Like many Tennesseans, I’m a Reagan Republican who changed sides when I saw the failed policies and buffoonery of people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin ruining the party and running the nation into the ground.
Like most — but unfortunately not all — Tennesseans, I firmly believe in equal rights for everyone, including gays, minorities, Muslims and atheists, so it went against my principles to belong to a party that increasingly acts as if white Christians are God’s gift to the earth, while everyone else is suspect. If the party ever regains sanity, I may return, but I see no evidence of such a miracle on the horizon.
However, I still believe in financial responsibility, so if I were running things, here’s what I’d do:
First, I’d limit food stamps to inexpensive, healthy foods like whole wheat bread, milk, cheese and vegetables. No pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, candy bars, chips or sugary sodas. If people want to eat junk food, don’t let them do it on the public dime. This will give them an incentive to get off food stamps as soon as they can. In the meantime, they’ll be less likely to need free medical care.
Next, I’d use modern technology to make sure that everyone on welfare and unemployment works. Today people who are blind, deaf and missing limbs are able to do highly productive things. Single parents can still answer the phone and type. Other people can pick up trash, clean buildings, etc. Requiring people on the dole to do menial jobs will give them every incentive to find better-paying jobs they enjoy more. But if they really can’t find work, they can still contribute to society. Why should the government hire janitors and pay for temporary office help, when it’s handing out money to people who can clean, answer phones, file and type?
Then I’d test everyone on the dole for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. Should the public pay for people to smoke, drink and toke? Why should people be allowed to use my tax dollars to party?
I think we should help the poor and disadvantaged. I believe we should help people who have lost their jobs get back on their feet. But we can do so intelligently, in ways that benefit the public whenever we provide public aid, and also in ways that give people receiving public assistance every possible incentive to find employment. We can weed out the people who are unable to find employment from those who prefer to remain freeloaders, by using simple common sense and modern technology.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary,” at www.thehypertexts.com.