My wife and I have one child, a daughter, and she must be the most photographed and videotaped child in America. Recent, my wife was going through old VHS tapes and transferring them to DVD’s. By the time she is done we probably will not be using DVDs anymore and will have to convert to something else, but that is a separate issue.
I do not recall all the details, which is why it is good we have so many tapes, but apparently about a week before our daughter turned two, we found that she had climbed out of her crib. This crib had built in drawers on one side, and she had reached through the slats opened the drawers and climbed on top and then used the drawers as a ladder, holding the slats for support. It was a proud moment, and we broke out the camera.
Problem was, once the video camera came out, our daughter did not want to perform her new trick. So, I went to the refrigerator, retrieved a bag of M&Ms, and gave her one. Yes, chocolate works wonders on women, even when they are two years old. I then threw the bag of candy into the bed and told her if she wanted more she had to go get if for herself. In no time she climbed and crawled her way back into the bed, got the bag and began stuffing her mouth. This was our daughter’s first lesson about working for things she wants.
We have done a horrible disservice to several generations of Americans, and it began with the Great Society, the program President Lyndon B. Johnson began in 1964 to combat poverty.
The goals of the Great Society were noble, and I do not question the honest intention of those who author, championed, and fought to give this program life. However, as with many government programs, there is always the law of unintended consequences that must be considered.
Support was not available to families where a man was in the home. The belief was that men should be working and providing for his family, and these government benefits were only available if a man was not in the home to fulfill his responsibilities. Like any good Pavlovian experiment, families adopted and changed their behavior thereby received the reward.
Many families made the choice to split up so that the family could get the benefits; unfortunately, children began to live life without a father to help guide, teach and discipline them. As time went on, children learned that a father in the home was not a necessity and later generations of boys did not view responsibility to their children as requirement for a successful life. Of course, as time went on the definition of “successful life” changed too.
It is like taking a letter, making a copy on a copy machine, and then making a copy of the copy and then repeating the copy process several times. The document eventually has spots all over, heavy blurred letters and crooked margins. The document may still be readable, sometimes, but it looks nothing like the original.
We have repeated this process in our families. No father in the picture, no responsibility, no role models, and damaging new generations of children a little more each time. And each time, we make people more dependent on government than themselves. Today, as a society, we look around and see people who have no skills to work or who refuse to work, we see disrespectful children refusing to get an education, we see murder and other serious crime and we ask, “How did we get here?”
The well-intended welfare program had another unintended consequence. Children grew up not seeing their parents going to work and earning a living. They did not learn the hard lessons of struggle on the path to success. Instead, these children of the welfare state learned that someone other than the family would deliver a check, food, and other necessities of life; someone else will put a roof over their head, without any effort on the part of their parents. These children did not learn the value of hard work, of self-reliance, or the pride and self-esteem that comes from earning the dollars folded up in their pocket.
Our good intentions have caused tremendous harm. Perhaps there is a way out of this nebulous vortex.
What if we created a program, using dollars from welfare, to create a true works program? A uniformed service, structured like our military, but instead of military service, this organization would perform public service. Every able-bodied person would work and earn a check instead of being given a handout. Every person would be taught skills they could take to the marketplace and find work outside of government service. Any person who had a better paying job in the private sector would be exempt as would anyone paying/working their way through college.
Of course, this could also be a career path because there would need to be a cadre of professionals, the leadership, who manage and supervise the program. Instead of caseworkers, there would be supervisors and mentors; teaching skills, rewarding good work, and working as career counselors …helping people find their self-worth and the next better job.
This program would provide cities with workers for public works, or hospitals with works in non-medical fields, there would be people trained in childcare, so people in the program would have access to reasonably priced childcare while they work. There could be career paths supporting police and fire, as well as a multitude of other paths leading to skills and careers.
The question of course, is how we get people to give up free benefits for work and a paycheck. We bring back the draft. Everyone, male or female, would be required to serve. The individual could choose military service or public service. Military service would be three years and public service would be four years, each with an additional two- or three-year reserve commitment.
If a person wanted to move to another part of the country, no problem—transfer. Just like the military has various pay benefits for war zone, or hazardous duty, additional incentives could be implemented where a need exists…after all, not everyone could transfer to Hawaii.
People would learn skills, earn a paycheck, and find the value in work, and eventually people would move from this service to the private sector. Yes, government would still be paying, but for a service rather than giving out entitlements. The additional benefit—taxes. Because these are paycheck, people would pay state, federal and social security taxes, and unemployment benefits would decrease. More people contributing to the tax base could give our economy a stronger foundation and help remove staggering debt from the balance sheet.
The public sector would see a benefit too, because as people moved from this public service to private sector jobs, they would arrive armed with experience and workplace skills that are so lacking in our society today.
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