One of the justifications that liberals give for their support of the socialistic welfare state is their purported love for the poor, needy, and disadvantaged. Having been raised a Democrat (Republicans were rare in South Texas in the 1950s and 60s), I bought into this rationale. After I returned to my hometown of Laredo, Texas, in 1975 to practice law, I was a devoted liberal and Democrat, even serving on the Legal Aid Board of Trustees and as the ACLU representative in Laredo.
One day, however, a simple but profoundly disturbing question hit me. If Democrats really loved the poor, needy, and disadvantaged as much as they said they did, how could they reconcile that with their mistreatment of Mexican illegal aliens?
After all, it would be virtually impossible to find a better example of the poor than illegal aliens. Their lives in Mexico were mired in poverty, which is the reason that they were coming to the United States. They were looking for work in order to make a bit of money, in most cases to send back to their families to help them survive.
I thought: What better way to help the poor than to let them help themselves with labor and by entering into mutually beneficial relationships with rich Americans? Why are we jailing them? Why are we deporting them? Why are we punishing them?
Don’t forget that from 1960 to 1968, there was a Democratic president in office — John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson, and a Democratic Congress. Both Kennedy and Johnson portrayed themselves as lovers of the poor. Johnson even declared a “war on poverty,” which he used to greatly expand the welfare state with his Great Society programs.
So, why mistreat genuinely poor people? Why not fight to lift the laws against illegal entry, much as Democrats were fighting to end segregation and Jim Crow? (At that time, hiring illegal aliens had not yet been made illegal.)
The answer finally came to me: The so-called love for the poor that Democrats were using to justify the welfare state was all a crock. A lie. I finally realized that it was actually about the money and the power that came with federal largess. Lots of public officials were making big money off the Great Society federal funds that were pouring into Laredo, which Johnson had named as one of his Model Cities in his war on poverty. And federal funds provided a means to make lots of voters dependent and grateful.
Laredo’s mayor and LBJ were tight with each other. During the 1960 presidential campaign, the mayor had led a local delegation to the LBJ Ranch in Johnson City, Texas, to attend a campaign barbecue. My father was part of the delegation, and he took me along. I shook hands with Johnson and told him I was doing my best to get votes for him and Kennedy in Laredo. My father once told me that sometime after Johnson became president, he telephoned our local mayor to tell him that the federal spigots were now open, especially for Laredo.
Unfortunately, most Americans have bought into the love-the-poor rationale on which the welfare state is based. If only they understood that the welfare state actually constitutes a tremendous attack on the poor owing to its massive assault on capital. It is capital that makes people more productive. It is increases in productivity, not welfare, that bring about raises in wages and increases in standards of living. It is savings that brings into existence capital. With its massive assault on income and its discouragement of savings, the welfare state impedes the growth of productivity and, therefore, the ability of the poor to escape the bonds of poverty.
Moreover, once I came to the realization that the welfare state was based on coercion, I realized that there is no way I could in good conscience support it. This is a point lost on many American Christians. They think that when they support the welfare state, they are supporting God’s love of the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Assistance given the poor means nothing when it comes from coercion. It only means something in a spiritual or religious sense when it is voluntary — when it comes from the choice a person is making as part of the exercise of his free will. In fact, the forcible taking of money by Peter to help Paul violates God’s law against stealing.
The welfare state has brought nothing but Big Spending, Big Corruption, Big Hypocrisy, Big Immorality, and even Big Poverty, not to mention Big Government. It deserves to be cast into the dustbin of history. If only Americans would come to their senses and restore the free-market principles on which America was founded.