A Self-Defeating System; the Problem with Welfare
Byline: William H. Peterson, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
"Politics ruins character," said German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the father of the contagious Welfare State, in 1881. The Welfare State infected Britain in 1911 and the United States in 1935, bloating here in 1965 via Medicare and Medicaid. Today it politicizes all the West and Japan.
Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute and a man of wit and grit, fathoms the welfare state's catching if self-defeating core, evinces its unconstitutionality and shows how instead of helping 293 million Americans with Social Security and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), it ends up harming them and, per Bismarck, tends to ruin their character.
On welfare's unconstitutionality, Mr. Tanner tells how in 1794, then-Rep. James Madison, a Founding Father and the architect of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, told the House as it debated a proposed welfare bill: "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Federal Constitution [granting such] a right to Congress."
President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill to give states land for insane asylums, saying: "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for making the federal government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States."
Calling for welfare privatization, Mr. Tanner credits Alexis de Tocqueville for noting in "Democracy in America" (1835-40) how local and state welfare was aided and generally topped by private giving. The author also credits Marvin Olasky and his 1992 book "The Tragedy of American Compassion" for seeing in the first half of U.S. history private charity's vast variety and reach.
Protestant, Catholic and Jewish charities led and almost all tried to cull the "deserving" from "undeserving" poor. Explains Mr. Tanner: "The deserving poor included those who, although normally self-sufficient, found themselves suddenly in need of help because of sickness, accident, loss of employment during a recession, or similar misfortune.
"The deserving poor also included the elderly, orphans and others for whom circumstances made self-sufficiency impossible. The undeserving poor were those who could be self-sufficient but were not because of personal or 'moral' failings; that group included drunkards, layabouts and profligates. …