It’s time that Americans reach agreement on the Welfare State. At times it pains me to say that the Welfare State is here to stay, but it is. There is no denying it: Americans want social security, Medicare, and Medicaid (I am unwilling to add health insurance to this list). And it is time for American Conservatives to develop a conservative welfare system. We need to move from the Great Society to the Great Safety Net.
I believe a majority of Americans have reached a consensus that we can afford to fund a safety net and we should provide one to people who have fallen on tough times. My grandparents and mother would not have been able to make it without Social Security and Medicare. But we need to agree on what benefits should be provided as part of the safety net, how much money should be given, and how long people should be able to stay on the safety net.
I believe conservatives have two main problems with the Welfare State: (1) when will Democrats agree that it is enough and (2) people can’t be allowed to live on welfare indefinitely. To address this first problem, we need to simplify the system so that we know how much welfare people receive and to come to an agreement on just how much of a safety net people should have. After all, the taxpayers are trying to better themselves and their families too, and if more and more of their money is being given to other people, they deserve to know how much is actually being given.
To address the second problem, we need to limit the amount of time people can receive welfare benefits. Unless a person suffers from a disability that prevents him from working, that person owes a duty to society to either work or not take the property of others.
We cannot create a system that encourages people not to work, so that principle needs to be part of this agreement. Work is important to humanity: people don’t function in society if they stop working. This isn’t good for them or for society. A man’s soul is nourished by his work.
The point of this great consensus is trust. Taxpayers need to be able to trust that the system is not allowing some a free ride while they work hard to better themselves and their families. And everyone should have trust in society that if we lose a job or face a catastrophe there is a Safety Net to help until we can get back on our feet. But we must get back on our feet. The Safety Net must be time bound.
We also have to understand what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said that we are endowed by our Create with the unalienable right of the pursuit of happiness. This is pursuit is personal: each person must be allowed to pursue his own journey. We have to acknowledge that some people don’t want to work or they are happy enough with their current station in life not to work harder. It is hard for many of us to understand why someone wouldn’t want to better themselves, and it is hard for us to understand how someone could choose to live “less well-off” than we do, but people do make this choice, and we have to allow them to pursue their own happiness, and they have no right for us to subsidize this choice.
People make very complicated choices in life. Some choose to go to college; some choose to grad school; and others unfortunately choose to drop out of school. We all make these choices for personal and economic reasons, but they are choices. Some choices are smart: other choices are mistakes. But we are responsible for these choices. The trust built into this Great Saftey Net must require personal responsibility for bad choice. The safety net will be there for a short time when someone makes a bad choice, but the person is required to get their life back on track.
This would be my starting point to end the constant fighting over this issue. I am sure we would still debate the benefits and time period of the safety net, but at least the debate could be civil if we had this foundation of trust.