In Jim Cook's Archive


They dropped the boy off at my house one spring day. His mother had poisoned herself with too much whiskey. She was dead at age 41. The boy had stayed with her bleary-eyed boyfriend until the funeral was over. Now his sisters had asked if my wife and I would take him for a few days. They knew that I had sometimes taken the boy fishing. He had no Dad. His father had molested the boy’s two half-sisters and then skipped town. He had never once called the boy.

The mother had always been on welfare and she’d always been a drinker. She left the boy alone every night while she sat in a bar. At age four and five he would turn all the lights on, afraid to be alone at night. She had a disability and needed crutches to get around. But she could have worked. There were plenty of suitable desk jobs. Instead the government enabled her to drink herself to death. The damage didn’t end there.

Without maternal love none of us would amount to much. The maternal instinct is perhaps the greatest civilizing force. If a woman loves alcohol or drugs more than her children, her kids suffer for it. Often their emotions are stunted, their character weakened and their habits irrational. They emulate the dysfunction see and they learn to be parents unto themselves. At a young age what ails and disturbs them can no longer be fixed.

The boy was eleven when he came to us. None of his relatives wanted him, so he stayed. He had school problems and we soon got to know a series of grade school and junior high teachers. Sometimes he seemed devoid of emotion and couldn’t seem to resist any wrongdoing that might impress a classmate.

A year later I inquired at the welfare department about another child we had helped to get surgery for a heart problem. Without thinking, I mentioned the boy who had come to live with us. They flipped out! They couldn’t believe we had the boy without them knowing about it. They insisted we go through a process to see if we could qualify as foster parents. They inspected our home. I laughed. The boy had come from a hovel into an expensive home but the social worker criticized the lack of a handrail on one stairway. After wrangling awhile they gave us the boy. By that time his constant misbehaving made us unsure that we wanted him.

Another year passed and one day he stole my Suburban and went for a drive. That was the last straw. We investigated special schools and programs for delinquent boys. We found an outward bound program in Montana. We took him to see the place. We liked the school and decided he could spend the year there with thirty other disturbed kids and their counselors. It cost us $30,000 for the year.

After eight months the welfare department found out about it. They said we had no right to send him out of state. We weren’t taking their money so we disagreed. They got a court order and brought him back. They stuck him in a foster home. They took us to court. The judge ruled in our favor. Back went the boy to Montana The school urged us to keep him there one more year. We agreed, but after a few months they called and said he couldn’t stay any longer. He’d worn them out.

They recommended a 30-day program at a hospital in California. It cost $30,000 for the month. We had insurance and in desperation we sent him, After four weeks he came home dressed in leather, several tattoos, earrings and a minor social infection. I wrote the hospital and told them they were running a racket.

He went to live with his sister. They clashed. He moved in with a girl. At age 16 he became a father. He lived off the girlfriend’s AFDC checks. They split up. She had another child with someone else. Then he got another girl pregnant with her second child. This girlfriend bought him a car with her AFDC check. It soon quit running. He needed money to buy a mobile home for his new family. I gave him the down payment. Within a few months they lost the place. He got a job but quit after the first paycheck Another guy moved in with them. After a few months he found them together and moved out.

He called me the other day. The first girlfriend had dropped off their daughter while she went to get something to eat. She’d been gone for three days. Now he was growing tired of baby-sitting and being a Dad. I called around and got him a couple of job interviews. He didn’t make them. He’s nineteen and going nowhere. I expect he’ll soon get a third girl pregnant and share the AFDC money.

You’ll probably never read about the boy in the newspapers. He’s not a hardened criminal like so many products of welfare. But, unless some miracle happens, his life will always be a mess. Unfortunately, the government encourages him and the young girls he cohabitates with to reproduce at a breakneck pace. The more children, the more money. We tend to blame the girls, but the boys also enjoy the financial rewards. Supposedly we do this for the children. But the children benefit the least.

Why does an illegitimate birth or a string of bad luck entitle someone to another person’s earnings? What is the morality behind citizens being forced by the government to give the money they earn to someone who refuses to work? Would you give your money voluntarily to drug addicts? Would you volunteer a part of your salary to teenage AFDC mothers to have another child? What is the moral right that anyone has to another person’s income? The ethical underpinning of this redistribution scheme can only bear rotten fruit.

All too often welfare beneficiaries are people of low character. The media plys us with stories about the deserving, long suffering poor in order to arouse our sympathy. They are depicted as being just like the people next door, but with a run of bad luck. If those writers and commentators could actually live next door to the poor, they would soon quit their sympathetic stories.

Twenty-five years ago, I bought an apartment building in a transitional neighborhood. The Realtor lied about the tenant’s behavior. The renters were of all races, and they shared a common trait. They rarely paid their rent. On the outside it was a nice looking building, but on the inside it was a disaster. The security company I hired to install a buzzer system on the front door quit in disgust. Every time the installer went out to his truck for a part someone stole everything he had left inside.

The tenants wrecked the apartments. They stole whatever they could. They disfigured the walls. They slept on mattresses on the floor and hung sheets over windows. They lied about the rent and skipped out without paying. One evening I tried to collect some overdue rent. Two women were in one apartment with two cute little girls about three and four. Right in front of my eyes the mother gave each child a couple of puffs of marijuana and sent them off towards bed. I was dumbfounded. A few days later a city inspector called me to come pick up the garbage on the boulevard. Instead I called the Realtor and put the place up for sale.

We should rely on our own experience to draw conclusions about the poor. The media and the social workers don’t tell it like it is. All too often these welfare beneficiaries are addicts and delinquents. We give them money and perpetuate their life style. They give us their offspring – a new generation of misfits and criminals. There’s money for abusers and wrongdoers. Incredibly enough, all they need do is have more babies.

Worst of all, the people who promoted these subsidies absolutely refuse to acknowledge the consequences of their handiwork. They insist on giving more to the poor and resist any reduction of subsidies. They advocate government sponsored solutions that are doomed from the start. Expensive counseling, job training, treatment programs and other billion dollar pipe-dreams won’t work. If love and nurturing and good examples are replaced by abuse, indifference and bad examples, all the government programs on earth won’t help these children.

Therein lies the rub. How do we resolve the greatest problem ever created by mankind? How do we overcome fierce and fanatical resistance by the left? How do we take something away from those who count on it without an explosion of crime and rioting? How do we get the politicians to sense the enormity of this problem and to act with resolve? How do we turn this shattered system around?

The best, but most controversial, answer is that we stop welfare now and suffer the consequences now. That unlikely outcome means no more money for social programs. Yes, people would suffer without welfare, but more people suffer with it, including many innocent victims of crime. Temporary help from private charities would increase, but there are no optimal or problem free ways to end these subsidies. But not ending them begs disaster. The quality of our life hinges on stopping the growth of crime and dependency, and shoring up families and sound values. Either we terminate subsidies or they will gradually ruin our society. Welfare means a failing culture. It means the end of law and order, economic stability, and personal safety. Unfortunately, no one even talks about retarding the growth of this runaway social curse.

You can see the blue print for America’s future in the littered inner cities, the stark and lifeless reservations, the junk strewn rural shacks and the gleaming towers of the social welfare bureaucracies and government agencies. It’s no place you will want to be.

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