It’s time for relief efforts to be guided by our founding document and the Judeo-Christian tradition...
- Bryan Fischer
Last weekend in Iowa, Hillary Clinton launched another broadside attack on the supposed heartlessness of conservatives, by criticizing her Republican opponents for their lack of compassion and bewailing their supposed “mean spiritedness.”
‘"Did they not go and hear the same lessons I did in Sunday school," asked Clinton. "Did they not sing the same hymns?" She continued questioning their morality and Christian theology by wondering, "Did they never hear, 'there but for the grace of God go I?...'"
‘“Clinton said the government must do more to help individuals and families but also called for churches and religious institutions to do more.”’
Calling for churches and religious institutions to do more is both biblical and constitutional. However, calling on the government to do more is neither.
The fundamental difference between liberals such as Ms. Clinton and conservatives is this: liberals believe compassion is giving away other people’s money. Conservatives believe compassion is giving away your own money.
As Paul, put it, “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10).
And Hillary is not even that generous with other people’s money, if they have given it to her and not to the government. In the last year for which figures are available, the Clinton Foundation gave just 6.9% of donations to charitable causes.
This is way short of the 75% charities are expected to spend, well, on charity. The Clinton Foundation’s practices are so substandard that the leading charity watchdog, Charity Navigator, won’t even rate it and has instead put it on its “watch list” of problematic charities.
Jesus issued numerous commands about looking after the poor. Not one of them was addressed to government. No, Jesus said, looking after the poor is not government’s job, it is ours.
Liberals have been trying to use government to solve the problem of the poor since the days of FDR. They accelerated their efforts under LBJ and his War on Poverty. Since 1965, as Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, we have spent over $22 trillion trying to solve the problem, and it has been an utter, abysmal failure. We have as many poor people today as we had when we started.
Our national debt right now is between $18 trillion and $19 trillion, which means if we had never started down the misguided road of government welfare, we’d be sitting on a $3 trillion surplus instead of staggering along under an impossibly heavy burden.
One is inclined to ask Ms. Clinton where the compassion is in loading down our children and grandchildren with a debt that is statistically impossible to repay and getting worse by the day. Where is the compassion in foisting this problem on them, when they had no say in the matter?
Not only does government sponsored welfare not work, I would suggest it is fundamentally immoral. This is because it involves the coercive transfer of money, through force, from one citizen’s wallet to another’s. When a mugger does it, we recognize it as a violation of the 8th Commandment and we lock him up.
But when government does it, as Frederic Bastiat pointed out 150 years ago, it is simply a form of legalized theft, and is just as much a violation of the 8th Commandment even though done under color of law. Theft is theft whether done by your neighbor or by your government.
Government welfare programs - there are now 70 of them in all, only one of which was reformed in 1996 - have the added burden of being unconstitutional.
Article I, Section 8 lists all the powers of action that we the people granted to the central government in our founding document. Whether you read the Constitution left to right, right to left, upside down, backwards or in Sanskrit, you will look in vain for any authorization to rob Peter to pay Paul. It’s just not there.
James Madison, whom history knows as “the Father of the Constitution” and therefore may be presumed to know something about what it means, rejected government-sponsored welfare in 1794 with these words: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted to Congress of expending on objects of benevolence the money of their constituents.”
The reason he couldn’t lay his finger on such an article in the Constitution is that such an article does not exist. There is nothing there upon which a finger can be laid.
Not only is government-run welfare unconstitutional, it is unbiblical. The Scriptures (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12) are clear that those who “walk in idleness” are not to be rewarded by being given money taken from those who “work night and day...to earn their own living.”
“If anyone is not willing to work,” says the Good Book, “let him not eat.”
The Scriptures have always distinguished between the worthy poor, those who are poor through no fault of their own, and the unworthy poor, those who are poor because they will not work even though they can. The first are to be the objects of compassion and voluntary charity (not government programs) while the second are to be the objects of rebuke and censure.
In fact, this scriptural principle saved the nascent settlement of Jamestown in 1608 when John Smith made "He who will not work shall not eat" official public policy and compelled even the nobles from England, who thought manual labor was beneath them, to work with their hands no less than six hours a day.
It’s time for relief efforts to be guided by our founding document and the Judeo-Christian tradition, and return charity to individuals, families, neighborhoods, communities, and churches where it belongs. It worked in 1608 and it will work again. In fact, following the Bible and the Constitution works every time it’s tried.
Maine has seen one segment of its welfare rolls shrink by a drastic 80% through one expedient: insisting that the able-bodied work at least six hours a week.
This is not to say that all taxes are a violation of the Eighth Commandment. When taxes are collected for legitimate government purposes - the administration of justice and national defense - then taxes are entirely appropriate and biblically justified. As the New Testament says, “This is why you...pay taxes” (Romans 13:6, NIV).
Now conservatives believe in the redistribution of wealth, just as liberals do. The difference is we believe the transfer of wealth should be voluntary, just as Jesus said. Liberals believe in the involuntary redistribution of wealth, an entirely different thing.
Conservatives believe that, under the influence of Christianity, Americans are the most generous people on the face of the earth and can be counted on to give generously of their own resources to alleviate legitimate needs.
Bottom line: Maybe Hillary was the one who wasn’t paying attention in Sunday School.