Friday, November 7, 2008

Choice

So I'm Mormon. Everybody got that?

In our church we believe that before this world was there was a battle between the followers of God the Father and the followers of his rebellious son, Lucifer.

You see, Lucifer wanted to give us a gift--guaranteed salvation. But he wanted to give us that gift by way of taking away the one thing that the Father viewed as most precious above all things--choice. Lucifer was using the promise of guaranteed salvation as a bribe to gain votes for his side. But what did he really want? He wanted power and control over the minds and wills of mankind.

Lucifer lost, and man came to earth with the freedom to choose for himself, by the way he lived, whether he would gain salvation and return to live with God.

So why do I bring this up?

Because of that speech that I provided the link to in my last post--The Proper Role of Government.

You see, as citizens of this United States, we have a duty to support our government in a few things. A very few things. Those are listed quite nicely in the preamble to the constitution.

Now the preamble says, "...promote the general welfare..." Promote, not provide. Promote and provide do not mean the same thing. Promote means to encourage the environment that makes it possible. Provide means to actually produce and distribute. Yet those four little words have been used to justify burdening the American people with an enormous welfare system and thousands of other entitlement programs.

What's wrong with that?

Choice. That's what's wrong with it.

YOU may not have a problem with the government deciding for you how to distribute your money. But what if your neighbor does? Is it right to take away his power to choose for himself what will be done with his money?

You see, I believe in God. I believe that God has certain expectations of us, and one of those expectations is that we will take care of our neighbors when they fall into trouble. If we choose, of our own free will, not to do so, we risk condemnation. If, by our own free will, we choose TO do so, we will be rewarded and blessed. But that's between me and God, not between me and government. So, I suppose those who are OK with the government giving their money to the poor FOR them will be blessed for their intentions, but how much more might you be blessed if you make a conscious and personal effort to help someone in need? You know what they say about the road to hell. Actions = golden paving stones. Intentions = brimstone.

And what about the person who would rather choose for himself how, or whether, he will help his neighbor, but who is compelled by law to do it the government's way? Is he equally blessed? I don't know. I just don't know. Forced service feels too much like forced servitude to me.

Another problem with handing over these matters to government is that it becomes too impersonal, and when it becomes impersonal there is no motivation to feel any personal responsibility for the help received. We see this every day in the millions of Americans who spend their entire lives needlessly living off welfare with no thought to where that help is coming from, or who might be effected by it.

So, what if the guy who wants food stamps has to actually get up off his couch and go begging to his neighbor for them? Has to actually look the person in the eye, has to actually see the kids he's trying to feed, has to actually see that he works 50 or 60 hours a week to pay the mortgage?

Hmmm.

One thing that is true is that Americans are the most generous people in the world, despite and on top of the scads of money that we, by compulsion, pump into welfare programs that don't work very well and are continually abused.

Just imagine, if we are already that generous, how much more generous might we be if we had our own money to give as we wished? And how much more efficient might the recipients of our charity be if they had to prove to US individually BEFORE they received our money, how well they use the money we give?

Hmmm.

9 comments:

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

What's on your mind that's making you think of welfare right now?

Suzanne Vincent said...

Partly the election, and how I see its effect on my family. I have other reasons that are very personal, and I'm not one to want to display them here in an open forum.

But suffice it to say, my family has fought its way through its share of troubles over the past few years, serious ones, and the fight has made us stronger. And as we struggled through, there were times when we looked to other sources to solve our problems for us--they failed miserably. It was only when we took control and solved those problems for ourselves, seeking solutions, learning, growing, making conscientious change, that we made the greatest strides.

Adversity is a wonderful thing. Adversity strengthens us if we let it. But we can choose, too easily, whether to LET it make us strong, or to be dragged along in its wake, accomplishing nothing but to drown ourselves. I think the current welfare system in this nation doesn't accomplish the former for the vast majority of the folks who use it because of the lack of responsibility connected with it. I think a national welfare system, if we must have one, is better served by empowering people than providing for people. Pump that money into job training programs. Require recipients to work for their horizon cards, just as they would be required to work for a paycheck, just as my grandfather had to work in the CCP to earn his government paycheck in the 30s. Instead of open-ended Medicaid, charge a low premium for medical coverage, like the CHIP program does for the children of low-income working families. Instead of open-ended food-stamp programs, further restrict the types of foods that can be purchased to exclude junk food. Provide teaching in job-readiness and basic nutrition and homemaking. Let those who succeed through such programs pay back the help they receive by helping those who are just beginning the process. All this, I believe, would leave more money in the welfare system to those few who I can concede we should help as a nation--those who TRULY are unable to help themselves AND who have no other sources of aid.

I know you're enthusiatic about him, Mary. But although Barak Obama's 'share the wealth' mentality 'feels' good, I tend to think it will only be MORE of the same failure to improve and uplift the American people, rather than any real 'change.'

By the way, I wasn't all that excited about McCain either.

FFO has an 87 word 'story' by Franz Kafka up right now. It pretty much sums up how I feel about our two-party system of government and the direction it's going.

I want REAL change. Unfortunately, neither party is capable of putting up a candidate who will make that happen. The closest we've come in my lifetime was Ronald Reagan. Close, but no cigar. He lacked the support from congress to affect REAL and lasting change, and in the end lacked the courage or strength to keep up the fight.

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Thanks for explaining. I suspected that it was the "share the wealth" phrase that was bothering you. I think, if you look at his tax plans and budget proposal you'll see that he's not talking about increasing the welfare program.

Along the lines of what you're looking for, he's talking about mandatory community service for high school and college students. In fact, the thing that excites me about him is that he's focusing on the fact that there's no such thing as a free lunch. That we, as a nation, are going to have to buckle down and make sacrifices. Which sounds like what you're talking about, but maybe I'm misunderstanding again.

By the way, I really appreciate your willingness to have a dialog with me about all this.

Annie King said...

I am a strong Obama supporter. Suzanne, if you listened to Obama's acceptance speech and you had gone on his web site or read newspaper articles about his ideas and policy proposals, I fail to understand how you are so misguided about Barack Obama. He is the hope for our country. He is the change voters sought and gained in this election, by the people, for the people.

As Mary has stated, he is very clear on his belief it will take all Americans to get this country back on track. He is reaching out to you. He believes in service to America, and in parental responsibility; not a welfare state (I don't know where your fears are coming from.)

The statement of "Spread the Wealth" was taken out of context, and used by the Republican propaganda machine, to tag Barack Obama as a socialist. He is not. He simply meant to convey to "Joe the Plumber" (who is not named Joe, is not a licensed plumber, and does not have the means to buy his employer's business), that middle class Americans, those making less than $250,000 a year, will receive a tax cut under his plan, and those making more than $250,000 a year, will have tax advantages rescinded, so they will pay their fair share.

I'm sure you can tell I feel strongly about this, or I would not be writing to you, a stranger to me, though I have read some of your writing, and I've been following your blog. We have a lot in common. Both of us are "band parents" and we both care about the direction our country is moving.

I believe Barack Obama's presidency is a positive move for gaining back our country's reputation, protecting our nation's security and our global interests, finding alternative sources of energy, improving our economy, and having the interests of Middle Class Americans and the working poor, from all ethnic groups and backgrounds represented.

You believe in God. Barack Obama believes in God. He will be a great president. I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing intelligence and principle has come back to the White House. Please, open your heart and your mind.

Suzanne Vincent said...

Dear Annie,

Thanks for visiting my blog.

We clearly see Obama in different lights.

However, he will be our President in little over two months. Insofar as he serves in that office and upholds his sacred oath to uphold the constitution, I will support him as president. That is my duty as an American, to bow to the will of the electorate. That's how this nation works.

Obama has four years to prove himself to me. I truly hope and pray that he can accomplish something good and worthwhile. I certainly hope he can do it without carrying us further toward socialism than we already are. Please don't ever forget that liberty is more important than security. Liberty is worth dying for. Security is what our founders willingly sacrificed to get it.

Mary, I am vehemently opposed to requiring community service from anyone. Don't let me confuse you. Exchanging work for goods or money is one thing, but making community service a requirement simply for making an effort to improve our lives through education? That's entirely another.

Encouraging and providing education in themselves are a good investment in the future of our nation, which we already pay for through tuitions and taxes. The students pay back our investment by going on to live rich and productive lives, by getting jobs and paying taxes back into the system.

Those who don't succeed, don't get jobs, don't put something back into the system are almost always the ones who continue to drain money OUT of the system, and it is THESE who should be required to put something back into it in order to continue to take it out. IF we're going to require anyone to perform community service, wouldn't it be more fair for it to be those who don't fulfill their responsibility to those who paid for their education in the first place? Those who continue to take when they should be contributing?

Besides, required service is not true and heartfelt service, and it takes away a person's choice (remember how important choice is to me) as to whether or not he will uplift himself and others by offering service. Requiring service would also, inevitably, restrict the TYPES of service these young people can engage in, creating a vacuum of service hours for programs, groups, or individuals that might not be 'approved' by such a government program. Such an approved list of service programs would have to be in place in order for records to be kept and for those hours to be tracked. So what if my hypothetical high school child has to serve lunch at the local soup kitchen because that's an 'approved' service venue, but the little old lady next door needs her leaves raked, and my child, who would rather rake the leaves for his own neighbor, doesn't have time because he has to go to school, do his homework, hold down a job, go to yet another band competition, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Do you see?

Besides, what of the kids who resent having to do their community service as much as they resent having to go to school or go to work? Do I really want them serving in my community? I've experience myself the kind of 'loving' service that is given when that service is forced, coerced, or required.

My kids already spend countless hours serving in their church and serving the people in our neighborhood--we have LOTS of old folks around here. I would much rather my children have the liberty to be able to decide for themselves not only whether they will serve, but whom they will serve, and how they will serve.

I'm enjoying the dialogue. Anytime I have to defend my beliefs is a good thing. It makes me have to think good and hard about why I believe the way I do.

But, tell me, how do you interpret 'share the wealth' if not to take from the rich to give to the poor? If not social welfare, then what? The people in Obama's plan who will receive the largest tax cuts (those making less than $18000 yr. if I remember correctly) pay almost nothing in taxes as it is, and many of them--those with families who can benefit from it the most--can actually receive money they didn't earn, that equals MUCH more than the taxes they've paid, through the earned income tax credit. So how does that work? Why isn't that welfare?

I posted on your blog some time ago that the only ones to be hurt by a tax increase on the wealthy would be those of us who have to pay increased costs on the goods and services those 'wealthy' Americans provide. You countered that the goal wasn't to hurt anyone. Maybe not, but the goal and the reality, I'm afraid, are not the same.

Let me illustrate. Let's say there's a husband and wife who run a small manufacturing business. This business grosses more than a million dollars each year. That's a lot of money! However, the expenses of the business are huge, leaving their family with a fairly modest income of, say, $75,000 a year. Has Obama said which earning amount he'll count as the one that will have its taxes raised? Not to my knowledge. But his comments to 'Joe' did seem to indicate that it would be the former amount. For this family, if the government counts that million dollar gross earnings, like the government counts my family's gross earnings, this family has but one choice if they want to remain in business and keep a roof over their family's head--raise the prices on their products to cover the sudden and crushing shortfall in available cash. Either that or go out of business and put people out of work.

Did you see the news story about a new study that came out of UCLA this week? Apparently, the study concluded that FDR's New Deal ( large increase in taxes on the mainly the wealthy) actually slowed the economic recovery from the Great Depression by approximately seven years! Seven YEARS slower than if he had just let things run their course. The economy has no heart. Debtors don't care if you can't buy groceries because you had to pay the mortgage. Small businessmen, who actually employ a HUGE percentage of America's work force, would be hit HARD by a tax increase on the scale that Obama proposes--by ANY tax increase for that matter in tough times like these. And if they get hit hard, so do I.

You know, we have this "The rich can sacrifice more than the rest of us" mentality. But really, the rich are only as rich as their paperwork shows. Too many of the rich are small business owners who are supplying goods, services, and most importantly jobs.

I still feel that Reagan had it right, and that McCain had it right, in lowering taxes on the wealthy (who are already paying a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes than any of us. Just look here: http://www.moneychimp.com/features/tax_brackets.htm) to put more money into growing businesses, creating jobs, putting goods and services for Americans to buy into the marketplace, letting businesses provide those goods and services at prices that can better compete with foreign markets.

Sure, there are times I wish I had a house on the hill, a sauna, room for a pony (you're laughing right now if you've ever watched the British comedy "Keeping Up Appearances"). There are times I feel twinges of jealouly at those who have them when I don't. But I have to keep reminding myself that these guys have worked HARD to get themselves where they are. And that their efforts are putting food on the tables in other households like mine through employing people like us. And if I want that house on the hill I can have it if I'm willing to work hard and make the sacrifices necessary to do it.

But, while all are equal in the sight of God, not all are equal in their desires or motivations or abilities. Some of us work, some of us sign the paychecks. And I'm grateful there's someone signing our paychecks. God bless the wealthy!! God bless America!!

Suzanne Vincent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Vincent said...

Oh, and Annie, Satan believes in God, too. That doesn't make him a saint, nor does it qualify Barack Obama to be President.

If that were true, Jimmy Carter would have been one of the greatest presidents we've ever known.

And not believing that Barack Obama is the solution to America's problems doesn't make me closed-minded. It makes me a doubter. I question everything. As I should. Those who question rarely find themselves following blindly.

In researching Obama I found too many of my questions were not answered to my satisfaction.

Annie King said...

Small business owners and business owners would be taxed on their net income, after paying their employees and all the overhead. If a small business owner cleared $75,000 after expenses, they would be taxed on their actual income, $75,000.

You don't have to believe in God or Satan to be a good person, and strive to do the right thing. I believe in the ultimate good of humankind, the God within us, and I believe Barack Obama embodies that goodness, more than any president I've seen since John Kennedy. Agree or disagree, it is your blog, and you are entitled to your opinion. If I err, I err on the side of seeing the good in people.

Will I agree with everything Barack Obama does as president? Of course not. Do I think he is the best hope for our country, based on our choices, and at this point in time? Yes.

Peace.

Annie King said...

Hi Suzanne,

One more comment, and then, I agree, let's get back to our blogs about writing! I didn't mean to imply you were close-minded; only that, based on the opinions about Barack Obama you've expressed, it seems that they are based on second hand sources, rather than the primary source, Barack Obama himself, his positions and policy statements expressed on his web site and in his speeches. I had the privilege of hearing him speak, first hand, with his messages of unity and hope, and I was favorably impressed by his acceptance speech, which was both realistic and inspiring. His new website is www.change.gov, and the old site, which is still active is www.barackobama.com, if you haven't had a chance to see them.

Peace.