During bad economic times, government spending on such programs as unemployment insurance, food stamps and Medicaid will rise, as more Americans lose their jobs and need immediate economic assistance.

To spend more dollars for that assistance is good fiscal policy. To cut back on that aid, as some are advocating, would produce short-term savings, but it would be a bad investment for America in the long run.

Most Americans who have lost their jobs are eager to get back to work. But they're looking for work in a market where the number of jobs that match their skills is insufficient. They may need extended unemployment insurance, food stamps and health-care benefits to tide them over. Providing that assistance will give them the time and energy they need to successfully find employment in an improving economy where, slowly, more jobs are being created.

If we spend more money helping them now, that's a good investment, because these Americans will eventually re-enter the labor force and produce billions of additional dollars for our economy.

If we expand Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act to cover health care for up to 20 million more Americans currently ineligible, we'll give them the security to keep working at low-income jobs that don't provide health benefits, or to find work when they're laid off from a job in their later years. This gainful employment of millions directly benefits our economy.

Should we scrutinize entitlement program spending for waste, fraud or abuse? Of course. Effecting savings by ensuring wise expenditure is always a good idea. And we need to find long-term solutions for possible future Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid fiscal shortfalls.

Some argue that the market economy will move to remedy any insufficiency in government programs. But our jobless rate is now 7.6 percent and more than 46 million people live in poverty. Sometimes the market works its wisdom. But we need government to step in when it fails.

Surely we can afford to help those temporarily in need, and those long-term in poverty. The wealthiest country can afford to spend more money on current entitlement programs, and on expanded health care.

Should we need to reallocate more dollars to do this, we could cut back our huge annual defense expenditures - a projected 38 percent of total worldwide military spending in 2013. And we could end unnecessary warfare.

In addition to the fiscal wisdom of investing in our fellow Americans, do we not have a moral obligation to help them?

Most Americans can easily answer the question posed by Cain (Genesis 4:9): "Am I my brother's keeper?" We answer: Of course we are. Millions of worthy, productive American men and women need our help. Let's give it to them. It's a good investment, and it's the right thing to do.

No: Helping needy will reap benefits

Editor's note

Every Monday we offer pro/con pieces from the McClatchy-Tribune News Service to give readers a broad view of issues.

Fred Andrle is a former executive producer and host of a daily public affairs radio talk show on WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.