Budget Cuts and Sad Stories

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Few,
I imagine, are more aware of the consequences of poverty than I
am. Coming here from abroad as a kid and leaving the home of a brutal
father, I started off penniless, working as a short order cook and
lived at first in what used to be called a ghetto in Cleveland.
Slowly I got myself out of this spot, first by working at better
jobs, then by enlisting (since the US Army would have conscripted
me), and later by going to college at night and eventually full
time, while working 30 hours a week as a draftsman and at other
jobs all through my undergraduate and graduate studies.

I
was no less interested in finding the right mate and beginning a
family than are most other people but I clearly had no means for
this. Not until I was 40 years old did I finally have the financial
base that made it possible to raise a child. This was when I realized
that my chosen career had reasonable prospects.

Why
do I dwell on all this personal stuff in a column that is not meant
to be a confessional? Because I need to contrast how some people
embark upon
family life with how others do, especially given the complaints
aired by many young parents in light of the impending budget cuts
in California, cuts that will reduce or completely eliminate certain
programs that subsidize parenting for millions. Yes, these programs
are out and out subsidies to people who shouldn't have embarked
on raising children. Some of them, of course, were promptly paraded
before us on television news and I was privy to such an offering
on the San Jose ABC-TV affiliate.

The
broadcast featured one young mother nearly in tears about the fact
that the support she is getting now from the California government
could well be reduced. Another held her baby in her arms while complaining
about a similar fate. And the reporter was, naturally, intoning
with earnest concern – learned, no doubt, from Peter Jennings,
who is a master at such body and ordinary language – about
how the projected cuts in funding for various programs will harm
thousands of children. And governor Schwarzenegger was, of course,
featured prominently as the bad guy who is insisting on some measure
of fiscal responsibility in California on the backs of these unfortunate
parents and children.

No
one, as you might expect, said anything at all about why at least
some of these parents and children are facing possible dire straits.
No one said anything about irresponsible parenting. No one aired
even a murmur about how many of these parents embarked upon putting
children into the world without serious preparation for taking care
of them, expecting simply to just dump the kids on the rest of society.
These irresponsible parents do not only engage in out and out malpractice
but they have no compunction at all about demanding that government
force the rest of us to fund their morally vile conduct.

There
are alternatives, of course, including, first, to wait to have kids
until one can afford raising them. In cases where such efforts didn't
manage to produce sufficient support, the parents could appeal to
voluntary charity. That would require, in most cases, admitting
that one has acted badly and approaching various organizations with
the appropriate contrition and make a frank plea for support of
their children. In some cases these parents, if one can call them
by that honorable term, should probably give their children up for
adoption – they have proven, after all, by their thoughtlessness,
that they are unprepared to be parents.

In
no case have these parents and their sentimental backers any moral
justification for expecting others in the society to be forced to
take care of the children the parents alone have brought into the
world. No, no such line of commentary came from anyone, nor did
any of the questions reporters posed to the various parties intimate
anything along such lines. Instead, it was pretty much taken for
granted by all who chimed in that when people who are unprepared
nonetheless decide to have children, the state ought to force the
rest of us to assume responsibility for them whether or not we choose
to do so. In other words, the rest of us, some of whom have chosen
not to have children, some who chose to have them with reasonable
preparations for bringing them up, are to be forced into involuntary
servitude, partial slavery actually, because these so called parents
have acted irresponsibly.

I
am not concerned here whether the budget cuts are wise or not. I
do know, however, that many of the parents who complain have no
one to blame but themselves. Yes, there are some who did everything
they could and still ended up needing help. They ought to appeal
to us to help them, not enlist the government to coerce us to serve
them. The others, the irresponsible ones, should admit their irresponsibility
and seek help and forgiveness, not demand to be taken care of.

January
12, 2004

Tibor
Machan [send
him mail
] holds
the Freedom Communications Professorship of Free Enterprise and
Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman
University, CA. A Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, he is author of 20+ books, most recently, The
Passion for Liberty

(Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).

Tibor
Machan Archives


        
        

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