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Friday, July 12, 2013

Let’s Help the Poor

            The Paris church of Christ conducts an active food pantry in our community. Last year – 2012 – we served 3,724 families. The families can come once a month; I do not know how many unique families we serve. I haven't gone through the four 4" notebooks we use for the paperwork and counted individuals or families.
 
            I believe in helping the poor. Many of these families or individuals are elderly and/or retired, live on a fixed income, and need help making the ends meet. If those individuals had been allowed to invest their FICA tax in private business since the 1930s (instead of an imaginary "lock-box" that has been raided by politicians too many times to count) they would probably be millionaires by now. They would not need to get a box from us.
 
            I am more concerned and disappointed in the young men and women who come to the food pantry. These are young, healthy and otherwise capable who are unemployed. The longer they are unemployed, the older their skills become and the more out-of-touch with the current trends they become. They are discouraged and disheartened. They don't want hand-outs but most of them have no choice.
 
            God wants us to be concerned about the poor. Early in the Law of Moses (Exodus 22 & 23), the Lord tells the Israelites to treat the poor fairly. The apostle Paul said helping the poor was something he was "eager to do" (Galatians 2:10). We have a legitimate debate in our country today about how to help the poor. One thing the current administration has done for me is stirred an interest in economics. Economics is not as hard to understand as you might think.
 
            The reason why government spending does not create jobs for the poor is not hard to understand. Paris just had our Martin Luther King Jr. Bypass widened to four lanes. This was "stimulus spending." I do not know how much a worker was paid to build the road. But, let us suppose it was $40,000 each year for the two-years it took. Where did the government get that $40,000 to pay that worker? The only source the government has for money is basically taxes. So, in order to pay that worker $40,000 to build the road, the government has to tax $40,000 out of the economy to pay him. Can you see, now, how simple it is that government spending does not create jobs? It only shifts the money from one sector to another. It took $40,000 (in taxes) out of the –say medical industry – to give $40,000 (in stimulus spending) to the transportation sector. But ultimately, no new job was created.
 
            But the problem is actually worse. The government cannot tax $1 out of the economy and put exactly $1 back in to the economy through "stimulus spending." The reason is because the government always has to pay itself. It has its own buildings and utilities and salaries (many of them six-figure salaries) to pay and all that has to come out of the money it takes through taxes. You can easily see how the government has to tax far more than $40,000 out of the economy just to pay that one person his $40,000 to build that road.
 
            The taxes that are imposed are imposed on those people and businesses who would otherwise have given a job to someone "on the margin" of society – the people who come to the food pantry. President Obama – or even Governor Beshear for that matter – could lower my tax burden to absolutely zero. Obviously, I am a member of the middle class but I still could not give someone a job. I could not pay someone enough money with my tax savings to support his/her family.
 
            The fact of the matter is that it takes someone wealthy – making $150,000 or $200,000 or more – who can give a job to the people who come to our food pantry. But if these people are being taxed to pay for six-figure salaries and buildings and SUVs in Washington, D.C., they can't give anyone a job in Paris, KY.
 
            When a person works and produces, he/she feels important. They are contributing to their own mental health, taking care of their own families, as well as contributing to the gross domestic product. Marriage is also one step that helps lift women and children out of poverty.
 
            Any parent knows that if you consistently do everything for your child, he or she will grow up dependent and ego-centric. The same natural result occurs when you give an adult everything. They appreciate what they have more when they work for it. To work, they need business men and women who can hire them.
 
--Paul Holland
 

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