Wealth/Poverty/Social Class The question of the United States national budget and any resolutions to this dire struggle are deeply rooted in the controversial ideas presented by Thomas Malthus in an excerpt, “An Essay on the Principle of Population” that states, “… in every society in which the population increases it will eventually produce more people than it can feed, thereby condemning a certain percentage of the population to live beneath the subsistence level” (324).
The idea that the general public is unaware of overpopulation or the contingency of it is appalling. The subsistence level that Malthus refers to was sought to be rectified by the government’s development of entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, established to provide for low- income members of society. These personal financial benefits are funded through the national budget, and have proved constraining on the country’s overall growth and have attributed to the national debt crisis.
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The number of people benefiting from these entitlements was to be coextensive to the overall condition of the economy, but the neglect to regulate this has brought the United States to its current predicament. We are now at a point of making cut-throat decisions concerning these programs. Garrett Hardin’s essay, “Lifeboat Ethics: The case against Helping the Poor,” utilizes a metaphor of a lifeboat in the ocean that has a limited capacity, surrounded by swimmers eagerly wanting to survive.
The swimmers in his scenario are at the mercy of the lifeboat occupants who are posed with the moral dilemma of rescuing some versus none. If these programs are cut or reformed in any way, some will suffer; some will stay in the water, but whom, the elderly? How about the low- income families living in poverty, or perhaps the hard working retiree who has served his time in society’s workforce? Population pressures continue to tip the balance against many developing countries, and it is no different in the United States.
Given the current levels of population and the likely trends of increase, it is imperative to anticipate future needs. Today, we are pressed to improve resource management and prevent the degradation of our people by providing sustainable livelihoods for the millions, but at what cost? The management of financial and natural resources will require an equal commitment from all parties involved in order to “solve real and pressing problems of overpopulation and hunger” (359). If basic needs cannot be met for our people, then development will be stalled and the economy may begin to unravel more than its current state.
In regards to Medicaid and Medicare, these two programs have proved beneficial to the low- income members of society, but have also been abused and have served as enablers to those without motivation for a greater and independent quality of life. There have been situations where families have had extreme tragedies, death of the head of household, loss of jobs, or fatal illness, leaving the financial survival of a family with no other solution than to depend on the charity of government assistance.
The difference seen between these cases and people that are lifelong members of Medicaid is the determination to persevere the trials of life. Families with a desire to advance in life, eventually leave government assistance within a couple of years because they have established means on their own. Many years ago, my family received Medicaid and Food Stamps on and off for ten years, but never more than a consecutive year at a time. My step-father, who worked in construction, was at times unable to find work due to inclement weather conditions or simply lack of work opportunities for a small construction business owner.
In lieu of this knowledge, my mother planned for tomorrow as if it were here today, and saved because she was aware that construction was a fickle profession. Through her savings and a commitment to improve our quality of life, she raised four children and went to school, achieving her bachelor’s degree and currently teaching for the Brownsville Independent School District. Her story of triumph over the low-income stigma of society can be anyone’s story of success.
The initial problem with these specific entitlement programs is easy to see; it is present in the name itself, ‘entitlement programs’. We are a blessed nation, and as such should not feel entitled. Instead, we should feel privileged that we were born in a country such as ours that is able to provide assistance when needed, and should only be used when needed, not as permanent lifestyle, nor a class in society. Medicaid and Medicare are now treated as Hardin would propose, “. . . a commons open to all. . . (360) thus, causing overuse and an initiated collapse of the country’s financial demise. Hardin states, “If everyone would restrain himself, all would be well; but it takes only one . . . to ruin a system . . . ” (360). The Social Security entitlement program is rightfully labeled an entitlement because action, years of labor and work, is taken to earn this benefit. The precious time of a person’s life is dedicated to earn a living and become an active member of society’s workforce, therefore contributing to the nation’s economy.
This accomplishment should be rewarded with accurate reimbursements equal to each person’s individual contribution in his years of work to the Social Security fund. Reallocating funds from Social Security to programs such as Medicaid and Medicare is a misuse of budget money and again draws concern to the responsibility of resource depletion on earth and its direction correlation to the population growth, which is greatly surpassing the supply-demand ratio.
If we are not able to sustain a reliable funding program of money that rightfully belongs to people who have already fortified their portion of Social Security with years of work, then the government who anxiously awaits the next wave of graduates to pay off what is owed to the Social Security fund, we must re-teach Luke 16:10, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (316).
Implementing and executing stricter regulations and applying a keener eye to the obvious misuse of the government entitlement programs are simple words of wisdom, but application should not be taken lightly, as Lucy Lameck presents in the excerpt, “Africans Are Not Poor,” she expresses “The most important resource for us is knowledge: In our present circumstances . . . ” (353). The United States is aware of its imperative circumstances, therefore eliminating Medicaid and Medicare would obviously cause an outbreak of chaos, panic and collapse of our society.
Realization and fear of agitation over a decision that will benefit the greater good should not hold back the government from stepping forward with a solution. Mistakes have been made in the past, hence our debt crisis, and all solutions pose a threat to some portion of society, but we need to follow as Hardin writes “. . . we must begin the journey of tomorrow from the point where we are today. We cannot remake the past” (366).