Last week, Glenn Beck pushed the standard, anti-government pablum that “big government never lifts anybody out of poverty. It creates slaves.” He added, “I've never met anybody who's successful that told me, 'You know, if it wasn't for those hand-outs from the government, I would never have made it.” Hi, Mr. Beck. My name is Jeremy.
Now, I'm no billionaire. Far from it. But I'm also no “slave” to a “big government” that failed to lift me out of poverty. In fact, “big government” very directly helped lift me out of poverty. I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, a depressed steel town in the 1980s. Weeks after my fifth birthday, The New York Times reported that Youngstown's unemployment rate -- then at 18.7 percent -- had fallen, but remained the highest in the nation for the second consecutive month. Times, as they say, were tough.
My family turned to “big government” in the form of what was then called “Aid to Families with Dependent Children.” HHS explains that the grant program was established “to provide cash welfare payments for needy children.” That and food stamps -- and the help from extended family -- let my family put food on the table and for the most part heated a home where I could do homework, play games -- be a kid. Through the national school lunch program, I received some of the 219 billion lunches that have been served since that program's inception.
Because my family had assistance from “big government,” I was nourished and had a home where I could study. I got good grades and generally stayed out of trouble. I got accepted to college (Go Buckeyes!). How could I pay for that? Pell Grants sure helped. Stafford loans, too.
I graduated. I got a job. I went to grad school. I got another job.
Now, I don't know how you define success. And to be sure, I'm still striving. But I'm no “slave” to “big government.” I'm a success. I've been “lifted out of poverty.” It's a pleasure to -- well, I've made your acquaintance.