The government-built welfare state is here to stay

Dean Finley /

Whether we like it or not, the state and federal governments are going to be in the welfare business forever.

Gone are the days when someone could go out and homestead 160 acres, go to California or Alaska to search for gold, open up a small grocery store or gas station, start a ranch with not much more than effort or many of the other things that built this country.

Those days are gone forever and they are not coming back.

Today Americans have to depend more and more on the government, like it or not. Instead of farming 40 acres now, citizens are “farming” the government and politicians are encouraging this dependency, especially if it will buy votes.

While we enjoy the benefits of technology, in many areas it has added to the welfare problem. One person can now do the work of 10 and while that is great for the one person, it doesn’t help the other nine. While technology creates many jobs primarily at the upper end of the pay scale, the problems are exacerbated at the lower end.

A good example of this is the banking industry. Programmers, online banking and smart phones have replaced tellers. Further advances in technology are likely to increase employment problems.

So it is not whether the government will provide welfare but how it will be administered. In its usual style, government has made it as complicated as possible, as difficult to administer as possible and subject to fraud and abuse.

Exactly what the government has done with the Internal Revenue Code; the parallels are frightening.

Today, welfare takes many forms — direct subsistence, unemployment payments, child care, rent subsidies, negative income tax, food stamps, mortgage subsidies, phone subsidies and the list goes on and on.

Many, maybe even most, of the people who receive this help hate it as much as the people who don’t receive it. But they really have no choice — it is this or nothing.

In the meantime, the programs destroy any initiative some people might have to seek work. Some people have even indicated they wouldn’t accept a job because it might jeopardize their welfare benefits.

Recognizing unemployment as a permanent problem, the government should develop a permanent solution. Today’s programs are always temporary in nature — like unemployment insurance that only lasts six months and then has to be renewed (for two years) while the problems are not temporary.

The government should develop a program or programs that enable people to earn money. The programs should not compete with the private sector since that would only make the problems worse and the government’s history of competing with the private sector is consistently and notoriously bad.

The program should be readily accessible to all, require no supervision and no training. Such a program is possible but requires thinking outside of the box and an open mind.

Today the government expects nothing in return for welfare and gets nothing. If people were given an opportunity to earn more money with some activity than they can get from welfare and sitting on the couch, would they take the alternative? Some would and some would not — it would depend on the amount of the difference. If the program was a replacement for welfare, it could even improve the health of the recipients.