The number of food stamp recipients has climbed by about 10 million over the past two years, resulting in a program that now feeds 1 in 8 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 children. (“Food Stamp Usage Across the Country,” New York Times, February 11, 2010)
Those statistics should give people who contend that hard work is sufficient to overcome adversity in the
For me, those statistics are a siren call that underscores the moral problem with the growing disparity between the affluent and the poor in the
A Christian economic system incorporates not only economic incentives to encourage individual initiative and responsibility but also sufficient regulation to keep the wealth and income differences between the rich and poor within reasonable bounds. One interesting suggestion is that no employee of a corporation earns more than one hundred times the earnings of the lowest paid employee.
Simply providing a social safety net, of which food stamps constitute one element, is inadequate. In the short-run, dependence on a social safety net can ease difficult transitions. Long-term dependence on a social safe net tends to make people comfortable receiving public assistance and thereby undermines their self-esteem and commitment to self-sufficiency. In other words, the longer term consequence of too wide a disparity between the rich and the poor is social disintegration of the type seen in some third world countries in which elites siphon off the wealth, completely disenfranchising and alienating the have-nots.