Under the title “America Less Exceptional,” George Will argues how a “mushrooming welfare state has done major damage to [our] nation.” His argument involves a changing ethos within our country moving from a strong protestant work ethic to one of deepening dependency. The data he provides is interesting.
“America’s welfare state transfers more than 14% of GDP to recipients, which equates to about $2.3 trillion dollars. This is indicative of what Will calls a “needy” nation. Another piece of data is that “transfer benefits to individuals through social welfare programs have increased from less than one federal dollar in four (24%) in 1963 to almost three out of five (59%) in 2013.”
We all know that Baby-Boomers are beginning to retire, and some would assume that the major source of growth in social welfare payments would be a result of the Baby-Boomers. However, Will states “more than twice as many households receive anti-poverty benefits than receive Social Security of Medicare.” Will goes on to give other details about the issue, but as I read this I said to myself, “why is this happening?”
One reason he argues is the change of what is meant by poverty. I do think he has an interesting point. “Poverty programs have become untethered from the official designation of poverty: In 2012, more than half the recipients were not classified as poor but accepted being treated as needy.” This, writes Will, has created “character challenges which promotes certain habits.” We are fast becoming a nation of people standing on street corners with a sign that say “will work for food,” but have no intention of actually working. In fact, many of us have forgotten how to work. A dependency culture is emerging, thus eliminating the American distinctive of “self-reliance, personal responsibility, and self-advancement.”
The question, is this true? I can read the numbers, and I can draw certain conclusions, and I have to say I am concerned. But do we need to blame just the government, business for not paying a living wage and outsourcing work, the conservative blowhards, or even the growing liberal ethos in this country? I think I want to blame all of the above.
Our government continues to expect different results by doing the same things. I know what that is a definition of. We also know the wages are stagnant, and I for one will not talk anymore about the supply and demand theory of micro-economics associated with wages. I know what it says. I also have my concerns about the move of our country away from its Christian foundations because of, well for many reasons. Much of it seen as a result of the colonization excesses of the past that so-called enlightened folks point to while crying out that everything is the Evangelical’s fault.
So what is the solution to the two Americas? The rich are just fine, or so they think. The poor continue to struggle. The secular humanist cries out there is no God. The Social Gospel Sojourner moves slowly towards a universal gospel that says only the poor are saved. The political conservative tells us what they are against. Those that associate their salvation with their political beliefs, thereby ensuring the gays and immigrants are all condemned to hell, scream the loudest. All of this demonstrates to me just how far we have moved away from what is really important.
I remember when I first got saved. And yes, I am going to call it that. I was lost and He found me. I was saved. I remember the simplicity of that time. It was all about Jesus. This Guy who I knew loved me enough to die on the cross for me. He has given me a new life. That life is not about riches, and it is not about politics. But it is definitely about a chosen life. One that involves following. It is a life rich with love, compassion, and service.
If we are going to deal with the two Americas the way it should be dealt with, then I think we need a fresh wind. A fresh recognition of who this guy Jesus is. May the Spirit of God breath a fresh wind in our hearts and lives, and may the living water of Jesus Christ fill us so we never thirst again! May we fall in love with Jesus.
And that is my thought for the day!