Just in time for Easter, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, The New York Times has a big story excoriating the anti-welfare push of the 1990s. Today, it seems, millions of people are worse off for it. And most of them are single mothers:
The distress of the last four years has added a cautionary postscript: much as overlooked critics of the restrictions once warned, a program that built its reputation when times were good offered little help when jobs disappeared. Despite the worst economy in decades, the cash welfare rolls have barely budged.
Faced with flat federal financing and rising need, Arizona is one of 16 states that have cut their welfare caseloads further since the start of the recession — in its case, by half. Even as it turned away the needy, Arizona spent most of its federal welfare dollars on other programs, using permissive rules to plug state budget gaps.
The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow.
If you can’t reach someone’s mind, you may as well try his heart. But let’s be serious here for a moment. There’s no moving mind or heart when it comes to penetrating the interpretation of a very specific set of Christian teachings. Somehow Christianity has (for millions) become a vehicle for anti-tax and anti-government hysteria, not benevolence and charity. Somehow we’re living in a world where–on Easter Sunday–thousands of ministers and pastors and priests are lacing sermons centered on love and faith with calls for an individualism so liberal that Jesus himself would be baffled, if not horrified. Only love a few of thy neighbors, and never through government largesse.
David Atkins gets to the heart of the matter:
When I encounter fervent believers, I’m not compelled to attempt to disabuse them of their faith. After all, they may be right; I myself am agnostic on the larger question of universal origins; and disabusing people of their faith is both pointless and potentially quite harmful to them. I do, however, want to sit them down and ask them if they’ve actually read their own damn book and thought about what it means they should do… There is no such thing as a worshipper of business and capitalism, and a worshipper of Jesus. They’re diametrically opposed to one another. Why they’re unable to see this is beyond me.
In times like these, one may recall that Ayn Rand herself despised Christianity for its communalistic ethos. Indeed, you’d think that religious Christians would be suspect of men like Paul Ryan, or at least give pause before subscribing to his political economic philosophy, which effectively flies in the face of just about everything Jesus ever preached. So yeah, I’ll bite: perhaps there is a war on religion in this country. But it’s a civil war, if it’s anything at all, and it’s being waged more by believers than secularists.