I recently read a wonderful article by Patrice Lewis called “The right to nothing.”  You can read the article here.  In it, she raises the question, “Why give a person a fish instead of teaching him/her how to fish?”  The question identifies the issue perfectly which leads me to my answer.

I believe Ms. Lewis is writing about people who have failed to take advantage of the options available in this country and who now make looking for government assistance, in some form or another, their career.  These same people have become so used to “entitlements” that these handouts are now perceived as “rights.” 

Most parents want their children to grow up, move out and become productive members of society.  Good parents give their children the skills necessary to do just that – whether those children take advantage of their parents’ teachings is another story.  Schools are there to educate our children so they can contribute to society.  Again, whether children choose to take advantage of the opportunities available to them and benefit from this education is yet another story.  Whether to learn a trade or go on to higher education is a choice the student must make.  Good parents, along with the educational system, should teach our children how to “fish.” 

Ms. Lewis writes about a man she calls “John” who is the director of a national advocacy organization which benefits the homeless.  In her opinion, and mine, John did not see the connection between homelessness and government dependency. 

I can’t fault someone who’s naïve although, after a while when the same person is coming to you for handout after handout and can’t figure out a solution on how to pick themselves up (barring mental impediments), that should tell you something about their life style choices and commitment to resolve their own dilemma.  I call this misplaced compassion.   

It apparently doesn’t bother John if none of these homeless people he advocates for ever becomes independent private-sector employees.  His organization needs more funding!

This type of mentality goes directly against what our Founding Fathers hoped for this country.  America is one of the few if not the only place where anyone can truly rise up from nothing and make something of oneself.  Government entitlements discourage this individualism.

While the vast majority of people in this great country have gone to school, taken advantage of the educational system which enabled them to get a job, and work hard every day to provide for their families, there are some who have not done those things and would rather sit and wait for a single “fish” from the government than go out and work for as many “fish” as they can.

So, the question is, “Why is it preferable to hand out fish instead of teaching these people how to fish?”  The answer is simple.  Power. 

One group who retains power and importance are the “poverty pimps” – those individuals who benefit unduly by acting as an intermediary on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged, or some other “victimized” groups.

They benefit from the unfortunate circumstances of others and really don’t want any perceived societal problems to be eliminated permanently because it’s not in their own best interests. 

They receive government funding or solicit private charities to work on issues on behalf of various disadvantaged individuals or groups, but who never seem to be able to show any amelioration of the problems experienced by their target population.

I heard this not-too-flattering term used for the first time by Bill Cosby when he addressed a Detroit audience in January of 2005.  Many people did not take too kindly to his words, but I agree with him wholeheartedly. 

The Urban Dictionary describes poverty pimps as “any self appointed minority leader, who extols the perpetual poorness of their ethnicity, yet is quite well off stemming from their efforts; usually a Reverend of some unknown church; marches at the drop of a hat to mug for the cameras; uses White guilt to gain credibility, money, and influence; are usually racists themselves.”

A few people come to mind and if they don’t happen to like it, it’s just too bad.  There’s an old idiom which says, “If the shoe fits, wear it.”  Unfortunately, in the past fifty years, we’ve seen this country become a haven of entitlements and, now, with the Obama administration, we’ve seen the line of corporations and people, looking for government bailouts and handouts, grow longer and longer, all at the expense of the American taxpayer. 

With the burgeoning deficit, I don’t get why the poverty pimps are allowed to continue to have such a stronghold in this country and why teaching everyone to fish would not be better in the long run rather than handing out a fish a day.

And, if you do, God bless you. 




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