People are on welfare for many different reasons. Most people are on welfare because they lost their jobs and need benefits to care for their families until they can find new work. Others are sick or disabled and are therefore unable to work. These are reasonable explanations for why people need welfare. But religious conservatives are inventing a new reason to explain why people are on welfare.
According to right-wing preacher and activist David Barton, people are on welfare because they don’t read the Bible.
David Barton is a conservative minister from Texas. He is the founder of Wallbuilders, an organization that seeks to destroy the separation of church and state to achieve its ultimate goal of turning America into a Christian state ruled by Biblical law. During his radio program called ‘Wallbuilders Live,’ Barton claimed that people are on welfare because they don’t read the Bible.
“Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a study between those that are on welfare and see how much and how often they read the Bible,” Barton wondered. “You know, if Booker T. Washington is right that Christianity and reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work; if we take that as an axiom, does that mean that the people who are getting government assistance spend nearly no time in the Bible, therefore have no desire, and therefore no ability for hard work? I could go a lot of places with this. I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense.”
There are two problems with Barton’s claim. First, Bible belt and the more religious/conservative states have been revealed as the real welfare states. On average, for every $1.00 that blue states receive, red states take $1.16. That may not sound like a lot but that adds up to millions more in federal aid going to conservative states.
If we take a look at the list of the top states that take federal dollars, 16 of the top twenty states are conservative leaning.
1. New Mexico: $2.03
2. Mississippi: $2.02
3. Alaska: $1.84
4. Louisiana: $1.78
5. West Virginia: $1.76
6. North Dakota: $1.68
7. Alabama: $1.66
8. South Dakota: $1.53
9. Kentucky: $1.51
10. Virginia: $1.51
11. Montana: $1.47
12. Hawaii: $1.44
13. Maine: $1.41
14. Arkansas: $1.41
15. Oklahoma: $1.36
16. South Carolina: $1.35
17. Missouri: $1.32
18. Maryland: $1.30
19. Tennessee: $1.27
20. Idaho: $1.21
As it turns out, the big liberal states that conservatives have come to despise actually take little federal aid.
40. Massachusetts: $0.82
42. New York: $0.79
43. California: $0.78
So the real welfare queens are in fact, conservatives.
The second problem with Barton’s claim is that a recent Gallup Poll found that Republicans are more religious than Democrats.
So either conservatives don’t read the Bible or they do read it and collect welfare at the same time. The evidence presented suggests that Bible-toting conservatives need welfare more than less religious people living in liberal states.
Regardless of who gets more welfare, those who get it most certainly need it. People just don’t go on welfare to get a free ride. In order to receive welfare benefits, a person has to qualify for them. Whether it be food stamps or Medicaid or housing assistance or energy assistance or unemployment benefits, welfare programs clearly help those in need. According to statistics, most welfare recipients are white adults and are on welfare less than two years at a time. That means the majority of Americans see welfare as temporary assistance.
Obviously, Barton’s claim is seriously flawed. Of course, I wouldn’t expect him or any other conservative for that matter to believe the facts.