Last night my husband and I made one of our regular Wal-Mart runs to pick up some essentials. Fortunately, we did not have a large order, so we were able to use one of the “twenty items or less” checkouts. Unfortunately, the two shortest lines available were serving people with WIC coupons. In case you don’t know, WIC stands for the USDA-administered Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. It “provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.” Unlike other governmental assistance programs, WIC has very specific limits on what users can buy, which makes checking out a tedious process for everyone involved, especially people standing in line behind them at Wal-Mart, hence my frustration. (I have often wondered why stores don’t have dedicated checkouts just for those who take a long time, like WIC customers, but that is a topic for another article…)
As a taxpayer who funds programs like WIC, I appreciate the fact that it covers very specific items necessary for proper nutrition for young children, pregnant women and their babies in or out of the womb. I can’t say that I am so happy about the lack of limits on other forms of food assistance, particularly food stamps, which have become EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards, also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). Anyone who has not heard of the various abuses of these benefits cards (often used at strip clubs, bars, and casinos) is just not paying attention. In addition to using them at highly inappropriate locations, many people buy expensive food items that the “lowly taxpayers” pass up for store brands; sell the cards for cash and then report them lost or stolen; or are buying desirable items with the cards and then turning around and selling those items for cash. I even heard a story about a woman who bought several cases of sodas with her EBT card, went out into the parking lot, emptied all the containers, and then returned them for the deposit on the containers. Other abusers are the retailers who use the program fraudulently.
Also in the news recently is the fact that the number of recipients on foods stamps has exploded since President Obama took office. Enrollment in food stamps increased by a shocking 25 percent from October 2009 to August 2012, and now close to one out of five American households receives food stamps. It continues to rise as food stamp recruiters (paid by our tax dollars) seek out and enroll as many people as possible into the program.
Not only is the number of people on food stamps increasing exponentially, disability claims are also on the rise. According to NPR, “the federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined.” Obama certainly is succeeding in spreading the wealth around, allowing more and more people to depend on governmental largesse for the necessities and, often, the niceties of life. To do that, of course, requires more from those who are successful, or who at least have a job. After all, why should they have so much when others have so little?
The earliest European settlers in America learned that an economic system where people do not benefit from their own labor and do not have to work hard for the things they want does not succeed. Both the Jamestown settlement in Virginia and the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts started off as communes, where the settlers shared property, produce, and labor in common, exemplifying the Marxist motto, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The problem in these colonies and in others where communism (or socialism, if you prefer) were tried, was that the people starved when they had the choice of working hard versus living off the hard work of others. The lazy chose not to work and the productive worked less because they did not see the point in working so hard without being able to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
A popular legend that gets passed around on the Internet is another excellent demonstration of this principle. I wish I could find documentation that it actually happened, but the story will have to suffice for now.
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A….” (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
In the same way, we are taking away the reward for hard work today in America. If people know they will have health care whether they can afford it or not, that they will have housing whether they can afford it or not, and they will have food and other necessities of life whether they can afford it or not, they won’t work hard to provide for themselves or their families. Those who are motivated to succeed financially will learn that the harder they work and the better off they are, the more they will be taxed to support those who aren’t motivated and, on top of that, they will be demonized for daring to be successful and expecting to benefit from their own labors.
The early American settlements learned these things the hard way and switched to a free market system, which allowed for private property. Soon they were able to produce more than they needed and they prospered enough to not only feed those who could work, but to take care of those who could not. What will it take for us to relearn that lesson?