Why do we do what we do: expediency or principle?

06.01.07 | Family | 37 Comments

Great comments again. I didn’t share all the details of our income, education or budget, because, honestly, I am more interested in my own principles and motives (and examining both of those) than in my own sob story. I don’t think the issue is how badly one needs assistance. What matters is if it is moral to take from some to give to others. Period. Should the rich give to the poor? yes. Should we force them to do this? I believe the answer to this is no.

Would I steal bread to feed my children if necessary? YES! (but I would never think that my need somehow makes stealing right).

But I feel I might have given only half of the story before, so here are some more details (especially in response to Sylwia’s relevant suggestions as to how my husband and I could solve our problems). (Sorry Dick!)

Dick has a masters degree from Columbia University. We chose to attend the most prestigious and most costly university to which he was accepted (out of seven). We really wanted to go there, and to live in New York City. We learned a lot and had great experiences, but it was an unwise decision financially.

We do not qualify for WIC. We probably never have and hopefully never will. If I had given the WIC people Dick’s paystub from his primary job right after Spot’s birth, they might have decided that we qualified. But my husband also does freelance work and often teaches to supplement our income (rather than having me earn a wage). He makes a good salary, and is well-liked and appreciated by his company. He has many opportunities for advancement without further formal education (though he is always learning new things in his field).

Now, I said that I feel it is wrong for us to force the rich to give to the poor. What about this scenario: Jane has a hard time making her budget stretch to meet her obligations and feed her children. If she could retain the amount of taxes she and her husband pay in income, social security, medicaid, property and sales taxes, she would much more easily be able to feed her children. But, she is not allowed to keep the money that her husband has earned. The government decides that other people need that money more than she does, and so they take it and distribute it as they please.

I’ve written earlier that I don’t buy prepared baby food. It’s a good thing I feel confident in my ability to nourish my baby without prepared baby food, because the truth is that I cannot afford prepared baby food (among other things, unless I go further into debt). Is it right or moral that the government decides that my money should not be spent to feed my children but should instead be spent to feed someone else’s children? It doesn’t matter how worthy or needy any other child is: Isn’t my first responsibility to my own children?

How could it be moral for the government to make it harder for me to fulfill my obligation to my own children? Just as it is immoral that the tax code privileges working mothers over stay-at-home mothers as I mentioned in my original post. If my husband could pay me a salary for “nannying” his children and then deduct $5000 a year off his tax bill (not his taxable income–his actual tax owed), we would struggle much less.

So, the question is: is it moral to force the not-so-rich, in fact, the “almost-qualify-for-WIC-themselves,” to give to the “poor”? If and when we take assistance from the government, I hope that we consider that we are taking food out of one child’s mouth in order to put it in our own. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t do exactly that if my children’s need were so great and I had no other option. Of course I would; I’m a parent. But that money comes from somewhere, from someone. It comes from me.