By Katie Kieffer
Do you want to be wealthy? Do you also want to end poverty, hunger, and suffering among your neighbors? Abandon your mental roadblocks to wealth.
“I don’t want the help to stop,” 28-year-old single mother of four Tiffane Garza says as tears stream down her cheeks. She feels she would be lost without the $54 million in federal and local aid injected to her San Antonio East Side neighborhood over the past five years via an “anti-poverty” welfare program.
Data, however, paints a different picture: $54 million in government aid may actually have set the tiny, 3.5-square-mile neighborhood back. The San Antonio Express reports more high school graduates (79.4%) require remedial courses to enter college today than before the grant infusion (77.9%); more students are changing schools within a year; and absenteeism is rising among both middle school and high school students.
Garza’s challenge is not her poverty. (Many American billionaires, from the CEO of Starbucks to Oprah Winfrey, rose from poverty.) Garza’s challenge is raising four children without a father, a problem of adults making poor choices, compounded by her conviction that the government is her lifeboat.
“If a man works hard, he shouldn’t have to worry about, ‘How am I going to provide for myself?’” 31-year-old truck-driver/farmer Justin Phillips tells TIME. He receives $600 in ObamaCare insurance subsidies a month, which he uses to care for his daughter. (The subsidy is apparently issued due to Phillips’ income level, not an illness.)
Like Garza, Phillips’ main challenge is not the size of his salary but the size of his mindset. He’s not the only hard worker in America. He is one of the few who receive $600 in monthly insurance subsidies. Most Americans, especially Millennials, saw their premiums spike. If he continues to live his life imagining that he deserves a public handout because he’s a “hard worker,” he will never attain personal or financial fulfillment.
A Beautiful Mindset
Garza and Phillips illustrate a growing mindset in America that is making it very difficult for Congress and the Trump administration to reform healthcare and the tax code.
“I would be lost without,” or “I have a legal right to” are common phrases that I hear Americans employ in defense of their pet form of public assistance. Meanwhile, we never address our core issues: Too many of us spend more than we save; and too many of us value the “safety” of dependency over the thrill of independence.
When 63% of Americans say they can’t come up with $500 to cover an emergency expense—the country has an epidemic on its hands. Our government continues to give individuals who can’t manage money more money—which they in turn spend foolishly.
The American Cancer Society announced last month that Millennials have record numbers of colon and rectal cancer (Millennials!) due to factors that no government can solve: Young people don’t want to eat well or move their bodies. Millennials are even having less sex than any generation in the past 60 years, which could partially be an indicator of how much they really dislike movement.
We’ve spent between $15 and $20 trillion to fight poverty since 1964 without significantly lowering the poverty rate. Our problems are fundamentally cultural and moral. We’re broke, lazy and unhealthy. We have to change our mindset. We have to take ownership.
Accept Help, And Be Willing To Let It Go
We may someday find ourselves—through no fault of our own—without reliable employment or health insurance.
Ayn Rand lends philosophical clarity to this dilemma. In the June 1966 edition of The Objectivist newsletter, she addresses the ethics of accepting a wide range of government assistance. She contends that it is morally acceptable to take government assistance when the government unjustly appropriates excess taxes, private property rights and free market opportunities from individual citizens.
“The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. … and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.”
A government is unable to fully recompense citizens for usurping their intellectual freedom and economic opportunities. In other words, you can’t put a dollar amount on the damage unjust government policies inflict on hardworking individuals.
Hence, she allows capitalists to accept government assistance: “…so long as you fight against welfare statism (and only so long as you fight it) and are prepared to give up any of its momentary benefits in exchange for repeal and freedom—so long as you do not sell your soul (or your vote)—you are morally in the clear.”
I agree with Rand. Corrupt politicians have destroyed the free market system in America, not you and me. Politicians and corporate interest groups keep injecting stimulus money into our neighborhoods. They buy votes and political influence, while never solving the community’s underlying problems.
Greed and short-term thinking will filibuster a humanitarian goal like “healthcare reform”—wherein the aim is to offer high quality, affordable care to the most number of people. For the sake of our own prosperity and happiness, let’s be willing to give up our pet perks and assume ownership for our lives.