Friday, August 28, 2009

Back on Uncle Sam's Plantation

It's been more than half a year since Star Parker wrote this column. I was just introduced to it this morning. It is worth our deep consideration:
Six years ago I wrote a book called Uncle Sam's Plantation. I wrote the book to tell my own story of what I saw living inside the welfare state and my own transformation out of it.

I said in that book that indeed there are two Americas -- a poor America on socialism and a wealthy America on capitalism.

I talked about government programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS), Emergency Assistance to Needy Families with Children (EANF), Section 8 Housing, and Food Stamps.

A vast sea of perhaps well-intentioned government programs, all initially set into motion in the 1960s, that were going to lift the nation's poor out of poverty.

A benevolent Uncle Sam welcomed mostly poor black Americans onto the government plantation. Those who accepted the invitation switched mindsets from "How do I take care of myself?" to "What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?"

Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems -- the kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others.

The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools, and broken black families.

Through God's grace, I found my way out. It was then that I understood what freedom meant and how great this country is.

I had the privilege of working on welfare reform in 1996, passed by a Republican congress and signed into law by a Democrat president. A few years after enactment, welfare roles were down fifty percent.

I thought we were on the road to moving socialism out of our poor black communities and replacing it with wealth-producing American capitalism.

But, incredibly, we are going in the opposite direction.

Instead of poor America on socialism becoming more like rich American on capitalism, rich America on capitalism is becoming like poor America on socialism.

Uncle Sam has welcomed our banks onto the plantation and they have said, "Thank you, Suh."

Now, instead of thinking about what creative things need to be done to serve customers, they are thinking about what they have to tell Massah in order to get their cash.

There is some kind of irony that this is all happening under our first black president on the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

Worse, socialism seems to be the element of our new young president. And maybe even more troubling, our corporate executives seem happy to move onto the plantation.

In an op-ed on the opinion page of the Washington Post, Mr. Obama is clear that the goal of his trillion dollar spending plan is much more than short term economic stimulus.

"This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America 's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, healthcare, and education."

Perhaps more incredibly, Obama seems to think that government taking over an economy is a new idea. Or that massive growth in government can take place "with unprecedented transparency and accountability."

Yes, sir, we heard it from Jimmy Carter when he created the Department of Energy, the SynfuelsCorporation, and the Department of Education.

Or how about the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 -- The War on Poverty -- which President Johnson said "...does not merely expand old programs or improve what is already being done. It charts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty."

Trillions of dollars later, black poverty is the same. But black families are not, with triple the incidence of single-parent homes and out-of-wedlock births.
Parker concludes her column:
It's not complicated. Americans can accept Barack Obama's invitation to move onto the plantation. Or they can choose personal responsibility and freedom.

Does anyone really need to think about what the choice should be?
My answer: Yes. For most of us, it is not an easy choice. We are like the false prophets of Israel (about whom I read just yesterday morning in Lamentations 2:14). They were unwilling to expose Israel's iniquity--the one behavior (exposing Israel's iniquity) that could have restored the nation's fortunes. Instead, they "[saw] for [Israel] false and deceptive visions, . . . oracles that [were] false and misleading."

And I sense we tend to be the same today. We prefer the message of "love" and "forgiveness" and "tender mercy" in the midst of our self-seeking. We prefer not to listen to the message of judgment and condemnation for our foolish and wicked ways. (It struck me, as I read Jeremiah how many of his "positive" statements were among the Scriptures I was urged to memorize when I was involved with the Navigators in college. I can't remember a single exact-opposite verse I was ever urged to memorize. [Consider, for example, Jeremiah 29:11--"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."--and compare it to Jeremiah 21:10--"For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire." --Which one do you think we were urged to memorize while I was in Navigators? . . . Yeah. It was definitely not Jeremiah 21:10!])

When those who "even" claim the name of Christ have their ears so tuned to listen in only one direction, why would anyone bother to speak the truth to power (much less to the mob)? Jeremiah himself told the king why he was disinclined to speak the truth (though he always did, as far as we can tell): "If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me" (Jeremiah 38:15).

How about you? Are you willing and able to speak the truth to yourself, much less to others?

I try to keep in mind what Jesus said: "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much" (Luke 16:10).

I pray I will be faithful in the little things--even in holding myself accountable with the wealth put at my disposal--so that I will be faithful in much (whatever the "much" may mean).
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