Ben Carson on Welfare & Poverty
CARSON: My stance is that, we the people have the responsibility to take care of the indigent in our society. It's not the government's job. You can read the constitution all you want, it never says that it is the government's job and I think where we've gotten confused. In the old days of America, if it was harvest time and the farmer fell down and broke his leg, everybody pitched in and harvested his crops for him. We have a history a taking care of each other. Starting in the 1920's, the government started getting involved in everything. It kept growing, metastasizing. By the time we got to the 1960s, LBJ was saying, "we, the government, are going to eliminate poverty." $19 trillion later, 10 times more people on food stamps, more poverty, more welfare, broken homes. Everything is much worse. And that's because it's not their job. It's our job.
"We need to understand what true compassion is to reach out to individuals who think that being dependent is reasonable as long as they feel safe," said Carson, the first speaker to address this year's annual keynote conservative conference. "It's not compassion to pat them on the head and say, 'There, there, I'm going to take care of all your needs, your health care, your food.' That's the opposite of compassion.
"I'm not interested in getting rid of a safety net, I'm interested in getting rid of dependency," Carson said, prompting one in a series of raucous rounds of applause.
Charities, he added, are better at providing for the needy than the government. "Nobody is starving on the streets. We've always taken care of them," Carson said. "We take care of our own; we always have. It is not the government's responsibility."
Our government used to fully understand the role of private-sector charitable organizations in ameliorating the plight of the poor. This is why the government offered tax deductions and exemptions for churches and other charitable organizations. Today the government actually competes with many of these private-sector charities while still offering them tax deductions. How does this wasteful duplication benefit government or us, its citizens? Certainly by creating huge government entitlement programs, the size and power of the government increases dramatically. Before long, people generally depend on government for everything from health care and education, to a comfortable retirement, instead of looking to government for the basic protection of life and property, as well as providing public roads and public safety.
If we really want to eradicate poverty, we should allocate significant resources and personnel toward providing education and opportunity for the poor. And if we are to provide assistance to our able-bodied citizens, it should be attached to a requirement for work or acquisition of education and/or skills.
If they have to work anyway, many people will put real effort into finding the kind of job they want as opposed to collecting unemployment benefits and being assigned to work they consider undesirable. Some conservatives would say that we should leave such people on their own to sink or swim because we cannot afford to keep supporting them, while some liberals would say that these people already have enough problems and that it would be unfair to require anything of them. I reject both
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