Times are tough. No doubt about that. One of the most concerning statistics of our day is the number of families on federal assistance, numbers at record highs. If we were poor, would we take government assistance?
Good question. We were asked this by a mom of 6, last month. “What are your thoughts on government assistance such as food stamps, WIC, and medicaid insurance for families?”
Simple answer: We are poor, and we don’t take federal assistance.
Complex answer: We see federal assistance as a temptation that we fight. It isn’t like we couldn’t use it. Food is expensive–and so are many of the basics of life. There seems to be a government program for every necessity nowadays. When times are tight, having the government help may seem like an alternative worth taking. Maybe the only alternative.
But we have paused more than once on this thought. We have some downright convictions that keep us from taking assistance from government. Here are a few.
1. The money isn’t ours. We trace the money back to where it originated and ask, “Was this money freely given to help us?” We’ve taken secondhand clothes, gleaned food from farmers, and even direct gifts from friends. These are gifts, not handouts. We view federal programs differently. They’re subsidized by tax dollars. We cannot shake from our mind that the assistance we take was earned by other people’s work. It would haunt us. If we can help it, we won’t do it.
2. The money fosters dependency. Here’s the rub: Dependency on government is a trap. Ask most on welfare and they’ll agree: it’s an ugly cycle. It’s human nature to grow dependent on the faucet of dependency. Even if things do turn around financially for you, voluntarily cutting off your supply is difficult to do. Rather than starting, we resist it.
3. The giver really doesn’t care. Politicians are extending benefits, dumping tax payer money into programs. Perhaps some care, but we doubt most do. If they did, they would spend more effort revitalizing small business and energizing the workforce. Soaking the middle class to grow entitlements does the reverse.
A favorite movie of ours is Cinderella Man, a film depicting the story of boxing legend James Braddock who fought his way through the Great Depression. A telling scene is where Braddock takes welfare to keep his family together. He coupled it with returning to Madison Square Garden to beg his wealthy friends for help. He succeeds, keeps the heat on in his winter home, and gets through the financially hard time. Fortune eventually returns to his family. The shocker is this: When that fortune returns, he returns the money to the welfare office.
Braddock is a fighter, as is every parent fighting to raise their family in tough economic times. Perhaps good fortune will shine on us someday, but until then, we will live as independently from government assistance as we possibly can.
And here’s a final thought:
4. We know this tears people up. We thought long and hard about this mom’s question because we have dear friends who are caught in the cycle. They’re desperate, without employment, grasping to make ends meet. We can’t come out and say we would never take federal assistance. Perhaps we would if times got so bad. All we can confidently say is that we fight it with all we’ve got.
These are just a few thoughts. We’d like to hear yours in the comment section below.