We are a country that embraces its “rights.” We have the right to speak our minds, to worship any god, to defend our homes, to wield a gun. We have the right to not be discriminated against because of the color of our skin.
But what about the right to be helped when we are in need?
If I lose my job because my company is downsizing, do I have a right to get financial assistance from the government to pay my rent until I find another job? If I get cancer, and do not have private insurance, do I have the right to government-supported healthcare? If I am hungry, do I have the right to be fed?
If I have no home, do I have the right to a house?
For those who have been scrutinizing the federal budget, the answer to these questions is an unwavering “yes.” The government spends $799 billion per year on 92 federal anti-poverty programs. They even call them “entitlements.”
So, does that mean I am entitled to assistance when I need help? Am I entitled to free cash, food, housing, medical care, and education?
Here in our country—which the rest of the world see as a wealthy and powerful nation—almost a quarter of all children live in impoverished conditions. Shouldn’t these children have the right to an upbringing with full stomachs, a roof over their heads, and an education?
Most people would at least want to help poor, defenseless children. The debate, however, rages when we discuss entitlements for adults, and when we discuss who should pay, and how much we should give.
Such a debate is going on now, 50 years after the “War on Poverty” instituted the largest entitlement program in this country’s history. The Budget Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives released their assessment (some would call it their stinging criticism) of this nation’s fight to stop poverty.
Their main criticism is simple: From 1965 to 2013, poverty has only been reduced from 17.3 percent to 15 percent of the total population.
Not exactly an outcome that inspires pride, especially after spending trillions of dollars.
Have Head Start, food stamps, Section 8, and Medicaid really failed? Is providing needy people with cash, food, healthcare, and education a waste of money?
Some people might think so. Others would say that the existing federal entitlement program needs streamlining.
All I know is that, without help from public funds, we would never be able to house the homeless, feed the hungry, and care for the sick. Yes, private programs and resources are also needed. But a responsible, modern society needs to care for its weak, sick, and vulnerable citizens.
Besides, if a modern society like America provides entitlements to 39% of people who make more than $100,000 per year, then those who are struggling below the poverty line should feel entitled to some sort of assistance. At the very least a meal every day, a roof over their heads, and healthcare.