Entitlement and Welfare Spending Catch-all

Pages

Edit: After several pages it's become apparent that the discussion is more about the place of welfare and entitlement spending. I'm therefore changing the headline but leaving my original argument below:

-------------------------

Creating this thread as a spin-off of a discussion in the War on Women thread.

Here's my belief - there's definitely a role for the government in providing a temporary safety net and protections for the most vulnerable (the very young and very old). HOWEVER, it is my belief that charities - both religious and secular - can do a much better job of handling long-term solutions to social problems. Furthermore, it's my assertation that constant expansion of social welfare programs will in the long run bankrupt the country, and do little to help people break the cycle of poverty. Since 1964 and the beginning of the Great Society, the federal government has spent $12 trillion dollars on welfare with little tangible results. My problem is not with all government spending, just out-of-control spending that doesn't seem to be addressing underlying issues.

That's a whole bunch of issues. What my thinking boils down to is two questions:

-Isn't the point of living in a society that we support each other?
-By listing a number, it gives the impression that there's a 'right' amount to spend on welfare/support. Isn't support of the people what the government should be doing?

The distinction between charity/government is interesting, as if you simplify it down to the extent of 'money to support those that need it', the two differences I see are that one is voluntarily funded and the other is compulsory funded, but within each organisation the funds within government may be aimed (for want of a better word) at a wide range of purposes.

jdzappa wrote:

Since 1964 and the beginning of the Great Society, the federal government has spent $12 trillion dollars on welfare with little tangible results. My problem is not with all government spending, just out-of-control spending that doesn't seem to be addressing underlying issues.

Well even granting that to be true for the sake of argument, let's go back to 1944 and include the G.I. Bill. That had pretty tangible results.

Since 1964 and the beginning of the Great Society, the federal government has spent $12 trillion dollars on welfare with little tangible results.

You know, I'm a big proponent of fiscal austerity in general, of paying for what you use. Huge proponent. But even I recognize that a lot of that $12 trillion was not wasted. I'm sure a lot of it was, but the fundamental problem is that we're borrowing to fund both that and the huge wars. Without the borrowing, I don't think it would be a very big deal -- in fact, it probably improves economic growth overall, because it keeps people from starving to death. It's hard to hire dead people when the economy expands.

You suggest two things without support of any sort, and claim them as your own opinions: "charities - both religious and secular - can do a much better job of handling long-term solutions to social problems", and "constant expansion of social welfare programs will in the long run bankrupt the country". But you don't make them as claims of fact, so... okay. You're going to have to provide some evidence before anybody else is likely to accept those ideas as anything other than your opinion. Until you make some actual arguments to back them up, people have no reason to even consider these claims.

You also do make a claim of fact: "Since 1964 and the beginning of the Great Society, the federal government has spent $12 trillion dollars on welfare with little tangible results." This is a claim of fact. Can you provide some data to back that up?

In short: Thank you for providing your thesis. Now please provide the argument.

One exhibit against the case that private charities (in this particular case, Catholic ones) can do a better job at societal welfare: They take their proverbial ball and go home if a law they disagree with gets passed.

Lucky Wilbury wrote:

One exhibit against the case that private charities (in this particular case, Catholic ones) can do a better job at societal welfare: They take their proverbial ball and go home if a law they disagree with gets passed.

The story doesn't seem quite that simple--they're shutting down the services because they will no longer get the government funding needed to keep them running. If anything it sounds like a good outcome in the long run, as the Catholic organizations in that area will no longer be taking government money, making them more independent while ensuring public funds are not used to support a group that doesn't treat all potential clients equally.

They've also reneged on pledges to help the homeless because the group doing the actual aid publicly supported gay marriage. In fairness to the Church, the group did say they did not advocate or promote same-sex marriage when they applied for the grant, and then later did advocate/promote same-sex marriage. For fairness all around, the group advocates for same-sex marriage because sexual orientation issues are the biggest cause of homelessness in young people (parents kicking their gay children out of their home, or gay children running away from non-accepting parents). So because they were actually trying to address one of the underlying issues of homelessness, the Church stopped donating to them. Apparently the Church doesn't think gay people deserve their charity.

Okay, JD. In the other thread, I showed a few things. One, that the scale of social support we have now is indeed huge - the largest private charity in the country (Catholic Charities) is about 1/15 the size of just the food stamp program alone. This raises the question of how food support for those in poverty can conceivably be temporary.

I also showed that most government social programs operate between 1% and 10% overhead, which was far less than you asserted. Most private charities operate at over (often well over) 10%, so there is definitely efficiency as well as scale in government programs.

I've seen it asserted that "long term" unemployment payments can lead a percentage of those who lose jobs to "hold out for something better", and the implication is that they will then deliberately suckle at the government teat rather than go out and do manual farm labor or the like. I'd love to see figures on this; I honestly think the figures will show that the benefits outweigh that danger. I'd also like to see whether and how an actual contraction in jobs available is accounted for, since that theory conveniently sidesteps the idea that sometimes jobs are just not available in a recession. Period. (You just got laid off from your specialized $70K per year white collar job in Chicago - are you realistically open to living in a converted motel in California, picking veggies for minimum wage? Do we as a society want to give up skilled for unskilled labor every time the economy tanks?)

Finally, how do you replace the sheer scale of government assistance with private, and where would the funding come from? If that's not possible, what are the effects on society of removing that assistance from the poor? That has to be accounted for in cutting services.

Selected reposts:

Medicare overhead lower than private insurance overhead.
-----
Another way to look at this is to ask whether the Catholic Church is prepared to offer over 46 million Americans $133 per month, each month, as the US government did in 2010. That was $65 billion. Sure, the Catholic Charities do great work. But can *any* church operate on that financial scale? And that's just the *food program* - well, one food program - offered by government.

In the US, Catholic Charities assists around 10 million people per year. That's quite a lot, and laudable. It had a budget for *all* charity work of about $4.6 billion in 2010, of which about $140 million dollars came from diocesean donations. The rest was interest income, community donations, investments, in-kind donations - and $2 billion dollars from the Office of Faith Based Intiatives in the White House. Yes, you read that correctly. The US government is the largest single donor to Catholic Charities USA.

Catholic Charities is the second largest charity in the US, by the way. Can you guess what the first is? I suspect you can.

I don't see any way that churches in the US could provide that kind of charitable support without taking in a *lot* more from the communities they serve to do it. And given that the second largest charity in the US has a total budget without government assistance of less than 3% of just the food assistance program the government provides, I invite you to consider the size of the hole that would have to be filled by private charities if the government were to get out of the social welfare programs entirely.
-----
Federal low-income spending primarily goes to beneficiaries, not bureaucratic overhead.

Quote:

As detailed below, the data show that 91 to 99 percent of total federal spending on these programs reaches beneficiaries in the form of benefits or services, as does 90 to 99 percent of combined federal and state spending for these programs. These figures are for fiscal year 2010, the latest year for which full data are available.

JD, take a look at the overhead figures for the 6 major programs. I think you'll be surprised; hopefully pleasantly.

Good points all, let me try to address a few:

Well even granting that to be true for the sake of argument, let's go back to 1944 and include the G.I. Bill. That had pretty tangible results.

The GI Bill is the perfect example of temporary government assistance that helps people better themselves instead of becoming dependents. Also, it's something that the veterans helped to earn, not something that was simply given to them and paid for with borrowed money. The veterans of WW II worked on average 18-20 hour a day, 7 days a week, in extreme conditions for years. This was one way for the government to at least compensate some of that sacrifice (and all the free labor).

Without the borrowing, I don't think it would be a very big deal -- in fact, it probably improves economic growth overall, because it keeps people from starving to death. It's hard to hire dead people when the economy expands.

That's the bugbear that I think is highly unrealistic. We've had numerous recessions and depressions even before the 1930s, and there was never mass starvation in this country. People just got more creative - pooling resources, moving in with several other families, and doing whatever it takes to make money. The current system rewards a certain level of helplessness, since if you make too much money working you lose your benefits.

And the wars can only account for a part of the overall deficit. Our total defense spending is far from the highest we've ever spent in WW II or the beginning of the Cold War. Defense needs to be cut sure, but that can't be what's bankrupting us alone.

You also do make a claim of fact: "Since 1964 and the beginning of the Great Society, the federal government has spent $12 trillion dollars on welfare with little tangible results." This is a claim of fact. Can you provide some data to back that up?

Certainly - the following paper from the Cato institute makes a great case about the skyrocketing rise in government welfare spending with dubious results:

http://www.cato.org/publications/pol...$1-trillion-year-fighting-poverty-fail

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/PA694.pdf

News that the poverty rate has risen to 15.1 percent of Americans, the highest level in nearly
a decade, has set off a predictable round of calls for increased government spending on social
welfare programs. Yet this year the federal government will spend more than $668 billion on
at least 126 different programs to fight poverty. And that does not even begin to count welfare
spending by state and local governments, which adds $284 billion to that figure. In total, the
United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610
for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three. Welfare spending increased significantly under President George W. Bush and has explodedunder President Barack Obama. In fact, since President Obama took office, federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year. Despite this government
largess, more than 46 million Americans continue to live in poverty. Despite nearly $15
trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, the
poverty rate is perilously close to where we began more than 40 years ago.
Clearly we are doing something wrong. Throwing money at the problem has neither
reduced poverty nor made the poor self-sufficient. It is time to reevaluate our approach to
fighting poverty. We should focus less on making poverty more comfortable and more on creating the prosperity that will get people out of poverty.
jdzappa wrote:
Well even granting that to be true for the sake of argument, let's go back to 1944 and include the G.I. Bill. That had pretty tangible results.

Also, it's something that the veterans helped to earn, not something that was simply given to them and paid for with borrowed money.

No they didn't. We didn't pay for the G.I. Bill with like, the Nazi gold our troops plundered as if D-Day was a Viking raid. They didn't help earn anything if what we're talking about here is tangible wealth to pay for a government welfare program with.

I think you need to clearly define if you're asking this questions as a moral issue, or as a practical issue.

Without the borrowing, I don't think it would be a very big deal -- in fact, it probably improves economic growth overall, because it keeps people from starving to death. It's hard to hire dead people when the economy expands.

That's the bugbear that I think is highly unrealistic. We've had numerous recessions and depressions even before the 1930s, and there was never mass starvation in this country.

I don't think that's true.

You also do make a claim of fact: "Since 1964 and the beginning of the Great Society, the federal government has spent $12 trillion dollars on welfare with little tangible results." This is a claim of fact. Can you provide some data to back that up?

Certainly - the following paper from the Cato institute makes a great case about the skyrocketing rise in government welfare spending with dubious results:

What about union membership during those years? CEO-to-worker pay? Tax rates? Outsourcing of jobs? Cost of a college education? The history of the American city during that period, from white flight in the 60s to gentrification today? The War on Poverty being followed by the War On Drugs? The fact that 1964 is one year before an actual war, the Vietnam War?

I think it's simplistic to just look at this one variable of government spending, see a correlation with the poverty rate, and jump to a conclusion like that.

No they didn't. We didn't pay for the G.I. Bill with like, the Nazi gold our troops plundered as if D-Day was a Viking raid. They didn't help earn anything if what we're talking about here is tangible wealth to pay for a government welfare program with.

I think you need to clearly define if you're asking this questions as a moral issue, or as a practical issue.

Serving as a soldier is a specialized, highly dangerous job that is very well compensated if you're doing it for the private sector (take a look at what the average Blackwater guy made in Iraq). The WW II veterans were barely being paid minimum wage, so the GI Bill can be seen as part of their overall compensation package. It was also a great deal for the government, as sending troops to state colleges that were already paid for was a lot less expensive than paying them higher wages.

What about union membership during those years? CEO-to-worker pay? Tax rates? Outsourcing of jobs? Cost of a college education? The history of the American city during that period, from white flight in the 60s to gentrification today? The War on Poverty being followed by the War On Drugs? The fact that 1964 is one year before an actual war, the Vietnam War?

Not sure what this has to do with federal entitlement spending, which continues to balloon without tangible results.

I would like to point out that part of the problem is that we don't get as much money from the jobs that are available as we used to. That and there being less and less to go around what with the robot uprising coming along and all.

jdzappa wrote:
No they didn't. We didn't pay for the G.I. Bill with like, the Nazi gold our troops plundered as if D-Day was a Viking raid. They didn't help earn anything if what we're talking about here is tangible wealth to pay for a government welfare program with.

I think you need to clearly define if you're asking this questions as a moral issue, or as a practical issue.

Serving as a soldier is a specialized, highly dangerous job that is very well compensated if you're doing it for the private sector (take a look at what the average Blackwater guy made in Iraq). The WW II veterans were barely being paid minimum wage, so the GI Bill can be seen as part of their overall compensation package. It was also a great deal for the government, as sending troops to state colleges that were already paid for was a lot less expensive than paying them higher wages.

You're missing my point. It doesn't matter how specialized or dangerous your job is: whether your job creates/captures wealth is a different question. You can't fund something like the G.I. Bill by saying "the job they did was specialized and highly dangerous" just like a soldier can't feed his family with his honor.

As I think Malor would put it, you're confusing the ability of a person to get others to trade him wealth tokens for his services with the ability of the services he provides to generate new wealth for society.

What about union membership during those years? CEO-to-worker pay? Tax rates? Outsourcing of jobs? Cost of a college education? The history of the American city during that period, from white flight in the 60s to gentrification today? The War on Poverty being followed by the War On Drugs? The fact that 1964 is one year before an actual war, the Vietnam War?

Not sure what this has to do with federal entitlement spending, which continues to balloon without tangible results.

You're trying to show something is wrong with federal entitlement spending by asking us to look at American society as proof. Those are all alternate explanations for why American society looks the way it does.

+++++

I think there are two issues here:

1) like I said before, I feel you've got the moral and the practical mixed together. Sure our WWII veterans deserved to be compensated for their service, but the real world doesn't run on our wishes and dreams about what people do or do not deserve: however much they may have deserved their benefits, their service did not create the wealth required to reward them.

2) are we talking about fixing poverty or ameliorating the impact of poverty? Those are two different questions. Are we talking about safety nets here, or safety...trampolines?

In the case of the GI Bill, I think you'd need to frame it as investment... I don't know if the government borrowed to make it work, but they were investing in their soldiers, making them much more valuable in the employment marketplace. That's the sort of thing that debt's good for, as long as it's not overdone. (You can pay too much for anything, whether you're borrowing for it or not... modern educations mostly are not worth what's being charged. But if you borrow to pay for almost any deal, including education, you're increasing the risk substantially.)

It wasn't that the soldiers earned the degrees by their fighting, it was that, in a world that needed leaders of industry to rebuild, educating them was a very smart expenditure. In exchange for the goods and energy that were fed into the colleges, we got a lot of knowledgeable people out of it. Huge win.

Malor wrote:

In the case of the GI Bill, I think you'd need to frame it as investment... I don't know if the government borrowed to make it work, but they were investing in their soldiers, making them much more valuable in the employment marketplace. That's the sort of thing that debt's good for, as long as it's not overdone. (You can pay too much for anything, whether you're borrowing for it or not... modern educations mostly are not worth what's being charged. But if you borrow to pay for almost any deal, including education, you're increasing the risk substantially.)

It wasn't that the soldiers earned the degrees by their fighting, it was that, in a world that needed leaders of industry to rebuild, educating them was a very smart expenditure. In exchange for the goods and energy that were fed into the colleges, we got a lot of knowledgeable people out of it. Huge win.

That's what I was trying to get across, that nothing was earned by fighting--I don't know if the G.I. bill was financed by government borrowing or government wealth transfer either. What I know is that it wasn't distribution of wealth the government accumulated by not paying the soldiers as much as the soldiers were bringing in to government coffers. If soldiers created/captured wealth, we wouldn't need to borrow to pay for those Blackwater troops either. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but unless you're a Viking or you make the country you conquer pay you tribute, war does not make you any wealthier than you were before you started. That needs to be kept in mind.

edit: in case it got lost along the way, I'm definitely saying it was a good investment. Of course, let's keep in mind it wasn't just an investment in the employability of those soldiers. It was also a massive intrusion of the government into the housing market:

In addition to education, the law provided low-interest home mortgages backed by the federal government. That sparked a demand for new homes in the post war years - a key ingredient to the exploding growth of suburbia.

...

Statistically, the law far exceeded anyone's expectations. It provided education vouchers to 8 million veterans. It doubled the ratio of homeowners from one in three before the war to two in three afterwards.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/milit...

I've often wondered if our housing crisis and the challenge of bringing the troops home aren't two problems that could be smushed together to make one (partial) solution.

Well, in a way you can argue that maybe the soldiers improved things, because they kept the territory in friendly hands, and then the massive American manufacturing capacity that had been built up was suddenly needed to rebuild everything that had been destroyed. Had the American soldiers not shown up, probably Russia would have ended up in control of Europe, and that wouldn't have been much of a growth export market.

So, no, it's not like they looted resources to make their presence worthwhile, but from an overall perspective, it was probably a big net economic win to send them in, both for us and for Europe. Witness how much better Western Europe did than Eastern.

Malor wrote:

Well, in a way you can argue that maybe the soldiers improved things, because they kept the territory in friendly hands, and then the massive American manufacturing capacity that had been built up was suddenly needed to rebuild everything that had been destroyed. Had the American soldiers not shown up, probably Russia would have ended up in control of Europe, and that wouldn't have been much of a growth export market.

So, no, it's not like they looted resources to make their presence worthwhile, but from an overall perspective, it was probably a big net economic win to send them in, both for us and for Europe. Witness how much better Western Europe did than Eastern.

Sure, but keeping territory in friendly hands is like spending $5,000 to fix the leaks in your roof to avoid $10,000 of water damage: you haven't actually *made* $5,000, you've just prevented the further loss of $5,000.

As for creating massive manufacturing capacity and then rebuilding everything you destroy, you don't need a war to do that. A war creates the political will to do that, but in the end turning wealth into bombs to blow up and then rebuild dams in Europe as opposed to just building dams here in the Tennessee Valley or in Nevada is basically the same. Some comedian joked during the Clinton era that we should use all that surplus to make The Greatest War Movie Ever--just like, film the military blowing sh*t up in the desert.

Now that I write that, I realize it came true: we just call it cable news, only the deserts are overseas.

I think that medicare having significantly less overhead that private insurance makes a case that charities may not be the most efficient use of money. The fact that there are ornate churches, temples, high end office space, and other luxuries that are being paid for by tax deductible donations to private charities troubles me. For me to even get on board with the idea that private charities can do it better the rules around being a charity need to change. It is all very subjective what is really "necessary" to operate a charity so I don't even know where to start making rules. What is it about a charity versus the federal government that is better?

I'm not saying the federal government is perfect (see the recent GSA Las Vegas scandal) but from a pure business standpoint you are eliminating workforce redundancies that would exist in supporting multitudes of smaller private charities and you have a more centralized organization which is typically more open that private organizations.

are we talking about fixing poverty or ameliorating the impact of poverty? Those are two different questions. Are we talking about safety nets here, or safety...trampolines?

In human history poverty's never been fixed, and it probably won't be fixed until we have the technology to simply replicate whatever we need or that we've expanded to several planets and resource scarcity is no longer an issue. So what I'm trying to talk about is ameliorating poverty, and my argument is creating a safety trampoline instead of a hammock.

Found some more interesting sources that address the wealth gap in terms of amount of hours worked. Here's an interesting article on how not putting in the hours or trying to raise kids as a single mom are top reasons for poverty. Meanwhile, the households in the top 20 percentile don't magically get there by magic. Both parents are usually working, and the breadwinner is typically putting in 50-70 hour weeks. Staying in school, waiting to be married to have kids, and being willing to put in long hours will still get you ahead.

http://www.realclearmarkets.com/arti...

But digging deeper into the layers of data that Census provided in its latest reports would be revealing—I would dare say startling—for the average American. For instance, what the latest data show is that of the 7.6 million families in poverty in America, more than 80 percent did not contain an adult who worked full time in the past year. In fact, in more than half of families in poverty the householder did not work at all in the last year. The problem was especially acute among single-parent families headed by women, which make up 19 percent of American families but 55 percent of all families in poverty. In only 17 percent of those impoverished families is the household head working full time. Still, even that is better than before welfare reform set time limits on public assistance in 1996. Back in the early 1990s, for instance, only 9 percent of all poor women who headed households worked.

It’s especially revealing to see why the poor don’t work. In this latest study, Census asked non-working impoverished adults between the ages of 16 and 64 why they are out of the workforce. Only 6 percent said it was because they could not find work. By contrast, 26 percent said they didn’t work because of family commitments, 27 percent said they were in school, 32 percent said they were ill, and 9 percent said they had retired. Whatever their individual problems or circumstances, in other words, a shrinking economy, or wage levels that are too low, or the decline of unions have little to do with the poverty of most of these people.

That the poor don’t work very much gets left out of all sorts of public policy debates, including those on the growing gap between the rich and the poor. A recent graph accompanying an Economic View column in the New York Times, for instance, showed that households in the lowest economic quintile make far greater income gains during Democratic administrations, while the top five percent of households do better under Republican presidents. The graph and accompanying commentary suggested that Democratic presidents are somehow producing more economic opportunity for those at the bottom of the economic scale, but as the Census numbers show, that’s just nonsense. According to the latest Census figures, 60 percent of families in the lowest quintile in America do not contain a single adult earner. When their income surges, it is often because Washington is increasing transfer payments to the poor, not because economic opportunity is rising.

By contrast, the members of America’s richest households are working like never before. About 76 percent of all families in the top 5 percent of household income contain two or more workers, Census data show, and the percentage of families with multiple workers increases as household income increases. As sociologist Dalton Conley recently wrote in the New York Times, “Today, the more we earn, the more we work.”

Oh, and since it came up in previous posts, let's take a look at the average habits of those on unemployment insurance. How many hours do they spend looking for a job? 8, 10, 12? Try 40 minutes a day. And that's in the US. In European countries with far more generous UI programs, average job hunting time is 10 minutes.

http://www.careercast.com/career-new...

jdzappa wrote:
You also do make a claim of fact: "Since 1964 and the beginning of the Great Society, the federal government has spent $12 trillion dollars on welfare with little tangible results." This is a claim of fact. Can you provide some data to back that up?

Certainly - the following paper from the Cato institute makes a great case about the skyrocketing rise in government welfare spending with dubious results:

Er. Can you please provide some data from a source that does not have such a clear and well known policy agenda? (I'm sure you'd find it a little hard to swallow if I posted links to publications from the International Socialist Organization as primary sources.)

jdzappa wrote:
are we talking about fixing poverty or ameliorating the impact of poverty? Those are two different questions. Are we talking about safety nets here, or safety...trampolines?

In human history poverty's never been fixed, and it probably won't be fixed until we have the technology to simply replicate whatever we need or that we've expanded to several planets and resource scarcity is no longer an issue. So what I'm trying to talk about is ameliorating poverty, and my argument is creating a safety trampoline instead of a hammock.

Okay, but if your goal is not to fix poverty, should we blame the War on Poverty for not fixing poverty? It seemed like the stats and sources you were giving us weren't about the harshness of poverty, but about the rate of poverty.

Found some more interesting sources that address the wealth gap in terms of amount of hours worked. Here's an interesting article on how not putting in the hours or trying to raise kids as a single mom are top reasons for poverty. Meanwhile, the households in the top 20 percentile don't magically get there by magic. Both parents are usually working, and the breadwinner is typically putting in 50-70 hour weeks. Staying in school, waiting to be married to have kids, and being willing to put in long hours will still get you ahead.

Did you ever think you're putting the cart in front of the horse? In other words, it's the households in the top 20 percentile that can manage to stay in school/wait to be married to have kids/get the kind of jobs where you can put in long hours? I mean, your RealClearMarkets source states: "About 76 percent of all families in the top 5 percent of household income contain two or more workers." That's quite a change from the past when those households (I assume) would only have had one worker: those households are now taking up twice as many jobs as they used to.

I have to run so I can't find it now, but there was another thread where I cited a source that showed something like: Americans work more hours than anyone who is as productive than them (besides Norwegians which is due to their oil industry) and are far more productive than anyone who works more hours as them. In other words, all the work is going to this smaller and smaller slice of Americans who are actually becoming more and more productive. The American worker has the productivity of a European with the work hours you'd more commonly expect of a third-world resident.

There's a reason some jobs are called "golden handcuffs." What if the issue is that...our economy just has no use for these people in poverty anymore? Or at least, far less use than it did even recently? What if it's not about our social welfare system making people lazy, but about our incredibly powerful economy making more and more of us obsolete?

JD, check out this paper by the same authors you cited about lazy job seekers in the earlier link. The original was actually published by the Brookings Institute, which sponsors actual research. The authors don't conclude that the availability of unemployment insurance causes people to relax and wait for employment to come to them, and they don't conclude that there's an attempt in the last few weeks to gain employment (which would be expected if people were just kicking back and waiting it out.) They don't conclude that people are lazy job seekers, they conclude they are sad and demoralized job seekers.

They note that because most job searching activities results in rejection, the people involved become sadder and sadder as time goes by without getting a job, and so their efforts slow down. They also found that the longer the period of unemployment, the fewer offers came along, reinforcing the emotional impact. And they noted too that the successful job-seekers tended to be out of the survey quickly, as, well, they got jobs and were no longer unemployed. That selects people who are having trouble finding jobs in the first place for these kinds of studies.

They find that the effects of reservation wages are minimal. They suggest that unemployment insurance that included job search *support*, not just incentives, will work better than that which does not.

All in all, if you look at the work of the two authors cited, it does not seem to support the glib conclusion that people on unemployment insurance are lazy. Rather the opposite, they sympathize with the plight of these people, and the emotional stress they have to deal with in the process. They suggest government support is a good thing, not a bad thing.

jdzappa wrote:

Meanwhile, the households in the top 20 percentile don't magically get there by magic. Both parents are usually working, and the breadwinner is typically putting in 50-70 hour weeks. Staying in school, waiting to be married to have kids, and being willing to put in long hours will still get you ahead.

It's very hard for me to respond constructively to a statement that makes me this angry. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of households where both parents work long hours who aren't in the top 20th percentile, and economic success is not tightly coupled to a willingness to work long hours.

With more time to read this over, something stuck out to me:

jdzappa wrote:

Staying in school, waiting to be married to have kids, and being willing to put in long hours will still get you ahead.

http://www.realclearmarkets.com/arti...

It’s especially revealing to see why the poor don’t work. In this latest study, Census asked non-working impoverished adults between the ages of 16 and 64 why they are out of the workforce. Only 6 percent said it was because they could not find work. By contrast, 26 percent said they didn’t work because of family commitments, 27 percent said they were in school, 32 percent said they were ill, and 9 percent said they had retired. Whatever their individual problems or circumstances, in other words, a shrinking economy, or wage levels that are too low, or the decline of unions have little to do with the poverty of most of these people.

So a over a quarter of the non-working poor are following your advice. Another 32 percent are not in a hammock or a net, they're in a sick bed. Almost one out of ten have already put in a career worth of work I assume from them being listed as "retired." That's 68% of the non-working poor right there that either fit into one of your "get ahead" categories, are physically incapable of doing so, or deserve at least to some extent that hammock you're talking about.

Does that change your opinions on the poor? I assume you didn't add up those number to see that we've taken (edit) more than two thirds of the non-working poor off the table for this discussion.

There was an interesting end to that article:

To address the issue of the more than 80 percent of poor families where no one works full time requires figuring out how to dissuade poor girls without a high school education from having children by a man who won’t marry and support them. It also requires doing a much better job helping make ex-convicts--the 700,000 or so mostly men who leave prison each year--more employable. And it requires finding more successful ways of helping alcoholics and drug addicts—who make up a sizeable portion of those who say they can’t work because they are ill—get straight and stay clean.

That has nothing to do with giving lazy adults hammocks. That's about sex ed that works and isn't a moral crusade of a particular religion. That's about the toll that the War on Drug and our ridiculous incarceration rates have had on the households of our underclasses. That's about spending money on substance abuse treatment programs.

Are you sure you still feel the same way about the poor as you did before taking a closer look at your source?

Spoiler:

heck, even I feel like an insensitive dingleberry reading those numbers!

CheezePavilion wrote:

Another 32 percent are not in a hammock or a net, they're in a sick bed.

That's a helluva lot of sick people. I wonder if that number has stayed consistent since the 1960's?

It's very hard for me to respond constructively to a statement that makes me this angry. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of households where both parents work long hours who aren't in the top 20th percentile, and economic success is not tightly coupled to a willingness to work long hours.

I realize that my earlier comments may have come off bruff - and I didn't mean to insult anyone or give the impression that I was labeling all poor people as lazy. I fully recognize that hard work may not make you rich. What it will do in most cases is get you above the poverty line.

I think a big problem in America is twofold:
1. The idea that you're owed a dream job.
2. That you can be financially independent on 20 hours, or even 40 hours a week. Just not true in the global economy anymore.

They note that because most job searching activities results in rejection, the people involved become sadder and sadder as time goes by without getting a job, and so their efforts slow down. They also found that the longer the period of unemployment, the fewer offers came along, reinforcing the emotional impact. And they noted too that the successful job-seekers tended to be out of the survey quickly, as, well, they got jobs and were no longer unemployed. That selects people who are having trouble finding jobs in the first place for these kinds of studies.

Ok, I'll easily accept that it's less laziness than demoralization. This still goes back to my point of the current govt programs creating learned helplessness. I've recently started becoming a fan of the financial guru Dave Ramsey who talked about his own personal journey after going bankrupt in the early 90s recession. He took any job he could, including doing lots of jobs around the neighborhood for a little cash from neighbors.There are plenty of opportunities out there for a little extra self-employment.

Stupid double post.

jdzappa wrote:

I think a big problem in America is twofold:
1. The idea that you're owed a dream job.
2. That you can be financially independent on 20 hours, or even 40 hours a week. Just not true in the global economy anymore.

1. But you are CONSTANTLY being told that you can have a dream job.
2. Being unable to be financially at 40 hours a week isn't because of the global economy, it is because the people at the top are taking all the wealth. The current economy COULD support financial independence at 40 hours if the CEO wasn't being payed 1000 times more than the rest of the workers.

jdzappa wrote:

Good points all, let me try to address a few:

Well even granting that to be true for the sake of argument, let's go back to 1944 and include the G.I. Bill. That had pretty tangible results.

The GI Bill is the perfect example of temporary government assistance that helps people better themselves instead of becoming dependents. Also, it's something that the veterans helped to earn, not something that was simply given to them and paid for with borrowed money. The veterans of WW II worked on average 18-20 hour a day, 7 days a week, in extreme conditions for years. This was one way for the government to at least compensate some of that sacrifice (and all the free labor).

You're kind of downplaying the size and scope of the GI Bill. It was a massive program that nearly 10% of the population at the time was eligible for.

Let's be clear what the GI Bill did. It outright paid for the college education of 2.3 million servicemen, resulting in a doubling of college degrees awarded in the years after the war. In addition to spotting your tuition, Uncle Sam also picked up the tab for your books, supplies, lab fees, etc. And, to top it all off, Uncle Sam also flipped you $50 a month ($75 if you had dependents) for a "subsistence allowance" which works out to about $625 a month in today's dollars using a simple purchasing power calculator. That's one hell of a temporary benefit.

Seven million servicemen got their ongoing education and training picked up by Uncle Sam.

The GI Bill also provided a no money down, zero percent interest government loan so a serviceman could buy a house. And 4.3 million did just that. Getting what boils down to a free 20 year loan can hardly be considered "temporary."

Servicemen could also get a $2,000 government loan to start a business or buy a farm. That's worth about $25,000 today.

The GI Bill also provided servicemen with a full year of unemployment benefits, though few actually used these benefits because the US had the only intact manufacturing base on the planet and more than five years of pent up consumer demand driving our economy. In addition, servicemen had an entire agency, the United States Employment Service, looking to find jobs for them and encouraging businesses to hire ex-GIs.

The GI Bill provided life-changing assistance to millions of Americans, ran for a decade, and spent $14.5 billion dollars, north of $200 billion today. That ain't temporary by any measure.

And it wasn't done to compensate GIs for their service. It was done to avoid a repeat of what happened to the Bonus Army during the Great Depression.

jdzappa wrote:

That's the bugbear that I think is highly unrealistic. We've had numerous recessions and depressions even before the 1930s, and there was never mass starvation in this country. People just got more creative - pooling resources, moving in with several other families, and doing whatever it takes to make money.

You might want to read some first-hand accounts of people who lived through the Great Depression before you shrug it off as no big thing. People did, indeed, starve. And many more had their lives cut short because of malnutrition.

Beyond that, a major part of why there wasn't mass starvation was because the country was much more rural in the 30s than it is today. People got food to eat because they grew it, not because they made money to buy it.

People hung on by the nails of their fingers during the Great Depression. That's not something I would expect any developed country to find acceptable, especially one that claims to be the only remaining superpower.

jdzappa wrote:

The current system rewards a certain level of helplessness, since if you make too much money working you lose your benefits.

So rather than reform the existing system, say by making sure that a single parent doesn't lose their daycare benefits when they get a job, your response is what, eliminate everything?

You can try to blame government assistance for not breaking the cycle of poverty since 1964, but religion has had 2,000 years to do the same and it's success rate is far, far worse.

Not to mention that Jesus himself supposedly said that the poor would always be with us and that people would be judged by the aid they provided to someone who was hungry or thirsty, someone who was a stranger or needed clothes, or someone who was sick or in prison: "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

With JC himself supporting welfare you'd think it be more popular with Christians. Instead, it's the opposite. The political party that is largely made up of so-called Christians are the ones screaming for the end of pretty much every welfare program.

Pages