Opportunities Abound in This Country

Monday, December 2, 2013
posted by elizabeth @ 6:36 PM

Poor isn’t what it used to be.  It’s defined as a lack of the minimum food and shelter needed to live.  In 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau more than fifty percent of households in the U.S. had A/C, microwave, one vehicle, cable or satellite, dvd player, computer, those with kids had a video game system and 1/3 had a plasma or LCD TV.   Furthermore, recent research shows that most of the poor don’t live in what is considered crowded housing.  Is this poor?

 My family was poor when I was young.  Or were we?  We lived in a rural Illinois farming community.  My father was a minister and my mother a nurse.  They made very little.  We were eligible for food stamps.  My parents didn’t take them.  One Christmas our family picked up the left over corn that a farmer didn’t harvest.  We thought we were being farmers, living off of the land and all that stuff.  Little did we know there was no money for Christmas.  My father asked a farmer to pay us for the corn we picked up out of the field that had been harvested.  That’s how we had Christmas.  Eventually, we moved to San Antonio.  During the eighties the Texas economy was bad. We struggled. When people don’t have jobs they don’t give to their church.  For the longest time we didn’t have color tv, cable tv, our clothes were from K Mart and six of us lived in a small 1800 square foot house, that included the garage.  I remember some neighbors asking for help.  The conversation was simple.  “We don’t have jobs, we don’t have food, can you help us?”  My father gave them grocery money.  After they left my mother informed my father that we now had no money for groceries and the mortgage.  We had no idea if and when the church would pay him.  I recall my father’s words clearly.  “Don’t worry, the Lord will provide.”   And He did.

We were considered poor.  But we were not.  My parents stayed together, worked hard, provided food, clothing, a roof over our heads and kept us in school.  My mom worked the nite shift to be home for us in the afternoons.  We didn’t have much, but we had family and what we needed to survive.    

There are people in our country who face homelessness, hunger and often times worse.  Much of this can be traced to alcohol or drug problems, mental illness and single parent families.  We need to have programs that helps them.  We don’t need a War on Poverty like LBJ started.  Since 1965, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Jay Wesley Richards, tax payers have spent $15.9 trillion dollars fighting poverty.  We have 77 federal programs, this does not include local and state programs.  We still have poerty.

Instead of a war on poverty, that treats symptoms, we need programs that address the cause and help people realize the opportunities for self-sufficiency and independence from government.  The bipartisan Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which President Clinton and a Republican Congress passed, helped accomplish this.  It required welfare recipients to work or be in a training program.  Robert Rector and Patrick Fagan highlighted this in their article for the Heritage Foundation in Backgrounder 1620 Welfare and Welfare Spending, entitled The Continuing Good News About Welfare Reform.  Welfare caseloads were cut in half, employment for single mothers was up and 1.6 million children were no longer poor.  Unfortunately, much of this has been quickly been undone in recent years with bad public policy. 

Non-profits, churches and individuals are better suited to serve their fellow American and help them out of poverty, not a behemoth government program declaring war on poverty.  It only distorts the situation rewarding people for not working or being self-sufficient.  There are numerous non-profit and church programs addressing poverty.  Houston has Star of Hope, Houston Food Bank, Freedom Place, Life Place, the Forge for Families and Texas Children’s Hospital Community Cares Program.  Volunteering for and financially supporting groups like these and working as individuals and a community, we will help people better themselves, break the cycle of poverty,  and end government programs that create long-term dependence.

-Andrew Biar

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