The Crimson White

Welfare cannot end cycle of poverty in US

Cruise Hall

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For decades, America has been content to manage the effects of poverty-driven destruction. Year after year, the government puts food in hungry mouths and builds roofs over shivering bodies. But no amount of government spending can waken the energy that lies dormant in the crushed spirit of the forgotten man. The cycle of poverty is reversed only when the destitute discover genuine hope to become productive members of society.

For half a century, though, the American anti-poverty formula has considered only the needs of the poor and neglected the possibility that the needy could actually become assets to society. Every relief program aims to make poverty as comfortable as possible, because the welfare state generally accepts the permanence of poverty. In fact, any effort to limit the duration of any particular program is considered a threat to the well-being of the poor, as if that program is their sole hope for sustenance in life. The success of the welfare state is evaluated based on the breadth and continuity of government provisions. The more a man can rely on the public treasury for his livelihood, the better.

The supposed success of the welfare state is, in reality, it’s greatest failure: an American citizen can live his entire life without realizing his full capacity for excellence. As a government attempts to meet every physical need of its people, it replaces the natural, productive exchange of labor and ideas with an artificial 
system of resource distribution.

This system creates a bleak environment in which hope gradually gravitates away from the individual’s inherent ability to help himself and towards the external sources of help. People have little reason to work for things they can get for free, so an endless supply of free things will perpetually prevent people from realizing their ability to improve their lives through the work of their own hands.

This universal tendency of human nature demonstrates that the true cost of poverty is not a line item on the federal budget. Rather, the true cost of poverty is a 
measure of the untapped human energy, talent and creativity that gives way to the phony hope of a life on public assistance. This brand of poverty is an unaffordable, 
incalculable burden every American pays for in one way or another. Society as a whole is robbed of the accomplishments that are never accomplished by the men and women who accept the fatalistic notion of absolute destitution. And, sadly, American society as a whole is generally inclined to accept this preposterous thought as well. It doesn’t have to be like 
this, though.

If dependency is the triumph of the welfare state, then opportunity will be its demise. The poor can help themselves and many are merely waiting for the chance to do so. Reducing labor regulations, decentralizing education and yielding control of poverty 
alleviation to local institutions would be great ways to allow opportunity to multiply in 
struggling communities.

While details of particular solutions can always be debated, the goal of any new poverty-fighting strategy should be to empower the poor to help the poor. As 
open-ended as it sounds, this maxim will at least avoid the dead-end policies that have cheated generations of Americans out of realizing their 
full potential.

Cruise Hall is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. His 
column runs biweekly.

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Welfare cannot end cycle of poverty in US