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Unprincipled, Part 1

September 19, 2012

There has been a great deal of public discussion lately about the funding of government programs for the aged, impoverished, and disadvantaged. This has left many with the impression that fraud is rampant, and all those seeking aid are intent upon “milking” the system. The reverse is true. By far the vast majority of aid recipients are children, the elderly, the disabled and/or those genuinely living in poverty.

But the question of whether money should be set aside for those in need, despite the knowledge that some unprincipled recipients will be cheats, is worth examining.

Data from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “Food Stamps”, will be used here to explore the problem.

Scope of Need

As of 2011, SNAP helped feed nearly 45 million men, women, and children in the United States – 1 in 7. Participation – based on low income and limited financial resources – has risen to over 46 million this year.

  • The maximum monthly benefit for a family of four is currently $668 (less than $1.90 per person per meal).
  • 47% of program participants are children under the age of 18.
  • About 16% of households include an elderly member; about 20% include a disabled member.
  • About 41% of program participants live in households with some earnings.
  • 75% of program participants receiving benefits for a year or less live in households with some earnings.
  • Only 4% of program participants are noncitizens (legal immigrants, permanent resident aliens, and refugees).

SNAP participation closely tracks poverty in America. As the number of persons living in poverty rises, so does SNAP participation. As that number falls, so does SNAP participation. SNAP likewise expands in times of recession, and retracts in times of economic growth.

Moral Duty to Give

Certainly, there are able-bodied men and women disinclined toward effort. Slothfulness is one of the seven deadly sins (Prov. 18: 9).

Scripture in no way obligates us to support shirkers.  “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10). Scripture is replete, however, with admonitions to aid the poor and disadvantaged.

Here are just a handful:

 “ ‘And you shall not…gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger…’ ” (Lev. 19: 10).

“ ‘…[Y]ou shall not wholly reap the corners of your field… You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger’ ” (Lev. 23: 22).

“ ‘For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land” ’ ” (Deut 15: 11).

Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; for the Lord will plead their cause…” (Prov. 22: 22-23).

“ ‘ “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor” ’ ” (Zech. 7: 10).

There was a clear understanding by the authors of the Bible that the poor would always be with us in this imperfect world. The Mosaic Law made provision by setting aside portions of the harvest, a seventh year for the release of slaves, and a year of Jubilee every fiftieth (during which, among other things, land was to be returned to its original owner).

Morally, therefore, we are obliged to consider the less fortunate. Government aid programs may be viewed as taking the place, at least in part, of the Mosaic Law.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this series, addressing fraud, waste, and the arguments for aid despite those.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  http://www.avoicereclaimed

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