Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Idle Thoughts -- Who is responsible for the care of the poor?


From the abstract which is a summary which appears at the end of the article.

...The evidence suggests that, while each program can be improved, these programs do achieve their basic objectives. In general, food stamps, the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and school nutrition programs are successful at providing food assistance to low-income children...

...The Food Stamp Program provides food assistance nationwide to all households solely on the basis of financial need and is central to the food assistance safety net for low-income children. The WIC program has helped reduce the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia in infants and chil- dren and has increased intakes of certain targeted nutrients for program participants. The school nutrition programs provide free or low-cost meals that satisfy the dietary goals of lunches and breakfasts to most school-age children. The Medicaid program has extended health insurance coverage to millions of low-income children...

...For Head Start, empirical evidence suggests that participating children show enhanced cognitive, social, and physical development in the short term. Studies of the longer-term impacts of Head Start are inconclusive. Although housing assistance improves housing quality and reduces housing costs for recipients, there is a large unmet need for acceptable, affordable housing among poor families. Important gaps remain in our knowledge of the effects of these programs on the well-being of children. Questions regarding a program’s effects over time on health and developmental outcomes particularly need more study.
End quote

Now, remember that's a summary of the conclusions in the article. For more detail, read the entire article at the link above.

So since these programs are all very successful, it seems to me that that is indicative that it is the responsibility of the government, and therefore all Americans, to care for the poor.

Failure to do so does not simply make for suffering, which for me is reason enough to keep the programs going and even improve them, it also causes negative consequences for all of society. Neglected children who do not get adequate nutrition suffer damage to their brains. This damage can lead to their inability to learn and perform effectively as society members when they grow up and even lead to criminal activity. The costs are massive already, and this doesn't even include the loss of their potential productivity. Not only are they a drag on resources, if well fed as children, they would have been contributors rather than drains.

I am fond of saying that no one should be made desperate. In fact, I recently made a post about that. Let me see if I can find it.

Got it. "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

-- John Steinbeck

Which is why we must always keep the road open to the middle-class. As long as the poor see themselves as able to rise, they have hope and they will work hard. Take away even that slender hope and they will become desperate. Remember that desperate people do desperate things.

Not providing for the poor isn't just a moral obligation, it's simple common sense. Imagine a farmer. He decides he's tired of getting up and feeding all those animals. He decides that they are developing a dependence upon him. He thinks they're getting lazy.

So he stops feeding them. You know what will happen next. His animals will die. He won't have any way to bring in his crops. He will become bankrupt, eventually losing his farm.

Now, of course, people are not the same as farm animals and the government isn't a farmer. But the point is clear. Human beings are among the most precious resources of a country. A country that neglects these essential resources, and allows them to suffer damage and injury, is being a damn foolish nation.

Healthy children do better in school and get a better education. Well educated adults are benefits to any society. I simply do not understand how it is possible to ignore this simple fact. Nevertheless, millions of Americans do so.

According to an economic map in the LA Times when I was Principal, there were only two places in all of Southern California that were at the very lowest level of poverty. One was Compton in Los Angeles. The other was Adelanto. That's the city where my school was located.

Every single year in which I was Principal, over 90% of our children were qualified for free and reduced lunches. That means that many of them lived in extreme poverty. I spent many hours in conference with parents, including many trips to pay home visits. I can recall only one home where I saw expensive stereo equipment, making me hope that these particular parents were not receiving government aid.

I never met a single welfare queen or welfare king. I met many hard-working people desperately trying to make their lives better and desperately anxious to be sure that their children could live a better life. Yes, I did meet a number of addicts. I did meet gang members. But I discovered that even the gang members wanted their children to do better than they had done.

It is my experience that most of the people who viciously attack the lazy poor are people who have never actually known poor people. Even fewer of the critics have spent years working with them.

No nation should ever waste it's precious resources. No nation should ever allow its children to be abused or neglected. If you do not see the morality of this position, then see the fact that this is a way to make money from your productive citizens instead of losing money by producing a class of criminals.

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