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Bring back the poorhouse

Some of you are old enough to remember an admonition from your parents to work hard and save a portion of what you earn so that “you don’t wind up in the poorhouse.” That was a fate worse than death to my father’s generation because it signified abject failure, loss of pride and a complete dependence on welfare, most likely for the remainder of one’s life.

The poorhouse, or more commonly the poor farm, was a place of last resort for those who could not support themselves in the 19th and early 20th century. Residents were required to work, to the extent they were able, in order to provide for their daily needs. Accommodations were sparse, and pleasures were few.

Most of our parents and grandparents of that era didn’t have big houses or drive fancy cars, but they had good-sized savings accounts. Why? When hard times come – and they invariably do – our folks didn’t want to end up in the poorhouse.

These poorhouses began to disappear after the enactment of the Social Security Act in 1935 and completely vanished in the1950s with the exception a few institutions run by churches that emphasized giving one a hand up, not a handout.

However, most of these faith-based institutions have closed because it is hard to compete with a federal government that hands out money, food, health care and a host of other services for doing absolutely nothing.

Saving for a rainy day is out: Living it up with little or no concern for tomorrow is in.

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. workers surveyed reported less that $25,000 in total household savings and investments aside from their homes, and only 13 percent of workers are confident they will have enough money to retire comfortably.

In another survey, only about half of workers and retirees said they could come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need should arise.

Why save? We know that if all our grandiose plans fail to materialize, an aggressive “Big Brother” will take care of us. In fact, many are choosing not to work at all, and others are being lured into dependency by the government and by quasi-charities that get huge government grants for creating more and more dependents.

Last week, Fox News aired a special, “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” that should be required viewing for every American. The star of the show was a 29-year-old musician/surfer name Jason Greenslate. Jason is leading and promoting “The Rat Life” – living off others – so that he can wake up at noon, spend his days on the beach hitting on chicks and his nights drinking and partying with friends.

Jason proudly held up his EBT card, which was designed to look like a credit card to take away the stigma of using food stamps. He walked reporter John Roberts through the ease of obtaining such a card and then took Roberts grocery shopping where he hit the gourmet section and finished off with a lobster.

Jason is no dummy. He attended college and was training to be a recording engineer until he decided that was too much work. He’d rather be a “star,” and if that doesn’t happen, he is perfectly comfortable living off the taxpayers … because he can.

Jason has no intention of holding down a full-time job. Why should he? In 2009, President Obama wiped away most work requirements that were part of the successful 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

Jason is an example of why we need the modern-day equivalent of the poorhouse, where all individuals and families going through hard times and have no resources can go to be cared for and helped to get back on their feet. While there, all able-bodied people would be expected to pull their own weight and share chores. Entertainment would be minimal. One’s free time would be spent on education and job training. Once marketable skills are achieved, an agency would place these people in real jobs.

Those exiting the poorhouse may not have acquired the job of their dreams, but their paycheck is their ticket back to independent living.

Where are we going to get the money to finance these homes and job training and placement centers?

We will have more than enough money if we eliminate the myriad of federal programs that give people cash and free stuff for doing absolutely nothing.

We will have more than enough money if we will eliminate the nation’s “poverty pimps” – those individuals inside and outside of government who make a living by creating a permanent under class.