by David Alvord
In a few days we will say Goodbye to President Bush. His presidency will probably be remembered for the Iraq war. Obama's decision to extend the service of Robert Gates is encouraging to me and is a signal that America won't be rushing out of Iraq anytime soon. This must be very frustrating to the anti-war left.
When all things are considered, President Bush delivered on what he campaigned for. He promised to be a "compassionate conservative". When we conservatives first heard the word "compassionate", we worried that Bush was referring to a compassionate government. We worried because, as conservatives, the only compassion we want from the government is to be left alone. Had Bush not heard Reagan say "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"? Probably not.
I hope I speak for most conservatives when I say that we are for human compassion. We simply believe that families, churches, and communities are better at taking care of the poor than the government is. We believe that if the money is left in our hands, we will be more responsible with that money than the government will be. When a family gives financial support to one of it's own, there is accountability involved. The family knows if any individual is abusing the money and will make adjustments accordingly. The family will also encourage eventual self-reliance. Does anyone really think that a social worker knows as much (or cares as much) as the family does?
There may be some reading this who worry that there are some individuals who may not belong to a family who can offer any assistance. This is where churches, charities, and communities can step in. Ironically, one of the reasons families may not be able to take care of their own is due to the high tax rate we currently have. I believe that if you let Americans keep more of their own money, families will be empowered to take care of their own. And, the American people will be much more judicious with that allocation than any government agency can be.
When families have the money, it encourages a society to higher moral standards. For example, imagine a young college student who is considering experimenting with drugs and who is also considering getting body piercing, and tattoos. If Mom and Dad are paying for college, or helping etc, there will be the immediate thought that they may cut him off from that funding if he/she does not live up to the standards of the family. But if Uncle Sam/Uncle Obama is paying for school there will no immediate consequences. In fact, that college student will hit "decline"on his cell phone when Mom calls. After all, who needs Mom and Dad when the government is paying for things? What about the consequences of drugs and tattoos? Governments can run ads on TV warning of the consequences of drug abuse to a young person's body...but we are talking about people who feel pretty immortal. And the consideration of being able to earn a living? Won't those tattoos and piercings put a young person at a disadvantage? No worries...the government will be there for the young person if they hit "rock bottom". They won't have to go to Mom and Dad and hear their lectures, take out their tongue rings and get a job. No.... Pell grants, food stamps, public housing will all be there for them if they really screw up. The result? A decline in the character and morals of the society.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son. In the Parable, a son departs from moral living and spends his birthright on riotous living. When he comes to himself, he returns to his father who compassionately receives him. One of the essential elements of the parable is that the Son hit bottom. There was no government program to bail him out. He basically had no choice but to return and repent. The prodigal had to return to moral living in his father's house. The son is better off in his father's house than if he had continued in riotous living while being supported by some unfeeling sponsor. The father had the means to kill the fatted calf and put a ring on his son's finger because he was not overtaxed. The whole story doesn't work out if we get the wealth redistribution Obama is talking about.
I heard Obama say that if one of his daughters makes a mistake (gets pregnant), he doesn't want her to be "punished" with a child...therefore abortion should be an option. First of all, children aren't a punishment. And at the heart of all of this, is the notion that there should be no punishment for wrongdoing. When you try to take away the consequences of bad behavior, you are, in turn, likely to increase the opportunity for people to behave badly.
Conservatism offers a better way. Let the people keep their money. Empower families to take care of their own. Churches and communities can assist those who are disabled, the Elderly, or those who have made poor choices. There will be accountability when help is given.
Conservatism allows us to be compassionate. Our man Mitt understands this principle. It is my prayer that Obama will see it too.