Jane Chastain is a Southern California-based broadcaster, author and political commentator. Despite her present emphasis on politics, Jane always will be remembered as the nation's first female TV sportscaster, spending 17 years on the sports beat. Jane blogs at JaneChastain.com. She is a pilot who lives on a private runway.More ↓Less ↑
There are certain words most people consider unacceptable in polite conversation. Most of them have four letters. Thus they are commonly referred to as four-letter words.
Monday night, in the GOP presidential debate in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich used one of those four-letter words. He did not get bleeped. In fact, he got a standing ovation after using it again and again and again. The word was W-O-R-K.
Over the years, the left has demonized those of us who would dare use this word in a polite discussion of poverty and welfare, so much so that most people simply have eliminated it from their vocabulary.
In these difficult economic times, those who work may, in fact, feel guilty.
Furthermore, those who have benefitted from the fruits of their labor are viewed as suspect individuals. Surely, they have done something wrong. They have taken advantage of the poor and downtrodden. They are greedy, uncaring, heartless.
In this GOP debate, the discussion of poverty ultimately led to the fact that black Americans are disproportionately represented in this category.
Then came the seminal moment: Fox’s Juan Williams chided Gingrich for having said that black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. Williams pounced. “You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?”
Gingrich said one of his daughters recently reminded him that her first job, at 13, was a janitor at a church, and she liked earning that money. Gingrich went on to point out that if schools allowed poor kids to work as janitors, those kids would be “a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They’d learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They could work in the front office. They could work in the library. They’d be getting money, which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money.”
Williams went on to suggest that Gingrich’s comments about lack of a work ethic and calling President Obama the “Food Stamp President” were, if fact, “intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities.”
Gingrich’s bottom line was this: “(E)very American of every background has been endowed by their Creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.”
The beauty of the free-market system is that it is not a zero-sum game. The poor in this country are not poor (as class warfare liberals would have them believe) because someone else is rich.
The great War on Poverty created more poverty, largely because it began subsidizing the very things that cause poverty. One of the great laws of government that every citizen should learn is this: The more you subsidize something, the more you get of it.
In this debate, Rick Santorum had previously pointed to a 2009 study done by the left-leaning Brookings Institution which found that poverty can be avoided by doing three simple things: “work, graduate from high school and get married before having children.”
In 1996, Gingrich and Santorum worked to reform welfare by taking the AFDC program, now called TANF, and putting a time limit on it and tying it to job training and work. It dramatically reduced the welfare rolls and the number of children living in poverty.
Unfortunately, due to pressure from liberals, food stamps and roughly 70 other welfare programs spread over more than 13 government agencies were left untouched. Furthermore, this reform program had holes in it big enough to drive a Mack truck through. It wasn’t long before those who were the products of generational poverty – without a strong work ethic – discovered the holes, and the welfare rolls began to rise again.
Currently we are spending some $900 billion a year on welfare programs. That’s four times what it would take to lift every family out of poverty and more than we spend on national defense. It’s the fastest-growing portion of our budget and, if left unchecked, will bankrupt this country.
Uncontrolled government spending destroys jobs that the poor need to have their shot at the American dream. They also need a strong w— ethic. There’s that four-letter word again. No successful welfare program should be without it.