Take a "Crowbar" to the Welfare State?

Published 12:08 am Monday, March 27, 2006

By By Tray Smith
Two weeks ago, I was privileged to attend the Alabama Policy Institute Banquet. The Institute is an organization devoted to researching and analyzing government policy for the state of Alabama. It then uses its research to help educate state officials on the impact of their decisions.
The banquet's guest speaker was Tony Snow, host of Fox News Channel's Weekend Live and Fox News Radio's The Tony Snow Show. He also served as a speechwriter for the elder President Bush.
In his speech, he raised an interesting concept. Due to the fact that decades of welfare programs in the United States have done very little to reduce the poverty rate, these programs are unable to be reformed and therefore should be eliminated. Snow suggested that we should take a "crowbar" to the welfare state. This would include the elimination of every government welfare program, including federal support for education, Medicare, and Social Security.
In its stead, the government would give each American over the age of 21 $10,000, with the stipulation that $3,000 must be saved for retirement. The hope is that giving everyone an equal sum as well as the right to choose how they want to use it will help combat poverty. Though I have some reservations about giving Bill Gates $10,000, Mr. Snow is hopeful that such a plan would help America to grow in morals and in wealth.
Snow theorizes that a major reason for the decline of values in this country is because people have simply become accustomed to allowing the government to do things for them. People do not see the need to work in their community because the government pays people to do that. People do not see the need to teach their kids because our schools do that. People do not see the need to work because the government safety net will always be their. However, when these programs are eliminated and people become individually responsible for handling their own funds to pay for their child's attendance at a private school, they will work harder to help that school succeed. When people become the owner of their home, they will find a larger stake in improving their community. When people are limited to a stipend of $10,000 a year, they will worker harder to supplement that income.
While I am skeptical of Snow's controversial suggestion and I doubt we will see the end of Social Security or public education anytime soon, it is undeniable that our current welfare and entitlement programs are not working. While they give people a way to financially survive in poverty, they do not provide them with the motivation or the resources to get out of poverty. The poverty stands at an alarming 12.7.
This entitlement-welfare mess originates from liberal thought that capitalism is cruel and unfairly punishes people who are naturally disadvantage. Dubbed "Economic Darwinism", they believe capitalism is basically the survival of the fittest, while everyone else is left behind. Thus, the government should "soften the effects of capitalism." It is this flawed thought that gave birth to Lyndon Johnson's now failed "Great Society."
Instead of trying to soften the effects of such system, however, we should be trying to exploit them. We should go from a "Great Society" where the government provides for us to an "Ownership Society" where the government gives us the tools to provide for ourselves. Government programs should be restructured to serve as gateways to free market success instead of free market "softeners".
This could be achieved by the implementation of President Bush's proposed ownership society, which would maintain several of the programs Snow proposes to eliminate while also making them a better deal for American citizens. It would also help serve the long-term challenge of paying for our entitlements.
For instance, his proposed Social Security reform plan would give all people the chance to invest in stocks and bonds. Similarly, health care reforms could be accomplished through Health Savings Accounts, which would allow people to maintain their own savings vehicle for health related matters. Vouchers for low income people to purchase homes instead of forcing them into government housing would give them a stake in their community and our country's future.
Whether you prefer Snow's no government method or President Bush's better government method, the truth is that our welfare programs need an overhaul. We must not forget the devastating social consequences revealed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which confirmed the failure of our nanny state.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a freshman at Escambia Academy. He writes a political column for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached fro comment at tsmith_90@hot mail.com. His column appears weekly.

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