Which Christian Principles are These?

At some point in the ongoing argument about whether or not America is a Christian nation, both sides run out of quotes. When that happens, the Christian Nation side frequently retreats to vagueness and begins talking about how America was founded on “Christian principles.”

Which Christian principles are these? I’ve read through the Gospels a time or two, but I missed the part where Jesus sermonizes on the virtues of mixed government and republican virtue. I’ve never seen a section of Paul’s letters where he instructs on the meaning of the social contract.

Given that both men were apparently apocalyptic, it would be very surprising if either of them had much to say about government. God was about to take over that role in the new Kingdom of Heaven, so what’s the point?

Perhaps you can take a passage and expand on its meaning until you have something approaching one of America’s founding principles. Perhaps you could argue that “render unto Cesar” is really a call for federalism. But really, this doesn’t pass the laugh test. There’s no way to get from a snippet of scripture to a fully developed political concept.

It’s worth noting that at the time of America’s independence, most confessionally Christian nations were monarchies. “Christian principles” still included the old hierarchies of the medieval period. Things were getting more complicated – see England and its strengthening Parliament – but the basic idea of the monarch as God’s lieutenant on earth was still in force.

Not that America deviated too much from this. As I’ve said before, hierarchies were still very important in America: white over black, male over female, etc. Which makes statements like the one left recently by Jason so baffling: ” … you would have the rest of us to believe America’s not a nation built on the moral fabric of Christ’s teachings? ”

What, the slavery, racism, anti-catholic sentiments, anti-Indian violence, oppression of women and minorities and general intrusiveness of government? If you want to claim all that for Christian morality, go right ahead.

What makes this particularly comical is how it compares to Jefferson’s rather wonky view of “saxon liberty.” Jefferson always held to the romantic notion that the roots of British liberty lay in the Anglo-Saxon tribes. This meant that, to Jefferson, America’s idea of freedom actually predated Britian’s conversion to Christianity (perhaps it even predated the existence of Christianity. I’m a little vague on Jefferson’s dating.)

This idea was not taken seriously, then or now. It’s also a rather racist idea. But it’s a good example of how at least the father of the Declaration of Independence saw America’s founding as separate from Christian principles.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    The road of Christian principles eventually leads to despotism.

    • UrsaMinor

      Many things can lead to despotism.

      • Elemenope

        Cooking potato pierogies improperly can lead to despotism.

        Or so I’ve heard.

        • Rob Jase

          There is such a thing as too much butter.

          But not too much bacon.

          • Elemenope

            Bacon never leads to despotism. Bacon is freedom food!

  • Len

    I guess that it’s not totally incorrect to say that some of the good stuff of Christianity coincides with some of the moral basis upon which America was built. And the same could also be said for some of the good stuff of many religions. But once you get beyond the golden rule (which is in most religions anyway) – however you phrase it – you’re pretty much done with the coincident bits.

  • http://www.imagesandmeanings.com Gary Hill

    many things can lead to cancer – agreed – that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take appropriate action against just one of them

    actually unfettered christianity has more than political consequences, it would decimate scientific progress

  • FO

    When I read about these discussions, I always end up wondering “Who cares?”

    Who cares what some people though about two centuries ago?
    Now it’s YOUR country, YOU decide what to do with it, it is YOUR responsibility, not your Founding Fathers.
    Isn’t it more important to ask “Should US be a Christian Nation?”
    “Will it be a be a better place to be if it is Christian or not?”

    • vasaroti

      I totally agree. However, I think it is important to point out that Christians are lying about our history. At this time there are more of us than there are of them, so perhaps idolatry of the founding fathers is better than the enshrining of Leviticus.

    • Sarah

      Oh, that’s easy. Fundamentalists are very taken with the idea of “authority.” (The sermons I heard, again and again — good lord.) Making up their own way of living is absolutely anathema. The Bible is the rulebook for Christianity and by analogy the Constitution is the rulebook for America. Likewise the authors of both are analogous. The “Founding Fathers” are like the authors of the Bible. Namely, AUTHORITATIVE.

      So, just as it’s important for the authors of the Bible to have been inspired of God, it’s important for the authors of the Constitution to have been inspired by the Bible. Without either, their whole way of life is based on nothing more that . . . just . . . you know. Some dudes with pens.

      Anyway. That’s what that’s about. It’s frustrating, but there you are.

      • Richard Washington

        America is a nation that trusts and submits to the will of God.
        I believe our four fathers had a broad qualification of who God is because we can practice any religion here. Paul and Jesus wrote that all laws were fulfilled in loving your neighbor. In this country, if you do that you are truly free. Ironically, if you don’t love your neighbor authorities are set in place to discipline. I don’t think that’s Christian, I think it’s humane.

        • Yoav

          Which four?

      • Richard Washington

        Sarah,

        The Bible can be perceived as a rule book but it really a written witness of the causes and effects of human psychological and social behavior. It’s accuracy makes it the most popular book in the world.

        • Mogg

          Accuracy? Bwahahahahaha!

          • trj

            pi = 3 and snakes can talk. Seems pretty accurate to me. No wonder the Bible is so popular.

        • Custador

          Which version? Because, you see, the Q’ran only has one version. So I’m guessing that would be a more popular book than the NIV or the KJV or the AYB.

    • Bill

      FO – I agree, but I believe the argument goes something like this:

      1. America was founded as a Christian nation.

      2. For 200 years it adhered to Christian principles and was rewarded by becoming the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth.

      3. Then it got away from Christian principles (pick your boogey man here – prayer in schools, Roe v Wade, birth control, women’s rights, civil rights, pornography etc…), which has caused a steady decline.

      4. We must reclaim our founding fathers’ intent, and return to being a Chritian nation or it will be the destruction of us all in this life and the next.

      It’s a BS argument that ignores both logic and history. But I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes.

      • FO

        Indeed.
        But then I’d consider more effective to attack points 2 and 3 rather than focus on point 1.

        • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

          But point 1 is a lie. You let them get away with the first lie, what happens with the second?

          • FO

            Uhm, also 2 and 3 are lies.
            I understand that it is useful to be holistic here, but still, you end up losing perspective.

            • FO

              I mean, 1 can be answered with a “so what?” why waste further time that is better spent explaining why a theocracy would be bad?

            • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

              Wasting time is what I’m trying to avoid. By pointing out that point 1 is a lie, there’s no reason to get into the other points, because the house of cards is built on thin air.

            • Johan

              “that’s a lie”>”so what?”
              It is minus 5000 degrees outside. So what? The sun is made of equal parts butter and margarine. So what?

              See?

  • http://astranavigo.blogspot.com Astra Navigo

    FO, you ask a question which really is akin to saying, “Would we be better off if __________?” (then fill in the blank with a previously-tried idea – one which proved dangerous and destructive, in the hopes that somehow, this time, it would work.)

    It’s worth recapping some of the things which ‘Christian nations’ have brought to the world (Note: List is partial):

    1. National Socialism.

    2. The Crusades

    3. Joan of Arc; extra-crispy

    4. The Salem witch trials.

    5. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry

    (Get the point? Religion and government do not mix – and the revealed religions of the Middle East have proven of a patch to be particularly toxic to humans).

    Yes – today is today; not two hundred years ago. However, ignorance of the past, as Cicero said, makes children of us all.)

    • FO

      I fear that was not my point.
      My point is that worshiping your nation and its founding fathers is not a good idea.
      The FF were not inerrant, flawless prophets, that provided the best possible definition of what a country should be.
      What you want a country to be is more important than what a country was intended to be by whoever founded it, and this does not apply only to religion.

      • Robert V

        The FF did found what became the most powerful, most generous and longest lasting nation this planet has ever seen. Assuming that we agree these are good things, it would make sense to try to stick with the template, minus the obvious flaws (slavery, racism, sexism, etc.)

        Now to give you proper perspective on my comments. I am an athiest, but one that tries to look at things objectively.

        I can see that the new nation called the USA had a population that almost exclusively held certain values, and those values helped those people to thrive in a harsh and unforgiving world. It also helped to build a strong nation. To a large degree our people have lost those values. Our nation is now full of moochers, supported by Democrat looters in government. This situation is destroying us, and when any politition tries to put things back right, they get shouted down by the dumb masses who enjoy the status quo. If things don’t change then our children won’t have a USA to live in. There will be rapes, murders, and riots in the streets, and no-one to stop it.

        I only hope it hasn’t gone too far to be turned around. God help is all.

        • Nzo

          I am an athiest, but one that tries to look at things objectively.

          To:

          If things don’t change then our children won’t have a USA to live in. There will be rapes, murders, and riots in the streets, and no-one to stop it.

          A ‘slippery-slope fallacy’, to:

          I only hope it hasn’t gone too far to be turned around. God help is all.

          Liar for Jesus! Congratulations, you’re a moron!

        • Custador

          Obvious liar is obvious.

        • Darwin

          “minus the obvious flaws (slavery, racism, sexism, etc.)”
          I like how you dismiss some of the biggest problems civilization has faced as minor issues.
          “The FF did found what became the most powerful, most generous and longest lasting nation this planet has ever seen.”
          Most generous nation according to Gallup: Australia. The US is in fifth place.
          Longest lasting nation. The US is just over 200 years old. Countries like China have survived for thousands of years.
          The most powerful nation is in fact, the US (one out of three isn’t that bad, oh wait, it totally is).
          And as far as your values go: out of the 5 countries with the highest Muslim populations, 4 have elected a woman for a leader at some point, or have a woman as their leader right now. Pakistan elected a woman as it’s Prime Minister( the highest post of the country) in 1988. Last time I checked the US thought a woman simply running for office was a big deal.

        • Darwin

          Oh, and I think you’ve provided the proper perspective. You’re a hypocritical bastard. You talk about “values” and then lie about your beliefs in a laughably obvious way. Fuck you.

        • trj

          The USA is the best at everything, we’re living in the End Times, and you’re an atheist.

          Impressive stupidity and lying on your part.

      • Richard Washington

        That’s the beautiful thing about the foundation of this country it’s concept embrace evolving societies and give opportunity for fair participation through voting.

    • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

      National Socialism – I assume you mean Nazis? However, to be fair, that Christian nation did also bring universal health care to the world, back in the 1800s.

      • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

        Oh dear, I hit enter far too quickly. What I was trying to say was that Europe may have given us things like the Nazis, but at least when real socialism came to these traditionally Christian countries, good things like universal health care, the welfare state and social safety-nets proliferated.

        One wonders why it never fully caught on in America.

        • UrsaMinor

          One wonders why it never fully caught on in America.

          Because universal health care, the welfare state and social safety-nets are feared and loathed nearly as much as the Nazis. They lead to Communism.

          • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

            I know, but what I mean is I wonder why that became such a prevalent state of mind. It’s not as if Europe was a million miles away from the Soviets, but they went into socialism quite readily. America somehow managed to convince themselves that looking after one another was dangerous.

            • FO

              I think it is a matter of history.
              Europe got divided between US and URSS, so we got exposed to both world.

              US and URSS instead were directly opposed to each other and the propaganda hit heavily on everything that “the other” represented, including “socialism”-sounding words.

            • Kodie

              I don’t know the whole thing, but my idea is that people do like to think they help the needy, they just don’t like the government doing it for them, because that forces their tax dollars to go to them who need who may not deserve. There’s a strong fixation on whether or not people who are on the take deserve to and people resent that. If it were left to people, on the other hand, because they are so judgmental, people on the fringe would not be able to benefit: people who may have done or are still doing drugs, people who are mentally ill labeled as “too lazy” to work, people who work the system. If you’ve seen any abortion threads, for example, if it were left up to the people, they really can’t comprehend what’s so hard about raising a kid that anyone can’t or chooses not to do it, nor how populations in cyclical poverty are left out of the equation. It’s a culture of doers, people who are too proud to take, people who admire others who make it the hard and honest way, and yet, deep down, feel symbolic empathy for the down-trodden, love to have fund-raisers for the family who has a kid with leukemia, or a firefighter widow with # of children. It’s a little pathological and sanctimonious how independently un-needy everyone is expected to be except in the most extreme unforeseen circumstances. They certainly don’t want to spend tax dollars on the needy who make their own problems and deserve to live with it (or die because they’ve gone hungry and homeless and without healthcare). It’s a little too firmly on the side of “justice” as they see it, and because it’s a democracy, they can actually vote for reps who agree with their notions and win if they are populous enough.

          • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

            Though, to be fair to America, they did start coming up with socialist programs to help people out under FDR. Then something happened and the red scare stopped them coming near it again, other than the creation of Medicare.

            • Richard Washington

              I believe America chose capitalism over controlled socialism that distributed wealth evenly.

  • vasaroti

    Jefferson had a valid point. The origins of British common law, on which US law is based, do indeed lie with a blend of Roman and Anglo-Saxon tribal law. Check out a first year law textbook. Christianity did play a role in the reintroduction of Roman legal ideas in the late 6th century, but it would be really hard to make a case for any legal system truly based on the rudimentary customs mentioned in the Bible. If you ask me, an allthing beats arbitrary rule by a priest or village strongman, hands down.

  • Redbad

    “the romantic notion that the roots of British liberty lay in the Anglo-Saxon tribes”
    Not romantic. Anglo-Saxon Law, and Danelaw, is from which parliamentary procedure, trail by a jury of peers, innocent until proven guilty, etc. hail. Reference Thing, Folkmoot, et al.
    “perhaps it even predated the existence of Christianity”
    Actually, it does. The peaceful arbitration of conflict within and between Germanic tribes is a matter of BCE Roman record. Well, that is before they decided to start swinging axes – peace talks being what they are at times.

    • Custador

      “Thing, Folkmoot et al.”

      Just… Yes. Best reference names ever.

    • VoidWalker

      Exactly what a class I took back in my University days was all about. I majored in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy and graduated with fairly high marks with a B.A. back in 1998, whatever that’s worth to folks. And every word of this and vasaroti’s post above is quite true. I’ve even used it in debating with an acquaintance who likes to take the position that English law was inherently Christian in origin. I tend to pwn him pretty solidly in governmental and religious argument. Got tired of it, though. He drinks too much of the Glenn Beck-flavored Kook-Aid.

  • brian m

    Kodie…that attitude is not self generating…it was crreated through an amazing propoganda campaign. Welfare cheating is childs play. The elites have created whole edifices of looting and thievery. Just read today an interesting. Article about how connected dudes steal millions in salaries bribes junkets and ticket scams associsted with public university bowl games

    • Kodie

      I don’t know that articles like you read would be written except that people feel that everyone who can’t help themselves is weak or cheating the system. On the flip side of neediness is a culture who prides themselves on struggling at any cost to avoid asking for help, and that they’ve been through tough times and never once fed off welfare. There’s a huge stigma still about mental illness, and people understand very little about how the brain works, but fear of the extreme diagnoses, fear, not pity, and little patience for the diagnoses that are generally assumed to be livable and cope-able through a regimen of will power. People who just don’t “fit” ought to make themselves fit rather than milk off the taxpayers hard work. They don’t understand the cycle of poverty or especially systemic racism, and would punish people for not behaving like they would. I think it’s really hard to work the system, but maybe I’m not savvy enough. I do know that welfare doesn’t pay the bills much less make anyone wealthy.

      • Nzo

        You’d be surprised at how easy it is to milk the system. I live in an area that’s known for its tri-state welfare leeching. Parasites go from one state to the next and pick up their welfare checks and food stamps in their brand new Cadillac, wearing nice fur coats, name-brand accessories and lots of real, expensive jewelry.

        You might think I’m joking, or even exaggerating. I’m not.

        • Kodie

          It’s also more common than is the actual case for people to judge everyone as having the same motive for being on welfare, begrudging them their appearance and the things they have, assuming it was all bought on welfare or assuming no one would dare be on welfare unless they look like hell.

          • Kodie

            I’d also say the welfare office, at least in my personal experience has a lot of room for error – I think the problem is that taxes would have to be even higher for them to function efficiently and lower error. If people know how to take advantage of it, that’s on the system, but if you want to add in a lot of checking and snooping into people’s personal lives and what they spend their checks on, it’s going to cost even more and infringe on freedoms – those freedoms don’t go away when you’re poor. Freedom to spend the money on what one perceives as a need rather than what the public would restrict. The general public has little right to judge all the individuals in need based on a few (what they see, obvious) cheaters. There’s more than one way to obtain material goods and more than one place to shop for things that look expensive, or to the judgmental eye, unnecessary luxuries.

            • Nzo

              I’m not really interested in the rest of the discussion, just pointing out that it’s a well known fact around here that you can get 3 different states to give you welfare benefits at the same time, and I’ve witnessed the things I’ve mentioned on more than a few occasions.

            • Kodie

              Curious how much money you think that amounts to, even if it’s 3x more than they may be entitled to? If a person was motivated by actual need to exploit the system, it’s still the system’s fault, and it’s not perfect. People’s imaginations, however, design a perfect system that has to assign tax-paid manpower to not only close loopholes, but infringe on the freedoms of the needy. I’m not saying it never happens and the system I’ve been involved with could use a lot of straightening out and efficiency, if only to provide better help to everyone who asks for it. (I don’t mean money help, I mean being able to answer or even direct a question that poor people might ask about other agencies designed to help them, like healthcare and subsidized housing. “Not my yob, mang.”)

              It’s been my experience extremely frustrating that I can’t see why anyone would do it voluntarily and with malice in mind. I can’t speak to other areas of the country, just that everyone with a mouth thinks they can tell poor people how to dress and what they should be eating with their tax dollars. I can’t say nobody ever cheats the system, but just because everyone says it can be done doesn’t mean everyone doing it is a cheater.

              As pertaining to the topic, and disregarding the cheating you hear about, the general public is suspicious and judgmental that anyone who appears (to them) able, ought not be on welfare at all if it were up to them, and if they happen to meet someone who is, they should be visibly disabled in some way and not have anything nice and only be seen buying rice, beans, eggs, and milk at the grocery store.

              I relate this to the usual abortion debates, being that the general public likes “justice” to punish people who “get themselves” into trouble by letting them starve to teach them that honest work is a good idea. It disregards how they got that way in the first place in a systemic poverty or lack of healthcare and schooling; it disregards the fact of too many people and not enough job openings. Mostly they disregard how they would actually behave in the same situation, only to express how they imagine they would take on the lean times by selling everything they own, taking any job or jobs they could get, and subsisting on a spartan diet, them and their kids. If I made 3x my city’s standard rate of welfare, I still couldn’t make rent where I live, much less upgrade from my (borrowed!) ’90s vehicle to a Cadillac.

            • Nzo

              I’d imagine one could afford quite a few luxuries if their food was covered by stamps, and bills paid by even two states’ worth of welfare benefits, while receiving another.

              Of course people are going to be judgmental about such things. People don’t want, or care, to understand why a person who seems perfectly capable of walking just pulled into a handicap parking space, armed with handicap stickers.

              As for how poor people dress, I’d hardly call a person dressed for a Hollywood premier ‘needy’ in any way. Sell your expensive f*cking clothes, accessories, and Escalade. Buy something economical, and pay your f*cking bills.

              I’m not saying they can’t have nice things, but obviously bill-worthy pawnable/tradeable/sellable things should not be possessed by those that cannot pay these bills. Is it too much to require someone to at least appear to be TRYING to live within their means?

              Is it a punishing “justice” to ask people that can’t afford filet mignon to eat hamburger? Does society owe them an expensive steak?

            • Kodie

              How come everyone on welfare is driving an Escalade? I read these accounts over and over various places, and it’s always an Escalade.

              I have a $300 purse I bought for $80 on clearance 3 years ago, what’s it to you? I have a nice jacket in near-new condition that my mom got tired of and gave to me. I have a pretty good haircut, did it myself, it took a long time. I don’t know about all those people you think you see and hear about, I said I would not say cheating never occurs, but it’s grueling and draining, and so it may be sad and make you mad, but some people do not always make what look like practical choices to you. There’s a lot of flexibility with it and a challenge to make it last the whole month.

              I guess all I’m saying is that your attitude is focused on the cheaters, makes everyone cheaters, makes you think you can dictate what everyone should do – it would take a lot more tax dollars to enforce a regimented, sensible usage of welfare dollars by everyone, and I admit it’s not a perfect system, but this attitude focuses suspicion and judgment on those who do need, a lack of concern for those who need, why they might need, and how they actually live from month to month so differently than you’d personally care for, and it makes people who need have to be defensive about it, and ashamed. I mean, do you care, or are you so full of resentment for the cheats you hear about?

              Ok, I wonder what it’s like in Europe in a more socialized system – if the system is the system, is there a way to cheat it, or is there less fixation on people in their Escalades, living on the take. Shouldn’t there be a lot more resentment? I thought the thread or this part of it was why Americans are so stingy about sharing with the needy. It’s like they don’t think anyone is needy, and anyone who says they are is stealing directly from their pockets. I assure you, you’ve not spent even a whole penny of taxes on me, and I’m on the take. Have a little perspective.

            • http://fugodeus.com Nox

              How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods, in a violent exchange of impoverished schools, while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers. How ingenious to meet the demands of blacks and women for equality by giving them small special benefits, and setting them in competition with everyone else for jobs made scarce by an irrational, wasteful system. How wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminals bred-by economic inequity-faster than they can be put away, deflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices.

            • Elemenope

              Having myself been on food stamps for a year when I was in between jobs, I can say the very idea of “living large” off of food stamps and other state assistance is laughable. If I had received, by cheating or otherwise, three times as much as I did, it *might* have covered groceries for two for a month. Might. I suppose if you had an unnatural affection for frozen burritos and steamed white rice, you could make it work.

            • UrsaMinor

              I think we can all agree that the welfare system is not perfect, and to some extent, it can be gamed. How widespread is this gaming? What is the experience of the average welfare or food stamp recipient? I would simply like to see some good, hard numbers from a proper, impartial study, instead of anecdotes and “everybody knows X”.

            • Noelle

              In the 80s,I was 1 of 6 kids living in a family in poverty. Food stamps alone were not enough to feed us. Those of us in school got free lunch (there wasn’t the free breakfast program like today), and summers were real hard. While my sibs were under 5 we got some food from WIC. Our church regularly gave us canned and boxed goods. My step-dad found some source that would sell him a box of mixed canned goods where the labels had fallen off (play guess what’s in the can kids). With these resources, we managed to survive. It was a luxury to get full on something that tasted good. I was underweight. At 16, I was 99# and my full adult height of 5’2″. Then mom died, and one brother and I moved in with upper middle class dad. One year later, I’d gained 8#, just by eating like normal people.

              We stuffed all 8 of us into a VW rabbit to get around. We wore hand-me-downs.

              We’re not anectodes. I’d have to say I’ve seen this story over and over. I see over 100 different people a week, many of them with Medicaid or no insurance. And in them I see my family from my childhood.

              I have never met a welfare queen.

            • Noelle

              Stupid math. 14 pounds. 113-99. I gained 14 pounds by being allowed to eat. I made damn sure I’d never be poor and hungry again.

            • Nzo

              I said nothing of “living large” off food stamps, I said I’ve seen what appeared to be a gross misuse of food stamps – a source of ire and resentment to anyone with an ounce of dignity, regardless of the realities behind the situation – and I know firsthand of people able to acquire 3 separate states’ benefits.

              Kodie, I’m not sure why ‘everyone on welfare is driving an Escalade’, perhaps there’s a Cadillac sale involving food stamps, or perhaps you’ve read something I’ve written about this before.

              If you have an $80 bag (does the original price REALLY matter?) that you could afford, you’re not on the level of poverty that I’ve been on, or that many of my friends are still on.

              Sure, we all get halfway decent hand-me-downs that could fetch $5-15 at a yard sale, but I’m not speaking about halfway decent clothing, am I?

              I really didn’t want to get roped into this any more than just pointing out that it seems fairly easy, and maybe even profitable, to work the system here.

              Perhaps it’s because I forgot to blockquote the specific part of your post I was answering to, originally, but it’s this:

              I think it’s really hard to work the system, but maybe I’m not savvy enough.

            • Jabster

              My view of the welfare system is much the same as the law system … I would much rather it’s designed so that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man is put in gaol.

            • Jabster

              “If you have an $80 bag (does the original price REALLY matter?) that you could afford, you’re not on the level of poverty that I’ve been on, or that many of my friends are still on.”

              Not sure what you point is here … welfare is not supposed to be to lift someone to the level at which they are just in abject poverty; it’s supposed to raise every one to a decent living standard.

              On a more personal note I’ve spent far more on a single meal than $80 – with exchange rates it was about $250; I’ve been on three long and relatively expensive holidays this year; I’ve spent more than $80 on a bottle of whiskey for this holiday and roughly the same amount on cigars; my better half wouldn’t think twice about spending $300 on a handbag – how on earth can I begrudge my tax going towards someone spending $80 on a handbag. Do you really think that I somehow deserve it at someone else doesn’t?

            • UrsaMinor

              Jabster, the very fact that you are even asking those questions tells me that you do not realize the vast difference in attitude with which the British and the Americans approach the concept of “welfare”, and the concept of “deserve”. Note that I am not defending the American approach; I’m merely pointing out that it proceeds from quite different ideas about the purpose of public assistance, and the right of the individual to claim such assistance from the government.

            • Nzo

              @Jabster

              Please check the context of what’s being said. If someone’s having trouble paying the bills, spending $80 on a bag is not exactly the way to go about getting those bills paid. In fact, pawning a bag like that is the proper course of action, as you could probably find a bag that’s just as useful for significantly less. My comment was about people living within their means, even if it means not buying that item that’s on sale for $220 less than it normally sells for, or selling that (originally $300 bag) to pay a bill.

              At no point have I made an argument based on where my tax dollars go, or my begrudging someone their nice things. Kodie chose to bring up a handbag when I was speaking of things well in excess of even the original $300 her bag was supposed to go for. As it stood, I was a little confused as to why she brought up her bag or nice hand-me-downs.

              I responded to the ambiguous question/accusation the best I could.

              As for this:

              Not sure what you point is here … welfare is not supposed to be to lift someone to the level at which they are just in abject poverty; it’s supposed to raise every one to a decent living standard.

              I’ve really no comment on what it’s supposed to/not supposed to do. My comments have wholly been about personal experiences with it.

            • Kodie

              Doesn’t seem to matter to you that I was employed when I bought the bag? That when I first saw the bag, I fell in love with it, and not just cheesy, transient love, that it was the bag I wanted to carry forever? That to sell the bag and to downgrade to an inferior bag means having to replace handbag year after year, rather than have one good of quality to hang onto and depend on? That one does not deserve the satisfaction of owning a good well-loved rather than a good to get by that breaks and needs to be replaced frequently?

              It was a splurge to me even when I got it, but it was on sale when I first saw it, I couldn’t spend over $100 on it. I had a lot of other things I’d rather not have spent money on – for dressing for my sister’s wedding which, her marriage didn’t last as long as my purse did. After all the crazy dress and shoe-buying for someone else’s occasion, I still wanted the purse, and when looking for it, saw that it was even less $ than before and still lectured myself on frivolity – when I HAD A JOB.

              I knew I had to have it when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I knew it would be a keeper because in over 30-years of purse-carrying, I’ve never felt before for a handbag the way I feel about my handbag. Maybe because you’re a guy, you don’t really know, but I’ve spent years settling for “carries all my shit, isn’t terrible” for a long time and they wear out and look ugly and break before long.

              Don’t tell me to pawn my shit.

            • Kodie

              I bring up the nice hand-me-downs because people who are looking at your grocery cart when you pull out the EBT card tend to give you a judgmental once-over or twice-over and glare at you. Nobody knows where those things come from but based on irritated posts all over the internet about welfare-resenters, if you look too good out of the house, a) why aren’t you working, and b) you just bought all that stuff at retail just now with their money.

              In reality, any give person on welfare is taking less than 1/2 cent of all the taxes you paid last year. In reality, for another what’s it to you?, people with disabilities don’t always sit in wheelchairs. It’s not realistic to expect anyone to rid themselves of their belongings and start over or do without things. I’ve done without lots of things on welfare. I walked everywhere I had to go for at least 2 weeks last summer, until I had sores on my feet from every pair of shoes I thought would be comfortable to wear. So you can’t say, well, walking’s free so don’t put gas in your car. If I didn’t already have so many different pairs of shoes, my feet wouldn’t have lasted 2 weeks.

              It’s just that it seems really easy for someone not on this side to say what you should do and why you shouldn’t have as much stuff as you have or be allowed to keep it. Like the abortion threads, it’s really a judgment of punishment – you got yourself there, now you deserve every misery and deprivation. With that type of attitude, nobody gets off welfare.

            • Nzo

              It’s just that it seems really easy for someone not on this side to say what you should do and why you shouldn’t have as much stuff as you have or be allowed to keep it.

              You’re taking out your frustrations on me, when my remarks were only directed at, what appeared to me to be, over-the-top abuse of the system. Sure, I can honestly say that they’re not the problem now, but you can’t tell me that it wouldn’t piss you off watching something like that.

              Sorry, if you own an 80k+ vehicle, and single items that could provide for your family for months at a time, you (almost definitely) don’t deserve to have the people around you look at you with understanding, respect, and empathy, when you pay for your groceries from funds meant for someone that cannot afford to pay their bills.

            • Kodie

              Mathematically, sure, it’s easy to be more sensible than someone else. I have a friend whose father gave him $10000 of cash to get him and his mother out of a hole they were falling into and it vanished on liquor and hos. I’ve been given about the same amount of money (retro-active disability) and I have to live off it for over a year. I could right now buy something stupid. I know I shouldn’t, so I don’t. It’s more money than I’ve ever had in the bank at any time, so of course I think of the crazy times I could have for a couple minutes.

              However, being on this end, I just don’t look into it as far as anyone else is concerned. Mostly, if you feel like I’m taking it personally, it’s because of the overwhelming culture of judgment that I internally feel I have to justify anything I buy and why I think I need it. That comes from the culture, that I should be ashamed, that I should be more austere, that I should just give up on so-called superficialities that other people take for granted in their world as necessities.

              I am maybe taking on too much of a chip in this thread, but I also think it says a lot of the culture that are so quick to point to anecdotes of the Escalading hair-did welfare queen and how angry that makes them, that make me self-conscious and like I’m supposed to be embarrassed by what shampoo I like and how it looks like I just treated myself to a new winter jacket.

              If you don’t want the government telling you what to buy (and I’m not really pointing at you, Nzo), like what light bulbs you’re required to switch to, or what toxic chemicals you want to ingest or wearing your seatbelt, then it’s really nonsense for any given taxpayer to take it out on another human being who is known to be on welfare. #1, you just don’t know their situation. #2, it’s the welfare system, if it allows it, for the things you see to happen. #3, regardless of whatever you see, the individual has been deemed deserving by the government. The way it is your business is to pay attention to how and when the system is reformed. I’d take it like how you’re supposed to know, if you’ve been online long enough, that parents don’t want you in their business, no matter what their precious angel does to disturb you. If you think you see what you think you see with regard to welfare fraud, griping about it doesn’t change the fact, but it doesn’t spread a lot of warmth to the actual needy – reverting back to the sub-thread, why the US is averse to socialixstic programs and why the general public seems so with-holding. Do you choose to help the needy? Do you care? I can understand you feeling maybe your funds are mis-managed and that makes you suspicious, and I guess that cuts to the heart of why the US doesn’t seem very caring toward our poor. Anyhow, I calculated it, perhaps less than accurate*, but if you see someone mishandling their welfare funds, that’s less than a penny out of your pocket. Actual wealthy people are subsidized more from your taxes than poor people are.

              *I took the amount of money I’ve received and divided it up among the number of working adults in the US. I know each individual pays a lot each, I paid mine too, but it’s not like the needy each are sponsored by another person so that that person gets to tell them how to live.

        • Elemenope

          I am skeptical, only because if it were true the GOP would be bouncing on their heads trying to get footage to use in their campaign spots. Every time they are challenged to come up with an actual real-life “welfare queen”, they’ve failed.

          • UrsaMinor

            Doesn’t matter. The meme is firmly established; the facts have no bearing on the topic in political discourse these days.

  • joe

    Correlation is not cause. The abundance of natural waterways used in the transportation of goods and people probably had as much to do with the way our government and economy was set up as Christianity. New England Christians prohibited Christmas celebrations untill the mid 1850s. Today Jesus is remembered as a free market capitalist war hawk who is set on merging the religion that bears His name with the Jewish faith because of his insecurities and bad banking skills.

  • Nzo

    @Ursa

    The system has helped most, and as with any system, can be gamed, and is a source of corruption.

    The saddest part of all of this is that even the ones gaming the system in a possibly profitable way, as recipients, are significantly less of a problem than the vendor fraud. The media/gop meme you mentioned ignores this, and focuses on the lesser, but more visible, evil, and the solutions presented all focus on all welfare recipients getting less benefits.

    • Kodie

      Let me ask you this: in a disaster, like, say, a fire, the Red Cross endows a recipient with 2 nights in a luxury hotel (after which, they say “fuck off”), $100 voucher at a grocery store (that has to be used all at once or lost), and $100 voucher at a clothing store that may or may not be the goods are really expensive in the first place, and not at all suitable for the (gender of) the recipient (that has to be used all at once or lost). OR, $302 in welfare divided up in 2 parts that has to last all month, which is the more important “charity”?

      • Nzo

        In a disaster situation, neither is useful, and any program/system claiming to be disaster relief, and having those options should be immediately dismantled.

        If I had to choose between them, the second one would be best, as the first is a complete farce.

        What’s your point?

        • Kodie

          A lot of people readily give to the Red Cross who think everyone on welfare is a cheat and resent takers, and I’ve been in both situations, they’re real-life examples. I don’t know what Red Cross does for everyone else, but I felt the funds I could have used in disaster relief were mismanaged on their end far worse than any damage, like buying an Escalade, that I could ever do on welfare.

          • Nzo

            I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’ll be sure to mention that the next time someone tries to guilt me into giving to the Red Cross.

            I wasn’t remarking on the damage you could do by working the system. I’m not even remotely talking about the inner workings of the system, or how the misused funds could hurt it. I was personally offended when I saw these people, and I mentioned how it was apparently very easy here to pick up 3 welfare checks.

            • Kodie

              Even though I went through it, I feel bad about bad-mouthing the Red Cross. It appears a lot of their donations are in the form of store vouchers, and then handed out randomly to victims at times of disaster. So after 2 nights at a nicer hotel, they suggest I find friends to stay with, but I had no one to take me. I got a voucher for a men’s store that stocked mostly jeans and work boots, and only had men’s underwear. I got a pair of nice suede gloves I didn’t need just to round out the bill and later gave them to a friend as a gift. Stupidly, $100 at a grocery store doesn’t really get you very far if you don’t have a refrigerator or a stove, so I got a new toothbrush, a lot of Hostess products, I don’t remember what else, probably some fruit and Tang. It was just like they meant well, but not practical following a traumatic event rendering one homeless.

          • Kodie

            3 welfare checks instead of one would hardly make anyone what you might call “wealthy.” If you think somewhere on the range of $12k/year (an estimate of 3x my area’s welfare) is wealth, then you have to look at it closer. If they otherwise appear wealthy, and are known to be topping it off working the system, they have other means of income and should be reported. Like I said earlier, I think a lot of improvement could come to the welfare system, but more checking and obstacles means more taxes, and not least of all, more difficult for those in actual need to obtain help they are desperate for. In my experience, they already make it as demeaning as they can and place a lot of difficult hoops and paperwork already. The fact that some people are able to cheat off it does not diminish the fact that many more are in need and are unnecessarily judged for their appearing well enough to work. If they make it even harder to cheat, which might seem ideal, it would cost more, and make it harder for honest individuals to get help. The thing is, it shouldn’t be super-easy, but some people give up and don’t really do what someone else thinks they should do, like “go get a job.” They just fall through the cracks. Most people who do turn to welfare realize it’s a crummy situation, swallow their pride and manage, but if it’s too crummy, they’re going to feel let down by their last resort and have nothing left to do. I mean, in a sub-thread about how Americans are afraid of socialiXstic programs, how do you think it feels to turn to your last resort and have to climb a mountain? You’re already tired by that point and you have to keep going, and they make it difficult as it is.

    • Kodie

      Okay, I know I’ve said a lot of the same things, but I think this’ll be the last, and I’ve had time to think about what my issue is with it.

      I have a strong aversion to people who give me money believing they also gain the right to tell me how to think. As a child, it was the way, even as the way money filtered down from my grandfather and largely why I’m raised secular instead of nominally Christian in some form – this is how my mother believes. As a parent-child dynamic, you might see this also should be “you’re living under my roof, you follow my rules,” but it was really brutally, not subtly, enforced. Outside of my mother’s household but still occasionally taking her donations, I strongly reject the notion this buys her my thoughts. There can be a contract where conditions are made, checked, and met, but that’s not the way I want to live my life. To alleviate my parents, then, I turn to the government, who at least constitutionally allow me freedom and not tyranny.

      I got a long lecture at the welfare office what constitutes “income” and what does not. It is income if someone gives me my rent money and I pay my rent with it because I could choose to do something stupid with it instead. It is not income if someone writes a check to my landlord for me. The welfare office then, if no other income, gives someone the maximum cash benefit, if they qualify (and in my opinion, rather difficult many visits to different doctors and signatures to obtain), other self-assessments, and deadlines, which I’m terrible at. The office is not easy to get to, and I even have use of a vehicle. The maximum cash benefit is $302/month, broken up in two parts, and paid on date determined by the last numeral in your SS#. If previously on the maximum of food stamp benefit ($200), it then got lowered to $152. I don’t know how they decide on those numbers, but they decide that $302 is income and adjusts my food stamps accordingly, so if I’m short on food, I have to supplement with my cash on top of paying everything else I need. And this is only a “meantime” welfare in the interim on the decision of the mandatory SSD application. You cannot triple-dip the SSD unless you have fraudulent Social Security numbers and outwit them as per your disability – and they have people whose job it is to check, and they’re not lenient at all. State welfare isn’t meant to support anyone for very long.

      As far as the welfare office is concerned, or anyone I’ve seen working there, they are barely concerned how you spend your money – it is really your choice to be a fool. There’s a recent law that you can’t buy alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets with the cash benefits. Food stamps cannot be used for any necessities other than food, but $200 for one person is a lot of food. $152 is kind of a lot less and only a little less, depending. Restrictions in my state on food purchases is, you can’t by anything labeled “la carte” like a roasted chicken (which tends to be cheaper than or equal in price to a raw whole chicken), or sandwiches that are already made. Outside of that, you can live on 3 cans of condensed soup a day for a month, or you can buy a few pork loins and stella d’oro cookies, and struggle on plain noodles the rest of the month. In a lot of ways, what you buy resembles what you think. They don’t have enough manpower to tell you what to think, and what they consider your income is up to you to manage or mis-manage.

      I was thinking I needed a new hat for this winter because my old one has moth holes in it. It’s cashmere, bought 4 years ago on sale at the now-becoming-defunct Filene’s Basement, so I’m sad. I started to knit again, taking yarn I already had, anyway, that’s not the point. If I wanted to get a new hat and it cost $20 which I consider reasonable, and sensible bystanding taxpayer suggests strongly that I buy a $5 hat at the gas station, I was just thinking how is that less socialixstic? Let’s say the government, instead of giving me an allowance to spend on exorbitant car payments from JD Byriders for my Escalade (which is bound to be repossessed any minute on my paltry “income” anyway) if that’s what I want or think I need, asks me for a list and gives me vouchers, like $5 for a winter hat at the gas station and breaks up my food payments, like $20 on spaghetti, $30 for broccoli, $20 on cheese, $6 for toilet paper, $25 electric bill, etc., how is that not exactly like Soviet Russia? In America, you can buy 14 lobsters and a large tv, and starve for 3 weeks in the dark if that’s what you want and that’s why we like it here!

      Anyway, yeah, I’m not proud to be on the take, but I’m legitimately in need at present. In order to change my circumstances in the future, things need to be a little better than austerity. My state mandates health care, so I self-righteously did not avail myself of free state care until I was hospitalized last year with pneumonia. I still got tons of bills and the state is after me for $50 because I miscalculated my penalty for not having insurance by $11, this is after I paid almost $600 in state taxes while I was on unemployment and now I’m on their welfare system, and they still don’t let it go. If someone else has an Escalade, the only problem I have with that is if they cut me off in traffic and have tinted windows so I can’t see around them and they drive really slow. The system blows, but it’s better than them sending me a package of institutional 1-ply toilet paper and I have to like it.


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