by Sam Huntington (Continued from last week)
Of course, we have no evidence of a serious effort by any federal or state legislative body to decrease the number of impoverished citizens. In fact, the opposite is true. If federal and state welfare program enrollment criteria are relaxed to the point where there are no serious restrictions, then there can be no fraud. It’s all good. No problem, Amigo. Just pay out money to everyone —it doesn’t really matter.
Au contraire. It does matter. The long-term effects on the children of welfare recipients, particularly in single-parent homes, guarantees that a hefty percentage of these “impoverished” children will never themselves become productive members of society. Their only model is a career welfare single parent with multiple love interests who never seem able to pull them selves out of the welfare abyss. From a practical standpoint, this situation is both dismal and dire —and one that makes leftist politicians outright giddy.
In all of this, we seem to be missing one important aspect of welfare assistance programs: compassion. Let me take a moment to address this. The literal meaning of compassion is “to suffer together.” Compassion is the feeling we get when confronted with the suffering of others, particularly people we know, when we become motivated to help relieve that suffering. How many of us are motivated to reach out to people we don’t know?
Even though compassion is related to empathy, it is not benevolent. Empathy suggests the ability to assume the perspective of and feel the emotions of others; compassion comes from a desire to do something to relieve suffering. It is an overt act ... and if you happen to be religious, it should be an explicit act. These are the things that religious people believe will help them to find a pathway to Heaven. Sadly, our welfare system in the US is not compassionate, nor does it elicit empathy for the plight of the impoverished. In fact, the government has relieved us of any overt act of Christian charity. They take from us a certain percentage of our income, and give it away to others … and there is scant impetus to change the status quo.
Should we, therefore, endeavor to be more compassionate toward others? Perhaps ... but unless we are personally affected by another person’s misery, it is almost impossible for us to “feel” their pain. Who in St. Louis actually feels the pain of someone living in Boston? So we must wonder, where will we find the greatest opportunity for true compassion —from the federal or interstate bureaucracies, that treat citizens as numbers, or from within local communities, church organizations, and other civic associations?
As part of his doctoral work, a friend of mine proposed community-based corrections as a way to significantly reduce the recidivism rate. He argued that we must stop sending people away to far distant state and federal prisons. Instead, offenders should be incarcerated locally, rehabilitated locally, and when their time is served, release them back into the embrace of the community they offended.
Community-based corrections is similar to the strategy of placing a beat cop within a neighborhood, someone who knows the people. A beat cop does far more to prevent crime than any other strategy, and yet city planners argue that the costs far outweigh the good. Considering the costs of incarcerating a million citizens, I find this argument no less than remarkable. Now extrapolate this schema to welfare assistance programs.
If community-based policing and corrections appears to make sense, then so too does the notion of compassionate assistance from within the immediate community —but, of course, this is only true if you wanted to remove people from welfare rolls, rather than keeping them enslaved to it.