When debating the state of welfare in our country, there are many well-intentioned people who argue that our nation needs welfare because individuals can’t survive without it. To illustrate why this isn’t so, let me tell you the parable of the crutch and the wheelchair.
Short-term assistance is like a crutch, and long-term welfare is like a wheelchair. If a person breaks their leg, a crutch can support them long enough for their injury to heal so they can walk again on their own. However, if you push that same otherwise healthy person around in a wheelchair for as long as their leg takes to heal, they will lose enough muscle and stamina that walking again will be an uncomfortable challenge. If they forgo the discomfort and stay in the wheelchair, having become so accustomed to it, they will eventually reach the point where they won’t be able to walk independently without some serious rehabilitation.
When an individual or family breaks a financial leg and can’t make it on their own, providing them the crutch of short-term assistance is sensible and laudable, but only necessary for them to get back on their own two feet. Keeping a financially injured individual or family in the long-term welfare wheelchair, while it may come from a sense of caring and compassion, is not the way to get them back on the road of social and financial wellness. Long term welfare robs people of the ability, and often the desire, to financially walk on their own.
Our society has shortsightedly raised generations who are dependent on government assistance for their survival. Relieving people of the responsibility for their own support also takes away the rewards of self-sufficiency. If, as a society, we really want to help people, we will become rehabilitators instead of facilitators.