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This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization, which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.
—David A. Bosnich, Acton Institute
Last week, the House Republicans reduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly know as Food Stamps, by $40 billion over 10 years. Presently, one-in-seven Americans – approximately 48 million people – are receiving food stamps. This year, the government will spend about $83 billion on food stamps, which is about double the cost since 2008. A portion of the increase was due to unilateral decisions by the Obama administration to relax work-related rules and regulations. Additionally, the government mandated bureaucrats register more people to the food stamp program.
The reaction by the Democrats was very predictable, Connecticut's Democratic Representative, Rosa DeLauro, called the cuts “immoral, and said, “This bill goes against decades of bipartisan support for fighting hunger and would be disastrous for millions of Americans.”
The Republican comments were actually to seeking a solution. Indiana Republican Representative, Marlin Stutzman, said, “In the real world, we measure success by results. It’s time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.”
Welfare has failed. Why? The bureaucratic, welfare state lacks knowledge of each recipient's history, personal and financial needs, hopes and aspirations. Government cannot, and never will, know the needs, hopes and dreams of all the recipients, children and members of our many, diverse families and societies. Think about it. How would a bureaucracy even begin to have meaningful relationships with 48 million individuals? Alas, good intentions have gone badly awry.
Since President Johnson proclaimed his war on poverty, the Federal government has had hundreds of programs to help, save and reform disadvantaged families. Tragically, after all our assistance efforts, a huge segment of Americans are still mired in poverty and lack the skills needed to be self-sufficient and productive. Today, America has the educated-affluent, the poorly educated and underemployed poor. In Coming Apart, Charles Murray studied only our white population and describes the continuing upward mobility of the educated and working Americans versus the inadequately educated and sporadically working poor.
The most tragic finding is the commitment to parenting. Basically, educated Americans have remained married and dedicated to nurturing and advancing their children. Less productive and sporadically working Americans have harmfully shunned and reduced stable family ties. Tragically, this has had a devastating impact on our children. In particular, fathers neglecting their children.
The unintended consequence of welfare is that bureaucratic government has often replaced the father. Too often, mothers and children are dependent on government assistance – TANF, food stamps, earned income tax credit, and hundreds of other assistance-based programs. Every study confirms the fact that children with an intact family have a much greater opportunity to be educated, productive, law-abiding and content.
Pope John Paul II understood the problem. In 1991, Pope John II confronted the universal problem of big and indifferent bureaucracies when he took the “social assistance state” to task in his encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by usurping and relieving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”
What organization best serves the people in need? Family, friends, churches, and local government. The loved ones and institutions that know and have compassion for their neighbors.
The present scrimmage over $40 billion is almost insignificant, except that it adds to the debt which will be paid by our children and grandchildren. What is of vital importance is to move most, if not all, welfare programs back to the local governments and to family, friends and neighbors. Or else, America will continue Coming Apart, which is an awful tragedy.
A previous article on subsidiarity: