There are a lot of similarities between Ireland when I was growing up (and Ireland has only gotten worse) and America today. America today has become a follower in the long tradition of Socialism and Marxism. Today Americans are being taught the same things I was taught when I was growing up. Government is your friend, it will only ever act in your best interests and that you must accept a greater role of government in your life because the politicians are elected by the people and it is their job to ensure fairness for all.
However fairness was always what was politically expedient at the time. We were always taught to overlook the inefficiencies of government – whether it is the DMV in America to the health service in Ireland. Yet it never occurs to people to hand it over to a private individual with a profit motive. The only change is a new leader, but all the players stay the same and thus results never change. Ronald Reagan put it best in 1964 when he said, “The more the plans FAIL, the more the planners plan”. We are in the season of Advent and today I want to talk to you about poverty. After all next March will be the 50th Anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty Speech.
So what is poverty? Most people I know would consider poverty as some sort of financial disadvantage – someone who cannot afford something like food, light or heat. The US government agrees and they, “use a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty”. So is poverty only a financial situation, or are there other types? Also who is responsible to help people in poverty? Before I lay out my case to you, I want to set the record straight. There is NO CHOICE between helping people in poverty and doing nothing. The only choice what is the best way to help and EMPOWER them and to do it without harming another individual. The aim here is to help bring people in poverty up a level, NOT bring others down.
Family Breakdown & Loneliness
When you look at all the broken families today, would you consider some of their situations impoverished? What about a single parent family who have no support from friends or family? What about a kid who has no family and cannot find foster parents? What about an elderly person with no family to mind them and check in with them as the days get shorter and colder? Or what about the people who simply have no friends or family to talk to? Think how many people who will celebrate this Christmas alone? Is this situation a form of poverty? If it is, how should the government help fix this? Should it hire people to check in on all lonely people and have a chat? Should it offer advice on changing nappies or how to deal with puberty? Or can all this be fixed with more money???
America has maintained an unemployment rate of at least 7% since December 2008 and that does not include the amount of people who have stopped looking. What happens to an individual who has worked their whole life, became successful but now cannot find a new job. I could guess at some professions in America but I will give you some real life examples from Ireland. There are many very talented people who have worked in banks and insurance because of down-sizing now cannot find work. There are people with trades like plumbers and electricians who have worked their entire lives but now with little or no chance of a new job. Or what about people from the older generation – what chance has someone in their 50’s got in the current market of gaining employment when there are so many people younger and with a fancy degree? Is unemployment a form of poverty and again how should the government fight this? Should it create more jobs in the nanny state and accommodate everyone who wants to work regardless of the need? I think you see a pattern now and I could also have mentioned poverties of education, spiritual and morals. BUT…. Is there a bigger Poverty?
In my opinion there is a bigger poverty than ALL these combined and very few ever even consider it. I firmly believe the biggest poverty today is HOPE. I believe in the power of the human spirit because we are all unique and capable of great things. I think it is safe to say everyone reading this has dealt with some huge personal tragedy in their life – like losing a loved one. I believe hope plays a huge part in overcoming this because while the pain is great at the moment and always there, over time we adapt and life becomes easier. However today what hope do people have? For the first time, a lot of Americans do not believe their children will be better off than they were. I know a lot of people today who think, life right now is as good as it gets. What hope does someone who is long term unemployed have? What hope does an elderly person who has no family have? What hope do the next generation have when all they are told to be part of the collective and witness society always trying to bring down successful people.
So what is the solution? I believe returning to America’s founding principles of individualism will be a start and encouraging MAXIMUM FREEDOM AND MAXIMUM RESPONSIBILITY (Glenn Beck talks about this at length). Anytime someone talks about problems and poverty being the responsibility of the government, I encourage you to remind them what I was told as a kid, “Anytime you point your finger at someone else, there are three pointing right back at you” and you will have the answer. The answer to these poverties or problems will always be the same. It is not up to the government to STEAL and ROB one person who is somewhat successful to help an individual who is not. Every individual has a responsibility to society in the way that interests them most – some will help the homeless, others special needs and others cancer research etc. We should let individuals get involved in any way they see fit.
We also need to work together in our communities and realize there is a HUGE role to be filled by our Churches to help each other. It also costs nothing to offer hope and encouragement to people. The ultimate aim always has to empower the individual, promote self-sufficiency, and offer a hand up NOT a hand out.
Lastly if you take nothing from this article, please consider this. We all have a lot of work to do with the next generation. We need to explain to them that the world is no longer your oyster and to shoot for the moon and the stars – that is so 1960’s….. We need them to explain the universe is theirs for the taking and the only limit on them and us is the one they set for themselves!!!
Lyndon Johnson War on Poverty Speech – http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1964johnson-warpoverty.html
Description of Poverty – http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/measure.html
Unemployment Rate – http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703338004575230041742556522