All Commentary
Saturday, June 1, 1963

Government Relief

The Honorable Mr. Heiple, a member of the Illinois State Legislature from Washington, Illinois, recently reported his minority view to the Committee on Public Aid, excerpts from which are here presented.

If the problem of government relief were not so important, if it were not so expensive, if it were not so destructive to morality, and if it were not so tragic in its long-term consequences, I could remain silent. But, how can one remain silent in the face of such serious social evils?

The philosophy behind public re­lief is that it helps people who “need” help through no fault of their own and permits them to live a dignified and normal life, there­by facilitating their return to in­dependence as soon as possible.

This philosophy is completely and utterly false for the reason that it fails to take human nature into consideration.

The cold, hard fact of life is that man works out of necessity, not because he likes to work but because he has to. It is the choice of eating or going hungry — the choice of being warm or cold that makes man work.

If the government is going to feed, clothe, provide a home and fire, without the necessity of work, many people won’t work. It is that simple.

It may be true that you would not quit work just to get government relief — but that is because you prefer a higher standard of living than government would pro­vide. If the standard of relief were raised to the level of income you are now earning — or even give you more money than you now earn — how long would you work?

The fact that you would not take the present level of government re­lief in preference to working does not mean that everyone is so in­clined. Unfortunately, there are large groups of people who prefer government relief to working —who do not have the same desires, ambitions, motivations, or stand­ards of creature comfort that you think are essential. Government relief offers everything they want — so why work?

Relief will provide a home with electricity, indoor plumbing, cen­tral heat, all necessary medical at­tention, conventional clothing, con­ventional food, including meat and milk, and a certain amount of en­tertainment and amusement. In Chicago I observed families on re­lief with two televisions, hi-fi rec­ord players, and extension prin­cess telephones. In fact, every home I visited had at least one T.V. and telephone. In a compari­son with other states, the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s “Statistics on Pub­lic Assistance Report” of May 4,1962, discloses that Illinois pays the highest A.D.C. (Aid to fami­lies with needy children) grants, the highest A.D.C.-U (Aid to needy children of unemployed par­ents) grants, and that Chicago pays the highest general assist­ance grants in the United States. The relief grant is so high in large families that often the pay­ments amount to more than the family could earn by working. There are thousands of A.D.C. cases on the rolls where the moth­er has forced the father out of the home in order to get the relief payments. There are people living together out of wedlock rather than get married and lose their relief grant. Nor does anyone doubt that there are countless A.D.C. cases where a girl has de­liberately become pregnant in or­der to obtain a relief check. An A.D.C. check of $150 to $160 per month to a 17-year-old girl is often preferable to a job as a house­keeper at $8 per day.

In short, government relief is a social evil. It is harmful to the re­cipient, encouraging him to live a life of unproductive indolence. It makes him less self-reliant. It de­stroys his pride and self-confi­dence. It removes the necessity for initiative and creative effort. It makes him a lesser personality than he was, and perpetuates his existence in an inferior position.

It has caused the birth of thou­sands of unwanted children. This is the greatest tragedy of all. These children will have two strikes against them to begin with: they will be brought up in an environment oriented to expect something for nothing; and they are by heredity the product of per­sons who do not carry their own weight in society.

In all domesticated animals, the attempt is to improve the strain and develop the best traits. In the human animal, the government re­lief program has the result of en­couraging down-breeding and the production of inferior persons. The average size of family on A.D.C. is 3.3 children, whereas the general average for our soci­ety is 2.4 children. It is a strange paradox that a self-supporting, productive family must limit the number of children they could raise, educate, and support in or­der to have money to pay taxes to provide a relief family a bonus for having another child.

The economic effect of relief is to encourage present consumption, to discourage saving, to hinder capital formation, to slow down the growth rate, and to reduce the living standard.

The answer to the relief prob­lem is simple. It is supplied by the Bible in Thessalonians II, ch. 3:10 wherein it is advised that “those who do not work shall not eat.” In other words, the ideal solution is to do away with government re­lief. This does not mean that peo­ple would starve. It does mean that the great majority of relief recipients would go to work. For those comparative few who are physically unable to work, I am convinced that true charity, the love of man because of the love of God, would meet all needs. The Chinese, the Jews, the Mormons meet these needs now in the face of great competition and on a vol­untary basis. If the government did not pre-empt the field, others would do the same.

I never saw a man starve; you never saw a man starve. I have confidence that the rest of the peo­ple in this state have the same feeling for their fellow man, and that they would not permit any­one to starve either.

Responsibility to oneself and family, coupled with the necessity of working to meet this responsi­bility, are the ingredients for hu­man progress and the development of the individual personality. Gov­ernment relief is a proven failure, a social evil, a destroyer of human personality. The greatest and kindest deed government could perform would be to remove the temptation of something for noth­ing.