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Should We Feed Them or Teach Them To Fish?

Updated on January 13, 2013

“Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. But if you teach a man to fish you will feed him for a lifetime.”

It’s an old Chinese Proverb according to The Quotations Page but I grew up hearing my Dad say it. For years I thought he was the author. Dad wasn't a very educated man but he was smart. He was a hard working man who placed a lot of value on earning his way in this world. Looking back, Dad said a lot of things that make sense to now that I’m older.

Now if my Dad could see the long term value in a person learning to feed themselves, what’s wrong with our policy makers in Washington who don’t seem to have a clue?

Having a job to go to each day can actually make us more productive in general. I don’t like generalizing but, I do believe that working people are more motivated to maintaining their homes and cars. They tend to participate in more social activities and have more activity-based hobbies. A person who has worked hard sleeps better at night and is less likely to have the energy to get into mischief. So with all those benefits, why can’t our policy makers see that handing out food and money and health care to those who could earn their own money is more harmful than good?

There are, and always will be, those whose circumstances warrant a little help; maybe even a lot of help. Our problem in this country is that we don’t allocate the resources to carefully screen the applicants. If our reasons are purely economic, then the answer seems simple to me. The money saved from careful screening could be applied to hiring more screeners. We create jobs and save money too. More importantly, we end this apathy and dependence.

There is a movement taking place in our country; a movement of older folks (baby boomers like me) who are cutting their ties with materialism. We are choosing to live with less quantity but more quality. It is an economic decision for some and for others, nothing more than a choice to live a more simple life. The reason is not as important as the outcome. We are proving that you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars at the grocery store. A house full of electronics and dust-collecting knick-knacks doesn't make a house a home. We can entertain ourselves without television and electronic games. In other words, these things are not required to live a productive life.

Our needs are very basic. We need food, shelter, and sometimes medicine to survive. So why is our government spending so much money? There are alternatives.

Shelter:Our policy makers should not feel responsible for providing individual housing for everyone that asks for it. Let’s build some boarding houses and give them a room. That should motivate them to get a job. Many of my ancestors ran boarding houses or lived in them when times were tight. It didn't kill them.

Food: Food stamps should not be distributed unless we have confidence that no money in the home is being spent on illegal drugs. Yes, I believe in testing those who are receiving food stamps.

Medicine: Our health care system is broken, across the board. It’s broken for those without and with private insurance. Do our policy makers think it’s fair to punish the working class with high cost health insurance premiums and reward the non-working class with free health care? What’s wrong with that picture? Why don't we fix what's really wrong first. Get the lawyers and insurance companies out of the health care business and restructure what hospitals can charge. We just might find that there is enough for everyone to get decent care.

So hey Mr/Ms Policy Maker - Do you remember who you’re working for? It’s broken, can’t you see? We are doing it all wrong. We need to teach them to fish. My Daddy said so and he’s almost always right. Take that picnic basket back and give that man a fishing pole so we can dig ourselves out of this hole before it’s too late and we've dug ourselves a tunnel all the way to China where they write those really smart proverbs.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.


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