Of course, a less affluent America could still build their own homes (as my grandfather did) without being forced to abide by laws and building codes and safety requirements put into place for huge home builders. And own these homes outright. And commute to work, to the grocery store, and to Church every Sunday without needing a car. And...well, the point is that the change to modern living has been expensive, and we're still all paying for it.
What a changed country we have become in our expectations of ourselves. A less affluent America survived a Depression and world war without anything like the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance, welfare payments, earned income tax credits, food stamps, rent supplements, day care, school lunches and Medicaid we have today.
Public or private charity were thought necessary, but were almost always to be temporary until a breadwinner could find work or a family could get back on its feet. The expectation was that almost everyone, with hard work and by keeping the nose to the grindstone, could make his or her own way in this free society. No more.
What we have accepted today is a vast permanent underclass of scores of millions who cannot cope and must be carried by the rest of society – fed, clothed, housed, tutored, medicated at taxpayers' expense for their entire lives. We have a new division in America: those who pay a double fare, and those who forever ride free.
We Americans are not only not the people our parents were, we are not the people we were. FDR was right about what would happen to the country if we did not get off the narcotic of welfare.
But, on the other hand, as I wrote on my other blog recently, there is something somewhat troubling about seeing people rely on entitlement programs as a needed part of their "incomes," rather than a temporary safety net. This is especially troubling when the entitlement is seen as something "free" which is coming from the "government" instead of as something which costs my neighbor something, and which is confiscated from him, diminishing his ability to pay for his own family's needs.
No Catholic would deny the need for sound, practical, regular, efficient ways of providing for the needs of the poor. But are government entitlement programs the best way? Is there, as Buchanan says, a danger that a person's own natural and laudable desire to work and to provide for his own and his loved ones' needs might be destroyed by such programs? Do the programs contribute to the destruction of marriage and the family--or are they merely necessary in a culture which sees both marriage and the family as disposable?
What do you think?