When Pope Francis speaks, liberals listen, except when it’s about abortion and same-sex marriage, unless, of course, he spouts liberal talking points.
His latest comments are about the poor. “The Gospel does not condemn the wealthy, but the idolatry of wealth, the idolatry that makes people indifferent to the call of the poor,” Francis stated in “This Economy Kills,” a study of the Pope’s economic and social teachings.
Pope Francis appealed to Matthew 25:42-43 to make his case, paraphrasing the passage:
“I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked and you helped me, clothed me, visited me, took care of me.”
Taking a closer contextual look at the passage, one can see that government programs are not in view. In each example Jesus gives, help comes from individuals, not the State. Jesus is not describing the development of government programs.
History shows that Christians took Jesus’ admonition to heart and created numerous care agencies. These agencies would be overwhelmed today because governments have created an unmanageable number of poor people by creating poor people.
This isn’t the first time that this section of Scripture has been used to justify government programs designed to help the poor. The biblical model is the Good Samaritan who uses his own time, initiative, and money to help a man who “fell among robbers” (Luke 10:29-37).
No one is denying that the poor need help. What is being denied by conservatives is that government programs of wealth confiscation and redistribution do not help the poor. In fact, they create more poor people and make them dependent on the State.
Since the Great Society programs of Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration were implemented in the 1960s and expanded. “Currently our government spends over $1 trillion per year on anti-poverty programs. Over the past 50 years, over $16 trillion was spent, i.e., wasted,” Ron Paul writes in “Reality Is Now Setting in For America”:
“The poor grow in numbers as the middle class shrinks and the privileged class that benefits from government spending and government control of the monetary system thrives. The political demagogues and the authoritarians feed the flames of resentment that develop between the rich and the poor as class warfare and racial strife take over. They care little and understand less what liberty is all about — the more chaos there is, the more laws they seek to pass.”
Economist Thomas “Sowell argues that the Great Society programs only contributed to the destruction of African-American families, saying ‘the black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”
He goes on to show that for blacks, prior to the mid-1960s, economic changes were taking place at an accelerated rate:
“The economic rise of blacks began decades earlier, before any of the legislation and policies that are credited with producing that rise. The continuation of the rise of blacks out of poverty did not — repeat, did not — accelerate during the 1960s.
“The poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960, during an era of virtually no major civil rights legislation or anti-poverty programs. It dropped another 17 percentage points during the decade of the 1960s and one percentage point during the 1970s, but this continuation of the previous trend was neither unprecedented nor something to be arbitrarily attributed to the programs like the War on Poverty.
“In various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959 — that is, before the magic 1960s decade when supposedly all progress began. The rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater in the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than in the five years afterwards.”
None of this is to say that current economic policies are good for the nation. There is too much government intervention, too much cronyism, too much taxation, too many regulations, and too much debasement of the currency. The rich are getting richer because the government is pouring trillions of dollars into the economy, and those in positions of power are taking advantage of it.
Calling on the government to do more will only create more economic chaos and hurt more people. “By the time it is understood that these ‘benefits’ are artificial,” Ron Paul writes, “government power and special interests have gained control of a system designed to serve them and not the people the programs were purported to help. The victims are left hanging and taught that too much freedom is the source of the problem, prompting even more support for the policing power of the state.”