The Demoralizing Effect of Social Welfare

Teena Myers
Teena Myers

I stood on the balcony in our room to watch people boarding transport boats to Belize. A large barrier reef prevented the cruise ship from docking at the pier. My husband and I donned our exercise clothes and sprayed each other with bug repellent in preparation for a bicycle ride through the jungle. 

Getting to the Bacab tourist resort was a journey. We boarded the transport boat for a high-speed ride to the pier. At the pier, we caught a bus for a 40 minute drive to the resort. During the ride, a tourist guide told us about the country and answered questions. I learned that Belize was predominately Catholic, but the Jehovah’s Witness has surpassed them in adherents. I saw a Protestant church, but apparently their numbers are too small to include in the conversation.

More memorable than the prowess of the Jehovah’s Witness was the reaction on the bus when we learned about the welfare system in Belize. “Belize has no welfare. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. If you don’t have a job, you make a job,” said the tour guide. Then she smiled and asked if we wanted her to run for President of the United States. The bus erupted in cheers and applause.

I had witnessed the bitterness communist ideas of equality created while checking out at the grocery store before we left on vacation. I stood in line behind a well-dressed woman chatting on her cell phone. She paid for her groceries with food stamps. As the cashier scanned my items, she mumbled, “I should quit work and go on welfare. She dresses better than I do.” But I was surprised by the strong reaction on a bus in a foreign country. I doubt anyone is against helping the poor if they are truly poor and unable to work. Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of the system. People who work resent having their hard earned money taken to support those who refuse to work because welfare is easier.

The bike ride through the jungle was harder than expected. I read in one of the shore excursion reviews the bicycle path was worn and easy to travel. To the contrary, the path was filled with rocks and tree roots. To make matters worse, it had rained the day before we arrived making the path slick with mud. The woman in front of me wiped out on a tree root and was greeted with a mud bath. I smiled as I rode by, “You’d pay a lot of money for that mud bath in the ship’s spa.” She laughed in agreement.

We returned to the ranch for a lunch of beans, chicken, and I think fried banana. I bought a coke when the waitress assured me it was made locally with brown sugar. The coke was exceptionally sweet. We retreated to the pool for a short snooze in a hammock, and then went to the butterfly house.

The ants arrived the day before we did and decimated all the butterflies except the brown and not so beautiful Owl butterflies. The curator, adorned in a Saints shirt, held the wings open to show us the owl face on the wings, and talked about his plans for the house. He was a student of entomology at a college in New Orleans.

Later that evening, we decided to try a different restaurant on the cruise ship for dinner. The waiter seated us next to a young couple from Oklahoma. We chatted while waiting for our entrees to arrive. He had a good job at a factory, but his wife’s college bill was straining their finances. She aspired to be a teacher, but the pay was low and there were no jobs to be found compounding the financial difficulties. After a moment of silence, the husband said, “We never should have gotten married.” I held my breath for a marriage spat, but she nodded in agreement. They were bitter that their unmarried friends, who made less money, were getting free rides through college. They did not qualify for aid because he had a decent paying job.

The social welfare programs in America may help some people, but they are also creating a disgruntled middle class that resent the unfair advantages given to others. Instead of teaching people to earn what they need, it encourages them to reduce their income so they can have the same advantages others are receiving.

I leave you with God’s method of helping the poor.

Leviticus 19:15

15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great but judge your neighbor fairly. NIV

Leviticus 23:22

22 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. NIV

Leviticus 25:35-38

35 “‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. NIV

Deuteronomy 15:7-8

7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. NIV

Deuteronomy 24:14-15

Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. 15 Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise, he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin. NIV

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