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MISGUIDED GOOD INTENTIONS OFTEN HURT THE MOST HELPLESS

SHARE MISGUIDED GOOD INTENTIONS OFTEN HURT THE MOST HELPLESS

Let's ask a question: Do we help others with meager choices by eliminating their best-known choice? While you ponder that, how about an example? If there's a person with only one slice of bread, and we all think he should really have five, do we improve his situation by taking that one slice? "Williams," you say, "you've got to be crazy; nobody's that stupid!" If we accept the idea that we shouldn't destroy a person's best choice, let's talk about the actions of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Oct. 20, 1996) carried a story titled "Halt to Screw Work Sad." R.P. Coating Corp. of Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio, had been paying inner-city Cleveland residents a piecework rate of about $1.50 for every 1,000 screws and washers they assembled in their homes. Some screw workers used that meager pay for beer and bingo money, while others depended on it to live. Most of the workers were elderly, disabled or welfare recipients. It was attractive work to homebound people, especially single mothers, many of whom had their children helping out.In September, the Labor Department investigated R.P. Coating Corp. for possible violations of minimum-wage and child-labor laws. Dave Elsila, spokesman for the United Auto Workers (UAW), said, "We've been following for years the movement of work outsourced to parts plants in the Third World and Mexico, and to find the same kind of work going on in our own back yard is shocking to us." As a result of the investigation, R.P. Coating Corp. has stopped its homework screw-assembly operation.

Cheryl Hall, a single welfare parent of four, said, "We felt cheated, but it was a chance to make money." She and her sister, also a single parent, earned $120 a month assembling screws.

Here's our question: If these people had superior alternatives, why in the world would they be doing the tedious, monotonous and hand-aching work of assembling screws? Obviously, they saw it as their best alternative. In comes the Labor Department to destroy their best alternative without offering them some-thing superior.

The liberal mentality would say, "Williams, if they need more money, we ought to increase welfare!" Is that really a superior alternative? Let's look at it. The children who were helping their parents were learning discipline, responsibility and cooperation rather than being out on the streets doing mischief, drugs and crime. The adults were exercising the correct moral initiative - trying to be at least partially financially independent.

The Labor Department actions are in part a result of misguided good intentions. But a more important motivation is it's protecting the interests of labor unions, which would rather see contracted-out work go to their members at a much higher pay. Government-backed job destruction helps explain why there is so much spiritual poverty. Years ago, the values held by blacks were expressed by what my stepfather used to say, "Any kind of job is better than begging and stealing." That's a message roundly denounced by the actions of black politicians and white liberals.