CHICAGO — If women are so dim-witted that they would move in with David Koresh, the wacky Waco cult leader, and become part of his harem, that is not my concern. Different strokes for different folks, as the goof generation liked to say.

But I don’t want to work to support Koresh’s many wives — as many as 47 of them, according to some reports. Nor do I want to work to feed the many children these women and Koresh have spawned. Not that I dislike children. I just think that if a man has them, he ought to pay for their upkeep himself.

However, it appears that as a taxpayer, I’ve been saddled with the responsibility of feeding Koresh’s many wives and children. And probably Koresh, too.

In a recent dispatch from Waco, Chicago Tribune, reporter James Coates quoted a former clerk at Sam’s Warehouse, one of those big discount stores that sell products in large quantities.

The woman said: “They used to come in here and buy all sorts of staples — things like a couple hundred pounds of pinto beans, cases of powdered milk, millet — you know, survival food.

“They mostly used food stamps. A lot of his wives were registered for welfare.”

Is that the purpose of our welfare system — to support the many wives and children of David Koresh? And to provide a stockpile of survival food that permits him to maintain his standoff with the federal agents?

I thought that welfare was supposed to go to unfortunate people who, for valid reasons, are unable to support themselves and their families.

This doesn’t appear to be very valid. Not if Koresh can afford to buy an arsenal of expensive military assault weapons, a fleet of about 30 go-carts, a satellite TV dish and the latest in high-tech sound equipment.

But who’s to know? As a supervisor in the Waco welfare office said, with a touch of sarcasm: “We have a face-to-face eligibility interview with every applicant. It is true we do not ask if they are in an armed cult. That is not one of our questions.”

The food stamp laws — which provide up to $370 monthly for a four-person household — are so flexible that it would be unlikely that someone would be turned down unless they walked in and said: “Hi, I am one of David Koresh’s 47 wives and want stamps so we can prepare to do war against the government.”

We have an interesting contrast. The laws permit the wives of David Koresh to walk into a welfare office and, with considerable ease, walk out with your money and mine.

At the same time, the tax laws are such that if you make even an innocent error, a computer will snarl and send out a letter demanding that you pay up right now.

So, while it might be better to give than to receive, the government makes it much easier to receive than to give.

I’m a firm believer that society should provide a safety net for those who are truly in need. But in some cases, maybe we need something other than a safety net.

How about a trampoline?

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.