Dear Mr. Berko: I'm active in my church, doing God's work for the poor and homeless, and we've done lots of good work. I've been reading you for 25 years, and none of your columns has spoken for the poor or homeless. We support a universal basic income. Could you discuss our work (narrative enclosed) with your readers and ask them for contributions so we can continue God's work? — AS, Dallas
Dear AS: Thanks for writing. Every year, I receive a half-dozen similar requests. This column helps readers make investment decisions; it doesn't ask for donations to support admirable goals that are as realistic as world peace. If I favored one organization, I'd have hundreds demanding similar help.
Take a glimpse at history. Look back to when Napoleon ravaged Europe. Recall the Crusades and the Norman conquest. Look back several thousand years before Christ, to the pharaohs of Egypt. What would you find? You'd find physicians, entertainers, priests, merchants, politicians and standing armies. You'd also find hunger, inequality, discrimination, sickness and a wide chasm between the wealthy and the poor. That's precisely how it is today, except there are several billion more of us on the planet. And as populations grow, so will the numbers of homeless, uneducated, poor and jobless who'll face discrimination and hunger. This is the natural order of the universe, and these inviolable laws of nature can't be altered. The monotheism of Abraham couldn't change this, nor could the gods of the pharaohs, the Romans and the Hindus. The minions of Christ failed. So did Allah and Mother Teresa. So did Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society program; indeed, since 1964, our ghettos have gotten bigger and our poor have gotten poorer.
Many of the world's brilliant politicians, activists and social scientists embrace the notion that the homeless, the starving and the uneducated can have roofs over their heads, full bellies and fair jobs. They believe poverty, discrimination and inequality can be eradicated. So Washington's bureaucrats demand more money and programs, but they fail to realize that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." That's incredible stupidity. LBJ's Great Society program and the 1996 welfare reform — intending to promote equality, eradicate poverty, rejuvenate cities, improve education and foster employment — were ignominious fiascos.
Washington has spent over $22 trillion of tax money since 1964 to help humankind, yet we're further from success than we were in 3,000 B.C. And the continued failures have created a welfare system that has hard-wired a culture of 5,000 years of failure. Resultantly, the underclass has burgeoned. Poverty has compounded. Joblessness has worsened. Public schools have been corrupted. Crime, drugs, incivility and children born out of wedlock have segued into a permanent culture. These failures have been passed down from generations of parents to generations of children, like a genetic clap that has become embedded in their DNA. Multiple generations' worth of failure has caused a feral anger — a type that is usually associated with abused animals that have been pushed into a corner with a stick or a bat. People blame society for their squalor. And trying to discuss these failures with noble members of Congress, our aristocratic social scientists and our patrician highborn is like trying to discuss God with a dung beetle. The deportment of the poor and uneducated appears ineradicable. And it seems to affirm the admonition in the Old Testament (Matthew 26:11) that "ye have the poor always with you."
Poor people are the only ones who can help themselves. However, it's difficult to resist free food, free housing, free medical care and lots of other free stuff. We must recognize that there are things that can't be changed. Human decency encourages us to reach out and help. However, experiences of thousands of years confirm Matthew 26:11. At some point, hard choices will be made concerning those whose costs to society greatly exceed their contributions. And because nothing seems to work, good folks such as you will have to figure out how to do the impossible.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.