The Ethical Spectacle, May 1995, http://www.spectacle.org
A colleague of mine is a conservative who is refreshed by the
actions of the Contract Republicans. Since he believes, like many
other Americans, that the government ought not to be in the welfare
business, I asked him the other day how he felt about disaster relief.
"Its fine with me,"he said.
"But what's the difference? Disaster relief is also a kind of welfare,
"Let me explain. Here's Joe Average," he said, holding his hand
straight up to indicate an upstanding, responsible citizen. "Something
comes along and knocks him over" (appropriate hand gesture), "I don't
mind helping. But if someone is like this" (hand at 45 degree angle)
"and the only reason that he's not like this" (hand horizontal) "is
because I'm there propping him up, well, I'm out of there."
He elucidated that generations of people have grown up bent because of
welfare, and he doesn't want to grow any more.
In fact, there is no moral difference whatever between welfare and
disaster relief. Both types of aid can be characterized, with
equal accuracy, as help to people who are "innocent" or to people
who are "guilty" of their own plight:
The reason you can characterize either type of aid as supporting
the "innocent" or the "guilty" is because both types of
people are included in both populations. Therefore, any popular
trend to end welfare, while leaving disaster relief alone,
is based on the false premise that there is in fact a moral
distinction between the two groups. We get there by a
familiar road: accepting disaster victims as Joe Average while
refusing to believe that welfare recipients are the victim of
any disaster. In a giddy atmosphere in which
hate is again becoming acceptable, the demonization of the
poor has only just begun.
- Women who wind up on welfare because a man leaves and won't
pay child support and who cannot find jobs and day care are
Josephine Average, knocked over by circumstance. They form
a significant percentage of the
- People who choose to live in dangerous places, like exposed
barrier beaches or the entire state of California, are highly
dependent on federal "entitlements" to help them rebuild when
they could easily avoid the situation by moving somewhere else.
People who continue living in places that have been subject to multiple
hurricanes or earthquakes over the years form a significant portion
of the "disaster relief" population.