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Caroline C. Lewis / Jun. 23, 2017

Welfare: The U.S. Version of the Caste System

Our system incentivizes people to remain poor by staying on welfare and supporting the politicians who further their benefits.

The Indian caste system, which remains one of the oldest forms of socio-economic division, separates people from birth into classes or castes. Dividing people by occupation, the system places everyone, from the priest to the latrine cleaner in separate castes. The caste determines what you do for a living, where you can live and whom you can marry. In other words, the caste system is a predetermined order for your life — a cradle-to-grave blueprint for how you’ll either stay at the top because you were born at the top, or be sentenced to the slums because you were born in the slums.

While there have been some reforms in recent years, the system still remains. According to the BBC, “Some say the caste system would have totally disappeared by now if the fires were not regularly fanned by politicians.” The caste groups tend to vote as a block and politicians use this to their advantage. Sound familiar?

In the United States, we have a quasi-caste system, a welfare system, which incentivizes people to remain poor by staying on welfare and supporting the politicians who further their benefits. Star Parker, a former welfare single mom who worked her way out of the system, later founding Urban Cure, states, “It is no accident that the most loyal Democratic Party supporters are those most dependent on the government.” Democratic politicians essentially trade “free stuff” for votes, which keeps the poor in poverty and the elitist politicians in power. Sadly, many of its recipients have bought into the lie that welfare is good for them, when in reality it’s only good for the politicians who exploit them.

In addition to the $1 trillion spent yearly by federal-, state-, and local government funding of roughly 80 welfare programs, the welfare-caste system incentivizes people to stay poor, rather than encouraging them to seek opportunity, take responsibility for their behavior, and care for their families. While the massive national debt incurred by welfare programs should greatly concern us, our greater concern should be for the victims of these programs. The system rewards broken families, and penalizes in-tact ones. It encourages failure and creates a multigenerational group of people who don’t believe that they can achieve because the system has taught them that “not achieving” is its own achievement. This must change.

As a culture, we must champion the cause of the poor by empowering them to break free from the bondage of poverty. True compassion sees the value and dignity of each human being and helps them to achieve their potential. This occurs not through spending more government money but through incentivizing work, family and responsibility. Gov. Sam Brownback’s reforms in Kansas illustrate just that. Brownback instituted both work requirements and time limits for welfare eligibility. Since then, able-bodied adults on food stamps (without dependents) dropped 75%. Additionally, 60% of those who left welfare found employment within the first year. Their personal incomes increased by 127%. These people found opportunity. They found dignity. Most importantly, they found hope.

The state of Maine also reinstated the work requirement for able-bodied adults who saw their incomes increase by 114% in the first year, as they left welfare for a job. In addition to increasing their income, this good policy helped set free those souls trapped in the hopelessness of poverty, putting them instead on course to live a life of hope and dignity. All Americans should have an equal opportunity to build a life for themselves and their families, like those in Maine and Kansas.

The incredible story of Dr. Ben Carson, recounted in the book “Gifted Hands” and the film of the same name, tells the story of a young boy raised in urban Detroit who ultimately become a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Later, of course, we know that he ran for president and now serves as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. His story exemplifies the power of opportunity, hard work and determination.

As a nation, we must pursue welfare reform that ends the politically created, socially stratifying welfare caste system. We must pursue welfare reform that gives all Americans access to the path of freedom and prosperity. We must remember our shared humanity and reject the caste system with its predetermined order and social stratification. If we truly believe in the value and dignity of the individual, and if we create our policies to encourage responsibility and hard work, we will see our brothers and sisters break free from generational poverty. We will show the poor that America is with them and for them. We will show them that the American Dream of self-sufficiency and self-reliance is not just for some but for all.

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