by: Mark Skousen
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” – “The Thanksgiving Psalm,” Psalm 100:4
Today is Thanksgiving, a great American tradition started by the Pilgrims and officially established by Abraham Lincoln as a national holiday. It’s one of my favorite holidays — a time for family and friends and the needy to get together and thank the Lord for our many blessings.
Normally, my wife Jo Ann and I get together with our children and their families, but this year none of them can make it, so we are inviting a few friends and members of our church who might be alone on this holiday.
Thanksgiving is always a feast at our house. I think my wife is the best cook in the world. (You haven’t lived until you’ve tried her sweet potato casserole.)
Speaking of food, let’s talk about food stamps, America’s fastest-growing social welfare program. In 2000, only 17 million Americans participated at a cost of less than $18 billion. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996, pushed through by a Republican House and signed by President Bill Clinton, actually reduced the number of people on welfare and food stamps. Food stamps were hardly ever mentioned in political debates, like Medicare and Social Security, because there was a means test (wealthy people couldn’t qualify) and most Americans were ashamed of going on the dole.
That all changed, starting in October 2008, when Congress and President Bush changed the name of the program to SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — as a way to eliminate the negative image of food stamps. The government also eliminated the stamps and replaced them with a debit card, so nobody could tell at the grocery store that people were using food stamps to buy goods.
Then came the Great Recession in 2008, and President Obama relaxed the limitations of the Welfare Reform Act. Now 48 million Americans — one out of every six — receive food stamps. The cost to taxpayers is more than $78 billion a year. And nobody seems to care if we have established a permanent welfare class, with fourth-generation welfare recipients. In sum, we now are going down the road of ancient Rome, and collapse is inevitable if we don’t reverse the trend.
I recommend that you read Michael Tanner’s great Cato Institute report on how to turn things around with America’s fastest-growing social welfare program.
Our goal should be to sharply reduce the SNAP program, not encourage its expansion. Our goal should be that every able-bodied American should have a decent job sufficient to get off of welfare. Volunteer organizations do a great job already in making sure people don’t go hungry, such as the Food Banks, Meals on Wheels, Salvation Army, the Mormon Church, or other charity and religious welfare programs.
The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving
There is a tradition that in the planting of New England, the first settlers met with many difficulties and hardships, as is generally the case when a civiliz’d people attempt to establish themselves in a wilderness country. Being so piously dispos’d, they sought relief from heaven by laying their wants and distresses before the Lord in frequent set days of fasting and prayer. Constant meditation and discourse on these subjects kept their minds gloomy and discontented, and like the children of Israel there were many dispos’d to return to the Egypt which persecution had induc’d them to abandon.
At length, when it was proposed in the Assembly to proclaim another fast, a farmer of plain sense rose and remark’d that the inconveniences they suffer’d, and concerning which they had so often weary’d heaven with their complaints, were not so great as they might have expected, and were diminishing every day as the colony strengthen’d; that the earth began to reward their labour and furnish liberally for their subsistence; that their seas and rivers were full of fish, the air sweet, the climate healthy, and above all, they were in the full enjoyment of liberty, civil and religious.
He therefore thought that reflecting and conversing on these subjects would be more comfortable and lead more to make them contented with their situation; and that it would be more becoming the gratitude they ow’d to the divine being, if instead of a fast they should proclaim a thanksgiving. His advice was taken, and from that day to this, they have in every year observ’d circumstances of public felicity sufficient to furnish employment for a Thanksgiving Day, which is therefore constantly ordered and religiously observed.”
–Benjamin Franklin, “The Compleated Autobiography,” compiled and edited by Mark Skousen (Regnery, 2006), pp. 331-333. © 2006, by Mark Skousen. All rights reserved. Vol. 1 (original “Autobiography”) and Vol. 2 (“Compleated Autobigraphy”) by Benjamin Franklin is available for only $34.71, plus $5 for shipping and handling for both volumes by calling Eagle Publishing, 1-800/211-7661. Refer to code AUTOS.
In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my last column about the attack on J. P. Morgan’s legacy. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below.