The recent notification that the upcoming changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will change, affecting some 2,000 residents or approximately 13% of those currently on the program should be a matter of concern for not only the government of Guam but every resident of our island.
If you suddenly remove this assistance from that many people without some form of alternative program to offer them, you are asking for some potentially serious social problems to occur.
In years past, I had written about the need for the government to establish some form of a work-for-assistance program – asking those who are given government assistance to do work for the community in return.
Unfortunately, much like so many other problems facing this community and our nation, those who have been elected to resolve such issues have only perpetuated them.
Locally, a perfect example of this would be the never-ending cycle of failure at the Guam Memorial Hospital. The hospital has been plagued for far too many years by political meddling and influence peddling that continues to this day. Until that changes, the hospital will never be successfully operated for the community.
But this change in the SNAP program can potentially have more far-reaching effects touching the lives of nearly every Guam resident via increased crime and compounding other social issues.
The real problem here has historically been that government officials – federal and local – have continued taking the hard-earned tax dollars from those who choose to work and freely given them to those who have made the conscious decision not to work.
In its simplest form, elected officials have literally bought votes in these efforts via a huge social welfare program to get or stay in elected public office. The SNAP program is simply one example of such a program. It is the beginnings of socialism at work – without the work.
During the mid-1930s, at the time of the great depression, the federal government began a program called Works Progress Administration. Under this program, literally millions of Americans who were mostly unskilled were employed by the government to build bridges, roads, parks and buildings across the country in literally every community.
During the peak of the program in 1938, the program provided paying jobs for some 3 million unemployed men and women. Between 1935 and 1943, when the program was disbanded, it had employed some 8.5 million people.
While far from being a perfect program, it avoided unspeakable social trauma as well as giving people a sense of pride in the work, they were doing for themselves, their families and the nation as a whole.
Where and how have our elected officials gone so far astray that they cannot see the need for making our citizens responsible contributors to society rather than seriously dependent upon government for their livelihood?
Sadly, elected officials, federally and locally have turned people into dependent creatures who will consistently elect the same type of official so that they can both remain on the public dole.
Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of media organizations on Guam and Hawaii, former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia and is a longtime business and civic leader on Guam.