In the movie “Hondo,” John Wayne’s character throws a boy in the water to learn to swim so he might get to the other side of the pond for better fishing. The mother was horrified, but the boy survived and was not traumatized. In fact, he was elated to achieve better fishing and the skill of swimming.

The mother thought she was seeking her son’s welfare, but instead she was stunting his progress and growth as a man. She respected neither his person nor his ability to fend for himself. She is our government today, effeminate and coddling; motivated not by a mother’s love, but by an elitist desire to orchestrate everyone’s lives. We need a return of the father’s stern hand in our government.

Now I will utter a shocking statement, a blasphemy against society: Many people receiving help do not need help, but rather a good heave into the water. Letting them help themselves shows respect and a real love that wants to see them succeed. They may be in a tough spot, they may be suffering, they may be facing difficult times — but they do not require money from the government that was forcibly taken from their neighbors.

We’ve redefined “poverty” and “welfare” and “in-need-of-help.” Poverty today is relative and based on coveting a neighbor’s possessions, while then drawing an arbitrary line between the haves and have-nots. “Welfare” subsidizes poverty, leading to the sustenance and growth in numbers of those “in-need-of-help.” Our society is rapidly becoming the 40-year-old son who is “between jobs” living in Uncle Sam’s basement.

The Montana Department of Health and Human Services is far and away the state’s biggest budget item. Nearly one third of Montanans receive government assistance of one sort or another. The entire state finances over 60% of our total budget with federal dollars. The person who points this out is, of course, accused of being cold and heartless, of hating the disenfranchised. I would reply, “Into the water with you.”

Charity is given as wings, while hand-outs are mere ankle weights or concrete shoes. Humanistic welfare throws the entire lifeline into the pit, onto the head of the hurting one. Charity lowers down a sufficient length of rope and holds on as long as the other fellow is climbing. The new way oppresses and fails to deliver. The old way produced results for those willing to climb. The new way grows the number of the needy and demands more from the givers. The old way grew the number of givers and demanded more from the needy. The state is not equipped to offer charity, because the state has no resources of its own to freely give. State “charity” is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul, or vice versa if Paul is the one with the money. The state’s role is not charity, but the sword. That is all the state knows, coercion and punishment. When the state tries to administer love and mercy using a sword — through coercion and punishment — the result is obvious, lots of cuts and bruising and hurting people. The victims of the war on poverty suffer from friendly fire, and we keep pulling the trigger.

The loving comfort and mercy for those who really need it must come from the private sector of the family and church. The state’s checks are always bigger and with less strings attached than the church’s, thus, few turn to the church for real help. The voluntary giving of someone who knows you and your trial is true charity and welfare. Church and state must coordinate to restore welfare to the people.

Imagine that if over the next 20 years (that’s 10 legislative session) the DPHHS budget was cut by 10% in each session and the oversight of welfare was returned to the people. If 20 years is too soon, let’s say 40. In the end, the state would be removed from the equation. Those truly in need would of necessity turn to family, friends, neighbors and their churches. Those private entities would, of necessity, help the needy, and throw those afraid to swim into the water.

Impossible, some say. I say not. We as a state will learn to swim, and the fishing is better on the other side.

Rep. Greg DeVries (R-Jefferson City) represents House District 75. Contact him at and via his Facebook page “Greg DeVries for Montana House District 75.”

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