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June 13, 2005

Comments

Be sure to read Mary Childers's "Welfare Brat"!

Edward, I so much want to travel back in time and thwap the idiots who set up that program. A similar system was in use in the UK for a long time - kids who got "free school lunches" had to go to a different queue - but the separate queue had been abolished long before I went to school. It's such a cruel thing to do to children - such bureaucratic thoughtlessness, where easy administration matters much more than human feelings.

Edward, I so much want to travel back in time and thwap the idiots who set up that program.

I'm right there with you. It's positively Dicksonian in its cruelty.

Not surprisingly, many reported having to make choices between paying for food and paying for other necessities, such as utilities, housing, or medical care

This is what's knowing as "burying the lede." This, combined with the increased middle-class anxiety over job stability, lack of pensions, skyrocketing housing prices, the increased price of gas, and all the other financial insecurities held by the middle-class, is the problem being made worse by the current GOP leadership's fiscal plans.

I've been in the position described, and it's no day at the beach. When you have to sit down and decide, "Well, we've got to buy some groceries, so do we want gas or telephone service this month? And if we turn one off, what's it going to cost to turn it back on?" you're not a happy camper.

Off all the things my shriveled, blackened little libertarian heart wants the government to stay out of, food-assistance programs are far down the list.

Note on a variation: if, as an adult, one either used the former coupons used for "food stamps," or the modern version, an electronic card, in the same line as everyone else at the super-market, there's no shame at all involved in being seen using the card, or having the cashier loudly discuss how to use it, or whether the choice of food is allowed, and no shame at all involved in anxiously worrying about other people on line looking at your food choices and possibly thinking you are being obviously indulgent if you buy something that isn't, say, gruel. Nope, that never happens.

Ditto being seen on line at a food bank.

And who would be shy about mentioning what, say, their budget for food this month (like many months) was, or which early day it was in the month they ran out of money entirely until the end of the month? Beggars, of course, are simply shameless.

I'm just speculating, to be sure.

Phil, read the report before tossing the blame over the fence. If you actually read it, you'll see that not all that much has changed since, say, 1998.

Ed, I was in much the same boat, dressing in hand me downs from our church's congregation. Nothing like going to church dressed in the clothes someone else just gave you - especially in a Calvinist church where being poor is a sign that God doesn't like you. The shame carried by being poor seems completely incomprehensible by those on the right.

Stunning how we can give a trillion to the top 1% income earners and we're not willing to give a penny for the poor. We're talking about children. And then let's add the 40 million or so (mostly children, mostly the same children we're talking about here) which don't have any health care at all.

Gary - know the feeling. I cringe whenever I see a family using food stamps in front of me in the grocery line. I just want to start distracting everyone around so they can get through with some shred of dignity left.

Geez. What a sick country we live in.

That, more than anything else, is what makes me want a European style welfare state. It may not be as good in Europe in this regard as I think it is, but from talking to people it does seem as though it's possible in that context to provide services to people who need them without shaming them. The argument that if you don't shame needy people, then they won't work cuts absolutely no ice with me -- you don't make people hardworking by making them miserable. If someone needs help, either temporarily or on a long term basis, they should be able to get help without having to feel like shit about it.

Off all the things my shriveled, blackened little libertarian heart wants the government to stay out of, food-assistance programs are far down the list.

I can agree with you on that, certainly. But after briefly flipping through the report (PDF, 783K) I can't say that this is quite the partisan opportunity Edward is making it out to be.

Page 13 graphs Food insecurity levels since 1995, where it was at roughly as it was now. There were two dips around '97 and '99, and then it slowly crawled back up. The variations we're talking about are from a peak of 10% in 1995 and now with dips to 8% for households with general food insecurity; Food insecurity with hunger is at 4% with dips to roughly 3%.

So, it doesn't look like much progress is being made, but neither is it spiraling out of control. Perhaps we've hit the limits of the benefits we can produce with the way programs and charities are currently structured and funded?

If you actually read it, you'll see that not all that much has changed since, say, 1998.

"Not all that much" in terms of . . . ? Job insecurity? The deficit? Numbers of hungry people? Housing prices? Can you be a little more specific?

In terms hungry people, Phil. Read the report, look at the data, then come back and tell me how horrible it is now vs. then. Specifically, "food insecurity" with and without reports of actual hunger.

Jonas,

My point, as you might have concluded from the title, life anecdote, and conclusion, is that because the stigma has increased (and if Bush et al. get their way will be extended to Social Security, Medicare, etc.), things actually are getting worse. I've already watered the numbers down to a "this is how we can pass the buck on this" degree.

My 12:20 comment goes out to you too Slarti. ;p

In other words, what Jonas said.

Uh...how does one measure the effect of the stigma, Edward?

Uh...how does one measure the effect of the stigma, Edward?

arghh...does no one read anymore?

Of those who had not applied, 37 percent believed they were not eligible, 34 percent found the program too difficult to apply for, and 7 percent didn't apply because of the stigma they felt would be associated with program participation.

I'm also in agreement with this:

Welfare is stigmatized only when it is given to the poor. The U.S. government was constructed around "giveaways"—starting with land grants to European settlers and developing into massive tax deductions and aid to corporations. The idea of a welfare state developed in the mid-twentieth century as governments became more active in promoting public health, safety, education, and well-being. But by the 1960s in the United States, "welfare" referred only to stigmatized forms of assistance—primarily Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which provided support for poor single mothers and their children and was the main program people meant when they spoke of "welfare" until the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996 repealed the program. By contrast, aid programs which benefit the nonpoor, such as Social Security old-age insurance, are not considered "welfare." Yet 80 percent of direct government aid goes to citizens who are not poor.

Of course, give them time...

Was there some confusion on your part, Slarti, over what I was referring to when I quoted a portion of the text, then referred to it with the pronoun "this," then referred to it in combination with other things, then concluded that the entire bundled combination was what was being made worse? I can see how there could have been, being that I was real specific and all as to what "this" I was talking about ( . . . having to make choices between paying for food and paying for other necessities, such as utilities, housing, or medical care . . . in combination with . . . the increased middle-class anxiety over job stability, lack of pensions, skyrocketing housing prices, the increased price of gas . . . ).

I'm pretty sure -- entirely sure -- that I didn't say that the number of hungry people was getting worse. But if I did and forgot, let me know so I can disclaim it. If I didn't . . . well, there it is, then.

Edward,

My point, as you might have concluded from the title, life anecdote, and conclusion, is that because the stigma has increased (and if Bush et al. get their way will be extended to Social Security, Medicare, etc.), things actually are getting worse.

The surveys are showing an increase in the stigma? I'm not clear.

I think we've discussed it before, so I won't go too far into it again - making programs mandatory and universal entitlements to avoid the stigma of welfare is far too insanely expensive to make any sense in terms of actually improving peoples lives.

Programs should go out of their way to make sure they aren't stigmatizing their recipients: the lunch lines you describe are egregiously horrible, and the recommendation about Food Stamps becoming a card make sense (which they've done in NYC, I think.) But I'm not willing to increase expenditures by several orders of magnitude to avoid the stigma that comes along with the mere fact that the program exist and it serves the poor. It just can't be worth giving benefits to 93% of the population to make 7% feel better about it.

Edward: I am normally a peaceable person, but I want to hurt the people who set up that other line.

Also, I think that if we must stigmatize people who get help with food, we should absolutely stigmatize everyone who gets any sort of welfare. The recipients of agricultural subsidies and the entire last tax break leap to mind.

It just can't be worth giving benefits to 93% of the population to make 7% feel better about it.

Are you sure? Every two income family with kids or working single parent needs day-care, for example. The affluent (or solvent) pay for it directly, the working poor need aid. If we have decent, well functioning day-care centers available to all regardless of need, the solvent aren't paying any more, they're just paying taxes rather than fees to a private center, and the working poor get better services and get them without stigma. To see a downside in this, you have to rely on the dogma that government services can't possibly be as efficient or well-functioning as parallel private services.

Phil, never mind. I thought you were saying "worse" in some sort of quantitative sense.

Nope. Sorry if I gave that impression. I was wandering off Edward's particular point to a more general point about economic insecurity and the position of having to make those kinds of choices, and how the current crew's positions seem tailor-made to make people even more insecure.

And: Edward and hilzoy, I really think Edward's other line (which, by the way, might make a decent name for a band) was invented more out of cluelessness than malice.

I think in Emily's school, lunch money is paid to the lunchroom; we send in $20 periodically (or, sometimes, when we forget, by request) and the parents who meet the criteria don't have to. Kids who are eligible are also eligible for breakfast at school.

LizardBreath,

To see a downside in this, you have to rely on the dogma that government services can't possibly be as efficient or well-functioning as parallel private services.

No, not at all. To see a downside in this, all you have to do is recognize that people deserve to be able to pick any kind of daycare they would like that they can afford, regardless of whether or not the majority of their fellow citizens decide that it is the sort of daycare that will be provided.

If you'd like to provide National Day Care vouchers, sounds good to me. If you want to run a National system of day care centers, count me out.

"If someone needs help, either temporarily or on a long term basis...."

Myself, I think the latter is significantly more difficult to get through than the former, hard as the former itself is. But, again, I'm simply speculating, of course, and have no idea whatever how crazy-making asking for help, or taking it, might be. Or how many convolutions someone might go through before asking again. And the experience of having it on one's mind more or less all the time, or, at least, with great regularity, couldn't possibly produce odd and neurotic behavior. Definitely not. Besides, it's obviously only laziness that's involved. Who wouldn't want to enjoy the lifestyle of the scrabble and the dole? It brings out pride and self-worth.

Not that I ever think about this stuff, or compulsively let any of it out when I shouldn't. No neurosis here, thank goodness!

Who would stop people from using whatever day dcare they liked? Fewer kids in the system, it shrinks, costs go down.

It would be an income transfer both from the better off to the worse off, and from people who don't want to use gov't day care (childless or people with other preferences) to those who do, but attack the idea on the ground that you don't like income transfers, not because people wouldn't be able to opt out of it. In any case, this is a digression -- I don't actually have a detialed policy proosal on this point.

Seems like poor parenting is more to blame than the gap between rich and poor-

In some families, eating junk food will mean one child is obese while the other is underweight, said Black. "The first will eat junk food and nothing else, the second will eat junk food and everything else."

I dont think the answer to poor parenting will be found in soaking the rich.

No, but the answer to getting poor children and adults food and health care can be found in taxing all of our citizens progressively and equitably. Will better social services solve all human problems? No, but that's not a reason not to work on the ones we have access to.

Actually I think part of the answer to poor parenting can be found by judicious use of the money extracted from the rich.
I'm not sure a case can be made that poor parenting causes poverty. However, a case might be made that poverty can cause poor parenting which is why soaking the rich might be best for all of us. For example, I had a 6th grader who came to school dirty and tired. I called home--no phone. I sent a note home and politely invited myself for a vist. Mom sent a note back inviting me over for fifteen minutes during the school day--her only opportunity to meet me. She lived in a tiny house, had four children, and fled an abusive husband, and was working three jobs. Damien, the 6th grader, cared to his younger siblings and did the grocery shopping. Soaking the rich so Damien's mom can get by on one job seems like a very good idea to me.
The "poor parenting" which I have encountered in my years of teaching is largly related to overworked, stressed, exhausted parents who love their kids and would be better at discipline and nurturing if they weren't constantly dealing with one crisis after another, all related to inadequate pay, lack of health insurance, and lack of job security.

The poor parenting I saw growing up in a rural community came form addiction and people who lived beyond their means and not saved for a rainy day. No amount of taxation will solve those two reasons.

LizardBreath,

Who would stop people from using whatever day dcare they liked? Fewer kids in the system, it shrinks, costs go down.

No one would stop them, but the fact that they pay taxes already for public child care would make private child care look more like the private school system; i.e., only for those who can afford for paying for school twice. Not to mention that it would also put many working-class families who have mothers who babysit other peoples children in their home out of business, which I'd rather not see happen.

It would be an income transfer both from the better off to the worse off, and from people who don't want to use gov't day care (childless or people with other preferences) to those who do, but attack the idea on the ground that you don't like income transfers, not because people wouldn't be able to opt out of it.

I don't want to attack on the grounds that I don't like income transfers, because as it just so happens, I do like income transfers! But only from the richer to the poorer; not from the middle-class to the middle-class to provide "free" child care they could have probably afforded anyways. It just doesn't make any sense.

Solve them? No. Mean that kids with lousy parents will nonetheless be able to eat school lunches without shame and get decent dental care? Possibly. You can't fix everything, but you can fix some things.

I dont think the answer to poor parenting will be found in soaking the rich.

Do they take conservatives aside and teach them that the only way to discuss safety nets is via the term "soak the rich?"

Seriously...are the rich in this country getting soaked?

All evidence points to the contrary.

Given that the rich are getting richer, grostequely so, can the "soak the rich" rhetoric be given a vacation?

Fine, but throwing money or assistance at people who just blow it doesn’t seem like a proper role for the government to me.

Fine, but throwing money or assistance at people who just blow it doesn’t seem like a proper role for the government to me.

Not to mention that it would also put many working-class families who have mothers who babysit other peoples children in their home out of business, which I'd rather not see happen.

This is silly -- there would be the same number of daycare jobs, and they would be better (benefits, probably better paid) jobs. Net day-care employment shouldn't change.

On your other point about income transfer from one set of middle-class people to another: that's a real, valid point, albeit one which I think is rebuttable. Ideally, gov't day care would be levelling up -- it would be better day care than most of what people pay for now. (This doesn't strike me as unrealistically utopian -- most private day care is pretty lousy; the good places are those that are quite expensive.) If that can be made to be the case, I think the elimination of stigma on low income families, and the integration of low income kids with middle class kids, is enough of a benefit to outweigh any hardship on the upper-middle-class parent who wants to keep their kid in private day care. But again, I haven't got a detailed policy paper worked out on this, and we can certainly agree to disagree.

Wow Edward, that's just horrible. There are valid points on both sides of the taxing and funding of poverty issues, but to stigmatize a child by having the second line is just cruel and stupid.

Do we still do that? I have never come across it and I am wondering if it's a regional thing or if your just a lot older than I, I am 36 and grew up in New England.

Giving poor people money or services when they don't have the means or ability to make good use of the money or services won't cure all their problems at all, but it will tend to mean that they'll, at least temporarily, have resources they don't otherwise have.

More to the point, refusing to give all poor people money simply on the grounds that it won't help some is an argument which would seem to rest on the question of what is the correct ratio. Presumably it would be a clearly bad idea to give money to poor people to help them if 95% will spend it in ways that don't help them for long, but less of a bad idea if it significantly helps 95% and is only "wasted" on 5%. Where you want to draw a line at what precise numbers you prefer is inevitably subjective. Myself, I could live with, say, 20-25% waste without deep qualms, but others will have their own point for line-drawing. (To be sure, there are many other valid questions as to the best way to spend tax money to help poor people.)

I'm also, incidentally, not much of a fan of being morally judgmental about what is, in fact, "waste" when it's other people's lives, although non-morally-based judgments of whether money is spent effective to a given goal is another matter, though still sometimes difficult for another party to judge. If you see a poor person in the supermarket buying, oh, I dunno, how about M&M's, does that mean it's not a very limited amount of money that could be "better" spent on buying, say, rice? Sure. But maybe the person spends 98% of their budget on an incredibly well-thought-out balanced diet, and allocates 2% of the budget for extravagances that let her get through the month with vastly greater mental ease: is it for me or you to judge that as "waste"? Some would say "if it's my money via taxes, sure!," and they're perhaps entitled, but it's not a stance I myself would be so morally confident as to make.

But it's very possible that I have no business saying anything abstract about this entire topic.

Fine, but throwing money or assistance at people who just blow it doesn’t seem like a proper role for the government to me.

OK, let's expand the understanding here. The "bad parenting" meme is offensive in this context, and I can't just let it go. There was a 25% unemployment rate in my hometown during the period I discussed above. The father of every fourth family was struggling to find work in between being laid off and rehired at one of the mills.

Perhaps that's just reality and those fathers should have moved, but given the way the mills would scrape together a few contracts and hire a bunch of them back for a while (and given it's human nature to hope the next time would be more permanent, and families wouldn't have to be torn apart), it's unfair to boil down that difficult decision-making process and label it "bad parenting."

Further the odd example you can cite of substance abuse here or irresponsible spending there is hardly license to assert that covers everyone who falls on hard times.

"Fine, but throwing money or assistance at people who just blow it doesn’t seem like a proper role for the government to me."

How about having Milton Friedman's "negative income tax"? I realize he's a dangerously liberal socialist, but even so. Perhaps you prefer, instead, a massive and instrusive bureacracy, dedicated to carefully examining every detail of people's income and spending and life circumstances, so as to ensure that none who are either morally undeserving, nor people who will "waste" their aid, do so waste their aid. Perhaps that's the new conservative view, along with favoring massive deficits and government borrowing, and massive aid instead to big business, big agriculture, big insurance, big credit card companies, and the like. It's hard to keep up, so I don't know. I'm just grateful we have a conservative Congress and administration demonstrating how fiscal conservativism works in practice, and keeping us from awful liberal balanced budgets such as we had under the previous freespending liberals.

"throwing money or assistance at people who just blow it doesn't seem like th proper role of geovernment"

Well, that would be one of the reasons why corporate welfare is so wasteful.
I can remember back when Reagan was running for President. He used a sanitized version of George Wallace's slogans about "N--------s on welfare". Reagan's slogan was "Bums on welfare". Ironically, while he was blaming the budget problems on low-income people, he was advocating (and got from Congress) a budget that called for spending increases and tax cuts at the same time. Republican party leaders have, ever since, advocated policies that throw our national budget out of whack whille simultaneously claiming to be better money managers and using low income people as a scapegoats.
No, throwing money at social programs won't solve everything. But we don't throw money at social programs. The shower of largesse is headed in another direction entirely. Social programs are subjected to constant monitoring and critical review. Some of the programs, properly funded, are effective. Other programs would work if properly funded. In this state, for example, the foster care programs are severely overstrained because of lack of funds. Corporate welfare, however, is not challenged, reviewed, or held accountable to any significat degree.
In your rural community, how many citizens were supported by farm subsidies, subsidized use of public resources, employed by the Federal government, or otherwise supported by tax dollars?

Well Edward you’re not the only one who grew up on hard times. My father was unemployed for 18 months when the American auto industry took a dive in the eighties. He is one of the hardest working people I know but a little more saving and a little less spending would have gone a long way to help me and my 5 brothers and sisters during his layoff. But by far and away the kids who had it the worst were ones whose parents were alcoholics or drug addicts. In either case I see no amount of legislation or taxation will solve these two ways of living.

Sulla: The poor parenting I saw growing up in a rural community came from addiction and people who lived beyond their means and not saved for a rainy day. No amount of taxation will solve those two reasons.

Actually, making sure that children who were unfortunate enough to have neglectful/abusive/addictive parents, or even just plain poor parents, don't suffer from their parents inability to look after them as well as other children, is a long-term solution to those problems. Shrugging the problems off as "it's their parents fault" is the perfect way to transmit the problems to the next generation.

It's true that some kids will do well even if they have a father who's an alcoholic, a ex-felon, and a career of running businesses into the ground. Other kids might fail but would do better if they had outside support. And yes, some kids will make a mess of their lives just like their dad did, regardless of how much money you throw at them.

But that's no reason to give up on all children. Children deserve not to be permanently handicapped by their parents problems.

"But by far and away the kids who had it the worst were ones whose parents were alcoholics or drug addicts. In either case I see no amount of legislation or taxation will solve these two ways of living."

Let's stipulate that (not forever, necessarily, but just for now). So: how does this fit into the larger question of, say, the negative income tax? Or the larger question of other counter-poverty or aid programs? And what positive steps, if any, do you advocate to help lift people out of poverty?

“Perhaps that's the new conservative view”
Perhaps, but I take the views of Spencer or Sumner.

It is interesting to note that those who favor making assistance programs more readily available see the selfish, exploitative rich taking money from the overworked poor and those who favor making assistance programs more restrictive see the productively wealthy having their hard earned incomes drained by the lazy, undisciplined, and drug-addicted poor. It seems to me that these characterizations are counterproductive and that the question here should be how to create a fair society with the most opportunity and the least exploitation. Neither laissez faire nor paternalism do a very good job of fixing the problems on their own.

He is one of the hardest working people I know but a little more saving and a little less spending would have gone a long way to help me and my 5 brothers and sisters during his layoff.

I understand that sentiment Sulla, but giving your father (and mine) a break, I realize that while things were good, the idea of saving, rather than taking those vacations or buying that extra television, or whatever, seemed the fulfillment of the middle-classdom that the 40-plus hours a week of working hell they put in promised them. Yes, it was in hindsight, not the best time to go into debt, but no one expects the Spanish Inquisition or the cruel side effects of Reaganomics.

“Social programs are subjected to constant monitoring and critical review”

In my first hand dealings with the government neither is true on any level and consequently I have little faith in its effectiveness.

“or otherwise supported by tax dollars?”
Can’t say, never ran a census. I do know the ones who didn’t have a job for 10 years were not because they couldn’t find one, but because they didn’t want one. They had an attitude like they were owed it.

Jes,
No one is against helping kids. The problem as I see it are poor parents who stand in the way of that help.

Gary,
I don’t see the government enabling these people to take care of themselves or their families. As a temporary bandage for someone down on their luck sure but for the chronically impoverished the lifting comes from within.

Nous,
Interesting thought and I one I’ll ponder for a while.

Edward,
Reaganomics or no my parents, and the millions like them, are the main source for their economic woes. Good times don’t last forever and they know this. They're smart people and I love them to death but it drives me crazy that they readily blame others (it was the Japs in the eighties) for money problems and expect the government to bail them out.

I do know the ones who didn’t have a job for 10 years were not because they couldn’t find one, but because they didn’t want one. They had an attitude like they were owed it.

And the 6 years my father spent unemployed in his mid 50's were hell on him because he was willing to take any job and couldn't find one. We lived in an economically repressed area and could not afford to move elsewhere. He had all sorts of experience, was an army vet, and was willing to work for minimum wage. He kept getting passed over because minimum wage jobs were for kids and no one thought he would stay in it for very long. My brother was undergoing chemo and couldn't find work because no one wanted to hire someone with health problems. I was working for minimum wage and could take off my share of the food and clothing burden, but I also had to save for college.

My parents struggle to get by on social security because they spent all of their retirement while he was unable to find a job as a result of a poor economy and age descrimination.

Just to add another anecdote to yours.

I hope all food programs have dropped their respective stigmas. I have heard so many people make disparaging remarks about those who take 'handouts', what I call the Archie Bunker mentality.

Great post Edward.

I guess i'd like to know specifically which programs Sulla regards as throwing money away on dependent people. When I think of social programs, I think of mental health care, foster care, all kinds of job training programs, and school programs such as Head Start. There is extensive accountability demanded of these programs.

"There is extensive accountability demanded of these programs."

Which is part of the problem: that requires, as I said, a large and intrusive bureacracy that investigates everyone involved, which is tremendously expensive; the cost-benefit ratio of that, compared to simply making direct payments and allowing for what some will consider "waste," is unclear.

A clear "benefit" of that "accountability" is that it provides grounds for passing judgement on how recipients spend aid. It provides grounds for Sulla's ability to judge recipients' "attitude." If one thinks that's a "benefit."

This is a very old discussion, indeed, and one can immediately point as an example, for instance, to the relatively recent distinctions made in the 19th Century between the "deserving poor" and the others, whose comeupance is, of course, nothing but just. They'll just spend the charity on gin, you know, and thus their children and they themselves deserve to rot, unlike the "deserving" poor.

Sulla: No one is against helping kids. The problem as I see it are poor parents who stand in the way of that help.

Whereas the problem as I see it is a right-wing thinking that says if a child has bad parents, they don't deserve to be helped, because the kid's bad parents will wreck it all for the child anyway.

And I have to admit that Jenna and Barbara Bush, who had pots of money thrown at them with no state supervision on how it was spent by them or by their parents, and who also have an alcoholic, ex-felon, wastrel father, have not done particularly well for themselves.

"...who also have an alcoholic, ex-felon, wastrel father...."

Who you calling "scruffy"?

I mean: "ex-felon"? Class D misdemeanor, sure, but in what jurisdiction is he an ex-felon? That happens to have a quite specific legal meaning, and can't be brushed under "oh, I was just using the term very generally." Perhaps I'm forgetting something, though.

"And I have to admit that Jenna and Barbara Bush, who had pots of money thrown at them with no state supervision on how it was spent by them or by their parents, and who also have an alcoholic, ex-felon, wastrel father, have not done particularly well for themselves."

I'd say that they were a little young, and that it's possibly rather callous to be making swipes at someone's children, but, then, I also objected to Rush Limbaugh's choice to put up a picture of a dog on his briefly-lived tv program when he referred to Chelsea Clinton. But I probably missed the ethical lesson in which it was deemed that if one is opposed to someone's politics, the proper approach is to say nasty things about their children. That is, to be sure, not the leftist tradition I was raised in, but mileage varies.

I think the accountability increases the legitiamcy of a program, but we might be thinking of different types of programs and different types of accountabiity. I'll give an example: my boyfriend was a psychologist on a ward for developmentally delayed sex offenders. He designed individualized treatment programs for each client. Monitoring of each program was designed right into the progam; if it wsn't working, it was revised. The whole ward was monitored by Medicaid people, lawyers for a patient right's group, and HEW. Yes, the monitoring costs money and intrudes, but it also means that the wards are safe and free of abuse, and that problems of staff misbehavior are dealth with promptly.
Foster care, LAP reading programs, voc. training, respite care providers, group homes and a myriad of other services are also monitored; they have to be to prevent or respond to waste and abuse. I see that as a definate benefit.
I can't really tell why Sulla thinks as he does (which is why I asked him to give specific examples of programs he doesn't like), but I don't think the fact that a program has to prove that the quality of service meets a given level is a reason in and of itself to regard the program as wasteful.

As a rabid anti-government anarchist, I gotta go with Gary here. A Friedmanite negative income tax-- which would effectively create a guaranteed minimum income, though perhaps a small one, while still allowing for a flat *marginal* tax rate across the board-- is not only the least objectionable form of welfare for free-market economic and other libertarian reasons, but also arguably wins on the dignity-respecting metric.

The idea, after all, is that rather than try to decide what particular services poor people ought to receive at subsidized rates, you just make sure they get a certain minimal amount of cash each month. They then get to make whatever use of that cash they think best on the marketplace; i.e. they get to spend it on private services just like everyone else. So, no government cheese and no stigmatizing second lines, but personal responsibility and choice across the board. For dependent children you might want some kind of semi-limited voucher-card instead of a cash grant, but this is an implementation detail.

And you wouldn't have to set the minimum level very high to have a considerable effect; even if it's at, say, 50% of the poverty line, that still makes it considerably easier for people to get the rest of the way through (for example) part-time work and/or private charity. 50% is, BTW, a number pulled from the rear orifice; we can and surely would argue a lot about what the "right" percentage is, but the essential idea should be clear.

For libertarians this scheme is superior to what we have now because, among other things:

-- all redistribution is downward; there's no vast middle-to-middle churning.

-- it's relatively simple; as Gary said, it minimizes the intrusive enforcement bureaucracy required, and also minimizes the amount of government control (direct or indirect) of industries like day care.

-- you don't end up creating weird spikes in the effective marginal tax rate due to benefit phase-out schedules, so you minimize disincentives to work and earn more; many if not most really-existing complicated welfare-state schemes create at least some situations where when people earn $1 more at their job they lose close to $1 in benefits, and that has obvious negative incentive effects.

-- you leave out social engineering of both the leftist and rightist types. No damn liberal do-gooders get to decide what quality of (e.g.) daycare everyone should be receiving or how much people should value it relative to other things. No damn conservative do-gooders get to try and browbeat people with problems they can't or won't understand into fitting their ideal of the well-restrained, responsible Deserving Poor Person.

Like I said, I'm an anarchist, so I would prefer there be no welfare state at all. But we're talking about second-best alternatives here; and it'd certainly be possible to set parameters for a negative income tax making it clearly more-libertarian than the present system, and more preserving of recipients' dignity too.

Nicholas Weininger,

A Friedmanite negative income tax-- which would effectively create a guaranteed minimum income, though perhaps a small one, while still allowing for a flat *marginal* tax rate across the board-- is not only the least objectionable form of welfare for free-market economic and other libertarian reasons, but also arguably wins on the dignity-respecting metric.

I would give anything for the negative income tax or EITC to replace the minimum wage as the means to protect the working poor.

That being said, I understand why the left believes progressive taxation is right and the flat tax is wrong. I understand why the right thinks the flat tax is right and progressive taxation unfair. My argument against the flat tax is a practical one not a moral one: allowing the poor to keep more of their money after taxes allows them to more easily rise out of poverty than does having a flat rate. Meanwhile, if they move up they pay more which seems fair to me. That's exactly what happened to me (albeit not very poor to begin with) and it would have taken far longer for me to get where I am had I paid higher marginal rates at lower pay scales.

...you leave out social engineering of both the leftist and rightist types.

That hits on the head what should have been a central point of my argument against universal child care. If your answer the question, "Do you want your children's public day care run by Republicans?" is no, then well the answer is pretty obvious from where I sit.

I'm not sure what to make of Sulla's comments. For one thing, Edward's story was about school lunch programs, not massive amounts of welfare; and surely if there's any program for the poor that a conservative would find acceptable, it's school lunch programs. They help the kids, who are not responsible for their parents' economic problems; they help them in a very targeted way that's not open to abuse; the help in question is very cheap; and in addition to helping the kids with nutrition generally, it specifically helps them to pay attention in school, and thus to do better at pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps if they are so inclined.

Second, without for a moment wishing to cast doubt on Sulla's memories of his childhood, I think there are lots of reasons to think that what s/he says does not generalize. Class mobility is at all-time lows. So is the minimum wage. We have a federal reserve that has adopted a policy of putting the economic brakes on whenever unemployment gets too low, which is to say: the fed has decided that we will maintain a certain number of people without jobs in order to keep inflation under control. (One can think this is the right decision, but one cannot argue that unemployment is just a person's own fault.)

Moreover, about forty five million people in the US have no health insurance. About 80% of them work for a living; they are uninsured because their employers don't offer health care benefits. When you're uninsured, you tend to defer care until you're in really, really bad shape; if you get sick and defer care, a lot of times you end up losing your job.

I could go on, but the point is: the idea that the poor are poor because they are alcoholic or unwilling to work is just not true.

Moreover, it's also not true that we now have lots and lots of benefits available to the poor. We don't. We have been shredding the safety net, and the idea that we are soaking the rich in order to shower money on the undeserving poor is laughable.

Bush = ex-felon: I thought that DUI is a felony crime in Maine, and I recollected this post at TalkLeft mentioning that Bush has had at least one DUI conviction there.

I can't find any confirmation on Maine's DUI law, but evidently several other states in the US regard drunk-driving as a misdemeanour.

Hilzoy,

Class mobility is at all-time lows. So is the minimum wage.

If you were to raise the minimum wage, it would likely adversely affect class mobility further. It is my understanding that most people lacking marketable skills are more likely to be able to enter the workforce for the first time through minimum wage jobs. Raising the price of such jobs reduces the supply, which is not only common sense, but has been shown (PDF).

Nous Athanatos told this tragic anecdote earlier:

He had all sorts of experience, was an army vet, and was willing to work for minimum wage. He kept getting passed over because minimum wage jobs were for kids and no one thought he would stay in it for very long.

Would he have benefited from more of these jobs being available or less? What don't you join Gary, Nicholas and myself and support the Super-EITC instead?

Jesurgislac,

DUI laws were still pretty slack just about everywhere back then, I would think. Not like today where rinsing out with Listerine before driving would likely get you put away...

Seems like poor parenting is more to blame than the gap between rich and poor-
In some families, eating junk food will mean one child is obese while the other is underweight, said Black. "The first will eat junk food and nothing else, the second will eat junk food and everything else."

Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn't. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don't want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit 'tasty'. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let's have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we'll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don't nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man's opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.

- The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell

Gary,
Make all the scrooge type cracks you want about but it only entrenches me further against your pie in the sky attitudes toward the poor being victims.

Jes,
Never miss an opportunity to rant against Bush do you?

Lilly,
I’m talking about the types of programs Gary advocates- a check from the government (state or federal) mailed to the recipient. Apart from the WIC program this assistance was wasted on many of the families in the small town I grew up in. At least it wasn’t spent in a disciplined way for those families to improve their condition. I think the way I do from first hand experience with these people. My larger point is that not everyone who finds themselves impovershed in America can be helped.

Hilzoy,
I find it laughable people want to throw money at undisciplined spenders or addicts who don’t bother to help themselves first.

"Bush = ex-felon...."

I already gave you a cite, Jes, but since it appears you don't believe CNN, I'll .

I don't think Jes was doubting your prior link, Gary, just explaining her error.

A friend of mine got breast cancer. She was treated and joined a support group at the medical center for women going through treatment. One woman in the group, a black woman in her mid-40's lived in the Bayview district of San Francisco, a primarily poor and black neighborhood. There wasn't a single grocery store within two miles of the home. And she had no car.
She and my friend got to know each other pretty well. Once my friend visited her at her home and discovered that she had no food of any kind in the house. No milk, no bread, nothing. Of course I couldn't allow this woman to have no food; it was simply ridiculous, and she was gracious in accepting our donation of groceries from Safeway. Since that time we show up on occasion with groceries, and we've discovered that her favorite thing in all the world is butter pecan ice cream. She usually got that as her yearly birthday gift. A gallon all for herself, from her children.

Sulla, Thank you for responding. If I understand you correctly, you are opposed to traditional welfare-type programs, AFDC, for example. Are you aware that those kinds of programs barely exist any more? Very little of what could be termed "social spending" is spent to support the lifestyle of a person who uses the money to maintain an addiction. I think you need to adjust your view of social spending; the Clinton years brought about many changes and your childhood memories probably aren't accurate any more.
To circle back to the topic of parenting: I don't know if the research has been done yet on the effects of ending traditional welfare programs, but some negative fallout is already apparent. I read an article in the Wenatchee paper, or maybe the Spokesman Review, about the effect of welfare rule changes on the economies of rural Eastern Washington. It used to be that a small grocery, a local gas station, or other little businesses could stay afloat partly by providing goods to people on welfare who lived in tiny communities in the foothills. When the Food Stamps got cut off , the local groceries lost customers and many went out of business. Former welfare recepients moved to cities like Spokane, where, disconnected from family and friendship networks, unskilled parents tried to find jobs. The result was families with parents working 60-80 hours a week for bare survival while their kids tried to adapt to tougher, scarier schools and unsupervised homelife: ie indisintegrated families.
now I am not suggesting that we should have welfare so that people can raise their kids in relatively peaceful and safe small towns while supporting local businesses, although I can see a benefit to the larger society in that. I just mean that the changes, intended to get people "off their butts" and working, have had unforeseen consequences: business failures, more stress on families, exposure of children to drugs, and crime.
Social engineering is unavoidable. We should at least try to do it with the consequences to children foremost in our minds.

"I find it laughable people want to throw money at undisciplined spenders or addicts who don’t bother to help themselves first."

What about "aren't able to" instead of "don't bother"? Is alcoholism, or are mental health problems, a moral and volitional failure? If people, say, because of "bad parenting," don't have the skills to be able to engage in "disciplined spending," is that purely their own responsibility? (Note that I am not asserting the notion that personal responsibility has no role.)

"I don't think Jes was doubting your prior link, Gary, just explaining her error."

I missed the part where she refers to any error, or she modified or withdrew her prior statement, LB, but thank you for the suggestion.

"I find it laughable people want to throw money at undisciplined spenders or addicts who don’t bother to help themselves first."

And who, exactly, would that be? For my part, I would like to help people in various desperate conditions. If many of them are in those conditions through no fault of their own, and giving money to some who are is the price I pay for the combination of helping the rest and lacking omniscience, I'm glad to do it.

On the other hand, this administration prefers to throw money at the undeserving children of the rich, lest their inheritances be in any way diminished. (Note: undeserving here does not mean that they deserve anything bad; just that no one deserves the family s/he's born into.)

Lilly,
My attitudes toward such programs are born in the past and if those programs no longer exist then it is worth reexamining. However, whatever type of assistance is offered I just want to bring a different perspective on how it is received. I’m sure you have nothing but the best intentions toward those you consider unfortunate but know there are some who realize this and will play you for a sucker. In my opinion they are not worthy of your sympathy.

Gary,
Personal responsibilty is all I want achknowledged in such discussions as this, we can move forward with proscriptions once that is agreed upon. Dealing with alcoholism is tricky because alcoholics tend to be crafty and can hide things well. Although it will usually catch up to them. It runs in my family and I'm even less inclined to feeling sorry for them than the poor but that's just me, I realize others catagorize it as a disease.

Hilzoy,
If people arrive at dire straits through no fault of their own I don’t mind helping them out. All I’m saying is some people are beyond help until they realize they is something better and they make some changes to make it happen, the easy example being getting themselves into rehab.

You don’t throw money at people when they have earned it and do with it what they see fit.

fyi- last post of the day, see you tomorrow

"On the other hand, this administration prefers to throw money at the undeserving children of the rich, lest their inheritances be in any way diminished."

The elimination of the estate tax seems to me to be an example of a grievously unfair, and more or less un-American, act. In America, we say, you're supposed to be able to rise on your own; we have social mobility; we choose to cherish the accompanying freedoms, and have a heritage of explaining to ourselves how this is one of several ways we differ from "old Europe," where the ancestors of many were either peasants and a few were hereditary nobility or had inherited wealth.

Enabling inherited wealth to be preserved to the maximum possible extent, as unrestricted as possible was not explained to me in childhood as an American ideal.

Taxing inheritances of over a million dollars, affecting only the quite wealthy, a tiny percentage of the population, does not strike me as grossly afflicting the afflicted. Nor does it strike me as grossly limited freedom. (I have a feeling someone will demand numbers and percentages, but, hey, first try looking for yourself before asking me to do the work, okay?)

But I may have misunderstood what I was taught as a child about America and its ideals.

Gary: absolutely.

To be clear: I would be happy leaving the children of the wealthy, including me (though I only barely qualify)l, to enjoy their inheritance in full if government paid for itself, without requiring taxes. In that case, letting them get off without paying would not mean that others had to pay more, which is what I object to. What galls me is the idea that we should tax other people more heavily in order to give more money to the likes of me. (And as I said, I am on the very low end of this group, so my privileges, though great, are dwarfed by e.g. Paris Hilton's.)

Sulla: Never miss an opportunity to rant against Bush do you?

It's just an interesting parallel, Sulla. You brought up the topic of poor parenting due to addiction: George W. Bush should be your prime example of this. Unless, of course, it doesn't matter when rich people are bad parents... only when poor people are bad parents.

"It's just an interesting parallel, Sulla. You brought up the topic of poor parenting due to addiction: George W. Bush should be your prime example of this."

Myself, I'm loath to use other people's families, and how they function, and as talking points, whomever they are. I've long observed that none of us are able, save in fairly rare circumstances, to know all that is relevant in the dynamics of a couple, or or a family, and even then we can't see into their mind, know their complete history, or completely understand the relevant dynamics and their causes.

Thus, I'd be hesitant to make unconditional assertions about even, say, my own family, let alone even that of my best friends, let alone that of people down the block, let alone people I only read about in the newspaper.

But clearly mileage varies, and what are politicians for if not to personally denigrate their families? Presumably it's somehow less offensive than declaring that the people down the street are obviously bad parents who lack personal responsibility and are trash. After all, in politics, anything goes as regards what's game for personal attack.

What bothers me most about the poor parenting excuse for being nasty to the poor is the ability of so many opponents to a decent safety net being able to identify poor parents with just a glance at the parents.

When racism is no longer a leading reason for poverty or a leading reason to keep the safety net shredded, I'll consider the supposed problem of poor parenting. Until then, I will cheerfully and angrily blame racism.

"When racism is no longer a leading reason for poverty or a leading reason to keep the safety net shredded, I'll consider the supposed problem of poor parenting.

Until then, I will cheerfully and angrily blame racism."

Multiple choice answers are actually allowed on this quiz topic. In fact, they're required to get the most accurate answer, I believe.

What bothers me most about the poor parenting excuse for being nasty to the poor is the ability of so many opponents to a decent safety net being able to identify poor parents with just a glance at the parents.

Now, I believe that there are many people who have worked hard and fallen upon hard times, and the stigma is undeserved. And I also believe that there are people who have chosen to have children young, and out of wedlock, who are poor, and I believe that there must be some sort of stigma associated with this.

When racism is no longer a leading reason for poverty or a leading reason to keep the safety net shredded, I'll consider the supposed problem of poor parenting. Until then, I will cheerfully and angrily blame racism.

Actually many impoverished people live in rural areas, and are white. For those who live in inner cities, well, the train runs both ways (into the city and out to the suburbs) and I know several people who make that reverse commute from the city. (Yes, this is anecdotal.)

It's hard to get a job, maybe even a crap job and make the long commute. But I have personally made the 1 1/2 hour commute from Knoxville to a small town outside of Harlan KY to do a job, and have also done some 3 weeks on, 1 week off deals where I commuted to Huntington WV and Charleston WV. It is doable. From Eastern Kentucky, you can do daily commutes to Lexinton, Richmond KY, Ashland, Huntington WV, Kingsport TN, London/Corbin KY, Middlesboro, etc., in a similar amount of time that many people commute in the Chicagoland area. And the scenery is prettier.

If my dear sweet cousin, who is smart as a whip, happens to read this and think I'm passing judgement on her for living on public asssistance for most all of her life, well, I'm just sayin'.

And I also believe that there are people who have chosen to have children young, and out of wedlock, who are poor, and I believe that there must be some sort of stigma associated with this.

Did any of those children choose their parents?

freelunch: When racism is no longer a leading reason for poverty or a leading reason to keep the safety net shredded, I'll consider the supposed problem of poor parenting. Until then, I will cheerfully and angrily blame racism.

goingtouseafakenamethistime asserted in response: Actually many impoverished people live in rural areas, and are white.

Good lord, what happened to logic?

The problem with saying that "poor parenting" is the problem is that even if this is true, it's the problem, not the solution. Supposing that all adults living in poverty are living in poverty because their parents were crap. Further suppose that all children living in poverty are living in poverty because their parents are crap. Okay. I think the problem is far more complex than that, but even supposing that this is a main cause, what this cause suggests is that there is an ongoing problem that hasn't been fixed because, generation after generation, people who aren't in difficulty have looked at people who are and said "I blame their parents."

Solution? Assuming that "take the children away from the parents" is now (I trust) unthinkable, the solution would be to create well-funded programs for children with poor parents that work to fix the problems that, it's argued, are "caused" by poor parenting. Sometimes these programs can be targetted at the children specifically: free health care, free nursery schools, free school lunches. Sometimes these programs will require helping the parents as well as the children: providing good-quality affordable housing for families means you have to let the parents live in the good-quality housing with their children. Sometimes these programs actually have to be targetted at the parents: require employers to allow parents time off work for family-related problems, "child sick days".

One might argue that one reason no one has considered instituting such useful programs is because so many of the people who would benefit from them are black - though you could also blame the American neurosis about socialism. Racism is plainly a cause of poverty, when black people tend to have far lower incomes than white people: but "fixing racism" in the US is likely to be a far bigger job than working to end poverty.

Thank you, Jes, for your remarks about saving the children, You wrote what I had been thinkig but hadn't quite got to writing yet.
The "blame the parents" thing comes remarkably close to eugenics. Like many fallacies, it has just enough truth to be seductive; many poor families are disfunctional. However, many rich and middle class families are disfunctional too. They just hide it better. My middle class home harbored a secret drinker: my mom who passed out on the couch every evening. Jackie Kennedy grew up in a family of alchoholism, violence, and unfaithfulness. It is hard to say whether chronic poverty causes dysfunction, or dysfunction causes poverty. Inherited wealth can make an awful lot of dysfunction look respectable.
Sulla is concerned, and rightly so, with personal responisbiity. I suspect that a concern for personal responisbility is shared by the posters on this thread. Liberals tend to have a feeling of personal responisibility toward others, which becomes a sense of responisibility to the community and a desire to use government for the common good.
One of my many sources of fury at Republicans (meaning the leadership) over the years is the absence of a sense of responisbility, of any sort really, but particularly of a sense of responisbility toward us as a community. Why have Pell Grants been cut? what conclusion can one come to about the values of a legislator who would vote tax cuts for the rich while reducing funding for college education for lower income people who have a sense of personal responsibility and are trying to climb economically? I get tired of stories about some hopeless poor drunk wasting the tax payers money being used to justify national policies so clearly rooted oligarchical thinking.
Tax payer money gets wasted. Why do some people get more upset about the relatively small amount wasted on some drug addicts when billions are squandered every year to create artificial economies so elite parasitic commounities of loggers can make a living destroying our national Forests, a waste of money that has been going on for three generations? ( according to the GAO, back in the eighties the average AFDC family only received assistance for two years).
It is a fact that some tax dollars gets wasted on undeseving people. It will probably always be a fact, governments being what they are and human affairs being being inately sloppy. I don't buy the argument that welfare, which never was that much of the budget anyway, is the primary source of waste. The belief in the wasteful welfare person has been used to justify under fundig and gutting programs that were helpful to people who were responisbile for themselves and also has been used to distract attention from much more effective parasites like corporate farms and the timber industry.

what conclusion can one come to about the values of a legislator who would vote tax cuts for the rich while reducing funding for college education for lower income people who have a sense of personal responsibility and are trying to climb economically?

When filling out the FAFSA form for my son, which is a requirement for most colleges, I realized how intrusive federal programs are on peoples private lives. Forced to sign up for selective service? Sigh, ok. Drug arrest jeopardizes a kid's ability to get a loan? Well, my son's in the clear here, so answer this question as well. But as much as people object to the Patriot Act, the very act of filling out financial aid forms is the much more commonplace example of being forced to submit to the government.

DaveC: the very act of filling out financial aid forms is the much more commonplace example of being forced to submit to the government.

True. Because, as Sulla points out with passionate detail, the onus is on you to prove that "taxpayer's money" isn't being wasted by your son getting an education. I think that's kind of insulting: all your son should really need to show is that he's capable of doing the work college will require of him, and keep doing it.

As lily, I think, points out further up, corporate welfare is not subject to the same detailed personal investigation. If every CEO had to fill in a form of this kind guaranteeing that he himself had never had a drug arrest or a DUI arrest, that he signed up for Selective Service when he was eligible, proving that his company cannot meet its goals and that those goals are useful, so it needs a welfare cheque from the feds, and all the other questions that I daresay you were asked as a parent to "prove" that your son deserved and needed federal financial aid to go to college... we'd either see less corporate welfare in the US, or (more likely) a whole new industry of accountants whose job it was to help CEO's fill out the application forms.

I think the real problem with welfare isn't that it goes to the undeserving; it's that the poor deserve better programs. I don't mind people attacking welfare if they want to spend tax dollars to make something better. I mind the people who attack welfare because they don't want to help at all, while continuing to expect all kinds of help for themselves or people they identify with. My ex father-in-law used to infuriate me with his mean comments about Mexicans on welfare since he had lived, one way or the other, off government largesse all of his life. When young he worked for the WPA. (He was a Deomcrat then). later he worked for the Bonneville Power Administration. During the Reagan years, when he was no longer poor himself, he was seduced by Reagan's racist appeals and turned into a no-taxes-for-me-but-keep-the subsidies-coming Republican, while managing an orchard watered by a government-built irrigation project.
Somehow it is OK to use government money to pay for WPA, The Bonneville Power Adminitration, irrigation projects, farm price suppports etc to keep white farmers happily Republican in Eastern Washington, but not OK to replace traditional welfare by using government money to recreate or support the economies of inner cities or areas of entrenched rural poverty.

Now that I have reread my comment I'm a bit embarrassed--not all Republicans are hypocrits on this issue and please don't misunderstand me that way. Also I'm sure there are things that I am a hypocrit about, but, being a hypocrit, i don't know what they are.

Jes,
Rich bad parents don’t require state assistance (no matter how much they screw their kids up), which is what we are arguing about and what I’m arguing is that no matter how many resources we devote to alleviating poverty a healthy percentage of the poor will not improve their situation because they will squander it through mismanagement or addiction.

Freelunch,
If racism causes poverty why are some races more impoverished than others? Does the man hold some races down more than others?

Lilly,
I say gut it all, even the pentagon, my pet department.

Jesurgislac,

Could you please explain to me what you mean by corporate welfare? And give me some examples of corporations receiving welfare checks from the feds? Because the only examples I can think of -- mostly around the airline industry -- involve absolute mountains of paperwork, certainly more than anyone on personal welfare ever had to fill out.

Thanks in advance.

On a different note, as I was walking home yesterday, none of the people I passed on the street took my wallet. My fiance was thrilled when I told her -- using Hilzoy's definition -- that these people therefore "threw money at me."

She was quite disappointed to find out there was no more money in my wallet then when I left at the beginning of the day. But she's Russian, she doesn't understand English as well as Hilzoy and I do.

Could you please explain to me what you mean by corporate welfare?

Businesses that receive money from federal government, or get benefits that amount to having their business subsidised by federal government.

And give me some examples of corporations receiving welfare checks from the feds?

You can find multiple examples by googling on "Corporate welfare". Check here for the basics.

One example I found very easily was

The federal Bureau of Land Management rents out public lands to ranchers for cattle grazing. In 1992, the BLM's annual grazing fee was $1.92 per animal, according to the National Wildlife Federation. But private landowners charge their grazing customers, on average, $9.26 per animal. The low grazing fees amount to a food stamp program for livestock belonging to wealthy ranchers. In 1992, the government's below-market rates cost the taxpayers an estimated $55 million in revenues. A typical beneficiary of this subsidy is J.R. Simplot of Grandview, Idaho. He paid the government $87,430 for the privilege of grazing cattle on public land, according to the National Wildlife Federation. If the government had billed Simplot at free-market prices he would have had to pay $410,524. And it's not as if Simplot is going to suffer without public assistance. He is on the Forbes' 400 list of richest Americans with an estimated net worth of just over $500 million. cite (1994 figures: current grazing fees see here)

Agribusiness is a particularly rewarding field for finding examples of government handouts going to the richest corporations without any evidence that they're actually doing anything to deserve the money.

Sulla: Rich bad parents don’t require state assistance

This rich bad parent got 14.9 million of state assistance... do you feel that the state got its money's worth by subsidising him?

and what I’m arguing is that no matter how many resources we devote to alleviating poverty a healthy percentage of the poor will not improve their situation because they will squander it through mismanagement or addiction.

We're discussing programs to help children, Sulla. How does your argument that "the poor will not improve their situation" work for children? How will a child who's given free school lunches, free health care, free nursery school education "squander it through mismanagement or addiction"?

"...no matter how many resources we devote to alleviating poverty a healthy percentage of the poor will not improve their situation because they will squander it through mismanagement or addiction."

If we went so far as the radical step of simply making sure that everyone who needed one had a safe bed each night, and a bare subsistence food ration, and basic medical care, we'd at least have most indigent alcoholics able to sleep safely and having a bite to eat.

This should not be the primary or sole goal of any attempt to give people the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, and, yes, many addicts won't gain further uplift and life-change from this (remember, we've acknowledged the role of personal responsibility, and have now moved on to prescriptions), but whatever your understandable feelings about the demerits of alcholics and drug addicts (and the demerits are huge and awesome, indeed), allowing this mild (but huge for the individuals) benefit to incidentally happen still seems a trifle more humane than simply indifferently letting them die on the street and under the bridges.

To deny the option seems to possibly suggest more of a motivation of punishing the sinful than that of benefiting the "deserving" poor.

"Also, I think that if we must stigmatize people who get help with food, we should absolutely stigmatize everyone who gets any sort of welfare. The recipients of agricultural subsidies and the entire last tax break leap to mind."

Sounds good to me. The recipients of welfare such as subsidized farmers, airline executives and stockholders, and so on, who pretend that they're working for a living while taking taxpayer handouts, should be held up for ridicule at every opportunity.

"Solution? Assuming that "take the children away from the parents" is now (I trust) unthinkable"

Why? Shouldn't it be unthinkable to hold your own children for ransom, refusing to give them up and using their hunger to extort benefits for yourself? If you can't even feed your kids, one of the most important goals for raising those kids is to make damn sure they don't turn out to be like you. Keeping them with you at all costs isn't likely to accomplish this.

"Why have Pell Grants been cut? what conclusion can one come to about the values of a legislator who would vote tax cuts for the rich while reducing funding for college education for lower income people who have a sense of personal responsibility and are trying to climb economically? "

That they understand economics? A college education isn't magic fairy dust that turns everything it touches into gold. It's a capital investment, and like other investment it can be a profitable investment or a losing investment. If you take out a loan, you're more likely to choose profitable investments and to put for the effort to make it pay off. If you get a grant, you're more likely both to choose losing investments and to fail to follow through and make the investment pay off, since you're not on the hook for the cost of making the investment.

"Ideally, gov't day care would be levelling up -- it would be better day care than most of what people pay for now. (This doesn't strike me as unrealistically utopian -- most private day care is pretty lousy; the good places are those that are quite expensive.)"

We have public schools which everyone pays for and is eligible for, and this leveling up hasn't happened. I wouldn't count on it here, either.

"If that can be made to be the case, I think the elimination of stigma on low income families, and the integration of low income kids with middle class kids, is enough of a benefit to outweigh any hardship on the upper-middle-class parent who wants to keep their kid in private day care."

What about the hardship on parents that don't want to keep their kids in daycare at all? Those taxes are going to force some moms into the workplace.

"We have public schools which everyone pays for and is eligible for, and this leveling up hasn't happened."

You're asserting that if we abolished public schools, that educational rates would rise? Or that we were better off in educating children before the creation of public schools? Levels of education, you say, did not, in fact, rise upwards for most when public schools were created?

Jes,
Even if I concede Bush was a bad parent I have no idea how you can correlate Bush selling the Rangers as state assistance. So he got a new stadium to sweeten the deal, this is a sports obsessed nation. Don’t blame Bush if Americans worship A-rod over their teachers.

Gary,
In my exposure to addiction counseling many of them have to feel the heat before they see the light. This isn’t an argument about sinful behavior I’m Libertarian in my drug policies however, that is for Social Darwinian reasons rather than freedom ones. I don’t see what is so controversial about arguing that a certain portion of the population, who created the situation they find themselves in, must want to make a change before we can expect their condition to improve (help or no help).

Even if I concede Bush was a bad parent I have no idea how you can correlate Bush selling the Rangers as state assistance. So he got a new stadium to sweeten the deal, this is a sports obsessed nation

Erk. I have a hard time conceiving of categorizing, "Using the coercive taxing power of the state to force taxpayers to build a venue for a multimillionaire team owner who can damn well afford it his damn self" as anything but "state assistance." What the heck else could it possibly be?

Phil,
A 2 to 1 vote by the citizens of Arlington to build a new stadium.

"I don’t see what is so controversial about arguing that a certain portion of the population, who created the situation they find themselves in, must want to make a change before we can expect their condition to improve (help or no help)."

I'm not arguing that. I already stipulated that many won't be able to rise further on their own (although I favor making available the tools to help those who are so willing). I'm simply advocating that the floor be a safe bed, subsistence food, and basic medical care, rather than simply the street. I'm not advocating providing mansions and a personal cook. I don't think simply having a safe bed, subsisdence food, and basic health care is advocating a cushy platform from which no one would have any motivation to lift themselves from.

I'm also not very interested, though, in debating appropriate anti-poverty measures solely through the lens of dealing with only a minority of the poor. How about talking about what's appropriate to do or not do for the majority, the non-addicted, non-alcoholics?

Sulla: I have no idea how you can correlate Bush selling the Rangers as state assistance

He got $14.9M of taxpayers money. How is that not "state assistance"?

A 2 to 1 vote by the citizens of Arlington to build a new stadium.

Ah. So "state assistance" is okay providing there's a 2/3rds majority in favor.

Even if I concede Bush was a bad parent

You're the one who's arguing that people who squander their resources due to addiction are bad parents. Ergo, George W. Bush is a bad parent. (He's cleaned up now, apparently, but till after he was 40 he literally did nothing except drink and squander his resources.)

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