June 24 2013

Advice to Taxpayers: Overcome Guilt and Save the Economy

Charlotte Hays

I blogged last week on the SNAP Challenge, an effort by members of Congress and others to convince us stingy taxpayer that we must spend more on the food stamp program (47 million Americans now receive them). Now comes a piece by Peter Ferrara with this alarming headline:

“Welfare State” Doesn’t Adequately Describe How Much America’s Poor Control Your Wallet

Ferrara writes:

But the term “welfare state” does not begin to encompass the totality of America’s commitment of resources to aid the poor. It is more like a vast empire bigger than the entire budgets of almost every other country in the world. America’s welfare empire encompasses close to 200 or more federal/state programs, including 23 low income health programs, 27 low income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social services programs, at least 13 food and nutrition programs, and 24 low income child care programs, among others.

Federal and state governments spend a trillion dollars a year just on these means tested welfare programs, which does not include Social and Medicare. That is more than we spend on national defense. It adds up to roughly $17,000 per person in poverty, over $50,000 for a poor family of three. The Census Bureau estimates that our current welfare spending totals four times what would be necessary just to give all of the poor the cash to bring them up to the poverty line, eliminating all poverty in America. A recent book by Charles Murray, In These Hands, further documents that.

Guilt has always been a huge component in getting the American voter to fork over. Do you not care about the less fortunate? Unfortunately, the more the taxpayer puts into poverty programs, the worse off things get for the “poor.”

When President Lyndon B. Johnson launched his War on Poverty, the majority of black children were born into families with two parents. Coinciding with the War on Poverty and socially-engineered programs that ultimately had Uncle Sam replace the father in the household, the out-of-wedlock birth rate among blacks rose from 28 percent in 1965 to 49 percent in 1990, to about 70 percent in 1995, where it seems to have stabilized.

Not working and having children out of wedlock are the two main causes of poverty in America. Ferrara writes that full time, year around work at the current minimum wage, in addition to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax credit, would be sufficient to get every family in the U.S. out of poverty. In the typical poor family today, the parent or parents work only about 16 hours a week.

It has famously been stated that there are three actions to take to avoid poverty: finish high school, take whatever job is available on graduating and keep working, and marry before having children. The irony is that the War on Poverty, America’s longest war, undermined all three.

It is the guilt-inducing mentality behind the Snap Challenge that keeps these ruinous programs going:

The liberal left likes to pretend smugly that only they bear any concern for the poor, and only they support a social safety net. They like to pretend that Republicans and conservatives don’t care, would terminate any social safety net, and would let the poor starve or die from lack of health care or other material want if that is the consequence.

But the major social safety net programs were mostly adopted on a bipartisan basis (except for the mistake of Obamacare, where free market conservatives and Republicans support a superior health safety net). When Republicans have been in power, instead of eliminating the social safety net, they continued to expand those programs, probably too much given the adverse consequences of those policies as discussed above.

Moreover, welfare reform, spearheaded by conservatives and Republicans, and enacted on a bipartisan basis in 1996, has proven highly beneficial for the poor as well.

If you will allow me some personal musings, I think it is high time to get this discussion out of the realm of think tanks and places such as Forbes where this article appeared.

Conservatives think they must tiptoe around the issue for fear of offending the poor and thus being smeared as heartless.

When we are trying to address these issues, we speak in code. We speak of “prosperity” or about a “thriving economy” or “opportunity."

Maybe it is time to ask the poor, and ask them in no uncertain terms, if they want to continue along the present course. Is intergenerational government dependence the best way to have a good life?

Shuck the guilt and be courageous enough to ask them.

Yeah, it’s risky—we don’t know how they will answer.  After all, from the Roman Empire (and before) to the present, living on government largess has always been attractive to many.

Among conservatives, the Tea Party was getting closer than others in addressing this matter directly.

I can't for the life of me think why the Tea Party suddenly went quiet. Oh, wait.... .

If, say, the Obamaphone Lady does want to continue along her current path and says so when directly confronted, we’re in a boatload of trouble. But it’s time to ask.

No matter the answer, we need to know. One more thing: We who pay taxes should not be guilt-tripped by publicity stunts such as the SNAP Challenge.

 

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