses who took advantage of cheap labor.

Today, people with cognitive disabilities are often diagnosed at a very early age. Rather than becoming social outcasts, they are mainstreamed through programs starting in early education. Early programs focused on learning life skills, cooking, cleaning, budgeting, shopping and getting a low skilled job. Recently, the focus is shifting to prepare people for a career. Service providers take each person through a path of discovery to uncover these assets, then match the person with partnering businesses to do internships.

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 The organizational chart of the Arizona Department of Economic Security (click to enlarge), an example of how a state manages human services.

There was a time when government supported institutions treated people with disabilities as less than human. History is a process of intellectual, moral and ethical evolution. Today, social service agencies reflect the principle that all people have the right to be free to pursue happiness to the best of their ability.   Even the term for the service recipient has evolved over recent decades from patient, to client, to participant, to consumer. The current term is “customer,” which reflects the view that government services are to serve the people and providers should avoid assuming an air of superiority over the people they serve.

Foster Care

The most recent estimate of the number of American children in foster care is close to 400,000. Though staggering, this number has been steadily declining for the past decade.

Through the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) process, state performance of child welfare systems is federally monitored on a variety of indicators including safety, permanency, and well-being for children. Safety outcomes measure whether children are first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect. Children are maintained in their own homes whenever possible and appropriate. Permanency outcomes refer to children having permanent and stable living arrangements. Continuity of family relationships and connections are preserved for children whenever possible. Well-being outcomes measure whether families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children’s needs and children receive appropriate and adequate services to meet their educational, physical and mental health needs.

Despite increased efforts of reunification of foster children to biological parents, extended family or other adoptive parents, many American children age out of foster care without stable or permanent connections. These incredibly vulnerable young people are expected to live independently at an age when most of their peers are taking extra time to launch into financial, career and relational responsibility. Recent legislation, such as the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, have recognized that supports are still needed for youth even after officially aging out of state care.

Sociologists challenge the validity of the commonly held belief in the American Dream: that America is the land of limitless opportunity in which an individual can go as far as their own merit takes them. Stephen J. McNamee and Robert K. Miller, Jr. coined the term “Meritocracy Myththe myth that the system distributes resources according to the merit of individuals when in fact there are a variety of non-merit factors that suppress, neutralize, or even negate the effects of merit.

Maybe the time will come when every person is born into and raised by a healthy, intact family, when there will be no such thing as physical and cognitive disabilities. People will work well into their eighties, enjoy the fruits of their labor and inheritance with no need for social security, and remain healthy until their bodies abruptly cease to function and their ascension into the next world is painless accompanied by a celebration of life. That’s the ideal, but not the reality. Until the time comes when all people have natural supports to live independently, advanced societies need to compensate with trained professionals in a regulated system based on evolving best practices. That means government will need to big enough to provide services for realities until faith in a better world is realized.♦

Scott Simonds is an employment specialist working with people with cognitive disabilities. Megan Simonds, his daughter, earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently a graduate student at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. She has worked in the public sector with former foster youth.

 

19 thoughts on “To Promote the General Welfare

  1. An interesting overview that definitely challenges any realistic “unification” or idealistic view.

    Particularly, your closing statement: “That means government will need to big enough to provide services for realities until faith in a better world is realized.”

    Of course, therein lies the rub; the nitty gritty details, actual application, and, possibly, uncovering the ever elusive — enough.

    Certainly, using the example here (again) of the American right/left democratic system has its merits. However, can such a dichotonomous/right-left/bipolar/yin-yang view truly reach to that deepest of deep realities — as Divine Principle/Unification Thought seems to ultimately frame it — the sung-sang heart/love of the True God’s innermost being?

  2. Your vertical and horizontal premise is flawed, because you take it outside its real meaning. Everything about America is built on the concept of consent. Without consent, we live in tyranny. In the last 100 years, tyranny has grown up in America in direct proportion to the amount of social welfare because, in the end, people are forced against their will to pay for it through devious means that rely on deception.

    In an American reality, DP’s verticality is the faith in and perfection of constitutional principles. Horizontality is the faith in and perfection of the inter-human relations that constitute the constitutional framework. Everything that happens within that inter-human framework must conform to the constitutional will, which, in its boiled down essence, is consent emanating from inalienable individual rights no government can confiscate or abridge. We built a system of representative government wherein consent was taken for granted. But the fact is, government organs have been seized by people who don’t believe in consent, but in force to apply their ideals. It’s no different than creating a new religion diametrically opposed to the old religion, but using force instead of persuasion to enforce it. Everything the article talks about is built on seizure through government force; essentially, theft. It is because people in government make the assumption Americans won’t help others unless at the point of a government gun.

    Human beings are compassionate. That’s why socialism has grown up in America among a free-market people. The fact that America vastly leads the world in volunteerism, charitable donations, and the like testifies to American exceptionalism within the framework of a capitalistic, free-market society. Government should persuade and encourage through education for private charity to provide for those who need help. That’s a responsible society. Leaving it to government is the coward’s, the lazy man’s, way out. Farm it out to strangers to deal with it for me, that way I don’t have to write a check, spend my time, etc. It’s a recipe for what we have today: a confused people lost in selfishness.

    • Thank you for reading our article and offering your thoughts. Due to space limitations, we edited some information that developed the yin/yang, masculine/feminine theme. Since the 1980s, a lot of discussion has been going on about the two parties taking on masculine and feminine cultures and outlooks. It argues that just as a man can never fully understand a woman, and vice versa, the two parties have become polarized along the same ideological lines and there is a similar dynamic between the two. From the viewpoint of Unficiationism, God’s internal nature itself has complimentary positive and negative aspects. One aspect of God’s heart is to push and motivate to achieve happiness by reaching our true potential. The other is compassion for the suffering we endure because of the broken state we’re in.

  3. Scott and Megan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I found it very informative.

    At the same time, I sense it identifies a fire that is growing without asking why the fire came to be. It is a fire in the sense that it identifies the needs of those with cognitive disabilities and gives a sense of how this issue is getting to be a bigger and more expensive one over time but doesn’t ask where these impairments originate from. If we want to solve the problem, don’t we need to find the source of the problem?

    Is it genetics? Is it environmental? Nutritional? Brain chemistry? Social? Is it due to millions of tiny evil spirits invading the bodies of those who inherited sin? Is it influenced by family structure? Is it a damaged (vs. invaded) spirit?

    It is hard not to express compassion for those in need but is the need itself solvable or must it merely be ameliorated?

    Our efforts to address this growing need you have identified reminds me of our national efforts to combat poverty by declaring war on it. Well, after 40 years it is clear — poverty has won and continues to affect us as it has in the past (except now you can be considered poor when you have a house, a car, a television and Internet, a cell phone, have two of three meals for your children paid for by the federal government, be eligible for a credit card to buy food every month, and have a hospital so you can walk into the emergency room for treatment as needed, or have a completely subsidized medical plan in the new national healthcare law). It ain’t perfect but somehow it seems better than 100 years ago.

    I do appreciate the effort both of you have made to identify a big problem we face and the encouragement you give to seek our “General Welfare.” It is a big part of that same constitutional prologue to create “A more perfect union…”

  4. Thanks for this.

    First of all, Social Security is not a welfare entitlement. People pay into it via their taxes. If you don’t pay in, you don’t get SS benefits.

    Secondly, conservative political and economic philosophers — Hayek, Buckley, Sowell, Friedman — make the point (and it’s a fair one, IMO) that in a large demographic, of say 320 million people, there is far too much diversity of circumstances to prescribe a single remedy to the various needs of all of these people. As Thomas Sowell opines, when government is used to implement (or compel) remedies — even for the general welfare — individual freedoms are necessarily compromised, and this is not based on volition. Friedman argues that historically we see that in cases where the masses have escaped poverty in large numbers, this has been in societies where free markets and personal incentive is predominant.

    The left wants to “share the wealth,” but they often start the argument in the middle. Where does the wealth they want to share come from? Who produces it, and how? Adam Smith (a long time ago) posited that you cannot tax or spend your way to prosperity — which has been the liberal modality since LBJ. The war on poverty has not been won because the tactics are flawed (I think it was Ayn Rand who said that if two opposing ideas are in conflict, if you examine the tenets of both, you will find that one is based on a faulty premise).

    Divine Principle is clear on several points:

    1. Freedom is essential to grow to perfection and to create a more perfect union. (Remember Dr. Lonnie McCloud’s saying that “more perfect” is grammatically improper — something is perfect or it isn’t) Without freedom there is no love and no way to fulfill our portions of responsibility to grow to perfection via the three blessings. The government cannot love you. In Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village, it becomes clear that for her, village = government.

    2. Family is the basic unit of society. The key to more prosperity, less poverty, better academic achievement, less crime, more productivity and less government intrusion, etc., is understanding the value of family in the context of building an altruistic society. Regrettably, this point gets buried in our politically correct culture where religion and traditional values are now vilified as expressions of intolerance or insensitivity, especially by progressives.

    Government can’t remedy family breakdown. That’s where religions that emphasize family harmony can be most effective in the attempt to foster conditions conducive to “the general welfare.”

  5. My comment above was meant as a reply to EG Pierson, but I mistakenly replied to Chris McKeon’s post. Here I want to thank Chris and David Payer for reading and commenting on our article.

    Chris, the positive and negative duality is useful in many, many applications. An entity can stand in a positive position in one instance and a negative position in another.

    Using your constitutional/interpersonal example, the constitution is a framework for human relations. On the other hand, the constitution was created by people. The constitution, itself, balances plus and minus qualities. The administrative branch could be considered in a polar position to the legislative branch. The “purpose of the whole” — a governmental framework, is balanced with the “individual purpose” — the bill of rights.

    As you observed, the entire document is based on self-evident, inalienable truths. That means there is a higher moral authority than the constitution, itself. The constitution is based on the concept that the role of government is to guarantee those rights. As a society, we are maturing into a greater understanding and application of human rights. At the time they were written, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution didn’t include slaves, women or people with disabilities. That changed over the course of time, and with it, the role of government to protect the rights of minorities.

    I take issue with the comment that leaving compassionate care to the government is “cowardly.” This implies that “government” is some Orwellian, faceless entity divorced and alienated from the governed, and voluntary associations of individuals are superior to government agencies. First, that’s tantamount to saying that voluntary militias are more capable of defending the country than our professional and well-armed military.

    Addressing the issues of mainstreaming people with disabilities and young people transitioning out of foster care are no simple matters. Despite pleas on television for people to adopt kids who lost their parents, or who were removed from life-threatening domestic violence and drug abuse, how many people do you know who actually adopted children? I’m not talking about “gift blessed children,” I’m talking about kids who come with baggage from the terrible situations they come out of? You see, orphans don’t go to orphanages anymore, so they aren’t as visible. They go into foster care. The difference is, foster parents are paid to take care of them until the age out. States know they are better off in homes where the parents adopt and maintain a relationship for the rest of their lives. How many people do that? If all kids from broken homes were adopted, we could cut the foster care system dramatically.

    The same is true for people with disabilities. What do you do with a 50-year-old man or woman who cannot take care of him- or herself? Are you willing to take him or her into your home? Does your church have a fully staffed facility to care for such a person? Are you willing to assume their medical bills?

    You see, we talk about love and the ideal family. But, until now, our programs are geared to people who are “special,” “prepared,” the “chosen.” The UC recruited those types of people, and the ones who turned out not to be “prepared” left, by the thousands. But we had a more “vertical,” “authoritarian” culture under the founder. He said he was building the “bone structure,” the positive framework of the movement. In the 1970s, he said “the flesh will come later.” Tribal Messiahship is fundamentally different than witnessing and conversion. It’s about accepting people as they are and building relationships. Rick Warren says, “I make friends with all kinds of people; I see it as building bridges for Christ to walk across.”

    So what does this have to do with government? During the Cold War era, we focused on fighting communism and building relationships with conservatives to fight tyranny and defend the Constitution. Now, in this “age of women,” we need to build relationships with that element of government that cares for people without casting moral judgments. We need to get into relationship-building mode. We need to be inclusive and collaborative rather than exclusive and authoritarian.

  6. David, my fellow AFC Veteran,

    Two points: There is, and has been, an ongoing effort to solve human problems. Take any issue, whether a physical disease, domestic violence, criminal justice or elder care, they all have a long history of research and development, trial and error. And research and development will continue long into the future. Of course, people who suffer from ailments or who are aging into their 90s (a consequence of medical advancements, much of which was government-funded) need to be taken care of while the research continues.

    Regarding the war on poverty: My father watched people heading West during the Depression looking for opportunity as a boy — think scenes from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. After serving in the Navy on a submarine, he went into the field of human services. He studied in England on a Fullbright Scholarship after obtaining a degree at the University of Chicago (ironically where Milton Friedman was educating fellow free market proponents including William F. Buckley). He worked for the Department of Welfare in Connecticut, then ran the Department of Welfare in Maine for eight years. From there, he was appointed to a position in the federal Department of Health and Human Services, recommended by Senator Muskie, to oversee the Welfare Budget for the United States. He was a GS-18 (comparable, in government service, to a four-star general) From there, he returned to Maine where he established and ran the Human Service Development Institute at the University of Southern Maine, which was the foundation for the Muskie Institute for Public Policy.

    It may surprise you that “Welfare Benefits” are now called “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” (TANF). Federal benefits come in the form of grants with stipulations, one being that families who are able must pursue employment, and the limit for benefits is 50 months (although extensions may be granted in special cases). Most families receive TANF for one year or less. 75% leave assistance after less than two years. That means there has been improvement in the war on poverty. This is largely due to developments in public policies that strengthen families and support people to find employment.

    Although stories abound about people abusing the system, they represent a tiny fraction of people who receive assistance — similar to attacks on the military for buying $2,000 toilets. Having handled Coast Guard contracts at Master Marine, I’m aware of how closely monitored, though not perfect, expenses for maintenance and repair are by the Coast Guard. We never saw a $2,000 toilet or excessive costs for materials despite the fact that they have very high standards for quality (I feel more secure knowing the military doesn’t buy second hand equipment to save money!).

    Finally, the comment that “socialism grew up in a free market economy” should be put in perspective. From the time of Jefferson right up until today, there was never a totally “free market economy.” At the time of the founding fathers, trade with Europe was regulated by agreements with England, Spain and France, which changed according to the political climate. That’s why Jefferson and Franklin spent time in France negotiating military and trade agreements. The abolitionist and prohibition movements which led to the Civil War shut down the rum and slave trades which impacted the economies of the South and New England. On the other hand, the government purchase of the Louisiana Territory and land grants opened up land development and trade in the Midwest.

    As big business, large corporations and immigration grew (yes, immigration was a form of unregulated free trade if you examine the details, especially of Africans and the Irish), so did the necessity of public services. In other words, free enterprise and immigration grew simultaneously, hand in hand.

    Government secures life, liberty and happiness for all people, including those who are incapacitated, as the Constitution says it should. It has to be big enough to match the growth of the population, infrastructure, military threats, and the population, all of which far surpass the era of the founding fathers.

  7. Dear David, my favorite conductor, thanks for weighing in.

    Right, Social Security is not welfare. The cost is deducted from wages and salaries and the benefit is commensurate with the amount we contribute. We also pay Medicare taxes for Medicare Part A. The point I was making by breaking down the budget was to show how small the portion of the budget that goes to direct payments really is, followed up with a statistic that most recipients stay on welfare for less than two years. So where is the basis for the argument that liberals want to redistribute wealth? Modern human service policies and practices are to support people with disadvantages to become as independent as possible.

    Secondly, social service policies acknowledge that there are diverse circumstances that do not conform to a one size fits all approach to dealing with poverty. Here is the typical process. A candidate for services goes to the Department of Human Services and starts going through a screening process. They provide information that must be substantiated about their income, health, living arrangements, supports, etc. If a person qualifies for one or more services, he or she is assigned a case worker. The case worker and the individual create a plan drawing on available resources. One person may need financial assistance until he gets back on his feet. Another person may have one of any number disabilities and may require a great deal more assistance. If health, or mental health issues are involved, the individual will be assigned a case worker who will work him or her to put together a Person Centered Plan (PCP). This is a customized plan to achieve specific goals. See here for North Carolina’s handbook on PCPs for service providers adopted in 2006.

    Employment Programs in Community Rehab Providers (CRPs) and Residential Programs work with DHHS case workers and vocational rehab (VR) counselors to create personalized plans for consumers. They are reviewed every six months and updated once a year. As an employment specialist with a CRP, we get referrals from VR. The consumer interviews CRPs and chooses one to work with. If we get selected, the individual goes through an intake process with our service coordinator who writes a plan based on the services outlined by the VR counselor. Services range from career exploration (a consumer is figuring out what he/she wants to do), work assessments to a) determine if a person can perform a specific job, or b) determine whether or not the person can work at all and job placement, getting a person placed in a job.

    Meanwhile, other supports exist to support living as independently as possible. They range from independent living programs to fully staffed residential programs.

    Now, brief comments on your DP points.

    1. “Freedom is All or Nothing”? Would you say that a person who is developmentally delayed has the same freedom as a person with no mental or physical disabilities? One of the many people I work with has a 12-year-old mind that will never progress beyond that point. He’s 32. He wants to drive, but he can’t because he can’t pass a reading test. He wants a family, but he can’t because he isn’t capable of taking care of himself, let alone a family. He wants a relationship with a girlfriend. He’s in and out of relationships because girls (with similar disabilities) take advantage of him. In order for him to be as free and independent to best of his ability, he needs support. His family is not equipped to take care of all of his needs. Without support, he’d be in jail by now.

    2. Family is the basis for a healthy society. There is no argument there. Government agencies, despite right-wing rhetoric, support the family unit. Read the policies and procedures for the Departments of Human Services in any state. They all support the family unit as the first natural support for individuals. However, if the support doesn’t exist in an individual’s family, it has to come from somewhere else. For example, one of the young women I coach, age 26, has fetal alcohol syndrome. Her parents were alcoholics and drug abusers. When she was two years old, her mother punished her by dipping her feet in boiling water. She has skin grafts half way up her shins and calves. Her father punished her by with holding food. She would go for days without eating. She has an eating disorder. She raids the refrigerator at work and takes other peoples’ food. She was removed from her home and put in a foster home. Her foster parents found her by the side of the road once digging a hole and trying to crawl in. Her personal history says she was “feral.” Now she lives in a fully staffed group home. She’s an avid reader and works in a book store. She requires a staff person or job coach to be with her all the time.

    I’ll paraphrase my closing remarks from the original post. Until our faith becomes a reality, we need governmental agencies and community providers to fill the gaps.

    • Scott,

      Our country has been running huge deficits going back a decade or more. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan certainly have contributed to that, but so has the growth of welfare programs. I won’t say that government has no role in helping its citizens. As Chris McKeon stated, we are a compassionate people and, as such, we do offer all sorts of support.

      My concern is that the trend toward a growing welfare state does two things — it makes government more powerful than the founders intended, and it undermines the human potential for taking responsibility. I know friends who got hooked on government assistance. The effort needed to ween oneself from that can be rather daunting.

      As for wealth redistribution, it’s the mantra of progressives everywhere.

  8. Scott,

    If I steal your money and donate it to charity, will you call the police?

    Just as there are cases of dysfunctional families and individuals who would be much worse off if they were not dependent on the government, there are many more cases of families who are incapable of taking care of their relatives in need because their income is stunted by the government. Simply look at your paycheck stub and think of the good you could do with the money the government takes from you every week. This is chump change compared to what families could do with home businesses if they were not so constrained by onerous business regulations.

    Private charity is much more efficient than government programs and their bureaucracies.

    “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” – President Reagan, Aug. 12, 1986

  9. John,

    Sorry I didn’t catch your post sooner. You made a couple of statements that need to be backed up by evidence to be taken seriously. One is that “more families are incapable of taking care of their relatives in need because their income is stunted by government.” I’d like to see more clarification on how government stunts income to the point that families can’t take care of relatives. You also claimed that “private charities are much more efficient than government agencies.” That’s a popular saying, just as is Reagan’s quote: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. Again, show me the statistics. In fact, most social programs receive government funding but are actually administered through state agencies by community-based non-profits. So the real question is whether or not community-based non-profits could survive without government funding and rely entirely on charitable contributions.

    The most effective way to reduce federal spending on social services, is for individuals and organizations to assume responsibility for social problems thus eliminating the need for government to do it. For example, my daughter talked about the foster care system. 400,000 kids are in foster care, wards of the state. If those kids were adopted, that would eliminate the need for foster care. How many families do you know who have adopted kids from broken homes? Likewise, in the 1960s, mental institutions were shut down as policymakers believed that they weren’t necessary as long as people with mental illnesses were on psychotropic medications. As long as they got their meds, they could live normal lives. But they didn’t take their meds. They became homeless. Those homeless, mentally ill people could be accepted into families or church communities. Have you considered doing something like that? Or is the state in a better position to provide shelter and care for these people? We can talk about eliminating the causes of homelessness and mental illness, which would reduce the need for a lot of social services, but for now, the problem exists and has to be dealt with.

    This whole discussion, of course, arose out of the fact that we pay taxes, some of which goes for programs we may not agree with. In answer to your question, yes, I do pay attention to my paycheck. I get a paystub every week. It varies from week to week, but let’s take a look at this week’s and break it down. My gross wages were $850. $50 deducted for health, dental and disability. My taxable wages were $800. Total taxes were $140. Of that, $50 was for Social Security.

    Time out: $50 is half the total Social Security tax. The employer pays the other half, so it’s actually $100. Some argue that the second half is a hidden cost to the employee because the employer passes that expense on in the form of lower wages. Self-employed people have to write a check for both the employee and employer portion of SS (15% of their gross income from business). The employee benefits from SS payments, but only if he lives long enough to collect it. It isn’t put into a savings account for you and your posterity. What you pay is used to cover current recipients. If you want to make the most significant reduction in social service costs, get rid of Social Security and let retirees fend for themselves and “thus reduce the surplus population” (as Dicken’s character, Scrooge, said).

    Back to my paystub. $10 went to Medicare. Another expense that I will benefit from, hopefully.

    $55 went to federal taxes and $20 went to state taxes.

    Roughly $120 went to federal taxes (including SS and Medicare) plus another $50 from my employer’s share of SS for a total of $170. Another $20 went to the state.

    Using the federal budget figures in the original article, of my $170, 11% went to welfare. Of that 11%, half went to direct payments to families under TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). 5.5% of my $170 to the government is $9. On the other hand, 40% actually goes into Medicare and Social Security, $88 for me, $9 for TANF.

    Now, what happens to my $9 for direct payments to needy families? Payments are income based and by federal law, they can only be received for a maximum of five years. States may reduce the period of eligibility (they contribute to the fund). During that time a recipient is either deemed eligible for work, by which time they should be employed, or the recipient is deemed disabled and eligible for other services, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI payments). It’s not easy to qualify for disability. And if you do, the amount you can earn through employment is capped. Statistically, 70% of recipients are off within two years. 90% are off before the five years run out. The numbers of people on it go up during recessions and high unemployment, and down during recoveries and low unemployment. They are higher in areas where the cost of living is high and median income jobs are low, like some of the bigger cities, and the numbers of people on welfare are lower in areas where there are more jobs and a lower cost of living. Texas falls in the latter category, and many people are leaving cities on the east coast to move there. Their welfare rolls are low because it doesn’t cost much to live in many of the towns there and there are a lot of jobs available that pay a livable wage.

    You ask, “Would I call the police if I was being robbed”? Of course. And I’d call the FBI if I suspected the neighbor across the street was a terrorist, and DEA if I thought that there was a meth lab in my neighbor’s basement (in that case, I’d also move to Texas). Who pays for police, and federal agency protection, by the way? Aren’t they paid out of the same confiscatory taxes that the $9 the government takes from me to help needy families? Many people turn to crime because they lost their jobs and can’t find another right away. Is it better to pay a little more to help them get back on their feet, or increase law enforcement and corrections?

    OK, what about the people who do abuse the system? They should be treated the same as people who abuse Worker’s Comp. They should be treated the same as accountants who skim off their client’s accounts, business executives who steal from their companies and others who take money that doesn’t belong to them. If a person gets caught abusing Social Security or a government entitlement program, they have to pay it back. That’s the law. The numbers of people who get away with it are minuscule compared to the 70% who are between jobs and find work within two years.

    My advice is if the 5% of federal taxes you pay for TANF puts you over the edge so you can’t support a relative, why not work an extra hour?

  10. The general welfare clause was written so government powers would not be used for the benefit of special interests. There was to be no privileged class benefiting from the government in ways others could not. This favoritism was typical in the mercantilism of the British empire. For similar reasons, the Constitution also forbids the government from granting titles of nobility. An amendment has been pending since 1810 that would strip US citizenship from any American who accepts a title of nobility from a foreign government.

    The general welfare clause was not written to give carte blanche authorization for unlimited government programs paid by the forcible redistribution of private wealth. Our current government is a runaway train, largely made possible by defining the general welfare and interstate commerce clauses as broadly as possible and the entire Bill of Rights as narrowly as possible.

    • Scott,

      This is in reply to your last post. It is a bit incomplete in order to be brief.

      Taxes comprise about 43% of our income. We could do more living for the sake of others without payroll deductions and a big reduction in the taxes hidden in retail prices. It would increase our budget by 75%. If we are surviving on what we are taking home now, all of that increase would be extra discretionary income.

      Here is a study that found the U.S. GDP was stunted by 72% from 1949 to 2011 just by the growth of federal regulations. Median household income would be $330,000 if the federal regulations had remained at 1949 levels. They did not have the budget to study the impact of state and local regulations, so they only researched part of the damage.

      2011 median family income was $53,000. If 40% was paid in taxes, a family’s actual income would be $31,800. A median family income of $330,000 would definitely help families take care of their own. Private charity would more than able to take care of the rest.

      So government regulations have greatly reduced productivity and wealth creation, and insult is added to injury by having an average of 43% of families’ incomes taken through taxes.

      As for evidence of the effectiveness of government spending vs. private spending, we can use my three children’s K-12 education. They spent a year in a church school in Alabama and were then homeschooled until they started community college at 16 and 17. I spent around $1,000 total for the three of them to accomplish that, around $35 per child per year. Neither my wife nor I am a college graduate. Neither of us ever taught our children much of anything. We just bought a few new books every year for the oldest child and his younger siblings got to use his old books. They had to do so many pages per day and taught themselves. Five children would have cost the same.

      Maryland spends about $13,000 per pupil per year, or over 400 times as much as I did.

      Our homeschooling has had better academic success, with three children nearing college graduation. Our children are also on track to be blessed rather than getting into drugs, premarital sex, or gang violence, all common in our local public schools.

  11. Again, we are straying from the topic of the government’s role in providing social services. The cost/benefits of federal regulations is a totally different topic. Why not submit a piece based on the paper you referenced? I would love to dive into that topic. My initial reaction is it’s very presumptuous to predict what today’s family income would be over several decades if there were no government regulations. The study appears to address the issue strictly from the viewpoint of the cost of regulations and not the benefits. For example, it’s expensive for restaurants to comply with health department regulations. On the other hand, the cost of healthcare and health insurance would increase with outbreaks of food-borne diseases if food service wasn’t regulated.

    Getting back to payroll taxes, you made an assumption that a family making $53,000 pays 40% in taxes. I’m not sure how you arrived at that figure, but my wife (who works part time) and I grossed $56,800 in 2013. We paid $5,077 in federal taxes. (Big government opponents generally aim at the federal government, not the states) That’s less than 10%. Of that, 44%, or $2,233 went to social security and Medicare. My wife is turning 65 and will be eligible for benefits soon. She has Parkinson’s disease and won’t be able to continue working at some point. We had investments that were supposed to support us in retirement, but we lost 40% during the recession in a matter of one week, and the rest during a 1-1/2 year period of unemployment. We will depend on Social Security for our retirement, supplemented by whatever part-time work I do.

    As mentioned earlier, 11% of the federal budget covers welfare (half of which goes to direct payments to families). That means we paid $558 to support welfare programs. This is really what my article is all about –- the cost/benefits of government-funded human services. Considering the uncertainty of job security, this 1% of our gross income is a reasonable expense for support that we may need temporarily one day.

    * * *

    Having stated my main point, I commend you on how you brought up your kids. We share the same concern about exposure to the culture in public schools. There is a cost associated with home schooling, as you well know. Someone has to stay home with the kids, which means he or she isn’t working. So you have to factor in the loss of income against the cost of public school. This is another topic worthy of discussion, the upside and downside of both choices. In our case, we chose to live in a small, traditional New England town. The high school, Thornton Academy, is a public/private school. It was originally a private school for students who lived on the affluent side of the river during the industrial era. Workers lived on the other side and couldn’t afford to go to this school. When the public school system was established, Thornton retained private school characteristics: it has a headmaster and board of trustees which are very stable. The headmaster was there for 20 years and some members of the board almost as long. That means they could work on long-term goals and preserve a culture with high expectations. Once it became part of the public system, it was open to all students in the area and received municipal and state funding. Students from outside the area, including students from China, pay boarding school tuition of $42,000/year.

    My three kids each had very different experiences going through school. My oldest is academically inclined. She was on the basketball team and captain of the tennis team, but she took Advanced Placement courses and graduated seventh in her class of 200. She got a $25,000 scholarship towards $30,000 tuition at Connecticut College. She spent a year there, then took time off to spend three years on STF. She taught seven-day workshops her last year. She finished her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and earned a BS in Psychology. She is now working on her masters at Rutgers. She was matched by True Parents to someone who was valedictorian at Pace University and is working his way up the corporate ladder at IBM. Both are engaged in the young adult church community in New Jersey.

    My middle child, a daughter, was involved in the strings orchestra program from grade 6 through high school and one year of college. The teacher managed the entire program from elementary school through high school. She was a mentor for my second daughter. She was engaged in the social scene at the high school, unlike the other two. I started an Interact Club at the high school which has had an average of 70 students involved every year since for the past eight years. My daughter was president and recognized as a leader in terms of her commitment and involvement in the club. She gravitates to the outcasts. She is an advocate for the underdogs. On the other hand, she is critical of people and organizations that come across as judgmental and exclusive, which, unfortunately, is an aspect of our church culture that we have to address. She is in a solid, committed relationship, but chose a different route than the traditional blessing. She’s not antagonistic toward the teachings and values of the church, but has issues with the organization. She often defends the founders and the community and is entirely open to the blessing as a previously married couple.

    The youngest, a boy, did not get into the social scene at school at all. He’s very bright and entrepreneurial. He picked up knowledge in school that he thought would be useful, but didn’t apply himself to get good grades. He found fulfillment in bike racing. He raced mountain, road and cyclocross bicycles. He trained for road racing doing 40 mile rides during the week and raced on the weekends. He was #1 one year in the Junior Expert Division of the New England Mountain Bike Association. His biking peers were young professionals and college students while he was still in high school. He decided not to acquire student debt and rely on his people skills to find good mentors and eventually own his own business. He’s the marketing manager (of a department of one) at a midsize heating and air conditioning business. He was blessed to a sister who was editor of UC Magazine for several years.

    My wife and I were, and still are, engaged in the local educational system. She started in food service in the elementary school where the kids started. It was a position where she got to know the teachers and they got to know our family. When the kids moved up to higher grades, she took a job as a custodian. To her, it was a way of serving the teachers and the community. She is a very detail oriented person, and that didn’t go unnoticed by the teachers. She moved up to middle school when the kids did, and she introduced me to teachers who would turn out to be very influential in our kids’ lives. One moved up to Thornton Academy when our oldest did. She was a Catholic youth leader who started out teaching catechism and switched to focusing on practicing living for the sake of others through service. I am a Rotarian and suggested that she expand her base by starting an Interact Club, supported by Rotary at the school, and I would be the Rotary liaison. We did that and the results far exceeded our expectations. I pioneered projects involving partnerships in the community with a small band of Service for Peace kids. Then I’d get the Interact kids involved. We leveraged less than 10 of our kids to engage 70 and several community organizations. The faculty advisors are like sisters to me. They often say that the most rewarding experience of their career is the work they do with the Interact kids. During one orientation, she said to the kids, “if you are here because you want to add something that looks good on your resume, find another way. We want people who join because it’s good for your soul”

    I didn’t intend to go off on the educational experiences of my kids. But, let’s face it, that’s what we parents like to talk (and boast) about most of all. There are two approaches to dealing with the bad influences in school and society on our kids. One is to insulate them and create a positive environment for them to grow. Hopefully, the values that get instilled that way will prepare them to face the world. The other approach is to get fully engaged with the kids, share their experience, know the people who influence them and guide them into healthy experiences.

  12. Scott,

    Your response is 1400 words, so it is by this blog’s standards an article in itself. I have been chided by the editor for straying over 400 words, so my response will be a bit general.

    The proper and Principled role of government certainly deserves many more articles, particularly with the explosion in public spending during this and the previous administrations. Our movement risks irrelevance by not having a public stance on an issue that is steadily growing in importance to the citizens of the world.

    40 years and billions of dollars later, the war on poverty has not reduced the percentage of poor people. It has instead encouraged family breakdown. The multigenerational culture of dependence is not going to produce committed, productive married couples. Around half of the US population is receiving some sort of public assistance. Between taxes and borrowing, the mandatory growth in the budget will hit a funding limit that will start turning the lights out on the party and bring the financial chickens home to roost.

    Another issue is the denial of freedom by the nanny state. It is impossible to freely live by our consciences in the high noon sun when it is impossible to even read all the laws that apply to us. Even if it were possible to read the laws, it would be impossible to understand the legalese they are written in. To do that would require much more reading of legal decisions rendered by the political appointees of the judiciary. Since none of those tasked with enforcing the laws has read all that, there is great latitude for individual interpretation by the police and code enforcement officers.

    Businesses cannot focus on pleasing customers. They have to spend a lot of time and money pleasing the government, which strongly depresses wealth creation. Regulatory compliance means that starting a business on the tiniest scale is impossible for most people.

    If small family businesses were unregulated, they would be much easier to start and run. Children could grow up being involved. That would greatly strengthen families and prepare a generation of entrepreneurs for the future. Entrepreneurs are the polar opposite of those relying on government assistance.

    Entrepreneurs could produce tremendous wealth, enough to fund private charities that could eliminate the need for public assistance. Repealing business regulations would be far more effective in helping the needy than government programs.

    • John, there will always be people who go through a period of being poor. There are people whose businesses fail for various reasons. You don’t see video stores around anymore. There are people who are discharged from the military and have a hard time making it as civilians. People get struck with catastrophic illnesses, and the list goes on. The question is how long people stay on assistance. 95% stay on for less than four years. 75% stay on for less than two years. Helping people get back on their feet to support their families is a good thing.

      Changes in government policies over recent decades have been aimed at strengthening families, not breaking them down. That is not to say that some couples don’t abuse the system and stay unwed to collect more benefits, but the numbers who do that are very low when you consider the statistics above.

      Before my current vocation, I sold health insurance to self-employed people. Over a period of 20 years, I sat across the table with thousands of small business owners. Every business knows very well what regulations they have to comply with. People in construction have to comply with fire codes, safety codes (e.g., electrical and structural) land use and environmental. But they know the logic and history behind the regulations and how to comply. The construction business is doing quite well and fewer people are being sued for faulty wiring or bad framing. Restaurants have to comply with regulations including handicapped entrances, proper food storage, stainless steel cooking equipment, not keeping food more than three days, proper fire exits. They all make sense. What regulations do you think are hindering businesses that ought to be done away with?

      Sorting out laws is the job of the courts, not up to arbitrary decisions by law enforcement. The laws that apply to the average citizen are pretty clear. We have speed limits, it’s against the law to steal, it’s against the law to murder or rape, trespassing on private property is against the law. If you have a specific goal, say to start a business, build a house, or get married, then you need a professional to help you to comply with the laws specific to your situation. A lawyer and/or a real estate agent can help you negotiate a sale or a contract with a builder. An accountant can help you with tracking income, expenses and taxes. A justice of the peace or marriage counselor can help you with a marriage license or, if there are assets involved, a legal document specifying how you are going to manage your assets. What laws to you find overbearing and unnecessary in your experience?

      You have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs. What experience do you have as an entrepreneur? And what governmental barriers did you run into trying to run your business?

  13. Scott,

    Unificationists are working towards an ideal of living freely for others by our consciences in the high noon sun. God created us to love and serve others creatively according to our consciences. Government intervention is only reasonable on the behalf of an injured victim who is unable to be compensated. Preventing us from following our consciences to love and serve others violates our natural rights as God’s children.

    Unificationists should be advocates of the free market and capitalism, an economic model that rewards those who best live for the sake of others by providing quality goods and services at the best prices. We should oppose the current corporatism in the US. Lobbyists write bills and politicians vote them into law without even reading them. After the disgusted voters back home finally throw the bums out, the former politicians start earning huge money giving speeches, sitting on corporate boards, and of course, becoming lobbyists. Mussolini defined fascism as corporatism A study earlier this year found the US is an oligarchy, not a republic.

    Central planning has no more chance of success today than it did in the Soviet five-year plans. It is a superstition that needs to go the way of the divine right of kings and offerings to appease the gods. Central planning is a direct attack on living by conscience. It criminalizes true love in action.

    Here is “War on the Little Guy“, a John Stossel show on how business regulations are written to protect corporations and unions from competition. Business often cannot understand the regulations they must comply with. It is the opposite of what you understand about business regulations.

    Zoning and building permits serve the larger evil purpose of collectivizing private property through “sustainable development”. Here in Maryland we have a Sustainable Growth Commission and Plan Maryland. It is an Agenda 21 assault on private property.

    It is good when people voluntarily use their time and money to help others. Government programs are not justified by forcibly taking money and using it to help the needy. Stealing is still stealing.

    I tried a closet business a few years ago and was required to get a home improvement license for $300. There was a test involved that did absolutely nothing to help improve safety or quality in home improvement.

    • Licenses for home improvement businesses are good things. If you pick out a carpenter from the yellow pages to come into your home, you would want some assurance that he hasn’t lost the right to enter residences for violating laws or regulations (like theft or work not up to code). Anyone can go on a state website to see if a person running a local ad is licensed or not. The tests generally don’t question you about how to paint a room. Yours is more likely to ask questions about the scope and limitations of the license you are acquiring. A home improvement license doesn’t give you permission to do plumbing, for example.

      Having good intentions to help people isn’t enough. Would you rather have an untrained, good-hearted neighbor remove your appendix or a licensed physician with an attitude?

      $300 for a license that verifies you are in good standing with the state is not much. You can spend that much in a heartbeat for advertising. And the advertising is much more compelling with the word “licensed” next to your trade.

      You argue that Unificationists are for unrestricted personal freedom (so they can freely serve others) and you quote John Stossel to back up your position. Stossel is an agnostic libertarian. He argues that people act out of self-interest and if everyone acted in their best self interest, they would be acting in the interests of everyone.

      I don’t think every Unificationist believes that, I certainly don’t. It’s fine to declare yourself a libertarian, but don’t pin that on all Unificationists.

  14. Licenses are good if you believe government is a force for goodness. Construction companies regularly hire convicted felons, so any personal background check the company owner went through for a license would not mean safer workers. I had a neighbor who got a $6,000 quote from a licensed company to take down three trees in her yard. She went with some unlicensed men and a woman who spoke virtually no English and were very possibly in the country illegally who knocked it out in one day for $900. She was very happy.

    Online reviews and competitors are more effective in gaining customer satisfaction than an army of regulators.

    A good-hearted well-trained physician with no license and no regulations to comply with is best for my appendix. Mistreated patients can sue for malpractice. Doctors need to practice medicine by their consciences and professionalism rather than tens thousands of pages of legalese.

    Unificationists should be for Father’s ideal of living by conscience. I did not say all Unificationists are Libertarians and are for unrestricted freedom.

    The Stossel video does not justify unrestricted personal freedom. It clearly shows that regulations can be exactly the opposite of your claims that “Every business knows very well what regulations they have to comply with” and that “They all make sense.” Do you think that it was reasonable for the USDA to force Marty the Magician to write a plan for how he would protect his rabbit during 21 different disasters? No one can understand the millions of pages of laws in America. It would take multiple lifetimes to even read them.

    The selfishness you denigrate is the creative improvement of personal property followed by voluntarily exchanging it with others who have done the same. That is called the free market and it is how wealth is peacefully produced. Those who best use what they have to serve others become the richest and most influential. It is the opposite of established businesses and the politically connected using government regulations to escape the tough competition of the free market. The free market gives great opportunity for families to prosper.

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