Back in the 1930s when the government began to replace private charity with welfare programs, a stigma existed on the dole. Not all poor people signed up. Those who enrolled often had character issues. The earliest welfare rolls were made up of people who saw it as a way out of work and responsibility. Yes, some had legitimate hardships, but many others were shirkers who made welfare a permanent lifestyle. The more they could get from the government, the less they had to adhere to the conservative behavioral norms of the times.
Nothing enhances boredom like eliminating the requirement to make your own way in life. So almost from the beginning people who no longer had to work turned to mischief. This coarsening of behavior evolved into today’s hideous social problems affecting welfare recipients including alcoholism, drug addiction, high crime rates, one-parent families and homelessness. This deterioration of the human condition has no parallel in history.
Unfortunately, the politicians and the government failed to see that their policies were hurting people more than helping them. Their social sympathy blinded them to the sorry results of permanently giving people money that they didn’t earn. And so the accepted solution has been to give them more money through one government program after another. By every measure, they have become worse off and are continuing on this downward spiral.
Everyone would like to see these people become productive citizens. No easy solution exists to a problem made worse by good intentions. It requires new insights and fresh thinking. Something has to replace the status quo or society will suffer even more unpleasant consequences. Not the least of these could be the bankruptcy of the welfare state.