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Welfare — A Social Disaster?

Plans are now being considered which may make the United States the world's foremost welfare state.
Yet, the welfare problem won't be solved.
Just what is the best way to help the poor?


NATIONS have always had their poor — the elderly, the sick, the unemployed, the incapacitated, the uneducated, the indolent.

Government leaders, economists, social scientists today are faced with the same problem: "How can we PROVIDE for the poor?" "How can we be sure everyone will fare well in our land?"

Some nations have disregarded their poor. In others, only the fit survived.

One ancient nation had a special system — long since neglected — which provided for those who were in real need. Widows, orphans, crippled and poor were cared for in a unique manner that did not encourage indolence.


The Welfare States

Most modern nations of the Western World have chosen to assume the role of the welfare state. The road has been a rocky one — leading to spiraling taxes, inequities, loss of self-respect, and increased indolence.

The present U. S. welfare system has been called a "scandal." But, though criticized, it is still not as "complete" or "classic" as those of three other nations — Sweden, Great Britain and Uruguay.

In order to support a birth-to-burial welfare program, Sweden has instituted the world's highest taxation rate. Approximately 41 percent of all wages are taken in taxes to support the most advanced cradle-(free prenatal care and child delivery) to-the-grave (generous old-age pensions and funeral support) care.

Sweden's womb-to-tomb welfare program offers an annual allowance for each child until he reaches 16, free tuition at college, home-furnishing loans for newlyweds, rent rebates for large families, special pensions for widows, orphans, and invalids. Every age group is under welfare's umbrella.

Germany's Bismark passed the first modern welfare laws in 1883. Great Britain joined the welfare wagon in 1911, under the leadership of Prime Minister Lloyd George. Today, Britain's welfare state will provide anything from a pair of slippers to a house (one laborer bought two houses on national assistance!). On all the social services — health, pensions, education, unemployment, and housing — Britain spends over 9 billion pounds ($22 billion) per year. That's four times her defense budget, and nearly one fourth of her entire GNP!

Britain's welfare system is much criticized for subsidizing indolence. Many thousands of Britons make more on national assistance than they could make working! But the British case, though the most familiar, is certainly not the most dramatic.

The most striking example of a welfare state gone bankrupt is Uruguay.


Take Uruguay — Please!

Uruguay had everything going for it — arable farmland, more than 90 percent literacy, a thriving cattle industry, full employment, excellent ports, high per-capita earnings, and relative political stability in a politically unstable continent.

Uruguayans were the best fed, best dressed, best paid, and best educated people in South America.

Jose Baffley Ordoliez, who ruled or controlled Uruguay between 1903 and 1929, started the nation down the welfare road. By 1952, the welfare system began to collapse. Today it is bankrupt, and dying.

Presently, fully 40 percent of the population is supported by the government. The UNEMPLOYMENT rate is about 30 percent of the work force. The inflation rate is above 100 percent a year.

In Uruguay's employment-to-interment welfare program, about 40 percent of all workers work for the central government, and fully half of the population is over 50 years of age! Such combined statistics are unequalled in the world's nations.

Why so many elderly?

Because "advanced" welfare services provided retirement at full pay (or more) beginning somewhere between ages 48 and 55, or healthy unemployment benefits for those under 50 who were out of a job. The obvious conclusion: why work? Young workers and those in high tax brackets began leaving the country. By 1968 the stream increased to 2,000 emigrants per month — a brain and brawn drain.

How did Uruguay meet all these welfare payments, while fewer tax-payers remained to produce the goods and services? The nation warmed up the printing presses. The amount of pesos — and the cost of living — doubled each year while production declined. In 1967, for instance, cost of living escalated 136 percent. Meanwhile, the "real" GNP declined!

And the welfare "spiral" continued. To handle the governmental chores of dispensing more welfare, more employees were hired. In 1968, about 40 percent of all laborers "worked" (only 4 to 6 hours daily) for the government. By January of 1970, government workers actually outnumbered all other workers — 400,000 to 300,000, according to an Associated Press release — the reverse of the ratio of a year earlier.

Why such a bureaucratic, bankrupt mess? For Uruguayans, the something-for-nothing syndrome became a way of life. “Our trouble is that we do not want to work," wrote the very newspaper founded by Uruguay's welfare champion Baffley Ordoilez. The lesser half of the people who worked had to support the greater half who were either on the dole or in the government.

In spite of such obvious problems, other nations are on the road to becoming carbon copies of these welfare states. This road could lead to financial and social ruin if the mistakes others have made are repeated.


The Present Welfare System

Look at the U. S. for a moment.

In 1969, federal, state, and local governments in the United States spent $125 billion on all social welfare programs. This huge sum represents one seventh of the Gross National Product. The amount is larger than the entire Federal budget was just five years ago.

About one third of this massive total goes to old-age assistance. Another one third goes to public education and the remaining third to miscellaneous programs of medical, veteran, unemployment, disability, and dependent-children assistance. Only one tenth — $13 billion in fiscal 1970 — went directly to "public assistance" (the category most people associate with welfare, or the "dole"). Such spending has more than doubled since 1965 and now is doled out to over 12 million Americans.

The largest program of public assistance — measured by either human lives or dollars spent — is the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). The number of families receiving such aid increased more between 1965 and 1968 than during the previous 17 years combined. Now, more than 1.5 million families, representing over 6 million people, receive AFDC aid. Their numbers increase about 15 percent annually. As the most extreme example, New York City alone has one million on welfare, the number having doubled between 1965 and 1968!

This welfare crunch is causing problems. There are too many million people needing and requesting help, without enough billions of dollars to go around. That's the immediate problem. The longer-range problem is an archaic and unjust welfare system, amounting to a "welfare scandal."

President Nixon himself called the present welfare system a "colossal failure," an "antiquated, wheezing, over loaded machine" that breaks up homes, often penalizes work and grows at a prodigious rate of 10 percent or more annually.

The greatest inequity, of course, is that it doesn't really help many of the poor. One New York City welfare officer admitted, "Welfare is designed to save money, not people, and it ends up doing neither." To illustrate — there are over 25 million poor people in the United States. Less than half receive ANY help. Those who do receive help are neither helped out of their problem nor, in general, given enough to live decently in their poverty.


Nine Reasons Why Welfare MUST Change

Much has been written about the inequities of the present welfare system. Nine problems summarize the main reasons why officials have declared that the current system must be revamped.

1) Families are broken up. To receive AFDC relief, the father must be absent or disabled. In actual practice, three fourths of all welfare families are fatherless, and only one fifth have a father disabled. More than half the nation's poor urban blacks now live in fatherless families.

2) Illegitimacy is "encouraged" by granting more AFDC support for each child born while the husband is absent. Welfare workers are paid to keep an eagle eye out for the husband who lives with his AFDC wife. Often she tries clandestinely to support him in separate living quarters.

3) Work is "discouraged." In many areas, a welfare recipient can receive more on relief than he could by working at some of the dirty and distasteful jobs which pay only about $60 a week.

"In such a case," some people reason, "why work?"

Presently about 100,000 people earn more by working part-time and collecting welfare supplements than they would earn by working full time.

4) Work is sometimes prohibited in the case of blind, injured, disabled or otherwise handicapped people. Many are deprived of their welfare check if they work even part-time. Many jobs can be done well by the handicapped if welfare policy would encourage it.

5) Transportation, clothing and day care for children are some of the extra expenses encountered when one begins working. To work sometimes costs more money than not to work. But such expenses are not provided for welfare recipients wishing to work, especially AFDC mothers. For instance, a person receiving $3,000 welfare annually might easily "net" more money than if he or she worked for $4,000 annually.

6) Work and wage discrimination often causes AFDC mothers or unskilled minority workers to earn much less for hard physical work than a white-collar worker might earn for a less demanding job.

7) Regional inequities cause a poor family of four on AFDC to receive only $36 a month ($9 per person) in Mississippi, but $240 per month ($60 per person) by moving to New York City, Newark, or other Northern cities. This is a major cause of the stifling urban migration.

8) Welfare is personally degrading. A welfare check is supposedly given to help people live "with dignity." But such handouts are often accompanied by highly undignified snooping, questioning and checking up on the "means," morality and marital status of recipients. Some want to work, but jobs aren't available. All self-respect, dignity, and desire to escape the poverty syndrome are sabotaged.

And worst of all:

9) Welfare is for LIFE. Over 40 percent of all AFDC welfare cases in some large cities are the sons or daughters of previous AFDC cases! Some are third-generation fatherless families!

To live a life on welfare — or in poverty — is to live no life at all. And 25 million Americans are locked in this prison for life.

Recently, some government leaders and economists have been proposing a drastic revision of our Welfare System.