The last thing I saw last night was Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, giving the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. Mr. Christie was chosen because he has a reputation as a no-nonsense, shoot-from-the-hip kind of politician. He really stuck to the rather extreme views that the Republicans like to espouse these day, but he didn’t use the rhetoric that we have heard over and over as the GOP held the House of Representatives hostage. At least he sounded original as he shared his mom’s advice that winning respect is more important than winning love. Since Mitt Romney is not getting high scores in likeability polls he will have to go for respect. While Mr. Christie may inspire that “tough love” respect he spoke about, I am not sure that Mitt Romney does.
This is the party that reveres unborn children so much that they cannot back abortion even in the case of rape or incest. These Christians are sincere, but misguided in the same ways that missionaries often were. They have not walked in the footsteps of all the women in the world. They have not experienced the many, many ways men or life can victimize or exert power over women. Perhaps they even still believe that women are meant to assume a role that is supportive to her man, but the slightest bit subordinate also. Whatever. You would think that a party that fights so hard to save unborn children would fight equally hard for children who are already born.
I don’t think the safety net for the poor was only intended for unfortunate adults. I believe that the plight of poor children in America was a strong consideration when programs like Welfare, WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Medicaid, Subsidized Housing, and Food Stamps were created. I know that we have American adults who have learned to game this system so that they will not have to go to work, but, from what I have seen, if you scratched the surface of many of these “malingerers” you would find a person who because of psychological difficulties or low IQ may be unsuited for many kinds of employment. Since we are a country of free people we have no system in place to match people’s skills to available jobs, but perhaps there are jobs that are suitable for some of these adults. However, it is the children of these parents who will suffer if we do as Mr. Christie and the Republicans suggest and discontinue these programs. It will certainly save our government money and balance budgets and even lower the deficit, but what is it that our government will be doing? How will it still be the government of “we the people”? We will find, if we dismantle the safety net, that within a decade we will have to reinstate it. The Republicans think we will look like a third world nation if we don’t deconstruct the safety net; I believe we will look like a third world nation if we do.
Our challenge, I believe, is to revise the safety net; find simpler and better screening procedures, ways to make sure poor children benefit from any funds we give parents, more money spent on training programs to help parents stuck at the bottom imagine a more self-sufficient future for themselves and their families. Use the social service network to brainstorm ways to give more targeted support and cut back on the features that invite abuse. The party that defends the contents of a woman’s womb should also be relied on to support children who are already living. The days of looking to churches and communities to take care of the poor are over, although our communities already try to keep up. With all our ingenuity can’t we find a way to reform rather than dismantle the safety net that prevents many American children from the horrors of less enlightened times.