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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The Old Welfare Question » The Old Welfare Question

The Old Welfare Question

Tom - June 5, 2007

Devyn at Mormon Mentality has a post asking something that gets a fair amount of airtime around the LDS blogs: Married Mormon Graduate Students On Welfare – Is It Right? As seems to happen quite a lot when this issue arises, there are some commenters slinging around some pretty heavy (and silly) condemnations. For some reason all the WordPress blogs, including this one and that one, decided today that I’m a spammer, so I can’t respond to the arguments being made there, so I’ll do it here. I refuse to be silenced by the iron Akismet fist.

The sentences in italics are paraphrases of some of the ideas that have been put forward by various commenters.

Programs like WIC and Medical Assistance were not designed for graduate students who will be making a decent living in a few years. They are for the truly poor.

This is not true. You may wish that the programs were only designed for people who you feel deserve them, but they are designed for the people that qualify for them. That’s how you design a benefits program: by setting the criteria by which people qualify. If the government wanted to exclude people with certain circumstances, it could do so. It could exclude married people seeking advanced degrees. But it doesn’t. If you match the criteria, the program is designed for you.

These programs are only for people who have hard times because of unforseen circumstances. One should not plan on using them.

Again, who the programs are for is determined by who qualifies for them. Maybe you think that there shouldn’t be programs that help graduate students with children, which is fine. Talk to your elected representatives.

It’s not obvious to me that it’s morally wrong for people to plan on using government assistance on their way to greener financial pastures or to not wait to have kids until they can afford them without government assistance.

Before you condemn people who do this, at the very least you should understand what you are asking people who qualify for these programs to do. You want them to not use a resource that’s available to them and to not take that resource into consideration when making family planning decisions. It’s like condemning people who are strapped for cash for accepting Uncle Fred’s offer to help a little with the rent, or condemning people who decide to have kids knowing that that will mean that they’ll have to accept Uncle Fred’s offer. Sure, when it’s Uncle Sam, the offered money comes from taxes, but Joe and Sally Grad Student’s decision to use the resources offered them isn’t going to increase anybody’s taxes.

Joe and Sally’s great offense is that they take advantage of a resource that is available to them. They didn’t ask for it to be available. They didn’t behave foolishly and then go begging for help. The programs were put in place by the community through the democratic process. If you don’t think it should be available to them, fine. Again, talk to your elected community leaders. But don’t condemn them for making rational decisions.

Much of the condemnation of Joe and Sally rests on the premise that it is wrong to take government assistance when it’s not absolutely necessary and not due to bad luck. But not many people really believe this. It’s never absolutely necessary to take government subsidized student loans, for example, but everybody seems to feel OK about taking that handout (yes, it is a handout—the government pays interest so you don’t have to). People could instead work full time and go to school part time and put off child bearing until they’re completely done with education. Or they could skip higher education all together and make a decent living working their way up at Wal-Mart and put off child bearing until they reach management.

Nobody who takes government subsidized student loans has the moral authority to condemn people who decide to have children subsidized by government assistance. If you took a government subsidized loan, you took a handout that you could have done without.

But an educated person is an asset to society. So are children. Especially children who are highly likely to pay a lot of taxes over their lifetime, such as children of graduate and professional students.

But government investment in my education was just smart economics. So is government investment in the bearing of children and their subsequent health care and nutrition.

Church leaders teach that we should be self reliant. Taking government assistance is not self reliance.

Church leaders also teach that we should avoid debt, but there are times when debt is acceptable on the way to better financial circumstances. To my knowledge, Church leaders have been silent of late on the question of taking government assistance on the way to better financial circumstances. But I’d be willing to bet that some General Authorities have received government handouts and that some of their children are currently doing so. I’m not saying that that makes it right. Just that I can’t see them getting on board with condemnation of married grad students taking some government assistance on the way to better financial circumstances.

In the end, I’m agnostic on whether or not married grad students should accept government assistance if they don’t absolutely have to, or when people should have children. But I’m not agnostic on whether or not we should condemn people for the decisions they make in regards to these issues: we shouldn’t.

122 Comments »

  1. How about this question: Is it wrong for Married Mormon Graduate students to fudge on the facts so they can get public assistance?

    Is it hypocritical to condemn and sneer with contempt at the poor for using the same available resources that the middle class use?

    Comment by Ann — June 5, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  2. Thank you Tom. I’d comment on this, but honestly, I feel a little too steamed about the way the Mormon Mentality thread has shaped up. Maybe after I cool off a bit…

    Comment by Seth R. — June 5, 2007 @ 9:33 pm

  3. This issue was discussed at length right here on Nine-Moons two and a half years ago here
    I actually am poor so I’m not sure what my opinion is on it all.

    Comment by Bret — June 5, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  4. Rusty,

    If the iron Akismet fist at Mormon Mentality ever does that to you again, send me an email. I can fix it – at least over there. Normally Akismet works pretty well – but every now and then it will hold up legit comments. It’s happened to me too.

    Comment by danithew — June 6, 2007 @ 4:45 am

  5. Whoops – I guess it was Tom, not Rusty.

    I found the comment that got held up and “freed” it. If there was more than one, let me know. I suspect that clearing this up with Akismet on one blog can help clear it up on others WordPress/Akismet blogs as well.

    Comment by danithew — June 6, 2007 @ 4:48 am

  6. I was just skimming the MM post and laughing, just having returned from the park for my boys’ free lunch provided by the city of Helsinki, to which everyone goes, including every LDS kid in the city. Why? Because, as Tom says, we qualify.

    We have two ward members called as social services advisors (through the RS & EQ) to help any member having trouble sorting out their benefits. It’s very useful. I think European ideas about this differ signficantly from American, even within the church.

    Comment by Norbert — June 6, 2007 @ 4:58 am

  7. Ann: How about this question: Is it wrong for Married Mormon Graduate students to fudge on the facts so they can get public assistance?

    Is it hypocritical to condemn and sneer with contempt at the poor for using the same available resources that the middle class use?

    Yes and yes. Without question.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 5:26 am

  8. Tom,

    I agree that we should not condemn others for their decisions on this issue. Thank you for reminding us of that. I hope many people can instead simply try to evaluate the situation and make their own decisions based on their own circumstances and best judgment.

    My husband and I have seen this up-close, over and over again. As grad students ourselves, we originally resisted any and all forms of government subsidies and were probably a little too judgmental of those who freely took all they could get. But here’s the main reason why: there were so many abuses of the system. As Ann mentioned in comment #1, just because government programs are available to us, does that mean we should fudge on our forms and find all possible loopholes in order to qualify for maximum assistance? It seems to fit with gospel principles of self-reliance to only take what you need; however, this is not the case for many students we know and are friends with.

    What may be worse is that many (and I mean most, from what we have observed) couples do NOT use this government aid to simply “get by” — they instead are on welfare in order to be able to afford not only steak for dinner, but their big-screen plasma TVs and new Escalades. I am not kidding. I am not even exaggerating. To me, this is a little sketchy, don’t you think?

    I admit that my husband and I have had to access a portion of the government assistance available to us while we’ve been in grad school, but we’ve done all we could to only take what we needed and to get off the program quickly so others could also use the funding.

    I have learned a lot over the years since I wrote that post Bret referred to, and #1 is the point you make, Tom: we shouldn’t condemn others for their actions. While this used to be a hot issue that bothered me quite a bit, I have largely put it out of my mind and been satisfied to assume other couples are simply doing the best they can, making the best choices for themselves. But I can’t deny the points I’ve made here on the sickening abuses that are rampant among LDS grad students taking welfare assistance across the country.

    Comment by Amy — June 6, 2007 @ 5:35 am

  9. Norbert: I think European ideas about this differ signficantly from American, even within the church.

    I\’m sure that\’s true. In one of my comments that made it through over there I wondered if the unabashed judgmentalism and high horse riding that surfaces around these discussions is the hardcore conservative Republican strain of Mountain West Mormonism coming through. Usually non-Republicans bristle at being called Republicans, but nobody protested, so maybe it\’s true.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 5:44 am

  10. I don’t know. If abiding the written regulations is the only standard of conduct, then those regulations get oppressive. A little social coercion may be a happier thing for all concerned. For a half century, conservatives have predicted that extensive welfare would destroy the Scandanavian nations, but they keep plugging along. It may be that their system is possible for them due to a social cohesion that induces people to pull their weight even if they could get away with not doing so.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 6, 2007 @ 5:48 am

  11. Amy,
    I’m fully on board with criticizing people for abusing the system. I don’t even mind people being of the opinion that it’s wrong to take assistance when it’s not absolutely needed. Those are respectable positions and, for the most part, I don’t have strong feelings either way. I doubt that many people really believe that it’s wrong to take assistance when it’s not absolutely needed, but there are some people who really do make big sacrifices in order to not accept or not need to accept Uncle Sam’s offer. Hat’s off to them for living according to their values.

    I think I would be annoyed by people receiving government assistance so they could drive an Escalade. I won’t condemn them for using a resource that’s available to them if they legitimately qualify, but I have no idea how it would be possible for someone who legitimately qualifies for government assistance to afford something like that. If this does happen, maybe the criteria need to be adjusted.

    My strongest objections are to the commenters at MM condemning people who have kids knowing that they will need some government assistance as shockingly irresponsible and as sponges. I object strongly to that.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 6:01 am

  12. John,
    I think it’s reasonable to question whether or not one should take advantage of the resources available to them if they’re not absolutely needed. I’m not saying people should take everything they qualify for. Just that people that do so or who take that available resource into account when they make family planning decisions don’t deserve the condemnation they tend to get when the subject comes up.

    How much assistance should be available is an important debate to have. It seems to me that if you offer too much assistance, the excessive taxes may burden the economy so much that it actually harms the poor and the working class. I don’t know if we’re past the “too much” point, or if Europe is, but that point has to exist.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 6:16 am

  13. It would be interesting if all the parties involved in this (and the MM) conversation expressed their own personal experience with these programs and see how they line up with their opinions on the matter. My sister used to condemn those who took advantage of the programs and now that she’s had to take advantage of it she’s adjusted her thinking (and there’s nothing wrong with this, through experience we gain understanding). From what I understand Tom is in graduate school and has three children, he could very well be in a position to have to take advantage of these programs. It’s very likely that Devyn (the author of the MM post) got through school without having to take advantage of the programs so his lense is a shade of a different color.

    I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that I bet those that took advantage of the programs are more likely to see it as a good thing and those that didn’t take advantage of it are more likely to see it as a bad thing. Which seems obvious, I guess.

    My opinion (as someone who did grad school without government help)? Whatever. I don’t really care what others do. If they fudge on their papers to qualify, that’s their issue, not mine. I’m not them or their bishop so I’m just going to hope that they do their home teaching and are willing to speak on Sunday.

    Comment by Rusty — June 6, 2007 @ 7:08 am

  14. In the end, I’m agnostic on whether or not married grad students should accept government assistance if they don’t absolutely have to, or when people should have children. But I’m not agnostic on whether or not we should condemn people for the decisions they make in regards to these issues: we shouldn’t.

    Tom, very well put.

    Comment by BTD Greg — June 6, 2007 @ 7:33 am

  15. I was disappointed by the way things went on that thread at Mormon Mentality too.

    There are more considerations to take into account when planning your family than money. Taking social assistance so you can drive the fancy car is one thing; taking social assistance so you can have your family at the time that you feel right is another thing entirely. There are fertility issues to think of. There’s health issues to think of — pregnancy is hard on your body and that doesn’t exactly improve with age. For that matter, who wants to have to put their kids through university at the same time they’re considering retirement?

    Basically, when it comes down to it, we have no business judging someone’s righteousness by when they have their family. It’s not our business. Does anyone see anything ironic about this? All the people these days who complain about being pressured to have their families in the way the church or community approves of then turn around and try to put pressure on other people to have families in the way they approve of?

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — June 6, 2007 @ 7:36 am

  16. OK Rusty, I’ll bite.

    I tried to do grad school with only student loans (a handout in itself), and for the first two years I made it happen. I paid for insurance for the wife and kids with loans and paid for two births with credit cards. Then my loving University nearly doubled the health insurance premiums for spouses and children on the student health plan so that they could save $11 (!) per year on premiums for students. The stress was too much for me and my family, so I sought relief through WIC and Medical Assistance. My wife went two years without any health insurance (foolish, I know), during which she had a major health crisis that we luckily were able to deal with without incurring disastrous bills. My children are still on the State Children’s Health Care Program and my wife was on that plan during her last pregnancy.

    So a cynic could say that my argument that our attitude toward people who take government assistance should be charitable and understanding is self serving. To which I would say, “Whatever. Deal with the arguments.”

    As an attempt to demonstrate that this isn’t entirely self serving, let me tell you my attitude toward people who take advantage of race- and gender-based Affirmative Action programs. I hate race- and gender- based Affirmative Action programs. Hate. I think they are an affront to justice and they violate on a large scale the individual rights of Americans (which position could also be seen as self-serving; for my reply see above). But I don’t condemn individuals, even the privileged individuals that don’t need or deserve any extra help, who take advantage of race- and gender- based affirmative action programs for the same reasons I don’t think we should condemn people who take advantage of government assistance when they qualify. I find it hard to ask someone whose future hangs in the balance to not take advantage of resources available to them. Life is hard, even for the relatively privileged among us.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 7:56 am

  17. (Note: for the record, I haven’t read the MM post…)

    I think this issue hearkens back to the more rudimentary question of what is (or is not) excessive. Tom’s Wal-Mart point was a good one. Who among us isn’t living beyond our means? How we define living beyond our means? Surely, I could have gotten a job directly out of high school, worked hard, never spent money on anything superfluous (e.g. CDs, movies, fast food), and by now I would have had (maybe) a decent savings account. I had a friend from high school that did this, working the graveyard shift on some factory assembly line. After ten years of doing that, one might be inclined to call him a deadbeat, but my understanding is he’s got thousands upon thousands of dollars in the bank. Maybe if I had done something similar, my wife, my son, and I would be in a decent house by now. But that’s not the route I took. Instead, I’m in grad school, and I’m getting incredibly in debt so I can realize my dream of (gasp!) being a philosopher.

    Obviously, I won’t have a doctor or a lawyer’s salary when all is said and done. I’ll be a professor, if all goes according to plan. The debt I’m accruing will certainly outweigh my salary at that point, and perhaps that is some really bad planning on my part. But all I know is that if I did something “sensible,” even if that included grad school (but for something “respectable” like, say, an MBA) I’d be miserable! And that’s certainly not good for my family. But does that mean I’m just spoiled? Unwilling to sacrifice my interests for the sake of financial modesty? I don’t know. Financially, I think I’m sacrificing more because it’s likely to be pretty darn hard later on.

    So yes, every time I eat an Oreo or rent a video, I’m pretty much doing it on borrowed tax money. (Maybe loans are a different story, but some of my loan money is government subsidized.) I just think that if we get too excessive, we’ll have to condemn ANY Oreo-eating and video renting as unnecessarily taking food out of the mouths of starving people. So, where do we draw the line? I know of nowhere else other than my conscience, and I trust that if I have a sincere, thirsting-after-righteousness type of heart, I’ll be okay. And if I’m not okay, I’ll come to realize that. I think my aspirations are noble. In my mind, it seems harder to justify buying a TV than accepting “free” money for school. The TV seems more luxurious and unnecessary, but I definitely own a TV. Same with a cell phone, or a computer, or a digital camera, or name brand frozen waffles. So yes, I guess this issue becomes more difficult when those two concerns are combined — not just people living beyond their means generally and not just people living off of government handouts when it’s not absolutely necessary, but when people are doing both at the same time. By raising this issue, however, we are forced to more closely examine what it means to live beyond one’s means in the first place.

    Comment by Ben — June 6, 2007 @ 8:03 am

  18. I always find it interesting when someone admits to being judgmental and then insists on remaining so. What I hear is, “Yes, I’m being uncharitable. And I’m going to continue being uncharitable!”

    But maybe it’s uncharitable of me to say so.

    Comment by Susan M — June 6, 2007 @ 8:32 am

  19. Yeah, it’s weird that they don’t get that it’s a big deal to be called self-righteous, judgmental, and unkind. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t comment there because some of that stuff gets me fired up.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 8:44 am

  20. Well, my take on this is that I have no problem with grad students (even future dentists and attorneys) getting government benefits such as WIC, Medicaid, and even Food Stamps. None whatsoever.

    I consider it an investment in a healthy society, same as providing a nice interstate road system or subsidizing federal student loans. I’m willing to devote tax dollars toward that. And I’m willing to vote for politicians who will create that kind of a taxing scheme. I believe the benefits we reap from making this available will far outweigh the costs.

    Furthermore, I think it’s wonderful that government provides resources for young couples to have children earlier, and raise them properly rather than shunting them off on daycare. I feel this is a great way to combat the declining birthrate, and place the family back in the center of our society.

    I also don’t have a problem if a few individuals aren’t as smart with their money as they should be. I’m willing to cover them as well, with the knowledge that the program will cover far more of the deserving right along with the few “undeserving” (whatever that means).

    People on government benefits do not typically live that well at all. That alone is incentive enough to work to get off welfare and stand on your own two feet for the vast majority of recipients. Those isolated incidents of people making no effort to get off welfare are typically those who, due to upbringing and circumstance have given up hope on a better life. They have my pity and are welcome to continue receiving benefits as long as they need them.

    This is simply my vision of what it means to live in a Christian society that supports and encourages the family.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 6, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  21. Thanks Seth R.
    I appreciate your comment, and thank you for your well thought response.

    Comment by Jay S — June 6, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  22. I think what’s being missed is that there are a whole slew of circumstances under which someone can become unable to provide for their families, especially while they are young and in school. Sometimes it’s through carelessness, but sometimes it’s through external circumstances outside one’s control. Sometimes it’s a combination of factors.

    The self-righteousness really reeks of Old Fogeyism–”I sucked it up and didn’t have kids during my prestigious law school training and now me and my spouse pull in a cool quarter mil. a year, so we can afford to procreate! Not like these other ne’er-do-wells who are such a strain on my tax burden! It worked for me, why can’t it work for them?”

    I agree that our own circumstances inform our opinions on this topic. I chose to attend a very expensive private law school when I was a young, poor married college student. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for it–my parents didn’t have any money to contribute, and I wasn’t going to ask them to anyway. We had been married a few years and had decided to put off having children for a while. My wife was going to work while I attended school to help support us, then maybe attend some graduate school herself. Since she was going to be working, we didn’t enroll her in student insurance, because to do so I would have to increase my student loans. We figured she’d get benefits with her job. She was still temping when our first child announced her arrival in our first year of law school. It freaked us both out and caused tons of stress. We felt a lot of shame and embarrassment about the situation, and went to the local social services department to seek assistance. In the end, we didn’t follow through with the WIC we could have received. I don’t remember why exactly. We figured out how to make it work, in part by requesting additional student loans. I’m not sure that was the best decision. The WIC would have actually helped, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who uses the program. Heck, even for Republicans this is probably the last entitlement program that would ever be cut.

    In the end, it worked out okay for us. I didn’t have daughter number two until I got my law firm job. I came to really appreciate the time I was able to spend with my oldest child while she was an infant. (I worked my 2L and 3L schedules so that I could be home on days when my wife worked part time. I had a lot more free time in law school than I ever had after I started my career.) WIC probably wouldn’t have made that big of a difference, but I feel good about the program being there for those who need it, including grad students who find themselves in the position my wife and I were in.

    Comment by BTD Greg — June 6, 2007 @ 10:02 am

  23. MM isn’t taking my comments today. It’s just as well. That post started with a serious question there, but a couple of over-the-top commenters sound like caricatures intended to drive us all to liberal positions; they were having that effect on me at least. The one called “lynnie” says this time that she has “no child in site.” Last month on the minivan post, she had “one child and a Volvo,” and she and “Jolly Julliet” were bantering about how fashionable they are. Smells like Banner of Heaven.

    On serious matters, I’ve read too much Heber J. Grant and Ezra Taft Benson to be completely comfortable with graduate students using government assistence for the poor, but I don’t see that as a reason to put off children. The option Pres. Benson preferred is for young fathers to take time out from school as needed to work to support their families. (My situation, Rusty, is that I was able to get a PhD and two sons without loans or WIC-type aid. The Office of Naval Research supported my graduate work. Out of their grants, I received a stipend that we lived on in modest comfort. It worked out well; we were fortunate.)

    I can see Seth’s point. Daniel Boone died a long time ago, and this system of financial entanglement with the government is the one we have now. It irritates me every year that my small children have Social Security numbers that I enter on the 1040. If I had any principles to back my irritation, I would just forego the dependent deductions and child tax credits, but that would cost thousands of dollars. I’m easily bought.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 6, 2007 @ 10:28 am

  24. I largely agree with the concept that there is a societal interest in offering WIC and medicaid to young married college students for the following reasons.

    1. its temporary. They are in college they will get a job after graduation

    2. Kids need food and healthcare

    3. I have never seen a young student family who relied on public assistance stay on it for an extended period of time.

    4. Young marrieds have children wether by intent or accident.

    5. Its a wise investment.

    6. Never heard a GA go off and rip into the married students for this in conference. I have heard that SP’s at BYU do occassionally though.

    7. Birthrate issues. 20′s is physically the best time for Women to have children.

    Comment by bbell — June 6, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  25. “MM isn’t taking my comments today. It’s just as well.”

    New comments are showing up for me. Also Jolly (sic) Juliett and others (but not lynnie yet, I don’t think) are denying that they are fake.

    At least with Banner of Heaven, the participants took great care to be consistent.

    Comment by BTD Greg — June 6, 2007 @ 11:46 am

  26. 1000 points to anyone who can go to that thread and expose Jolly Juliet and lynnie as frauds.

    John and I are in the same Akismet spirit prison, apparently. (I had to de-spam a comment made by John here earlier today.)

    I hope that those aren\’t real Mormons. They\’re an embarassment.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  27. I haven’t seen DKL comment on that thread yet…

    Comment by Seth R. — June 6, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

  28. Ah, this thread is like a breath of fresh air….

    Comment by Ben There — June 6, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

  29. I’ll pose here the same question I posed at MM, which seems to have gotten lost in the firworks:

    Does it matter whether we’re talking about WIC and food stamps, which really are available to all who qualify, or subsidized housing, for which there is often (always?) a waiting list? Accepting WIC or food stamps doesn’t harm anyone else (except, I suppose, taxpayers generally, but isn’t that true of literally all government services?). But accepting subsidized housing may.

    Comment by JrL — June 6, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  30. At my final interview, my mission president told me to not put off kids to finish college. We’ve also been counseled to stay out of debt.

    So, you tell me, how can a married college student obey this counsel without Medicaid to pay for the children and the Pell Grant to get me through school?

    If I get a full-time job, one with ample benefits, how can I go to school? Full-time job means part-time school, which means a greater expense and a much longer time before graduation.

    I am finally graduated with Master’s Degree and am staring down the barrel of a gun marked ‘financial independance.” I guarantee you that I would not be in this position without Medicaid and Pell Grant. Oh, and I have been married with kids throughout the whole adventure.

    Comment by John Cline — June 6, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  31. JrL,
    I would say that would change the calculations. I would still hesitate to condemn someone who legitimately qualifies for subsidized housing for taking advantage of what’s offered them, but I personally think one should be more hesitant to take advantage of subsidized housing knowing that it is a zero sum scenario.

    Comment by Tom — June 6, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

  32. No. 30.

    Perhaps your mission president was mistaken or you’ve misinterpreted what he meant. I seriously doubt he counseled you to go home, get your wife pregnant and get on welfare. Maybe he did, I don’t know. Once during my mission I was told by a GA to head to KFC for lunch on a Sunday. (There was a mix up and way too many people showed up at the mission home for lunch after a stake conference.) Does that mean it’s okay for me to eat out every Sunday? I would much rather swing by the local buffet with all of the Baptists on my way home from church than do all of the work and clean up that our Sunday meals usually require. I somehow doubt that is what the GA had in mind. Our collective ox was in the mire and collectively we lacked the faith to have another fish and loaves miracle, so it was off to KFC complete with white shirts and name tags.

    Comment by rb — June 6, 2007 @ 7:13 pm

  33. rb, I don’t think your example is apt, and I think you’re dissing some things that are pretty strong in our culture (certainly stronger than occassional, ox-in-the-mire Sunday restaurant patronage).

    I’ve heard the “don’t delay children” thing quite a bit, including (IIRC) in General Conference. I’ve also heard many people emphasize the importance of getting all the education you need (this may be a more recent development) to succeed in your career. I don’t remember if it was explicit or implicit that it might require quite a bit of education to provide a lifestyle for your family and still have your wife stay home and raise the children that you didn’t delay having. There’s also a very strong guidance to avoid debt, although education is usually mentioned as one of the permissible reasons to take debt, so that might mitigate the scenario a bit.

    I always scratch my head about how much of this is doctrinal and how much is cultural, and I am agnostic about how much of it really affects the salvation of Church members. But I can certainly see how people could be confused about what decisions to make, and I would never condemn someone either way, given how unclear the guidance is.

    Another important facet of this discussion is that I think the WIC-utilizing grad students go to school and have children thinking, “Oh, I’ll just go on food stamps! Everything will be hunky dory!” Rather, the decision to use WIC or other government programs is made when the students look at their situation and try to figure out how they are going to get by.

    Comment by BTD Greg — June 7, 2007 @ 8:36 am

  34. Oops. Meant to say “dismissing,” not “dissing.”

    …yo.

    Comment by BTD Greg — June 7, 2007 @ 8:36 am

  35. I agree. I seriously doubt many of these people are planning on government assistance. In my experience, they hear it via word of mouth.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 7, 2007 @ 8:58 am

  36. 35 Seth,

    I think this is an accurate statement. A few years ago, for the brief time we were on it, we never planned to use WIC, had always assumed it was a poor person’s handout. But when we had a premature infant that required extensive medical care and our grocery budget was down to $50 a month so we could afford to pay all the medical bills, we were told by some members of our ward to check into WIC. And sure enough, WIC is a working man’s (and working woman’s) program. It is not for the “poor”, nor is it a handout. A family with 2 children can be making almost $40,000 and be eligible for WIC. WIC provides nutrition education and counseling and vouchers for healthy foods that meet specific nutrition needs. And believe me, a nursing mother with a premature infant is going to have nutrition needs that need to be met, and which may need some supplementing of that $50 monthly grocery budget to make sure Mom and Baby have adequate nutrition. I could eat ramen noodles and mac and cheese every night and probably be fine; a nursing mom cannot.

    We were already living in a small apartment with an old beater used car (not because we were poor, but because we just chose to be frugal). We were not eligible for CHIP, too “rich” for that, and our insurance had high deductibles and copays. I suppose we could have ignored the medical bills related to our child’s premature birth and let those get sent to collections (forever destroying our financial credit rating), or we could could choose to accept WIC.

    OTOH, so many people PLAN to use government-subsidized student loans to go to college that would otherwise be beyond their means.

    And like you, and as I have been arguing over at MM, there is no moral difference between someone who plans to use WIC or food stamps, and someone who plans to use government-subsidized student loans instead of saving their own money to go to school. If someone should have to save money and wait to have children (tick tock, says the biological clock), why should not they have to wait to save money to go to college, which is also entirely optional, and which you can do at any time in your life.

    That said, I am presently a student, working full time, with several children. We live fine on one income, my wife is a SAHM, though she has worked on occasion when we needed a bit of extra cash. I don’t begrudge anyone who is trying to make ends meet while in school and who has a family, and I don’t think they are irresponsible, either. Sure you could wait until you are 40 to have children (only one or two, though, which is below the fertility level necessary to ensure society continues to exist, but that is beside the point), but do you really want to be attending your children’s college graduation in a wheelchair?

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 9:22 am

  37. re: 33

    Fair points.

    I would, however, welcome a sabbath observance interpretation that provided for restaurant patronage on Sundays.

    How people get through school and when they have children does not matter in the least to me. God bless them in their decisions. It’s not for me to second guess. I will easily concede that perhaps I lacked faith that something/someone would provide if my wife and I had children sooner than we did. At that time, I trusted completely in the arm of man and my ability to sign promissory notes. The issue of welfare for grad students is new to me. In retrospect, I can’t really say if I would have gone the welfare route. To be sure, there were some anxious months and a lot of worry about money and food and medical care during law school. Honestly, it never entered my mind to go to the welfare office for help.

    To me, welfare was for poor people who had made bad decisions or were the victim of unfortunate circumstances. I saw it every time I did my home teaching, which, regrettably, was not every month but still better than average in my ward. My wife and I were very poor, but we didn’t think of ourselves as “welfare” poor. After all, I had freely chosen my path and had bright hopes for the future. I can’t honestly say that if someone had explained to me that I qualified and it was pretty easy to get benefits what I would have done. I didn’t associate myself or my circumstances with people on welfare, at least as I experienced welfare vis-a-vis home teaching and other service projects in the projects. Perhaps I would have signed up, perhaps not. I don’t know.

    That being said, I have serious reservations about people, grad students or not, who make a conscious decision to have children counting on the welfare system to support them. Ultimately, I think the children bear the brunt of the decision through poor diet, medical care and attention which, in extreme and hopefully limited circumstances, will follow them the rest of their lives. These kids grow up and then become a burden to the rest of us. But that is another topic all together.

    More importantly, though, I’m looking for a guilt free way to enjoy the Sunday buffets with my meighbors, so me and my family don’t look like uptight stiffs on Sunday and can enjoy a decent meal w/o having to clean up.

    Comment by rb — June 7, 2007 @ 10:31 am

  38. I am telling the WIC naysayers to back off.

    Stories of Audi’s and volvos and owning homes are a non-starter. I have never seen it. Typically the grad students live in crummy apartments and drive beaters. They live very frugally and are grateful for the occassional money sent from parents or provided by the Bishops storehouse.

    WIC happens because of circumstances. Its a short timeline and the students graduate and make a positive contribution to society.

    So relax on this topic.

    Comment by bbell — June 7, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  39. rb,

    You can eat quite well and nutritiously on Food Stamps. But you gotta be a smart shopper about it. It also depends on what state you live in. As for cars, in our state you can’t have a nice car and still qualify for assistance.

    Am I right in saying that a major vibe I’m getting here is: I don’t agree with going on welfare because I don’t want to be one of “them icky welfare people?”

    That seems more pride-driven than anything else.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 7, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  40. A major vibe that I’m getting is that the welfare issue is just a convenient club for whacking the idea of young families by people who don’t much like young families whether they’re using welfare or not.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 7, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

  41. #40,

    Me to……

    Comment by bbell — June 7, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  42. 39 Seth,

    You make a good point. Most government benefits, aside from WIC and Lifeline phone service, take assets into account. If you have a nice car, you do not qualify. If you have more than a few hundred bucks in your checking or savings accounts, you do not qualify. Food stamps, heating assistance, child care assistance, and other types of “cash” assistance look very closely at your assets, and do extensive background checks to make sure you’re not fibbing.

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  43. RE: 39

    My experience with welfare is limited to home teaching and pro bono legal work. In both circumstances, the people I’ve interacted with made really bad decisions which they could not afford including, but not limited to, having children. Moreover, to a person these people have had little, if any, education including secondary, i.e. high school. Additionally, there were many issues related to criminal activity which made their future less bright. In short, they did not possess many basic life skills and the government has stepped in to provide some of the basics since they are, for whatever reason, incapable of providing the basics for themselves. That is the picture in my mind of people on welfare, at least in the “projects” or Section 8 housing if you will, that is my welfare experience. When I think welfare hand out, I’m reminded of my experiences, which continue, with these type of people-the truly needy.

    I’m well aware there are multiple forms of welfare including corporate welfare. We’re not discussing those here. We’re discussing smart people in complete control of their lives with very bright futures who decide on a course of action that will lead them to the welfare office, all in the name of religion. (Don’t the polygamists use a smilar tactic to support their families?)

    Pay close attention here, I don’t think these are bad people, they simply made bad decisions. To me there is a temporal gulf between people on welfare and my situation, and boy am I glad for that. So, yes I associate welfare benefits with people who are in bad circumstances, often as a consequence of their own behavior, and who have limited skills, and difficult futures. These people are scraping by with often dismal future prospects. Talk about life being a grind-it sure is for these people. LDS grad school students don’t immediately leap to mind when think about welfare cases. How in the world is that so surprising to you, or anyone? Even in my humble grad school days, I saw a clear distinction between my circumstances and them, as far as temporal subsistence. When I compared my situation to theirs, temporally, it never occurred to me that I might be eligible for welfare. In fact, for the Christmases in law school, my wife and I bought presents for some of the welfare children whom I home taught. Of course to you, that is probably nothing more than condescending or nobless olige.

    Yes, I don’t want to be on welfare. What’s wrong with that? Excpet for some LDS grad students, I don’t think many people on welfare want to be on welfare. Is that so surprising? Yes, many people on welfare are there as a consequence of calculated decision(s) they made. You cannot seriously argue with that. Is it prideful to want to avoid being on welfare? Then I’m guilty as charged. Please find it in your Christian heart to forgive my sinfulness.

    Comment by rb — June 7, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

  44. Rb – it is not prideful to want to avoid being on welfare. It is prideful to condemn others for doing so without knowing their circumstances, and it is prideful to deprive your family of food unneccessarily (not that this is your situation).

    Comment by Jay S — June 7, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

  45. 40: Like, for example, by women who regret that they waited until their late 30s to have children, and will now never have the family they hoped to, because they didn’t have children younger? Yep, I know a few of those people personally, and they are determined to make any young family they know feel badly about being a young family.

    I am grateful that my wife and I have had all the children we are having, and I am in my early 30s and she is only almost 30. Some may look down on us, but considering I don’t really care much about the opinions of self-righteous holier-than-thous, I don’t care.

    Let them have to be pushed to their children’s college graduation in wheelchairs. Let them miss out on the joys of grandchildren because by the time they have grandchildren they’ll be eating from a straw and wearing Depends, only able to get out of bed for minutes at a time. I on the other hand will be youthful and able to enjoy my grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, if our young family trend carries over to the next generation.

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

  46. 40: Like, for example, by bitter 40-something (or older) women who regret that they waited until their late 30s to have children, and will now never have the family they hoped to, because they didn’t have children younger? Yep, I know a few of those people personally, and they are determined to make any young family they know feel badly about being a young family.

    I am grateful that my wife and I have had all the children we are having, and I am in my early 30s and she is only almost 30. Some may look down on us, but considering I don’t really care much about the opinions of self-righteous holier-than-thous, I don’t care.

    Let them have to be pushed to their children’s college graduation in wheelchairs. Let them miss out on the joys of grandchildren because by the time they have grandchildren they’ll be eating from a straw and wearing Depends, only able to get out of bed for minutes at a time. I on the other hand will be youthful and able to enjoy my grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, if our young family trend carries over to the next generation.

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

  47. rb,

    What if a young couple is still in undergrad, and receives a spiritual confirmation that they should have a child?

    Then they go to grad school, and despite being insanely frugal, they find expenses tight and apply for available government benefits.

    Is that valid to you?

    Comment by Seth R. — June 7, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  48. 47 Seth:

    Clearly, they should tell the Spirit to be responsible and stop sponging! ;)

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  49. Ben:

    Sounds like you and I are cut from the same demographic cloth. My wife turns 30 this year, we have four children, and I am in my early 30s…

    I do look forward to being a “young” grandfather!

    Comment by Jordan — June 7, 2007 @ 4:09 pm

  50. Ben There, as a 35-year-old woman who has been trying to have children for a number of years now, may I just say, ouch. A little compassion for those of us who will be extremely grateful if we ever get the chance to be the miserable old grandparents might be in order.

    I wholeheartedly agree that looking down on young families, whether they’re on welfare or not, is wrong and unfair, and in my experience it tends to be a matter of class snobbery (the working class reproduces young, the upper-middle class waits). But it cuts both ways. Please don’t look down on those of us trying to keep a hope that we might still have an “old” family alive.

    Comment by Eve — June 7, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  51. But Eve, you will still be very young in spirit no matter how old you are when your children are born. Children do that to ya! :)

    Besides, most people don’t fit the bed-ridden, “depends” stereotype lampooned by Ben (I am sure he was just being hyperbolic for rhetorical effect, not criticizing…)

    Comment by Jordan — June 7, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  52. Amen, Jordan :)

    I spent so much valuable time with my grandparents and great-grandparents, it is a shame for any child to not have this opportunity. I also like that my children get to spend lots of time with their grandparents and great-grandparents, which they certainly would not get to do if I waited till I was 40 instead of 23 to have children!

    I do have four children, as you do, and am glad to be able to keep up with them. I don’t think I could keep up with teenagers when I am 60!

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 4:35 pm

  53. 50

    Dear Eve,

    I am so sorry that you got that impression from my post. I never intended it that way at all. In fact, I did mention I was talking about bitter 40-somethings who CHOSE to wait, but regretted it now. Clearly that does not apply to you, and I am sorry that I was not more clear.

    As Jordan mentions, yes, my post was tinged with a bit of hyperbole. I feel sadly and badly that I may have been reckless with that bit of hyperbolic sarcasm, and in doing so, that I offended you. Please forgive me.

    Eve, may you be blessed with all the children you ever hope to have. I understand the difficulty in having children, for we have family members in your spot. And it is no doubt heart-breaking to not be able to have children when you sooooo want them. But this clearly differentiates you from the snobbish types who look down on young families.

    Blessings to you and your family, Eve.

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 4:47 pm

  54. Ben There,

    I would extend the same sympathy to the “bitter 40-somethings” as well as the nice ones like Eve.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 7, 2007 @ 4:49 pm

  55. Ben There, I really apologize if I overreacted. I’m a little hypersensitive on the topic, but I really appreciate your very kind words.

    Jordan, my impression has been that children can also make you older and give you gray hair… ;)

    Comment by Eve — June 7, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  56. 54 Seth,

    You are right, that in order to best emulate Christ, I ought to offer sympathy to the bitter 40-somethings. Does feeling sorry for them that they are bitter count? Does feeling sympathy toward them that they cannot have the joy in their lives that they hoped for? Because I do feel that sort of sympathy for them.

    I must confess that I find it hard, in my carnal self, to feel a whole lot of sympathy for those who put me down and call me reckless and irresponsible for having children while young, instead of waiting till I have a doctorate and a six-figure salary to start my family, because I think those people may have their priorities askew.

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

  57. 55 Eve,

    I meant every word of it. We had trouble conceiving one of our children and suffered several miscarriages, and cried and prayed and prayed and cried more. For a little while, my wife practically burst in tears anytime anyone we knew got pregnant or gave birth. But we have been abundantly blessed since that very rough time. I pray you will be, also.

    As for the children giving you grey hair thing….I think that is one of those paradoxes of nature that we mere mortals will never understand, how it is that children can keep us young and young-at-heart, yet make us go grey and appear older!

    Comment by Ben There — June 7, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  58. It’s not up to me to determine what’s valid and what isn’t. As a taxpayer, I have serious reservations paying for a welfare program to fund otherwise super intelligent, able bodied people who refuse to do more on their own to support themselves. Funny, I don’t have similar reservations for less intelligent people who find themselves in need of welfare. Call it a double standard.

    It’s not for me to second guess when people pray about a baby and get an answer, or at least think they’ve received an answer. What would you say to the young undergrad couple who pray and get an “answer” to have one baby after another for a couple of consecutive years? Is there a limit or a point where good sense and reason come into play? Or is “an answer to prayer” some type of shield or get out of reality card? Or, so long as there are welfare benefits, it’s ok to keep having babies. What about the couple who have 2 consecutive autistic babies? Should they stop or keep plugging away until they end up with a normal, healthy child even if it takes several autistic children along the way? (happened in my own wacky immediate family) Taking a long view, it does not matter to me.

    What happens when we extend this government benefit approach to other aspects of life? For example, I would rather not bother with food storage. Why should I? FEMA will be there in the event of an emergency, or there will be something in stores. I would rather not bother with homeowner’s insurance either-too expensive. Besides, the government will reimburse me in the event of a natural disaster to my home-it always does.(imagine paying people who are stupid enough to build a home in hurricane alley and then expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their opulent beach homes when they are washed/blown away-happens every year there’s a hurricane.)

    I think there is a chicken and egg quality to this debate. What is to be emphasized? Better decision making skills before the children are made, or how to deal with them after they’re here. I completely agree that once the kids are here, we do what is necessary to insure they are healthy and loved, but having babies when they can’t be paid for by the parents who create them is absolutely reckless behavior. Fathers who can’t or won’t pay child support for kids they made can,and probably should, go to jail. Deadbeat dads can’t claim the state should support the kids, so all is well.

    That’s the part I have difficulty wrapping my mind around. I’m not judging, only trying to understand. It’s not that I didn’t have a child while in grad school, I did and timed it so that the second came as I finished grad school. If my wife and I didn’t think we could have provided, we would never have even taken it to the Lord in the first place; although, I’m not persuaded one has to pray to know whether or not to try to have a child. Something’s are just self evident. I’m not much older than many of the people commenting here, so it’s not a generational thing, at least in age, maybe just attitude.

    Comment by rb — June 7, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

  59. but having babies when they can’t be paid for by the parents who create them is absolutely reckless behavior.

    If you know that there are resources available to help you feed your children, it is not reckless. You may not think that people should take those resources into account when making decisions, which is fine. But reckless it most certainly is not.

    Reckless would be bearing the children of a drug addict. Or smoking and drinking while pregnant.

    Comment by Tom — June 7, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

  60. Tom, that’s the chicken-and-egg quality that rb is talking about. 1) If the resources weren’t there, then having children without the ability to support them would be reckless. 2) Some people do reckless things, so to be compassionate and to improve society overall, help exists for the reckless. 3) Then, since the help exists, being in need of it isn’t reckless after all.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 8, 2007 @ 5:01 am

  61. Here’s an analogy. Sin cuts us off from God. The atonement pays the price of our sin and brings us back to God. So, since sin is atoned, it doesn’t keep us away from God after all. Sin isn’t sin.

    (How do like that? A chance to use the atonement as a metaphor to describe something else instead of using a metaphor to describe the atonement.)

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 8, 2007 @ 5:09 am

  62. John, the point is that any criticism is more fruitfully directed at those who drafted the laws providing for the benefits programs, not those who are applying for programs they qualify for.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 8, 2007 @ 6:59 am

  63. Seth, I’m not sure your “blame your senator, not the beneficiaries” stance really is more charitable. Our government could supply free everything for everyone in need, no questions asked, if social stigma caused us to draw on those resources only when we have no other option.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 8, 2007 @ 7:14 am

  64. The question is whether the act is reckless, and the circumstances surrounding the act must be taken into consideration in making that judgment. Under the circumstances in which a young person finds him/herself today, it is not a reckless act to bring a child into the world that one cannot fully provide for without any outside help.

    If I was a legislator with any economic sense, I would favor measures that facilitated child bearing early and often among young future middle class citizens because a good return on the investment is pretty close to a sure thing. So I’m not sure we can say that all government assistance is in place just because people sometimes do reckless things.

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 7:25 am

  65. Tom, Seth, how do think we can distinguish between public benefits we want every man, woman and child to partake and those that we want set aside for those with a special need?

    And Seth, I’m sorry for my “entitlement” crack over at MM. I was trying to throw the charge back at ECS, but it would have been better if I hadn’t.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 8, 2007 @ 7:33 am

  66. Can I first just say that I love Nine Moons? Discussion here isn’t always perfect, but this thread is a breath of fresh air.

    John,
    If we want some resources set aside for people with a special need, we set criteria by which benefits are distributed so that we target the people we want to help.

    Roads are a community resource that are intended for everyone. WIC is a community resource intended for families below a certain income level.

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  67. 1) If I didn’t have insurance, driving my car would be reckless.

    2) Even with insurance, I try not to drive recklessly.

    3) But, if I were to collect from my insurance company following an accident, for whatever reason, that makes me reckless by definition?

    Comment by Chino Blanco — June 8, 2007 @ 8:17 am

  68. I just wanted to comment that its not reckless for married people to have children while poor and young. In fact my parents grandparents on both my side of the family and my wife’s were all poor and young while having their first children.

    If so almost all of my adult LDS friends myself included would have to be lumped into the reckless category.

    These “Reckless” families end up doing just fine as the years roll on.

    In fact my current ward is filled with former reckless married LDS people. Based on how everybody seems to have turned out they were not so reckless after all.

    I also agree with the commentators that think its better to have the children young. I had 4 kids when I was 29. I will be 47 and my wife 45 when they all leave the house. I will seriously still probably be able to compete with my sons on the bball court and go on long hikes with my grandkids.

    There was nothing sweeter then seeing a bishop of mine a few years ago who was also “reckless” knock his linebacker son around the bball court.

    Comment by bbell — June 8, 2007 @ 8:22 am

  69. I agree with bbell’s #68.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 8, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  70. Now all this reckless talk has Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “I Take My Chances” running through my head.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 8, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  71. 68 bbell, horray for this comment. I see you were even more reckless than me, by a couple years. Darn. I was trying to be the most reckless. Oh well. When I am 50 or so and my first grandchildren come along, I will be pleased and consider it a great blessing that I will hopefully have a long, full life ahead of me to spend with them and maybe even my great grandchildren, also. People in my family tend to live long, with life-expectency in the 85-95 range. If my first grand child comes along when I am 50, and my first great grandchild comes when I am 70, who knows, maybe I might even get to see my great-great grandchildren.

    We all know that “Family, it’s about time!” Well, I love to spend time with my family. I love spending time with my toddler children when I am young and have lots of energy, and the thing is, they don’t wear me out, they actually keep me young. It was the same way with my great-grandmother, who died just shy of 100. She was extremely active with her great-grandchildren until well into her 90s. Her love for her great-grandchildren, and her grandchildren earlier, kept her young.

    If she had waited till her late 30s to have children, and then her children had waited until their late 30′s or early 40′s, so many good family times and relationships would have been missed out on. I am glad I come from generations of reckless young people who loved each other, and who loved their children, and who didn’t delay children while in pursuit of education or material goods. What a tremendous blessing these reckless people have been in so many lives.

    Comment by Ben There — June 8, 2007 @ 9:29 am

  72. John #65

    “Tom, Seth, how do think we can distinguish between public benefits we want every man, woman and child to partake and those that we want set aside for those with a special need?”

    Gee John, I wish I knew. If you figure it out, let me know and I’ll cast a vote for you.

    Seriously though, I do think that this problem goes to one of the central flaws of our welfare system – there is little if any distinguishing between the “temporary poor” and the “chronic poor.” Both groups need to be treated differently, and ought to have different benefits schemes.

    ECS over at MM, is actually making a compelling point about how the temporary poor are competing for resources with the chronic poor (even if I am arguing with her about it). I don’t think the two should be drawing from the same benefits programs.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 8, 2007 @ 10:04 am

  73. Well, as I pointed out, the income levels for qualification for many of these programs, including WIC and CHIP are such that you don’t have to be “poor” to qualify, just “not-so-well-off” (in my own way of categorizing, at least). And since it’s only the people right around the limits that are at risk of being displaced, it’s really a case of the temporariliy not-so-well-off and the chronically not-so-well-off competing for the same resources, rather than the chronically poor vs. the temporarily poor. None of the people I would consider “poor” are at risk of being displaced.

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 10:21 am

  74. 73 Tom,

    One major factor is that of assetts. WIC and CHIP do not take one’s assets into account, but student loan programs, food stamps, heating assistance programs, and others do. I think that seems like a logical way of targeting programs to whom they should go. Health insurance, such as CHIP, is way different than student loans. Someone sitting on a huge savings account should probably get government-subsidzed student loans that are tailored to their level of need. However, medical insurance is a whole different beast, and even people with significant assets can find themselves in the poorhouse due to just one unforeseen, unpreventable, and very unfortunate medical emergency (such as the very precarious birth of a sickly, premature child, for example), and no amount of savings (held by normal people) would make a considerable dent in such medical bills.

    Comment by Ben There — June 8, 2007 @ 10:34 am

  75. bbell said:
    Based on how everybody seems to have turned out they were not so reckless after all.

    I agree.

    It is NEVER reckless to listen to the Lord.

    Comment by Cheryl — June 8, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  76. Hope you don’t mind if I butt in over here. Tom – the chronically poor and temporarily poor are indeed competing for the same resources (see, Seth – we agree on more than you realize). There is a finite number of dollars available to fund these government programs according to set definitions of “poverty” and “poor”. The government does not distinguish between “temporarily poor” (i.e., Mormon students) and the “chronically poor” in the WIC context.

    Additionally, Mormon students who qualify for these programs are generally more savvy than the chronically poor and can more easily negotiate their way around the confusing and convoluted government bureaucracy to make sure their needs are met.

    It stands to reason that if the “temporarily poor” Mormon graduate students consume all the WIC resources at the Provo WIC agency, the resources will not be available to serve the “chronically poor”.

    Comment by ECS — June 8, 2007 @ 10:44 am

  77. ECS,
    I think you missed my point. Or maybe it depends on how you define \”poor.\” Is everyone who qualifies for WIC \”poor\”?

    By my definition of \”poor\” the answer is no. But maybe by your definition or the government\’s the answer is yes.

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  78. Sorry for the formatting problems. That automatically happens when I edit a comment.

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  79. Well, my original comment did say that _your_ definition of “poor” is irrelevant, but I thought that was kind of rude. Let me be clear: the government’s definition of “poor” determines how and to whom the program services are rationed – regardless of whether you yourself think the program beneficiaries are poor.

    Comment by ECS — June 8, 2007 @ 10:56 am

  80. So the definition of “poor” is this: people who qualify for WIC?

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  81. 76: The modern “one-stop” shop of the state benefits office in many areas was designed to help with the problem you identified. Case workers are supposed to determine an applicant’s eligibility not only for the benefit they came there to seek, but for any other programs for which the person might be eligible. Kinda like that European ward someone mentioned who has welfare specialists as an actual calling, to help members know what government benefits they should be getting. Right or wrong, this is the world that is, and these are the programs that are.

    Comment by Ben There — June 8, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  82. Tom – the context here is exactly who is competing for which government resources. In order to qualify for the WIC program (or similar programs) you have to be “poor” according to the government’s definition of “poor”. It makes no difference if you consider yourself to be poor or whether you consider yourself to be well off – it’s what the government thinks.

    So yes, in this context, if you qualify for WIC, then you’re “poor” or, technically, you are “low-income” and at a “nutritional risk”.

    Comment by ECS — June 8, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  83. OK. The label doesn’t matter anyways. What I’m trying to get across is that the people that might be displaced are the most well off of the “low-income” group that qualifies, which are people who really aren’t in a very bad situation. Currently, these are people who make around $40k per year for a family of four. $40k for a family of four is not a lot of fun, but it’s not bad. I say this as someone who would have loved to live in a household with that kind of income. Nobody who is in poverty would be displaced by a low income person who is not in poverty.

    Still, it would be possible to displace someone who is worse off than you, which should enter into the calculation as to whether or not you should take advantage of programs for which you qualify.

    One good thing is that now I’m off the hook since I now get to call myself “chronically poor”. Or does being “poor” one’s whole life not qualify one for the “chronically poor” label? (This is a joke, btw. I don’t think I was “poor,” even though by the definitions used here, I always have been).

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  84. It stands to reason that if the “temporarily poor” Mormon graduate students consume all the WIC resources at the Provo WIC agency, the resources will not be available to serve the “chronically poor”

    This is not verifiable. Give me a break. WIC is a FED program its not running out of resources in Provo cause of LDS students. The Provo office does not have X amount of dollars to send out that are used up and then the $$ are gone. For all practical day to day purposes WIC has unlimited funds.

    If you qualify for WIC and apply you will get it.

    In fact WIC is aggressively pushed in hospitals. When my first child was born in a public hospital in Chicago when I was 25 I was offerred WIC 5-6 times by social workers and nurses. They simply could not comprehend that I had private insurance and held a job and did not need WIC.
    (in fact they seemed surprised that we were married and that I cared about my new son)

    Comment by bbell — June 8, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  85. 84: Funny isn’t it, but those social workers and nurses may have had their salaries funded in part by WIC grants, and it was in fact their job to push WIC, and enroll anyone who was eligible. It remains the same way today: they really work hard to drum up clients. I have NEVER heard of WIC having too many clients. In fact, in many areas, they have a hard time getting enough clients, which of course local WIC staff (nurses, nutritionists, and such) fear jeopardizes their jobs.

    Eliminate WIC, and a lot of dietitians, nurses, farmers, farmhands, cheese factory workers, carrot growers, and tuna fisherman will be out of business. These things have far reaching effects.

    Comment by Ben There — June 8, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

  86. bbell, your assumption that there are unlimited funds for WIC is incorrect. Many people are denied WIC benefits because of underfunding. See below for a description of California’s WIC underfunding:

    Because WIC is not an entitlement program, not all participants can be served. Limited funding prevents millions of low income nutritionally at-risk women, infants and children from receiving program benefits. The Department of Health Services estimates that there are over 1.77 million women, infants and children in need of WIC benefits. Thus some 530,000 participants are shut out of the program due to limited funding.

    What Happens When WIC Funding Is Limited?
    When a state reaches the maximum number of participants that it can serve with its annual budget, individuals applying for program benefits are served on a “highest need” basis in compliance with a six-tiered priority system. The WIC priority system ranks most pregnant women and infants before children — including children with documented health problems. When funding is limited, WIC agencies must turn away some eligible applicants who are in lower priority categories. For example, anemic children may not be served, in order to make room for pregnant women. In California, chronic and serious underfunding has, in the past, resulted in fewer children participating in the program. This situation has greatly improved in recent years.

    http://www.cfpa.net/WIC/california_wic_facts.htm

    Comment by ECS — June 8, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  87. It pains me to hear what seem to be rather arbitrary judgments here about “poor” and “rich”. Under such circumstances, I would hope such a determination is a personal prerogative. I feel that my own obligation in these judgments is to contribute what I can to supporting charitable causes — not to make personal determinations about who merits my support. Thank God, that is not my responsibility.

    I’ve sorta lost grip on concerns about whether welfare money is administered properly or wisely. That determination is too far out of my control. After having been both “rich” and “poor”, mostly through no particular credit or blame of my own, I mostly feel grateful that such support systems exist. I’m not that worried about whether the system is misused or inefficient.

    It gives pause to wonder, too, whether those who worry about how the money is being spent aren’t being distracted by something related to “class envy” or “pride”. King Benjamin taught that we are all indebted, no matter what we might think is our personal contribution.

    Someone recently pointed out to me a very informative precise and summary of church welfare — doctrine, policy and practice, historical and contemporary — in one of Elder Oaks’ books. Recommended reading, for those interested.

    Dallin H. Oaks, Lord’s Way.
    CHAPTER 4
    CARE FOR THE POOR

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — June 8, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  88. ECS,

    I see your link. Note that its old from the 1990′s.

    Touche….

    I still maintain that from a practical standpoint these programs enjoy sufficient indeed almost unlimited funding.

    LDS grad students should not feel bad if they rely on these programs on a temporary basis.

    Comment by bbell — June 8, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

  89. 430 comments at last count over at MM! I’m impressed with those who have stuck with the debate, as much of it feels like deja vu all over again. Lots of new people with exciting new screen names joining the debate. There’s also a fun reappearance from lynnie.

    One interesting emerging issue in the debate: church leader’s statements in the ’50s ’60s and ’70s seem to have been different from current Church policy. I’m betting that Church leader’s personal views have changed as well.
    This happens sometimes, and it creates an interesting dynamic for a church that teaches that the Brethren’s words are similar (if not exactly the same) to scripture.

    Comment by BTD Greg — June 8, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

  90. Re: 89

    That is a much more interesting topic, including the derivative topic why do we feel the need to look to church leaders so much on every day, almost pedestrian, matters like how much education to get or how to pay for it. Why are we, as a people, sometimes almost afraid to act until we hear from a GA or other church leader? Is is really a matter of salvation/exaltation how grad school was paid for? Is it really a matter of salvation/exaltation how many children we have and when we have them? Don’t these men and women-church leaders-have more important things to worry about?

    Comment by rbc — June 8, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

  91. Isn’t adding a few certainties to life the reason we’re all in this religion thing to begin with?

    Comment by Seth R. — June 8, 2007 @ 3:15 pm

  92. From 2006:

    In order to serve current need with existing funds, local WIC programs in California have already begun reducing
    staffing levels, curtailing services to high-risk families, and limiting direct contacts with WIC
    participants. Many are contemplating clinic site closures.

    http://calwic.org/docs/federal/wicfacts_mar2006.pdf

    BBell – your uneducated assumption that government programs such as WIC are funded with unlimited tax dollars is as erroneous as it is dangerous.

    Comment by ECS — June 8, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

  93. California should definitely lower the income levels for WIC so that it is available to only the most needy.

    Comment by Tom — June 8, 2007 @ 6:07 pm

  94. I think every woman and child who qualify for WIC should get WIC, and that every woman and child should qualify. But then, I’m a liberal. I don’t begrudge ANYONE WIC.

    I do begrudge married moms on public assistance while hubby is in school who don’t work. Here’s why.

    This topic is one of those that hits us really, really close to our personal value systems and the choices we have made. I liken it to professionally trained women who love their work but have chosen to remain home with their children full-time. Much of the time these women have made that decision after careful thought and prayer and a strong desire to follow the counsel of the prophets. Then a post comes along where the value, good sense and even morality of that decision is called into question, usually by other women. You aren’t just criticizing a decision in that case: you’re criticizing something at their core.

    I feel exactly the same way about able bodied women with multiple children collecting welfare benefits except for WIC :) while able bodied husbands go to school full-time. They should get a damn job. I feel that way because I was a single parent off and on for over ten years. I never collected public assistance. No food stamps, no WIC, no housing subsidies and, I might add, no child support.
    I was fortunate to have cheap, home-based, awesome day care. I left my kids every weekday to go off to my entry-level, no-degree-needed tech jobs because it was important to me to try to pay my own way. My residences ranged from a dumpy apartment in a crappy neighborhood that was close to work to a tiny house in a marginal neighborhood that was close to my babysitter.

    I knew lots of women who were married but collected welfare benefits. They got the benefits by lying. They wanted to be home with their children, so they lied about where the husband/father was so they could get housing subsidies and food stamps and AFDC. (These were not LDS.)

    When people blithely say, “Oh, it’s not a big deal. The money is there, they should take it,” that is striking at a core value that I sacrificed a lot for. It is saying, “you sacrificed for nothing.” Just like saying, “why are you staying home? It doesn’t do much for your kids, and besides, you’re messing up your financial future” strikes at a core value for women who choose to remain home.

    Somewhere along the line the definitions of self-sufficiency and the “evils of the dole” have changed for LDS. Even the rhetoric has changed. The blessing on taking government benefits is certainly implied: women are to stay home with their children, don’t delay having your families, avoid debt, and get an education (especially men). How to pay for all this without borrowing? The brethren are silent. The answer is inferred. “That’s what the money is there for.”

    Comment by Ann — June 8, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

  95. One more comment about a comment at that other blog. The dental student said in his first comment “make the single mom on welfare go to school, so she can better her situation.” This elitist crap makes me cringe. Who’s going to watch HER kids? It’s OK for dental student’s wife to stay home and you take public assistance because he’s going to be an Important Dentist someday, but the single welfare mom can’t stay home with her kids because she’s nobody? Now we’re looking at a merit-based dole, with only the upwardly mobile worthy poor permitted to actually collect anything?

    There’s an implication that’s been underlying this whole discussion: people who are poor long-term aren’t as good as we are and deserve their poverty. They should prove their worth before we help them.

    Comment by Ann — June 8, 2007 @ 7:17 pm

  96. I’ve not been seeing that implication. Many people seem to be bending over backwards to say that the “chronically poor” are deserving of assistance and the “temporarily poor” should stop being lazy freeloaders.

    In the end it comes down to competing goods, and I don’t think that this is only due to what people are taught at Church. Most sensible people want to avoid debt, be self reliant, get a degree, have kids, and raise the kids themselves. These are all good things for society and they are things that most people value. Most Mormons certainly value them greatly. But we can’t have them all at once. We have to sacrifice the pursuit of some good things in order to be able to pursue other good things. It seems that people are insisting on making their way of balancing these competing goods the One Right Way. But I don’t believe there is One Right Way. There are multiple right, honorable ways of making our way through the always difficult times of young familyhood. I will not judge anyone for the way that they choose to balance those competing goods. I have my way, but my way isn’t the way.

    Some people insist on elevating their favorite of those good things to the level of The Ultimate Good and judging harshly people who don’t act accordingly. If absolute self reliance is The Ultimate Good, then yes, taking any government assistance for anything, no matter how good it is (including both bearing children and getting a degree), must be avoided and all the other goods must be sacrificed for the sake of being self reliant. But absolute self reliance isn’t the Ultimate Good. Nor is having children. Nor is staying home with your young children. Nor is avoiding debt. Nor is getting a degree. The pursuit of some of these can legitimately be delayed for the sake of pursuing others. In the end, if we act wisely, we’ll all be assets to society and to the Church.

    Comment by Tom — June 9, 2007 @ 12:16 am

  97. So basically Ann, your calculation boils down to:

    “I busted my butt and suffered and, by golly, they’d better suffer too.”

    Correct?

    Comment by Seth R. — June 9, 2007 @ 12:22 am

  98. I think I like this thread better; much less personal criticism and higher chance of the conversation actually going somewhere.

    94 Ann “Somewhere along the line the definitions of self-sufficiency and the “evils of the dole” have changed for LDS. Even the rhetoric has changed. The blessing on taking government benefits is certainly implied: women are to stay home with their children, don’t delay having your families, avoid debt, and get an education (especially men). How to pay for all this without borrowing? The brethren are silent. The answer is inferred. “That’s what the money is there for.””

    How do you know for sure that silence automatically infers that they want us to disregard past counsel? That doesn’t make sense to me. Thoughts anyone?

    Comment by Carissa — June 9, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  99. Another question for anyone who cares to answer. Why does the official church statement on welfare call the government dole “evil”? H. David Burton referenced the original quote by Heber J. Grant in his conference talk a couple of months ago. I believe it was Seth who said:

    “I consider it an investment in a healthy society, same as providing a nice interstate road system or subsidizing federal student loans. I’m willing to devote tax dollars toward that. And I’m willing to vote for politicians who will create that kind of a taxing scheme. I believe the benefits we reap from making this available will far outweigh the costs.”

    If government welfare (dole) is such a wonderful, charitable investment in society — why on earth would our prophet have ever called it “evil”? Why is that 1936 statement still in our current welfare guide today?

    In this same publication, the church’s welfare system is called “the essence of the gospel” by President Kimball.

    Are the government’s program and the church’s program basically the same thing from different sources, or are they drastically different in principle enabling one to be called “evil” and the other “the essence of the gospel”?

    Whatever your views on the subject, this needs explaining.

    Comment by Carissa — June 9, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  100. Well, this was a nicer thread than the MM one, but the nasties seems to be migrating. Meanwhile, I’ll continue in my evil ways regardless of their judgemental, self-righteous attitudes about people they know nothing about.

    Comment by John P. — June 9, 2007 @ 10:38 am

  101. Let\’s nip this in the bud. I propose a rule: no talking about other people\’s tone or attitude. Let\’s talk about issues and ideas, not about each other.

    Carissa is asking a legitimate question. I don\’t think she\’s taking the position that people who receive government assistance are evil.

    Carissa,
    Do you think that current general Church leadership would characterize the act of receiving government assistance as evil or immoral?

    I doubt they would. I bet if you polled the General Authorities and asked them if it\’s OK to take government subsidized student loans if doing so was the only way you would be able to complete a college degree, you\’d get a pretty high percentage saying that would be acceptable.

    I realize that we have had past leaders that were very much economic conservatives. My own father considers socialism Satanic. Of late, however, your average Joe member isn\’t likely to hear much, or any, anti-socialism invective coming from current leaders. There may be a quote here or there, but decrying receiving state welfare certainly isn\’t high on the current leadership\’s list of priorities.

    And just as well. For most European Saints the suggestion that they should not receive anything from the government in return for the 50% of their income that they are forced to donate would leave them scratching their heads.

    Comment by Tom — June 9, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  102. Yes, Tom, all you say is true. Still, how do we know that silence equals acceptance of the PRINCIPLE itself? I hate to throw out all the counsel that has been given (in talks that are still available at lds.org) just because I’m guessing or assuming it no longer applies. If the church has indeed turned around their position, shouldn’t it be clarified? It seems only fair.

    “Do you think that current general Church leadership would characterize the act of receiving government assistance as evil or immoral?”

    I think they call evil what they see to be evil. To me, that means THE PRINCIPLE. To me, for something to be evil, it must come from or be inspired by Satan. I would never go around calling people evil. The prophet is the one who used the word and he never used it to describe people, but the dole — the concept, the idea. People can be deceived, but I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I really just want to talk about the issue (thanks for the defense, Tom).

    I would assume they (our leaders) do not hold us directly responsible for counsel they know most of us in our generation has not heard. Still… I wonder. It is there for us to research (especially with technology) if we desire. Personal revelation is always there. Are they relying on us more to study it out rather than telling us directly what to do? I really don’t know the answers which is why I’m asking a lot of questions.

    I would submit that most of my generation do not even know about these quotes. It sounds like everyone is simply trying to do their best by following all the seemingly hard-to-follow at once counsel, which we believe to be inspired. I just wonder if we can learn more by discussing it in depth.

    Comment by Carissa — June 9, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  103. Another point,

    I realize that there are now circumstances where some members simply cannot follow certain advice given by the church. For example, if they live in an area where they are prohibited to store food — how can they be expected to follow the food storage suggestions? And despite the prophets advice to obtain higher education, it is realistically out-of-reach for some who are in poorer countries.

    I understand these exceptions and I’m sure the church wants to be sensitive to their needs. But that doesn’t mean they can just change fundamental principles of what is right and good. Maybe some people in some countries seriously don’t have any other way of surviving without government welfare. They cannot be called evil, but that doesn’t mean the principle they are forced to live with suddenly becomes a correct principle. Hopefully I am making sense.

    Comment by Carissa — June 9, 2007 @ 1:00 pm

  104. Clarissa:

    General Authorities once said Blacks would never get the priesthood, and that Polygamy was an essential doctrine.

    Sometimes things change. The early attacks on welfare as evil had more to do with socialism than welfar per se.

    Comment by John P. — June 9, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

  105. I’m not sure John.

    I think there is a deep-seated anti-government streak running through Mormonism ever since government failed (at all levels) to come to the defense of early persecuted Mormons back in the 1800s. The founding fathers of Mormonism naturally probably inherited a healthy distrust of government and its programs.

    I should note that this didn’t stop Mormons in Utah from voting for FDR and his “New Deal” in droves however.

    So I think we have two competing impulses within the Mormon religion -

    One deeply feels the mandate to help the vulnerable, oppressed, and even just our fellow human beings generally, and is perfectly willing to enthusiastically back a government that speaks to this impulse.

    The other maintains a strong sense of what you might call libertarianism and has rejected government as the primary vehicle for societal change and management.

    Hard to say who’s right. But honestly, I don’t think very many people really believe in libertarianism anymore. Their numbers are dwindling, especially as the older generation dies off.

    So are the General Authorities recieving inspiration? Or are they simply trusting their inherited instincts after the traditions of their fathers? Or are those instincts directly skewing which inspiration our leaders are open to listening to?

    Beats me. I don’t really think it’s my place to say.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 9, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  106. Leader’s Guide to Welfare:

    “Latter-day Saints have the responsibility to provide for themselves and their families. Individual members, however, may find it necessary to receive assistance beyond that which the family can provide, in which case they may turn to the Church for help. In some instances, individual members may decide to receive assistance from other sources, including government. In all such cases, members should avoid becoming dependent upon these sources and strive to become self-reliant. Where possible, they should work in return for assistance rendered.”

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — June 9, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

  107. Seems obvious to me, in this context, the “evil” inherent in the “dole” is clearly identified as “becoming dependent upon these sources” instead of “striv[ing] to become self-reliant”. There’s nothing evil about accepting government welfare except as it leads to dependency and erodes self-reliance.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — June 9, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  108. Carissa,
    I can actually see an argument for socialism being wrong. It impinges on individual liberty. It has a noble goal: to establish equality and care for the poor. But it does it by compulsion. I don’t believe that Zion will have anything that looks like the socialism of Europe (or the U.S.) because people will care for the poor of their own volition. In that sense, I can understand the criticism of socialism by past Church leaders. They were contrasting what they saw with their vision of Zion. But it seems to me that the leadership has moved away somewhat from critiquing secular institutions and focused more on the spiritual life of the Saints. The Church is now global and has stopped “gathering” to establish the civic society of Zion here and now. In a pluralistic, diverse society we don’t expect everyone to share our view of Zion. And there are times that our living in the midst of some secular institutions prevents us from living up to the ideal of Zion. For example, many Saints in Europe wouldn’t be able to make ends meet without government assistance because the resources that they would be using for their own sustenance are garnished by their governments. Wrong or right, these are the circumstances that they live with and they are incompatible with a model of self reliance that includes taking no assistance from the government. The U.S. isn’t as socialist as Europe, but it is still socialist in part, so some of the same dynamic affects American Saints.

    None of which is to say that we as individuals should take any or all government assistance available to us. It’s a moral question that’s not easy to answer. I think the Church doesn’t put forward a solid position on the specific question because in the end it isn’t as important as many other challenges we face; also, there isn’t only one right answer. Clearly, self reliance is an important principle. But, as I’ve mentioned, it’s a good that comes into competition with other goods in certain times of our lives.

    Comment by Tom — June 9, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

  109. Before anyone pounces on me, yes, I’m aware that the Church does still criticize some secular institutions and has concerns beyond just the spiritual life of the Saints. For example, the Church supports limiting secular marriage to one man/one woman. But in the era of gathering to Utah, there was much more concerned with establishing a Zion society.

    Comment by Tom — June 9, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  110. And Carissa, I do think that if the current leadership thought it was important, they would give specific guidelines on when it’s OK to accept government assistance and they would put this counsel in venues where the average Joe/Jane member would naturally encounter them, like in the Ensign, in Conference, or in lesson manuals. Instead we have general principles like this:

    In some instances, individual members may decide to receive assistance from other sources, including government. In all such cases, members should avoid becoming dependent upon these sources and strive to become self-reliant.

    Comment by Tom — June 9, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  111. Thanks for all the comments and the quote Jim. There were a lot of good points I will definitely give some thought to.

    John P.
    In the case of polygamy, there was a clear change of course by way of the manifesto, so no confusion there.

    As far as blacks and the priesthood, that was also officially changed and reversed. Both of these are documented.

    So I understand that things can change, I just think in a church as organized as ours (and of course, ran by revelation) that we can’t assume doctrine or principles have changed without some clear evidence or documentation of it. The quote Jim gave is the closest I have seen although, although it doesn’t define an actual change (to me, anyway). It just sounds like they are relying more upon the saints’ judgement to decide what is best for them and their specific situations. Good to know! Thanks again everyone.

    Comment by Carissa — June 9, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  112. When I said “the answer is inferred,” I meant by the audience. Speakers imply. Audiences infer. I don’t necessarily believe the GAs are implying anything. They have laid out a set of goals that it is difficult to achieve in one fell swoop without government assistance. People who take all those goals to heart and believe they need to work on all of the simultaneously are usually left with few options on how to pay for everything.

    Seth R., I really thought I had explained myself better than that. A better way of putting it is, “I worked and sacrificed and busted my butt and it ticks me off when people dismiss my choices as unnecessary or worse, unrighteous.” Because of course, if I was righteous, I would have home with my kids, regardless of the sacrifice.” I had also hoped that by comparing this issue to the SAHM debate that I might be able to trigger some discussion about how what we value informs our decisions.

    I really like Tom’s analysis of One Good. I picked the One Good for me, and I might think somebody else’s One Good is Not Actually Good. But I am also (just) self-aware enough to realize that my bias is informing my opinion, and that other people may really feel that their One Good is Actually Good.

    Comment by Ann — June 9, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  113. Ann, I agree. I don’t believe we should criticize those in your situation either.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 9, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

  114. So are the General Authorities receiving inspiration? Or are they simply trusting their inherited instincts after the traditions of their fathers? Or are those instincts directly skewing which inspiration our leaders are open to listening to?

    Answer: All of the Above.

    As with us all. I’m just way too touchy, I guess. Mainly because we had a Stake President (who came from a filthy rich family and never wanted for money) came into our college ward and told all the college students there (80% of whom had at least one kid on welfare) they were “vile sinners” for using any sort of government aid at all. This caused the few couples who had put off having kids to spend the next few months making lots and lots of snide comments about how much more righteous they were then the rest of us who chose to have kids.

    Interestingly, It actually didn’t apply to me, since my first two kids we paid for ourselves by scrimping and saving. The third kid was an OOPS! so we found ourselves needing some government assistance.

    But I had many friends who used welfare to have a kid or two, and I can’t begrudge or judge them, the same way I refuse to judge people who choose not to have kids, or whatever. Such personal family decisions are truly unknowable to people not actually in the family, and it would be impossible for me (or anyone) to know what went into the decision(s).

    Comment by John P. — June 9, 2007 @ 7:44 pm

  115. John P. “Such personal family decisions are truly unknowable to people not actually in the family, and it would be impossible for me (or anyone) to know what went into the decision(s).”

    Exactly. That is really sad about your sp. We had a bishop in our college ward who was really sensitive about it. He never said anything specifically about welfare but I remember him giving us the counsel to take school more slowly (taking semesters off) if finances became too tight. I remember being surprised by that. This was before I knew about any of this stuff. Seriously, I knew NOTHING. I am guessing many young parents don’t. Balance is very important as we juggle all our worthwhile endeavors. I have since learned that the hard way.

    Ann “When I said “the answer is inferred,” I meant by the audience.”

    Oh, okay — yes I would totally agree with that. I liked the “one good” analysis too. Sometimes you do have to pick and choose.

    Comment by Carissa — June 10, 2007 @ 6:11 am

  116. ECS (from the Math thread):
    What is lacking are reasons for selective condemnation.

    what about the moral principle of self reliance discussed by Church leaders?

    If people condemn WIC recipients on the basis that they are not being self reliant, then they must also condemn recipients of educational assistance for the same reason.

    . . . what about the moral principle that when a limited amount of money is available to help people worse off than you are, you should choose to not take that money – even if you are “entitled” to it?

    First, nobody is entitled to anything. Some people qualify for programs.

    Second, condemnation on this basis also applies to any recipients of money for higher education who displace someone truly worse off than them.

    I agree that this is an important thing to take into account when making one’s decision. But it’s very complicated. Some programs are zero sum, others aren’t, and that varies from place to place. If you’re somewhere in the middle of the pack, income-wise, of those who qualify for something like WIC or an educational grant, there are many people better off than you who also qualify. At the upper limits there are many people receiving assistance who definitely could do without and very few, if any, who could not do without. So taking all those factors into account, determining whether your choice to receive assistance displaces someone in depserate need is very difficult. I would say that if one is aware that the situtation is zero sum, one should err on the side of not taking if possible.

    Also, the stakes are definitely higher when the assistance is food than when it is higher education. But the same moral principle applies: be cautious not to displace people worse off than you.

    Comment by Tom — June 12, 2007 @ 8:22 am

  117. Again, taking advantage of the WIC program and Medicaid is wholly different from taking advantage of the subsidized student loan program.

    WIC and Medicaid programs provide food and health care to their recipients. WIC’s stated purpose is to provide food for women and children at “nutritional risk”. On the other hand, the subsidized student loan program provides money for higher education, for which there are alternative funding sources (private loans, scholarships, etc.). There are no alternative funding sources available for pregnant women and children “at nutritional risk” or for low-income people in need of medical attention.

    In your comment #116, you say you agree with these arguments, but then you state on other threads that these arguments are merely “irrational stigma” and “negative judgments”. What do you really think?

    Comment by ECS — June 12, 2007 @ 8:35 am

  118. I agree that it is something that should be taken into account in judging whether or not it’s OK to take assistance for food. It should also be taken into account when judging whether or not it’s OK to take assistance for education, but it’s more important when it’s food. I don’t agree that they provide a reasonable basis for blanket condemnation of recipients of WIC or other government programs. It applies only when the situation is zero sum, which it isn’t for every program in every place, and when a reasonable analysis leads you to believe that your decision to receive assistance will displace people in desperate need, which is not always, if ever, the case.

    Most people are not basing their negative judgments on the premise that it’s wrong to take government assistance when doing so displaces people in desperate need. You’re the only person who has offered that argument, and I agree that if and when it does, indeed, displace those in desperate need and you could do without, you should avoid receiving it. Many others have not based their selective condemnation on sound reasoning. Talking about self-reliance doesn’t cut it.

    Comment by Tom — June 12, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  119. It applies only when the situation is zero sum, which it isn’t for every program in every place, and when a reasonable analysis leads you to believe that your decision to receive assistance will displace people in desperate need, which is not always, if ever, the case.

    This quote suggests an impossible calculation to make before receiving government benefits. Would you call up your local WIC agency and ask for a current financial statement? Even if you were assured that in June 2007 there were sufficient dollars, you couldn’t anticipate an unexpected increase in applications in July 2007 necessitating the denial of benefits to people worse off than you are.

    The principle is that these programs – WIC and Medicaid – are intended for people “at risk”. As other people have noted, choosing to rely on governmental assistance to have or increase the number of your children instead of waiting until you can pay for their food and health insurance intentionally puts your family “at risk” and in a position to take advantage of these programs that were designed to help people who did not have a choice whether to qualify for government benefits.

    Whether you feel comfortable with your choice to take advantage of these programs is of course a personal decision, but it’s disingenuous to imply that your use of the programs is justified because it doesn’t really affect their costs or their availability to others who are worse off than you are. (note: “desperate need” is not the criteria for receiving governmental aid).

    Comment by ECS — June 12, 2007 @ 9:50 am

  120. ECS,
    This is not about me. I’m not considering my decisions the right ones and I’m not defending them. I’m OK with being wrong. I’m trying to get down to the moral principles by which the rightness and wrongness can be judged.

    You have put forth the principle that it is wrong to take assistance if it makes assistance unavailable for those who really need it. I have noted that in any given situation it is very difficult to determine if this is the case. You have agreed. If we accept this principle we can say that in certain situations it is wrong to take government assistance one could do without. It does not allow us to say that it is always wrong to take government assistance one could do without. Each person should do their best to determine if they are in a situation where this principle would come into play and be cautious not to displace people who really need it.

    The principle is that these programs – WIC and Medicaid – are intended for people “at risk”. As other people have noted, choosing to rely on governmental assistance to have or increase the number of your children instead of waiting until you can pay for their food and health insurance intentionally puts your family “at risk” and in a position to take advantage of these programs that were designed to help people who did not have a choice whether to qualify for government benefits.

    As I understand you, you’re putting forth two different principles here: #1: it is wrong to take assistance that was not designed for you and #2: it is wrong to intentionally put yourself in a position to qualify for government assistance. Is that right?

    Comment by Tom — June 12, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  121. If we accept this principle we can say that in certain situations it is wrong to take government assistance one could do without. It does not allow us to say that it is always wrong to take government assistance one could do without.

    No, I believe in _every_ situation it’s better not to accept governmental assistance if you can do without it, but especially in the case of food and medical care. Reason #1: the principle of self reliance and the duty of providing for your own family. Reason #2: governmental assistance is a finite resource and should be used by people who canNOT do without it.

    Comment by ECS — June 12, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  122. This gets to the heart of why we’re not coming together here.

    Reason #1: the principle of self reliance and the duty of providing for your own family.

    I believe that self-reliance is an important principle, but I don’t think it is the most important principle. I believe it can be legitimately put off temporarily for the sake of getting an education or starting a family.

    Reason #2: governmental assistance is a finite resource and should be used by people who canNOT do without it.

    This is a major point of disagreement, that probably gets to why some people are less concerned with this issue than others. In addition to just preventing people from starving, I see government resources as an investment to help people do things that are good for them and good for society. I don’t think that all government assistance is for only those who can do without. I don’t think, for example that people who could do without government subsidy of their education should refrain from taking it if they qualify, even though that violates the principle of absolute self reliance. I regard assistance for medical care and food the same way. Given that people can qualify for WIC and CHIP programs without being in desperate need, I can’t believe that they are only for people who cannot do without. If I were a legislator part of the reason I would support these programs and fund them such that they cover people who could do without is that I would expect them to support a healthy fertility rate, which is vital for a healthy economy.

    And now I think we’ve reached a head, so I’ll bow out. It’s been fun.

    Comment by Tom — June 12, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

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