The fourth casualty in this loss of faith has been personal responsibility Therefore, personal responsibility must be the next principle restored.
The fairly quick demise of the ethos of personal responsibility in the American culture began with a two-pronged attack in the mid-sixties. One enabler, of course, was the Democrat administration of President Lyndon Johnson, specifically the Great Society launched in 1966. It began as a “War on Poverty” in America but soon became the largest welfare system in human history, morphing into the current “nanny state” that supplies virtually all of life’s necessities for the favored group – the minority poor (although other favored groups can and do get some benefits – groups like the LGBTQ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning) and illegal immigrants, all with no obligation on the part of the beneficiaries to earn any benefit or take on any responsibility to try and work their way out of poverty.
“Nearly 50 years after the release of the U.S. Department of Labor report: “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” which was highly controversial and widely criticized at the time, the new Urban Institute study found that the alarming statistics in the report back then “have only grown worse, not only for blacks, but for [poor] whites and Hispanics as well.”
The older report was an unsparing look at the roots of black poverty issued at the height of the Civil Rights movement and at the start of the War on Poverty. Commonly referred to as the Moynihan Report, named for its author, the late Democrat Senator and intellectual Daniel Patrick Moynihan, it called for more government action to improve the economic prospects of black families – a role never envisioned by the Founders who believed (through experience) that communities should and would care for the downtrodden.
The challenges to the well-being of black families chronicled back then, included acute and concentrated poverty in low-income black neighborhoods populated by underemployed and unemployed residents; crime; inequality in access to affordable and adequate housing, employment opportunities, education, health care, and the criminal justice system; high rates of non-marital births and children raised in households headed by single women; and social welfare policies that undermined the role of black men. None of those conditions has changed appreciably for the better and most are worse – much worse.
The percentage of black children born to unmarried mothers, for comparison, tripled between the early 1960s and 2009, remaining far higher than the percentage of white children born to unmarried mothers. About 20 percent of black children were born to unmarried mothers in the early 1960s, compared with 2 to 3 percent of white children. By 2009, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of black births and thirty percent of white births occurred outside marriage. Hispanics fell between whites and blacks and followed the same rising trend.
But, since the mid-1960s, America has practiced social-engineering – spending tax money directly, trying to improve the lives of those who don’t have very much. Those payments are called entitlements, or a more accurate description of these payments as ‘unearned benefits’ and they are now so high that they threaten to bankrupt the entire. Liberal Americans tend to support the entitlement society while conservatives are more inclined to promote individualism, earning entitlements and smaller entitlement spending overall.
Instead of alleviating the material deprivation of the poor, a new class of professions was created to provide services to the poor. This approach would, over the decades, lead to the entrenchment of an entire class of bureaucrats acting as middle men between the poor and the resources the state (federal and State) was distributing, the course of which was to further inflate the power of the state and create a lobby for the preservation of those interests, making any reform difficult [if not impossible]”
President (Barack) Obama, of course, is a liberal. And the Democratic Party is now dominated by the progressive/liberal left. That’s why, over the past fifty years, federal spending has “broken the bank” – doubling the national debt in the past eight years alone to $20,000,000,000,000 – that’s $20 trillion. Having never experienced poverty, the essential mistake that Barack Obama made is that he believed Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society entitlements can elevate the poor to prosperity. They obviously haven’t and, in historical fact, cannot.
So, let’s review some statistics on poverty and entitlements in America since the “War on Poverty” began.
There are now about 108 million people receiving some sort of welfare and yet there are only 102 million Americans with full-time jobs!
Welfare program participation is not predicated on race. Whites and African-Americans each make up about 40% of the welfare population while Hispanics comprise about 15%.
There are 69 separate federal welfare needs-based assistance programs covering food, housing, social services, education, cash, vocational training, health, utilities, child care and transportation.
The average family not participating in any welfare program earns about $137 per day. The average family that is participating in welfare programs earns about $168 per day.
Today, single mothers are better off earning just $29,000 per year and collecting $28,000 in welfare benefits than earning $69,000 per year and paying normal income taxes!
While 24% of native born Americans participate in welfare programs, over 36% of immigrants do. For participants in the “food stamp” program, 41% have been in the program for more than ten years.
In 1960, welfare made up 3% of the federal budget and defense spending was about 50%. By 2010, welfare made up 25% of the federal budget and defense spending was about 20%.
In 1962, 12% – about 22 million Americans, were dependent upon some form of “unearned benefit” government programs. By 2014, 24% – about 75 million Americans were dependent upon some form of “unearned benefit” government program (not Social Security, Medicare/ Medicaid or military pensions).
In the 1960s, the federal government spent about $900 million on welfare programs. In the first decade of the new century, the federal government spent about $10 trillion on welfare programs. About 20% of welfare recipients are classified as lifetime welfare clients.
In 1965, the poverty rate in this country stood at 14 percent. Now, after untold trillions (over $50 trillion) have been spent fighting poverty, the poverty rate is 14.3 percent – 49 million Americans, including 15.9 million children. Amazing, is it not?
The great State of Wisconsin instituted a “workfare” program in 1986. At the time, over 100,000 people were on the welfare rolls and only 10% of those held a job of any kind. By 1997, the welfare rolls had been reduced to about 40,000 and 70% held jobs! During the same period, national welfare rolls increased from 36 million to over 40 million.
According to an NBC poll; the People believe that the primary causes of poverty in America are: Too much welfare (Lack of personal initiative) – 24%; Lack of jobs – 18%; Breakdown in the family – 13%; Lack of work ethic – 10%.
The conclusion – America is bankrupting itself with an entitlement philosophy that does little to alleviate poverty. The federal government “Entitlement Environment” has destroyed any sense of personal responsibility for ones’ own welfare – in effect, leaving ones’ welfare in the hands of the federal government.
But, this situation has developed despite the fact that it is unconstitutional – yes, it violates the tenets of the Constitution. In the Preamble of the Constitution we are told that one of the reasons the U. S. Constitution was created was to promote the general welfare of the People. This provision anticipates the RIGHT of Americans to have its government serve the welfare of the People in their collective needs – that is, their GENERAL welfare – and not use the resources of the People for the benefit of certain States or certain people, which would be SPECIAL welfare.
“The term “general welfare” was used in the Articles of Confederation and elsewhere to refer to the well-being of the whole People. The Founders did not want the power and resources of the federal government to be used for the special benefit of any one region or any one State. Nor were the resources of the People to be expended for the benefit of any particular group or any special class of citizens. (see Making of America, p. 244)
The entire American concept of “freedom to prosper” was based on the belief that man’s instinctive will to succeed in a climate of liberty would result in the whole People prospering together. It was believed that even the poor could lift themselves through training or education and individual effort to become independent and self-sufficient. This was a central tenet of Christianity. It is still known as the “Puritan Ethic”.
The idea was to maximize prosperity, minimize poverty, and make the whole nation rich. Where people suffered the loss of their crops or became [involuntarily] unemployed, the more fortunate in the community were to help. And those who were enjoying “good times” were encouraged to save up in store for the misfortunes which seem to come to everybody someday. Hard work, frugality, thrift, and compassion became the key words in the American ethic. See Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack.
Within a short time, the Americans, as a people, were on their way to becoming the most prosperous and best-educated nation in the world. The key was using the government to protect equal rights, not to provide equal things. Colonial visionary and Revolutionary leader Samuel Adams said the ideas of a welfare state were made unconstitutional by the Founders:
“The utopian schemes of leveling [redistribution of the wealth] and a community of goods [central ownership of all the means of production and distribution] are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown. [These ideas] are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional.”
“The Founders had a deep concern for the poor and needy. Disciples of the collectivist Left in the Founders’ day as well as our own have insisted that compassion for the poor requires that the federal government become involved in taking from the “haves” and giving to the “have nots.” Benjamin Franklin had been one of the “have nots,” and after living several years in England where he saw government welfare programs in operation, he had considerable to say about these public charities and their counterproductive compassion.
Franklin wrote a whole essay on the subject and told one of his friends: “I have long been of your opinion, that your legal provision for the poor (in England) is a very great evil, operating as it does to the encouragement of idleness. We have followed your example, and begin now to see our error, and, I hope, shall reform it.” A survey of Franklin ’s views on counterproductive compassion might be summarized as follows:
Compassion which gives a drunk the means to increase his drunkenness is counterproductive.
Compassion which breeds debilitating dependency and weakness is counterproductive.
Compassion which blunts the desire or necessity to work for a living is counterproductive.
Compassion which smothers the instinct to strive and excel is counterproductive.
Nevertheless, the Founders recognized that it is a mandate of God to help the poor and under- privileged. It is interesting how they said this should be done. Franklin wrote:
“To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity; it is godlike; but, if we provide encouragement for laziness, and supports for folly, may we not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature, which perhaps has appointed want and misery as the proper punishments for, and cautions against, as well as necessary consequences of, idleness and extravagance? Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect, lest we do more harm than good.”
“Nearly all of the Founders seem to have acquired deep convictions that assisting those in need had to be done through means which might be called “calculated” compassion. Highlights from their writings suggest the following:
Do not completely care for the needy – merely help them to help themselves.
Give the poor the satisfaction of “earned achievement” instead of rewarding them without achievement.
Allow the poor to climb the “appreciation ladder”– from tents to cabins, cabins to cottages, cottages to comfortable houses.
Where emergency help is provided, do not prolong it to the point where it becomes habitual.
Strictly enforce the scale of “fixed responsibility.”
The first and foremost level of responsibility is with the individual himself; the second level is the family; then the church; next the community; finally, the county, and, in a disaster or emergency, the state. Under no circumstances was the federal government to become involved in public welfare. The Founders felt it would corrupt the government and also the poor – how right they were. No constitutional authority exists for the federal government to participate in so-called social welfare programs. (see Making of America, p 218-220)
“The U. S. Constitution states in Article I, section 8: The people of the states empower the Congress to expend money (for the enumerated purposes listed in Article I, section 8), provided it is done in a way that benefits the general welfare of the whole People.
Thomas Jefferson explained that this clause was not a grant of power to “spend” for the general welfare of the People, but was intended to “limit the power of taxation” to matters which provided for the welfare of “the Union” or the welfare of the whole nation. In other words, federal taxes could not be levied for States, countries, cities, or special interest groups. (see Making of America, p 387)
When the federal Constitution was being considered for ratification by the State Senates, some people were still suspicious of the “general welfare” clause and tried to claim that these two words could authorize any kind of welfare. The general welfare clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution reads: “The Congress shall have Power to … provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; …”
It is an introductory phrase which is followed, after a semi-colon, by a specific list of the 17 things the new government would be authorized to do, such as; to establish Post Offices, coin money, make Treaties, establish standard weights and measures, provide for a Navy, punish pirates, punish counterfeiting, fund a temporary army, declare war, and exercise exclusive jurisdiction over all cases in the future Washington, D.C., etc.
To counter those rumors that the General Welfare Clause in the proposed Constitution would authorize any kind of welfare, James Madison, in The Federalist #41, explained its clear intent. He stated that it “is an absurdity” to claim that the General Welfare Clause confounds or misleads, because this introductory clause is followed by enumeration of specific particulars that explain and qualify, i.e., “limit” the meaning of the phrase “general welfare” to the specified and identified categories.
By the way, The Federalist Papers are not just some antiquated editorial opinions, they are, according to the Supreme Court in Cohens v. Virginia, the exact record of the intent of the Constitution (also see Coleman v. Miller). Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. 264 (1821), was a Supreme Court decision, under John Marshall, most noted for the Court’s assertion of its power to review State supreme court decisions in criminal law matters when the defendant claims that their Constitutional rights have been violated. It cited Federalist #82 extensively.
Also, the U.S. Supreme Court in S. Carolina v. U.S., 199 US 437 (1905) wrote: “The Constitution is a written instrument. As such, its meaning does not alter. That which it meant when it was adopted, it means now …”
So, the Constitution was ratified under the assurance that it would never be interpreted to provide welfare to individuals. And indeed, to this very day, the U.S. Government cannot legally provide entitlements to ordinary Americans. Here are some examples to support the continuity of this mindset:
· President James Madison vetoed a Congressional Appropriation to assist refugees – a once and future problem. He said; “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that Article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
· President Franklin Pierce in 1854 vetoed a bill to help the mentally ill. He said: “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity …. [this] would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”
- Abraham Lincoln said: “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot lift the wage earner by tearing down the wage payer. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do themselves.”
· In 1897, President Grover Cleveland vetoed an Appropriation to provide disaster aid to victims of a Texas drought. His veto stated: “I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan to indulge in benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds … I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution. The lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people should support the government, the government should not support the people.”
· In Busser v. Snyder, 37 ALR 1515 (1925) the Court stated: “An Old Age Assistance Law is prohibited by a constitutional provision that no appropriation shall be made for charitable or benevolent purposes to any person.”
Also in the Busser case: “The term ‘poor,’ as used by lawmakers, describes those who are destitute and helpless, unable to support themselves, and without means of support.” Helping the poor is consistent with the Judeo-Christian ethic. If you cannot take care of yourself, others are allowed to take care of you, even if you don’t like it. John 21:18.
“But, the Supreme Court unlawfully laid the foundation for what turned out to be an amendment to the Constitution in the 1936 Butler case, where “general welfare” was twisted to allow “special welfare”, and the federal budget jumped from six billion to six hundred billion in one generation. (see Making of America, p 255) Should the Federal Government be involved in Social Welfare, you be the judge.
Also, the U.S. Supreme Court in Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 US 390, (1923) concluded: “it is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life …”
· And the U.S. Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202, (1982) concluded: “… [public] education is not a fundamental right …”
Democrat President Lyndon Johnson’s solution to the problems of the poor was the “Great Society” of the late 1960’s. He said:
“I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of White House conferences and meetings – on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.
The solution to these problems does not rest on a massive program in Washington, nor can it rely solely on the strained resources of local authority. They require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism…”
Johnson’s “creative federalism” was designed to eliminate the federalism defined by the Constitution and singularly responsible for the success of the United States and its People for nearly 200 years. The Founders counted on the ability to make individual choices, the quest to succeed and the willingness to struggle for prosperity of the American people. Nothing could have been more subversive of the intent of the Founders and, trillions of unconstitutionally wasted dollars later, the social condition of the “welfare addicted” poor in America is worse than when the “Great Society” began.
But, there was a second major contributor to the demise of personal responsibility in the mid-60s and it came from a most unexpected source – the United States Army (not to be confused with the United States Marine Corps – which is a branch of the United States Navy).
The expansion of the American involvement in the Vietnamese Civil War under Lyndon Johnson in 1965 resulted in a force of more than 500,000 servicemen and women in Vietnam at all times until the early 1970’s. Tours in-country usually lasted a year so that, over the course of the war, literally millions of young Americans, many of them draftees, saw action.
Many of the young Army draftees came directly from the academic environment which, as we have seen, was in some turmoil and a staple of that environment was the celebration and use of recreational drugs – primarily marijuana (although LSD and opiates were not far behind). When they shipped out to war, they brought the drug culture with them.
Because many of the young leaders in the field – the (non-U.S. Military Academy) lieutenants, captains and majors – came from the same social environment as their troops, the drug use was overlooked, probably even participated in, by the young officers. It became epidemic and the Army brass had no solution – so it was universally tolerated. The only alternative was to remove the Army from the field.
A substantial percentage (some studies suggest as high as 67%) of the American Army fought the Vietnamese War stoned and the best that can be said is that the Army achieved a stalemate after a savage and gruesome struggle – some involving war-crimes. Then, of course, the liberals in the Congress, facing no opposition from a stricken Nixon administration, abandoned the fledgling and imperfect Vietnamese democracy (and also Cambodia) to a genocide at the hands of the communists from North Vietnam, and their Soviet and Chinese sponsors in which more than 3 million innocent people were slaughtered.
As a result of the failure in Army leadership during the Vietnamese War, the Army virtually “retired from the field” as an effective institution for more than a decade. Soul searching during that time resulted in a very cautious fighting force, even though the creation of the “all-volunteer” military was beginning to produce the most professional fighting force the world had ever seen. The Army really didn’t return to its former status until it took the field in the Persian Gulf War under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990’s.
In contrast to the Army’s performance in Vietnam, the United States Marine Corps performed in a typically stellar fashion. Under one of my former teachers, General Victor Krulak, they pacified large areas of the coastal country under a program called “Vietnamization” – a geographic area pacification program that provided safety and security in return for cooperation against the Viet Cong guerillas and North Vietnamese regulars in the areas around the pacified villages.
The problem was that there were just not enough Marines to pacify the whole country. Maybe a lesson can be learned about combat effectiveness from the Marines. After all, an individual can be in the Army but, an individual IS a United States Marine. There’s a difference and a distinction.
Next time: The demise of accountability.