A new study from CATO has found that despite trillions in spending, the poverty rate hasn’t moved much:
“[S]ince President Obama took office [in January 2009], federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year,” the study says.
Federal welfare spending in fiscal year 2011 totaled $668 billion, spread out over 126 programs, while the poverty rate that remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.
In 1966, the first year after Johnson declared war on poverty, the national poverty rate was 14.7 percent, according to Census Bureau figures. Over time, the poverty rate has fluctuated in a narrow range between 11 and 15 percent, only falling into the 11 percent range for a few years in the late 1970’s.
The federal poverty rate is the percentage of the population below the federal poverty threshold, which varies based on family size.
A point that needs to be raised here is the poverty rate isn’t going to change no matter how much we spend because revisions to the threshold will always be such that about 15% of the population will be considered poor.
And, in a relative terms, they are indeed “poorer” than the other 85%.
The question is, are they really “poor” in real terms?
It depends on how you measure poverty, doesn’t it? You can’t spend taxpayer money on poverty unless “poverty” exists, right? But how many of our “poor” are truly poor?
Well, I’m not sure and neither is anyone else. That’s because of the way poverty is measured in the US. Essentially it is based solely on income.
The official poverty measure counts only monetary income. It considers antipoverty programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid and school lunches, among others, “in-kind benefits” — and hence not income. So, despite everything these programs do to relieve poverty, they aren’t counted as income when Washington measures the poverty rate.
So guess what remains the same? The poverty rate. If “in-kind benefits” were included in income calculations for those receiving them, a lot fewer of them would be considered “poor”. And since it’s only based on income, many elderly who receive retirement incomes below the “poverty” threshold are considered to be poor despite the fact that they own paid off assets like houses and cars and live comfortably on that retirement income. But they pad the stats and help to continue to justify the programs and expenditures.
Do any of us have a problem with giving those who are down a hand up?
I don’t. But, I want a fair and reasonable determination of who really needs it before I extend that hand.
That’s something we’ve never, ever gotten since the beginning of the War on Poverty.
Are there real poor in this country. Yes, there probably are – but not 15%.
I know CATO’s study emphasized a lack of progress. It has nothing to do with “progress” against poverty – as noted, there will never be any progress made given the constant upward revision of the poverty level and the absurd way poverty is calculated in this country.
As with most programs the government runs, this is one in dire need of a complete and total overhaul.
And CATO’s study is useful in pointing that out – again.
Not that anything is likely to actually happen to address the problem or anything.
It’s a bit of a mixed picture with both state and federal nannies doing their best to get the proles under control. The base premise, of course, is only government can save you from yourself since you’re too freakin’ dumb to handle it yourself. And since you’ve been so kind as to put these people in power they find it only fair that they exercise the power they’ve accumulated to ensure you live the life they deem best.
First a local example from NYC:
The New York City Board of Health showed support for limiting sizes of sugary drinks at a Tuesday meeting in Queens. They agreed to start the process to formalize the large-drink ban by agreeing to start a six-week public comment period.
At the meeting, some of the members of board said they should be considering other limits on high-calorie foods.
One member, Bruce Vladeck, thinks limiting the sizes for movie theater popcorn should be considered.
"The popcorn isn’t a whole lot better than the soda," Vladeck said.
Another board member thinks milk drinks should fall under the size limits.
"There are certainly milkshakes and milk-coffee beverages that have monstrous amounts of calories," said board member Dr. Joel Forman.
Ye gods. When government is given the okay to manage your health care, this is what you can expect to happen. Update on the drink ban – refills, according to Bloomberg, will be “ok”. Yeah, so what’s the purpose of the drink ban?
Moving on to a federal example of drink ban stupidity:
The vending machines are unplugged at a Utah high school after a violation of federal lunch rules. Davis High School was fined $15-thousand dollars for selling carbonated beverages during the lunch hour.
Vending machines in the hallways at Davis High School normally sell carbonated beverages and candy, but to receive federal nutrition funding, they can’t sell it during lunch. Students say it doesn’t make sense.
"Everyone goes out to lunch anyways and drinks them so it’s pretty dumb."
District officials say the policy can be confusing too. Chris Williams, the Davis School District Spokesperson, says there are definite rules about how, and when carbonated beverages can be sold. “It is challenging when you can buy a Coke before lunch, and consume it during lunch, but you can’t buy a coke during lunch."
It’s not just soda sales that are a problem; candy can be too, depending on what kind it is. Davis High School’s Principal, Dee Burton, says Snicker Bars are considered nutritional and legal, but other candy is not. "We are not allowed to sell anything that is carbonated or any candy that sticks to your teeth”
“Snickers” is considered “nutritional?” And you can buy carbonated drinks before and after lunch but not during? Oh, and the $15,000 fine? Any guess where that comes from? Yeah, Mr.Taxpayer – you.
Finally, the FDC is going after cigars:
Though the agency has yet to lay out its new regulations in detail, industry insiders speculate that it could ban flavored cigars, require ugly warning labels or graphic pictures on cigar boxes, bar customers from entering store humidors, or require that cigars be kept out of the reach of potential buyers, who typically handle and examine them before choosing which ones to buy.
“Banning that experience would be crippling,” says Gary Pesh, the owner of Old Virginia Tobacco in Richmond, Virginia, and executive officer of Cigar Rights of America. “Making a customer pick their brand of cigars from a black-and-white catalog — that destroys the way we’ve done business.”
Pesh says some speculate that the FDA would also bar shops from letting their products be visible to anyone outside the store.“That means I’d have to put blacked-out windows on my storefront,” he explains. “Like a porn shop or something.”
Well let’s be honest, among the zealots it is akin to a porn shop. Well, with one exception – they’d likely support the right of a porn shop to exist with much less regulation.
Real effect: if (and they say a number of times that they’re speculating) these sorts of regulations are indeed passed, then they will negatively impact jobs at a time that this economy can’t afford to lose more:
New FDA regulations could result in the immediate closing of many cigar shops, most of which employ only three to five people and operate with slim profit margins. About 85,000 people work in the premium-cigar industry — jobs that would be in jeopardy if the FDA’s regulatory power grab succeeds.
“To jeopardize 85,000 jobs in today’s economic times is absolutely unconscionable,” says Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association.
Pesh thinks small shops could also be hurt by user fees the FDA can charge to the businesses it regulates. “I’d have to pay to put me out of business,” he explains.
But that’s not the real problem. We’re talking about a voluntary transaction between consenting adults. Why is government involved in any other way but to prevent the use of force or fraud?
Freedom? Forget about it. Choice? Not if the FDA does this the right way.
There’s a bill in Congress right now to stop this overreach. By the way, has anyone noticed that instead of being involved in oversight of many agencies, Congress has been reduced to the role of reactive legislation to remove or prevent the most egregious examples of regulatory overreach?
Folks, freedom means the freedom to consume bad things if that is your desire as long as you doing so doesn’t violate the rights of others. What we see with these examples are attempts to violate that freedom of choice and use the power of government coercion to prevent you from making choices it deems harmful.
Not. The. Job. Of. Government. In. A. Free. Society.
Yet certainly the growing trend is to do more and more of that.
And in the case of the NYC soda ban, a good portion of the left is just fine with it.
Remember the “digital divide”. The bloviating over the “right” of access to the internet and how the “poor” were being left out and that was hurting their chances of advancement?
Remember how government decided it would fix that and take your money and provide hardware and connectivity to the poor?
As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.
This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.
Is it? So if it is a parent problem, what’s the solution?
Ha, ha, ha … you already know the answer, don’t you?
The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.
Yes, friends, the solution is just as predictable as the problem.
More government, of course.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment.
“We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.
Ya think? Name another government policy or program that ever has accounted for consequences ahead of the curve. Back to our most recent Quote of the Day. How in the world do we continue to let this sort of inept, wasteful, ill-thought-out nonsense continue?
Who knew, when free access was provided to the internet, that most would use it to entertain themselves? Nothing like free YouTube and porn, right?
Yes, just three. You’re right, I could probably make it 30 or 300. 3,000 even! But for brevity sake, three current examples where government has no business yet feels somehow justified in intruding or regulating in a manner that limits freedom.
First is an example of excessive regulation which in reality is an example of crony capitalism, where a regulation or mandatory licensing creates a state enforced bar to entry into an industry.
Louisiana has a plethora of such laws which regulate or license all sorts of things that few of the other states do. An example? The manufacture of caskets is illegal unless, well, you read it:
Brown, a soft-spoken man who is only the fifth leader of a monastery that dates to 1889, said he had not known that in Louisiana only licensed funeral directors are allowed to sell “funeral merchandise.”
That means that St. Joseph Abbey must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.
“Really,” Brown said. “It’s just a big box.”
Indeed it is. And buyers should have a choice as to whether to buy it or some other casket. They likely could pick up the Abbey’s “big box” for much less than it might cost to buy a similar casket in a "licensed funeral director’s” place given the required overhead that the regulatory mandate places on such entities.
In effect, the mandate acts as a high bar to entry. It is likely the existing funeral industry in LA helped write the law. That’s called “crony capitalism”. The Abbey simply provides the illustration of the result. If freedom equals choice, LA is in the choice limiting business with regulatory and licensing regime like this.
Some good news on that front:
The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”
As you might imagine, the other side is not happy. So is it the state that is appealing? Well not the state, exactly:
The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which has argued that the law protects consumers, has appealed, and the circuit court in New Orleans will hear the case in early June.
That’s right … the protected want to continue to have their state protected industry … protected. Good lord, if consumers have real choice, well, they might not buy the crony capitalist’s overpriced “funeral merchandise”.
And, of course, that state isn’t the only one with choice limiters working to cut down on your freedom. Our next two examples come from the state of New York. I know, shocking.
Case one – Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has decided that you fat folks just shouldn’t have the right to decide (there’s that choice thing again) on the size of “sugary drink” you can buy.
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
Nanny Bloomberg assumes New Yorkers need a mommy. That they’re fat because of their diet of sugary drinks of a certain size. He’s sure if he limits you to 16 fluid ounces of such belly wash they’ll slim right down. Nanny Bloomberg also assumes that the public wants him to intrude into every deli, fast-food franchise, food cart and sports arena to save them from themselves.
Because that’s a nanny’s job – limit choice. Limit freedom. All for the common good, of course. (added: here’s a distant cousin’s view – “Sixteen Ounces of Bull”. Amen, cuz).
Case 2? Well it seems a couple of state legislators in NY want to outlaw anonymous posting on the internet. A couple of Republicans, by the way.
New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara recently proposed legislation that would ban anonymous postings on websites in his state. The bill requires citizens posting on any blog, social network, message board or other forum, to turn over their full names, home addresses and IP address to web site administrators for public posting. Supposedly it is being pushed as an “anti-bullying” step.
His cohort in this nonsense, however, reveals the real purpose. State Assemblyman Jim Conte released a statement saying:
…the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.
Or, the “let’s limit free speech to protect politician’s reputations” bill.
As the Center for Competitive Politics points out:
Anonymous speech has played a part in our political process since the very founding of our nation. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers, which where primarily targeting voters in New York, under various pseudonyms. The Supreme Court upheld this precedent in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, noting:
“[u]nder our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
“But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.” McIntyre, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
Everyday in just about every way, our freedoms are under assault at all levels of government in this country. I spend a lot of time recording those at a federal level. But just as pernicious and certainly just as dangerous are those at local and state levels.
The cumulative result is we live in a much less free society than we did 100 years ago. 50 years ago. in fact, 20 years ago.
These three examples can indeed be multiplied by hundreds if not thousands. They are fairly common unfortunately. They cost a lot to enforce. They’re unnecessary. Most important though, in each case they limit choice and thereby freedom.
Frog. Pot. Rising heat.
Time to start getting serious about turning off the freedom limiting burner.
For a libertarian blog, this is a subject that we rarely opine about. Probably because its a rather dead horse that just doesn’t need any more beating. Even so, we do all too often have occasion to discuss the ill effects of the War on (Some) Drugs, such as the asset seizure case Bruce highlighted.
In that vein, Randy Barnett offers up his latest law review on the subject “The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition” and this abstract:
Some drugs make people feel good. That is why some people use them. Some of these drugs are alleged to have side effects so destructive that many advise against their use. The same may be said about statutes that attempt to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of drugs. Advocating drug prohibition makes some people feel good because they think they are “doing something” about what they believe to be a serious social problem. Others who support these laws are not so altruistically motivated. Employees of law enforcement bureaus and academics who receive government grants to study drug use, for example, may gain financially from drug prohibition. But as with using drugs, using drug laws can have moral and practical side effects so destructive that they argue against ever using legal institutions in this manner.
This article will not attempt to identify and “weigh” the costs of drug use against the costs of drug laws. Instead, it will focus exclusively on identifying the harmful side effects of drug law enforcement and showing why these effects are unavoidable. So one-sided a treatment is justified for two reasons. First, a cost-benefit or cost-cost analysis may simply be impossible. Second, discussions by persons who support illegalizing drugs usually emphasize only the harmful effects of drug use while largely ignoring the serious costs of such policies. By exclusively relating the other side of the story, this article is intended to inject some balance into the normal debate.
The harmful side-effects of drug laws have long been noted by a number of commentators, although among the general public the facts are not as well known as they should be. More importantly, even people who agree about the facts fail to grasp that it is the nature of the means — coercion — chosen to pursue the suppression of voluntary consumptive activity that makes these effects unavoidable. This vital and overlooked connection is the main subject of this article.
It’s a pretty interesting read. You can download the entire article by visiting Randy’s post linked above.
Q: Why doesn’t Delaware fall into the ocean?
A: Because Maryland sucks.
Q: Why doesn’t California fall into the ocean?
A: Because Maryland really sucks.
I see that your financial picture is looking rather dicey again. Sorry to hear that. Who could have guessed that high taxes, profligate spending and a general hostility to business would lead to such things? No worries, though. I’m sure political leaders will continue to work hard at righting the ship and get Maryland sailing along smoothly again (how is that plan to repeal the laws of economics coming anyway?).
On a related note, I understand that the Maryland legislature, in collaboration with Gov. O’Malley, has passed a new tax on all six-figure income earners in Maryland. Well, bully for you! That’ll teach those nasty capitalists to stop being so productive. And Gaia knows that they really need to pay their fair share (I mean, how is it that the top 20% of earners only pays about 68% of the income taxes? How’s that “fair”?). So, here’s hoping that works out for you (fingers crossed!).
Of course, I seem to recall that the last time you all did something like this (with that “Millionaires Tax” thingy), we here in Virginia experienced a bit of an influx of former Marylanders. Not too many that we couldn’t handle it, mind you, and probably fewer than some thought. But it does raise an issue, especially since the latest tax scheme stands to affect a much larger portion of Maryland’s population. While we’re always happy to welcome you all into the Commonwealth, we’d really appreciate it if you’d leave things here the way you found them.
You see, all too often when Virginia takes in refugees of high tax and high regulation states, they tend to bring a lot of those policies with them. They seem to really like our neighborhoods, schools and business environment, but for some reason they get all worked up about the fact that our government doesn’t spend as much money as they’re used to (in fact, we’ve actually had a budget surplus the past couple of years, and look to do so again this year!). They also tend to push for more state intrusion into our lives. Thing is, we really don’t like that. (In fact, it’s a fairly common complaint in the South.)
You see, before they came, we were doing just fine. Sure, some of us moved to places like New York and California so that we could enjoy that wonderful embrace of the Nanny State, but for the most part it’s been the other way around: people moving from high-tax/high-regulation states to places like Northern Virginia. We completely understand why you would want to leave a place whose policies increase your costs of living, impair your livelihoods, and generally intrude on your lives in unwanted ways. That’s why we try not to do that sort of thing here (albeit, with some annoying exceptions). Problem is, when you all move in, you start enacting all the same policies that made the place you left so bad. We’d all really appreciate it if you wouldn’t do that.
So, like I said, I really hope that whole tax-the-hell-outta-the-rich thing works for you. If it doesn’t, and your looking for change of scenery, you’ll always be welcomed with open arms on this side of the Potomac. Come on over, make yourselves comfortable and set a spell. Just don’t go touching anything.
Michael J. Wade
In 1960, the Democratic Party platform included the following in reference to agriculture in the US:
"The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living."
We shall take positive action to raise farm income to full parity levels and to preserve family farming as a way of life.
We shall put behind us once and for all the timidity with which our Government has viewed our abundance of food and fiber.
We will set new high levels of food consumption both at home and abroad.
As long as many Americans and hundreds of millions of people in other countries remain underfed, we shall regard these agricultural riches, and the family farmers who produce them, not as a liability but as a national asset.
Of course, in 1960, as today, children of farm families were an integral part of the success of family farms of that era. And, in 1960, that was apparently just fine with Democrats. Their labor many times made the difference in the farm surviving and flourishing. And the children learned the business and the work ethic necessary for the family farm to thrive and survive.
But apparently the party’s position has evolved over the years to one that is now anti-family farm. How else do you explain this?
The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.
Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”
“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”
The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.
More government intrusion. Private organizations such as the FFA and 4-H club that have, for decades, successfully done safety training and certification are now to be stripped of that ability in favor of a 90 hour course taught by the same government that gave us the TSA. And, of course, with any government training, you have to wonder how much it will cost and how much of it will be worthwhile training and how much indoctrination.
Farm children have, for literal centuries in this country, worked side by side with their fathers and mothers to make a very difficult and labor intensive family businesses succeed. But the nanny state would now prohibit them from doing most of what they’ve traditionally involved themselves in because, well, nanny knows best, doesn’t she?
Of course farm families have a vested interest in insuring their children remain safe and able to work. It is of no advantage at all for a farm family to have their children do things in which there’s a high likelihood of them being killed or maimed. And, again, for centuries, they’ve been able to manage and determine what is or isn’t within the abilities of their children to do safely.
Additionally, over those centuries, private and independent groups like the FFA and 4-H have been developed and supported by farm families to ensure their children are properly trained in the safety, husbandry and farming skills so necessary to make the family farm a success and to make the US the breadbasket of the world.
Now we have government unilaterally intruding in an area that it really has no business. And it is a Democratic administration doing so … one I’m sure that would tell you, out of the other side of their mouth, that they are the party of the family farmer.
Nanny, with the supposed best of intentions, is about to take down another industry with its unwanted meddling.
And yet, there are those who will attempt to support this intrusion as something necessary to safeguard the children.
It is a travesty, it is unwanted by those it is being imposed upon and it will, in the end, kill the family farm for good.
But you knew that.
And so do they.
Big Agribusiness says “thanks”.
I’m sure you remember a few years ago the LA City Council banned fast food joints from low income neighborhoods for a year. The New York Times explains the reason they thought that was a function of government:
It has become an article of faith among some policy makers and advocates, including Michelle Obama, that poor urban neighborhoods are food deserts, bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The purpose of the ban was to prevent more fast food from being made available in these poor neighborhoods that were considered “food deserts”. The belief, and that’s all it is, was that the availability of fast food and the unavailability of “fresh fruits and vegetables” was a contributor to the obesity found in poor communities.
And the myth had its own narrative too:
Speaking in October on the South Side of Chicago, she said that in too many neighborhoods “if people want to buy a head of lettuce or salad or some fruit for their kid’s lunch, they have to take two or three buses, maybe pay for a taxicab, in order to do it.”
Except for the fact that two new studies say that’s just not true.
Both, using different methodology, came to the same conclusion:
Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.
Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, “you can get basically any type of food,” said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. “Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert,” he said.
Indeed, it is, instead, choice at work. And, as usual, government feels they should be involved in deciding which choices are made. Now, it’s easy to say, “yeah, but it’s obesity and obesity isn’t good for you”.
Given. But does that mean it is government’s job to intrude and attempt to remedy the situation with other people’s money?
Taking into consideration what the two studies have revealed, it seems, as is often the case, that government is barking up the wrong tree. The myth, or if you prefer “article of faith”, seems to be wrong. Actual facts destroy the myth. More than adequate supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available in poor neighborhoods. The problem is the poor choose not to avail themselves of them.
So obesity among the poor isn’t the fault of “food deserts” (or a lack of food it seems) in poor communities and banning fast food joints and encouraging more grocery stores to locate there isn’t going to help ameliorate the problem. Nor, apparently, is healthier food in schools.
In fact, the only way to really impact obesity is to control choice isn’t it? Dropping weight requires portion control, control of the type of food eaten and a certain level of exercise.
So what’s an intrusive and activist government to do now that their myth has been shattered?
Over at Zero Hedge there’s a long discussion of the Welfare State.
We have long argued that at its core, modern society, at least on a mathematical basis – the one which ultimately trumps hopium every single time - is fatally flawed due to the existence, and implementation, of the concept of modern "welfare"…
Love the term “hopium”. It describes well the addictive drug that underpins the Welfare State. And we have “long argued” exactly the same thing Zero Hedge has and we’ve even produced the math – many times.
But has that changed anything? Even those who embrace and tout the Welfare State admit that mathematically it leads to huge deficits and eventual insolvency yet they resist any attempt to change it to prevent those outcomes. See their reaction yesterday and today to the Ryan budget (which, by the way, at least takes a meaningful swipe at “entitlements”).
Zero Hedge then quotes “The Privateer”, a subscription letter that bills itself as “the private market letter for the individual capitalist”. To anyone on the left, the words “individual” and “capitalist” make what I’m about to quote immediately suspect.
For those who’ve spent years studying this problem, nothing that I quote from The Privateer is going to be a surprise. But I did like the way it was done. A little different twist on the discussion than you’ll usually see:
The Great Delusion – “Welfare”
For the best part of the last two decades, it has been accepted as an indisputable fact even by the mainstream media that the two great pillars of the welfare state – medicare and social security – will break the government which offers them. Today, every nation in the world makes at least some pretense of providing “welfare” to its citizens. Since the “developed” (or “rich”) nations are those where these systems are most “developed”, these are the nations most at risk of crumbling under their burdens.
Welfare has many antonyms, but “hardship” is particularly apt in this context. Wikipedia’s entry on “welfare” ends like this: “… this term replaces “charity” as it was known for thousands of years, being the act of providing for those who temporarily or permanently could not provide for themselves.” As usual, the defining characteristic is missed. Charity is voluntary. “Welfare” as practised by government is compulsory. This makes the two terms opposites. It also brings about the opposite results. Charity is a voluntary act made by those who have a surplus to assist those who do not. “Welfare” is a system guaranteed to end up in hardship for everyone but particularly for those who are forced to be “charitable”.
The insoluble dilemma of a “welfare state” is twofold. First, it results in a situation in which the majority of people who vote are partially or wholly dependent on the state for their sustenance. In every “advanced” nation today, those who vote for a living outnumber those who work for one. It is true that not everybody, or even a majority of those eligible in many cases, bothers to vote at all. It is equally true that the “wards of the state” have much more incentive to vote than do those who are to provide for them.
The second dilemma is the issue of the unfunded liabilities. The US government divides its budget into discretionary and NON discretionary items. The bulwarks of the welfare state, social security and medicare, fall into the second category. They are considered untouchable. There are only two problems here. First, the unfunded liabilities of these two programs are somewhere in the order of $US 80 – 120 TRILLION. Second, any talk of sharply lower annual deficits (let alone talk of a return to a budget balance) are puerile without MAJOR surgery being performed on medicare and social security. They are gigantic millstones around the neck of the US economy as they are on the economies of all other nations.
In the hands of government – “welfare” becomes its antithesis – “hardship”. Today, this is being illustrated in real time in Greece. But no nation can afford a welfare state in the long run.
I noticed yesterday that one of the first complaints about the Ryan budget is that it leaves defense alone for the most part, but goes after both Social Security and Medicare with plans to reform them in such a way that they are no longer the unfunded liabilities they now are.
Defense spending isn’t our problem. It is a budget item. It has to be funded every year. Don’t have the money? Cut the budget (and they’ve done that to the tune of $487 billion over the next 10 years – and that’s before sequestration).
But that’s not the case with “non discretionary” spending is it? That isn’t a budget item in the sense defense is. It can’t be cut under current law, can it? Those are important points often left out of the discussion about “what to do”, especially when the distraction of defense spending is introduced into such a conversation.
That, however, is not why I wanted to discuss this today. I could emphasize almost every line from the quoted piece. It has that much substance. The are a number of points I want to amplify.
One … welfare, as The Privateer notes, is not charity. In fact, welfare is the opposite of charity as piece says. And when the state becomes a welfare state, it usually pushes much of charity out of the way. The major point, of course, is charity is a voluntary act by people who have a “surplus” they’re willing to part with in order to help those who need help. There is nothing voluntary about welfare. And the involvement of the state leads to outcomes like this:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s food police have struck again!
Outlawed are food donations to homeless shelters because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Glenn Richter arrived at a West Side synagogue on Monday to collect surplus bagels — fresh nutritious bagels — to donate to the poor. However, under a new edict from Bloomberg’s food police he can no longer donate the food to city homeless shelters.
It’s the “no bagels for you” edict.
“I can’t give you something that’s a supplement to the food you already have? Sorry that’s wrong,” Richter said.
Of course it is wrong. That’s just the latest example. There are, as everyone knows, untold numbers of similar nanny-state rules that have been enacted over the years simply because of the Welfare State mentality that pervades much of government. In NYC, in this example, a kind of years long charity has essentially been outlawed by the Mayor because he has decided that the state should be the decision maker as to what citizens of the city’s welfare regime put in their mouths, not charitable givers. Result – you get to pay more for “welfare”.
But you need to move back a couple of clicks and take a broader look at what the Privateer calls the “insoluble dilemma” of the welfare state – any Western welfare state. By design:
[I]t results in a situation in which the majority of people who vote are partially or wholly dependent on the state for their sustenance.
And that then leads to insoluble dilemma one:
In every “advanced” nation today, those who vote for a living outnumber those who work for one. It is true that not everybody, or even a majority of those eligible in many cases, bothers to vote at all. It is equally true that the “wards of the state” have much more incentive to vote than do those who are to provide for them.
That, in a nutshell, is the dynamic that both feeds and dooms the welfare state. The creation of a class of people incentivized to perpetuate the Welfare State because the Welfare State has made them dependent.
It naturally leads to insoluble dilemma two, which, of course, is the creation of untouchable but also huge and unfunded future liabilities that no politician – who panders for votes for a living — is willing to address for fear of losing those “who vote for a living”.
That describes precisely what we’re seeing today in this country as well as the countries of Europe. The end is inevitable. The will to do anything about it doesn’t exist.
If you don’t believe me, watch the critiques of the Ryan budget over the next few days.
Georgetown law students prefer YOU pay for their contraception so they can use their money for their priorities
Unbelievable. This is so indicative of the mindset of many today. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so telling and serious.
A Georgetown co-ed told Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s hearing that the women in her law school program are having so much sex that they’re going broke, so you and I should pay for their birth control.
Speaking at a hearing held by Pelosi to tout Pres. Obama’s mandate that virtually every health insurance plan cover the full cost of contraception and abortion-inducing products, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke said that it’s too expensive to have sex in law school without mandated insurance coverage.
Seriously, when you listen to Sandra Fluke talk, that’s precisely her argument:
"Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggled financially as a result of this policy (Georgetown student insurance not covering contraception), Fluke reported.
It costs a female student $3,000 to have protected sex over the course of her three-year stint in law school, according to her calculations.
"Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school," Fluke told the hearing.
Oh, my … $3,000? No wonder you should pay for it, that’s a lot of money for a law student, isn’t it?
Of course, reality, using her numbers, points to something I’m sure she didn’t intend:
At a dollar a condom if she shops at CVS pharmacy’s website, that $3,000 would buy her 3,000 condoms – or, 1,000 a year. (By the way, why does CVS.com list the weight of its condom products in terms of pounds?)
Assuming it’s not a leap year, that’s 1,000 divided by 365 – or having sex 2.74 times a day, every day, for three straight years.
And they want YOU to pay for it for heaven sake because they’re going broke.
A Georgetown law student arguing it is the responsibility of others to pay for her birth control because she and the 40% would prefer to spend their money on other things (can’t wait for that generation of lawyers to hit the courts, can you?).
Craig Bannister comes to one serious and one tongue-in-cheek conclusion:
- If these women want to have sex, we shouldn’t be forced to pay for it, and
- If these co-eds really are this guy crazy, I should’ve gone to law school
More important is the point to be made by watching this testimony and realizing that this supposedly intelligent woman has been so conditioned in her life to accept that others should pay for her indulgences.
THAT is the real lesson and problem (watch the video at the link).