Friday, October 2, 2009

Freedom for the Fishermen

Earlier this week Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg provided us with a look into the state's food stamp program.
Texas isn't coming close to meeting federal requirements to process food stamp applications within a month. Last month, about 38,000 new applicants were left awaiting approval even though the federal deadline had passed. About one in six applications is processed incorrectly.

The state Health and Human Services Commission cites inadequate funding for the delays, and has requested additional money so that it can hire more workers to process applications.

Not surprisingly, many people are up in arms over this. The Chronicle calls it a "state of disgrace":
It's not as if food stamps are a drain on the state's resources. The program is 100 percent federally funded, with Texas obliged to provide half of the administration cost.

All that is left is a callous disregard on the part of state leaders for the several million Texans who have fallen on hard times.

In this recession, the scarcest commodity of all turns out to be compassion.

In typical myopic fashion, the paper claims that food stamps don't cost Texans anything. Who then, is paying the bill? The last I checked, Texans are still required to send their tax dollars to Washington. But since the federal government is writing the check, the Chronicle evades the fact that Texans are in fact paying for this program. Perhaps the paper would like us to believe that the citizens of Michigan, Florida, and Kansas are paying the bill, and somehow that is proper.

But the paper really doesn't care who pays. There are Texans who need state assistance, and that need is all that matters. According to the Chronicle, we have a moral obligation to provide aid, and the cost is irrelevant. Somehow, the paper would like us to believe, it is compassionate to rob the citizens of Michigan, Florida, and Kansas (not to mention Texas) to provide that aid.

If the paper is so concerned about compassion, what about those whose money is forcibly taken? Why are their needs any less important? And what of the businesses who must deal with crippling regulations?

I certainly empathize with those who find themselves in dire circumstances. But their need is not a claim on the property of others. And we certainly will not see the economy improve if government continues to shackle businesses.

I am reminded of an old adage: "Give a man a fish and he will eat today. Teach a man to fish and he will eat everyday." In focusing solely on the immediate problem--the delays in processing food stamp applications--the paper is literally advocating that we give the needy a fish. That might stave off hunger for the moment, but it does nothing for the long-term.

Rather than calling for more state workers to hand out fish, the paper (and anyone else who is truly concerned about the needy) should be calling for more freedom for the fishermen--the businesses that create jobs.

No comments: