Fox News renewed a fierce debate over how the U.S. Government takes care of its poor and needy citizens when it aired Bret Baier's special report, titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge." You can see the entire documentary below:
This documentary is very educational. But everyone is focusing on the interview John Roberts did with a willfully unemployed and unmotivated surfer who lives a life of leisure in a very wealthy suburb of San Diego, California called La Jolla. To put La Jolla in perspective, Its the same place where Mitt Romney bought a house that is worth $12 million.
This surfer makes people angry for many reasons. He unabashedly admits on television that he chooses not to work despite living in San Diego's richest suburb, La Jolla. He is happy that other people are subsidizing his life style and seems to relish that fact. He is doesn't appear that he really needs the food stamps that he uses. His lifestyle is offensive for two reasons. He's accepting money from people who work hard only to have the government squander it on losers like him and he's taking the money from people that really need the help.
The Fox News documentary was designed to provoke people to debate this issue. We need to have this debate, especially when these entitlement programs are the largest driver of our national debt. This program is also pushes people to wonder if there is different approach that our government could take to help the poor and the needy.
Actually, the answer just might be found in a Church that has its headquarters in Salt Lake City. Yes, I am talking about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, other wise known as the "Mormons."
Ronald Reagan was a big fan of the Mormon's Welfare Program. After he taken a tour of the Church's welfare program, he made the following comment to the press: "What I think is that if more people had this idea back when the Great Depression hit, there wouldn't be any government welfare today, or need for it." He also told his aides after the tour that, "You know, there is a program that comes very close to being the most ideal way dealing with those who are poor and unfortunate; and that is the Mormon Welfare Program."
The reason why the LDS Church has been a model for how to help the poor and the needy is because it runs their welfare program in the exact opposite way that the U.S. government does. There are no freebies. No hand outs. People are required to work or help as a condition for receiving assistance. Here's how the Mormon Welfare Program works:
The system is supported by the generous “fast offering” donations of 13 million Church members throughout the world. Mormons fast, or skip two meals each month, and give the money they would have spent on the food (and often much more) to their local Bishop. The money they give is called a “fast offering.” The bishop then uses those funds to help members of his congregation, and others, who are in need.
But it is not a handout. The bishop gives the needy individual or family assignments to work for the assistance they receive. The work might include cleaning a church building or using skills to help someone else in need. Fulfilling these assignments helps those receiving assistance to maintain their dignity and self-respect and provides a way for them to give back.
The Church Welfare program helps both members and non-members alike. The person who requests assistance from the LDS Church works with the local Mormon ecclesiastical leader, known as a Bishop, to make sure that their needs are being met. The ecclesiastical leader also makes sure that the person has some work assignment to do as they are receiving the help that they have requested for.
The goal of the LDS Welfare program is based on the idea of getting people who need help the immediate help they need, but then weaning them off of it and making them productive in society. The LDS Welfare system works hard in helping as many people as they can. During the 2012 election, Brian Williams did a report about the Mormon Church. Below is a clip where they reported on the Church's Welfare program:
Despite the massive size and scope of the welfare program, the LDS Church is very efficient and successful in helping people get back onto their feet quickly as possible:
According to Rick Foster, who oversees a smaller storehouse in Salt Lake City along with the cannery and dairy at Welfare Square (the original site of all the church’s welfare services), people depend on the food at the storehouse for an average of three to six months. (emphasis added)
The LDS Church's Welfare program is so efficient and cost effective because it operates on the singular goal of helping people become self sufficient and reliant as soon as they can. The Church has a system in place to make sure that nothing is wasted, people get what they need and they get it quickly so that they are back on their feet again.
In fact, the Mormon Welfare program is so efficient that it is usually the first organization on the scene after a major disaster of some kind. See John Stossel explain this below:
Additionally, the program is also extremely effective because it has mechanisms and incentives in place to prevent people from free loading which ensure that slackers (like the La Jolla surfer) do not drain the welfare system dry. The Church does not allow for situations where food and money are doled out with no accountability.
Thus, the idea of receiving help but also being able to live a leisurely lifestyle is completely unacceptable in the Mormon program. The LDS Church would simply not tolerate nor appreciate the La Jolla surfer's attitude or thinking. You don't get to play while others are helping you. You do what you can to help yourself or pitch in to help others.
It is clear that entitlement reform is needed in America. The LDS Church provides some good ideas on how to create a program that works on helping people who really need it in a quick, efficient and cost effective manner. The only only problem is this: Will our government actually put these ideas into practice?
For more information on the LDS welfare program: http://www.providentliving.org/
You can also make a donation to the Church's Charity program here: http://www.ldsphilanthropies.org